Best Fishing Reels

Best Fishing Reels of 2018 (Reviews & Comparison)

There’s a lot that goes into designing the best fishing reels. There’s also a lot that goes into picking the best one for your needs. If you want to make the most out of your fishing expedition or if you are just starting out, you might not benefit equally from the same reel model. Of course, sometimes, that’s just what some manufacturers want you to believe.

The Quick Answer

After plenty of research and deliberation, it wasn’t all that hard to reach a consensus. Our top pick out of all the best fishing reels is the KastKing Rover. It is simply too versatile to be placed in just one category, very efficient, and it comes from an award-winning manufacturer.

To top it all off, the Rover is very budget friendly. Short of high-end competitive fishing the Rover model can handle all your saltwater and freshwater applications with ease.

Best Fishing Reels Quick Comparison

Here is a quick comparison of for our choices of best fishing reels.

Name Ball Bearings Drag Power (lbs.) Gear Ratio Magnetic Brake
Sixgill Typhoon 9+1 NA NA NA
Penn Battle II 5+1 NA NA NA
Sougayilang Baitcaster Reel 11+1 18 7.0:1 Yes
Shimano Stradic FK 6+1 7-24 6.0:1 No
KastKing Royale Legend 11+1 17.5 7.0:1 Yes
KastKing Rover 4+1 / 6.1 20 max. 3.2:1 /5.3:1 No
Abu Garcia Silver Max 5+1 17.6 6.4:1 Yes

Best Fishing Reels Reviews

The following reviews are based on the best fishing reels of 2018. Sure, by the time the year’s over, who knows what’s going to hit the market and wow us? In any event, we’re confident in these picks and you will be too by the end of the article.

Best Fly Fishing Reels: Sixgill Typhoon

So what makes the Sixgill Typhoon one of the best fishing reels? Maybe it’s the outrageous number of ball bearings (9+1) or the impressive 6.5:1 retrieve ratio. It could also be the fact that this reel has an aluminum frame and carbon side plates.

It has a multi-disk drag system which allows for 6/250 – 8/220lb. The materials used are clear indicators of durability but how smooth is it really? The Typhoon reel has a magnetic stop system. The gradual stopping power provided will give you consistent casts. It’s also a very sporty-looking lightweight piece of equipment.

Pros

  • Great looking design
  • 9+1 ball bearings
  • Magnetic stop system
  • Lightweight and durable frame
  • Good general purpose retrieve ratio

Cons

Not the cheapest reel in its category

Who It’s Best For

The Typhoon is good for passionate fly-fishers and the occasional angler. For the price, it will work just fine in the hands of an amateur. However, it will perform even better when handled by an expert. The Typhoon can be one of the best fishing reels for small tournaments too.

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Best Saltwater Fishing Reels: Penn Battle II

The Penn Battle II is essentially a revamp of the Penn Battle reel. It doesn’t happen often that a relaunched product outperforms the original model but this time we were surprised. After all, it made it to our best fishing reels list.

The reel’s body is metallic as are the side plates and the rotor. It also uses heavy-duty aluminum bail wire for increased control and durability. It feels smoother than its predecessor due to the HT-100 carbon fiber drag system which gives you more power without compromising sleekness.

Pros

  • Durable construction
  • 5+1 stainless steel ball bearings
  • Carbon fiber drag system
  • Designed to withstand saltwater applications
  • Models come with 5.3:1 to 6.2:1 gear ratio
  • Ambidextrous design

Cons

A bit pricey for the amateur fisherman

Who It’s Best For

The Battle II from Penn is a good upgrade for anyone still using the previous model or anyone who wasn’t pleased with its predecessor. It’s not the cheapest but it’s well built and reaches impressive performance ratings. Not only that but it’s one of the few cost-efficient ambidextrous saltwater fishing reels.

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Best Bass Fishing Reels: Sougayilang Baitcasting Fishing Reel

Baitcasters are just so much more powerful than regular spinning reels. The design of the spool makes it so that everything is aligned; gears, handle, rod. Sougayilang Baitcasting Fishing Reel delivers both on power and control with their low-profile fishing reel and earns a spot on our best fishing reels list as the best bass fishing reel.

This reel has a 7.0:1 gear ratio. It also makes use of 11+1 corrosion resistant ball bearings. The carbon fiber multi-star drag system can handle quite big catches due to its 18lb power. You’ll rarely need better for bass.

What’s even better is that this baitcaster fishing reel from Sougayilang comes in both right-handed and left-handed models. Not everyone bothers to design reels for lefties, so this is a most-welcomed feature.

Pros

  • Great for small- to medium-sized bass or salmon
  • Magnetic brake
  • 11+1 ball bearings
  • 0:1 gear ratio
  • 18lb drag power
  • Affordable

Cons

For what it’s meant to do, we can’t find any flaws.

Who It’s Best For

Anyone with an interest in bass, salmon, crappie or trout fishing, whether sitting on a boat or on the shore, will have a great time with this reel. It’s powerful yet lightweight and lets you cast all day long without feeling fatigued.

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Best Freshwater Fishing Reels: Shimano Stradic FK Spinning Reel

Were you actually worried that there wouldn’t be a Shimano reel among our best fishing reels? The Stradic FK is yet another masterpiece of fishing equipment. It’s to be expected considering it’s one of Shimano’s high-end freshwater fishing reels. This one uses Hagane gears and a metal Hagane body for increased durability and more cranking power.

The Stradic FK also features X-Ship technology for optimal ball bearing placement. All models in the line have 6+1 ball bearings which are noncorrosive. Depending on the model the drag power will vary between 7 and 24lb.

Another Shimano favorite feature is the G-Free body. This gives you more control over the cast and retrieval due to the perfect balance of the reel. It also prevents muscle fatigue even during long fishing expeditions or competitions.

Pros

  • X-Ship technology
  • 6+1 ball bearings
  • Great drag power range across the series
  • Hagane gears and body
  • S-ARB bearings

Cons

Depending on how much drag power you want you could end up spending a lot on this reel

Who It’s Best For

Considering the price range of the Stradic FK models you would think that this reel is for competitions only. While that makes sense from an investment standpoint, the reels aren’t bad for beginners and casual anglers either. The extra-smooth control and perfect balance, not to mention the superior durability that comes with being a Shimano product, are great features to have on a reel when you’re just starting out.

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Best Reel for Trout Fishing: KastKing Royale Legend

The Royale Legend is only the second fastest reel from KastKing but has plenty of other features that make it worthy of a spot on our best fishing reels list. First of all, it has a 7.0:1 gear ratio and a very silent retrieve.

The 11+1 MaxiDur ball bearings offer smooth casting and improved durability. The dual brakes can be fine-tuned to your liking which makes this reel a serious contender in the competitive fishing scene. Did we mention it also looks like something out of a Transformers movie?

The drag power is 17.5lb and while it may not seem like much it’s the carbon fiber design of the system which makes all the difference. Besides, if you’re casting for trout you’ll want some power but more control and precision, which is what the Royale Legend reel provides.

Pros

  • 5lb drag power
  • MaxiDur 11+1 ball bearings
  • 5 inches per turn
  • Weighs only 7.5oz
  • Gear ratio 7.0:1
  • Tunable dual-brake system
  • Affordable

Cons

While it may be competition ready, it doesn’t let you reel in the biggest catches

Who It’s Best For

Although you won’t break any world records in trout fishing, the Royale Legend is probably still your best bet regardless of your experience. It’s very durable and precise and one of the best values for money not only on our best fishing reels list but on everyone else’s too.

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Best Fishing Reel for the Money: KastKing Rover

Another budget review and another KastKing reel made our best fishing reels list. This time it’s the Rover. The Rover is built for power, precision and versatility. You can take it with you for freshwater or saltwater fishing without worry.

The maximum drag power, depending on the model, is 20lb. That’s a lot considering the price tag and the fact that KastKing isn’t sacrificing control or durability to achieve this. Depending on the model you have either 4+1 ball bearings or 6+1.

The same nonslip EVA grip is available on all Rovers. You’ll be just as relaxed whether you’re catching small fish or big juicy ones. The level of comfort offered by the Rover, no matter what you’re catching, or where you’re doing it, is truly unparalleled in this price range.

Pros

  • Highly comfortable EVA grips
  • Up to 6+1 ball bearings
  • Good for both freshwater and saltwater applications
  • Up to 20lb drag power
  • Superior corrosion protection

Cons

No negatives to report

Who it’s Best For

Although we are extremely happy with how versatile and affordable the Rover is, we can’t recommend it for everyone. It shines in its category and offers plenty of comfort, durability, and drag power per dollar, but it can’t do much on the truly competitive scene. At best it is an entry-level match fishing reel. For everyone else though, it can be your first reel and the last reel you’ll ever need.

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Best Reel for Walleye Fishing: Abu Garcia Silver Max

Retrieving the line with the Silver Max from Abu Garcia is almost relaxing. You have plenty of power and the 5+1 ball bearings offer the smoothness worthy of a spot on our best fishing reels list.

The MagTrax brake system is really cool. You can use it to make on-the-fly adjustments without worrying about removing side plates like you would with most models. You can also switch between lures quite easily due to this innovative brake system. All of this while the Rocket Clutch allows you to only use one hand for the entire operation.

Pros

  • 5+1 Ball bearings
  • Rocket Clutch
  • MagTrax brake system
  • Customizable cast control
  • Durable
  • Affordable

Cons

  • Limited applications
  • Single-disk drag system

Who It’s Best For

Although it’s not an intricate design, the Silver Max is your best bet when fighting bottom-bouncing walleyes. It offers good control because of how you can customize the MagTrax brake system which is more than impressive for its price tag. It deserves a final spot on the best fishing reels list.

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Buying Guide: What to Look for in Your Best Fishing Reels

You’ve seen our top picks; maybe you agree with them, maybe you have your own opinions, or maybe you need more convincing. To help those of you who aren’t so knowledgeable about fishing reels in general, here are some explanations for the terminology used.

Some of the following features are the most important ones to consider when it comes to buying a fishing reel. Once you know where you want to fish, what type of catch you’re looking at, and what type of rod you’ll use, or already own, understanding the information on the package is the next logical step.

Drag System

The drag system is what helps you control the line under pressure. The setting you use on your reel will also keep the line from breaking if you happen to hook something very heavy (above the line’s rated limit).

Always keep in mind that you should only tighten the drag once you’ve hooked a fish. When it is loose, fish will have an easier time pulling line, which is what you want to keep them interested. Once you’re confident you can reel one in, tighten the drag so that the fish will have a harder time fighting you.

This not only tires them out but also gives you more control over the direction you pull them from. This way you can avoid underwater trunks or hiding spots where a fish might try to seek cover.

There are two types of drag systems on reels: front and rear. Regardless of which one you pick they both perform the same task. Most people pick one over the other simply as a matter of preference.

However, in competitive fishing, the reel of choice is one with a front drag system. Because the drag doesn’t need to use the entire length of the reel, it is usually placed right at the end of the spool. This doesn’t make the reel necessarily easier to use but it allows more accurate control. You might have to pay more for this feature so keep that in mind also.

Bearings

The more bearings a reel has, the smoother it will feel when in use. A lesser known fact is that bearings also play a part in determining the reel’s durability. A lot of the wear and tear gets absorbed by the bearings and this allows the gears to last longer.

Retrieve Ratio

In order to know how fast you can retrieve your line, you need to look at the retrieve ratio. Some of the best fishing reels use 5.2:1 and 6.2:1, which are common ratios for general purpose reels. Here’s what the numbers mean.

The first value of the ratio lets you know how many times the rotor assembly spins at one turn of the handle. The second value is the baseline one turn.

Although the previously mentioned values are the most common ones, the retrieve ratio can go higher or lower. If you want to catch big fish, and we do mean Instagram worthy fish, you could even go for a 4:1 ratio. It will allow your reel to have more power and give you more control when fighting the fish.

Line Lay

What you should also pay attention to is the line lay. Having a flat line makes a huge difference when it comes to casting. If you have an even line lay, the line will strip off the spool with much better consistency. This means you have to put in less effort to cast further and you’ll get better accuracy too.

Budget

This is the part that always stings. Why does everything have to come with a price tag? In all seriousness, it’s not all that bad when it comes to the best fishing reels. Reel manufacturers have come a long way and some of the high-end products today are actually quite affordable.

If you’re an expert angler and a competitive fisherman, you already know what you need for every situation. If you’re just looking to have some alone-time away from your nagging spouse or busy career, there are plenty of budget options that can last you years and also perform great.

Keep in mind that reels aren’t indestructible. You will need to give them the proper maintenance regardless if you use them every day or once a month.

Reel Handles and Grips

You should never buy a reel just because of its handle. However, choosing one that is comfortable for you is important. Nevertheless, this should be the last feature you worry about when shopping for a fishing reel. Grips are even less important as even some of the cheapest reels use nonslip materials and fatigue-reducing designs.

Best Fishing Reels FAQ

What are the different types of fishing reels?

The most important ones you should know are the spincaster (close-face design), spinning reel (open-face design) and baitcaster. Each one comes with its own advantages and disadvantages, although it is believed that the spinning reel is the most cost-efficient overall for multiple applications.

Which fishing reel to use?

While the spinning reels are the most versatile, this may be an overgeneralization. You should always use a reel that works with your rod and that has enough power to help you catch the fish you want.

How do you reel in a fish?

The first step is always to relax and give the fish enough time to get tired. While the fish is battling for control, keep your rod at a 45-degree angle from the water and in the direction of the fish. Once the catch stops taking in more line, it’s time to reel it in.

How do you clean fishing reels of saltwater?

Constantly spraying with fresh water while you’re fishing is always a good idea. You should also wash the reel after each trip and then dry it. Works best when you use a soft cloth that can also remove excess salt deposits.

What is fishing reel drag?

The drag system is what helps you keep the reel under control. What’s also known as drag power is the resistance the fish feels while fighting. Good drag power also keeps the rod from breaking during a struggle.

What is fishing reel oil made of?

Fishing reel oil is a specific mixture of oil and additives that has an easy time flowing to every crevice of the gearing system. It helps keep everything moving smoothly and usually works for both fresh and saltwater fishing reels.

Conclusion

Sometimes expensive reels will be better but not all the time. After all, out of all of the best fishing reels we covered, our top pick is one of the cheapest on the list. The reasoning is simple. What most fishermen need is a durable and precise fishing reel. You can get that without spending too much.

However, when it’s time to get competitive, it’s a different story. For the best min-maxing when it comes to drag power, control, brake, and so on, your budget needs to be considerably high. It’s not rocket science really, just common sense that applies to all sporting activities. The highest-performing equipment doesn’t come cheap.

(p.s. Another reel that we’re really starting to like is the Shimano Nasci. If interested, check out our complete review of it here.)

Want more fishing gear? Check out our other reviews on:

Best Bait

Best Lures

Best Rods

Best Line

Fishing Sunglasses