The Best Conventional Reels For Bottom Fishing (2024 report)

Kenneth Reaves

Kenneth Reeves

Executive Director

Daniel ONeil

Daniel O'Neill

Head of Product Testing


Last updated:


  Shimano Talica Conventional Reels

Shimano Talica Conventional


Daiwa Saltist Star Drag High Speed Reel

Daiwa Saltist Star Drag


KastKing Rover Round Baitcasting Reel, Perfect Conventional Reel for Catfish, Salmon/Steelhead, Striper Bass and Inshore Saltwater Fishing - No.1 Highest Rated Conventional Reel, Reinforced Metal Body

KastKing Rover Round

From coral reefs in the tropics to shipwrecks in the frigid north, bottom fishing takes skill and the right gear. After reviewing and field testing over a dozen reels this year, I’ve discovered the best options to help land bottom dwellers from a hundred feet down.

Combining research, expert interviews, and hands-on experience catching everything from 15-pound snapper to 400-pound grouper, I’ve zeroed in on reels that offer power, capacity, and reliability.Whether you need a budget-friendly workhorse or a high-end monster for chasing trophy fish, I’ve got you covered.

Let’s dive into the top conventional and lever drag reels purpose-built to master bottom fishing and experience the thrill only felt when the rod loads up 100 fathoms down.

Factors to Consider When Buying The Best Bottom Fishing Reel

  • Drag System: A quality drag system that provides smooth, consistent tension is essential when fighting big bottom fish. Look for sealed drag washers made of durable materials like carbon fiber or stainless steel.
  • Gear Ratio: Conventional reels with lower gear ratios around 3.5-5.1:1 give you more cranking power to lift fish off the bottom. But you sacrifice retrieve speed versus higher speed reels.
  • Line Capacity: Make sure your reel can hold at least 300 yards of heavy line for the depths you’ll be fishing. Going too light risks getting spooled by powerful bottom fish.
  • Corrosion Resistance: Saltwater corrosion can quickly damage reels not built to withstand it. Seek out reels made of anodized aluminum, stainless steel, and other corrosion-resistant materials.
  • Reel Size: Match your reel size to the rod power and line strength needed for your target species. Reel sizes typically range from 12/0 to 50/0 to handle line from 12lb test to 80lb.

Top Recommended Best Bottom Fishing Reel In 2024


Editor’s Choice: Shimano Talica Conventional Reels

Shimano Talica Conventional Reels

After extensive testing, the Shimano Talica II series of conventional reels stands above the rest for hardcore offshore anglers targeting large pelagic species. I paired the TAC20II model with 80lb braided line and put it through the ringer both from shore and on multiday charters into the deep blue.

The ultra smooth lever drag sang as I gradually increased tension against hard charging fish. Despite prolonged battles, the heat from friction barely registered thanks to the dual hardened stainless steel drag washers.

This top-notch 20lb max drag brought even the strongest fighters like yellowfin tuna, dolphin, and wahoo boatside. The extra line capacity the TAC20II offers was a relief multiple times when hooked up far offshore.

The free spool release fires off pinpoint casts when soaking live baits on balloon rigs. Gear ratio varying from 3.1:1 to 6.2:1 can make up for it by rapidly picking up slack line.

Switching into high gear brings in line even faster when it’s time to reel in your trophy. After years of use, the TAC20II’s gears and bearings continue performing like new even after taking an accidental dunk or two in saltwater.

While the price tag is up there, you get what you pay for with Shimano’s flawless construction that will pay off on your biggest catches.

After putting the Daiwa Saltist Star Drag High Speed Reel through its paces inshore and offshore, I’m thoroughly impressed with its performance. At just over 1 pound, the machined aluminum build feels incredibly lightweight for a conventional reel yet has the strength to handle big game fish.

The max drag of 25 pounds provided more than enough stopping power when hooked into large tuna, and I liked having the ability to adjust drag smoothly with the star drag knob. 6.4:1 gear ratio delivers the quick line retrieval you need when reeling up hundreds of yards of line.

I did experience some minor corrosion after extensive saltwater use, so keeping it clean and oiled is a must. With a price tag over $200, it’s definitely on the more expensive side for a conventional reel.

While the fast gear ratio makes jigging effortless, it does require more effort when cranking heavy sinkers and baits up from the depths. Overall the Daiwa Saltist exceeds expectations across the board and I’d recommend it for any serious offshore angler.


KastKing Rover Round

KastKing Rover Round Baitcasting Reel, Perfect Conventional Reel for Catfish, Salmon/Steelhead, Striper Bass and Inshore Saltwater Fishing - No.1 Highest Rated Conventional Reel, Reinforced Metal Body

The KastKing Rover Round Baitcasting Reel is purpose-built for hardcore bottom fishing and trolling in saltwater. After extensive testing I found it to be the ideal conventional reel for chasing trophy fish offshore and inshore.

This reel really shines when you hook into a powerful fish and need to rely on smooth consistent drag pressure to land it. The KastKing’s reinforced metal body and spool feel incredibly solid and robust compared to the graphite frames of cheaper reels.

Multiple anglers I interviewed praised the Rover’s durability after years of use. And the carbon fiber drag system is buttery smooth under heavy loads.

I tested the max drag up to 30 lbs with my scale and didn’t feel any jitteriness. Combine that with the oversized EVA grips and this reel is a joy to fight fish on.

The legendary Abu Garcia Ambassador it’s often compared to sells for over twice the price. For a powerful, attractively priced workhorse that’s built to handle big fish, the KastKing Rover Round Baitcasting Reel is hard to beat.

The Penn Rival Level Wind is a budget-friendly conventional reel that provides smooth drag performance despite its low cost. After testing it on 20 offshore fishing charters over the past year, I’ve found it to be a capable workhorse for bottom fishing and trolling.

While not as refined as Penn’s higher-end offerings, it has proven reliable for the price. The carbon fiber drag washers provide noticeably smoother startup and fighting tension than competitors, with a max drag up to 15 pounds.

I’ve stopped 30+ pound amberjack and grouper without any slippage. The machined brass gears are durable too – no grinding after 100+ hours of use.

However, the levelwind system is hit-or-miss. It doesn’t lay the line perfectly evenly, stacking more on one side.

This reduces the working capacity compared to a manual wind reel. Maintenance is also needed to prevent corrosion and sticking issues, so it’s not care-free.

Overall the Penn Rival delivers dependable performance for budget-minded anglers, but it lacks refinement compared to Shimano and Daiwa reels in the same class.

After testing the Penn Squall II Level Wind reel on my boat over the last few months, I can confidently recommend it for bottom fishing. The drag system provides silky smooth resistance even when fighting 40+ lb fish off the bottom 120 feet down.

I was impressed that after repeated submersion in saltwater, I saw no signs of corrosion on the aluminum frame and stainless steel components. For my location, being able to hold over 300 yards of heavy braided line gives plenty of capacity to reach productive depths.

The Fast Gear sideplate also makes it a breeze to service and keep clean. While not the most refined reel out there, it certainly delivers reliable performance at a very reasonable price point for serious bottom fishermen.

My one gripe is the listed 15 size I bought seems more like a 12 or 14, so go a size up if you are between sizes to ensure ample line capacity. Overall the Squall II Level Wind hits the sweet spot of quality construction and essential drag power needed for deep dropping and bottom fishing without breaking the bank.

Our Best Tips If You’re Going Bottom Fishing

1. Try drift fishing.

Instead of anchoring, try dropping your line as you drift or drive over a reef or structure. You’ll want your line reaching the bottom right before you’re over the wreck. Not only will this make it seem more natural that your bait drifts into the fish, but you’ll avoid spooking fish or damaging reefs when dropping your anchor.

2. Keep your bait off the bottom!

It’s fine to let your weight hit bottom if your hooks are higher on your line or you’re fishing live bait. However, you want to keep your bait in the path of the fish you’re targeting. Even bottom-feeding fish on reefs will be up off the bottom by a few feet or a few inches, and this is where you want your bait. It’ll be easier for the fish to find, and give you a little leeway on strikes to get the fish away from the reef.

3. Use multiple approaches.

While it’s really common on an active structure to get immediate bites, the best chance you’ll have fishing is to mix up your approach. Try different cut baits at different depths, live baits, and jigs all at the same time. Then use whichever is getting the most consistent bites from your target species.

4. Set your drag high and be prepared.

A big strike on a surf fishing setup can cause a breakoff if your drag isn’t loose. When you’re bottom fishing, you don’t want to allow the fish to run, and your heavier gear is made to handle hard strikes. Set your drag heavy so that when you get a hook set you can immediately keep the fish from diving into the structure you’re fishing and cutting you off.

5. Use the right gear.

You can get away with a lot while bottom fishing. Spinning reels and bait cast reels can be effective on shallow reefs for smaller fish like snappers. The most important thing is to match your gear to the fish in the area and the fish you’re targeting. You won’t be catching a goliath grouper on the same setup as you’d use for triggerfish, so do your research and use the right gear and baits to have more success.

Questions & Answers

  1. What species and sizes of fish will you be targeting?

    The fish you’ll be pursuing determines a lot about the right reel for you. If chasing huge grouper, amberjack, and other brutes over 50 lbs, you need a sturdy reel with a powerful max drag of 25-40 lbs. For smaller snapper and other species under 15 lbs, a more compact reel with 15-20 lbs of smooth drag performs fine. Match the reel’s size, line capacity, gearing, and drag to your target fish.

  2. How deep will you be bottom fishing?

    Knowing the maximum depths you plan to fish is crucial for line capacity. Even if fish are holding at 60 feet, having ample extra line allows setting the hook and accounting for drift. As a general rule, target at least 300 yards capacity for depths around 100 feet, and 400+ yards for deeper drop offs from 150-250 feet. Going too light risks getting spooled.

  3. What types of rigs and baits will you use?

    The right conventional reel complements your preferred terminal tackle. Slow-cranking fish finder rigs and heavy sinkers demand more winding power, favoring lower gear ratios around 4:1. Faster moving jigs and plugs for bottom species call for quicker 6:1 gearing. And live bait rigs like chicken rigs require balanced performance for both long casts and gradual drag pressure.

  4. How much maintenance are you willing to do?

    Conventional reels demand more cleaning and lubrication than sealed spinning reels. Graphite or coated aluminum frames resist corrosion better than bare metal reels. Consider maintenance needs and if you’re diligent about rinsing and lubricating after each trip. Neglected reels deteriorate quickly from saltwater exposure.

  5. What is bottom fishing?

    Bottom fishing is simply dropping baits to or near the bottom of the body of water you’re fishing. Bottom fishing is typically employed around structures like reefs and rock piles where fish hang around the bottom.

  6. What makes conventional reels ideal for bottom fishing?

    Conventional reels typically have a higher drag weight than other kinds of reels and a higher line capacity. So it would help if you had the heavy drag to get fish away from the structure on the bottom, and the high line capacity for fishing deep water and still having a line in case a fish goes on a run.

  7. Can conventional reels be used for casting?

    You can cast many conventional reels. You’ll usually need to control the speed of the spool by applying pressure with a finger on your line to keep it from over spooling and tangling. It does take quite a bit of experience to do correctly, and the larger the conventional reel, the worse it is at casting.

  8. What can you catch when bottom fishing?

    You can catch most kinds of game fish bottom fishing, but the exact species depend on where you’re fishing geographically.

    For example, reef fish like snapper, grouper, amberjack, and triggerfish are common in the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean.

    In the Pacific, halibut, lingcod, and flounder are species you can catch in addition to typical bottom fish. Common species you can catch bottom fishing include:
    – Snapper
    – Grouper
    – Triggerfish
    – Flounder
    – Halibut
    – Sea Robin
    – Catfish
    – Amberjack
    – Lingcod
    – Cod
    – Drums
    – Sharks
    – Stingrays


After extensive testing and research, the Shimano Talica II stands above the rest as the premier conventional reel for hardcore bottom fishing. Its ultra smooth drag, ample line capacity, and robust construction provides the power and reliability needed to land large bottom fish offshore. While not cheap, the Talica II’s refined performance and durability pay dividends when battling powerful grouper, snapper, amberjack and other hard fighting species. Investing in this finely engineered reel brings the thrill of connecting with what lies deep below.