The Best Bottom Fishing Reel: Top 11 Conventional Reels of 2021

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

Last Update:

The Rundown

Best Overall: Penn Fathom (click to view)
“With a durable construction, a lever drag system and quick-flip, 2-speed gear ratio, the Penn Fathom have plenty of power for hauling up big fish when bottom fishing.”

Best Premium Option: Daiwa Saltist (click to view)
“With a multiple gear ratio, a free spool system ideal for live baits, and a light, compact frame, the Saltist delivers in any offshore situation you might face.”

Best Budget Option: Penn Special Senator (click to view)
The Penn Senator is a simply constructed reel with a strong drag and a big line capacity. It’s a solid choice for anglers on a budget wanting to get into bottom fishing.

Check Other Models on Amazon

Check Price on Bass Pro

Bottom fishing is popular among offshore fishers because it gives you access to hard fighting and tasty reef fish. However, hauling up fish from depth can be hard on you and your gear, and you need the right reel to get the job done. 

A conventional reel is fantastic for bottom fishing because they allow you to control the speed you let your bait sink, have heavy drag for horsing fish away from reefs and to your boat quickly, and can bring all of that power in a compact and simple construction.

There are tons of conventional reels on the market that span a considerable range of quality and price. We’ve found and tested some of the best available options to help you make an informed decision about which reel is best for you on your next bottom fishing trip. 

Sources researched
12
Sources researched
Customer reviews
15,654
Customer reviews
Hours spent testing
30
Hours spent testing
Products tested
11
Products tested
Product Name
Best Overall
Best Premium Option
Best Budget Option
Our Ranking
Ranked #1
Ranked #2
Ranked #3
Thumbnail
Penn Fathom Lever Drag
Daiwa Saltist Star Drag Conventional Reel
PENN Special Senator Star Drag
Our Grade
Our Rating 94/100
Our Rating 92/100
Our Rating 90/100
Feature 1
Full metal construction and sealed internals
Star drag free spool for casting or live baiting
Huge line capacity for size and easy to use
Feature 2
The Quick Shift system changes gear ratios for high power or retrieval
Small, light frame makes using the reel comfortable
Adjustable reel handle length
Best Overall
Product Name
Our Ranking
Ranked #1
Thumbnail
Penn Fathom Lever Drag
Our Grade
Our Rating 94/100
Feature 1
Full metal construction and sealed internals
Feature 2
The Quick Shift system changes gear ratios for high power or retrieval
Best Premium Option
Product Name
Our Ranking
Ranked #2
Thumbnail
Daiwa Saltist Star Drag Conventional Reel
Our Grade
Our Rating 92/100
Feature 1
Star drag free spool for casting or live baiting
Feature 2
Small, light frame makes using the reel comfortable
Best Budget Option
Product Name
Our Ranking
Ranked #3
Thumbnail
PENN Special Senator Star Drag
Our Grade
Our Rating 90/100
Feature 1
Huge line capacity for size and easy to use
Feature 2
Adjustable reel handle length

Best Bottom Fishing Conventional Reels Of 2021

Here’s our shortlist of the best conventional reels for bottom fishing:

  1. Best Overall: Penn Fathom Lever Drag
  2. Best Premium Option: Daiwa Saltist Star Drag
  3. Best Budget Option: Penn Special Senator
  4. Best Deep Dropping Reel: Daiwa Tanacom
  5. Surprising Budget Buy: Burning Shark Level Wind
  6. Best for Live Baits: Shimano Torium Star Drag
  7. Best Level Wind Reel: Penn Squall Level Wind
  8. Most Adjustable: Shimano Triton
  9. Smoothest on a Budget: One Bass Level Wind
  10. High Performance, High Quality: Avet Lever Drag
  11. Best for Jigging: GOMEXUS LX50 Slow Jigging Reel



Penn Fathom Lever Drag

Best Overall: With its lever drag system and quick-flip, 2-speed gear ratio, it is one of the best constructed and user-friendly conventional reels on the market.

Penn Fathom Lever Drag
Check Price on Amazon

Check Price on Bass Pro

KEY FEATURES

  • Full metal construction and sealed internals
  • Easy drag adjustments with a lever system
  • The Quick Shift system changes gear ratios for high power or retrieval

With its lever drag system and quick-flip, 2-speed gear ratio, the Penn Fathom is one of the best constructed and user-friendly conventional reels on the market. With plenty of power for hauling up big fish and durable construction, it’s hard to go wrong choosing a fathom as your go-to bottom fishing reel.

CLICK TO SEE MORE

Reliability and power are important factors when choosing a reel for bottom fishing, and the Penn Fathom delivers on both. It’s an excellent choice for anglers of any skill level, providing a durable construction, powerful drag, and simple usage. 

Reel Construction

This conventional reel is made of anodized aluminum and stainless steel, making it incredibly resistant to corrosion. The internal components are sealed with rubber gaskets to keep water and salt out of their components. The drag system is smooth and easily adjusted, while the gears are bored out to reduce weight while retaining strength.

Reel Features

The lever drag system lets you easily make minor drag adjustments quickly. It has two gear ratios, a high retrieval rate and a high power one, which you can flip between instantly via the quick-shift system. The carbon fiber drag washers are highly durable and made to last, and the line capacity of the fishing reel gives plenty of room for bottom fishing on deep structures or shallow reefs. Unfortunately, there is no line winder in other reels, so be mindful when retrieving large amounts of line.

Daiwa Saltist Star Drag

Best Premium Option: With a free spool system perfect for live baits and a light, compact frame, this reel delivers in any offshore situation you might face.

Daiwa Saltist Star Drag Conventional Reel
Check Price on Amazon

Check Price on FishUSA

KEY FEATURES

  • Star drag-free spool for casting or live baiting
  • A small, light frame makes using the reel comfortable
  • Braid ready for braided lines up to 100 lbs

The Daiwa Saltist is one of the best conventional reels when it comes to durability. It’s a great choice for almost any fisherman because its features allow you to fish it in multiple ways instead of just trolling or dropping the reel. With multiple gear ratios you can switch between, you’ll never be in a situation that this reel can’t handle.

CLICK TO SEE MORE

Reel Construction

This conventional reel is made of anodized aluminum and stainless steel, making it incredibly resistant to corrosion. The internal components are sealed with rubber gaskets to The entire reel is made from premium anodized aluminum, keeping it light and rigidly strong. Internally sealed bearing and drag systems keep saltwater from reaching its components, and a comfortable handle gives you an easy time reeling in big fish.

Reel Features

The lever drag system lets you easily make minor drag adjustments quickly. The spool is ideal for braided lines, and its compact frame allows even the larger sizes to feel comfortable instead of unwieldy. Featuring both a lever and star drag system gives the fishing reel plenty of variety. The star drag can allow you to fully free-spool the line, giving the conventional reel the ability to cast smoothly or provide freedom to live baits in the water.

Penn Special Senator Star Drag

Best Budget Option: A durable, simple, and affordable option for a bottom fishing reel.

PENN Special Senator Star Drag
Check Price on Amazon

Check Price on Bass Pro

KEY FEATURES

  • Star drag system on the side
  • Adjustable reel handle length
  • Huge line capacity for size and easy to use

Penn Special Senator are simply constructed conventional reels with a strong drag and a big line capacity. The biggest ones are favorites for fishers targeting massive bluefin tuna. Still, the small version of this conventional reel is a solid choice for anglers on a budget wanting to get into bottom fishing.

CLICK TO SEE MORE

Reel Construction

Senators are made almost entirely out of metal, with a plastic handle and rubber-coated side panels. Most of the materials are stainless steel, while the drag washers are made of carbon fiber. Its wide spool gives you plenty of line capacity and huge amounts of power to put pressure on big fish.

Reel Features

The entire point of a Senator is to be a cheap, user-friendly powerhouse of a reel. The star drag system puts a lot of pressure on the line, giving you high drag weights in a small package. Unlike some conventional reels, Senators are not made to be light or easy to maneuver but are still an excellent choice for anglers of all experience levels.

Daiwa Tanacom

Best For Deep Dropping: Perfect for deep drops with its LCD depth display, automatic power assist in reeling up on its own, and line guide for smooth spooling.

DAIWA TANACOM 1000 Electrically operated
Check Price on Amazon

KEY FEATURES

  • Power assist in reeling in automatically or assisting catches
  • Wide-gap guide to bypass knots and swivels
  • Depth and line counter display, automatic stop, and drag system all make life easier.

Fishing on the bottom over a hundred feet requires heavyweights and a lot of effort. The power assist on the Daiwa Tanacom has variable speeds to reel up when a fish isn’t on, and a manual option to fight any fish you hook into. This reel is expensive but can easily pay itself off if you often fish extra deep water.

CLICK TO SEE MORE

Reel Construction

This conventional reel has a full metal body, like most current reels on the market. It also has an integrated LCD with various automatic functions to make your life easier when deep-dropping. The line guide on the front gives you consistent spooling when reeling in, and when checking baits, you can take a hands-off approach.

Reel Features

A 12-volt battery powers the LCD on the fishing reel. It has an automatic stop function to hang a bait at the depth you input and a line counter and depth display. The power assist function reels in your line at a few different speeds when a fish isn’t on, saving your arms and time when checking baits. When a fish is on, flip it to manual to fight your catch to the surface.

Burning Shark Level Wind Reel

Surprisingly Solid Budget Buy: It’s a light, durable reel that gives you enough power for your next snapper fishing trip.

Burning Shark Trolling Reel Saltwater Level Wind Reels, Drag Reels Boat Fishing Ocean Fishing for Sea Bass Grouper Salmon
Check Price on Amazon

KEY FEATURES

  • 40 lb drag in a small package
  • Line guide for smooth line spooling
  • CNC machined metal parts for quality on a budget

Burning Shark's level wind reel is a solid budget buy for bottom fishing. Thanks to its aluminum construction and star drag, the lightweight reel put out forty pounds of drag, and the wide spool gives a big line capacity. This is a good choice for anglers on a budget that want a lighter-weight option than a Senator.

CLICK TO SEE MORE

Reel Construction

Each part of this conventional reel is made from corrosion-resistant metals. The outer frame is diecast aluminum, while the main spool is CNC machined aluminum. The metal alloy handle is strong as well, and the reel is very light for its size.

Reel Features

The significant features of this reel for bottom fishing are the star drag and line guide. The star drag gives you an output of 40 lbs of drag weight to put pressure on the harder-fighting fish. The line guide gives you smooth spooling of your line when you reel in, avoiding tangles and bunching of the line on the spool.

Shimano Torium Star Drag Reel

Best For Live Baiting: A solid anti-reverse, resistant ball bearings and body construction that stays rigid all lend themselves to making the Torium an excellent option for bottom fishing.

Shimano TOR16PGA Torium 16 PG Star Drag Conventional Reel RH 4.6:1 4BB
Check Price on Amazon

Check Price on Bass Pro

KEY FEATURES

  • Hangman body construction avoids body flexing
  • Anti-reverse system in the handle
  • High-efficiency gearing and cross-carbon drag gives plenty of power

Sometimes, anglers have to deal with their reel flexing on their rod in high-stress situations, costing them power. The construction design of the Torium essentially eliminates anybody flexing, making it the perfect reel for fishermen targeting hard diving fish they need to horse away from the reef.

CLICK TO SEE MORE

Reel Construction

This conventional reel is, of course, all-metal. However, the real standouts in this one’s construction are its body design and ball bearings. Instead of just shielding them, the ball bearings themselves are corrosion resistant. In addition, the hangman body design eliminates the chances of the reel body flexing under stress, allowing you to output full power on fish.

Reel Features

The Super Stopper anti-reverse keeps you from reversing your handle on accident, avoiding damaging the reel and making it feel smoother. The star drag puts out high drag weight, and the body design keeps you from forcing your reel to flex. Its free-spool function is perfect for fishing with live baits on the bottom, with a quick flick to engage full drag on strikes.

PENN Squall Level Wind Reel

Best Level Wind Reel: Lightweight reels are easier to handle, and the graphite frame of the Squall gives you a great mix of comfort and power in your reel.

PENN Fishing SQL50LW Squall Level Wind , Black, 320Yd/50Lb
Check Price on Amazon

Check Price on Bass Pro

KEY FEATURES

  • Graphite frame and side plates to reduce weight
  • Compact design that delivers the power you need
  • Smooth reeling thanks to gears and level wind

The PENN Squall is a great, lightweight conventional reel that features a level wind for smooth spooling. It’s a great choice for anglers who want to easily cast and handle their fishing reels while still providing the power and line capacity needed for bottom fishing.

CLICK TO SEE MORE

Reel Construction

This conventional reel is made of anodized aluminum and stainless steel, making it incredibly durable. It is made with graphite side plates and a frame to make it one of the lighter fishing reels available. It features a bronze main gear and stainless pinion gear to give you plenty of strength and durability. The spool is crafted from machined anodized aluminum and marked to show line capacities.

Reel Features

The star drag on the reel lets you put out a ton of drag weight, even on its lightweight frame. Its level wind keeps your line from bunching on the reel and makes it even possible to cast this one. The anti-reverse system is excellent for bottom fishing without backlashes.

Shimano Triton Graphite Level Wind Reel

Most Adjustable: With its three-position power grip handle, it can change the size to feel more comfortable in your hands.

Shimano TRN 100 G Levelwind Star Drag Multiplier Fishing Reel, Right Hand, TRN100G
Check Price on Amazon

Check Price on Bass Pro

KEY FEATURES

  • Clicker for free spool pressure and alerts
  • Adjustable handle for comfort and cranking power
  • Less pressure on spool thanks to level wind

Shimano designs are made to be strong and avoid some pressure or stress on your reel. The case here is the same, as the level wind on the Shimano Triton protects your spool from drastic line angles that can bend or warp the spool. The lightweight reel is a great design that any angler can use when bottom fishing.

CLICK TO SEE MORE

Reel Construction

The conventional reel is crafted from lightweight graphite, making it strong and durable while reducing weight. Its spool is machined aluminum, with anti-rust bearings inside. The handle is adjustable, with three different settings that can give you a more comfortable grip or more cranking power, depending on your preference. 

Reel Features

The big standout of this reel for bottom fishing is the level wind. It keeps your line from putting drastic angles and pressure on your spool. It also has a counterbalanced handle that helps reduce wobble while horsing up big fish. 

One Bass Level Wind Reel

Smoothest Reel On A Budget: Features 14+1 stainless ball bearings, making it one of the smoothest conventional reels to use on the market.

One Bass Fishing Reels Level Wind Trolling Reel Conventional Jigging Reel for Saltwater Big Game Fishing-(TA3000 Silver-Gold-Right Handed)
Check Price on Amazon

KEY FEATURES

  • 3-year warranty
  • Smooth use with 14+1 ball bearings
  • 45 pounds of drag for significant power

Fishing reels that are smooth are the easiest on your arms, and this one from One Bass is one of the smoothest. Using more bearings than nearly any other competitor, this budget reel provides a smooth experience backed by a three-year service warranty and is perfect for anglers who want that peace of mind.

CLICK TO SEE MORE

Reel Construction

This conventional reel is made from aircraft-grade aluminum, including the handle and the spool. It features 14+1 internal bearings, making its retrieval and casting incredibly smooth. The drag system is slightly different from other fishing reels, made from aircraft brake material instead of simple carbon washers. 

Reel Features

Based on the ball bearings, the retrieval of this reel for bottom fishing is one of the smoothest you can find. With its 45 lbs of drag, you’ll have no problem stopping and turning powerful fish on the bottom. On top of this, the reel has a clicker alarm, an ergonomic and adjustable handle, and a level wind for even spooling.

Avet Lever Drag Casting Reel

High Performance: Able to handle bottom fish from snapper to halibut, this reel is ideal for bottom fishing.

Avet MXJ 5.8 MC Lever Drag Casting Reel - Right-Handed - Black
Check Price on Amazon

KEY FEATURES

  • Lever drag system
  • Magnetic cast allows the reel to smoothly cast out without your intervention
  • Precision machined, fully metal components

Avet reels are known for their smoothness and quality, and this reel is no exception. Their magnetic casting system keeps your spool moving smoothly even if you decide to cast this reel, making it useful in a variety of situations other than bottom fishing. This reel is a great choice for anglers looking for a high-quality reel that performs in multiple situations.

CLICK TO SEE MORE

Reel Construction

Each piece of this conventional reel is precision machined from either stainless steel or aluminum. All of it is anodized for excellent corrosion resistance. In addition, the frame is made from one piece of metal, giving it extra strength and durability.

Reel Features

This reel for bottom fishing has a lever drag system that also features pre-strike settings. You can set the drag to engage and set your hook for you when a fish takes your bait. The quality construction of the reel makes it a long-lasting and durable choice for saltwater fishing.

GOMEXUS LX50 Slow Jigging Reel 

Best For Using Jigs: Fishing jigs can be incredibly effective, and a preset drag system like the one in this reel helps set hooks on bites you might miss.

Gomexus Slow Jigging Reel Saltwater 7.1:1 Lever Drag Right Hand 60lbs Conventional Reel Powerful Solid Durable LX50
Check Price on Amazon

KEY FEATURES

  • Unconditional returns within 60 days
  • Silky smooth performance
  • Preset drag system for strikes on jigs

With a 43 inch retrieval per turn, 9+2 ball bearings for smooth use, and a 60 lb strike drag, the GOMEXUS LX50 Slow Jigging Reel is a great choice for jigging on reefs. The fishing reel comes with a cover, 60-day unconditional returns, and a one-year warranty for anglers looking for extra protection. 

CLICK TO SEE MORE

Reel Construction

This conventional reel is constructed from marine-grade stainless steel and features treated ball bearings for smooth performance. The drag system uses carl grease and carbon washers for extra power and smooth grinding. All of its power is packed into a compact design that fits well on any boat rod you might choose to pair it with.

Reel Features

The high retrieval rate and drag of this reel for bottom fishing make it stand out. 60 pounds drag-on strikes are ideal for heavy-hitting fish attacking your jigs. The conventional fishing reel retrieves 43 inches of line per rotation, allowing you to pull fish to the surface quickly and avoid tiring out when deep dropping.


Bottom Fishing Basics

Bottom fishing is one of the simplest and easiest ways to fish offshore. All it consists of is pulling your boat over a reef or structure, anchoring or drifting above it, and dropping bait to the bottom. Of course, you’ll typically want to hold your bait a few inches to a few feet off the bottom as well. 

Thick boat rods and fishing reels with heavy drag weights are ideal for bottom fishing. Reef fish will dive towards structure when hooked, and you need the power to pull them away from the structure; they can tangle or cut you off quickly. In many places, sharks are common fish on reefs, and you need to pull the firm fish up to your boat quickly to avoid paying taxes to the sharks. 

Live and cut baits are great choices when targeting bottom fish. You’ll be dropping the bait right into their home, and it’s easy for them to find it. Alternatively, you can bottom fish with a heavy jig that you bounce near the bottom to attract attention and tempt fish to strike.

What to Look for in the Best Bottom Fishing Reel Line

Line Capacity

Line capacity on bottom fishing reels is immensely important. You need more lines because you’ll be dropping deeper than you would typically cast quite often. On top of that, you need an extra line for any fish that may take your bait and run, as well as a spare line to account for breakoff. Higher line capacity reels are usually better choices when it comes to bottom fishing.

Spool Size

Spool size is directly linked to two things: line capacity and retrieval rate. Try to find conventional reels with larger or deeper spools, as these will have a higher line capacity and retrieval per rotation than smaller ones. 

Material and Design

Any and all saltwater fishing reels should be made of non-corrosive materials. Stainless steel and anodized aluminum are preferred materials for bodies and spools on reels. You should also look for fishing reels with sealed internal mechanisms to keep water out, and make sure to rinse off all your gear after a fishing trip. 

Budget

Conventional reels, especially good ones, are usually not cheap. It’s important to shop around and budget accordingly to get a good reel. Not only will you have more success with the right reel, but it will last much longer and save you money in the long run.

5 Tips and Tricks for 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 chances 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

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.

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.

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. 

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