Finding the best spinning reel for the money can be tricky at a time when manufacturers and buyers alike are switching their attention to baitcasting reels. But for mounting on light rods and spooling the tiny line weights used to finesse spooky fish, spinning reels still rule the water. There are some really nice reels out there, and with a little shopping you can be into a high-performance spinning reel at a surprisingly good price point.
What makes a great spinning reel?
A great spinning reel has to be smooth, quiet, user-friendly, and ready to handle PowerProand other braided fishing lines. And of course it has to cast a long ways.The best spinning reels are going to have a well-constructed, light-weight body (the housing) made from aluminium or graphite. Weight has to be low to prevent fatigue over many casts. Gears should be precision machined from stainless steel, and four stainless steel ball bearings is the bare minimum. A waterproof sealed drag system is a must, and a front-drag will stand up the best with large fish. The top spinning reels use carbon fiber washers in the drag system. Finally, look for a sturdy, rigid bail and a well-designed ergonomic crank handle with the same qualities.
Cranking in the Best Spinning Reels
We looked at the top names and some new players on the market to find the best spinning reels for the money at a range of price points. Top factors in play were strength and durability, fit and finish, and of course casting and line handling capabilities. Take a look below to see how our findings lined up.
Best Spinning Reels – Comparisons
Shimano fishing reels are at the top of any list of precision-made high-performance fishing reels. The Stella FJ reels are smooth, silent works of art that come in a range of weights to handle various applications from fresh to saltwater. The Stella FJ 2500 runs on 7 ball bearings and every part in the reel is machined to the tightest tolerances. The Stella line of reels includes gear ratios from 5.1:1 up to 6.2:1, and retrievespeeds that go from 25 to 40 inches per crank. This makes it easy to tune in a reel and rod combo that is perfect for your fishing style and targeted species. The FJ 250 we tested had a 5.3:1 ratio and a relatively slow 30.7” retrieve. It can spool 100 yards of 30lb braid and put 20lbs of drag on big fish.
The reel’s X-Protect finish provides five times more protection against corrosion than standard finishes while making the reel look like it belongs in a museum. This is a true performance fishing machine, and if you have the budget to handle the high-end price, the Stella FJ is this only way to go.
The Shimano Stradic is a 6-bearing reel that offers fishermen Shimano precision build and silky smooth feel at a more comfortable price point. The Stradic 2500 weighs only 6.7 ounces, making it ideal for building an ultra-light spinning combo. But is surprisingly tough for its size, with the ability to handle 100 yards of 30-lb PowerPro and put on 20 pound of drag pressure. The C14+ carbon body is extremely stiff and feels feather-light, making the perfect housing for the HAGANE gear drive.
The Stradic handles really well and can cast small lures with amazing distance and precision. Black and red highlights on the spool and rotor and a smooth curve to the crank handle give the whole reel a high-performance look, making the Stradic one of the handsomest reels in our review. This Shimano is our second choice and is one of the best light spinning reels out there.
The Penn Clash 2500 is a medium weight reel that can handle most freshwater and even some light saltwater use. An all-metal body and extra-thick aluminum bail wire bring to mind the features of the big Penn saltwater spinning reels. The internals shine on this reel, with aprecision CNC-cut gear cluster built to last for years, 8 sealed stainless steel bearings, and indestructible carbon-fiber drag washers. Everything is mounted on an all-metal body that gives up minimum twist even when the drag is pulled down to its full 12lb capacity. The drag has a wave spring that gives it a very smooth, even action. The spool is knurled and ready for braid, and has handy line capacity rings. The Penn Leveline System combines slow reel oscillation with tuned spool diameter to layer braid in a perfect criss-cross that eliminatesthe buried sections of line that jam up your casts and cause tangles.
The CLA2500 has a brawny salt-water look to it and is well-suited to long- heavy-action rods. The handle features cut-aways to save weight, and the cranking knob has a big, satisfying feel to its cushioned grip. The reel casts well right out of the box, but performs best with heavier lures. The Penn Clash scores third in our review of the best spinning reels.
The Daiwa BG “Black Gold” 3000 is a mid-weight 6-bearing spinning reel made for salt- and fresh-water use. It can spool line weights of 12lbs in mono and 30lbs in braid and clamp on 15.4lbs of drag. The BG 3000 is a very solidly-built reel that weighs in at 10.8 ounces and balances well with longer, heavy-action rods. The black anodized machined aluminium body is strong and corrosion-resistant. It provides a stable housing for the oversized main drive gear. When you look at these reels, the first impression is over-built, from the thick bail wire to the solid screw-in handle that allows no feeling of slop between your hand and the gear train.
Reels in the Black Gold series are known for durability under hard use, and are often seen on professional charter boats. A deep-cut aluminium spool and prominent drag adjustment tab keep up the business-like appearance. The fourth-place NG 3000 comes at a very reasonable price-point considering strength and durability and is the way to go if a Shimano is out of reach.
13 Fishing is building a reputation for custom-quality fishing gear that reflects the influence of modern high-tech manufacturing processes. The Creed GT 2000 spinning reel is a perfect example of the company’s use of advanced materials and innovative designs. It is a light/medium reel built to cut weight to the bone without sacrificing strength and performance. Carbon is used for the frame, rotor, and handle, and anything that can be cut away has been to bring the reel down to 7.4 ounces. The Japanese Hamai-cut 6.2:1 gear train runs fast and smooth on 10 ball bearings, and a line management system that lets backing line knots lay flush against the spool lets line wind on perfectly evenly.
The bail wire on this real is the thickest we have seen in this reel size category and offers plenty of stiffness for the 10lb line weight and 11lbs of drag pressure the reel will be dealing with. At a similar price as the Daiwa but in a lighter weight class, the Creed GT 2000 comes in fifth in our review.
The Shimano Spirex 4000 RG offers a way into a Shimano mid-weight freshwater spinning reel at a price that will not break the budget. Fishermen who prefer a rear-drag fighting system will want to consider the Spirex 4000. It also has a couple of other features that set it apart. The Shimano Quick Fire II one-handed casting system lets you operate the bail with a fingertip. A classic straight cranking handle with dual knobs is perfect for fishing styles like dropshotting and jigging that rely on finesse and the ability to keep line slack to a minimum. The Spirex is slightly on the heavy side at 11.3 ounces, but it can spool 120 yards of 10lb mono or 95 yards of 30lb PowerPro. Gearing at 6.2:1 and a 7lb drag offer enough torque and power for most freshwater situations.
A graphite frame and rotor help to cut some weight and add stiffness. The machined aluminium spool has the full skirt we like because it minimizes the chances of line getting caught up underneath. An overall good-looking reel that casts very well once the Quick Fire system is mastered, the Shimano Spirex is number six on our list.
The Okuma Avenger ABF-40b is a powerful 6-bearing reel that offers a durable build and high-performance at a low-mid price point. The reel has a corrosion-proof graphite body. With aluminium used for the spool and handle, the whole package comes in at just over 10 ounces. We liked the over-sized feel of the controls on this reel. The front drag adjustment tab, the handle and crank knob, the bait feed adjustment, and the flip-up anti-reverse lock are all very easy to manage even with gloves on.
The bait feed capability is a very attractive feature of this spinning reel, making it a good choice for freshwater work with delicate biting fish like walleye and catfish. Touches like a computer-balanced rotor, oiled felt drag discs, and a roller system on the bail add to the sensitive feel for the fish this reel offers. The Okuma is a great choice at a very friendly price and comes in seventh in our review.
We wanted to take a look at the Pflueger President because Pflueger has been a premier name in American-made fishing gear since 1883. It did not hurt that the President 30X comes at an incredible price point for a 10-bearing reel (9 stainless steel ball, 1 stainless steel roller). The President did not disappoint with its graphite body and rotor, braid-ready spool, and instant anti-reverse. The President comes in a range of 5 sizes – the 30X is the medium-weight, with a 10lb sealed drag and the ability to spool 160 years of 10lb braid or 130 yards of 8lb mono.
Operation is smooth and simple; when paired with a 7-foot rod, the President can cast a small jig-head quite a distance. The 25.3” retrieve rate is on the slow side for this size of reel, so that is something to think about depending on your fishing style and the baits in use. The President is surprisingly light considering its sturdy build and we found the frame and leg to be plenty rigid. This is a nice basic reel with a very good price/quality ratio and it earned the eigth spot in our review.
The KastkingSharky 1000 is a low-priced reel that packs in a lot of performance features. Made to handle both fresh and saltwater medium-duty use, the Sharly III can run mono up to 10lbs and braid to 25lbs. The aluminium spool is braid-ready, eliminating the need for backing line. The spool rides on an over-sized stainless steel main shaft operated bya precision manganese brass alloy gear train running on 10 sealed stainless steel bearings. A 15lb triple-disc carbon drag puts the brakes on while a carbon fiber-reinforced graphite body takes the load.
We are wary of off-brand foreign-made fishing gear, but this Sharky reel actually surprised us. It is good-looking, with a heavy bail and all the details tight and clean. The reel is sealed well, and runs very smooth and quiet, as would be expected from a 10-bearing system. Long casts are no problem at all, and the EVA crank knob offers a positive, comfortable grip. Although durability is still in question in our opinion, great value for the money brings the Sharky III in at ninth place in our best spinning reel review.
The Daiwa Crossfire 2500 gets you into a quality spinning reel with some of the Daiwa’s renowned features for an absolute bargain price. The 2500 is a 9.3 ounce reel that can crank on 8.8lbs of drag and spool 140 yards of 10lb mono. It is a great reel for a trout or panfish set up. The reel features the Daiwa Digigear precision cut gear design running on 4 stainless-steel ball bearings. The ABS big-diameter tapered spool allows you to spool on line out to the lip for lower friction on the cast, less memory curl, and full use of the entire line length.
The Crossfire is a fine little reel and is perfect for setting up multiple rods for the kids or building a low-cost ultra-light spin combo. The sturdy metal body and machined aluminium crank handle with it over-sized knob makes the reel feel bigger than it is and solid in the hand. The Crossfire is our number 10 pick.
There you have it – ten great spinning reels that all perform well and cast far. Although any fisherman would love our number 1 pick for the best spinning reel, the Shimano Stella, we know that most people will need to choose from a more accessible price range. Every reel here is a top-performer at its price point, and when balanced with the right rod, will look and work great. Use our top 10 as the starting point for selecting your own best spinning reel and have fun out on the water.