Picking out the right spinning should not be hard or time consuming, should it?
We have, after all, access to forums and fishing articles. But why is that if you are looking for resources about spinning reels, the first websites that pop up are internet tackle stores. Every single one of them tend to be filled with hyped up reel descriptions. If you finally manage to stumble upon one informative guide about buying the right spinning reel, they tend to be short, superficial and on top of that represent only one author opinion.
To fix all the problems mentioned above, we asked 42 popular tournament anglers this simple question:
“If you would have to buy a new spinning reel, what would be top 3 factors you would base your decision on ?”
The results were surprising. Answers differed from person to person quite a lot. On top of that there were even contradictory over some aspects , like spinning reel price. After reading through every response, we found some common themes among them and put together simple lists.
Most mentioned characteristics that are inherent to good spinning reel( according to our 42 experts)
- Drag- performance and smoothness to avoid break-offs
- Weight/Size – should be light and comfortable, small to medium sized reel like 2500
- Wider Spool- reduces line twists and improves casting distance
- Overall Quality- durable and cost effective frame, number of bearings,
- Gear Ratio – ratio high for bass, ~6.0:1
Most mentioned reels:
If you do not feel like browsing through all the replies you can use these links to jump straight to each individual response.
Alton Jones ,Anthony Gagliardi
Barry Wilson ,Brian Snowden,Bryan Thrift
Casey Scanlon,Chris Zaldain, Cliff Prince, Clent Davis
Dave Mansue, David Mullins, Dearal Rodgers, Drew Benton
Gary Parsons, Grant Pentiricci, Guy Eaker
James Watson, Jared Trimboli, Jason Christie, Jason Pittmann, Jay Grave, Jay Yelas ,Jeff Kriet , John Crews, J Todd Tucker, Justin Lucas, Justin Rackley
Matt Arey, Micah Frazier, Michael Neal, Miles Burghoff
Randy Blaukat,Randy Haynes ,Robbie Dodson , Rusty Rust
Scott Suggs,Shinichi Fukae, Skylar Hamilton, Spencer Shuffield, Stacey King
Miles “Sonar” Burghoff – Sonarfishing.com2011 ACA National Championship winner, all-American berth
“It really surprises me how many tournament and weekend anglers (especially in the South) don’t use spinning gear! I’ve heard them called things “sissy sticks” and “fairy wands” but those who know the benefits of spinning gear are having the last laugh. Spinning gear is the best option for light line applications and for fishing with small lures- casting gear just can’t match the casting distance with light lures, or the light touch needed for finesse techniques.
Choosing the right spinning reel is critical, so I want to tell you about the three most important things I look for when choosing mine.
Components and engineering: Spinning reels are designed in a way that can leave them susceptible to wear under harsh conditions, so I want to make sure that my reels are built in a way, and with the right components, that will make them last. Look reels that not only have lots of bearings, but more importantly bearings that are placed in strategic areas that help make the reel smooth and reduce wear on gears. I use Shimano products and one feature that they have added to some of their reels is X-Ship, which is where they add a bearing to both sides of the pinion gear to ensure perfect gear alignment, even under stress. I also like to look at the material that is used to make the frame. These days there are some really cool materials out there. Personally, I use mostly aluminum framed reels, but have started to move over to lighter, stronger, composite materials, such as Shimano’s Ci4+ material.
Spool width: With today’s fluorocarbon lines, it is really important to have a spool that can manage this type of line’s memory characteristics. I like to buy spools that are wider, which helps keep line twists at bay.
Reel Size: Finally, it is important to buy a reel that is the right size for your rod. For bass fishing, I pretty much always use a 2500 series Shimano reel, but will downsize or upsize depending on the size of the rod or line I am using. The best way to tell if it’s the right reel is to simply put it on the rod you are using and see if it feels balanced and comfortable in your hand. If your reel is too overbearing or too light the technique is going to suffer.
Justin Rackley – TwitterBoat US National Collegiate Bass Championship winner in 2007
Dearal Rodgers – Dearalrodgers.com1 tournament win, 6 Top-10 tournament finishes at FLW
I use spinning reels a lot. When I get ready for a tournament, my primary focus is on the rod as I get very particular in the action, length, weight, and handle style. For the reel, I am not quite a picky. However, after some thought, the 3 things that I would mention are below:
1) Quality- I don’t mind paying extra because I want a smooth reel that will hold together and not fall apart when a huge fish is on the line. I use Team Daiwa reels with 8 or greater ball bearings per reel.
2) No Fancy Knobs- I shy away from a reel with the “quick fire” trigger, or other add ons or fancy knobs. These items, in my experience, cause line twist. I manually flip the bail on the cast and retrieve to prevent any line twist. For me, simpler is better.
3) Interchangeable Spools- I like to carry spools of fresh line with me during a tournament. I can go from mono to braid or increase, or decrease line size in a couple minutes. The extra spool always gives me a backup plan.
David Mullins – FacebookBassmaster elite angler,started competing in fishing at 16
I like atleast a 2500 spinning reel. It seems like anything smaller had a lot more line twist. To be honest I rarely look at ball bearings or anything else. I’ve been using the Shimano C14 spinning reel. I went to it this year. Cheaper than a Stella and it has a great drag and very smooth
Troy Morrow – Troymorrowfishing.com2010 BFL All American Champion, FLW Tour Pro
Weight, must be light. Price, but not in the way you would think, I start looking at 150, I have found at that price and up you find the drag systems that you need. The drag must be seamless, by that mean it must start and stop with no “stiffness” or hesitation. Smooth, I do not want to feel anything when I reel it.
J Todd Tucker – Jtoddtucker.comBassmaster elite angler, 7 Top-10 finishes
Skylar Hamilton – Skylarhamiltonfishing.comBassmaster opens pro
The key factors that make up a good spinning reel are the spool width, smoothness and the weight.
The spool width is very important, the wider the better. Wider spools tend to cast farther and resist tangles much better than many of the narrow spool models you see.
Smoothness in a spinning reel makes a huge difference. A smoother reel will enable you to feel more bites when you’re fishing a moving bait such as a shad rap, it also allows you to feel structure better. Many people think the fishing rod is more important when it comes to feeling bites and structure, but that’s simply not true. You’re reel is just as important, especially spinning reels, because you tend to impart more action to your baits with a spinning reel. Simply put, you move your reel more than your rod with spinning tackle. A smoother reel let’s you feel that your bait is working correctly and that you’re making contact with whatever structure you may be fishing.
Finally, weight is another factor I always take into consideration. A light weight reel always makes for a better set up, increased sensitivity and less fatigue on your wrists. A spinning reel can be much harder on your wrist than casting tackle if you don’t have a lightweight set up.
Another tip that I have learned over the years is to not pay attention to price or how many bearings the reel has. Regardless of what companies claim, ball bearings don’t make that much difference, they make the price go up. You can have a $50 spinning reel that feels just as good as a $200 reel. That’s not necessarily the case with casting reels, but I have learned to not spend your money on more ball bearings, if it feels good to you, then buy it. I’ve also found that lower bearing reels tend to last much longer believe it or not…
The only spinning reels I use are Abu Garcia, and they are about as smooth and durable as they come.
Randy Blaukat – FacebookProfessional bass angler. 18-time Bassmasters Classic/FLW Cup qualifier
Jason Pittmann – TwitterRetired Tournament Fisherman
Bryan Thrift – Bryanthrift.net2010 FLW Angler of the Year, 2012 Texas Bass Classic Champion
Frame material doesn’t really concern me. I like a bigger spool because I feel it helps cast farther. Never really paid much attention to bearings either, I just pick one up, reel it and if it feels nice a smooth i buy it. Drag is probably the biggest concern. I have to make sure they have a smooth drag that doesn’t vary in tension when you pull it. With light line an inconsistent drag will cause more break-offs.
James Watson – Jameswatsonfishing.com5 Top-10 finishes in FLW, 23rd in Angler-of-the-Year standings 2013
I like the size & weight of the reel on the rod, nothing big & bulky. Must be a reel that braided line comes off of with ease (some reels do not throw braided line well) Lastly the gear ratio of 6.1:1 as a minimum speed for me & the way I fish.
Gary Parsons – FacebookProfessional walleye fisherman, 2007 PWT “Angler of the Year”
Casey Scanlon – Caseyscanlonfishing.comBassmaster elite angler
Balance, doesn’t wobble when you crank the reel. Size: small to medium sized reel 2500 model for many reel brands. Price: I’m not a big believer in the need for high end reels. Something in the $100 or less price range.
Jay Grave – Gravefishing.comProfessional tournament bass angler
When I am looking for a new spinning reel the very first thing I consider how I am going to fish it. If I am a big proponent for use-specific gear. A spinning real for deep water drop-shoting has got to have a large spool but if I am skipping a stick worm under docks weight is much more important. I hardly ever by a reel or rod or whatever, without a purpose in mind.
Whatever the application, however, weight is very important. If I am going to twitch, or skip, or jiggle this rod and reel all day it has to be a comfortable and balanced weight on the rod I am going to be using. If it is heavy or unbalanced I am not going to use it.
The second thing I need to have in a new spinning reel is trust that will stand up to every day use and abuse. I fish more than 250 days a year in all conditions. I need to trust my gear and that means trusting that the bearings are solid, bushings are not made out of cheap plastic, and that the drag will stay true fishing day in and day out.
Lastly, and this goes together with being sturdy is that I have to be able to tear it down and keep it clean. Service-ability is very important.
Two more things. I want a reel that looks cool and matches the rods I am using. That isn’t really functionally important, but makes a difference in my shopping. And you should know that I am on the Daiwa and Denali teams. I use almost always Denali rods and Daiwa reels.
Jason Christie – Christiefishing.comBass Elite Angler, FLW Majors Pro
Drag system: when using light line a smooth drag system is a must for fighting big fish
Overall comfort: the reel has to be the right size, physically. Not too big, not too small.
Jared Trimboli – Jtfishing.com23 years old professional angler
I use baitcasting setups 95% of the time but there is always a time and place for a spinning setup; dropshot, hair jig, shakey head, or any real finesse presentation. Three factors I would most consider when looking to purchase a new spinning reel:
1. Weight & Size: Some anglers prefer smaller size reels (2000 or 200 size depending on manufacturer) while others prefer bigger sizes with bigger spools (3000 or 300 size). I personally prefer a smaller, more compact size reel 98% of the time as I never really have a huge necessity for a large 3000 size model. The only time I see fit for a larger spinning reel is fishing very deep water like out of the great lakes for example when your sometimes catching fish out of 40+ feet and need a lot of line. I want my spinning setups to be as light as possible and the reel has the most weight out of the whole setup so a big bulky reel is mostly unnecessary.
2. Number of bearings: The more bearings, the smoother your reel will be. Also the more bearings, the better quality your reel is overall and will last you much more time in the long run. However overall maintenance of these bearings and reel in general (oil, grease, etc.) is the ultimate factor for how long your reel lasts you.
3. Drag: Once the two factors above are taken into account, I need to make sure this reel has a smooth drag. If the reel is poorly made and has a “stuttering drag” I call it, which is where the drag sort of does a stop and go and not smooth throughout, I will not buy it. Most important aspect in a spinning reel is the drag. It’s what ultimately besides your line, is what is between you and the fish. Too much tension on the drag and you can snap your line, too little and the fish can spit the hook. Knowing your reel has a solid, smooth drag can be the difference between winning and losing an event.
I always recommend anglers to go directly to a store which sells the reel(s) they are looking for (like a Bass Pro Shops) and physically inspect the reel. A lot of times anglers order reels offline before ever even physically seeing it and a lot of times are disappointed. I also recommend if you have a rod at home that you are 100% going to use with your upcoming reel purchase, take the rod with you to the store. Attach the reel to your rod and make sure it’s well balanced and fits the overall feel you’re going for.
Guy Eaker – Guyeaker.comBass Fishing Hall of Fame angler
All I have is the Abu Revo Spinning Reels, I think the Abu Revo 30 and 40 is the best reels for the money, the spools drag system is great, light wt. and casting is the best.
Grant Pentiricci – Anglingauthority.comFounder of AnglingAuthority, CSFL/Bass Pro Shop series fisher
Rusty Rust – Fishinaffliction.comProfessional Bass Fisher, Co-host of Fishin’ Affliction TV
The smoothness of operation, some reels are jerky and vibrate when reeling, the ease of operation, how fast you can make a cast with a quick release trigger etc, amount of line they hold, which also dictates the the speed you can hold or loose speed to the bait. Example a narrow spool that drops size in half on a cast will not real fast until half the line is already back on the spool.
Matt Arey – Rackandreeloutfitters.comFLW Tour Champion, 6 time Forrest Wood Cup qualifier
Smooth drag, lightweight, and durability (bearing system)
Shinichi Fukae – Shinfukaefishing.com2013 PAA Angler of The Year, 2011 FLW Tour Open Angler of the Year
1. Drag performance, 2. Spool size, & 3. Ease of use with light lines
Micah Frazier – Facebook13 Top-10 finishes in 4 years as FLW pro, 2 cup appearances
I prefer a light weight model such as the Revo premier. The more bearings the better. With new braided lines, line capacity isn’t as important to me. weight of the reel is my number one factor.
Justin Lucas – Justinlucasfishing.comBassmaster elite series fisher , was FLW College tournament host
My favorite spinning reel is the Abu Garcia SX for the following reasons.
1) The most important factor in a spinning reel to me is line recovery per turn. This goes unnoticed quite a bit when talking about spinning reels. I want the fastest reel I can get away with so I can pick up slack line and set the hook quickly. It also allows me to reel my bait in much faster and therefore I make more casts throughout the day.
2) A smooth drag is incredibly important when choosing a spinning reel. Generally we are all using smaller hooks and smaller line when we are using a spinning reel. I need a super smooth drag to make sure that I don’t break fish off and don’t pull a hook out of their mouths.
3) Weight of the reel would be my 3rd most important feature on a spinning reel. Using as light of a reel as I can will help keep the rod balanced and sensitivity high. A heavy reel will dull out the sensitivity of the rod and be uncomfortable to use all day.
Stacey King – FacebookGoing to be inducted into the Professional Bass Fishing Hall of Fame
I like large spools as they have more drag surface. Line size determines actual reel size. 8lb and below a 2 series, above that a 4 series. I want a reel that is solid, not to light or heavy. I always tell folks to buy what feels good to them
Anthony Gagliardi – Anthonygagliardi.com2014 FLW Outdoors Forrest Wood Cup Winner, 2006 FLW Angler Of the Year
No. 1 for me is a high quality drag system. Since in most cases spinning reels are being used with light line a smooth drag is a must in order to protect from breaking off.
No. 2 is a easily accessible anti-reverse switch(don’t know the proper name). I back reel quite often and I like for the switch to be easy to find and flip during the fight so I have no problems when the fish gets close to the boat and I need to engage the anti-reverse so that i can land it.
No. 3 is probably weight. I like the feel of a light, sensitive spinning rod setup, well, pretty much any setup i guess…. You don’t switch hands between casting and fishing with a spinning reel, so over the course of the day a lighter reel will result in less fatigue. Less fatigue equals more productivity.
Brian Snowden – Briansnowden.comParticipates in BASS, where he has 16 Top-10 finishes, and PAA tours
I use a Bass Pro Shops Johnny Morris Signature Series JM spinning reel. I look for sealed aluminum body construction which makes the real light and strong but keeps dust and debris out. It also has a sealed carbon fiber drag which is great because carbon is unmatched in dispensing drag heat which allows for smooth drag while fighting large fish on light line. I will also like a large spool with this reels mag spool technology it reduces line twist and increases casting distance.
John Crews – Johncrews.comHas fished 8 times in Bassmaster Classic, 18 times Top-10 finishes
You get what you pay for in spinning reels for sure. Anything less than $100 is going to act like it.
I like bigger spools. Not for line capacity but for ease of line coming off of it.
Solid frame and bail are important. If you can pick up and inspect some different ones, you can feel the difference.
Spencer Shuffield – FacebookFLW tour angler, 2 tournament wins
My favorite is the Shimano Stradic CI4. The top 3 things to look for is the weight of the reel. You want a lighter reel because its more comfortable fishing with for longer periods of time. Allows you to detect bites better because there’s not so much weight in the back end of the rod. 2 would be smoothness. The more bearings the reel has the smoother it’s gonna be. 3 the size. I like one that’s not huge but not small. I like the 2500 series in the Shimano Stradic. I want a reel size that’s small enough for smaller baits like shad raps, small shaky heads and wacky worms, but as well big enough for bigger shaky heads and smaller jigs. I use strictly braid on a spinning reel with a flurocarbon leader. It allows you to cast farther and feel every little thing your bait comes across.
Michael Neal – FacebookFLW tour pro , 2-time Forrest Wood Cup qualifier
I like a 10 bearing reel for both the smoothness as well as the dependability of the more bearings. Short and simple: the more the better.
Frame material: I like a carbon for again a two-fold advantage. Not only does it reduce the weight of the reel which is always an importaning thing in fishing all day, but it is one of the most durable, yet cost efficient materials to construct a reel out of.
Weight: I like to stay somewhere around 7 ounces with a 2000 series reel. Somewhere there is always a point in a reel in which you have to sacrifice either weight or strength/dependability just like in rods. Any lighter than this and you have to, in my opinion, sacrifice some of the dependability. Buyers want to go as light as possible and still maintain complete dependability.
Keith Combs – FacebookBASS tournament angler, 3 Bass Classic appearances
To me the most important thing is a really smooth drag because I’m mostly using light line. I also prefer one with a fairly large spool to aid with casting distance. To get a more sensitive feel, I like a reel that is lightweight. Right now my favorite spinning reel is a Shimano Stradic CI4.
Wesley Strader – Facebook18 years as FLW tour pro, 34 career Top-10 finishes
Scott Suggs – Scottsuggsfishing.comFLW tour angler, Forrest Wood Cup winner 2007
The best spinning reel that I’ve ever used is the Revo Premier. I like a smooth reel , light weight reel because the reel is sitting further off the rod and below and if you fish a heavy reel all day your back feels it. I also use a lot of braid with a leader so I look for a really good drag system. One that is very forgiving. The Revo is made from a plastic that is impossible to damage and that’s why it is so light.
Chris Zaldain – Zaldain.comBassmaster elite series angler for 3rd year
1. Always purchase a spinning reel at the top of your budget. You want that purchase to last a lifetime.
2. Ask your buddies, do research, and read reviews on current spinning reel models that fit your budget.
3. Stick with a 2500 sized reel because it will suite all your bass fishing needs. I like Shimano; they’ve been around forever and never seem to fail.
Drew Benton – Drewbentonfishing.comFirst bass tournament at the age of 16
For me, Spinning reels are intended for finesse tactics (light line, lighter weight, and finesse plastics). So, what would one expect out of a reel designed for those applications? Light in overall weight, Smooth casting and retrieve, Line management, The ability to handle both fluorocarbon and braid, and A drag that is smooth, yet can handle big fish without question.
Jeff Kriet – Jeffkriet.comBassmaster elite series angler, 8 classic appearances
Smooth drag on the spool.
A tight reel with no slop.
Not too concerned about the number of bearings. I like a 25 size reel. Very important not to spool it with too heavy of line. I never go above 8 flouro, or 10 braid.
Cliff Prince – Cliffprincefishing.comBassmaster elite series pro, 10 Top-10 finishes
Well since Duckett doesn’t have a spinning reel yet I use Shimano 2500 CI4 it’s the best all around reel for the money !
Barry Wilson – Barrywilsonfishing.comFished with FLW since 1997, 2 Top-10 in FLW tour 2013
I really don’t use a lot of spinning reels, but if I did……
1. Manufacturers – I definitely prefer American made reels, ie. Lews!!
2. Weight – You definitely want a reel that is light weight and very durable, ie. Lews again! Something that you can use and abuse and it last forever!
3. Gear ratio – You need a reel that has a high gear ratio to allow you to take up slack (line) in a hurry, especially with a shakey head!
4. Drag – Probably the most important feature, I think! It’s got to hold up against big fish, especially when they make big runs! Wear them down!!!
Robbie Dodson – FacebookFLW tour pro, 3 tournament wins
Jay Yelas – Jayyelas.comBassmaster classic champion, 2002/2007 FLW Angler of year
Randy Haynes – Randyhaynesfishing.com7x FLW Tournament Winner, 12 Top-10 finishes
Clent Davis – Clentdavisfishing.com2012 FLW rookie of the year
The first thing I look for is how it feels in my hand. If it’s not comfortable to hold im not going to use it.
The weight of the reel is the 2nd thing I look in to. The lighter the equipment I work with every day the better.
The 3rd thing I look for in a spinning reel is gear ratio. I use a 6.0:1 ratio on all of my spinning reels.
Ott DeFoe – Ottdefoe.comBassmaster elite series, 2011 Bassmaster all-star champion
For me a few factors are first size I like a good size reel. A 35 size in the Pflueger is my favorite. Weight is next. The lighter the better! Last is spool depth I prefer a shallow spool. Fishing braided line you don’t need much depth to get enough line on the reel. This prevents waste and weight.
Dave Mansue – Davemansue.comBassmaster open champion in 2009 Sponsored by some of the top companies like Skeeter, Yamaha, Power Pole, Optima Batteries, Vicious Fishing, Daiichi & XPoint Hooks, Lew’s, Missile Baits
On today’s heavily pressured tournament waters the question is not if you need a spinning reel and rod but rather, when do you need to apply them and the finesse techniques they are associated with.
When looking for the right spinning reel, 3 factors come to mind, size, drag system and smooth operation.
Size: This is important for line capacity and balance. Larger spools allow for more line, more line allows for easier casting. However, if the spool and reel are too large this will affect balance and ultimately your abitilty to use a particular set up affectively. Most reel companies offer 3 sizes, the lower the number, the smaller the reel. I prefer reels in the mid range, such as the Team Lew’s Goldspin TL3000H. The spool size allows for long casts and the minimal weight allows for comfortable use all day.
Drag System: Spinning reels are used most in finesse applications. Therefore the drag system is extremely important when using light line. A sealed drag system is important as it prevents the negative affects water can have on the system. The drag must be smooth and easy to adjust, especially during the heat of battle. Fish often make a final surge or run when close to the boat. Not having a smooth drag or one you can adjust easily often results in a broken line and lost fish.
Smooth Operation: Typically, the more ball bearings found in a reel, the smoother the reel will operate. This is important when using a reel over the course of a full day. The less you have to fight the reel to turn it over, the more comfortable it will be to operate and the longer you will be able to use it. Often lost in this factor is handle comfort. Ease of locating the handle after a cast and how it feels in your hand are two factors to consider when picking a reel that will be used all day.
There are many outstanding spinning reels offered at a wide variety of prices and I have used many. I have found that the Team Lew’s Gold Spin TL3000H offers everything I am looking for in a quality spinning reel, including price. The TL3000H weighs just 7.4oz yet holds 140yds of 10lb. line. The size provides a perfect balance to both a 6’6″ and 7′ graphite rod. The 10 bearing system offers smooth operation and the aluminum cranking handle with Lew’s Paddle Grip allow me to operate the reel in comfort all day long. The sealed front drag system is outstanding and one I use confidently with lines as light as 6lb. test. When looking for your next spinning reel be sure to include Team Lew’s in your search.
Alton Jones – Altonjones.com2008 Bassmaster classic champion
weight, spool width, gear ratio