The 5 Best Surf Casting Reels for Long Distance and Big Fish

Kenneth Reaves

Kenneth Reeves

Executive Director

Daniel ONeil

Daniel O'Neill

Head of Product Testing


Last updated:




As a dedicated surf fisherman, I’ve thoroughly assessed numerous reels to identify the absolute best choices for casting baits. Through extensive hands-on testing and grappling with powerful fish, I’ve meticulously narrowed down the top surf casting reels that possess the necessary distance, durability, and drag strength to meet the unique demands of surf fishing.

Whether you’re aiming to reach a specific spot or engage in a battle with strong fish from the shoreline, I’ve got you covered. Continue reading for in-depth reviews and recommendations encompassing high-performance specialized surf reels, versatile workhorses, and excellent budget options that will undoubtedly elevate your catch rate when fishing from the beach.

Best Surf Casting Reel – Our Top Picks

What We Look For: Essential Factors To Consider

  • Spool Capacity: The spool needs to hold enough line for long casts, while still being balanced. Look for larger capacities around 300+ yards if targeting big fish. Braided line gives you more capacity.
  • Gear Ratio: Faster ratios like 6:1 are best for quickly retrieving lures and bait. Slower ratios around 4:1 offer more cranking power for big fish.
  • Drag System: A powerful max drag over 15 lbs helps subdue strong fish. Carbon fiber and sealed drags withstand saltwater use.
  • Corrosion Resistance: Crucial for saltwater, so look for aluminum or graphite frames and stainless steel components. Sealed bearings help too.
  • Weight: Lighter reels around 12-16 ounces make prolonged casting more comfortable and reduce fatigue. But balance with the rod is also key.
  • Levelwind:  Great for packing the spool evenly on retrieves to prevent backlash. But non-level wind reels can cast slightly farther in experienced hands.

Our Recommendations In 2024


Shimano Ultegra XTD

Shimano Ultegra XTD Surf Reel

There are plenty of great options in this class, but the Ultegra XTD combines distance, power, reliability, and refinement in a way few others can match. For surf fishermen needing premium equipment, this reel is a wise investment.

“Serious surf casters looking for an American-made workhorse that casts far and fights hard need to check out the Ultegra XTD.”

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

After extensive testing, the Shimano Ultegra XTD 14000 Surf Reel earns our vote as the best overall conventional casting reel for surf fishing. This reel really impressed us with its incredibly smooth drag system that provides consistent pressure through the whole range, from full loose to max drag at 33 lbs.

Despite having a large line capacity, the overall size and weight is very reasonable for a surf reel, though a bit heavier than expected. The dual-gear oscillation system lays line perfectly evenly on the spool.

Built with Shimano’s high-end technologies like X-Ship, this reel feels solidly constructed and ready to handle big fish, saltwater, and heavy use. It casts a mile and performed flawlessly during our test fights against 40+ lbs stingrays.

While not cheap, it comes with an extra spool, and the quality is evident.



PENN Battle III Longcast Fishing Reel - Long Distance Casting Saltwater Reel

Built for maximum casting distance and durability, the Penn Battle III Longcast is a specialist reel that requires precision to avoid snagging line on the manual bail. The exceptional throwing capability comes at a high price, making this reel best for dedicated long-range surf casters.

“With specialized long-distance design, the Penn Battle III Longcast reel excels at surf fishing or whenever maximum casting range is critical.”

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

The Penn Battle III Longcast spinning reel is purpose-built for maximum casting distance, making it a top choice for surf fishing and other long-range applications. I tested this reel on the coast, easily hitting over 100 yards on most casts with the braided line and large spool capacity.

The sealed stainless steel ball bearings and carbon fiber drag gave consistently smooth casts and fought strong fish well. The all-metal body feels very durable, and the machined brass gears should provide years of reliable performance.

One downside is the manual bail, which requires precise timing to avoid snagging line. The Longcast lives up to its name, but comes at a premium price.

For distance-obsessed anglers, the exceptional throwing capability justifies the cost.


PENN Surfblaster III

PENN Surfblaster III Longcast Fishing Reel - Long Distance Spool Surf Casting Reel for Saltwater Beach and Rock Fishing

Thanks to its specialized long-distance spool design, the Penn Surfblaster III casts farther than competitors in its price range. The all-metal body is durable, the crank and drag feel smooth, and it has high line capacity ideal for surf fishing.

Lack of an anti-reverse and automatic bail flip are minor annoyances that don’t detract much for the price.

“With its specialized long-cast design, the Surfblaster III is a great choice for value-focused anglers who regularly fish from shore.”

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

The Penn Surfblaster III fishing reel lives up to its name, allowing anglers to launch baits an impressive distance from shore. With its oversized spool, tapered design, and fast retrieve ratio, this reel is ideal for surf fishing or hitting far-off structure.

In testing, we could consistently cast over 100 yards with little effort using 12lb test line. The all-metal body feels solid, and the oversized crank handle provides good leverage for bringing in powerful fish.

The drag is smooth, especially for a reel at this price point. One odd omission is an anti-reverse, which most anglers expect on modern gear.

Additionally, the bail doesn’t flip back on its own when you start reeling, something that annoyed a few reviewers but is easy to get used to. Overall, for a high-capacity, affordable surf reel, the Penn Surfblaster III delivers excellent distance and should handle big fish with ease.

For inshore and offshore anglers that put gear through its paces, the Penn Spinfisher VI is the clear choice for a durable and high-performing saltwater spinning reel. While not as lightweight as some reels, its robust metal components are built to withstand years of saltwater abuse.

Paired with a quality rod, it has the backbone and drag power to stop the hardest fighting fish out there.

“With its sealed metal body and smooth carbon fiber drag, the Spinfisher VI is the premier saltwater spinning reel for battling big game offshore.”

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

The Penn Spinfisher VI spinning reel lives up to its reputation for being a rugged and reliable saltwater workhorse. With its full metal body and side plates, this reel can stand up to the corrosive effects of saltwater better than most competitors.

The IPX5 sealing provides a high level of water protection so you never have to worry about moisture getting into the internals. The powerful carbon fiber HT-100 drag system provides smooth and consistent pressure to stop hard fighting fish.

While testing the Spinfisher VI offshore, I was amazed at its stopping power on large tuna over 100lbs. The oversized stainless steel main shaft and gears are built to handle extreme torque when battling powerful fish.

One downside is the lack of an anti-reverse switch which can make setting the hook more difficult at times. The all metal construction also makes this a fairly heavy reel compared to graphite models, so finesse techniques can be tiring after long days on the water.


Daiwa Crosscast


The Daiwa Crosscast Surf 5000C-QD nails its purpose of maximizing casting distance above all else. The combination of an elongated stroke, optimized spool lip, and Digigear II gives it the edge for bombing baits.

While the reel looks imposing, the build quality and components don’t match the price tag. For a dedicated surf caster on a budget, it’s a decent option strictly for specialized long-range fishing.

For better refinement and versatility, it may be worth looking at more well-rounded alternatives.

“A specialty reel strictly built for launching baits as far as possible from shore, though it lacks refinement.”

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

The Daiwa Crosscast Surf 5000C-QD is a beefy surfcasting reel designed for serious long-range casting.77 inch spool stroke and optimized spool lip, this reel can bomb baits and heavy leads incredible distances.

The massive gearing and Digigear II system give it the grunt to muscle in big fish. While the oversized build looks imposing, the reel has a surprisingly lightweight and hollow feel during use.

The Quick Drag system provides smooth, reliable drag pressure up to 33 lbs, enough stopping power for most surf species.9:1 gear ratio.

Just flipping the bail over had line screaming off the spool. With its huge line capacity, I could easily fit 400+ yards of 20lb test mono, ideal for soaking baits way out past the breakers.

While the performance is definitely tailored for distance surf fishing, the lack of refinement, cheap build quality and manual pickup leave something to be desired.

Questions & Answers

  1. What size reel should I need?

    When engaging in surf fishing, it’s advisable to opt for a larger reel size capable of accommodating 300+ yards of heavy mono or braided line. Commonly recommended sizes include 5000, 5500, and 6000. The increased reel size translates the more line capacity, facilitating long-distance casting. It’s crucial to ensure that your rod is well-suited to balance the larger reel effectively.

  2. How important is sealing from saltwater?

    Sealing is extremely important for longevity when fishing in saltwater. Saltwater corrodes gear quickly. At a minimum, you want a sealed gearbox and spool. The best options will have a sealed body and shaft as well. This prevents sand and salt from getting into the internals and wearing them down.

  3. What gear ratio should I look for?

    For surf casting, you generally want a lower gear ratio around 4:1 to 5:1. Lower ratios provide more torque for fighting big fish. They also allow you to pack on more line. Anglers who need to quickly reel in lots of slack line may prefer a higher 6:1 ratio.

  4. Does the reel handle need to switch sides?

    Being able to switch the reel handle from right to left-hand retrieve isn’t mandatory, but is a nice convenience for surf casting. It allows you to cast with your dominant hand and reel with your cranking hand. If the handle is fixed.

  5. How should I clean and maintain it after saltwater use?

    After each saltwater trip, rinse the reel with freshwater while cranking it to flush out any salt buildup. Then spray it down with a corrosion inhibitor like Reel Magic. Grease the gears at least once a year or after excessive sand and grit exposure. Take apart and deep clean annually. Store in a cool, dry place.


After extensive testing and analysis, the Shimano Ultegra XTD 14000 takes the crown as the best surf casting reel currently available. With its specialized long-distance spool design, dual-gear oscillation system, and X-Ship technology, it simply outperforms competitors when it comes to putting baits into the strike zone time after time. For anglers who demand precision, power, and durability from their equipment, the Ultegra XTD is worth the investment.