The Best Surf Fishing Reel of 2021: Top 10 Reviewed

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

Last Update:

The Rundown

Best Overall: Penn Battle II & III (click to view)
“The Penn Battle features shielded stainless steel ball bearings and is constructed with metal bodies and side plates, making them multi-purpose in nature. Built to sustain the abuses of saltwater fishing.”

Most Powerful: KastKing Sharky III (click to view)
“From a 39.5 pounds triple-disc drag for first-in-class fighting power to double-shielded ball bearings for ultra-smooth performance, the Sharky III is for anglers who love to pursue the biggest fishes.”

Best Budget Reel: SeaKnight Rapid (click to view)
“The SeaKnight Rapid features10+1 ball bearings, a rugged 33-pound powerful drag system, a robust gear train, and ample water and sand ingress protection. Precision-engineered reel for the budget.”

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If you plan to go surf fishing, you need the proper equipment to get the most out of the experience. Using the best surf fishing reels will undoubtedly do the job.

A high-quality surf fishing reel allows you to cast great distances to reach isolated pockets of fish and provide ample power to wrestle sizable fish from the water’s depths.

Today’s premium surf reels feature higher than average line capacities, robust drag systems, and ultra-smooth ball bearing assemblies, which are also designed in a way that makes them inherently corrosion resistant.

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Hours spent testing
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Products tested
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Products tested
Product Name
Best Overall
Most Powerful
Best Budget Reel
Our Ranking
Ranked #1
Ranked #2
Ranked #3
Thumbnail
PENN 1338219 Battle II 4000 Spinning Fishing Reel
KastKing Sharky III Spinning Fishing Reel,Size 1000
SeaKnight Rapid Saltwater Spinning Reel, 4.7:1,6.2:1 High Speed, Max Drag 33Lbs, Smooth Fresh and Saltwater Fishing Reel
Our Grade
Our Rating 94/100
Our Rating 90/100
Our Rating 87/100
Feature 1
Full metal body, side plate, and rotor for heavy-duty use
KastKing Intrusion Shield System for superior corrosion resistance
10+1 shielded stainless steel ball bearings for silky smooth operation
Feature 2
HT-100 drag system for superior line control and fighting power
39.5 lb. triple disc drag for first-in-class fighting power
Sealed aluminum spool to prevent sand and saltwater ingress
Best Overall
Product Name
Our Ranking
Ranked #1
Thumbnail
PENN 1338219 Battle II 4000 Spinning Fishing Reel
Our Grade
Our Rating 94/100
Feature 1
Full metal body, side plate, and rotor for heavy-duty use
Feature 2
HT-100 drag system for superior line control and fighting power
Most Powerful
Product Name
Our Ranking
Ranked #2
Thumbnail
KastKing Sharky III Spinning Fishing Reel,Size 1000
Our Grade
Our Rating 90/100
Feature 1
KastKing Intrusion Shield System for superior corrosion resistance
Feature 2
39.5 lb. triple disc drag for first-in-class fighting power
Best Budget Reel
Product Name
Our Ranking
Ranked #3
Thumbnail
SeaKnight Rapid Saltwater Spinning Reel, 4.7:1,6.2:1 High Speed, Max Drag 33Lbs, Smooth Fresh and Saltwater Fishing Reel
Our Grade
Our Rating 87/100
Feature 1
10+1 shielded stainless steel ball bearings for silky smooth operation
Feature 2
Sealed aluminum spool to prevent sand and saltwater ingress

Best Reel For Surf Fishing 2021

  1. Best Overall: Penn Battle II & III
  2. Most Powerful: KastKing Sharky III
  3. Best Budget Reel: SeaKnight Rapid
  4. Best High End: Penn Slammer III
  5. Smoothest Retrieve:
  6. Longest Casting: Penn Conflict II
  7. Most Compact: Penn Wrath
  8. Most Durable: Penn Spinfisher VI
  9. Best Features: Shimano Ultegra
  10. Most Reliable: Shimano Stradic Ci4+ 4000

Penn Battle II & III

Best Overall: A reel purpose-built to sustain the abuses of saltwater fishing

PENN 1338219 Battle II 4000 Spinning Fishing Reel
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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 requires no backing when using braid and includes capacity indicators

The Penn Battle series of reels are constructed to withstand the corrosive nature of extended saltwater use but are also of immense value when used in freshwater. These reels feature shielded stainless steel ball bearings and are constructed with metal bodies and side plates, making them multi-purpose in nature. This should make the Penn Battle II and III the ideal option for coastal areas likely to fish in fresh and saltwater fisheries.

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Many anglers are likely to find immense favor in the HT-100 drag system utilized by all Penn Battle series reels. This drag system uses a series of carbon fiber drag washers to provide outstanding resistance and fighting power while also operating in an ultra-smooth fashion. This should lend itself well to the pursuit of sizable game fish species.

The Penn Battle II & III also feature a braid-ready spool, which allows an angler to spool their surf fishing reel with the braided line without the use of monofilament backing. This feature should be highly appreciated by anglers who fish extensively and maintain their reels regularly.

KastKing Sharky III

Most Powerful: A reel an unparalleled degree of strength

KastKing Sharky III Spinning Fishing Reel,Size 1000
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KEY FEATURES

  • 39.5 lb. triple-disc drag for first-in-class fighting power
  • KastKing Intrusion Shield System for superior corrosion resistance
  • 10+1 saltwater rated, double-shielded ball bearings for ultra-smooth performance

The KastKing Sharky III should be perfect for any angler who spends most of their time pursuing the largest fish in their area. This surf fishing reel features a robust triple disc carbon fiber drag system, which carries an astounding 39.5 lb. working capacity. The Sharky III also utilizes a 10+1 saltwater rated, double-shielded ball bearing assembly to complement its significant drag capabilities, which provides ultra-smooth performance, even under the heaviest of loads.

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The KastKing Sharky III’s drag system is engineered to provide the highest degree of power possible. This surf fishing reel also features strong precision mesh manganese brass pinion gears and an oversized stainless-steel main shaft along with its triple-disc drag capabilities. This should prove to be the winning combination for boating the most sizable trophy fish, no matter where they are found.

Most anglers should also find immense favor in the KastKing Sharky III's Shark Fin braid-ready aluminum spool. This spool can be fitted with a braided line without using a monofilament backing of any type, which is considered standard practice with the majority of the best surf fishing reels currently available. This has the potential to save anglers time and effort when preparing for their next fishing trip.

SeaKnight Rapid

Best Budget Reel: Precision engineering for ultra-smooth operation

SeaKnight Rapid Saltwater Spinning Reel, 4.7:1,6.2:1 High Speed, Max Drag 33Lbs, Smooth Fresh and Saltwater Fishing Reel
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KEY FEATURES

  • 10+1 shielded stainless steel ball bearings for silky smooth operation
  • Robust gear train for enhanced durability
  • Sealed aluminum spool to prevent sand and saltwater ingress

If you always head to the water and want a saltwater spinning reel that performs seamlessly even during prolonged use, then the SeaKnight Rapid should be worthy of your consideration. This surf fishing reel is built to operate in a smooth, precise manner, as it features a well-engineered 10+1 shielded stainless steel ball bearing system. Other features include a rugged 33-pound powerful drag system, a robust gear train, and ample water and sand ingress protection.

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The SeaKnight Rapid is constructed in a conducive way to smooth, consistent use, free of any excess friction, even when subject to a load. This feature should not only make this reel’s use enjoyable but will likely provide enhanced efficiency when attempting to winch sizable game fish from the depths below. 

Anglers are also likely to find immense favor in the SeaKnight Rapid’s heavy-duty drag system. This system features a 33-pound operational capacity, which should be ample to land sizable, hard-fighting game fish of nearly any variety. Again, this should be well-received by those who find vast enjoyment in the pursuit of trophy-caliber fish, no matter the body of water.

Penn Slammer III

Best High End: Premium performance, manufactured from the latest technological advances

PENN 1403982 Slammer III Spinning Black Gold, 3500
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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 a surf fishing reel that looks stylish, includes the latest in innovative features, and should hold its own with any spinning reel to be provided on the market today. It consists of a full metal body, side plate, and rotor that utilizes the latest 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. In addition, this system features Penn’s Dura-Drag technology, which uses specialized disc material, much like that found within the transmissions of high-performance vehicles.

Penn Fierce III Spinning Reel

Smoothest Retrieve: Elegant in looks, yet formidable to even the most sizable of game fish



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KEY FEATURES

  • Advanced HT-100 drag system optimizes performance under significant loads
  • Techno-Balanced Rotor offers ultra-smooth retrieves
  • Stylish black/red exterior design for eye appeal

The Penn Fierce III should be the ideal choice for anglers who spend a significant amount of time long-distance casting in pursuit of big fish, as the unit’s Techno-Balanced Rotor affords ultra-smooth operation, especially when under a load. Additionally, this surf fishing reel features a robust HT-100 carbon fiber drag system, a super line spool, and four ball bearings. Combining these factors should allow anglers to pull even large fish from the depths below with relative efficiency.

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The HT-100 drag system employed by the Penn Fierce III is notable, to say the least, as it utilizes a series of carbon-fiber washers to provide even line feed and resistance. The use of this high-end drag clutch medium should alleviate overheating, minimize premature unit degradation, and provide consistent operation under a myriad of conditions.

The optimizes the reel’s feel during retrieval, which should further maximize an angler’s ability to produce forward progress during a fight without unnecessary binding or resistance. This keeps an angler from fighting their surf reel, as well as their fish. This level of smooth operation is further aided by the reel’s use of 4 premium shielded ball bearings, which maximize rotational efficiency.

Penn Conflict II Spinning Reel

Longest Casting: Extensive in line capacity, yet powerful beyond reason

Penn CFTII4000LC Conflict II 4000 Long Cast Spool, 8 BRG, Resin Body
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KEY FEATURES

  • Super Spool design for enhanced line capacity
  • HT-100 Drag System for significant fighting power
  • 7+1 ball bearing for ultra-smooth operation

The Penn Conflict II should be the best surf fishing reel for those who wish to never again be limited in their effective casting range. It features Penn “Super Spool,” which is constructed to enhance its overall line capacity. This should provide any angler with more than enough line to reach distant points and sandbars that would otherwise go unfished.

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Many anglers are likely to also find favor in the Penn Conflict II’s HT-100 drag system. This drag system uses specialized carbon fiber drag washers to meter line control accurately and provides an enhanced degree of fighting power. This feature should be well received by those who strategically target larger species of fish.

The Penn Conflict II also features a 7+1 stainless steel ball bearing system, which should provide noticeably smoother operation. In addition, this bearing system should make lengthy line retrieval a breeze, as it has been engineered to eliminate all excess resistance.

Penn Wrath Spinning Reel

Most Compact: A lightweight reel that is heavy on features

PENN Fishing Wrath Spinning Fishing Reel - WRTH2500C, Black, Blue
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KEY FEATURES

  • Lightweight construction for enhanced angler comfort
  • Easy to read line capacity rings, for more accurate line metering
  • High-quality bearing system for smooth, seamless operation

The Penn Wrath should be ideal for any angler who spends a lot of time on the water and wishes to fish in comfort. Weighing less than a pound, this surf fishing reel is compact enough that arm and hand fatigue should be of little to no issue. This optimizes comfort and should allow anglers to fish from sun up to sundown without being pushed to the brink.

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Many anglers are likely to appreciate Penn Wrath’s use of easy to decipher line capacity rings. These rings allow an angler to quickly and efficiently introduce lines onto their spinning reel without being forced to guess where they should stop. This feature should also be helpful when fighting a big fish since an angler can determine how much line has been expended to the reel’s overall capacity.

The PENN Wrath also features two stainless steel ball bearings sealed from elements for enhanced durability. Additionally, this spinning reel utilizes a robust anti-reverse bearing, preventing back feed and promoting more efficient hook sets. This should translate into a higher catch ratio at the end of the day.

Penn Spinfisher VI Spinning Saltwater Reel

Most Durable: A reel that defies the elements and keeps you fishing indefinitely

PENN 1481262 Spinfisher VI Spinning Saltwater Reel, 4500 Reel Size, 6.2: 1 Gear Ratio, 40' Retrieve Rate, 6 Bearings, Ambidextrous
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KEY FEATURES

  • IPX5 sealed body and spool design for saltwater ingress protection
  • CNC machined gears for prolonged durability
  • HT-100 drag system for proper metering of line

The Penn Fishing Spinfisher VI should be the perfect saltwater surf fishing reel for those that wade sandbars in search of trophy game fish, as it is highly resistant to saltwater ingress and corrosion. It also utilizes Penn’s proprietary HT-100 drag system, which likely offers sufficient line metering to handle even the feistiest saltwater species. Penn has also included a robust set of CNC machined gears to aid in durability, which should stand up to years of rigorous use.

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Of all the features mentioned above, anglers are likely to find the highest degree of favor in the Penn Fishing Spinfisher VI’s sealed design. This prevents highly corrosive saltwater from invading the reel’s bearings and should indefinitely extend the unit’s service life. In addition, the Penn Fishing Spinfisher VI carries an IPX5 ingress rating, the industry standard in element resistance.

The Penn Spinfisher VI also features a set of CNC machined gears, which should offer smooth and seamless operation while also providing next-level durability. In addition, CNC machined gears tend to mesh with a high degree of accuracy, which prevents premature wear and maximizes longevity. This should be a favorite feature of those who fish extensively and put their reels to the test under a wide variety of circumstances.

Shimano Ultegra Spinning Reel

Best Features: Every feature an angler could dream of

Shimano Ultegra 4000FB XG; Freshwater Spinning Fishing Reel
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KEY FEATURES

  • Rigid Hagane frame for extensive reliability
  • X-Ship technology for increased casting capabilities
  • CoreProtect technology for enhanced durability.

If you are currently looking to upgrade your surf fishing rig to a more premium setup, then the Shimano Ultegra spinning reel is likely to be worthy of your consideration. This reel is versatile and is packed with features, many of which should be highly appreciated by anglers. The most notable of these features include Hagane gearing, X-Ship Technology, and CoreProtect element resistance.

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The Shimano Ultegra spinning reel features CoreProtect element resistance, which keeps saltwater, sand, and dirt away from the unit’s vital components. This should effectively extend Ultegra’s service life by resisting the onset of corrosion, even in the harshes of all environments.

Many anglers are also likely to find favor in the Shimano Ultegra’s X-Ship technology. This feature is designed to prevent excessive play between the reel’s gears by placing ball bearings at each end of its pinion gear. In turn, this should reduce spool shaft to gear interference and promote more efficient casting.

Shimano Stradic Ci4+ 4000

Most Reliable: A reel that is as reliable as it is feature-rich

SHIMANO Stradic CI4 1000FB HG Freshwater Spinning Reel
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KEY FEATURES

  • X Ship Technology for more efficient casting and gear train durability
  • Propulsion Line Management System trouble-free operation
  • Hagane gearing for vastly improved gear mesh

The Shimano Stradic Ci4+ 4000 is a reel packed full of helpful features and should prove to be the perfect option for any angler who wishes to upgrade from their basic surf fishing reel. It features Shimano’s X-Ship gear train system, Propulsion Line Management capabilities, and Hagane internal components. The sum of these features should prove valuable to most any angler.

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Many anglers are likely to find value in the Stradic Ci4+ 4000’s X-Ship gear train system. This system removes free play from the reel’s drive gears by utilizing bearings at each end of the unit’s pinion gear. This should drastically enhance the Stradic Ci4+ 4000’s durability while also improving its castability.

The Stradic Ci4+ 4000 also features Shimano’s proprietary Propulsion Line Management System. This system is designed to enhance the reel’s casting efficiency dramatically while promoting next-level reliability. This is accomplished by minimizing the presence of kinks and line twist that typically serves as a limiting factor of performance, for most available surf fishing reels.

What To Look For When Buying Surf Fishing Reels

Ease of Cleaning and Maintenance

If a reel cannot easily be cleaned and maintained, it will undoubtedly have a shortened service life.

Saltwater tends to be extremely hard on any metal surfaces, including those that comprise a surf reel. In addition, the salt content of our nation’s coastal waterways can quickly cause a reel to rust if it is not cared for properly. Therefore, a surf reel must be naturally corrosion-resistant and simple to clean

Additionally, the best surf fishing reels feature sealed drag and bearing systems, which do not require periodic maintenance. These systems are sealed from ingress by the outside elements and come pre-lubricated from the manufacturer.

Casting Distance and Line Capacity

Surf fishing is a game of distance, where an extensive casting range often spells success.

To maximize your efficiency when surf fishing, it is of immense importance for a reel to feature desirable characteristics related to casting. Reels of this nature often feature a tall, or deeply cut spool, enhancing a unit’s overall line capacity. 

As a reel’s line capacity increases, so does its natural ability to cast a far greater distance. For many surf anglers, the ability to cast with extensive range is the difference between success and being forced to go home empty-handed.

Drag Strength

Surf anglers never know what they will hook, which makes it imperative that a reel’s drag system be ready for all that is thrown its way.

When surf fishing from the shore, one never knows what species or size of fish they might encounter. Therefore, a surf reel needs to feature a robust drag system, which is smooth and consistent in its operation.

In most cases, a drag system of 20-30 pounds should be sufficient for surf fishing. This is plenty enough to land the occasional monster fish without the risk of overheating or failing under additional stress.

Durability

In a world of saltwater and sand, any reel that is not durable will almost certainly fail.

By nature, a surf real is subject to an extensive amount of abuse. Both saltwater and sand can be devastating to a reel’s operational efficiency, which is not rated for such uses. For this reason, a surf reel should be highly durable and impervious to the effects of corrosion and water/sand ingress.

Today’s best surf fishing reels are purpose-built and are designed to handle whatever the environment might throw their way. These surf fishing reels often feature shielded bearings, sealed drag systems, and corrosion-resistant surface coatings.

Speed Ratio and Bearings

Even the longest of casts are of little use if you cannot ultimately retrieve this line.

When surf fishing, it is not uncommon to have extensive lengths of line spooled out into the water at any given time. However, this also means that one must be able to quickly and efficiently retrieve this line.

A quicker gear ratio allows these lengths of line to be picked up at a rapid pace, without any level of difficulty. Additionally, quality bearings also simplify this process by ensuring that an angler’s retrieval is as smooth and streamlined as possible.

Questions & Answers

What is the best gear ratio for surf fishing?

While surf fishing reels come in a wide array of gear ratios, most anglers favor those which fall into the 5:1 or 6:1 range. Reels featuring a gear ratio of this nature tend to be highly versatile and can be retrieved at a slow, methodical pace or with extensive vigor.

What size reel should I use for surf fishing?

When choosing which size reel to use for surf fishing, anglers are presented with several options. However, most anglers opt for surf fishing reels that fall into the 4000-6000 size range. Reels of this size tend to be highly versatile, allowing anglers to fish to an optimal degree for nearly any species.

What is the best length for a surf fishing rod?

To make the most out of your surf fishing efforts, a relatively long rod is recommended. In most cases, anglers tend to favor rods at least 9-feet in length, with many reaching lengths of up to 13-feet. This additional rod length promotes extended casting distances.

What do you use for surf fishing?

The best bait to use when surf fishing often depends upon location. While fish might prefer a particular bait at one place, another type of bait might be preferred elsewhere. However, shrimp, mullet, crab, and squid are essentially universal in their effectiveness.

What is the best pound test line for surf fishing?

In most cases, 30-50 pound braid tends to be the line of choice when surf fishing. This line is not only highly durable but is more than capable of standing firm when the occasional behemoth takes your bait.

How do you cast a surf fishing rod?

When casting a surf fishing rod, you should first flip your reel’s bail while holding the line with your index finger. You will then bring your rod tip rearward, with its lower end facing the water and the rod’s eyelets facing upward. Then, rapidly pivot your rod forward using both hands, as if swapping directions in a sweeping motion. As the rod’s tip reaches a 45-degree angle to the water, release your line.

How do I choose a surfcasting reel?

When searching for the best possible surfcasting reel, you should look for a reel with a robust drag system, premium bearings, and excellent corrosion resistance. Additionally, the perfect surf reel offers a significant line capacity, allowing you to cast to distant points.

What is the best reel for surf fishing?

In my opinion, the Penn Battle II & III is the best reel for surf fishing. This reel features a well-engineered 10+1 shielded stainless steel ball bearing system, a rugged 33-pound powerful drag system, a robust gear train, and ample water and sand ingress protection.

What is the best surf fishing rod and reel?

The best surf fishing rod/reel combo would most likely involve pairing the Penn Battle Reel with a quality 9-13 foot long rod. However, you could pair most of the best surf fishing reels reviewed above with a rod of a similar length to provide excellent results.