The Best Spinning Reels of 2021 (Buying Guide)

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

Last Update:

The Rundown

Best Overall: KastKing Summer and Centron
“Don’t be fooled by its compact design — this reel is capable of snagging the largest fish out there with its high-powered drag system and quality 9-ball bearings. Perfect for anglers who love a good fight.”

Runner Up Option: KastKing Sharky III
“This reel is just the thing that anglers need to catch that trophy fish. It has a triple disc drag, a special shield system to keep it clean, and double-shielded bearings. It has everything you could possibly ask for.”

Best Premium Option: Penn Battle II & III
“If you’re an angler who’s looking for a good dual purpose reel, then you’ll love these reels. They have a full metal structure, an impressive drag system, and handy capacity indicators in the spool.”

Spinning reels have been, and continue to be, among the most popular reel options available to anglers, mainly due to their versatile nature, as they allow anglers to cast accurately, present their bait in a multitude of fashions, and land even the most aggressive of game fish.

The highest quality spinning reels are lightweight, yet durable, feature robust carbon-fiber drag systems, and employ the use of durable ball bearings for smooth operation – read on below to find out more about the best choices on the market today.

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The 10 Best Spinning Reels in 2021

KastKing Summer and Centron

Best Overall: Subdued in cost, but not in features

KEY FEATURES

  • Compact, lightweight design
  • High-powered 17.5 lb. drag system
  • 9-ball bearings for an ultra-smooth performance

If you’re on the hunt for a quality spinning reel that is economical in price, you can’t go wrong with KastKing Summer and Centron Reels. This series of reels features a lightweight graphite frame that is compact in design and durable as well. Each Summer and Centron Reel uses 9-ball bearings, ensuring an ultra-smooth performance, free of any hard spots or operational lags.

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The KastKing Summer and Centron Spinning Reels also feature a powerful 17.5 pound drag system, which gives anglers ample opportunity to win in a fight with even the largest of game fish species. Their systems consist of a hardened metal main shaft, a perfect mesh drive gear, and a precision-machined pinion gear. These components also serve as a point of enhanced durability, as a poor drag system is often responsible for common fishing failures.

Another key characteristic of all the KastKing Summer and Centron reels is their high level of visual appeal. Each reel comes in various color combinations, which allows an angler to select which would best suit their individual taste. Among these color sets include black with blue accents and silver and white.

These reels also come in multiple sizes for use within a variety of applications. From ultralight ice fishing reels to larger catfishing reels, there’s no doubt that there’s a selection in this series that will fit the needs of every angler.

KastKing Sharky III

Runner Up Option: Has the features of a spinning reel and the power of a winch

KEY FEATURES

  • First-class 39.5 lb. triple disc drag
  • Special Intrusion Shield System that prevents water and dirt ingress
  • Includes 10+1 saltwater rated, double-shielded ball bearings

The KastKing Sharky III is a spinning reel designed to tackle the challenge of hauling in the biggest fish on any body of water. It features a first class 39.5 pound triple disc drag system and 10+1 saltwater rated, double-shielded ball bearings that offer unmatched strength and agility. This is the perfect reel for those who regularly fish for catfish, musky, or striped bass, and any kind of hard-fighting saltwater species.

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The drag system of 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 fishes everywhere.

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 lines, without the use of backing line, as is a characteristic of many other reels on the market. This is something that many anglers will appreciate, as it saves them the time and trouble of dealing with the intricacies of spooling braid, leaving more time for fishing.

Perhaps most notable about this is the fact that this powerhouse of a reel can be purchased for little more than the cost of a tank of gas.

Penn Battle II & III

Best Premium Option: As at home in saltwater as it is freshwater

KEY FEATURES

  • Full metal body, side plate, and rotor for heavy-duty use
  • HT-100 drag system for superior line control and fighting power
  • Superline spool that includes capacity indicators

While many of the reels on this list are approved for use in saltwater, Penn’s Battle II & III reels are built specifically for dual purpose use. This means that the Penn Battle line of reels is perfect for any angler who lives in coastal states, where they are just as likely to fish in saltwater as they are in freshwater. This reel uses a full metal body, side plate, and rotor, plus five shielded stainless-steel ball bearings specifically engineered to handle the rigors of saltwater fishing.

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The Penn Battle line of reels features the company’s signature HT-100 drag system. This system uses carbon-fiber discs to meter line dispersal with high consistency, while also maintaining smooth operational characteristics. This is a huge advantage to anglers that constantly seek out the biggest fish in the water.

Another feature of these reels that many anglers will love is their ease of adaptability when a braided line is used. On many spinning reels, a backing layer of monofilament line is required to use a braided line. However, braid can easily be used with the Penn Battle, without the use of any backing. This is great for anglers who re-spool their reels regularly, as it will reduce the time required to facilitate this task.

To further aid in the spooling of new line, Penn has included capacity indicators on the spool of all Battle series reels. These indicators denote ⅓, ⅔, and full capacities, which should make it easier than ever to determine whether you’re getting the most out of your reel or not.

PENN Pursuit III

Best Corrosion Resistance: Impervious to the elements so you can fish relentlessly

KEY FEATURES

  • 4+1 stainless steel shielded ball bearing system for smooth operation
  • Lightweight graphite body for ease of handling
  • HT-100 carbon-fiber drag system for rich fighting potential

If you never know where your adventures will take you, and you need a reel capable of pulling both freshwater and saltwater duties, then the Penn Pursuit III is just what you are looking for. This reel features an ultra-lightweight, corrosion-resistant graphite body and a 4+1 stainless steel shielded bearing system, which makes it just as well-suited for catching vermillion snapper in coastal waters as it is tackling largemouths in inland lakes.

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The Penn Pursuit III features the company’s HT-100 drag system, which uses carbon-fiber drag washers to meter load and line dispersal. This system is designed to dissipate heat, minimize wear, and provide consistent operation, no matter the size of the fish at the end of your line. This should be a favorite among anglers who commonly pursue larger species of game fish, which are known to fight relentlessly.

Another one of the Penn Pursuit III’s features that anglers are sure to love is the reel’s Instant Anti-Reverse mechanism, which prevents rotor back play. The elimination of this back play should allow for instant hooksets, free from the need to take up any slack prior to anchoring your hook. This is a feature that is ideal for snagging bass, catfish, or any other species of fish that often bite subtly.

The Penn Pursuit III is offered in a myriad of sizes, which allows anglers to select the perfect reel for their particular application. From small panfish to hard-fighting saltwater species, there is a Penn Pursuit III model to meet every need.

Daiwa Bg

Best Overall: A high-performance reel that is equally rich in cosmetic appeal

KEY FEATURES

  • Oversized Digigear for increased torque
  • ABS spool for enhanced line capacity
  • Sleek black anodized aluminum housing

The Daiwa Bg Spinning Reel is equal parts form and function, offering anglers a reel that should not only perform to high efficiency, but look good while doing so. This reel features a sleek black anodized, machined aluminum housing, an oversized Digigear for increased torque, an infinite anti-reverse system, and a lightweight Dynamic Cut Aluminum ABS Spool. If you are in search of a high-end spinning reel that offers numerous premium features, then this is just the product for you.

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Many conventional spinning reels keep a standard diameter, from one end of their spool to the other, which often leaves “dead” line buried at the spool’s core. However, the Daiwa Bg’s Dynamic Cut Aluminum ABS Spool features a reversed taper spool face, which allows for 100% use of the reel’s overall line capacity. This means that the angler will be able to cast farther and reach distant points of interest that might otherwise go unfished.

The Daiwa Bg’s use of an oversized Digigear is also a nice touch, as it allows for a greater degree of gear-tooth contact and increases the reel’s overall torque. This feature should be quite popular with anglers who pursue larger species of fish frequently.

It takes only a single glance to see the level of detail that has been placed into the Daiwa Bg’s external appearance. This reel’s machined aluminum body not offers extensive eye appeal but is even anodized to resist corrosion and scratches. This same anodized surface coating creates a layer of adhesion that should provide long-lasting protection.

Piscifun Flame

Best Lightweight Option: A featherweight reel with heavyweight performance

KEY FEATURES

  • Lightweight graphite frame
  • Powerful 19.8 lb. drag system
  • Ergonomic design for ultimate comfort

The Piscifun Flame Spinning Reel is the perfect choice for those that have grown tired of bulky reels in the past, as it was engineered for the ultimate in angler comfort. The combination of a lightweight hollow graphite frame and an ergonomic grip and handle is enough to make any angler pick this reel up and never want to put it down again. This reel is jam-packed with 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 use the Piscifun Flame Spinning Reel. This minimization of weight is largely a product of the Flame’s hollow graphite handle, which eliminates a substantial amount of unnecessary weight. This reel also includes an ergonomically designed handle that is likely to become a favorite feature among anglers who spend long hours on the water.

The Piscifun Flame is built to satisfy the needs of those with serious ambitions toward catching sizable fish. With a 19.8 pound 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 will no longer be any reason to worry about backing your braid with monofilament. Simply spool on your line of choice, then take to the water.

Sougayilang

Most Comfortable: Satisfactory performance at an equally satisfactory price

KEY FEATURES

  • 11 total ball bearings for a seamless operation
  • S-curve oscillation system for uniform spooling
  • Compact, streamlined design for comfortable use

The Sougayilang series of reels carries several noteworthy design attributes, such as an 11 ball bearings internal configuration, S-curve oscillation system, and an ultra-compact profile. What makes this even better 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 Reels have a complex and well thought out rotational configuration. With a greater total number of ball bearings than the total of reels on this list, its operation is guaranteed to be silky smooth. This is great for anglers who prefer a cast and wind method of fishing, such as when working a buzzbait or crankbait.

Its S-curve oscillation system slightly slows its spooling in a bid to minimize line twist and kinking. It also features a drag system that is quite similar to those found on many higher-dollar reels. This system uses quality carbon discs, which are sealed from dust and other environmental contaminants, for anglers to maintain a better control over the fight at hand.

KastKing Megatron

Most Durable: Tough beyond compare, yet fluid in its performance

KEY FEATURES

  • Aerospace aluminum alloy frame that can take a beating and then come back for more
  • Durable gears that resist premature wear
  • 30+ pound drag for true fighting potential

If you’re the type who can be rough on their fishing equipment, and so needs a reel that can stand up to anything that mother nature throws at it, the KastKing Megatron is just the thing you’ve been looking for. This reel features an aerospace aluminum alloy frame, a zinc alloy drive gear, and a sturdy, yet lightweight spool, all culminating 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 features an astounding 30+ pounds of total drag, further adding to its ruggedness. The reel’s drag system uses a series of carbon fiber discs to provide uniform line control and prevent binding.

The Megatron Spinning Reel also features 7+1 MaxiDur double-shielded stainless-steel ball bearings, which should make for an incredibly smooth operation under a near-infinite number of circumstances. This is perfect 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 hooksets. This is a feature that bass fishermen will absolutely love as more often than not, the difference between a successful day of bass fishing and a day spent missing bites ultimately comes down to the speed of one’s hookset.

Pflueger President

Most Reliable: A trouble-free reel engineered to keep you fishing for as long as possible

KEY FEATURES

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

The Pfluger President is an investment worth making. 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 the line from being wound in a manner that is too quick for efficient spooling. This causes an 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

Most Advanced: Manufactured from the latest technological advances

KEY FEATURES

  • CNC machined gear set for high 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 innovative features, and should hold its own with any spinning reel on the market today. This reel consists of a full metal body, side plate, and rotor that uses 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, then the Penn Slammer III is 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. The precise way that these gears are cut also minimizes premature tooth wear and extends overall longevity.

It is also worth mentioning that the Penn Slammer III uses a top-end drag system, which features the specialized disc material of Penn’s Dura-Drag technology, much like that found within the transmissions of high-performance vehicles, to meter line pull and prevent premature fiber breakdown. This will be of significant benefit to those who commonly pursue record size game fish, as they tend to tax the drag systems of lesser-quality reels.

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

Criteria Used For Evaluation

When choosing the perfect spinning reel, there are a few factors to consider. By keeping the following factors in mind, you will be better equipped to locate a reel that will suit your needs the best.

Criteria #1: Drag System

Few factors weigh as heavily into one’s ability to successfully battle sizable fish to the boat, as the quality of a reel’s drag system.

A reel’s drag system operates on the principle of friction, which is facilitated through the use of multiple friction discs. When properly adjusted, a drag system’s friction discs prevent line breakage by allowing a certain degree of internal slippage. As these friction discs slip, line pressure is reduced, allowing a fight to be sustained in an efficient manner.

The vast majority of today’s highest quality drag systems are sealed from environmental ingress and are pre-lubricated for enhanced durability and wear protection. A number of the most robust drag systems currently available feature working capacities in excess of 30-pounds, which promotes efficient line dispersal, even under periods of extreme stress.

Criteria #2: Bearings

In order for a reel to operate in the most efficient manner possible, and provide years of seamless operation, it must employ the use of quality, corrosion-resistent bearings.

Every spinning reel utilizes a series of bearings to evenly distribute the rotational force that is required for line spooling. As a reel’s handle is turned, a series of gears transfer motion to the unit’s spool. This spool relies upon a system of bearings to reduce friction, sustain preset tolerances, and avoid siezing. 

It is important for a reel to not only house a high number of individual bearings, but for any bearings used to be of the utmost quality, and absolutely uniform in composition. Premium reels typically feature 7, 8, or even 10 bearings, all of which are produced to the highest degree of uniformity.

Criteria #3: Comfort

An uncomfortable reel is of little use to the avid angler, and is likely to take up permanent residency in your garage, rather than your boat.

Many anglers spend a significant amount of time on the water during any given year, much of which is spent with a rod and reel in their hand. Single outings can last more than 10 hours, leading to extensive angler fatigue, if all gear which is used is not lightweight and ergonomic in nature. This often leads anglers to cast bulkier, more cumbersome reels to the side, in favor of a different model that is rich in comfort.

Alternatively, reels that are composed of graphite and aluminum, which tend to be lightweight by design, often become favorites of those who fish for hours on end. As a result, reels of this type are often preferred and see a significant amount of use.

Questions & Answers

What Kind of Fishing is a Spinning Reel Best Used for?

The best thing about spinning reels is that they are extremely versatile. They can be used in almost any situation, and so basically it’s really up to an angler as to when and where they will use one. But if you’re really curious, there are a few particular kinds of fish that stand out above the rest as being more heavily suited to the use of spinning equipment. One example would be bass since spinning reels are great for finesse fishing.

Are Spinning Reels Difficult to Use?

While the idea of using a spinning reel might seem intimidating if you are used to fishing with alternative reel types, there is little to worry about. One can become proficient in the use of a spinning reel in a matter of just a couple of afternoons. In fact, most anglers end up asking themselves why they didn’t make the switch to spinning tackle sooner.

The main learning curve pertaining to spinning reel use lies in an angler’s ability to familiarize themselves with the correct casting procedure. For some, manually holding their line with a finger, while flipping the bail, can take a little getting used to. However, doing so becomes second nature for most after no more than a handful of casts.