The 5 Best Tuna Fishing Reels – Our Top Picks in 2024

Daniel ONeil

Daniel O'Neill

Head of Product Reviews

Daniel ONeil

Daniel O'Neill

Head of Product Testing


Last updated:

In the pursuit of the elusive giant tuna, the choice of the right reel holds paramount importance. At Perfect Captain, we’ve conducted thorough tests and meticulous analyses of a diverse range of contenders to present you with the ultimate guide to the finest tuna fishing reels.

Our hands-on evaluations specifically zero in on crucial aspects such as durability, drag systems, and line capacities—factors that can either make or break your offshore odyssey. Come along with us as we reel in the intricate details of top-notch models, providing insights to assist you in landing that prized catch.

Keep reading for a deep dive into reels that won’t allow you—or your prized tuna—to slip away.

Best Tuna Fishing Reels – Our Top Picks

What We Look For: Essential Factors To Consider

  • Drag System: When battling the brute strength of tuna, a high-quality drag system is crucial. It should provide a smooth yet powerful resistance to the fish’s runs, allowing you to maintain control without risking line breaks or gear failure.
  • Line Capacity: Tuna are known for their long, frenetic runs, necessitating a reel with a generous line capacity. Look for reels that can handle several hundred yards of heavy braid to ensure you don’t get spooled during an intense fight.
  • Gear Ratio: A lower gear ratio reel offers more torque, making it easier to winch in large fish from the deep. However, a 2-speed reel with both high and low gears can provide versatility—high for quick retrieval and low for more power.
  • Construction Material: The reel’s construction should withstand the corrosive saltwater environment and the physical demands of tuna fishing. Materials like high-grade aluminum and stainless steel are preferred for their strength and corrosion resistance.
  • Size and Weight: A reel that is too heavy may cause fatigue over long periods while one that’s too light might not withstand the fight. Ensure the reel’s size and weight balance well with your rod and are comfortable for you to handle.
  • Brand Reputation and Reliability: Choose a brand renowned for powerful, reliable reels. Experienced anglers often have trusted names they turn to for quality equipment that can handle extreme fishing conditions.

Our Recommendations In 2024


Editor’s Choice: Penn Squall Lever Drag

Penn Squall Lever Drag 2-Speed Trolling Fishing Reel

The Penn Squall Lever Drag 2-Speed Reel is a formidable ally against tenacious species like tuna. The occasional disparity in line capacity claims may prompt scrutiny but the overall quality and performance have consistently impressed users.

It’s a substantial investment for the offshore angler who values reliability and power in a reel. Weighing the pros and cons, it’s clear that the Penn Squall reel is built for anglers committed to pursuing big game fish with vigor.

“The Penn Squall Lever Drag is included for its brute strength and ease of use in challenging conditions making it a top pick for serious tuna anglers.”

– Kenneth Reaves, Editor-in-Chief & Executive Director

The Penn Squall Lever Drag 2-Speed Trolling Fishing Reel stands as a formidable contender for anglers seeking a reliable, high-performance reel. Designed for offshore challenges, this reel boasts a smooth lever system that feels like a breeze even during intense action. With a line capacity reaching close to 3000 yards when using 50-pound braid, it’s a workhorse built for the long fight.

The reel’s robust gears and shafts make it a beast in offshore fishing, proving its worth against large species. While the design leans towards the bulky side with the 50-class reel, its power and durability compensate for the additional weight. The learning curve associated with the lever drag system is a minor hiccup for beginners, easily overcome with a bit of practice.

In the realm of tuna fishing reels, the Penn Squall Lever Drag 2-Speed asserts itself as a top-tier choice. The smooth performance and versatile power make it an excellent companion for offshore adventures. Its generous line capacity ensures you’re well-equipped for any deep-sea encounter. While the bulkiness might be a consideration for some, the overall reliability and performance of this reel earn it the title of “Best Overall.”

The Penn Squall Lever Drag 2-Speed Trolling Fishing Reel emerges as a standout option for anglers seeking a reel that combines power, efficiency, and reliability. With its smooth operation and substantial line capacity, it provides a distinct advantage in offshore scenarios. Despite minor considerations, this reel stands as a testament to Penn’s commitment to quality and performance, making it the best overall pick for tuna fishing reels.

In the realm of conventional reels, the PENN Squall II represents a fusion of functionality and finesse. Comparatively, its build and performance rival higher-priced alternatives.

Despite some reviews citing size surprise and a missing line counter, the reel’s positives – from its tactile drag to the durable level wind – outweigh these drawbacks. It’s an investment that promises to enhance the angling experience from casting to the climactic haul.

“The PENN Squall II is included for its formidable combination of strength, reliability, and notable level wind feature catering to both new and seasoned anglers.”

– Kenneth Reaves, Editor-in-Chief & Executive Director

The PENN Squall II Level Wind Conventional Fishing Reel emerges as a reliable and budget-friendly choice for anglers seeking quality without breaking the bank. Crafted with a forged and machined aluminum spool and a lightweight graphite frame, this reel is designed for rugged reliability. The HT-100 carbon fiber drag washers contribute to its durability, ensuring it can handle the harsh conditions of deep-sea fishing.

The reel’s versatility shines through, making it suitable for various techniques from bottom fishing to light tackle trolling. The user-friendly level wind feature adds to its appeal providing a smooth experience for anglers who prefer a reel that assists in line management.

For budget-conscious anglers seeking a reel that doesn’t compromise on quality, the PENN Squall II is a solid choice. Its rugged reliability, coupled with versatile application across different fishing techniques makes it an excellent investment for those looking to balance performance and affordability. While some may find it slightly larger than expected, the overall value provided by this reel is commendable.

The PENN Squall II Level Wind Conventional Fishing Reel stands out for its reliability and versatility. While it may have a few size-related considerations, its rugged build and user-friendly features make it an attractive option for those looking to optimize their fishing experience without breaking the bank. For the angler prioritizing value, the Squall II is a budget reel that delivers where it counts.

After extensive hand-on trials, the Penn Fathom 40N stands out as a reel that punches above its weight class metaphorically speaking. The durable construction, reliable drag system and versatile 2-speed mechanism make it a commendable choice for catching large species like tuna.

However, it’s imperative to note its surf fishing limitation and the absence of line capacity indicators which might deter some anglers. Overall, it is a reel that promises reliability and performance in challenging marine environments.

“The Penn Fathom 2-Speed Lever Drag is a testament to durability and cranking power aimed at seasoned anglers targeting hefty saltwater game.”

– Kenneth Reaves, Editor-in-Chief & Executive Director

The Penn Fathom 40N Lever 2-Speed Lever Drag Fishing Reel stands out as a robust choice for anglers chasing tuna in demanding saltwater environments. Crafted with a full metal body and side plates made of die-cast aluminum, this reel is built to endure the harshest conditions while maintaining optimal performance. The reel’s stainless steel main and pinion gears along with the Dura Drag system, contribute to its rugged durability

The Quick Shift two-speed system is a standout feature allowing anglers to seamlessly shift between high and low gears. This versatility is invaluable when facing varying speeds and behaviors of different tuna species. The reel’s line capacity rings provide a quick visual check of remaining line adding a practical touch to its design.

For those seeking the pinnacle of durability in a tuna fishing reel, the Penn Fathom 40N is an undeniable contender. Its solid construction, versatile two-speed system, and smooth operation make it an ideal choice for anglers tackling sizable tuna in challenging marine conditions. While it might be slightly larger and heavier, the trade-off is unmatched durability and performance.

The Penn Fathom 40N emerges as the epitome of robustness. Its die-cast aluminum construction, two-speed adaptability, and overall durability position it as a top choice for anglers pursuing formidable tuna. While it may not be the lightest reel on the market, its resilience and smooth operation make it a reliable companion for those venturing into the unpredictable world of tuna fishing. For the angler prioritizing durability and performance, the Penn Fathom 40N is a reel that stands strong against the toughest adversaries.



SHIMANO Tekota A 500/600 Conventional Reels

The SHIMANO Tekota reels are a sensible pick for intermediate-level anglers seeking a dependable reel for multipurpose use. Although it sits on the higher end of the price spectrum, its versatility justifies the investment.

The few concerns about the line counter can be outweighed by the reel’s overall performance which remained impressive across different settings and targets. Investing in Tekota is investing in a reel that’s likely to become a mainstay in your arsenal.

“The SHIMANO Tekota A is included in this review for its ability to transition seamlessly between various fishing environments and techniques, offering reliability and durability.”

– Kenneth Reaves, Editor-in-Chief & Executive Director

The SHIMANO Tekota A 500/600 Conventional Reels represent a remarkable evolution in the Tekota series, boasting improvements in durability, corrosion resistance, and design. With the CoreProtect water-resistant technology, an anti-fogging lens, and a new S-Compact body design, these reels deliver an outstanding cross-over performance suitable for both Great Lakes and saltwater fishing. The availability in 500 and 600 spool sizes along with left and right-hand retrieve options, caters to diverse angling preferences.

For the angler seeking versatility in tuna fishing reels, the SHIMANO Tekota A series stands out as a top contender. Its robust build, efficient line counter, and smooth operation make it a reliable companion for various fishing scenarios. While it might demand a slightly higher investment, the Tekota A’s performance and durability make it a worthwhile choice for anglers prioritizing versatility in their tackle.

In the realm of tuna fishing reels, the SHIMANO Tekota A 500/600 Conventional Reels take the spotlight for their unmatched versatility. Whether trolling in the Great Lakes or battling saltwater giants, these reels showcase a durable design, efficient line counter, and ergonomic operation. While the price may be on the higher side, the Tekota A series proves its worth through reliable performance and adaptability to different fishing environments. For anglers aiming to tackle various species and settings, the Tekota A series emerges as the best choice for a versatile and dependable tuna fishing reel.

The SHIMANO TRITON 100G emerges as a trusty companion for the trolling enthusiast. It balances its lightweight build with sufficient drag and retrieval capabilities.

Although some may find the mono line capacity limited and product specifications confusing, this reel offers reliable performance at a competitive price-point accentuated by its longevity and ease of use.

“The SHIMANO TRITON 100G is included for its robust yet lightweight design, suited for anglers favoring trolling and bottom fishing.”

– Kenneth Reaves, Editor-in-Chief & Executive Director

The SHIMANO TRN100G Spinning Reel stands out as an excellent choice for trolling enthusiasts. With a weight of 12.5 ounces, 1 ARB bearing and a drag force of 14.0 lbs, this reel offers a perfect blend of strength and precision. The PowerPro line capacity (40/410, 50/405, 65/390) and mono line capacity (12/390, 14/330, 17/250) provide versatility for different fishing styles. The 4.3:1 gear ratio and right-hand orientation make it well-suited for trolling applications.

In the world of trolling, the SHIMANO TRN100G Spinning Reel earns its stripes. I’ve personally tested and found its versatility to shine, seamlessly transitioning between downrigging, bait fishing, and more. The reel’s graphite/titanium construction strikes a balance between lightweight design and tough durability, making it an ideal companion for trolling adventures. While there are minor concerns with line capacity specifications, the TRN100G’s overall performance makes it a top choice for anglers seeking a reliable trolling reel.

For anglers delving into the realm of tuna fishing, the SHIMANO TRN100G Spinning Reel emerges as the best pick for trolling pursuits. Its versatility, smooth operation, and robust build make it an asset for downrigging, bait fishing, and other trolling techniques. Despite minor concerns about line capacity specifications, the TRN100G’s performance in actual trolling scenarios solidifies its position as the top choice for those navigating the waters in pursuit of the best tuna fishing reels.

Questions & Answers

  1. What drag system is best for tuna fishing?

    For tuna fishing, a lever drag system is generally considered superior due to its precision and ease of adjustment under tension. Unlike star drags, lever drags allow for minute changes to the drag setting while engaged with a fish, which is crucial when fighting powerful tuna that can change direction and speed rapidly. Look for reels with high-quality, smooth drag materials like carbon fiber washers that can withstand the heat generated during a long fight without losing effectiveness.

  2. How much line capacity do I need for tuna fishing?

    Tuna are notorious for their strength and speed, often taking long runs after being hooked. It is advisable to have a reel with a line capacity of at least 500 yards of heavy braid. This ensures you have enough line to handle the initial run and the endurance battle that may follow. Reels with a higher line capacity provide a safety margin and allow for deep dropping if needed.

  3. Why gear ratio is important when choosing a tuna fishing reel?

    Gear ratio is an important factor when choosing a tuna fishing reel. A lower gear ratio, typically around 4.0:1, will provide the torque necessary to reel in large tuna, especially from the depths. However, a two-speed reel, which offers a high-speed option for faster retrieval when needed and a low-speed setting for power, can be invaluable. This allows for adaptability during various stages of the fight and can make the difference in landing a trophy tuna.

  4. What should I look for in the construction of a tuna fishing reel?

    A tuna fishing reel must be robust and able to withstand the marine environment. High-grade anodized aluminum or stainless steel provides strength and corrosion resistance, essential for saltwater fishing. The reel should also have a full metal body for maximum rigidity and alignment of internal components under heavy loads. Sealed bearings and components are a bonus as they prevent saltwater ingress which can lead to corrosion and reel failure.

  5. How does the size and weight of the reel affect tuna fishing?

    The size and weight of the reel should match the fishing rod and the size of the tuna you are targeting. A reel that is too heavy can lead to angler fatigue during extended periods of fishing or prolonged battles with large fish. Conversely, a reel that is too light might not have the structural integrity or power to handle large tuna. It’s essential to balance the reel’s weight with usability and the expected fight duration. However, if you are using a fighting harness the weight of the reel is not as important.


Within the expansive ocean of choices, selecting the right reel becomes a pivotal factor in determining your success in tuna fishing. We’ve meticulously examined critical elements such as drag systems, line capacity, and construction, underscoring the significance of durability and control. Through our comprehensive analysis, the Penn Squall Lever Drag has emerged as the top choice. Armed with this informed decision and our winning pick, you are now well-prepared to navigate the high seas and secure victory in landing the mightiest tuna.