The 7 Best Open Face Reels (November 2021 Update)

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

Last Update:

The Rundown

Best Overall: KastKing Summer/Centron
“Utilizing a high-powered 17.5-pound Drag System and 9-ball bearings for ultra-smooth performance, the KastKing Summer/Centron series of reels come in multiple sizes to fit every angler’s needs.”

Premium Option: KastKing Sharky III
“Loaded with features (KastKing Intrusion Shield System and a first-in-class 39.5 lb. triple-disc drag) to tackle the chore of hauling in the biggest fish on any given body of water, the KastKing Sharky III is perfect for those who regularly fish for a wide variety of hard-fighting saltwater species.”

Runner-up Choice: Piscifun Flame
“Engineered for the ultimate in angler comfort (ergonomic design, lightweight graphite frame, and powerful 19.8 lb. drag system), the Piscifun Flame Open Face Reel is perfect for those that have grown tired of bulkier, more cumbersome reels in the past.”

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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7 Best Open Face Reels of 2021

KastKing Summer/Centron

Best Overall: Subdued in cost, but not in features

KEY FEATURES

  • Compact, lightweight design
  • High-powered 17.5 lb. Drag System
  • Utilizes 9-ball bearings for ultra-smooth performance

If you are on the hunt for a quality open face fishing reel, that is economical in price, there are likely few better options than the KastKing Summer/Centron series of reels. This series of reels feature a lightweight graphite frame that is compact in design, and should be quite durable as well. Each Summer/Centron series reel utilizes a total of 9 ball bearings, which should offer ultra-smooth performance, free of any hard spots or operational lag.

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KastKing Summer/Centron series reels also feature a powerful 17.5 lb. drag system, which will likely afford anglers the opportunity to efficiently fight even the largest of game fish species. This system is constructed in a rugged manner, featuring a hardened metal main shaft, perfect mesh drive gear, and precision machined pinion gear. These components also serve as a point of enhanced durability, as a reel’s drag system can be a key point of failure among many lesser reels on the market.

Another key characteristic of all KastKing Summer/Centron series reels is that of their high level of visual appeal. These reels come in two separate color combinations, which allow an angler to select that which best suits their individual tastes. These color combinations include black with blue accents, and white with blue accents.

KastKing Summer/Centron series reels also come in multiple sizes, for use within a variety of applications. From ultralight ice fishing reels, to larger catfishing reels, there is likely an option available in this series to fit the needs of every angler.

KastKing Sharky III

Premium Option: Features of a open face 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 saltwater rated, double shielded ball bearings

The KastKing Sharky III is an open face fishing 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 saltwater rated, 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 hard-fighting saltwater 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 backing line, as is characteristic of many other 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 at a price point that is likely affordable to the vast majority of anglers. In fact, the KastKing Sharky III can be purchased for little more than the cost of a tank of gas.

Piscifun Flame

Runner-Up Choice: A featherweight reel, with heavyweight performance

KEY FEATURES

  • Lightweight graphite frame, for minimal of angler fatigue
  • Powerful 19.8 lb. drag system
  • Ergonomic design for ultimate comfort

The Piscifun Flame Open Face Reel is likely to be the perfect choice for those that have grown tired of bulkier, more cumbersome reels in the past, as it has been engineered for the ultimate in angler comfort. The combination of a lightweight hollow graphite frame, and an ergonomic grip and handle, should be enough to make anglers pick this reel up, and never want to put it down again. Additionally, this reel is packed full of helpful features, such as a robust 19.8 lb drag system, a smooth 9+1 bearing system, and a braid-ready spool.

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Weighing in at only 8.5 ounces, arm and hand fatigue should be of no issue to anglers who employ the use of the Piscifun Flame open face reel. This minimization of weight is largely a product of the Flame’s hollow graphite handle, which eliminates a substantial amount of unnecessary weight. Additionally, this reel features an ergonomically designed handle, that is likely to become a point of favor among anglers who spend long hours on the water.

The Piscifun Flame is also built to satisfy the needs of those with serious ambitions toward catching sizable fish. With a 19.8 lb total drag weight, a reinforced metal main shaft, a high quality drive gear, a precisely machined brass pinion gear and triple drag washers, it is highly unlikely that the average angler will encounter a situation that the Piscifun Flame cannot handle.

Braid line can also be used in conjunction with the Piscifun Flame, as its specialized spool is engineered for this exact purpose. There is no longer any need to worry about backing your braid with monofilament. Simply spool on your line of choice, and take to the water.

Sougayilang

Best Budget Option: 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 purchase an spinning fishing reel that you will be proud to own, then the Sougayilang series of 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 open face reel utilizes a complex, yet well thought out rotational configuration. With a greater total number of ball bearings than the bulk of 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 open face reel is another key point of interest. Many low-grade open face reels are incapable of metering line spool in an efficient manner. However, the Sougayilang open face reel, slightly slows its spooling in a bid to minimize line twist and kinking.

The Sougayilang open face 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.

Pflueger President

Best Overall: A trouble-free reel engineered to keep you fishing for as long as possible

KEY FEATURES

  • Specialized gearing that prevents line from twisting
  • Sealed drag system for all-weather performance
  • Graphite body and rotor for a lightweight feel

The Pfluger President should be an investment worth making, especially for those that have limited time to spend on the water, and demand the utmost in reliability out of all of their gear. This reel features specialized gearing that slows oscillation to prevent line twisting and kinks. It’s also fitted with a waterproof sealed drag system, 7-corrosion resistant ball bearings, and a lightweight graphite body and rotor.

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The Pfluger President takes line control to a new extreme by using slow oscillation gearing to prevent line from being wound in a manner that is too quick for efficient spooling. This leads to even line distribution, which means fewer “birds’ nests”, and more time spent fishing, instead of fixing line-related issues.

Also of note is the Pflueger President’s sealed drag system, which resists water ingress and maintains internal lubrication. This should be an immensely popular feature among anglers, as water contamination, and resulting corrosion can spell trouble for the drag systems of many lesser quality reels currently available on the market. When a drag system becomes compromised, a number of performance-related issues soon become evident.

As a further compliment to the abovementioned drag system, Pfueger has used corrosion-resistant, stainless steel ball bearings in their President line of reels. This adds another level of depth to the line’s already impressive weather resistance. As a result, this reel is likely to make it through many seasons without much in the way of mechanical issues.

Penn Slammer III

Best Premium Option: 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 one of the best open face 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 revolution of its 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 reels.

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

Okuma Ceymar

Most Versatile: A versatile series of reel, with options for every application

KEY FEATURES

  • Multi-disc, pre-oiled drag system allows for ample line control
  • Quick-set anti-reverse roller bearing prevents freespool of line
  • Offered in a range of sizes for versatility

The Okuma Ceymar line of open face reels is offered in a variety of sizes, which should be of benefit to those who know what features they are in search of, but are looking for a perfectly sized reel for their particular application. Additionally, this reel includes a number of high-end features, such as a multi-disc, pre-oiled drag system, a quick-set anti-reverse roller bearing, and a high-torque pinion gear.

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Included in the Okuma Ceymar line is the C-30/C-40 for freshwater use, the C-55 for inshore salt water fishing, and the C-65 for open water excursions. With such a wide array of purpose-specific models, most anglers will be able to easily locate an Okuma Ceymar reel that is perfectly suited to their needs.

The Okuma Ceymar’s Multi-disc, pre-oiled drag system is also sure to be a hit among many anglers. This system employs the use of felt-style discs that adequately meter drag and line dispersal, leading to a higher degree of versatility when taking on whatever the lake throws your way.

This series of spinning fishing reel also features an anti-corrosive anodized coating. This can come as a major advantage when factoring in the longevity of a particular reel, as the elements can quickly lay waste to uncoated reels, rendering them unfit for use in matter of only a few years.

What Should I Look For When Buying An Open Face Reel?

Frame

Without a heavy-duty frame, an open face reel is prone to being irreparably damaged when fighting big fish.

A reel’s frame not only provides the base to which all other components attach, but serves as the single point of connection between an angler’s rod and reel as well. As such, a reel’s frame must be extremely rugged, and capable of withstanding abuse, by sizable fish, as well as the elements.

Freshwater or Saltwater

Assuming that a reel is intended for saltwater fishing use, without confirmation, can lead to a host of issues for an angler to contend with.

Saltwater is naturally corrosive to metal surfaces, and can quickly do damage to any reel not approved for use in such conditions. Saltwater approved reels feature anti-corrosive surface coatings, sealed ball bearing system, and water-resistant drag systems. However, not all freshwater spinning reels are built in the same manner. Therefore, it is extremely important to consider which type of fishing you intend to participate in. 

Price

Open face spinning reels are offered at virtually every price point imaginable, thereby presenting an option that fits every budget.

Prior to purchasing an open face spinning reel, you must first have a budget in mind. Reels of this type can be purchased for as little as $15, or as much as $300. This makes it quite easy for any angler to locate a reel that is affordable to them. However, it is also of value to remember that you most often get what you pay for. Premium tier reels often feature higher-grade ball bearings, more robust drag systems, smooth operation, and numerous amenities.

Reel Spool

A reel’s spool is the final link between an angler, and the line to which their prized catch will be hooked to.

An open face fishing reel’s spool plays an integral role in an angler’s cast and retrieve. A high-quality spool can actually improve casting distances, and minimize line twist and kinks, thereby fostering a greater long term fishing experience. Most of today’s best spinning reels feature an aluminum spool, many of which come in a braid-ready configuration.

Reel Body

A reel’s body composition plays a significant role in its ease of use and overall longevity.

Many of today’s best open face spinning reels feature an aluminum or graphite body. Both of these materials are lightweight by nature, and are also naturally corrosion-resistant. As a byproduct, reels of this composition tend to be comfortable to handle, and long-lasting in their durability.

Reel Rotor

An open face reel’s rotor is responsible for transferring force between a unit’s gear train, and its spool.

A reel’s rotor is designed to rotate around a reel’s spool shaft, in order to drive the spool in a rotating fashion. The bulk of quality reel rotors are composed of graphite or aluminum, and are rigid in form. This provides reliable rotation, smooth operation, and enhanced durability.

Reel Handle

A reel’s handle is the main component to which every other unit function is linked.

Few anglers truly consider just how vital a reel’s handle is to a unit’s overall operation. As the driving force behind a reel’s functionality, a handle must be both solid in construction, and comfortable to use. Today, the best open face fishing reels feature aluminum handles that can be repositioned for both right and left handed use, and utilize comfortable rubber grips.

Power Roller

A reel’s power roller plays an essential role in the spooling of line, free of any unwanted line abrasion.

A reel’s power roller can be found sandwiched between the unit’s bail and spool. This small component is designed to spin freely, allowing line to be wound onto the reel’s spool in an even and precise fashion. A power roller must be durable in design, as any damage to this unit will result in frayed line, which ultimately risks breakage.

Weight

A bulky fishing reel is of little use to an avid angler, especially when fishing for extended periods of time.

It is absolutely essential to study the carrying weight of any reel which you are currently considering purchasing. A failure to do so can leave you with a reel that is cumbersome to use, and that ultimately leads to excess arm fatigue. On the other hand, a lightweight reel can provide an angler with hours of comfortable use, which is an attribute that anyone can appreciate.

Body Material

If a reel’s body is not cast from quality materials, longevity and overall efficiency are sure to suffer.

A reel’s body houses numerous components that are vital to proper function. As such, a reel’s body must be cast from quality materials, in a bid to withstand all that it will be put up against. The vast majority of today’s quality open face reels feature bodies composed primarily of graphite, carbon-fiber, or aluminum. Each of these materials are of value for their lightweight,yet durable characteristics.

Line Capacity

A reel’s line capacity is an important consideration when attempting to locate the best particular model to your specific application.

An open face reel’s line capacity varies not only by the size of the reel itself, but by the size of line chosen for use. As a general rule, a reel’s overall capacity decreases as line size increases. However, high-test line can still be used to a more efficient extent, when paired with a reel of sizable proportions.

Questions & Answers

What is an open face reel?

An open faced reel is a type reel that features a vertical spool, that is not enclosed in any manner by a shroud or outer shell. Many anglers also refer to an open face reel as a spinning reel. Reels of this nature are easy to use and extremely versatile, lending themselves well to precision casting and intricate lure presentation. As a result, open face reels are immensely popular with anglers the world over.

Overall, open face reels can be used with relative ease, though learning to cast a reel of this nature often requires a little additional practice. Rather than depressing a button to cast, as is the case with spincasting reels, an open face reel’s bail must be flipped into an upward position, prior to casting one’s line.

What is an open face reel used for?

Open face reels are known for their high degree of versatility, making them suitable for use in most applications. In fact, one can use an open face reel in nearly every type of angling pursuit, including that which pertains to even the most sizable of saltwater species. Open face reels are offered in an infinite number of sizes, making it quite simple to choose a particular model that meets your specific needs.

Many avid panfish anglers prefer an open face reel over units of any other type, due to their superb casting ability. This allows these angler to easily cast to spawning beds, as well as bush piles and other points of interest. Many anglers also keep an open face reel on hand for bass fishing, especially when employing the use of finesse fishing techniques.

How do I cast an open face reel?

Open face reels operate in a relatively similar fashion to other types of reels, in relation to retrieval and drag system usage. However, reels of this variety do cast in a somewhat different manner than various other reels. Prior to casting, an open face reel’s bail is flipped upward to release the line. A finger is then used to hold the slack line against an angler’s rod. As an angler swings forward with their cast, they lift their finger, thereby allowing the line to feed outward.
Casting an open face reel takes time to master. As with any type of casting, practice makes perfect. Many anglers shorten this learning curve by practicing their cast while in their backyard. With as little as 30 minutes of practice per evening, one can quickly become proficient in casting their new open face reel.

How do I string an open face reel?

Stringing an open face reel is relatively straightforward in nature, and can be completed in a matter of minutes, even by those with no prior experience. However, there are a few key steps that must be adhered to, in order to maximize your reel’s performance. 

First, begin by feeding the new line through each of your rod’s guides until reaching the spool of your reel. You will now flip the bail of your reel into its upward position, and tie this line onto the spool with the use of an overhand knot. 

You will now lay the spool of new fishing line onto a flat surface, and begin slowly cranking your reel. While doing so, make sure that the spool of the new line is spinning in the same direction as the spool of your reel. This keeps line twist to an absolute minimum. As you reel, keep slight tension on the incoming line with the use of your thumb and index finger. You will continue stringing as much line onto your reel until it comes within ⅛ inch of the spool’s outer lip, at which time the line will be cut, and a hook can be tied in place.