Ultimate Guide to the 5 Best Spinning Reels: 2024 Buyers Guide

Kenneth Reaves

Kenneth Reeves

Executive Director

Daniel ONeil

Daniel O'Neill

Head of Product Testing


Last updated:



In the relentless pursuit of the finest spinning reels, each cast and reel-in unfolds a unique narrative. Our hands-on trials have taken us through a diverse array of aquatic landscapes, from tranquil freshwater settings to the briny atmosphere of the open sea. We’ve subjected a multitude of contenders to rigorous testing.

Our goal is to identify the elite performers that seamlessly combine finesse, durability, and value. These reviews distill the essence of our exhaustive findings, providing valuable insights into the spinning reels that rise above the competition. For anglers seeking to elevate their game, these recommendations serve as a guide to the pinnacle of performance in the world of spinning reels.

Best Spinning Reels – Our Top Picks

What We Look For: Essential Factors To Consider

  • Drag System: The drag system determines how smoothly a reel dispenses line under pressure. Look for reels with carbon or Dura-Drag systems that offer consistent resistance without jerking, ensuring better control when battling a strong fish.
  • Construction Material: A reel’s durability largely depends on its construction. Full metal bodies are sturdy and ideal for heavy-duty saltwater use, while lighter materials like carbon or graphite are suitable for freshwater and easier handling.
  • Sealing and Waterproofing: Reels with IPX ratings are better protected against water intrusion, which is crucial for long-term performance, especially in saltwater conditions. Seals prevent corrosion and wear on internal components.
  • Bearing System: A higher number of quality bearings, typically stainless steel, equates to smoother casting and retrieval. However, the quality of the bearings is often more important than the quantity.
  • Gear Ratio: Faster gear ratios allow quicker line retrieval but offer less torque for fighting fish. Slower ratios are better suited for larger fish and heavier lures. Choose the ratio based on your target species and fishing technique.
  • Line Capacity: Ensure the reel can hold enough line for the type of fishing you’re doing. Larger spools are better for long-distance casting and deep-sea fishing, while smaller spools suffice for inshore and freshwater angling.
  • Weight and Balance: The weight of the reel should match the rod for a balanced setup. Lighter reels reduce fatigue during long casting sessions, whereas heavier reels might balance better with specific rods for saltwater fishing.

Our Recommendations In 2024


Editor’s Choice: SHIMANO Stradic FL

SHIMANO Stradic FL Spinning Fishing Reel

The Shimano Stradic FL delivers where it counts. It’s a reel that beckons to seasoned anglers with its durability and smooth operation.

While it does come with a higher weight and initial drag issues in some cases, its overall performance justifies its inclusion in our recommendations. Match this reel with a quality rod, and you’re equipped for countless successful trips.

Swapping the felt drag for a carbon upgrade, as some anglers have noted, makes it nearly flawless.

“The SHIMANO Stradic FL reel is included for its superior performance in drag and casting. Suitable for serious anglers who value quality and durability, it is a testament to Shimano’s reliable engineering.”

– Kenneth Reaves, Editor-in-Chief & Executive Director

The Shimano Stradic FL spinning reel, specifically the STC5000XGFL model, stands out for its robust aluminum construction and impressive drag smoothness, courtesy of high-quality bearings. It excels in casting, enabling anglers to reach commendable distances with ease.

Weighing 265 grams, it’s built for endurance and can handle the rigors of both freshwater and saltwater environments 2:1, making it suitable for a variety of fishing techniques, particularly spinning.

It’s acclaimed for holding over 150 yards of braided line, offering ample capacity for most fishing escapades.


PENN Slammer III

PENN Slammer III Spinning Fishing Reel

The PENN Slammer III offers an exceptional blend of strength and reliability for anglers plying the saltwater realm. Its performance, backed by the toughness of full metal construction and a sealed system, stands out.

While the heft and manual bail may deter some for the dedicated saltwater enthusiast. These are small prices to pay for a reel that can endure the rigors of coastal fishing with aplomb. This reel is for those who prioritize longevity and power in their fishing gear.

“The PENN Slammer III is included for its impressive durability and performance in saltwater conditions. It’s a superb choice for anglers seeking a robust spinning reel capable of handling demanding environments.”

– Kenneth Reaves, Editor-in-Chief & Executive Director

The PENN Slammer III with its full metal body and IP67 sealed spool design, is a spinning reel designed for the inevitable clash with the briny deep. Its 6-plus-1 stainless steel bearing system facilitates a smooth operation while the proprietary Slammer Drag System equipped with Dura-Drag material provides the necessary muscle to wrestle with formidable saltwater adversaries.

During our testing, the reel’s hefty 1-pound weight lent a reassuring sense of durability and the manual bail trip feature proved reliable, though it may not be to every angler’s preference. The promise of waterproof resilience was upheld even after several aggressive surf sessions and the CNC gear technology translated into a tactile controlled retrieve.

The Daiwa Ballistic LT MQ excels in blending lightweight design with the tenacity needed for diverse fishing conditions. While the reel’s construction and initial lubrication may need attention, its overall performance is commendable.

It stands shoulder to shoulder with higher-end models offering a reliable, high-quality experience at a moderate price point. The Mag Sealing alone justifies considering this reel, especially for those frequenting harsh environments ensuring longevity and uninterrupted smoothness.

A fine choice for anglers looking to invest in a reel that will perform admirably for seasons to come.

“The Daiwa Ballistic LT MQ is a true testament to Daiwa’s engineering prowess. It’s included for its exceptional versatility and technological advancement, appealing to anglers requiring performance across varied environments.”

– Kenneth Reaves, Editor-in-Chief & Executive Director

2022’s Daiwa Ballistic LT MQ Spinning Reel stands out for its integration of innovative technologies like Mag Sealing, exceptional for keeping destructive elements at bay. Testing on both freshwater and saltwater yielded impressive results particularly its adept handling of light finesse applications and demanding saltwater challenges.

The Zaion material composition contributes to a pleasingly lightweight feel at 170 grams, without compromising durability. The Monocoque body design ingeniously houses a larger gear set endowing it with a robust compact form factor that outshines competitors in its size and price range.

Its drag system as smooth as advertised responded consistently under duress with fish on the line.


13 FISHING – Source X

13 FISHING - Source X - Spinning Reels

The 13 FISHING Source X stands out in the budget reel market offering a commendable level of performance that belies its cost. Its versatility and solid build quality provide a smooth experience for targeting a variety of species.

However, it may not be the ultimate choice for heavy-duty saltwater applications or for those with a keen ear for high-end drag acoustics. Despite some minor drawbacks, this reel gives anglers a reliable starting point or an affordable backup without breaking the bank.

“The 13 FISHING Source X is an accessible option for the cost-conscious angler. Notably featured for its impressive specs at a reasonable price point, it is ideal for those looking to balance performance and budget.”

– Kenneth Reaves, Editor-in-Chief & Executive Director

7 ounces, embodies a sleek black graphite build with ambidextrous handling capabilities. It features a robust 6-disc carbon drag system and a high-tensile strength (HTS) frame and rotor, complemented by a two-tone aluminum spool and 5+1 stainless steel ball bearings.

This reel accommodates a variety of fishing line types including monofilament, fluorocarbon, and braided lines. During testing, the reel presented a satisfactory smoothness in retrieval yet some anglers might find the drag sound to be less than desirable.

While primarily designed for freshwater angling, it has shown admirable performance when pitted against coastal game such as mackerel, albeit with some reservations on long-term saltwater use.

The Lew’s Custom Inshore Speed Spin Spinning Reel emerges as a paragon for inshore fishing enthusiasts. Its construction is robust yet it does not compromise on lightness or sensitivity.

A versatile reel, it pairs impressively with various rods rendering it suitable for both freshwater medium applications and lighter saltwater endeavors. With its high-quality gear system, responsive drag, and ambidextrous design, it has earned its place in the pantheon of reliable mid-priced reels.

“The Lew’s Custom Inshore Speed Spin is an impressive specimen designed for the discerning inshore angler. Its balance of robust build and precision engineering make it a noteworthy addition to our lineup.”

– Kenneth Reaves, Editor-in-Chief & Executive Director

Lew’s Custom Inshore Speed Spin Spinning Reel presents an amalgam of strength and finesse. Its high-strength Speed Gears meticulously shaped on Hama CNC machines ensure unwavering performance.

Complementing this, a double anodized aluminum spool and C60 Carbon skeletal speed rotor offer a lightweight, reliable structure. With an ambidextrous stainless steel handle and an anti-reverse feature, it caters to a broad range of angling preferences.

Through my extensive testing, the S-curve oscillation system has proven to offer a commendable line lay and the 7-bearing system imparts impeccable smoothness even under duress, battling inshore species like Redfish with notable ease.

Questions & Answers

  1. How much should I expect to spend on a high-quality spinning reel?

    The cost of a high-quality spinning reel can vary widely based on features, materials, and brand reputation. Entry-level reels that offer decent performance can start around $50 but to ensure enhanced durability, smoother operation, and the latest technologies, be prepared to invest anywhere from $100 to $300. Premium models can even exceed $500, targeting professional anglers who demand the utmost in performance and longevity. Consider your level of experience, the frequency of use, and the conditions you’ll be fishing in when budgeting for a reel. Remember, investing in a better reel upfront can save money in the long run by reducing the need for replacements due to wear or damage.

  2. Is it important to match the spinning reel to the rod?

    Matching the spinning reel to the rod is critical for optimal performance and comfort. A mismatched setup can lead to poor balance, affecting casting accuracy and sensitivity. The power and action of the rod should complement the reel’s size and capacity. For example, a lightweight reel pairs well with a light or ultralight rod for finesse techniques, while a larger, more robust reel suits a heavier rod for big game fishing. Additionally, the reel seat on the rod should fit the reel’s foot securely, ensuring stability and reducing play during retrieval. Always check the specifications of both the rod and reel to ensure compatibility.

  3. What makes a spinning reel suitable for saltwater?

    Saltwater environments are harsh, with corrosive saltwater and larger, stronger fish. A suitable spinning reel for saltwater should possess several key features. Firstly, it should have a robust construction, often with a full metal body, to withstand the rigorous ocean conditions. Secondly, the reel should have a high-quality sealing and waterproofing system, like an IPX6 rating, to protect against saltwater intrusion. Thirdly, a strong drag system, such as one equipped with carbon or Dura-Drag washers, is essential to handle powerful fish. Additionally, corrosion-resistant bearings and a large line capacity for longer casting distances are also beneficial. Ultimately, durability and protective features are the hallmarks of a reel fit for saltwater action.

  4. How does the gear ratio affect my fishing experience?

    The gear ratio of a spinning reel dictates the speed of line retrieval per handle turn. A higher gear ratio, such as 6.2:1, means the reel takes in more line with each turn, useful for quick retrieves or when fishing techniques require fast action. Conversely, a lower ratio provides more torque, helping to reel in larger fish that put up a solid fight. Your choice should align with your fishing style; fast-moving lures and surface techniques benefit from high-speed reels, whereas deep water jigging or pulling in heavy fish may call for a lower gear ratio. It’s about finding the balance between speed and power for your target species and methods.

  5. Can I use the same spinning reel for different fishing techniques?

    Spinning reels are versatile and can be adapted to various fishing techniques with some considerations. Adjustable drag settings and the ability to handle different line types make them suitable for techniques from finesse fishing with light lures to bait fishing with heavier setups. However, the reel’s specifications, such as gear ratio and drag strength, should complement the intended technique. While one reel may cover a range of approaches, having a few reels with different characteristics can optimize your effectiveness across techniques. Always refer to the reel’s capacity and performance features to ensure it aligns with your fishing strategy.


The quest for the ultimate ‘best spinning reels’ reaches its zenith when a choice seamlessly blends robustness with finesse. Key factors such as the drag system, construction material, and gear ratio play a pivotal role in this decision. The Shimano Stradic FL emerges as a frontrunner, achieving an outstanding equilibrium between performance and quality.

When making your selection, consider a reel that aligns with your specific fishing needs, complements your rod, and stands resilient against aquatic challenges. It’s more than just a reel; it serves as the nexus of your angling experience, ensuring that each moment on the water is met with precision and satisfaction.