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The two most essential pieces of fishing equipment are the rod and reel. They work together to help you effectively catch fish. Both are equally important, because they allow you to cast, control the lure or bait, control a fish, and bring it close to hand. The best reels will work in tough conditions and will allow you to precisely control your line. 

The best fishing reels can help get the biggest catch

On a fly fishing trip during college, I hooked one of the biggest steelhead I’ve ever had on a line. My adrenaline was pumping as I chased the fish down the river. I was new to fly fishing and was using a cheap rod and reel I had picked up at a local outdoor store. After five minutes of fighting the fish, my reel’s drag gave out. The fish got off, and I sat on the bank in disbelief.

I never thought a reel could single handedly lose a fish until I learned the hard way. I attributed my poor choice in selection to my inexperience as a fly fisherman. After that day, I made sure I always have a trustworthy and reliable reel while fishing.

How to find the right types of fishing reels for where you’ll be fishing

To find the best reel for your fishing, you need to figure out exactly what you’ll be using it for, and an understanding of what the reel should and shouldn’t do. What are you fishing for, and how are you doing it? Are you trout fishing with a fly rod? Are you bass fishing with topwater lures? The species and technique you choose to pursue will determine what type of reel you need.

Next, think about casting. How long of a cast do you need to make? How much line can the reel hold? Finally, make sure to consider drag and stopping power. If your drag is weak or defective, there’s a good chance you’ll lose fish.

Best Baitcasting Reel: Abu Garcia Revo SX Baitcast Reel

Low Profile, High Performance

Smooth casting and powerful drag system for the serious angler.
Abu Garcia

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The Abu Garcia Revo SX is one of the best baitcasting reels out there. It is extremely durable, lightweight, and performs in the toughest conditions. This Abu Garcia reel is equipped with a powerful drag system that will put the brakes on big fish, and the braking adjustments make it easy to cast both lightweight and heavy lures. 

Best Spinning Reel: Pflueger Supreme Spinning Reel

Solid and Lightweight

A durable spinning reel for long accurate casts.
Pflueger

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Made for use in freshwater and saltwater, the Pflueger Supreme has an ultra-lightweight magnesium body and an inlay drag design to control fish. The braid-ready durable aluminum spool is built to last. This spinning reel is available in two sizes.

Best Fly Reel for Trout: Orvis Battenkill Fly Reel

Classic Trout Reel

A vintage-looking reel with a modern design for optimal performance.

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The Battenkill is one of my favorite fly reels. It has a 4-position click-and-pawl drag system designed to be used with your palm when fish run. This fly reel can easily be converted to a right or left hand retrieve, and a narrow, wider spool decreases line stacking and allows for high line retrieval rates—important when you need to get a lot of line in quickly.

Best Saltwater Spinning Reel: Quantum Cabo PT Spinning Reel

Powerful and Versatile

Fight inshore and offshore saltwater species with confidence.
Quantum

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The number one concern with saltwater fishing reels is their ability to stand up to the conditions. This spinning reel is designed to protect against corrosion and rust. It is built for the dedicated angler, and it can be used in various situations. Fight big redfish in the bay or cast to migrating striped bass from shore. The titanium fail-proof bail system and the sealed magnum CSC drag will give you the confidence to land big fish.

Best Cheap Fishing Reel: Bass Pro Shops Tourney Special Baitcast Reel

Bang for Your Buck

A reliable reel without breaking the bank.
Bass Pro Shops

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The Bass Pro Shops Tourney Special reel is the perfect choice for anglers looking to save some money and still have a reliable reel. You may give up a little bit in your casting distance and accuracy, but this baitcast reel can still handle big bass. It is durable and will last you many seasons out on the water.

FAQs

Q: How do I choose a fishing reel?

When choosing a fishing reel, you need to consider what you are fishing for, how you are fishing, and what you need your reel to do. Make sure you understand how much stopping power you need from your reel’s drag and how your reel will impact your casting ability. Also be sure you’ll be able to cast it. Spinning reels are easy to cast and can be used almost anywhere.

Q: What is the best fishing reel for beginners?

For someone just starting out fishing, a spinning reel is a great choice. They’re easy to learn how to use, and come in lighter sizes than spincasting outfits. Look for a spinning reel that holds 4- to 6-pound-test monofilament line for trout and panfish, and 8- to 12-pound test monofilament for bass.

Q: Are expensive reels worth it?

If you only fish a few times a year, then there’s no reason to buy the most expensive reel. A quality reel is worth the investment for those who fish a lot, or need a reel with an excellent drag for powerful species such as steelhead and salmon. 

A Final Word on the Best Fishing Reels

A good fishing reel feels comfortable in your hand and is matched to your rod. If you’re not sure how to do that, go with a rod and reel combo. These are available in many forms, including fly rod and reel combos.  

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