11 Best Surf Fishing Reels In 2021 (Buying Guide)

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

Last Update:

The Rundown

Best Overall: Daiwa Bg Spinning Reel
“Featuring 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, the Daiwa Bg Spinning Reel offers anglers a high degree of efficiency and premium features, and look good while doing so.”

Best Dual Purpose Option: Penn Battle II & III
“For enhanced durability, a higher degree of fighting potential, and a superline spool, the Penn Battle series of reels are constructed to withstand both saltwater and freshwater making it the ideal option for those who live in coastal areas.”

Most Powerful: KastKing Sharky III
“From a 39.5 lb. triple disc drag for first-in-class fighting power to double shielded ball bearings for ultra-smooth performance, the KastKing Sharky III is perfect for any angler who love to pursue the biggest fishes.”

Check Other Models on Amazon.com

When attempting to saltwater fish from the shore, few pieces of equipment are as vital as a quality surf reel.

The use of a premium surf reel allows you to cast great distances, in order to reach isolated pockets of fish and also 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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Best Surf Fishing Reels In 2021

Daiwa Bg Spinning Reel

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

Daiwa Bg Spinning Reel

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 a high degree of 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 quality spinning reel that offers numerous premium features, then this is likely your best option.

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One of the Daiwa Bg spinning reel’s most notable features is that of its Dynamic Cut Aluminum ABS Spool. Many conventional spinning reels retain a standard diameter, from one end of their spool to the other. This often leaves “dead” line buried at the spool’s core. However, the Daiwa Bg features a reversed taper spool face, which allows for 100-percent use of the reel’s overall line capacity.

The Daiwa Bg’s use of an oversized Digigear is also a nice touch. This larger than averaged Digigear 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 species of large fish on more than an occasional basis.

Penn Battle II & III

Best Dual Purpose Option: A reel purpose built to sustain the abuses of saltwater fishing

Penn Battle II & III

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 have been constructed in a manner that can withstand the corrosive nature of extended saltwater use, but is 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 those who live in coastal areas, where they are likely to fish in both fresh and saltwater fisheries.

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Many anglers are also 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 ample 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 series of reels also feature a braid-ready spool, which allows an angler to spool their reel with braided line, without the use of monofilament backing. This is a feature that should be highly appreciated by anglers who fish extensively, and maintain their reels on a regular basis.

KastKing Sharky III

Most Powerful: A reel an unparalleled degree of strength

KastKing Sharky III

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 the vast majority of time pursuing the largest fish in their area. This surf reel features a robust triple disc carbon fiber drag system, which carries an astounding 39.5 lb. working capacity. To complement its significant drag capabilities the Sharky III also utilizes a 10+1 saltwater rated, double shielded ball bearing assembly, 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. Along with its triple disc drag capabilities, this reel also features strong precision mesh manganese brass pinion gears, and an oversized stainless-steel main shaft. This should prove to be the winning combination for boating the most sizable of 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 braided line, without the use of a monofilament backing of any type, which is considered standard practice with the majority of surf fishing reels that are currently available. This has the potential to save anglers time and effort, when preparing for their next fishing trip.

Penn Slammer III

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

Penn Slammer III

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 offered on the market today. This reel consists of a full metal body, side plate, and rotor utilizes 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, 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. 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 Fishing Reels

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

Penn Fierce III Spinning Fishing Reels

KEY FEATURES

  • Advanced HT-100 drag system optimizes performance under significant loads
  • Techno-Balanced Rotor offers ultra-smooth retrieves
  • Stylish Black/Red exterior design presents significant 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 reel features a hardy HT-100 carbon fiber drag system, a superline spool, and 4 ball bearings. The combination of 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 Penn Fierce III’s Techno-Balanced Rotor, is also of note, as it 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.

Shimano Stradic Ci4+ 4000

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

Shimano Stradic Ci4+ 4000

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 that is 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. This reel 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 dramatically enhance the reel’s casting efficiency, while also 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.

SeaKnight Rapid

Best Budget Reel: Precision engineering, for ultra-smooth operation

SeaKnight Rapid

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 head to the water at every available opportunity and are searching for a saltwater spinning reel that performs seamlessly, even during periods of prolonged use, then the SeaKnight Rapid should be worthy of your consideration. This 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 of note 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 manner that is conducive to smooth, consistent use, free of any excess friction, even when subject to a load. This is a feature that 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. 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 Conflict II Long Cast Spinning Reel

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

Penn Conflict II Long Cast Spinning Reel

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 perfect reel for those who wish to never again be limited in their effective casting range. This reel features Penn “Super Spool” which is constructed in a manner that enhances 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 employs the use of specialized carbon fiber drag washers to accurately meter line control, and to provide 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 smooth operation. This bearing system should make lengthy line retrieval a breeze, as it has been engineered to eliminate all excess resistance.

PENN Wrath Spinning Fishing Reel

Most Compact: A lightweight reel, that is heavy on features

PENN Wrath Spinning Fishing Reel

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 significant amount of time on the water, and wishes to fish in comfort. Weighing in at less than a pound, this 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 also likely to appreciate the Penn Wrath’s use of easy to decipher line capacity rings. These rings allow an angler to quickly and efficiently introduce line onto their reel, without being forced to guess as to where they should stop. This feature should also be helpful when fighting a fish of epic proportions, as an angler can determine how much line has been expended, in relation to the reel’s overall capacity.

The Penn Wrath also features two stainless steel ball bearings, which are sealed from elements for enhanced durability. Additionally, this reel utilizes a robust anti-reverse bearing, which prevents backfeed, and promotes 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 Spinfisher VI Spinning Saltwater Reel

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 salt water ingress and corrosion. This reel also utilizes Penn’s proprietary HT-100 drag system, which likely offers sufficient line metering to handle even the feistiest of saltwater species. To aid in durability, Penn has also included a robust set of CNC machined gears, which should stand up to years of rigorous use.

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Of all the above mentioned features, 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 extend the unit’s service life indefinitely. In fact, the Penn Fishing Spinfisher VI carries an IPX5 ingress rating, which serves as the industry standard in element resistance.

The Penn Fishing Spinfisher VI also features a set of CNC machined gears, which should offer smooth and seamless operation, while also providing next level durability. 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, and then some

SHIMANO Ultegra Spinning Reel

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 extremely versatile and is packed with a number of diverse features, many of which should be highly appreciated by most 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 the 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.

What To Look For When Buying Surf Fishing Reels

Ease of cleaning & maintenance

If a reel cannot easily be cleaned and maintenanced, it will almost certainly experience a shortened service life.

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

Additionally, most premium surf 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.

In order 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, which enhances a unit’s overall line capacity. 

As a reel’s line capacity increases, so does its natural ability to be cast at 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 emptyhanded.

Drag strength

Surf fishermen 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, it is extremely important for a surf real to feature a robust drag system, which is smooth and consistent in its operation.

In the majority of 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 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 the operational efficiency of a reel which is not rated for such uses. For this reason, a surf reel should be extremely durable, and impervious to the effects of corrosion and water/sand ingress.

Today’s highest quality surf reels are purpose built, and are designed to handle whatever the environment might throw their way. These 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 this line cannot ultimately be retrieved.

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 as well.

A quicker gear ratio allows these lengths of line to be picked up at a rapid pace, without any level of difficulty. Additionally, the use of quality bearings also simplifies 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 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 as 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 a number of options. However, most anglers opt for 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?

In order to make the most out of your surf fishing efforts, a relatively long rod is recommended. In most cases, anglers tend to favor rods that are 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 location, another type of bait might be preferred elsewhere. However, shrimp, mullet, crab, and squid are largely universal in their effectiveness.

What is the best pound test line for surf fishing?

In the vast majority of cases, 30-50 pound braid tends to be the line of choice when surf fishing. This line is not only extremely durable, but is more than capable of standing strong 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 in a sweeping motion, rapidly pivot your rod forward using both hands, as if swapping directions. As the rod’s tip reaches a 45-degree angle to the water, release your line.

How do I choose a surf casting reel?

When searching for the best possible surf casting reel, an angler should seek out any particular model that features a robust drag system, premium bearings, and excellent corrosion resistance. Additionally, the perfect surf reel is one which offers a significant line capacity, allowing you to cast to distant points.

What is the best reel for surf fishing?

In my opinion, the Daiwa Bg Spinning Reel is the best reel for surf fishing. This reel features an oversized Digigear for increased torque, an ABS spool for enhanced line capacity, a sleek anodized housing for increased corrosion resistance.

What is the best surf fishing rod and reel?

The best surf fishing rod/reel combo would most likely involve pairing the Daiwa Bg Spinning Reel with a quality 9-13 foot long rod. However, most any of the reels reviewed above could be paired with a rod of a similar length to provide excellent results.