11 Best Bottom Fishing Reel (Top Conventional Reels in 2021)

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

Last Update:

The Rundown

Best Overall: Penn Fathom (Click here to view)
“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.”

Best Premium Option: Daiwa Saltist (Click here to view)
“The best conventional to do it all, the Daiwa Saltist is fantastic for bottom fishing but can be cast out just as well as spinning reels. With a free spool system perfect for live baits and a light, compact frame, this reel delivers in any offshore situation you might face.”

Best Budget Option: Penn Senator (Click here to view)
Penn Senators come in a few different sizes, from conventional reels for reef fishing up to big tuna fishing reels. The smaller sizes are perfect for bottom fishing, and also a durable, simple, and cheap option for a bottom fishing reel.”

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

Conventional reels are fantastic for bottom fishing because they allow you to control the speed you let your bait sink, have heavy drags 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 huge range in both 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. 

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Products tested
Product Name
Best Overall
Best Premium Option
Best Budget Option
Our Ranking
Ranked #1
Ranked #2
Ranked #3
Thumbnail
Penn 1292934 Fathom 40N Lever 2-Speed Lever Drag Fishing Reel
Daiwa SALTIST20H Saltist Star Drag Saltwater Casting Reel, Size 20, 6.4: 1 Gear Ratio, 5 Bearings, 39.50" Retrieve Rate, Right Hand
PENN 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 1292934 Fathom 40N Lever 2-Speed Lever Drag Fishing Reel
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 SALTIST20H Saltist Star Drag Saltwater Casting Reel, Size 20, 6.4: 1 Gear Ratio, 5 Bearings, 39.50" Retrieve Rate, Right Hand
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 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 in 2021

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

1. Penn Fathom Fishing Reel 

Best Overall: With it’s 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.

Penn 1292934 Fathom 40N Lever 2-Speed Lever Drag Fishing Reel
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KEY FEATURES

  • Full metal construction and sealed internals
  • Easy drag adjustments with 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.

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

Reel Construction

The 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 as well. 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 small drag adjustments quickly. It has two gear ratios, a high retrieval rate and a high power one, which can be flipped 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 reel gives plenty of room for bottom fishing on deep structures or shallow reefs. Unlike some other reels, there is no line winder, so be mindful when retrieving large amounts of line.

Daiwa Saltist

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 SALTIST20H Saltist Star Drag Saltwater Casting Reel, Size 20, 6.4: 1 Gear Ratio, 5 Bearings, 39.50' Retrieve Rate, Right Hand
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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.

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Reel Construction

The 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 small drag adjustments quickly. It has 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 reel plenty of variety. The star drag can allow you to fully free spool the line, giving the reel the ability to cast smoothly or give freedom to live baits in the water.

Penn Senator

Best Budget Option – Penn Senators are a durable, simple, and cheap option for a bottom fishing reel.

PENN Senator Star Drag
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KEY FEATURES

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

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

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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 huge amount of pressure on the line, giving you high drag weights in a small package. Unlike some other conventional reels, Senators are not made to be light or easy to maneuver but are still a great choice for anglers of all experience levels.

Daiwa Tanacom

Best Reel for Deep Dropping –  The Daiwa Tanacom series is perfect for deep drops with its LCD depth display, automatic power assist to reel up on its own, and line guide for smooth spooling.

Daiwa TANACOM1000 Dendoh Fishing Reel, 30-40 lb, Black
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KEY FEATURES

  • Power assist to reel in automatically or assist 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 heavy weights 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 an expensive buy, but can easily pay itself off if you fish extra deep water often.

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Reel Construction

The reel has a full metal body, like most current reels on the market. It also has an integrated LCD display with a variety of 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

The LCD display on the reel is powered by a 12-volt battery. It has an automatic stop function to let you 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, simply flip it to manual to fight your catch to the surface.

Burning Shark Saltwater 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
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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 puts out forty pounds of drag and the wide spool gives a big line capacity. This is a good choice for fishermen on a budget that want a lighter-weight option than a Senator.

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Reel Construction

Each part of the 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 big features on the reel 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

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

Shimano TOR16PGA Torium 16 PG Star Drag Conventional Reel RH 4.6:1 4BB
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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

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

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Reel Construction

The reel is of course all metal. 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. 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 the reel feel smoother. The star drag puts out high amounts of drag weight, and the body design keeps you from forcing your reel to flex. Its free-spool function is perfect for fishing live baits on the bottom, with a quick flick to engage full drag on strikes.

PENN Fishing Squall LevelWind

Best LevelWind 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
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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 fishermen who want to be able to cast and handle their reel with ease, while still providing the power and line capacity needed for bottom fishing.

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Reel Construction

The reel is made of anodized aluminum and stainless steel, making it incredibly The reel is made with graphite side plates and frame to make it one of the lighter 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 possible to even cast this one. The anti-reverse system is nice for keeping the usage of the reel smooth without backlashes.

Shimano Triton

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

Shimano Triton 200G Levelwind Graphite Fishing Reel
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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 sort of 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.

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Reel Construction

The majority of the 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 the reel 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 Fishing Reels Level Wind

Smoothest Reel on a Budget: – The level wind trolling reel from One Bass 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)
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KEY FEATURES

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

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.

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Reel Construction

The 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 a little different than other reels, made from aircraft brake material instead of simple carbon washers. 

Reel Features

Just based on the ball bearings, the retrieval of this reel 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, ergonomic and adjustable handle, and a level wind for even spooling.

Avet MXJ 5.8 MC Lever Drag Casting Reel

High performance, high quality: – 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
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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 fishermen looking for a high-quality reel that performs in multiple situations.

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Reel Construction

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

Reel Features

The reel 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 from GOMEXUS helps set hooks on bites you might miss.

Gomexus Slow Jigging Reel Saltwater 7.1:1 Lever Drag 60lbs Right Hand Conventional Reel Powerful Solid Durable LX50
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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. For fishermen looking for extra protection, the reel comes with a cover, 60-day unconditional returns, and a one-year warranty. 

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Reel Construction

The 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 make it stand out. 60 lb drag on strikes is ideal for heavy hitting fish attacking your jigs. The 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 a bait to the bottom. You’ll typically want to hold your bait a few inches to a few feet off the actual bottom as well. 

Thick boat rods and 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 structure they can tangle or cut you off in quickly. In many places, sharks are common fish on reefs, and you need to pull the strong 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 Capacity
    • Line capacity on bottom fishing reels is immensely important. You need more line because you’ll be dropping deeper than you would typically cast quite often. On top of that, you need extra line for any fish that may take your bait and run, as well as spare line to account for breakoffs. 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 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 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.
    1. 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!
    1. 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.
    1. 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.
    1. 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.
    1. 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, as well as a higher line capacity. You need 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 line in case a fish goes on a run.

Can conventional reels be used for casting?

Many conventional reels can be casted. 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 properly, and the larger the conventional reel, the worse it is at casting. 

What Can You Catch Bottom Fishing?

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