The Best Spinning Reels: A Quick Review for Avid Anglers

A spinning reel is the most versatile and reliable style of reel an angler can own. It doesn’t matter whether you’re after bass, trout, walleye, carp, northern pike or marlin – if you have the right spool size and drag system, finding the best spinning reel will make pulling in biggest catch much easier. As reel technology advances and materials improve, lighter, more durable spinning reels offer anglers an abundance of choices.


It’s no doubt having so many quality reels to choose from is a good thing but knowing where to start the search can be a challenge. So, to give you a boost in the right direction, here is a review of the top spinning reels available. Read on to find out what makes each one unique, so you can choose the best reel for you.


The Realities of Reel Size

Spinning reels are often available in different sizes, each with different line capacities, drag strengths, and gear ratios. So the size you choose should be based on the size of fish you pursue and the fishing techniques you employ.

Every reel manufacturer uses a slightly different sizing system which can make comparison shopping for reels quite a chore. This list will present only one size of each reel so it’s easier to compare the various models. Also, this list of the best spinning reel for anglers features “middle-of-the-road” sizes, typically 2500 or 3000, depending on the unique size ranges of each spinning reel model.

If one of the reels on this list jumps out at you, but you see it doesn’t have a strong enough drag or enough line capacity, fear not. There is most likely a larger or smaller size of that particular reel available. You’ll also want to be aware that not all reels are for all climates, so if you are a fan of ice fishing, buy a reel that will withstand extreme weather conditions.

Freshwater Vs. Saltwater Spinning Reels

Just like fish finders, you can use any reel in either freshwater or saltwater. But not every reel can withstand the corrosive quality of saltwater with long-term use. Therefore many of the reels on this list consist of corrosion resistant components that allow for saltwater use without damage.

You’ll see an intended use section at the end of each spec list stating if you can use each reel for freshwater, saltwater or both. But even if a reel is “safe for saltwater use,” you should take proper care to ensure that salt and sand don’t wear the reel out prematurely. So, it’s always a good idea to rinse your reel down with fresh water after every use in salt water.

1. KastKing Sharky II

One of the best entry-level spinning reels is the KastKing Sharky II, a highly affordable, workhorse of a reel. With an all metal, fully sealed waterproof body and 11 bearings, the Sharky II has specs you’d normally find on reels in the $150-plus range. Also, the Sharky II is available in six sizes ranging from 1500 for trout and bass, up to 6000 for big catfish and larger inshore saltwater species, too.

Quick Specs
  • Reel type: Spinning
  • Sizes available: 1500, 2000, 3000, 4000, 5000 and 6000
  • Number of bearings: 11 – 10 stainless steel ball bearings and one roller bearing.
  • Body material: All metal body
  • Drag material: Triple disc carbon fiber
  • Sealed: Fully sealed waterproof
  • Drag type: Front
  • Drag strength: 17.5 pounds (3000)
  • Gear material: Precision brass gears
  • Gear ratio: 5.2:1 (3000)
  • Retrieve rate: Not specified
  • Line capacity: 160yds/12lb mono (3000)
  • Reel weight: 8.71
  • Intended use: Freshwater and saltwater

2. Shimano Sienna RD Spinning Reel

Another affordable reel that packs a punch is the Shimano Sienna RD. This specific model of the Sienna features a rear drag, but a front drag model is available with similar specs. However, the rear drag is easier to adjust while actively fighting a fish. And it is the best spinning reel if you go after strong fish that make long runs.

The Sienna RD also features several of Shimano’s signature components and systems including Propulsion Line Management. It helps make longer casts and minimizes backlashes. The Super Stopper II anti-reverse gives you solid, reliable hook setting power. And the DynaBalance rotor design eliminates spool wobble.

The design provides stable energy transfer when reeling, keeping the reel spinning smoothly. Also, the Sienna RD has corrosion resistant materials throughout, including a graphite frame and side plate, making it perfect for use in saltwater.

Quick Specs
  • Reel type: Spinning
  • Sizes available: 1000, 2500 and 4000
  • Number of bearings: Four – Three stainless steel ball bearings and one roller bearing
  • Drag material: Felt drag washers
  • Body material: Graphite
  • Drag type: Rear
  • Drag strength: 9 lbs (2500)
  • Gear material: Not specified
  • Gear ratio: 5.2:1
  • Retrieve rate: 29″ per turn (2500)
  • Line capacity: 140yds/8lb mono; 145yds/15lb braid (2500)
  • Reel weight: 9.5
  • Intended use: Freshwater and saltwater

3. Penn Battle II Spinning Reel

The Penn Battle II is the best spinning reel among the high-quality, mid-level reels. Better yet, this reel is available in eight sizes. The smaller 1000 and 2000 sizes are perfect for freshwater pursuits. The 2500, 3000, and 4000 are ideal for lunker catfish and hard-fighting inshore saltwater species. And the 5000, 6000, and 8000 sizes are capable of tackling monster fish inshore and nearshore like amberjack, barracuda, and even small tuna.

In addition, the drag system with HT-100 carbon fiber drag washers feeds out the line smoothly on hard pulling fish. The higher-than-average gear ratio pulls in 35 inches of line per turn bringing your catch to the boat quickly. In fact, Penn has earned a reputation for producing world-class reels over their long history. Notably, the Battle II continues the company’s legacy in a high-performing, affordable reel.

Quick Specs
  • Reel type: Spinning
  • Sizes available: 1000, 2000, 2500, 3000, 4000, 5000, 6000 and 8000
  • Number of bearings: Six – five stainless steel ball bearings and one roller bearing
  • Drag material: HT-100 carbon fiber drag washers
  • Body material: Full metal body
  • Drag type: Front
  • Drag strength: 15 lbs (3000)
  • Gear material: Cast alloy
  • Gear ratio: 6.2:1 (3000)
  • Retrieve rate: 35″ per turn (3000)
  • Line capacity: 165yds/10lb mono; 250yds/15lb braid (3000)
  • Intended use: Freshwater and saltwater

4. Okuma Trio Standard Speed Spinning Reel

The Okuma Trio is a stealthy looking reel that incorporates Okuma’s Dual Force Drag system for efficient fish stopping power. The aluminum and graphite body give the reel the rigidity for better energy transfer while tight tolerances give the reel a crisp, smooth feel. This specific reel is the Standard Speed model.

But there is also a high-speed model which is next on this list of the best spinning reel today. The standard speed model has a lower gear ratio than the high-speed model. So, this lower gear creates a slower retrieve rate that’s helpful when using techniques like “walking the dog” or “dead sticking” when bass fishing. Also, the Trio is fully corrosion resistant, including high-performance HPB bearings to keep the reel cranking smoothly in all conditions.

Quick Specs
  • Reel type: Spinning
  • Sizes available: 20, 30, 40, 55, 65a
  • Number of bearings: 10 – nine stainless steel ball bearings and one roller bearing
  • Drag material: Multi-disc Japanese-oiled felt drag washers
  • Body material: Aluminum and graphite
  • Drag type: Front
  • Drag strength: 18 lbs (30)
  • Gear material: Precision cut brass pinion
  • Gear ratio: 5.0:1 (30)
  • Retrieve rate: 25″ per turn (30)
  • Line capacity: 160yds/8lb mono (30)
  • Reel weight: 10.3 oz (30)
  • Intended use: Freshwater and saltwater

5. Okuma Trio High Speed Spinning Reel

The Okuma Trio High Speed has all the same features as the Trio Standard Speed except for the higher 6.2:1 gear ratio. The faster retrieve rate is for using techniques like high-speed vertical jigging for species like kingfish in deep water. Additionally, the Trio High Speed has bomb-proof components all throughout the reel. It also includes a precision cut brass pinion gear, Okuma’s fully sealed Dual Force Drag System and corrosion resistant HPB bearings.

Quick Specs
  • Reel type: Spinning
  • Sizes available: 30S, 40S, 55S
  • Number of bearings: 10 – nine stainless steel ball bearings and one roller bearing
  • Drag material: Dual Force Drag System
  • Body material: Aluminum and graphite
  • Drag type: Front
  • Drag strength: 18 lbs (30S)
  • Gear material: Precision cut brass pinion gear
  • Gear ratio: 6.2:1
  • Retrieve rate: 30″ per turn (30S)
  • Line capacity: 160yds/8lb mono (30S)
  • Reel weight: 10.4 oz (30S)
  • Intended use: Freshwater and Saltwater

6. Shimano Spirex RG Spinning Reel

The Spirex RG Spinning Reel is one of Shimano’s highest-performing mid-level spinning reels. In fact, the reel features Shimano’s Propulsion Line Management System that uses a special spool lip design. It even reduces backlashes and feeds the line off the spool smoothly for improved casting distance. The reel also features a DynaBalance system that keeps the spool wobble-free and a Fluidrive II gearing system with extremely tight tolerances for smooth, powerful retrieves.

Although the Spirex RG is a tough, durable, corrosion-resistant reel, it features a lighter drag than other reels of the same size. The lightweight makes it the best spinning reel for freshwater species like smallmouth bass and walleye. However, it isn’t the best reel for hard-core saltwater fishing where the specimens are usually much larger and stronger.

Quick Specs
  • Reel type: Spinning
  • Sizes available: 1000, 2500, 4000,
  • Number of bearings: Five stainless steel ball bearings
  • Drag material: Felt drag washers
  • Body material: Graphite
  • Drag type: Rear
  • Drag strength: 7 lbs (2500)
  • Gear material: Fluid drive precision cut gear
  • Gear ratio: 6.2:1 (2500)
  • Retrieve rate: 33″ per turn (2500)
  • Line capacity: 140yds/8lb mono; 145yds/15lb braid (2500)
  • Ree
    l weight: 11.3 oz (2500)
  • Intended use: Freshwater and saltwater

7. Shimano Stradic CI4+ FA Spinning Reel

This list of the best spinning reel ends with one of Shimano’s top-shelf offerings: the Shimano Stradic CI4+. When the original Stradic came out, anglers noticed the lightweight design and smooth, powerful drag. But the new, improved CI4+ takes the original Stradic one step further with a design that utilizes Shimano’s new Carbon Interfusion (CI) material. And with this material, they created a reel that is 20 percent lighter and a whopping 250 percent stronger.

Another key feature of the Stradic CI4+ is the cold-forged Hagane gear that outlasts and outperforms the common brass pinion gears. Adding to the lightweight, nimble feel of the Stradic CI4+ is Shimano’s G-Free Body design. It brings the reel’s center of gravity closer to the rod, creating better weight distribution and balance. It also makes the rod and reel feel lighter in your hand, reducing casting fatigue.

The Stradic CI4+ is hugely popular with bass anglers due to its extremely lightweight design and powerful drag. But it also makes a great saltwater reel as it’s made with corrosion-resistant components inside and out. Also, they coated this reel with Shimano’s CoreProtect, which provides lightweight water resistance. In addition, Shimano fully sealed the drag to keep damaging saltwater, sand and grit out.

Although the Shimano Stradic CI4+ is more expensive than many other reels, the durability and corrosion resistance of the CI4+ will make it last far longer than less expensive reels. You can pair it with your favorite bass stick or inshore rod, too.

Quick Specs
  • Reel type: Spinning
  • Sizes available: 1000, 2500, 3000, 4000
  • Number of bearings: Seven – Six stainless steel ball bearings and one roller bearing
  • Drag material: Felt drag washers
  • Body material: Reinforced carbon fiber
  • Drag strength: 20 lbs (3000)
  • Gear material: Hagane cold-forged gear
  • Gear ratio: 6.0:1 (3000)
  • Retrieve rate: 35″ per turn (3000)
  • Line capacity: 170yds/8lb mono; 200yds/10lb braid
  • Reel weight: 6.7 oz (3000)
  • Intended use: Freshwater and saltwater

Finding Your Best Spinning Reel

When it comes to catching more fish, your gear can make all the difference. Although lure selection is important, to land a fish, the right reel makes it easier and less tiring, too. This review should help you find the best spinning reel for whatever fish you want to catch.

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