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Best Salmon Fishing Reel

best salmon fishing reel

​There are many ways to catch salmon whether that’s drifting a plug, casting a spoon or trolling a hoochie behind a flasher.

One thing is for certain the best salmon fishing reel is the one that matches your rod and line so that you can get the best performance out of you setup.

​It we exclude centerpin and fly fishing reels there are roughly three main types of salmon reels that are commonly used:

  • Salmon Spinning Reels – range in size from 2500 up to a 3500
  • Salmon Trolling Reels – line counter reels or normal level wind reels
  • Salmon Casting Reels – round type baitcaster reels as they have better line capacity

​Regardless of what type of fishing you are doing and which salmon reel you choose every one of them need to satisfy a few basic features in order to be suitable for salmon fishing.

​Salmon can pull a lot of line off of a spool and they can wreck a cheap reel with a weak drag system.

That is why investing in a decent reel is important, I’d rather spend twice the money on a reel than on any rod.

Best Salmon ​Fishing Reels

  1. ​Shimano Stradic FL
  2. Pflueger President XT
  3. Penn Spinfisher VI
  4. Shimano Tekota
  5. Okuma Coldwater
  6. Penn Warfare
  7. Abu Garcia Ambassadeur C4
  8. Shimano Calcutta B
  9. Daiwa Luna

​Salmon Spinning Reels

Spinning reels will be used predominantly when casting on rivers especially if you are using lighter bait rigs and smaller lures.

A spinning reel is quite versatile and can also be used for drift fishing as well as casting or spinning from the bank.

When trolling although you can use a spinning reel if you absolutely have no other choice, they are usually more hassle than a dedicated trolling reel or even a baitcaster.

A good size spinning reel for salmon would start at a size 2500 and finish at a size 4000.

A 2500 can be used for bobber fishing, drifting and light spinning work.

A size 3000 or 3500 is probably the most versatile size spinning reel for salmon as it gives you a much larger spool and a beefier drag system.

Paired with the ​best salmon fishing rod that you can afford a size 3500 is usable on just about any river and should hold enough line to manage even the hardest of running fish.

​Salmon Trolling Reels

Trolling reels for salmon need to be capable of storing a lot of line, have a pretty powerful drag rating and be well sealed especially if you are using them in saltwater.

Line counter reels are extremely popular however they are not an absolute necessity.

​Conventional trolling reels are built much tougher than a smaller baitcaster and they are usually capable of holding 200 to 300 yards of 50 lbs braid.

Towing large salmon rigs with flasher can put a lot of strain on a reel and you need one that has the right kind of build quality to withstand the constant pressure trolling puts on them.

​Salmon Casting Reels

Some anglers will use a spinning reel all their life and never make the change to a baitcasting reel.

Once you do make the move to using a salmon baitcaster you may well never go back to a spinning setup except for the lightest of rigs.

A baicaster once you master the technique is a lot less work than a spinning reel especially if you are casting all day long working your way along a large stretch of shore line.

Baitcasters usually have a higher gear ratio than a spinning reel so you can pick up line a lot quicker with them.

I favor the classic round style over more modern low profile baicasters as they usually have a higher line capacity and are normally built a lot tougher.

Best Salmon Spinning Reels

​1. Shimano Stradic FL

​The Stradic line of spinning reels from Shimano are one of their longest running and also one of the highest rated for both fresh and saltwater use.

The Stradic FL is a slightly cheaper version of the top of the range Stradic Ci4+.

​The only major difference between the FL and the Ci4+ is that FL has a Hagane body as opposed to the Ci4+’s Carbon Infused(CI) body.

The CI body is slightly lighter and stronger than on the FL model. Most anglers will never know the difference between the two.

With the FL model you get virtually the same reel as the flagship Ci4+ only minus the CI body material.

On the FL the body is made using Shimano’s Hagane process which means that it is cold forged for added rigidity and strength.

Body flex on a spinning reel for salmon is a serious issue as salmon will put huge pressure on any reel especially if they turn and run with the current.

On the Stradic that flex is virtually eliminated thanks to the Hagane body.  

It comes with one of the best drag

A size 3000 will hold about 140 yards of 20 lb braid and has a drag rating of 20 lbs.

The size 4000 holds 180 yards of 30 lb braid and has a drag rated up to 24 lbs.

​2. Pflueger President XT

​If you are looking for a low cost salmon spinning reel for lighter setups then the President XT is a solid bet.

​For the money these reels are very high quality and are perfect for target smaller Coho’s on light gear.

​They run really smoothly thanks to 9 main stainless steel bearings and one anti-reverse.

Compares with a regular President the XT model comes with a braid ready spool, sealed drag system, lighter in weight and with a higher gear ratio.

​3. Penn Spinfisher VI

​The Penn name is synonymous with high quality reels and the Spinfisher VI is no exception.

These reels are built tough and can withstand a lot of abuse, even being submerged in salt water will not phase them.

​Penn are well known for building big offshore trolling reels and large saltwater spinning reels but they also make reels in the mid-range sizes and these share all of the best qualities of their larger brothers.

The Spinfisher line is built with maximum durability in mind.They are one of the most water tight reels available with an IPX5 sealed body and a fully sealed spool that houses the drag washers.

An all metal body keeps the internal CNC machined gears in place and free from warp even under maximum load.

The size 3500 makes a great salmon fishing reel and it will hold 220 yards of 20 lb braid with a drag rating of 15 lbs.

Best Salmon Trolling Reels

​1. Shimano Tekota

​If heavy trolling with downriggers and flashers is your game then the Tekota line of trolling reels from Shimano is the perfect match.

Available in 5 different sizes and also with a line counter model available on each size.

​The range starts at a 300 and goes all the way up to a massive size 800. 

Not really built for casting these reels are engineered with one thing in mind and that is trolling.

A level wind ensures that you line lays evenly on the spool every time. Whilst the line counter models(denoted by LC) give a really accurate measure of how much line you have out.

The smallest model 300 can hold up to 255 yards of 30 lb braid and 185 yards of 16 lbs monofilament.

These reels are built tough with both the frames and the side plates engineered from anodized aluminum, which means very little or any twisting or warping in the reel when under even the heaviest of loads.

The spool is forged from aluminum and has a non-disengaging level wind on all models that lays your line down nice and evenly even when the reel is free spooling.

The 300 models have a double paddle handle whereas the larger ones come with a counter balance style handle.

​2. Okuma Cold Water

​If you are looking for a more wallet friendly salmon trolling reel then the Cold Water series from Okuma offers great value for the money.

It is packed with lot’s of features that you would ordinarily only find on a trolling reel that is 2 to 3 times the price.

​​It is available in four different sizes and with both left and right hand retrieve on most of the models there is also a model that is aimed at those that are using wire line or lead core lines.

With a 5.1:1 ratio they have a pretty decent pick up rate which is quite useful if you are trolling long lines.

All models feature a full carbonite drag system that has a maximum rating of 20 lbs on the larger models.

The 300 size can hold 310 yards of 30 lb mono thanks to a fairly large machined aluminum spool.

Whilst the 500 can hold 440 yards of 40 lb mono.

Available both with and without a line counter. The internal gearing is built with heavy trolling in mind and has a drop down, self-lubricating gearbox.

​​3. Penn Warfare

​The​re are very few reels that can compete with the Penn Warfare when it comes to price.

You get the legendary Penn build quality and parts that are made to last decades of abuse if maintained correctly.

​Although these reels are built with offshore trolling in mind the smallest size can hold 435 yards of 30 lb braid and has a drag rating of 15 lbs which is perfect for towing big salmon rigs behind a boat.

The​re are two types available in the line up the more conventional star drag model and the line counter model.

Aluminum ring plates re-enforce the graphite ​side plates for added strength to the frame whilst also keeping the wight down.

​The ever reliable HT-100 drag system ensures smooth running with even the larger fish on your line.

Best Salmon ​Baitcasting Reels

​1. Abu Garcia C4 Ambassadeur

​The Ambassadeur C4 is probably the best baitcaster for salmon available.

It comes exceptional casting performance, build quality and all at a decent price point.

​The Ambassadeur range has been firmly established as the best line of round style baitcasters available. The have been around for years and continue to impress in the latest models.

Keep one of these reels regularly serviced and it should last a lifetime of faithful service.

Casting is a dream thanks to a 6 pin centrifugal brake which applies consistent braking to the spool regardless of what speed it is running, this makes the C4 a great baitcaster for a beginner are there is less chance of the dreaded birds nest.

The drag uses a mix of aluminum and carbon fiber disks making it really smooth even under heavy load.

The 6600 size will hold 310 yards of 30 lb braid and the size 5600 will hold 235 yards of 30 lb braid both of which have a 15 lbs max drag rating.

​2. Shimano Calcutta B

​The Calcutta B from Shimano is the best salmon baitcaster ever made.

​It can cast just as well as any low profile high end baitcaster that is commonly seen in the bass fishing world but it is built to a much tougher standard and has a better line capacity.

​When choosing a casting reel for salmon most low profile baitcasters do not hold enough line for salmon fishing.

You need a reel that can hold a decent amount of 30 or 30 lb braid and also have a heavy duty drag system.

The Calcutta has both and is more than capable of throwing lures all day.

It is a classic round type baitcaster and is designed with durability in mind. Built with forged aluminum frames and side plates make for a very rigid reel indeed.

​They can also double as a pretty durable trolling reel for salmon too so you can save the expense of having on trolling reel and one casting reel for salmon.

The CT400 will hold 305 yards of 50 braid and has a max drag rating of 17.5 lbs.

​3. Daiwa Luna

​The Daiwa Luna is one of the best high end round style baitcasters available and is built to an extremely high standard.

They can take a lot of abuse and are packet full of great features.

​The frame and side plates are all made from solid bar stock of aluminum which makes them almost bullet proof.

​Casting is where the Luna really comes alive and it is as good as ​any low profile baitcasters thanks to a free floating spool and an automatic centrifugal system on the 300 that virtually eliminates backlashes.

One of the nicest features of the Luna is the breaking adjustment, all you need to do ​to adjust it is simply press and turn the side plate to either tighten or loosen it.

A beautiful gold anodized frame houses five corrosion resistant bearings plus one roller bearing and a multi-disc drag system.

The 300 will hold 300 yards of 40 lbs braid and has a max drag rating of 15.4 lbs.

Salmon Reels

  • Updated October 19, 2021
  • Salmon