Best New Reels

Upgraded reels improve quality and performance.

Outdoor Life Online Editor

SPINNING REELS

** 1. Abu Garcia Cardinal C503ALB**

With its all-aluminum body and spool and machined-aluminum handle, this reel resembles an armored Humvee, but instead of being boxlike in shape, it's sleek, silvery and understated. The bail is heavy-duty and opens with a satisfying stay-open click. Your grip won't slip when the soft-handle knob is wet or fish slimed. With its 10 ball bearings and high-quality gears, the reel is buttery smooth. A dandy for any freshwater casting work and also light saltwater, although with a larger line capacity it would handle far more serious marine work. ($65; 877-777-3850; abugarcia.com)

2. Eagle Claw Gunnison GUN-20

Here's a surprise: a spinning reel for only 40 bucks with a seven-bearing system! Yes, it cranks smoothly and casts very well at both far and close ranges with no idiosyncrasies (like premature bail closure during power casts). The oiled felt-washer drag feels smooth and stable. The gearing is brass, the body is graphite composite, the spool is aluminum and there's a spare graphite composite spool. This Gunnison is available in larger and smaller sizes. Metallic blue with gold-anodized trim, the reel appeals to the eye, too._ ($40; 720-941-8700; eagleclaw.com)_

BAIT-CASTING REELS

** 3. Shimano Calcutta CT200GTB**

A total makeover of the original Calcutta has resulted in a new B version, with many improvements. A higher retrieve ratio (6:1), antirust bearings (now seven of them), an upgraded drag, a side-plate with easy one-screw access to the centrifugal brake shoes and a cold-forged aluminum frame are among the more significant changes. There's not a wobble in the well-constructed workings on this beauty, which will handle any heavy-duty freshwater casting assignments and many inshore saltwater tasks, too. ($220; 877-577-0600; shimano.com)

** 4. Bass Pro shops ProLite Finesse**
This sweet, ultra-low-profile, light reel can tackle heavier work as well. A fast 6.3:1 retrieve ratio handles light or heavier lines. The new braking system uses centrifugal force to engage magnets for great antibacklash performance. There are six double-shielded stainless-steel ball bearings and a one-way anti-reverse bearing. To access the spool, depress the side-plate-a neat feature. The reel is supremely comfortable in hand, and the orange-golden finish is very attractive. And it casts like a rocket. ($100; 800-227-7776; basspro.com)