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Best Freshwater Spinning Reel 2021 – [Buyer’s Guide]

best spinning reel

Pairing a good spinning rod with the best spinning reel you can afford and with the highest quality line will make a huge difference in your ability to throw a lure or bait right where you want it to go.

Sure you can buy a  cheap spinning setup from your local Walmart for $20, but lets face it both the quality and the performance will be terrible if you intend to do any kind of serious fishing.    

Think of a good quality spinning reel as an investment.

A good spinning reel if treated correctly should last years of use and abuse. 

They require very little maintenance and should reassure you that that your tackle is capable of handling that next big lunker you are in search of.

Best Freshwater Spinning Reels

The Abu Revo SX Spinning reel strikes a perfect balance of affordability and performance.

With the Revo SX you get near Shimano Stradic performance at a lower price point. The SX is the perfect intermediate reel for those that are not looking to spend a fortune.

Where the Revo really shines is in it's line management system. The Rocket Spool lip lets line run effortlessly off of the spool as you cast - meaning longer casts and increased accuracy.

One thing that reduces casting distances on reels is when the line is laid in an uneven manner on the spool resulting in it sticking to the previous layers. Abu have used their Everlast bail system that helps ensure line is laid evenly and flat on the spool as you retrieve.

The body is made from a carbon composite C6 whilst the frame is built from X-Craftic alloy resulting in a reel that is both light, corrosion resistant and sturdy.

A size 20 makes a really good ultra light reel and can be used with pin point accuracy for small lures.


  • 8 stainless steel ball bearings
  • Carbon Matrix Hybrid drag system
  • C6 carbon body
  • Rocket Spool lip
  • Everlast bail system

Pflueger's top rated spinning reel the Supreme XT strikes a great balance between high end spinning reel performance at a mid-range price point.

Although there are cheaper reels out there for the money it's pretty hard to beat.

The make a perfect choice for those that want a super light reel that still has enough pulling power to be usable in medium sizes such as a 2500 or 3000 spinning reel.

Don't make the mistake in thinking that the Supreme XT is just a slightly up-rated President.

Almost every component has been looked at and improved, even the handle has been swapped out for a carbon fiber one over a more traditional aluminum build.

Magnesium has been used throughout on the body, rotor and side plate. The spool comes braid ready so no need for extra backing if you are loading on braid. 

With a whopping 10 stainless-steel bearing operation is silky smooth and the drag housing is fully sealed meaning less chance of dirt working it's way into the internals. 

The Shimano Stradic CI4+ is arguably the best spinning reel available to buy right now and has been for several years.

The Stradic may be a touch pricier than other spinning but it beats the competition in just about every department.

With the Stradic CI4+ you get Shimano's legendary build quality combined with some of the best features and materials ever put into a reel. 

Built using their Carbon Infused(CI) technology Shimano claim that the reel casing is one and a half times stronger whilst being some twenty percent lighter than the regular graphite Shimano normally use.

The drag housing on the CI4+ is sealed tight and is capable of maintaining smooth drag pressure even after being submerged in water for up to a minute.

The internal gearing is built from Hagene cold forged steel for maximum rigidity, resulting in less warp and more power being transferred from the reel handle to the bail arm.


  • 7 ball bearings
  • CI lightweight construction, lighter and stronger
  • Hagene cut gears
  • Highly resilient to salt water and submersion
  • Available in a high gear model(HG)

If you are looking for a heavy duty spinning reel that can withstand the harsh environment of sea angling or bigger freshwater species then look no further than the Penn Spinfisher V.

Penn probably the biggest name in saltwater reels whether that is their classic conventional reel the Penn International or their highly rated lines of saltwater spinning reels such as the Battle, Conflict and Spinfsher.

The Spinfisher V is as well built a reel as you can find. It is engineered to withstand the corrosive nature of salt water and all of the component and housing are built with this is mind.

Size wise the Spinfisher V starts at a 3500 and goes all the way up to a 10500 so it's clearly not a reel that's aimed at very light weight rigs or lures.

However it really excels in the medium sizes, they give a great balance of weight and power.

The beauty of the Spinfisher V is that it is extremely versatile. Perfect for saltwater spinning and bait fishing. It is also sturdy enough to be used trolling on freshwater lakes for trout. And in the smaller sizes can be use as a pretty decent casting reel for medium to heavy lures.

If you need one reel to wear many hats then the Spinfisher V is surely it - the best heavy duty spinning reel available.


  • HT-100 Slammer drag system
  • 5 stainless steel shielded ball bearings
  • Anodized aluminum spool
  • Braid ready spool
  • Instant anti-reverse bearings

The Pflueger President has firmly cemented itself as one of the best budget spinning reels available.

For the money it has a high build quality and comes with a whopping 9 ball bearings.

Who is the Pflueger for ?

If you are on a budget or are just starting out fishing then the President is one of the most reliable and dependable reels built at it's price point.

The President is available in only a small number of sizes:

  • 30 - holds 145 yards of 6 lbs line
  • 35 - holds 185 yards of 8 lbs line
  • 40 - holds 230 yards of 10 lbs line

The President is best suited to use on a light to medium spinning applications and if you happen to keep a spare rod in your truck or car but don't want to keep an expensive reel in there too the President is the perfect reel to keep as a backup.

It's also a pretty light reel too, the spool is drilled to help shave off weight and the side plates and rotors are made from carbon composite. Easily the best spinning reel under $100!


  • 7 ball bearings
  • 5.2:1 gear ratio
  • Braid ready spool
  • Great value for the money

With the Stradic FK you get a lot of the same technologies and features used in the Stradic CI4+ at a discounted price.

The Stradic FK uses Hagene in both the internal gears and the body. The result is little to no warp or movement of the internal gears and body when retrieving under a heavy load.

Twisting or warping on a reel is a sure sign of a cheaply made reel built from low quality materials. Given it's highly durable build quality the Stradic FK feels like a spinning reel double or even triple it's price.

Sharing a lot of the same features as it's more expensive sibling the Stradic CI4+ the major difference between the two reels is down to the body of the FK being made from Hagene whilst the Stradic CI4+ is made from a lighter Carbon Infused(CI) material.


  • 6 ball bearings
  • Hagene gear and body
  • Cold forged CF aluminum spool
  • Propulsion line management system
  • Power Roller II line roller

Hugely popular with the inshore spinning crowd the Penn Clash is on the lighter side compared to say the Penn Spinfisher V however, it is considerably sturdier and more resilient that most.

Available in a range of sizes from 2000 up to 8000 it is well suited in inshore spinning, however even the lighter sized 2000 can be used on an ultralight freshwater spinning setup.

A full metal body gives lots of rigidity through the reel and CNC machined gears helps to further alleviate warping under heavy load.

There are eight stainless steel bearings and one anti-reverse bearing. The top drag washer is carbon fiber.

The spool and line lay are particularly suited to braid and the design is targeted and helping to reduce wind knots.


  • 8 stainless steel ball bearings
  • Level-line oscillation system
  • HT-100 carbon drag washers
  • CNC machined gears

Spinning Reels

Most tackle setups consist of a rod, reel and line. Combining your reel with the best spinning rod you can afford will generally get the best results.

Pairing all three of these together to give a perfectly balanced rig is one of the most important considerations when it comes to choosing what tackle to buy. 

There are two main types of spinning reel:

  • Traditional spinning reel
  • Baitrunner or free spool reel

All of the reels listed above are conventional spinning reels with one single drag. 

A baitrunner has the ability to set two different drag settings. One setting is to allow a fish to take a bait without it feeling too much resistance from the line/reel. Once the fisherman is confident that it is time to strike the handle is quickly turned a quarter turn and then the main drag setting comes into play.

Baitrunners as the name implies are usually used when fishing with bait rather than lures.

If the fish you are after are very easy to spook then it can be a good idea to let then run with the bait in their mouth until you are sure that the have it firmly in their jaws before you strike.

Saltwater spinning reels as the name suggests are built to be used in saltwater fishing. They have much better seals on the reel housing and drag.

Using a normal spinning reel in saltwater is possible but you need to be very careful and make sure that you rinse the reel in fresh water thoroughly after use to help avoid saltwater corrosion.


The size of reel you need is largely determined by the type of fishing you are doing and the rod that is required.

You should choose your rod depending on what type of fishing you are going to be doing. The rod will usually have a line rating on it printed on the lower section just above the grip.

Once you know what strength line your rod needs you can then choose what size reel you need.

Reel sizes can vary from manufacturer to manufacturer but thankfully the majority of big name brands all use the same or similar line rating system.


The drag on a reel is a measure of how much force the drag break can apply against a fish as it runs away from you and takes out line form the spool.

A smooth drag that will not seize up under load is crucial. With a cheap drag you may well end up with the spool stopping completely which puts you in danger of snapping you line.

A drag allows the fish to tire out as it runs against the resistance of the spool.


What a reel of built out of will have a direct on it's durability. Plastic gears and housing is a serious no-no.

Spinning reels under load put a huge stress on the reel housing and the internal gears. Only purchase a reel that is built from the best materials.

Stainless steel ball bearings, corrosion resistant housing and super strong internal gears are the way to go. Skimping on the quality of a reel is a sure fire recipe for buying a worthless piece of junk that will either need to be replaced quickly or may seize up within the first couple of uses.


The anti-reverse feature on a spinning reel is pretty crucial. If means that once you start to turn the reel handle of a fish hits your lure then the bail arm will not reverse which in turn would turn the handle backwards.

Anti-reverse is a pretty crucial feature if you need to strike once a large fish has taken your lure or bait.


How many bearings a reel has can be a good indicator as to how smoothly it will operate.

For freshwater reels stainless steel ball bearings housed in a sealed body are usually sufficient.

However for a saltwater spinning real all of those bearings need to be shielded and sealed much more rigorously.

All of the other elements of the housing and spool mechanism also need to be sealed properly in order to help protect the bearings of the reel.

Retrieval Rate

The retrieval rate of a reel is how much line a single turn of the reel handle will retrieve. 

A slower retrieval rate will generally have a lower gearing. With these types of reels you get a lot more torque applied for every turn of the handle. More torque equals more power.

A fast retrieval rate will sacrifice speed of power.

For the majority of fishermen something in the middle is best. It gives a decent amount of power at the crank whilst still allowing for a decent retrieval rate.

The best spinning reels will allow you to pick up line quickly thanks to really well designed internal gearing.

  • Updated March 20, 2021
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