The Best Surf Fishing Reel of 2024

Kenneth Reaves

Kenneth Reeves

Executive Director

Daniel ONeil

Daniel O'Neill

Head of Product Testing


Last updated:




Selecting the optimal surf fishing reel involves a balance of factors, including distance, power, and corrosion resistance. After personally testing leading models on the market, I’ve distinguished the superior performers based on real-world performance.

By repeatedly casting heavy lures and soft baits from diverse locations like the beach, pier, and rocks, I assessed each reel’s ability to propel rigs into the surf. Rigorous battles with formidable fish such as stripers and redfish tested the drag strength and overall durability of each reel.

For insights into reels that excel in distance, power, and longevity, continue reading for the top picks that surpass expectations.

Best Surf Fishing Reel – Our Top Picks

What We Look For: Essential Factors To Consider

  • Drag System: The drag system is crucial for battling big powerful fish in the waves. Look for carbon fiber drag washers that provide at least 15-20 lbs of smooth, reliable drag pressure. Max drag should match the size of fish you’re targeting.
  • Corrosion Resistance: The saltwater surf environment is extremely corrosive to gear. At minimum, basic sealing is needed. Optimal reels will have an IPX5 or IPX6 rating, meaning they can be fully submerged without water intruding. This level of waterproofing is highly recommended for surf fishing longevity.
  • Gear Ratio: Faster gear ratios like 6.2:1 provide quicker line retrieval to rapidly gain line on fast runs. Slower ratios around 4.7:1 offer more cranking power for big baits and fighting fish. Strike a balance for your needs.
  • Line Capacity: Surf fishing requires long casts, so ample line capacity is crucial. Look for reels that hold 200+ yards of heavy mono or braid. Don’t skimp here. Running out of line means losing trophy fish.
  • Weight: Heavier reels provide stability for launching long casts. Lighter reels reduce fatigue during all-day fishing. Seek a balance between necessary heft for casting and comfortable weight for your needs.

Our Recommendations In 2024


PENN Surfblaster III

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

Skilled surf casters and extreme distance specialists will appreciate the Penn Surfblaster III’s optimized design for tournament-worthy casting distance. Less experienced casters may struggle with the learning curve and lack of finesse, but will still achieve excellent range compared to most conventional reels.

“With its specialized long-distance spool, the Penn Surfblaster III is purpose-built for maximum casting distance, perfect for anglers fishing big water from the beach or rocks.”

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

The Penn Surfblaster III fishing reel lives up to its name, providing excellent casting distance for surf fishing. With its tapered spool and 5 stainless steel ball bearings, it has a fast and smooth retrieve that covers ground quickly to pick up slack line after long casts.

The all-metal construction feels very solid and durable, built to handle the saltwater environment. In testing, it consistently achieved 20-40 yards longer casts compared to similar competitors, making it a great choice for punching baits out past the breakers.

One downside is the lack of an anti-reverse bearing, though the strong drag prevents any noticeable backlash. The bail also doesn’t flip back automatically when cranking – a minor inconvenience that’s common at this price point.


Penn Slammer IV

Penn Slammer IV Saltwater Spinning Reel

The Penn Slammer IV 10500 is worth the higher cost for anglers who need a reel that can stand up to heavy offshore use and stop even the biggest, hardest fighting saltwater fish. The sealed body keeps salt and grit out, while the upgraded drag has the brute strength needed for battles with large gamefish like tuna, mahi mahi, and sharks.

For inshore use, the sensitivity and smoothness brought by the stainless steel bearings make it ideal for finesse lure and bait fishing. The Slammer IV manages to improve upon the legendary toughness that defines the series while adding the smooth performance required by discerning anglers.

“With unmatched durability and an upgraded sealed body, the Penn Slammer IV spinning reel is the undisputed fishfighting machine for serious saltwater anglers.”

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

After testing the Penn Slammer IV 10500 over multiple fishing trips, it’s clear this reel lives up to its reputation for being an unlimited fish stopper. The Slammer IV combines a lightweight yet robust full metal body with Penn’s upgraded IPX6 sealing to be the most saltwater resistant Slammer yet.

Retrieving lures and jigging felt incredibly smooth thanks to the 8+1 stainless steel ball bearings and all brass gearing. The machined brass main gear and pinion gear are cut for precision and rigidity.

Where this reel really excels is drag power – the redesigned Slammer Dura Drag allowed me to easily land large fish like mahi mahi, amberjack, and even sharks with no issues. The sealed spool and line roller bearing also meant zero salt buildup or corrosion when dunking the reel during fights.

For targeting big game fish offshore, the Slammer IV 10500 offers the smoothness, power, and reliability needed to tire out and reel in the toughest species.


Penn Clash II

Penn Clash II Spinning Reel - Lightweight Saltwater Shore and Kayak Fishing Reel for Lure Fishing - Sea Fishing Reel for Bass, Pollack, Cod, Wrasse

For anglers looking for a high-performance spinning reel for the salt that won’t wear you out, the Penn Clash II is a great choice. The excellent drag, smooth retrieve, and corrosion resistance make it a trusty partner for targeting big gamefish from the rocks or kayak.

While the lack of a spare spool and high price keep it from being perfect, the refined performance of the Clash II make it one of the best lightweight saltwater spinning reels available.

“The Penn Clash II is a lightweight and durable saltwater spinning reel that provides dependable performance for inshore fishing.”

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

The Penn Clash II spinning reel lives up to its reputation for smooth, reliable performance. With a lightweight yet robust full metal body and side plate, this reel can stand up to heavy saltwater use while still being comfortable to fish with all day.

The Clutch Armor System provides a super smooth drag that performed flawlessly fighting fish up to 15lbs in testing. The carbon fiber HT-100 drag washers are high quality and cool running.

The CNC gear technology and 8+1 stainless steel bearings give a fast retrieve rate to quickly pick up slack line. Overall the Clash II feels very solid and refined, with quality components that justify the higher price tag.


Daiwa Tatula LT

Daiwa Tatula LT 6.2:1 Left/Right Hand Spinning Fishing Reels

Anglers looking to shed ounces off their setup without losing strength should strongly consider the Tatula LT. The incredibly low weight coupled with smooth performance makes it one of the best lightweight options for all-day fishing.

Just be diligent with the bail closure.

“A top-shelf ultra-light spinning reel perfect for long days of casting lures and finesse presentations.”

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

The Daiwa Tatula LT spinning reel lives up to its reputation for being an incredibly lightweight and smooth spinning reel option.8oz, it’s one of the lightest reels I’ve ever held.

The reel feels well-balanced and is a joy to cast all day long. Despite the feather-like weight, the reel has hauled in bass, trout, and even a 5lb striper in testing – it has the strength needed for most freshwater species.

The drag is buttery smooth, giving line evenly when pressured. The machined aluminum handle is comfortable as well.

The T-Wing System helps reduce backlash and tangled lines. It casts like a dream with braid thanks to the ABS spool.

My only gripe is the bail doesn’t always stay shut during casts. A few times it popped open on release, tangling my line.

It requires carefully closing by hand first. At $200+, it sits at a premium price point, but the refined performance and cutting weight make it worth the spend for finesse applications.


Penn Spinfisher VI

The Penn Spinfisher VI combines robust construction with silky smooth performance to deliver an exceptional saltwater spinning reel that excels for inshore fishing. After extensive testing, we found it to be the top option for anglers who pursue feisty saltwater gamefish in the bays, flats, and beaches along the coast.

“For anglers pursuing feisty inshore saltwater species, the Penn Spinfisher VI hits the sweet spot between price and rugged performance.”

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

With its IPX5 sealed body and spool, the Penn Spinfisher VI shrugs off saltwater exposure that would jam up lesser reels. During testing, we repeatedly doused it in saltwater with no issues. While the IPX5 rating means the Spinfisher isn’t completely submersible like the IPX6 rated Penn Slammer, it easily handles routine splashing and dunkings. This watertight sealing provides much needed protection when pursing feisty species like redfish, stripers, bluefish, and sharks from the beach, jetties, or boat.

The Spinfisher’s robust all-metal build reinforced with CNC machining oozes strength and durability. The rigid metal frame and side plates maintain precise alignment even under heavy loads. Combined with the beefy HT-100 carbon fiber drag, this reel has the backbone needed to stop hard charging fish in their tracks. During testing, it handled 20+ lbs redfish and bluefish runs with ease. The max 40lb drag is more than enough for even the largest inshore predators.

While not as buttery smooth as pricier models, the 5 stainless steel ball bearing system provides reliably fluid cranking and casting. Gear engagement felt solid thanks to Penn’s precise CNC gear machining. The Spinfisher’s refined performance leaves clunkier budget reels in the dust. However, anglers stepping up from silky models like the Conflict II will notice the Spinfisher’s slightly coarser feel.

At between 10 and 32 ounces depending on size, the all-metal Spinfisher is somewhat heavy. However, this robust heft lends confidence when battling brutish fish. Larger 8500 and 10500 sizes feature a manual bail trip rather than automatic, a concession that improves durability. While not as refined as the $700 Penn Torque, the Spinfisher costs hundreds less while offering 90% of the performance.

Questions & Answers

  1. Any recommendations for keeping sand and salt buildup out of the reel while surf fishing to prevent gritty grinding and corrosion?

    To reduce messy salt and sand intrusion when fishing the waves, make sure to routinely rinse reels with freshwater after each outing. Quick freshwater flushes prevent crystallized grit from adhering inside the housing. Additionally, choose sealed, waterproof models offering an IPX5 or IPX6 rating allowing full water submersion without leaks. This greatly minimizes contamination and corrosion issues over time.

    When launching casts, point the rod tip down to prevent dunking the reel if wading. And don’t bury spinning reels in the sand which allows abrasive ingress via the bail arm, drag knob, and handle. Taking some basic preventative measures goes a long way to ensure smooth performance and longevity from reels subjected to harsh surf conditions.

  2. For smaller inshore species like pompano, whiting, and croaker, is there any reel recommendations that balance performance with value?

    For targeting smaller gamefish like pompano, whiting and croaker from the beach without breaking the bank, I really like the Daiwa BG series for their durability and smoothness at a very wallet-friendly price point. The BG 4000 is a proven workhorse that offers waterproof design, quality drag components, and rugged construction to stand up to sandy environments extremely well given the reasonable cost.

    While not as buttery smooth as some pricier competitors, by properly maintaining the BG with occasional cleaning and lubrication, it will remain reliable for years of surf fishing without developing grittiness or slop. For budget-conscious anglers needing quality gear to match lighter pompano and whiting rigs, the BG hits a sweet spot between price and high-performing value.

  3. What environment and conditions should I look for to be fishing in?

    Think about the weather, surf roughness, and terrain where you’ll fish – this affects how durable your reel needs to be. On open sandy beaches, you have some leeway. But for rocky shorelines and constant saltwater dunking, maximum sealing and corrosion resistance are a must.

  4. How sensitive and smooth does the drag need to be?

    If you’re finesse fishing for smaller fish, focus on silky smooth drag performance. Targeting larger gamefish calls for a reel with higher maximum drag that is still smooth when pressured. Carbon fiber drag washers are ideal for both strength and finesse.


When casting heavy rigs long distances into the powerful surf environment, the Penn Surfblaster III’s specialized design rises above the competition. Its optimized long-cast spool allows extreme range without backlash, while still providing the raw power needed for battling big gamefish. If you want the ultimate combination of distance, strength, and reliability for punching baits past the breakers, this reel has the specialized performance serious surf casters demand.