The Best Open Face Reel: 2021 Buying Guide

Kenneth ReavesEdited by: Kenneth Reaves
Michael DarmontReviewed by: Michael Darmont

Last Update:

The Rundown

Best Overall: Pflueger President (click to see)
The Pflueger President is fitted with a waterproof sealed drag system, 7-corrosion resistant ball bearings, and a lightweight graphite body and rotor. It can make it through many seasons without mechanical issues.”

Premium Option: Penn Slammer III (click to see)
“The Penn Slammer III has a full metal body, side plate, and rotor utilizing the latest CNC gear technology and includes one of the most comprehensive drag systems available.”

Smoothest Performance: KastKing Summer and Centron (click to see)
The Summer and Centron utilizes a high-powered 17.5-pound drag system and 9-ball bearings for ultra-smooth performance. It also comes in various sizes to fit every angler’s needs.”

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When attempting to cast precisely, owning the right fishing gear for the job is crucial. Having a superb open face reel is handy because one can cast with pinpoint accuracy and provide the angler with a level of line control that is second to none.

The majority of these premium spinning freshwater reels are designed with the angler’s comfort in mind. They also feature a robust drag system, durable ball bearings, and CNC machined internal gear train components, making them durable and dependable on almost every fishing trip.

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Products tested
Product Name
Best Overall
Best Premium Option
Smoothest Performance
Our Ranking
Ranked #1
Ranked #2
Ranked #3
Thumbnail
Pflueger President Spinning Fishing Reel
PENN 1403982 Slammer III Spinning Black Gold, 3500
KastKing Centron Spinning Reel,Size 500 Fishing Reel
Our Grade
Our Rating 96/100
Our Rating 92/100
Our Rating 90/100
Feature 1
Specialized gearing that prevents the line from twisting
CNC machined gear set for the highest degree of precision
High-powered 17.5 lb. Drag System
Feature 2
Sealed drag system for all-weather performance
Sealed Slammer drag system with Dura-Drag
Utilizes 9-ball bearings for ultra-smooth performance
Best Overall
Product Name
Our Ranking
Ranked #1
Thumbnail
Pflueger President Spinning Fishing Reel
Our Grade
Our Rating 96/100
Feature 1
Specialized gearing that prevents the line from twisting
Feature 2
Sealed drag system for all-weather performance
Best Premium Option
Product Name
Our Ranking
Ranked #2
Thumbnail
PENN 1403982 Slammer III Spinning Black Gold, 3500
Our Grade
Our Rating 92/100
Feature 1
CNC machined gear set for the highest degree of precision
Feature 2
Sealed Slammer drag system with Dura-Drag
Smoothest Performance
Our Ranking
Ranked #3
Thumbnail
KastKing Centron Spinning Reel,Size 500 Fishing Reel
Our Grade
Our Rating 90/100
Feature 1
High-powered 17.5 lb. Drag System
Feature 2
Utilizes 9-ball bearings for ultra-smooth performance

Best Open Face Reels 2021

  1. Best Overall: Pflueger President
  2. Best Premium Option: Penn Slammer III
  3. Smoothest Performance: KastKing Summer and Centron
  4. Most Powerful: KastKing Sharky III
  5. Best Lightweight Option: Piscifun Flame
  6. Most Versatile: Okuma Ceymar
  7. Best Budget Option: Sougayilang Spinning Reel

Pflueger President

Best Overall: A trouble-free reel engineered to keep you fishing for as long as possible

Pflueger President Spinning Fishing Reel
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KEY FEATURES

  • Specialized gearing that prevents the line from twisting
  • Sealed drag system for all-weather performance
  • Graphite body and rotor for a lightweight feel

The Pflueger President should be an investment worth making, especially for those with limited time on the water and demand the utmost reliability out of all of their gear. This spinning reel features specialized gearing that slows oscillation to prevent line twisting and kinks. It’s also fitted with a waterproof sealed drag system, 7-corrosion resistant ball bearings, and a lightweight graphite body and rotor.

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The Pflueger President spinning takes line control to a new extreme by using slow oscillation gearing to prevent lines from being wound in too quickly for efficient spooling. This leads to even line distribution, which means fewer “birds’ nests” and more time spent fishing instead of fixing line-related issues.

Also of note is the Pflueger President’s sealed drag system, which resists water ingress and maintains internal lubrication. This should be a popular feature among anglers, as water contamination and resulting corrosion can spell trouble for the drag systems of much lesser quality spinning reels currently available on the market. When a drag system becomes compromised, several performance-related issues soon become evident.

As a further compliment to the abovementioned drag system, Pflueger has used corrosion-resistant, stainless steel ball bearings in their President line of reels. This adds another level of depth to the line’s already impressive weather resistance. As a result, this spinning reel is likely to make it through many seasons without much in the way of mechanical issues.

Penn Slammer III

Best Premium Option: Premium performance manufactured from the latest technological advances

PENN 1403982 Slammer III Spinning Black Gold, 3500
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KEY FEATURES

  • CNC machined gear set for the highest degree of precision
  • IP6 Sealed body and spool design for ultimate weather resistance
  • Sealed Slammer drag system with Dura-Drag

The Penn Slammer III takes precision engineering to new heights. It offers anglers one of the best open face reels that looks stylish with innovative features. It consists of a full metal body, side plate, and rotor utilizing the latest CNC gear technology and includes one of the most comprehensive drag systems available. If you are an angler that wants nothing but the finest in your boat, the Penn Slammer III is likely your best option.

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The Penn Slammer III spinning reel features a precisely cut, CNC machined gear set, which meshes perfectly upon every revolution of its handle. This should maximize fighting torque, eliminating the presence of binding that is all too common of other available spinning reels. The precise way that these gears are cut should also minimize premature tooth wear and extend overall longevity.

It is also worth mentioning that the Penn Slammer III spinning reel utilizes a top-end drag system, which is far more comprehensive than those used by the vast majority of spinning reels on the market. This system features Penn’s Dura-Drag technology, which uses specialized disc material, much like that found within the transmissions of high-performance vehicles, to meter line pull, and prevent premature fiber breakdown. This can significantly benefit those who commonly pursue record-size game fish that generally tax the drag systems of lesser reels.

The Penn Slammer III spinning reel also comes in several sizes, allowing anglers to select the best-suited model for their particular application. This only adds to the reel’s already great level of versatility.

KastKing Summer and Centron

Smoothest Performance: Subdued in cost but not in features

KastKing Centron Spinning Reel,Size 500 Fishing Reel
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KEY FEATURES

  • Compact, lightweight design
  • High-powered 17.5 lb. Drag System
  • Utilizes 9-ball bearings for ultra-smooth performance

If you are on the hunt for a quality open face fishing reel that is economical in price, there are likely few better options than the KastKing Summer and Centron. This spinning reel features a lightweight graphite frame that is compact in design and should be pretty durable. In addition, each Summer and Centron Spinning Reel utilizes a total of 9 ball bearings, which should offer ultra-smooth performance, free of any hard spots or operational lag.

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KastKing Summer and Centron series fishing reels also feature a powerful 17.5 lb. drag system, which will likely allow anglers to fight even the largest gamefish species efficiently. This system is constructed ruggedly, featuring a hardened metal main shaft, perfect mesh drive gear, and precision machined pinion gear. These components also serve as a point of enhanced durability, as a reel’s drag system can be a crucial point of failure among many lesser fishing reels on the market.

Another critical characteristic of the KastKing Summer and Centron spinning reel is its high visual appeal level. Additionally, these spinning reels come in two different color combinations, allowing anglers to select which best suits their tastes. These color combinations include black with blue accents and white with blue accents.

The KastKing Summer and Centron Spinning reel also come in multiple sizes for use within a variety of applications. From ultralight ice fishing reels to larger catfishing reels, there is likely an option available in this series to fit every angler’s needs.

KastKing Sharky III

Most Powerful: Features of an open face fishing reel, power of a winch

KastKing Sharky III Spinning Fishing Reel,Size 1000
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KEY FEATURES

  • First-in-class 39.5 lb. triple-disc drag
  • KastKing Intrusion Shield System prevents water and dirt ingress protection
  • Includes 10+1 saltwater rated, double-shielded ball bearings

The KastKing Sharky III is an open face fishing reel designed to tackle the chore of hauling in the biggest fish on any given body of water. This reel features a first-in-class 39.5 lb. triple-disc drag system and 10+1 saltwater rated, double-shielded ball bearings that offer unmatched strength and agility. This is likely to make the perfect reel for those who regularly fish for catfish, musky, or striped bass, as well as a wide variety of hard-fighting saltwater species.

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The drag system featured in conjunction with the KastKing Sharky III is engineered for power from every front. The reel’s combination of triple disc carbon fiber clutches, oversized stainless-steel main shaft, and precision mesh manganese brass pinion gears should make the perfect combination for taking on trophy-sized fish wherever they can be found.

Another noteworthy characteristic of the KastKing Sharky III spinning reel is its unique Shark Fin Braid Ready aluminum spool. This spool allows anglers to fit the KastKing Sharky III with a braided line, without the use of a backing line, as is characteristic of other fishing reels on the market. This should be a factor that many anglers will favor, as they will spend less time dealing with the intricacies of spooling braid instead of leaving more time for fishing.

Perhaps most notable is that this powerhouse of a spinning reel is offered at a price point that is likely affordable to most anglers. You can purchase the KastKing Sharky III for little more than the cost of a tank of gas.

Piscifun Flame

Best Lightweight Option: A featherweight reel with heavyweight performance

Piscifun Flame Spinning Reels Light Weight Ultra Smooth Powerful Spinning Fishing Reels Red 2000 Series
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KEY FEATURES

  • Lightweight graphite frame for minimal angler fatigue
  • Powerful 19.8 lb. drag system
  • Ergonomic design for ultimate comfort

The Piscifun Flame Open Face Reel is likely to be the perfect choice for those that have grown tired of bulkier, more cumbersome reels in the past, as it has been engineered for the ultimate in angler comfort. The combination of a lightweight hollow graphite frame and an ergonomic grip and handle should be enough to make anglers pick this fishing reel up and never want to put it down again. Additionally, this reel is packed with helpful features, such as a robust 19.8 lb drag system, a smooth 9+1 bearing system, and a braid ready spool.

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Weighing in at only 8.5 ounces, arm, and hand fatigue should be of no issue to anglers who employ the Piscifun Flame open face fishing reel. This weight minimization is essentially a product of the Flame’s hollow graphite handle, eliminating a substantial amount of unnecessary weight. Additionally, this spinning reel features an ergonomically designed handle that is likely to become a point of favor among anglers who spend long hours on the water.

The Piscifun Flame spinning reel is also built to satisfy the needs of those with serious ambitions toward catching sizable fish. With a 19.8 lb total drag weight, a reinforced metal main shaft, a high-quality drive gear, a precisely machined brass pinion gear, and triple drag washers, it is highly unlikely that the average angler will encounter a situation that the Piscifun Flame cannot handle.

Braid line can also be used in conjunction with the Piscifun Flame spinning reel, as its specialized spool is engineered for this exact purpose. There is no longer any need to worry about backing your braid with monofilament. Simply spool on your fishing line of choice, and take it to the water.

Okuma Ceymar

Most Versatile: A versatile series of spinning reels with options for every application

okuma Ceymar Lightweight Spinning Reel- C-30
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KEY FEATURES

  • Multi-disc, pre-oiled drag system allows for ample line control
  • Quick-set anti-reverse roller bearing prevents free spool of line
  • Offered in a range of sizes for versatility

The Okuma Ceymar line of open face reels is offered in various sizes, which should benefit those who know what features they are searching for but are looking for a perfectly sized fishing reel for their particular application. Additionally, this reel includes several high-end features, such as a multi-disc, pre-oiled drag system, a quick-set anti-reverse roller bearing, and high-torque pinion gear.

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The Okuma Ceymar spinning reel includes the C-30/C-40 for freshwater use, the C-55 for inshore saltwater fishing, and the C-65 for open water excursions. With such a wide array of purpose-specific models, most anglers will be able to quickly locate an Okuma Ceymar fishing reel that is perfectly suited to their needs.

The Okuma Ceymar’s Multi-disc, the pre-oiled drag system, is also sure to be a hit among many anglers. This system employs felt-style discs that adequately meter drag and line dispersal, leading to a higher degree of versatility when taking on whatever the lake throws your way.

This spinning reel also features an anti-corrosive anodized coating. This can come as a significant advantage when factoring in the longevity of a particular reel, as the elements can quickly lay waste to uncoated reels, rendering them unfit for use in a matter of only a few years.

Sougayilang Spinning Reel

Best Budget Option: Satisfactory performance at an equally satisfactory price

Sougayilang Spinning Fishing Reels Smooth 11BB for Inshore Boat Rock Freshwater Saltwater Fishing-DK1000
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KEY FEATURES

  • 11 total ball bearings for seamless operation
  • S-curve oscillation system for uniform spooling
  • Compact, streamlined design for comfortable use

If your budget is limited, but you still wish to purchase a spinning fishing reel that you will be proud to own, then the Sougayilang spinning reel is likely to be your best bet. This reel looks the part and carries several noteworthy design attributes, such as an 11 ball-bearing internal configuration, an S-curve oscillation system, and an ultra-compact profile. Most notable is that You can purchase this reel for less than most will spend on bait during any given outing.

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The Sougayilang open face fishing reel utilizes a complex yet well-thought-out rotational configuration. With a more significant total number of ball bearings than the bulk of spinning reels on this list, its operation should be silky smooth. This is likely to be a favorite characteristic of anglers who prefer a cast and wind method of fishing, such as when working a buzz bait or crankbait.

The S-curve oscillation system used by the Sougayilang open face reel is another critical point of interest. Many low-grade open face fishing reels are incapable of metering line spool in an efficient manner. However, the Sougayilang open face reel slightly slows its spooling to minimize line twists and kinks.

The Sougayilang open face reel also features a drag system similar to those found on many higher-dollar reels. However, this system employs quality carbon discs to adequately meter drag and is sealed from dust and other environmental contaminants. As a result, anglers should be better able to maintain control over the fight at hand.

What Should I Look For When Buying An Open Face Reel?

Frame

Without a heavy-duty frame, open face fishing reels are prone to be irreparably damaged when fighting big fish.

A reel’s frame not only provides the base to which all other components attach but serves as the single point of connection between an angler’s rod and reel as well. As such, a reel’s frame must be extremely rugged and capable of withstanding abuse by sizable fish, as well as the elements.

Freshwater or Saltwater

Assuming that a reel is intended for saltwater fishing use, without confirmation, can lead to a host of issues for an angler to contend with.

Saltwater is naturally corrosive to metal surfaces and can quickly damage any fishing reel not approved for use in such conditions. Saltwater-approved fishing reels feature anti-corrosive surface coatings, a sealed ball bearing system, and water-resistant drag systems. However, not all freshwater spinning reels are built in the same manner. Therefore, it is essential to consider which type of fishing you intend to participate in. 

Price

Open face spinning reels are offered at virtually every price point imaginable, thereby presenting an option that fits every budget.

Before purchasing an open face spinning reel, you must first have a budget in mind. Reels of this type can be purchased for as little as $15 or as much as $300. This makes it relatively easy for any angler to locate a fishing reel that is affordable to them. However, it is also of value to remember that you most often get what you pay for. Premium tier reels often feature higher-grade ball bearings, more robust drag systems, smooth operation, and numerous amenities.

Reel Spool

A reel’s spool is the final link between an angler and the line to which their prized catch will be hooked.

An open face fishing reel’s spool plays an integral role in an angler’s cast and retrieve. A high-quality spool can improve casting distances, and minimize fishing line twists and kinks, thereby fostering a more excellent long-term fishing experience. Most of today’s best spinning reels feature an aluminum spool, many of which come in a braid-ready configuration.

Reel Body

A reel’s body composition plays a significant role in its ease of use and overall longevity.

Many of today’s best open face spinning reels feature an aluminum or graphite body. Both of these materials are lightweight by nature and are also naturally corrosion-resistant. As a byproduct, reels of this composition tend to be comfortable to handle and long-lasting in their durability.

Reel Rotor

An open face reel’s rotor transfers force between a unit’s gear train and its spool.

A reel’s rotor is designed to rotate around a spool shaft to drive the spool in a rotating fashion. The bulk of quality reel rotors are composed of graphite or aluminum and are rigid in form. This provides reliable rotation, smooth operation, and enhanced durability.

Reel Handle

A reel’s handle is the main component to which every other unit function is linked.

Few anglers genuinely consider just how vital a reel’s handle is to a unit’s overall operation. As the driving force behind a reel’s functionality, a handle must be solid in construction and comfortable to use. Today, the best open face fishing reels feature aluminum handles that can be repositioned for right and left-handed use and utilize comfortable rubber grips.

Power Roller

A reel’s power roller plays an essential role in spooling a line, free of any unwanted line abrasion.

A reel’s power roller can be found sandwiched between the unit’s bail and spool. This small component is designed to spin freely, allowing the fishing line to be wound onto the reel’s spool in an even and precise fashion. A power roller must be durable in design, as any damage to this unit will result in a frayed line, which ultimately risks breakage.

Weight

A bulky fishing reel is of little use to an avid angler, especially when fishing for extended periods.

It is essential to study the carrying weight of any fishing reel which you are currently considering purchasing. A failure to do so can leave you with a reel that is cumbersome to use, ultimately leading to excess arm fatigue. On the other hand, a lightweight fishing reel can provide an angler with hours of comfortable use, which is an attribute that anyone can appreciate.

Body Material

If a reel’s body is not cast from quality materials, longevity and overall efficiency are sure to suffer.

A reel’s body houses numerous components that are vital to proper function. As such, a reel’s body must be cast from quality materials in a bid to withstand all that it will be put up against. As a result, most of today’s quality open face reels feature bodies composed primarily of graphite, carbon fiber, or aluminum. Each of these materials is of value for its lightweight yet durable characteristics.

Line Capacity

A reel’s line capacity is essential when locating the best particular model for your specific application.

An open face reel’s line capacity varies not only by the size of the fishing reel itself but also by the line chosen for use. As a general rule, a reel’s overall capacity decreases as line size increases. However, a high-test line can still be used more efficiently when paired with a reel of sizable proportions.

Questions & Answers

What is an open face reel?

An open faced reel is a type of fishing reel that features a vertical spool that is not enclosed in any manner by a shroud or outer shell. Many anglers also refer to an open face reel as a spinning reel. Reels of this nature are easy to use and highly versatile, lending well to precision casting and intricate lure presentation. As a result, open face reels are immensely popular with anglers the world over.

Overall, an open face reel can be used with relative ease, though learning to cast a fishing reel of this nature often requires a little additional practice. For example, rather than depressing a button to cast, as is the case with spincasting reels, you must flip an open face reel’s bail into an upward position before casting one’s line.

What is an open face reel used for?

Open face reels are known for their high degree of versatility, making them suitable for use in most applications. One can use an open face reel in nearly every angling pursuit, including that which pertains to even the most sizable saltwater species. In addition, open face reels are offered in an infinite number of sizes, making it quite simple to choose a particular model that meets your specific needs.

Many avid panfish anglers prefer an open face reel over units of any other type due to their superb casting ability. This allows the angler to easily cast to spawning beds, as well as bush piles and other points of interest. Many anglers also keep an open face reel on hand for bass fishing, especially when employing finesse fishing techniques.

How do I cast an open face reel?

Open face reels operate relatively similar to other reels in relation to retrieval and drag system usage. However, reels of this variety do cast in a somewhat different manner than various other reels. Before casting, an open face reel’s bail is flipped upward to release the line. A finger is then used to hold the slackline against an angler’s rod. As an angler swings forward with their cast, they lift their finger, allowing the line to feed outward.

Casting an open face reel takes time to master. As with any casting, practice makes perfect. Many anglers shorten this learning curve by practicing their cast while in their backyard. With as little as 30 minutes of practice per evening, one can quickly become proficient in casting their new open face reel.

How do I string an open face reel?

Stringing an open face reel is relatively straightforward and can be completed in a matter of minutes, even by those with no prior experience. However, there are a few key steps that must be adhered to maximize your reel’s performance. 

First, begin by feeding the new line through each of your rod’s guides until reaching the spool of your reel. You will now flip the bail of your fishing reel into its upward position and tie this line onto the spool with the use of an overhand knot. 

You will now lay the spool of a new fishing line onto a flat surface and begin slowly cranking your reel. While doing so, make sure that the spool of the new line is spinning in the same direction as the spool of your reel. This keeps the line twist to an absolute minimum. As you reel, keep a slight tension on the incoming line using your thumb and index finger. You will continue stringing as much line onto your fishing reel until it comes within ⅛ inch of the spool’s outer lip, at which time you will cut the line, and a hook can be tied in place.