10 Best Freshwater Spinning Reels (2021 Expert Reviews)

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

Last Update:

The Rundown

Best Overall: KastKing Sharky III
“With a first-in-class 39.5 lb. triple-disc drag and the KastKing Intrusion Shield System, the KastKing Sharky III is designed to tackle the chore of hauling in the biggest fish on any given body of water – best for anglers ready for the big catch!”

Best Value For Money: Sougayilang
“Composed of a total of 11 ball bearings and an S-curve oscillation system for seamless operation and uniform spooling, the Sougayilang is a reel every angler would be proud to own without the need to break the bank!”

Runner-up Choice: KastKing Megatron
“Featuring an aerospace aluminum alloy frame, durable gears that resist premature wear, and a 30+ pound drag for true fighting potential, the KastKing Megatron is best for all the adventurous anglers out there!”

When attempting to cast with extreme precision, or present a lure in the most concise manner possible, few pieces of equipment hold immense value as that of a spinning reel. Fishing reels of this variety can be cast with pinpoint accuracy, and provide an angler with a level of line control that is second to none. A quality spinning reel is, therefore, a “must buy” for every serious angler.

Designed for angler comfort and are lightweight in design, the most hearty of today’s premium spinning freshwater reels feature a robust drag system, durable ball bearings, and CNC machined internal gear train components.

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10 Best Freshwater Spinning Reels of 2021

KastKing Sharky III

Best Overall: Features of a spinning reel, power of a winch

KEY FEATURES

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

The KastKing Sharky III is a spinning 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 heavy duty, 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 other hard fighting species.

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The drag system that is 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 size fish, wherever they can be found.

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

Perhaps most notable, is the fact that this powerhouse of a reel is offered in a price range that is likely affordable to the vast majority of anglers. In fact, you can buy the KastKing Sharky III for little more than the cost of a tank of gas.

Sougayilang

Best Value For Money: Satisfactory performance, at an equally satisfactory price

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 buy a spinning reel that you will be proud to own, then the Sougayilang series of spinning reels is likely to be your best bet. This reel looks the part and carries a number of noteworthy design attributes, such as an 11 ball bearing internal configuration, S-curve oscillation system, and an ultra-compact profile. Most notable is the fact that this reel can be purchased for less than most will spend on bait during any given outing.

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The Sougayilang spinning reel utilizes a complex, yet well thought out rotational configuration. With a greater 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 buzzbait or crankbait.

The S-curve oscillation system used by the Sougayilang spinning reel is another key point of interest. Many low-grade spinning reels are incapable of metering line spool in an efficient manner. However, the Sougayilang spinning reel slightly slows its spooling in a bid to minimize line twist and kinking.

The Sougayilang spinning reel also features a drag system that is quite similar to those found on many higher-dollar reels. This system employs the use of 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.

KastKing Megatron

Runner-up Choice: Tough beyond compare, yet fluid in its performance

KEY FEATURES

  • Aerospace aluminum alloy frame takes a beating and comes back for more
  • Durable gears resist premature wear
  • 30+ pound drag for true fighting potential

If you tend to be hard on your fishing equipment and demand that a fishing reel stand up to anything that you or mother nature can throw at it, the KastKing Megatron is likely to be just what you have been looking for. This reel features an aerospace aluminum alloy frame, a zinc alloy drive gear, and a sturdy, yet lightweight spool, which culminates in a unit that even the most haphazard of anglers will be unlikely to damage or render inoperable.

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The KastKing Megatron also features an astounding 30+ lbs of total drag, further adding to its notable ruggedness. The reel’s drag system utilizes a series of carbon fiber discs to provide uniform line control and to prevent binding.

The Megatron spinning reel also features 7+1 MaxiDur double-shielded stainless-steel ball bearings, which should provide noticeably smooth operation, under a nearly infinite number of circumstances. This is ideal when attempting to boat sizable game fish that have no intention of being caught.

Also included is an instant anti-reverse feature, which allows for rapid hook sets. This is a feature that bass fishermen should absolutely love, as more often than not, the difference between a successful day of bass fishing. and one spent missing bites, comes down to the speed of one’s hook set.

YONGZHI Fishing Reels

Most User Friendly: A hassle-free reel that lets you focus on what matters most… catching fish

KEY FEATURES

  • Anti-twist line roller for tangle reduction
  • Grooved CNC machined spool for enhanced line distribution
  • Precision pinion gear system for superior durability

If you have become frustrated with tangled lines and problematic reel operation in the past, and are looking for a reliable reel that is capable of providing years of trouble-free use, then you should find immense favor in the Yongzhi spinning reel. This reel features an anti-twist roller for better line control, a grooved CNC machined spool for even line distribution, and a precision pinion gear system for effortless functionality.

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The Yongzhi spinning reel also features a highly-durable graphite frame, which should easily withstand the rigors placed upon it by years of relentless use. This can be especially helpful when not only fishing freshwater but  fishing extensively in coastal waters, as saltwater naturally corrosive and can quickly render lesser reels inoperable after only minimal use. 

Also of value is the Yongzhi spinning reel’s robust composition. This reel features a hardened metal main shaft, precision brass gears, and a triple carbon disc drag system, all of which should provide enhanced durability, even when used extensively in less than hospitable conditions. This attribute should be of significant worth to those who find themselves on the water at every available opportunity.

The Yongzhi spinning reel also features a number of comfort related features, which are likely to find favor with most anglers. This includes the use of ergonomic EVA handle knobs, which provide superior grips when in the midst of a fight. This reel is also compact in design, which will likely assist in mitigating hand and arm fatigue.

Penn Slammer III

Best High End Reel: Premium performance, manufactured from the latest technological advances

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, offering anglers a spinning reel that looks stylish, includes the latest in innovative features, and should hold its own with any spinning reel to be offered on the market today. This reel consists of a full metal body, side plate, and rotor utilizes the latest in 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 features a precisely cut, CNC machined gear set, which meshes perfectly upon every turn of the 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 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 be of significant benefit to those who commonly pursue record size game fish, that generally tax the drag systems of lesser fishing reels.

Penn Slammer III reels also come in several sizes, which allows anglers to select the model which is best suited to their particular application. This only adds to the reel’s already pronounced level of versatility.

KastKing Valiant Eagle

Best Drag System: Extremely quick, amazingly efficient

KEY FEATURES

  • Ultra-quick 6.2:1 gear ratio for blazing fast retrieves
  • Robust 22-pound drag system for plenty of fighting potential
  • Braid ready spool for effortless maintenance

The KastKing Valiant Eagle should be the perfect spinning reel for bass anglers who regularly employ blazing fast retrieves, to entice reactionary strikes otherwise reluctant largemouths. This stems from the fact that this reel features an amazingly quick 6.2:1 gear ratio, which should be ideal when quickly winding a topwater plug, or covering ground with a crankbait, all of which can be a highly effective tactic during much of the year.

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Anglers are also likely to find favor in the KastKing Valiant Eagle’s hefty drag system. This reel features a multi-disc carbon fiber drag, which carries a maximum operating capacity of 22-lbs, which well exceeds that of many comparable reels that are currently available. In order to enhance consistency, the Valiant Eagle’s has a sealed drag system to prevent water ingress, and to keep the system’s discs free of contamination and corrosion resistant.

The KastKing Valiant Eagle also utilizes a braid ready spool, which does not require the use of mono backing prior to being fitted with braided line. This is a feature that should be well received by serious anglers who fish consistently, as both time and effort will be saved during each subsequent maintenance interval. This gets you back on the water quickly, where you can get back to catching fish as intended.

In order to facilitate effortless cranking, KastKing also includes a 7+1 ball bearing system in all reels within the Valiant Eagle line. These MaxiDur shielded stainless steel ball bearings are highly uniform in composition, providing a level of consistent operation, which few other reels at this price range can compete with.

KastKing Brutus

Most Reliable: Reliability that you can bet your next fishing trip on

KEY FEATURES

  • Lightweight graphite frame and rotor for angler comfort
  • Durable bearing and drive components for pronounced reliability
  • Multi-disc drag system that delivers up to 17.5 lbs. of stopping power

For those that wish to strike out for the water, without any additional thought as to their reel’s performance, there are few reels as worthy of a second look as the KastKing Brutus. This fishing reel is somewhat simplistic in design, yet can be as reliable as they come. The Brutus features a 4+1 bearing system, lightweight graphite frame/rotor, and a 17.5 lbs. drag system. By all accounts, this reel should be ready to put in work, no matter its frequency of use or the conditions at hand.

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The KastKing Brutus spinning reel uses a host of components that are time tested, and known to be dependable and absent of any common points of failure. These components include a zinc alloy main gear, brass pinion gear, and steel main shaft. Additionally, a set of four ball bearings are used to facilitate rotational movement, free of binding or hesitation.

Thanks to the use of a graphite handle, the KastKing Brutus is also lightweight enough to be handled with ease, even during lengthy periods on the water. This alone, is likely to make the Brutus a favorite within the fishing reel collections of many anglers. As a general rule, the more comfortable a reel is to use, the more often it will be put to work.

Even more appealing is the fact that the KastKing Brutus spinning reel is offered at a very reasonable price range. This will likely leave budget minded anglers with a little extra spending cash for their rod, bait, hooks,  and other fishing related needs.

PLUSINNO Fishing Reel

Best Line Capacity: Lightweight feel, heavyweight performance

KEY FEATURES

  • 8.5 ounce carrying weight for exceptional comfort
  • High capacity spool for extended casting range
  • Hearty gear train for enhanced durability

The Plusinno Spinning Reel should be ideal for any angler who spends a significant amount of time on the water, and is looking for a lightweight reel alternative to many heavier reels on the market. Since it weighs in at only 8.5 ounces, this reel is likely to be lightweight enough to prevent hand and arm fatigue, yet still possesses durable internal hardware, and a wealth of notable convenience features.

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A number of anglers are also likely to find favor in the Plusinno Spinning Reel’s ultra-smooth performance, which comes as a byproduct of its thoughtfully engineered bearing system. This real features a 9+1 ball bearing system, which should maximize smooth casting efficiency, and provide effortless retrieves, under any number of conditions.

The Plusinno Spinning Reel also features a high-capacity spool, which accommodates a much greater amount of line than many reels of comparable size. This should be a feature of value to anglers who are fishing over beds during the spawn, and wish to cast from a distance rather than disturb fish that are nesting. Additionally, this spool is also of a braid-ready design, and does not require the use of mono backing.

Anglers are also likely to appreciate the heartiness of the Plusinno Spinning Reel’s gear train components. This reel features a hardened metal main shaft, perfect mesh drive gear, and precision machined pinion gear. Together, these components should provide an unparalleled level of durability.

Piscifun Carbon X

Best Features: A feature rich reel that should meet the needs of every angler

KEY FEATURES

  • Numerous high-end features for user-friendly operation
  • 5.7 ounce carrying weight for long-lasting comfort
  • 10+1 stainless steel ball bearing system for silky smooth operation

If you are looking for a feature rich reel, offered at a price that is well within the means of most, then the Piscifun Carbon X should be exactly what you have been searching for. Such features include a direct drive screw-in aluminum handle, hollow nest shaped spool, smooth positive click drag, and high density EVA knob. Perhaps most appealing, is the fact that the Piscifun Carbon X can be purchased at approximately ⅓ of the cost of many reels with the same list of abundant amenities.

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The Piscifun Carbon X is also extremely lightweight, which should promote substantial comfort, even when fishing from dawn to dusk. Weighing in at just 5.7 ounces, there are few spinning reels of similar size on the market today, which are nearly as subdued in proportion. Much of the Piscifun Carbon X’s weight reductive qualities can be traced back to the reel’s all-carbon body, rotor, and side plate.

Anglers should also be quite fond of the Piscifun Carbon X’s class-leading drag system. This system utilizes a series of oversized, carbon fiber discs to provide ample stopping power, even when the fish at the other end of your line refuses to call it a day. The Carbon X has a sealed drag system to the outside environment, making it impervious to the elements, and aiding in operational consistency.

The Piscifun Carbon X also utilizes a 10+1 stainless steel ball bearing system, which should provide silky smooth operation, for the life of the reel. These bearings are of a shielded configuration, which prevents water, dirt, and dust ingress. As a result, the Carbon X is corrosion resistant. In fact, this reel is also rated for saltwater spinning use, which serves as a true testament to its superiority in the realm of construction.

Diwa Spinning

Best Sizing Options: A platform that provides options for every angler, no matter their pursuit of choice

KEY FEATURES

  • Comes in 5 different sizes for multiple applications
  • 14 stainless steel ball bearings for smooth operation
  • 55 LB drag system for first in class fighting potential

If you are tired of attempting to make the best of a one-size fits all approach to reel selection and would like to locate a reel that provides numerous sizing options, then the Diwa spinning reel should be exactly what you have been looking for. This reel is offered in 5 different sizes, which should allow anglers to select a model that is ideally suited for nearly any application. The Diwa spinning reel also features 14 shielded stainless steel ball bearings to provide ultra-smooth operation.

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The Diwa spinning reel is also of note for its first in class 55-pound maximum drag capacity. This capacity is double that of many similar reels available on today’s market, and should be perfect for use in the pursuit of large, trophy-size game fish. This is a feature that should be especially helpful to those who routinely fish musky, striped bass,  catfish, or gar, all of which have a tendency to put a reel through its paces.

Diwa also strived to keep angler’s comfort in mind when engineering this series of spinning reels. This reel utilizes an aluminum-alloy body, which is subdued in weight, but not in rigidity. This reel weighs only 9.87 ounces, which should prove to be ideal in the fight to reduce hand and arm fatigue. This keeps you on the water longer, and in turn, should provide you with greater odds of success. 

Anglers can also purchase with confidence, as Diwa furnishes a 1-year manufacturer’s warranty against all defects. If you are presented with any difficulty, simply contact Diwa for assistance. This should offer peace of mind to prospective consumers, as Diwa’s customer service is regarded as one of the best in the industry.

Criteria Used For Evaluation

When choosing the perfect spinning reel, there are a number of factors that one must first consider. By keeping the following factors in mind, you will be better equipped to locate a reel that is best suited to your specific needs.

Criteria #1: Efficient Drag System

The quality of your reel’s drag system can dictate a fight’s outcome, when a fish of epic proportions is on the other end of your line.

A reel’s drag system is used to meter the distribution of line, when subject to excessive force, such as that applied by a sizable fish. This is accomplished through the use of a clutch-like disc system, which allows slippage at a predetermined point, which has been set by an angler. This slippage allows line to be fed outward, when tugged upon during a fight, thereby reducing tension and preventing line breakage.

A number of today’s premium spinning reels now include robust drag systems, which employ the use of carbon fiber drag discs. Many of these drag systems feature notable operating capacities of 30 or more pounds, which should be ample enough to take on even the most sizable of trophy fish.

Criteria #2: Quality Bearings

Whether casting or reeling, a spinning reel’s ability to operate in a satisfactory manner is heavily reliant upon the unit’s ball bearing system.

Every spinning reel on the market today relies upon the use of ball bearings to facilitate their rotational movement. At the turn of the handle, internal gear train components drive the unit’s spool, which rides upon a series of ball bearings. These bearings roll in their race, thereby minimizing friction as this spool rotates. The smoothness with which a particular reel’s spool rotates is directly dependent upon the quality and number of bearings that are used. Many premium reels feature 10 or more high-quality ball bearings, which are extremely uniform in size and shape.

Criteria #3: Comfort

An uncomfortable reel is likely to gather dust, rather than be put to use on the water.

Every serious angler knows that remaining comfortable is key when attempting to maximize their efficiency when on the water. The use of comfortable reels is a sizable piece of this equation and offers immense value when attempting to keep fatigue at bay. This comfort comes as a result of several characteristics as a whole. A reel should be lightweight, ergonomic, and easy to operate. If a reel does not offer each of these characteristics, its use quickly becomes cumbersome. As a result, lesser reels are often relegated to an angler’s garage, seeing very little time on the water as a result.

Questions & Answers

Are expensive freshwater spinning reels worth it?

In many cases, expensive freshwater spinning reels are indeed worth every penny of their asking price. While at first it might appear as if most reels are relatively similar in composition, one must also factor in the quality of each individual component from one reel to the next. This is where more expensive reels tend to show their value.

For example, the number of ball bearings that a spinning reel contains is of far less value than the quality and uniformity of each individual bearing. In the bulk of cases, a premium reel will possess bearings of far greater quality, than those of an equal bearing count, at a more economical cost. This principle applies across the spectrum when discussing individual features of a spinning reel. When speaking of a spinning reel’s quality, more often than not, you get what you pay for.

What is the best freshwater spinning reel for the money?

When attempting to locate a freshwater spinning reel that provides the most bang for your buck, it is difficult to go wrong with the KastKing Valiant Eagle. This reel presents anglers with a number of useful features, employs the use of an amazingly efficient drag system, and is constructed in a way that should prove durable over a significant period of time. Even more satisfying is the fact that the Valiant Eagle can be purchased at a far more conservative price point than many similar reels.

One feature of the KastKing Valiant Eagle that many anglers will likely be quite fond of is its 22-pound carbon fiber drag system, which should provide ample power to fight even the most relentless of trophy-size fish. Additionally, this reel also comes fitted with a braid-ready spool, which does not require the use of any monofilament backing. The Valiant Eagle also possesses an ultra-quick 6.2:1 gear ratio, which allows anglers to quickly cover water when attempting to coax reactionary strikes with a blazing fast presentation.

What should I look for in the best freshwater spinning reels?

When attempting to locate the best freshwater spinning reels for purchase, there are a number of factors that must first be considered. One of the most important of these factors pertains to the integrity of a particular reel’s drag system. Even the most expensive reel on the market is of little value if it is unable to meter fishing line in an effective manner when placed under a load.

Other factors worthy of consideration include the number/quality of ball bearings utilized in a reel’s construction, the integrity of a reel’s internal gear train, and a reel’s ability to prevent angler fatigue. The highest quality spinning reels currently available will showcase excellence in each of these categories, and are most likely to provide years of satisfactory service, even when used relentlessly.