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Michelangelo—without his chisel—was an incredible artist, but for it we have David.

Di Vinci—without his paint and canvas—was still an inventor and an engineer, but for them, we have The Mona Lisa.

While the development of skill is a prerequisite in any craft or trade—without the proper tools—those skills can be awfully hard to build, or otherwise, just collect dust. Slowly diminishing.

With the wrong reel, you’ll spend more time working out knots, fixing bails, and otherwise not fishing.

But with the right equipment, well, who knows what masterpiece of a catch you can land.

Tie on your leader and lets cast-off to find you, your best spinning reel.

Our Best Choice

Penn Battle II Spinning Fishing Reel

  • Durable, this rod boasts a full metal body, side plate, and rotor. It’s ready to help you reel in the big saltwater gamefish.
  • Powerful yet smooth drag with HT 100 carbon fiber
  • Instant anti-reverse braking, 5 sealed stainless steel ball bearings allow fluid cranking

Powerful, smooth, durable, and all sorts of other accurate if complimentary adjectives. Clearly marked braid ready spool, and automatic reverse break makes for an intuitive and efficient tool for any angler.

The Top Spinning Reel in the Market Today

The 10 Best Spinning Reels - A Masters Toolkit

(And a couple runners up)

1. Penn Battle II Spinning Fishing Reel - Best Saltwater Spinning Reel

If you want an absolute multipurpose saltwater dynamo, you simply can’t beat the Penn Battle II Spinning Fishing Reel. Also available at Passpro.

Built for battling the big fish in heavy salt spray, this rugged and well-engineered reel is strong, but still pulls in line smooth as silk. And when you are matching wits with masters of salt and surf, smooth is never underrated. 

Best still, they’ve options in sizes for any fish or depth you prefer to fish. So pick the Penn that’s right for you, and take on whatever sea monster of legend your nearest body of water holds.

Pros

  • Durable, this rod boasts a full metal body, side plate, and rotor. It’s ready to help you reel in the big saltwater gamefish.
  • Powerful yet smooth drag with HT 100 carbon fiber
  • Instant anti-reverse braking, 5 sealed stainless steel ball bearings allow fluid cranking
  • Braid-ready superline spool with line capacity markers

Cons

  • Some say this spinning reel comes too heavily-greased and reels stiffly first out of the box

Reel Tips: Remember that over-lubricating a reel can cause problems just as bad as not lubricating your reel. Use only a drop of grease or oil on your bearings.


2. KastKing Brutus Freshwater Spinning Fishing Reel - Best Spinning Reel for Bass

The Best spinning reel under 50 on this list, the KastKing Brutus Freshwater Spinning Fishing Reel is a comfortable, lightweight, and ambidextrous freshwater spinner.

All absolutely crucial if you plan to spend your day filling your creel with all stripes of bass.

Made from high tensile strength materials, you can cast assured knowing low cost does not in any way imply frail or faulty. In fact, this model has some features that other more expensive reels don’t.

Including being equipped with a line-keeper, because nobody has time to rewind an unspooled line.

Get yours now, and start landing bass like they’re allergic to other anglers. 

Pros

  • High quality at a very low price
  • Strong graphite frame and rotor paired with an aircraft-grade aluminum spool makes for durable yet lightweight spinning reel
  • Reversible left or right hand retrieve handle and instant anti-reverse bearing
  • Comfy, easy-to-clean handle grips
  • A handy line keeper to prevent unspooling

Cons

  • It’s more suited to freshwater. If you want to use it for saltwater fishing you will need to keep it to light fish, and remember to rinse after use.

3. Cadence Spinning Ultralight Carbon Fiber Fishing Reel - Best Ultralight Spinning Reel

You can only do any task for as long as you have the endurance to perform.

If you are out on the water all day long matching wits with sub-surface predators—fighting them on their home surf and turf—every ounce of weight wears you down.

Tired fingers dig hooks into thumbs. Casts get sloppier and land poorly (In reeds, or one might hook a stickfish catch and release). Or hell, you just pack up and go home too tired to enjoy your favorite hobby.

At less than 10 ounces, the Cadence Spinning Ultralight Carbon Fiber Fishing Reel is the lightest high-quality reel available at this, or most price points.

But being lightweight isn’t the only thing that takes the work off our favorite angler. Eight ball bearings makes reeling this beauty in feel like pulling silk through melted butter.

Pros

  • 8 high-performance corrosion-resistant ball bearings make this reel-ly good for freshwater fishing
  • Did I mention it’s ultra-lightweight? (Sub 10 ounces)
  • Max drag 29-36 pounds depending on model
  • Left/right hand retrieve
  • Ergonomic EVA handle provides all-day comfort

Cons

  • While it is rated as inshore fishing-friendly, this reel reportedly doesn’t appreciate saltwater exposure. Whether that angler rinsed the salt off regularly is unknown.

Pro-tip straight from the bass’ mouth: While saltwater fishing, spray your reel every so often with fresh water and then wipe dry to remove salt buildup. After saltwater fishing, rinse your reel thoroughly and wipe dry with a cotton towel.


4. Lews Fishing TPI400 TP1 Inshore Speed Spinning Reel - Best Inshore Saltwater Spinning Reel

Tarpon, Bonefish, Striped bass, Redfish, Snook or Barracuda. The pleasure and bounty found in a small fishing boat—or off a pier—can not be overstated.

With the Lews Fishing TPI400 TP1, you’ve got one of the best inshore spinning reels you can find, with features that let you focus on the fish.

Features like an ambidextrous handle, and hardy yet lightweight frame and side plate, an anti-reverse clutch bearing.

Speaking of bearings. Seven of the bad boys and a 33” retrieve make for one of the smoothest pulls on an inshore spinning reel that one can experience.

Pros

  • Lightweight aluminum body and side plate
  • Double-anodized and knurled machined aluminum spool
  • Adjusts for either right or left-handed retrieve
  • Treated with speed lube to provide excellent handling in most weather conditions
  • 1 zero reverse one-way clutch bearing

Cons

  • Reel handle can come loose, may require a drop of Loctite or simply retighten it during regular preventative maintenance

5. Okuma Ceymar Spinning Reel - Best Rrout Spinning Reel

Whether your piscatorial pursuits have you fishing a stream, river, lake, ice-hole, or on the big blue sea, one delish sport fish can be found readily.

For landing more trout than bargained, little beats the Okuma Ceymar Spinning Reel line. Most trout species are easily and consistently reeled with model C-10, and that’s pretty great considering it’s their least expensive model.

Okuma precision machines all key components on all models of their reels. That attention to detail produces smooth operation that you can count on. Hence the full year warranty.

So get yours now, and drop a line in the nearest ice-hole.

Pros

  • Precision elliptical gearing paired with a fluid (Up to) 8-bearing drive system
  • Compact Blade Body Design reduces bulk for a refined reel feel
  • Custom EVA foam handled knobs for supreme comfort
  • This sleek design is also corrosion-resistant
  • 1-year warranty

Cons

  • Comments suggest that the line can get caught behind the spool on this reel

Our Tip: To reduce the occurrence of pesky caught lines, don’t fill the spool to/past capacity and try closing your bail manually.


6. SHIMANO ULTEGRA Freshwater Spinning Fishing Reel - Best Shimano Spinning Reel

SHIMANO—a trusted name in Japanese manufacturing in cycling, golf, and other sports for nearly a century—really demonstrates their experience with their globally best-selling fishing reels.

Currently standing tall atop the pack, the SHIMANO ULTEGRA Freshwater Spinning Fishing Reel. Sleek but strong materials comprise its G-Free Body for superb balance. (Also available at Basspro.)

Inside, an ultra-durable, cold-forged proprietary Hagane Gear is so well engineered to reduce friction, that when combined with its X-Ship double-bearing pinion support system, grants a long, smooth accurate cast.

For the angler in your life who deserves experienced quality craftsmanship, even if it’s you—especially if it’s you—you cannot go wrong with any SHIMANO reel, and the ULTEGRA—while exceptional—is no exception

Pros

  • Smooth action yet strong enough for both inshore and offshore fishing
  • Equipped with Shimano’s CoreProtect water-resistant technology for reel longevity
  • Improved gear durability reduces friction allowing you to cast well and far
  • Up to 20-pound drag
  • Perfect line lay thanks to Aero Wrap Oscillation

Cons

  • It’s a high-quality reel with high-speed gearing—so it just makes sense that it’s not the cheapest

7. Piscifun Flame Light Weight Ultra Smooth Spinning Fishing Reels - Best Budget Spinning Reel

Humankind has slapped a hook on bait and pulled dinner from the sea for over 42,000 years. 

Evidence suggests that we've done as such with a line and rod for a hot minute too. Since at least 2000BCE. Barely a millennium into recorded human history. 

That makes fishing one of mankind’s oldest skills. One that beckons to us through our history, or instinct, or ancestral DNA, and as such it should not be reserved only for those with the most resources.

With the Piscifun Flame line of Light Weight Ultra Smooth Spinning Fishing Reels, anyone can afford to get out on the water.

Fill your creel, look good doing it, and honor whatever of the wild calls to you.

Pros

  • Drag power up to 19.8-pounds
  • The hollow graphite body makes for a lightweight reel
  • Braid ready spool
  • Aesthetic—good looking matte black body paired with a red aluminum spool

  • Did we mention the price is reely right?

Cons

  • The bail on this reel is a little larger than others if you have big hands—watch your fingers

Pro Tip: For freshwater fishing choose 2000 or 3000 series. For saltwater/bigger game fish jump up to the 4000-5000 models


8. Cadence CC6 Spinning Reel & Rod Combo - Best Spinning Rod and Reel Combo

For those looking to grab and go, you can't do better than the Cadence CC6 Spinning Reel & Rod Combo.

Ideal for freshwater fish like bass, walleye, and trout as well as popular inshore species like redfish, speckled trout, and flounder, so long as one remembers to rinse your rod and reel after a saltwater fish.

All 17 models of Cadence Spinning Rods—both 1-piece and 2-piece—are constructed from 24-30-ton carbon matrix graphite blanks. This offers the best mix of strength, durability, and sensitivity without being hefty.

Guides on all Cadence rods are stainless steel to resist corrosion and have a SiC insert for smooth even line control.

The best part? Cadence—and vicariously all Cadence customers—is dedicated to educating and encouraging future angles, and is partnered with a number of charities to that end.

Pros

  • Can be used to fish freshwater and inshore
  • Ergonomic EVA handle for a comfortable grip
  • 24-ton graphite rod and a strong aluminum reel keep the weight down
  • Stainless steel main shaft with a brass pinion gear
  • For every Cadence purchase, their charity partners donate a youth combo so you’re helping the next generation learn to fish

Cons

  • Not ideal for offshore fishing, and remember to rinse off with fresh water after inshore fishing

9. Pflueger President Spincast Fishing Reel - Best Spinning Reel for Walleye

According to a number of actual customer reviews, the construction on the Pflueger President Spincast Fishing Reel was akin to stepping back in time when craftsmanship was a thing of pride and not just a bottom dollar.

Intuitive, incredibly rugged and reliable, this call back is great if you (or more likely a rambunctious and over enthusiastic kiddo) is like me, and drops or otherwise mangles any delicate or intricate thing encountered. Particularly handy with walleye, since that's work best done in the dark.

All the high-end features one can’t do without once spoiled. Like a 5 bearing system with an anti-reverse bearing and titanium pins.

Today's fishing engineering, in the long-lasting design of yesteryear.

Pros

  • Easy to use, good for beginners
  • Aluminum frame and core make for a durable reel
  • Can use braided line on it
  • Instant anti-reverse with spool applied drag
  • Great price point

Cons

  • This reel is a little on the heavier side

Wall Eye’ll Be Darned: Some walleyes feed during the day, but the best times to snag one of these fish are several hours after it gets dark out and again around an hour after the light comes back up.


10. Bass Pro Shops® Micro Lite™ Spinning Reels - Best Micro Spinning Reel

The ever popular Bass Pro Shops® Micro Lite™ Spinning Reels are tough little workhorses. With its light, graphite frame, rotor and aluminum spool you know that you can put it through its paces.

An internal 5-bearing—(4+1) system with Powerlock instant anti-reverse—makes sure an angler doesn't lose ground in the fight, while the Soft Touch handle assures that you stay comfortable while dug in.

Quick, fast, and easy. The Folks at Bass Pro Shops are the pros for a reason.

Pros

  • Tough yet lightweight construction (graphite rotor and frame)
  • The aluminum spool has a double-anodized lip
  • Soft Touch PVC handle for all-day comfort
  • PowerLock instant anti-reverse
  • Front drag

Cons

  • If you use this in saltwater, surprise, there’s a chance the ball bearings will wear out. Preserve their longevity by rinsing your reel after fishing and using the right amount of oil or grease to protect them from salt corrosion

Or add to your arsenal with…

(Didn’t make the list but might still be the best reel for you)


11. Lews Fishing Mr. Crappie Slab Shaker Spinning Reel MCS50  - Best Spinning Reel for Crappie

Pros

  • Deeply affordable
  • Comes pre-spooled with mono 6-pound line
  • Lightweight graphite body, rotor, and spool
  • Reversible for left/right-hand friendliness
  • Compact gearbox, 2 bearing construction

Cons

  • Retrieve can take a good 15-20 casts before it smoothes out (but it does smooth out)

Cut the Crappie: Keep fishing for crappie simple by choosing a classic fixed bobber with a minnow rig about 2 feet below it.


12. Okuma Fishing Tackle Hx-35 Helios Extremely Lightweight Spinning Reel - Best Steelhead Spinning Reel

Pros

  • Ultralight reel made of long strand carbon fiber with aluminum and brass gear
  • Superior corrosion-resistance
  • Works for both freshwater fishing and saltwater
  • Smooth casting with no backspin
  • Anti-reverse switch

Cons

  • Not the cheapest and doesn’t come with a spare spool

Let’s Get Reel

(And if anyone was wondering, no I do not feel bad at all about these puns.)

We shan’t pretend we’ll all be remembered as fondly a renaissance master—for time spent fishing no less.

Nor are we apt to pull old Champy out of lake Champlain with our trusty rod and reel—though with the Penn Battle II Spinning Fishing Reel you’ve got a better chance than without.

Penn Battle II Spinning Fishing Reel

But we are not likely to be enshrined in the halls of eternity for our fishing. Because it doesn't leave behind anything but the masterpiece of memories made with the people we love the most. Memories with a rod and reel in hand.

And THAT is really the point, isn’t it? 

In fact, fishing is such an integral part of our humanity—about how we fit in within our ecosystem—that the reasons we do it are vast and varied.

Hobbyist or professional. Purist, or purely practical.

Be you intent on the rich and flavorful nutritional source of a fresh catch, a personal commune with nature, or the practice of an ancient skill, the right tool for the job is just a couple clicks away.

Get your favorite worm-drowner—and I hope it’s yourself—the perfect spinning reel this holiday season.

B. Donovan Fousel is a personal combat instructor, with schools across the Midwest. After over a decade in armored transport (and a number of other security gigs) he has just returned from two years sailing the pacific coast.