A Fisherman’s Review: The Best Spinning Reel for the Money in 2018
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Many anglers are accustomed to enjoying either freshwater or saltwater fishing on a regular basis, but are prevented from venturing into the other territory because their reels are not equipped to do so. Those inexperienced in saltwater battles are sometimes perplexed as to why saltwater fishing reels are so much more expensive than their usual fresh-water setup. To the saltwater fisherman, however, there is a seemingly common-sense answer: salt messes up reels and the fish are bigger.
Spinning Reel

Spinning Reel

Fresh and saltwater reels look fairly similar, if not identical. When it comes to engineering and manufacturing, though, there are a number of considerations to make before casting in different types of environments.

A spinning reel is also referred to as an open face fishing reel. These types of reels are by far the most popular in today’s market, because they are user friendly and vary greatly in size and capability. Another common reel is the bait-caster, but backlash is so common with these reels that many fishermen prefer to avoid the hassle (especially if lending out a rod to a guest along for the ride).

The spincast is another fairly common reel, but these are not accurate casters like the spinning reel. Spinning reels are also adept to quick line changes, able to swap out spools with the click of a couple gears. These reels may not be normally suited to heavy test, but even that is changing in today’s market, in which spinning reels that can easily handle 50 pound test are becoming more mainstream.

So, are there any cons to using a spinning reel? Not really. Traditionally, spinning reels are known for being given to line twisting or the occasional looping, but companies are beginning to take the necessary steps to prevent the frequency of this nuisance from occurring. Even when they do happen, though, it is typically a minor setback for a major comeback.

There is specific tackle to adjust to when switching between fresh and saltwater. A freshwater reel may be able to land some huge fish, but be susceptible to saltwater corrosion internally. This is why we chose to review the best spinning reel for the money of 2018: for its ability to fish out the monsters in any type of water.

The gearing houses inside saltwater reels must be made out of metal, either stainless-steel or aluminum, and be sealed and saltwater resistant to withstand abuse and avoid corrosion. This is one large reason for the price difference from freshwater reels, that are conveniently cleaned by the same water they catch fish in. No matter how resistant your reel is to salt corruption, eventually it will wear out.

So, one primary consideration in our selection of the best spinning reel for the money is lasting durability. Deterioration is an unstoppable force in fishing, but the process can be greatly slowed with smart purchases and tool selection. Few things are worse than making all the preparations for a day out on the water, and then being unable to enjoy it because of malfunctioning equipment.

Everyone deals with tangled line or getting their hooks caught, but your reel should perform normally with precision and reliability. A good spinning reel will make expertly precise casts through the trees out on the freshwater, and optimally perform no matter how much saline the saltwater sprays above the boat. Choosing a spinning reel is an important investment that no angler should take lightly.

Some say that such careful planning in purchasing a reel is required only for saltwater fishing, but this could not be farther from the truth. To cast better than the other guy and avoid getting hung up in the trees, as well as missing “green fish” when drawing out those bottom dwellers from Christmas trees, takes a highly-functioning fresh water reel. The big bass aren’t called lunkers for nothing, and some of them have eyes as big as golf balls!

Whether you like letting the bait fly in fresh or saltwater, inshore or offshore, we know you love the spinning reel for its versatility. With that in mind, we put together this fisherman’s review to help you hand-select the best spinning reel for the money. We want you to have the utmost confidence in your new fixed-spool, so read on for our expert opinion as to which one will get you the most fish in the boat.

Selecting the Best Spinning Reel: The Smart Man’s Buy

When it comes to choosing a spinning reel at top value, an angler’s first consideration is always which tool is going to do its job the best. What job is that, you ask? Simply plucking more fish out of the water than the other guy.

You can strategize all breakfast long about locating the perfect hole and sliding your boat right in beside it like a ninja, but you’re going to be spending more time fishing than catching if you don’t have a trusty reel. Nothing is worse on the water than a missed strike; and in order to steer clear of such things, you have to know what you’re looking for.

A high-quality spinning reel is going to stop on a dime (meaning no play in the reel when it is turned backwards). For this, your spinning reel must be equipped with an instant anti-reverse feature. Secondly, to set the hook with ease and precision, you’re going to want a rear-system drag on your spinning reel.

On these rear-system drags, the knob to control your spool will be located at the top of the reel. There, you’re going to want to turn the spool and feel the gears clicking. The finer and closer together the gear segments, the more silky-smooth your drag will be when you pull out the line. On the other hand, if your gear increments are too far apart, then you will feel the drag jump forward when you pull out the line.

Lastly, the third most important factor in choosing a top-notch spinning reel is: ball bearings. The more the better, but you want to make sure that your spinning reel has no less than five ball bearings. You will notice that there are usually one to three ball bearings on entry-level spinning reels.

On higher-performing spinning reels, five ball bearings is standard. Do not be fooled into paying more for a spinning reel because it has the highest number of ball bearings, however. It is difficult to tell the difference in efficiency between a reel with five ball bearings and one with 10 or more.

Below are the top 10 spinning reels of 2018, their pros and cons, and a fisherman’s ultimate choice as to which is the best spinning reel for the money. Our hope is that by the end of this article you will be better educated on the market and feel confident in purchasing your new tool. So, read on to find out which reel is best for you, because the water calls!

Comparison of Best Spinning Reels in 2018

The 10 Best Spinning Reels: Get You Some!

1. Penn Battle II Spinning Fishing Reel

This heavy-duty reel is equipped to land some saltwater monsters right into your coolers. Fully metal with an aluminum bail wire, it is a powerful caster with a carbon fiber drag-system. It come standard with an instant anti-reverse and five ball bearings. We may need to end the article right here, because this reel is a beast!

Penn Battle II Spinning Fishing Reel

Penn Battle II Spinning Fishing Reel

Key Features:

◉ All metal construction
◉ HT-100 carbon fiber drag-system
◉ Superline ready, with capacity marked at 1/3, 2/3, and full

Pros:

Powerful drag experience.
Fluid cranking.
Rugged durability.

Cons:

Heavy.
Multi-piece roller bearing assembly.
Very tiny spring operates the anti-reverse switch.
No second spool.

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2. Okuma Avenger ABF Graphite Bait Feeder Reel

This bait-feeder reel uses the Okuma live line bait-feeding system that the brand has become so well known for. Just use the on/off auto-trip system to let out the spool so it can run freely, and then kick in the drag when you’re ready to set the hook. It features six ball bearings and an instant anti-reverse mechanism. With graphite construction and a sealed drag, this spinning reel expertly resists saltwater corruption.

Okuma Avenger ABF Graphite Bait Feeder Reel

Key Features:

◉ Sturdy aluminum made handle
◉ Okuma’s signature S-Curve Oscillation
◉ Stainless-steel bail wire

Pros:

Spare spool included.
One-year warranty.
Smooth casting with 50-pound test.

Cons:

Very heavy at about two pounds
Spare spool is plastic
Awkward grip

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3. Penn Spinfisher V Spinning Fishing Reel

This reel puts resisting saltwater corrosion as a top priority. It is a long-range caster and watertight, equipped standard with Penn’s patented Slammer drag-system. Fully metal and designed to endure sandy environments, this bad boy is ready for big-game action. It features five ball bearings and an instant anti-reverse system.

Penn Spinfisher V Spinning Fishing Reel

Penn Spinfisher V Spinning Fishing Reel

Key Features:

◉ Aluminum-constructed bail wire
◉ HT-100 Slammer drag, sealed tight
◉ Line capacity measured at 1/3, 2/3, and full

Pros:

Very watertight
Superline ready
Exceptionally accurate caster

Cons:

A bail-less reel is certainly not a negative, but if you haven’t used one before, the lack of instruction guide is.
Heavy
Bait-feeder system not as smooth and reliable as Okuma’s version

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4. Pflueger President Spinning Reel

This spinning reel boasts of ten ball bearings and is graphite constructed with an aluminum handle. It is equipped with an instant anti-reverse feature and a multi-disc drag, resulting in a powerful tool that brings in the fighters like a pro.

Pflueger President Spinning Reel

Pflueger President Spinning Reel

Key Features:

◉ Lightweight body and rotor
◉ Aluminum spool
◉ Highly durable

Pros:

Fluid crank
Smooth drag

Cons:

Reel handle is made of low-quality material that is given to saltwater corrosion. A splash from the surf is almost guaranteed to cause flaking.

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5. KastKing Sharky II Fishing Reel

This nicely-balanced spinning reel is both equipped to throw out bait at lengthy distances and fish out those bottom-lurking monsters. It has a three-disc carbon fiber drag and is water resistant. Featuring eleven ball bearings and an instant anti-reverse mechanism, this is one fine reel.

KastKing Sharky II Fishing Reel

KastKing Sharky II Fishing Reel

Key Features:

◉ Aluminum spool with grooves specially designed to retain lube
◉ Sealed spool
◉ One-year warranty

Pros:

Stainless steel shaft
Lightweight
Watertight

Cons:

Can be a hassle to disassemble
Small and lacks durability
Best suited for freshwater

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6. Okuma Trio High Speed Spinning Reel, Black/Orange

This beautiful hybrid combines an aluminum rotor and stern with graphite sides, providing strength and stability where it counts while maintaining a lightweight design. It features eleven ball bearings and has an instant anti-reverse system. The drag on this beauty is highly efficient in tough battles.

Key Features:

◉ Hybrid spool made of graphite and aluminum
◉ Crossover aluminum and graphite body and rotor design
◉ Uses both spool surfaces resulting in a stronger performing drag

Pros:

Sealed drag
An overall smooth experience
lightweight

Cons:

Easily stripped screws on gear housing
Downgraded spool insert from carbon fiber to aluminum. This reduces weight, but ultimately makes the reel less sturdy and more given to corrosion.

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7. Penn Fierce II Spinning Reel

This is one strong reel that will make fighters surrender with impressive speed. Fully metal with a stainless-steel shaft, this big boy features 5 ball bearings with an instant anti-reverse system. Also worth noting, the line retrieve on this spinning reel is superb.

Penn Fierce II Spinning Reel

Penn Fierce II Spinning Reel

Key Features:

◉ Aluminum-made bail wire
◉ Impressive durability in saltwater
◉ Fast line retrieve

Pros:

Drilled out spool makes new models lighter
Higher quality bait-runner than Okuma’s version

Cons:

Drag not suited for heavier fish
Small wind on spool

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8. KastKing Kodiak Saltwater Spinning Reel

This reel is aluminum alloy constructed and big fish ready. It is a lightweight long-caster, and is designed to resist the entry of water and sand. Updated with a thicker bail wire, it also has a thicker shaft than previous models that is made of stainless steel. The reel has 11 ball bearings and expertly avoids line breaks.

KastKing Kodiak Saltwater Spinning Reel

Key Features:

◉ Lightweight
◉ Surprisingly powerful
◉ Watertight

Pros:

Fast gear ratio
Heavy-duty drag for its size

Cons:

Low line capacity
Plastic screw on the handle comes out easily
This reel has little-man syndrome. It’s very strong but relative to its small size.

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9. Penn Clash Spinning Fishing Reel

This tough cookie is designed for saltwater fights. It has full-metal construction and features eight ball bearings. Equipped with a carbon fiber drag, this spinning reel is corrosion resistant and boasts of being able to withstand years of big-fish battles. We believe it.

Penn Clash Spinning Fishing Reel

Key Features:

◉ Saltwater durability
◉ Smooth line retrieve
◉ Monofilament line and braid functionality

Pros:

Durability
Same as Penn Conflict

Cons:

Same as the Penn Conflict, with a few more bells and whistles

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10. Daiwa BG Spinning Reels

These next-gen reels are so duty-specific that we had to list number 10 on our list as a series. They range from the super lightweight fresh-water versions to saltwater hunks that boast of seven ball bearings standard. They are professionally equipped with Daiwa’s Infinite instant anti-reverse and dual anti-reverse systems, and the quality of these reels is unmatched. No matter your fishing preference, the Daiwa BG line has you covered.

Daiwa BG Spinning Reels

Daiwa BG Spinning Reels

Key Features:

◉ Black aluminum gear housing and sides
◉ Fast line retrieve
◉ One year warranty on every model

Pros:

Lightweight
Extremely sturdy internally

Cons:

No spare spool
None more that we could find. These reels do not come heavily greased, so you might need to apply some lube before first usage. In light of the recent trend in reels being packaged overly saturated, however, this could be regarded as a plus depending on your preference.

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Best Spinning Reel for the Money: Our Smartest Pick for Your Buck

In comparing and contrasting the features, pros and cons of each of the above incredibly-versatile spinning reels, we chose our best fish catcher out of the next-gen Daiwa BG line. Which one, you ask? Easy. The 5000. We chose this particular spinning reel out of eight others in the BG series: the 1500, 2000, 2500, 3000, 3500, 4000, 4500, 6500, and 8000 (the sizing in these reels runs large. A Penn 6000 is equivalent to the BG 5000; and a Penn 8000 equals the BG 6500, so check the line capacities). We think the BG 5000 is the most ambidextrous of the bunch. Here is a more in-depth breakdown of the reel’s specs:

Anodized Machined-Aluminum Body and Sides

It’s common knowledge at this point that anodized aluminum is better suited for saltwater than painted aluminum. Daiwa has taken this standard a step further with its thick anodization of this spinning reel that will stand up to wear and tear better than previous modes of anodization. Because of this, your reel will stand the test of time and greatly resist salt corruption.

Over-sized Digigear (Digigear™ System)

These larger than life gears are cut digitally on a CNC machine, allowing for a very efficient line retrieve and the life extension of your spinning reel. The reason for this is that larger gears mean more real estate for a wider range of gear contact, resulting in an unbelievably smooth experience and creating less tension on each gear segment. As you’ve probably deduced, this means more torque power as well; so get ready to land the bad boys.

Solid Screw-In Handle

Daiwa’s opting for the higher quality screw-in handle design over the through handle option allows for zero play between the arm and handle gear, making for a professionally tweaked crank that you can feel.

Air Rotor

Daiwa’s air rotor construction helps to balance out the reel by equalizing the amount of stress placed on the tool as a whole. And somehow, the spinning reel manages to remain significantly lighter than previous designs. Keep in mind that the term, “air rotor,” describes design, not material.

This rotor is formed of the plastic that comes standard in all models and is usually referred to as graphite in common specifications. This is not a con, but is one area where Daiwa did not match the quality of higher-end models that are made from carbon-enforced plastic. Plastic makes for lightweight equipment, though, and takes pressure off the arm.

Dynamic Cut Aluminum ABS Spool

This is where the 5000 shines as a pro caster. Good casting means even line flow off the spool, and on this model the line is able to be loaded smoothly right up to the lip’s edge. This sort of expert crafting in the spool’s design results in quite a few less knots from line blowing around in the wind, as well as less twisting overall inside the reel.

Braided Line Ready Spool

In the middle of Daiwa’s ABS spool, they placed a rubber ring that allows the braided line access directly to the spool without needing monofilament backing.

Carbon ATD Drag System

This ATD, tournament-ready drag system is fashioned with carbon fiber washers that are cross-cut to provide a buttery-smooth drag from the moment you hook a monster until you land it into the boat. In other reels of this class there is common jerks to be found in using the drag, but not here. Daiwa has truly outdone themselves with the value of this reel.

6BB+1RB

As mentioned, this reel boasts of seven ball bearings that are supremely anti-corrosive. The BG has a creative design in which the right bearing is free-floating as opposed to containing a stop in the reel’s frame. This allows for extremely close gear functionality from the opposite side that results in the greatest contact, and thus the spinning reel has no play in the handle.

This does make the reel tough to disassemble, but not unbearably so. The bearing is attached to the drive with a spring clip, which must be taken off with small tools before the pieces of the gear house can be removed by at the same time slipping them out at various angles. This requires four arms to take apart, and six to put back together.

On top of this, you will be inserting the backup anti-reverse system’s wire spring skillfully into the dog and then putting the ball bearing in on the opposite side, all while holding the spring inside the dog to make sure it doesn’t pop out. Take your time! As for lubing this reel, however, it could not be simpler: just open the side cover and everything stays together.

Infinite Dual Anti-Reverse System

For the 4500 and up versions of this spinning reel, a roller bearing dual anti-reverse system is standard, with a top-notch dog and ratchet for a mechanical, reliable backup. More on this below.

Manual Bail, drag-clicking grooves, tough interior

The 4500 and up in the Daiwa BG series features a manual bail (which we prefer), superior drag-clicking grooves, sturdier springs and interior design, and a full-time dual anti-reverse drag system with a stainless-steel mechanical backup (most reels in this class come with a plastic, ‘pretend’ backup). Therefore, the 5000 can land the larger fish in fresh water as well as those saltwater fighters, and is even good for jigging.

It’s an excellent caster that outshines in quality the Penn Battle II (our second best spinning reel for the money), and comes equipped standard with a 5.7:1 gear ratio. And man, is it silky-smooth like butter on glass! The drag on this beast is strong and silent, like a brooding Bruce Wayne: classy and ready for action.

Made with Love

This spinning reel truly goes above and beyond. For example, there is a tiny hole drilled through the spool wall to drain recess water if you decide to store your reel braided (which you should never do). It is small touches like these that let us know Daiwa really cares.

Also, the anti-reverse system is held together with individually-fitted metal springs. If used within the parameters of the reel’s torque power, this added attention to detail will mean a much longer lifespan for your anti-reverse than can be expected from most others in its class.

And the ball bearings? They’re Japanese made and the same sort found in higher-end reels that can cost up to 1,000 dollars! Many reels priced up to 700 dollars do not even come standard with ball bearings of this quality.

We could continue praising this spinning reel, but you have fishing to do. It’s all of these above reasons and more that we recommend the Daiwa BG 5000. It is truly one of the most innovative reels on the market, guaranteed to meet any angler’s need under the sun.

This Fisherman’s Review: the Best Spinning Reel for You

We thank you for your interest in our article and love for the sport of fishing. Each of the above reels were carefully considered and reported on with an attention to what makes each one unique. While all are quality spinning reels, our conclusion is that the Daiwa BG brand is putting pressure on other companies to follow suit in giving fishermen higher-end reels at more affordable prices.

We have no affiliation with Daiwa whatsoever, other than supporting their commitment to putting fish in your boat.

No matter which spinning reel you choose, we hope you’ve enjoyed our analysis of these 2018 brands and are better for it. Now, it’s time to stop reading and start slaying and filleting like it’s going out of style! Happy fishing with your new reel.