Field Test Results for The Most Popular Spinning Reels

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Written By Russ Egan

Russ is a professional fisherman with over 20 years of experience. He has fished all over the world for more than two decades, primarily for saltwater game fish but also for local trophy fish. Russ comprehensively tests and reviews all his fishing gear to help others achieve their own fishing goals. There is nothing he prefers than heading down to his local tackle store, buying the latest fishing reel, and taking it to the water to test.


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The best spinning reels have a smooth retrieve, sufficient line capacity, plenty of max drag, durable drag washers, corrosion-resistant materials, lightweight design, and a gear ratio suited to your target species.

The Pflueger President is my top choice because of its smooth retrieve, powerful drag, and affordable price tag. It features 10+1 stainless steel ball bearings, a durable steel casing, and corrosion-resistant materials. It is ideal for anglers who are looking for a durable and high-performance reel that is great value for money.

I have evaluated high-quality spinning reels over the last decade of my fishing journey to help you avoid wasting your time and money on a dud. I have tried and tested each of these reels extensively, and I am sure that you will be able to find a spin reel that suits your target species and particular circumstances.

Best Spinning Reel
Pflueger President Spinning Reel

Pflueger President Spinning Reel

  • 10 stainless steel ball bearings
  • Graphite body and rotor
  • Lightweight graphite reel construction.
  • Braid ready spool
  • HT-100 carbon fiber drag system provides powerful drag
Best Value for Money
Penn Battle III Spinning Reel

Penn Battle III Spinning Reel

  • Full Metal Body and sideplate
  • HT-100 carbon fiber drag washers
  • 5+1 sealed stainless steel ball bearing system
  • Line Capacity Rings
  • Braid Ready Superline spool
Best Budget Option
Okuma Ceymar Spinning Reel

Okuma Ceymar Spinning Reel

  • Saltwater Ready
  • 7+1 Ball Bearings
  • Multi-disc Drag System
  • Extremely Lightweight Design

These have been ranked based on my tried and tested experimentation over years of angling based on performance, durability, and value for money.

This chart shows a summary of the best spinning reels in terms of their performance compared to their cost. The reels in the top left corner are the best value-for-money options.

Chart of the Best Spinning Reels Performance vs Cost
A Chart showing the Best Spinning Reels in terms of their performance compared to their cost

1. Pflueger President Spinning Reel

Pflueger President Spinning Reel
  • 9+1 Stainless Steel Ball Bearings
  • Oil Coated Drag Washers
  • Lightweight Graphite Body
  • Comfortable Rubber Handle Knob

I can confidently assert that the Pflueger President series ranks among the most distinguished spinning reels available, offering exceptional performance without breaking the bank. For those dedicated to angling, this reel is undoubtedly a wise investment.

Model Tested: Pflueger President PRESSP40X

I have fished with this extensively for bass in freshwater and inshore saltwater for redfish. I used a 4000-sized reel with a 6′ Ugly Stik Platinum fast-action rod.

A testament to its durability, the President boasts a robust metal body, top-tier handle, and metal-encased rotor. In my professional opinion, the longevity of a reel directly contributes to its overall value.

Another impressive feature is the high-quality, precision-engineered bearing system, encased in steel for superior protection in saltwater environments.

One feature I appreciated was the Sure-Click bail. This provides a distinct snap sound when the bail is opened, ensuring I was always aware of its position. An on/off instant anti-reverse bearing is also included for added convenience.

I also appreciate the remarkable lightweight design of each model, which greatly reduced muscle fatigue after I spent an entire day spent fishing.

Key Specifications

  • Gear Ratio: 5.2:1
  • Bearings: 10 stainless steel ball bearings (includes an instant anti-reverse bearing)
  • Max Drag: 14 lb
  • Line Retrieve Rate: 28.5 inches/crank
  • Braid Capacity (Yards/lbs): 250/14, 220/20, 160/30
  • Mono Capacity (Yards/lbs): 230/10, 215/12, 165/14
  • Weight: 10.9 oz
  • Reel Sizes: Sizes available in the series include 20, 25, 30, 35, and 40)


  • Metal body, high-quality handle, and metal-encased rotor ensure longevity.
  • Precision-engineered and steel-cased for superior performance in saltwater environments.
  • The Sure-Click bail provided a distinct snap sound when opened to help increase my awareness of the bail position.
  • The lightweight design reduced muscle fatigue during extended periods of fishing.
  • It offers affordable professional-level performance without breaking the bank.


  • It is not the most affordable option for casual anglers or those on a tight budget.
  • It does not cater to all angling needs or preferences because of its limited size range.
  • The steel casing offers some corrosion protection but isn’t as corrosion-resistant as specialized saltwater reels.
  • Its popularity may result in limited stock or longer wait times for purchase.


I have ranked the Pflueger President as the best reel on my list because this well-crafted spinning reel has a reputation for performance and durability. It is also among the lightest on the market. 

2. Penn Battle III Spinning Reel

Penn Battle III Spinning Reel
  • Saltwater Ready
  • HT-100 Drag Washers
  • Extremely Durable Material
  • Wide Range of Sizes Available
  • High Speed Options for Fast Moving Lures

I can comfortably endorse the Penn Battle III Spinning Reel as one of the best value-for-money spinning reels.

A high-quality spinning reel is essential for enjoyable fishing and minimizing fish loss. The Penn Battle Spinning Reel consistently delivers outstanding performance while maintaining user-friendly operation.

Model Tested: Penn Battle BTLIII2500

I took my 2500-sized Penn Battle III to a local bass fishing tournament, which means I spent many hours hard fishing with fast moving lures requiring accurate casting around weeds and structure.

The Battle III ranks among my favorite reels and frequently tops my recommendations, depending on individual requirements. I have spent countless fishing trips skillfully fighting trophy fish armed with a Penn Battle reel.

The Penn Battle series offers a diverse range of sizes from 1000 to 8000, catering to various angling needs.

Notably, the gear ratios vary depending on the model. The 2500-4000 models boast a 6:2:1 gear ratio, while the 5000 and 6000 versions have a 5:6:1 ratio. The largest model, the 8000, features a 5:3:1 gear ratio. All models come equipped with six ball bearings, further contributing to their impressive performance.

Key Specifications

  • Gear Ratio: 6.2:1 (varies across models: 5.6:1 for 5000 and 6000, 5.3:1 for 8000)
  • Bearings: 6 stainless steel ball bearings
  • Max Drag: 12 lbs
  • Line Retrieve Rate: 33 inches/crank
  • Braid Capacity (Yards/lbs): 240/10, 220/15, 160/20
  • Mono Capacity (Yards/lbs): 255/6, 175/8, 140/10
  • Weight: 10.3 oz
  • Reel Sizes: 1000, 2500, 3000, 4000, 5000, 6000, and 8000


  • The full metal body and side plates provide increased rigidity and longevity.
  • 5+1 stainless steel bearing system offers smooth operation and corrosion resistance.
  • Powerful HT-100 carbon fiber drag system ensures consistent and powerful performance.
  • Available in various sizes (1000 to 8000) to accommodate different angling needs and preferences.
  • Superline spool with line capacity rings enables better line management and spooling.


  • The full metal construction makes the reel heavier than some competitors, potentially causing fatigue during extended use.
  • It is not the most budget-friendly option for casual anglers or those with financial constraints.
  • Some models lack fully sealed components, so they aren’t suitable for saltwater.

What is the difference between the Penn Battle II and Battle III?

The Battle III comes with the upgraded body, rotor, and bail design of the Slammer III. This gives the Battle III improved durability and performance, albeit at a higher cost. If you can afford the difference, I recommend the newer option.


Don’t let the weight of Penn’s Battle spinning reel trick you – this reel is not lightweight. The Battle II range is a solid workhorse reel that suits freshwater and saltwater anglers.

If you expect your reels to handle the stress and strain that a lifetime of hard angling can deliver, then the Penn Battle is a great choice. I love my Battle III and will continue to use it for freshwater angling.

3. Pflueger Supreme XT Spinning Reel

Pflueger Supreme XT Spinning Reel
  • Long Distance Casting Reel
  • Extremely High Line Capacity
  • 10 Corrosion Resistant Ball Bearings
  • Sealed Carbon Drag System

The Pflueger Supreme XT is one of the top long-distance spinning reels available.

Pflueger is a reputable manufacturer, well-deserving of recognition for producing some of the finest saltwater reels on the market. The Pflueger Supreme XT Spinning Reel consistently receives high ratings for its performance.

Model Evaluated: Pflueger Supreme SUPXTSP30X

I borrowed a Pflueger Supreme 3000 from a friend of mine, and spent a weekend chasing trophy bass in the heat of summer.

This reel expertly combines a lightweight design with top-notch gearing and ball-bearing features. I can attest to its durability and superior performance when dragging, casting, and cranking based on my extensive experience in the field.

The Supreme XT is suitable for diverse fish and angling situations, offering remarkable lightness at a competitive price point.

The Pflueger Supreme XT also boasts the longest line capacity among the leading fishing reels, enabling you to cast further and battle larger fish for extended periods.

The Supreme XT Spinning reel series includes four models, each weighing 9.6 ounces. Its sealed carbon system ensures consistent lubrication, enhancing its performance and durability.

Key Specifications

  • Gear Ratio: 6.2:1
  • Bearings: 10 stainless steel ball bearings
  • Max Drag: 10 lbs (ranges from 6 lbs for the 25 model up to 14 lbs for the 40 model)
  • Line Retrieve Rate: 31.8 inches/crank
  • Braid Capacity (Yards/lbs): 275/6, 190/8, 160/10
  • Mono Capacity (Yards/lbs): 225/4, 145/6, 130/8
  • Weight: 6.8 oz
  • Reel Sizes: Available in sizes 25, 30, 35, and 40


  • The magnesium body and rotor provide reduced weight and increased durability.
  • I valued the 10 stainless steel ball bearings that provided smooth operation and resistance to corrosion.
  • The sealed carbon drag system delivers consistent and smooth drag performance, and makes it saltwater ready.
  • The braid-ready spool allows for braid to be tied directly to the spool without slipping.
  • Notable line capacity enables longer casts and extended battles with larger fish.


  • It is a more expensive option compared to other spinning reels in the market.
  • Only available in four sizes, which won’t cater to all angling preferences or needs.
  • While lightweight, magnesium is not as corrosion-resistant as aluminum, which may affect long-term performance in saltwater conditions.


The Supreme XT spinning reel will give you a smooth casting experience. It is incredibly versatile and suitable for a wide range of fishing applications, so it has ranked 3rd overall.

I rate it as the best spinning reel for bass, and one of the few that I would choose over a baitcaster. I’ve caught a lot of bass on this reel and would happily use it on my next fishing adventure.

4. ​Shimano Vanford Spinning Reel

Shimano Vanford Spinning Reel
  • Lower Weight than its Predecessor
  • Extremely Durable
  • Long Casting Distance
  • Full of Shimano's Latest Technology

I highly recommend the Shimano Vanford as one of the best saltwater spinning reels available.

When searching for the finest spinning reels at an affordable price, the Shimano Vanford truly stands out as a top contender. Shimano is a brand I consistently favor for fishing reels due to their high-quality products and cutting-edge technology. The Vanford serves as an impressive upgrade to the already popular Stradic Ci4+.

Model Tested: Shimano Vanford VF2500HGF

I have always been a fan of the Stradic, but when I was sent a Vanford 2500 and tried it out for myself, I was blown away. I took it inshore fishing for redfish in both freshwater and brackish conditions. Based on this experience I was impressed with its performance and premium specifications.

This lightweight spinning reel offers an excellent balance of affordability, high performance, and appealing aesthetics. These factors contribute to its standing as one of the premier spinning reels on the market.

The Shimano Vanford features a 6.4:1 gear ratio and weighs under 7 ounces for the most popular sizes, providing an ideal combination of speed and lightweight design.

Key Specifications

  • Gear Ratio: 6.4:1
  • Bearings: 6+1 S A-RB (shielded stainless steel ball bearings)
  • Max Drag: 20 lb
  • Line Retrieve per Crank: 35 inches
  • Braid Capacity (Yards/lbs): 145/15, 105/30, 70/50
  • Mono Capacity (Yards/lbs): 210/2, 140/4, 110/6
  • Weight: 6.3 oz
  • Reel Sizes: Available in sizes 500, 1000, 2500, 3000, 4000, and 5000


  • CI4+ body construction ensures reduced weight and increased durability.
  • Its Hagane Gear and MicroModule Gear II provide exceptional smoothness and overall performance.
  • SilentDrive technology eliminates handle play and reduces noise for a quieter, smoother experience.
  • The long Stroke Spool enhances casting distance and accuracy.
  • Shimano is renowned for producing high-quality fishing reels and cutting-edge technology.
  • It is much more affordable than the Shimano Stella


  • It is more expensive than some other spinning reels on the market.
  • Its popularity often results in limited stock or longer wait times for purchase.
  • Only available in six sizes, which won’t cater to all angling preferences or needs.
  • While lightweight, the Ci4+ carbon-infused material it not as rigid or durable as a full metal body construction.


The Shimano Vanford is one of my favorite spinning reels for small saltwater fish species. It is one of the most popular spinning reels in the United States and has a good combination of low weight, affordable price, high performance, and high-quality manufacture.

I had to return the Vanford 2500 reel I was sent, and I haven’t purchased one for my own personal collection yet, but it is certainly one of the next reels that I will be buying.

5. Daiwa BG Spinning Reel

Daiwa BG Spinning Reel
  • Saltwater Ready
  • Braid Ready - No Mono Backing Required
  • Machined Aluminum Housing
  • Infinite Anti-Reverse System

I can attest to Daiwa’s significant effort in upgrading its technology to develop the outstanding Daiwa BG spinning reel. This reel incorporates state-of-the-art materials and advanced technologies to strike an impressive balance between performance and durability.

Model Tested: Daiwa BG3000

I have owned a Daiwa BG 3000-sized reel for many years. I have fished with it extensively offshore for reef species. It is the kind of reel that I can throw in the back of the truck without worrying about damaging it. It is hardy and tough – the exact kind of reel I would lend to a careless friend,

One of the most notable features of the Daiwa BG is its full metal body, which acts as a protective shield against wear and tear, ensuring long-lasting performance. The anodized machined aluminum housing further enhances the reel’s durability, making it a reliable choice for anglers seeking a robust spinning reel.

The Daiwa BG series is available in various sizes, with the larger models specifically designed to tackle big game saltwater species. These larger reels are engineered to handle the demands of fighting powerful fish while maintaining smooth performance and reliability.

In addition to its robust construction, the Daiwa BG boasts a smooth and powerful drag system, allowing anglers to confidently handle any fishing situations. The reel’s advanced gear technology ensures smooth operation and seamless gear engagement, providing an enjoyable and efficient fishing experience.

Key Specifications

  • Gear Ratio: 5.6:1 (varies across models)
  • Bearings: 6+1 stainless steel ball bearings
  • Max Drag: 15.4 lbs
  • Line Retrieve per Crank: 37.4 inches
  • Braid Capacity (Yards/lbs): 280/10, 220/15, 150/20
  • Mono Capacity (Yards/lbs): 240/8, 200/10, 170/12
  • Weight: 10.8 oz
  • Reel Sizes: Available in sizes 1500, 2000, 2500, 3000, 3500, 4000, 4500, 5000, 6500, and 8000


  • Its full metal body offers increased durability and rigidity, ensuring long-lasting performance.
  • Anodized machined aluminum housing enhances corrosion resistance and overall durability.
  • Smooth drag system provides powerful and consistent drag performance.
  • A wide range of sizes accommodates different angling preferences and needs, including larger models for big game saltwater species.


  • Some models are heavier compared to other spinning reels in the market.
  • It is more expensive than some other spinning reels on the market.
  • While the body and housing are durable, some internal components are not be fully sealed against water intrusion, potentially affecting long-term performance in saltwater conditions.


The Daiwa BG is one of my personal favorites because of its balanced design – it has high performance, is well made from high-quality materials, is durable, and has solid specifications. You can do much worse, particularly at such a low price range.

It is my pick of a rough-and-tumble reel that can survive bumps, drops, trucks, and boats without damage.

6. Okuma Ceymar Spinning Reel

Okuma Ceymar Spinning Reel
  • Saltwater Ready
  • 7+1 Ball Bearings
  • Multi-disc Drag System
  • Extremely Lightweight

As an experienced angler, I understand the importance of having a reliable spinning reel in my arsenal. The Okuma Ceymar Spinning Reel is one such option that has impressed me with its smooth retrieve, beautiful design, and precision in operation, especially considering its budget-friendly price tag.

Model Tested: Okuma Ceymar C-30

One of the standout features of the Okuma Ceymar series is the availability of five different styles, each catering to specific purposes and angling preferences. I liked this versatility, that makes it a suitable choice for a wide range of fishing situations:


Ideal for small ice fishing outfits, the C-10 is perfect for targeting sunfish, trout, bluegill, and crappie with a 2 to 6-pound test fishing line. Pair it with an ultra-light fishing rod for optimal performance.

C-30 and C-40

These intermediate sizes offer versatile performance in freshwater. The C-30 is excellent for finesse applications such as jigging walleye or drop-shotting bass using a 6 to 8-pound fishing line. The C-40, with its larger capacity, is designed for bigger fish such as catfish and steelhead, and can accommodate a 10 to 12-pound line.


When it comes to inshore saltwater fishing, the C-55 shines, being capable of handling larger fish like snook, striped bass, redfish, and shallow water bottom fish. It can hold a 15-pound monofilament line of roughly 240 yards, or a 20 to 30-pound braided line of similar lengths.


Designed for jetty, pier, and big water fishing, the C-65 is equipped to handle oversized fish with its higher cranking power and max drag. It’s perfect for saltwater jetty and pier casting and targeting big river and lake fish like catfish in freshwater.

Key Specifications

  • Gear Ratio: 5.0:1
  • Bearings: 7+1 stainless steel ball bearings
  • Max Drag: 13 lbs
  • Line Retrieve per Crank: 25 inches
  • Braid Capacity (Yards/lbs): 160/8, 130/10, 110/12
  • Mono Capacity (Yards/lbs): 200/6, 160/8, 110/10
  • Weight: 8.2 oz
  • Reel Sizes: Available in sizes 10, 30, 40, 55, and 65


  • With sizes from 1000 to 6500, the Okuma Ceymar series caters to various fishing situations and preferences.
  • The 7+1 stainless steel ball bearings provide a smooth retrieve and precise operation.
  • It offers a reliable and high-quality spinning reel option at an affordable price.
  • The multi-disc, oiled felt drag system ensures smooth and consistent drag performance for better control during fights with fish.
  • The sleek and modern aesthetics make the Okuma Ceymar a visually appealing choice.


  • The oiled felt drag system wears out faster than carbon or ceramic in some other reels.
  • Some models have a lower line capacity than competitors, limiting the ability to target larger fish or cast longer distances.
  • Some models are slightly heavier than comparable spinning reels in the market.
  • While suitable for freshwater fishing, the Okuma Ceymar does not have the best corrosion resistance for extended use in saltwater environments.
  • Depending on the model, the max drag is lower than other spinning reels in the same price range.


The Okuma Ceymar is a brilliant entry-level spinning reel. It performs well and is lightweight and reliable compared to this category’s other reels. If price is an object then look at this option, I recommend it for budget-conscious beginner anglers.

I don’t own a Ceymar anymore, as I prefer more advanced technologies, but I do recommend it for people on a tight budget who just want something to get the job done.

7. Penn Fierce IV Spinning Reel

Penn Fierce III Spinning Reel
  • Saltwater Ready
  • 4 Stainless Steel Ball Bearings
  • Versatile Size Models Available
  • Line Capacity Rings

I always appreciate a spinning reel that performs well and looks great. The Penn spinning reel has left a lasting impression on me with its sleek design and incredibly smooth retrieve. I highly recommend it to anyone who hasn’t tried a Penn reel before – it truly sets itself apart from other reel manufacturers.

Model Tested: Penn Fierce FRCIV3000

I took a Penn Fierce IV 3000-sized reel kayak fishing, spooled with 15 lb mono to protect it from abrasion around structure.

When retrieving a lure, this Penn spinning reel ranks among the best fishing reels I’ve ever used. One feature that stood out to me was its impressive max drag, ensuring that it can handle the fight when reeling in larger fish.

This Penn spinning reel is available in a range of sizes, starting from 2500 and going up to 8000. This versatility allows anglers to select the perfect model to suit their specific needs, whether targeting smaller freshwater species or larger saltwater fish.

Overall, the Penn spinning reel is an excellent combination of aesthetics, smooth performance, and high max drag. It is a top choice for anglers seeking quality and reliability in their gear. Give it a try, and you’ll understand why I say it’s unlike any other reel on the market.

Key Specifications

  • Gear Ratio: 6.2:1
  • Bearings: 4+1 stainless steel ball bearings
  • Max Drag: 15 lbs
  • Line Retrieve per Crank: 35 inches
  • Braid Capacity (Yards/lbs): 180/10, 165/15, 110/20
  • Mono Capacity (Yards/lbs): 200/8, 165/10, 120/12
  • Weight: 11.6 oz
  • Reel Sizes: Available in sizes 1000, 2500, 3000, 4000, 5000, 6000, and 8000


  • The full metal body and sideplate are durable and maintain gear alignment under heavy loads.
  • The HT-100 carbon fiber drag washers offered a smooth, powerful drag system with minimal wear.
  • Heavy-duty aluminum bail wire ensures reliable line management and long-lasting performance.
  • The Penn Fierce IV spinning reel is available in multiple sizes, making it suitable for various fishing situations and target species.
  • The reel offers a reliable, high-quality spinning reel option at a competitive price.


  • Some models are heavier than comparable spinning reels, which could affect comfort during extended use.
  • With 4+1 stainless steel ball bearings, the reel doesn’t have as smooth a retrieve as some competing models with more bearings.
  • While suitable for freshwater fishing, the Penn Fierce IV does not have the best corrosion resistance for extended use in saltwater environments.
  • Depending on the model, the max drag may be lower than other spinning reels in the same price range.
  • Some anglers may prefer a more modern or unique design than the Penn Fierce IV’s more traditional appearance.


This fishing combo has got everything you want from a reliable reel. The Penn Fierce is a favorite among anglers everywhere.

If you want an affordable, powerful, and durable spinning reel that delivers, look at Penn.

I have upgraded away from the Penn Fierce primarily due to its lack of saltwater suitability and its lower ball bearings. There is a noticeable lack of a smooth retrieve compared to more expensive options.

8. Shimano Sienna FG Spinning Reel

Shimano Sienna Spinning Reel
  • I Have Tested This Extensively in Saltwater
  • Extremely Affordable and Great Value for Money
  • Propulsion Line Management System
  • Graphite Reel, Frame, and Side Plate

I tested a Shimano Sienna FG 4000 spinning reel I purchased from Tackle World purely for this test case. I spooled it with a 10 lb monofilament fishing line and went to my local fishing hot spot to test it. I paired this reel with an Ugly Stik Platinum Spinning Rod that was around 7 feet long and lightweight.

Model Tested: Shimano Sienna SN4000FG

The Shimano Sienna FG is a reliable and affordable spinning reel that delivers excellent performance, making it an ideal choice for both beginners and experienced anglers. From the moment I picked it up, I could tell that this reel was built to last, with a solid construction and high-quality materials.

One of the standout features of the Sienna FG is its smooth operation, thanks to the 3+1 ball bearing system. The reel’s retrieve is consistently smooth and precise, which makes for an enjoyable fishing experience. The M-Compact Body design ensures the oscillation gear is closer to the rod, improving the reel’s balance and reducing angler fatigue during long fishing sessions.

The Sienna FG’s propulsion line management system also impressed me, as it helps to reduce line twists and wind knots, leading to better casting performance. This particularly benefits anglers who often encounter challenging conditions or use lighter lines.

Regarding drag performance, the Sienna FG features the Dyna-Balance system, which eliminates wobble during the retrieve and enhances smoothness. I found this particularly useful when fighting larger fish or dealing with sudden, unexpected movements.

bench testing shimano sienna

Key Specifications

  • Gear Ratio: 5.0:1
  • Bearings: 3+1 ball bearing system (3 ball bearings and 1 roller bearing)
  • Max Drag: 9 lbs
  • Line Retrieve per Crank: 28 inches
  • Line Capacity (mono): 6/200, 8/140, 10/120 (lbs/yards)
  • Line Capacity (braid): 10/150, 15/145, 30/100 (lbs/yards)
  • Weight: 8.8 oz


  • The Shimano Sienna FG offers great value for its price, making it an excellent choice for both beginners and experienced anglers on a budget.
  • The Propulsion Line Management System helps reduce line twists and wind knots, improving casting performance and minimizing frustrations.
  • The reel’s M-Compact body design improves balance and reduces angler fatigue during long fishing sessions.


  • With a 3+1 ball bearing system, the Sienna FG does not offer as smooth a retrieve as some competing models with higher bearing counts.
  • Depending on the model, the max drag may be lower than other spinning reels in the same price range.
  • While suitable for freshwater and light saltwater use, the Sienna FG does not have the best corrosion resistance for extended use in harsh saltwater environments.
Russ testing Shimano Sienna Spinning Reel Inshore Fishing
Russ Testing Shimano Sienna


Shimano is the best spinning reel manufacturer around, and if you want to get their technology at a decent price, then look at the Sienna.

I would certainly recommend looking at some of the more expensive Shimano reels if you have the budget for it, but this reel will do the job – no doubt.

I will note that I did sell my Shimano Sienna after testing it, because of its lack of ball bearings and noticeably rougher retrieve than the reels I generally prefer.

9. Shimano IX Rear Drag Spinning Reel

Shimano IX Rear Drag Spinning Reel
  • Solid Aluminum Frame and Handle
  • Propulsion Line Management System
  • Shielded Ball Bearings
  • Rear Drag is Easier to Adjust During a Fight

Shimano has finally released a spinning model that most anglers or professionals can afford. I love Shimano reels, but they generally have a premium price tag.

Model Tested: IX4000R

You will first notice its sleek blackish look thanks to its stunning mechanical design and excellent drag system. The Shimano IX Spinning Reel is a great spinning reel at a modest price.

One of the first things I noticed about the Shimano IX was its lightweight design, thanks to the graphite frame, side plate, and rotor. This made it comfortable to use during extended fishing sessions, and it’s an excellent option for those who prefer a lighter reel.

The Quick Fire II system incorporated into the Shimano IX is a feature I particularly enjoyed. This one-handed casting system allowed me to quickly and easily cast my line with minimal effort, making it an ideal choice for anglers of all skill levels.

Despite its budget-friendly price, the Shimano IX offers a smooth and reliable performance, featuring a rear drag system that’s easy to adjust. While the drag system is not as sophisticated as those found on more expensive models, it still provides adequate resistance when fighting fish.

The gear ratio of 4.1:1 on the IX1000R model I tested allowed for steady and consistent retrieves. However, some anglers may prefer a faster gear ratio, especially when targeting certain species or using specific techniques.

Key Specifications

  • Gear Ratio: 4.1:1
  • Bearings: 1 ball bearing
  • Max Drag: 7 lbs
  • Line Retrieve per Crank: 19 inches
  • Line Capacity (mono): 2/270, 4/140, 6/110 (lbs/yards)
  • Line Capacity (braid): 10/95, 15/75, 20/65 (lbs/yards)
  • Weight: 8.6 oz


  • Its lightweight design makes it comfortable to use for extended fishing sessions.
  • Quick Fire II system allows for easy and quick one-handed casting.
  • The affordable price makes it accessible for anglers on a budget.
  • The rear drag system provides easy and smooth adjustment of the drag resistance.
  • Varispeed Oscillation improves line lay and casting distance.


  • Basic features and construction do not hold up well under heavy or extreme conditions.
  • Only one ball bearing does not provide the smoothest performance compared to higher-end reels.
  • Its lower gear ratio are not suitable for fast swimming species like bass.
  • Limited line capacity and weight ratings restrict use to panfish and light tackle.

10. Shimano Baitrunner D Spinning Reel

Shimano Baitrunner D Spinning Reel
  • Super Stopper II Anti-Reverse
  • Corrosion Resistant Bearings
  • Propulsion Line Management System
  • Cold Forged Aluminum

Last on our list of the top spinning reels is the Shimano Baitrunner D. If you are worried that spending less means picking a spinning reel without some superb features, then look at the Shimano Baitrunner.

Model Tested: BTR4000D

Shimano paved the way for new fishing technology, especially for someone who wants an excellent saltwater spinning reel on a tight budget. You will get everything you want from this ideal spinning reel.

Shimano is one of my favorite fishing brands because of the attention to detail they put into everything – from the design to the materials and everything in between. Shimano is a byword for quality and durability.

This Baitrunner D series from Shimano offers several medium-sized reels for saltwater. At the same time, these are readily available in four other models from 4000-12000. However, the line capacity of this model starts from 8 Ib mono and 15 Ib in the braid. As it goes high, the line capacity also is shown as 20 Ib mono and 80Ib in braid on the 12000 model of the D series.

Make sure you pick a reel size that suits your needs, depending on the type of fish – predatory fish like mackerel tend to run hard and require longer fishing line spool lengths, while tarpon fight hard and require stronger and thicker fishing line.

Key Specifications

  • Gear Ratio: 4.8:1
  • Bearings: 3+1 ball bearings
  • Max Drag: 15 lbs
  • Line Retrieve per Crank: 28 inches
  • Line Capacity (mono): 8/240, 10/200, 12/160 (lbs/yards)
  • Line Capacity (braid): 15/270, 20/190, 40/145 (lbs/yards)
  • Weight: 16.4 oz


  • Affordable price point
  • Comfortable non-slip grip handles
  • Excellent Line Lay helps produce a long casting distance
  • Able to tackle Lake Trout, Salmon, Crappie, or any large-sized Saltwater Species
  • Shimano produces high-quality products with the latest and greatest technology available.


  • The max drag is low for a saltwater fishing reel.
  • The price tag is higher than the OC version, and doesn’t seem justified based on its features and specifications.
  • Not suitable for smaller fish species – not available in sizes less than 4000.

My Verdict

This reel has excellent engineered qualities. It is a specialist baitrunner design that you would only get if you target particular saltwater species like snapper, stripers, or bluefish.

If you are fishing for these species are have a low hook-up percentage, then you should certainly consider switching to a baitrunner – this will certainly help you to strike at the right time after the fish has swallowed your live bait.

Specification Comparison

It can be difficult to tell the difference between these features and benefits. So let’s focus entirely on the data and the specifications. All of this information is based on a size 3000 reel model.

Spinning ReelScoreBall BearingsSuitable for SaltwaterRetrieve RateGear RatioMax DragWeightMono Capacity (6lb)
Pflueger President5/59+1No31 inches6.2:110 lb7.6 oz145 yards
Penn Battle II5/55+1Yes35 inches6.2:115 lb12.3 oz210 yards
Pflueger Supreme XT5/510No33 inches6.2:112 lb8.0 oz230 yards
Shimano Vanford5/57+1Yes35 inches6.4:120 lb6.4 oz230 yards
Daiwa BG4/56+1Yes37 inches5.6:115 lb10.8 oz280 yards
Okuma Ceymar4/57+1Yes25 inches5.0:115 lb8.1 oz180 yards
Penn Fierce IV3/54+1Yes35 inches6.2:115 lb11.7 oz220 yards
Shimano Sienna3/53+1Yes28 inches5.0:19 lb8.8 oz110 yards
Shimano IX3/50Yes21 inches4.1:17 lb8.6 oz170 yards
Shimano Baitrunner D3/53+1Yes28 inches4.8:115 lb13.5 oz260 yards

How We Rate Products

Russ Egan and Donny Karr have over 40 years of combined fishing experience. We know the difference between a high-quality reel and a poor alternative.

I thoroughly review all products to measure their performance, durability, and value for money. I conduct bench and field testing to check how the product performs. Each reel is tested for at least 8 hours, with a full test taking 2 weeks. This testing results in an overall score that I give to all products. All metrics are scored out of 5.


The performance score is how well this product fulfills its primary purpose. Does it have all the features and optional extras you need to catch the target species? I also interview expert anglers on their experience to build a more comprehensive view of the performance under multiple conditions.

I take all reels down to my local freshwater lake for bass, or inshore fishing off the beach for redfish.

  • Test 1: I confirm that the max drag meets the manufacturer’s specifications using a calibrated scale.
  • Test 2: I test the maximum casting distance using a 1.0-ounce lure.
  • Test 3: I test the accuracy by casting 10 times into a 3 ft diameter circle at 30 yards.
  • Test 4: I check the versatility and the ability to handle multiple uses by field testing with 3 different lures and baits, by actually going fishing.


Durability refers to how long the product will continue functioning. I twist, bend, and break all the products to check their longevity. This score is for the construction materials, the workmanship quality, and the servicing requirements. There are also bonus points for manufacturers’ warranty.

For products I can’t test for long enough, I also consult experts who have been using them for decades to judge their longevity.

  • Test 5: I pull it apart to check the grease and oil levels, how difficult it is to maintain, and whether sand or salt has deposited after use in saltwater.

Value for Money

The final aspect of the scoring system is the price or, more specifically, the value for money. Value for money is a comparison against the closest alternative products, both by the same manufacturer and other brands.

Overall Score

Finally, I average the three scores of performance, durability, and value for money to give the overall score of each product reviewed.

To see more details, please read the complete guide on how I test and evaluate fishing products.

Spinning Reel Buying Guide

Before purchasing a reel, consider some key design factors that make it work. This impacts the equipment’s performance, durability, longevity, and value.

You may not have heard of some of our technical terms, but don’t worry – this section is designed for beginner anglers.

Ball Bearings

Ball bearings are a key indicator of reel performance and how smooth the retrieve feels. The more ball bearings, the more evenly distributed the load around the reel frame and internal gearings. You will notice a fairly clear relationship between the price of a reel and the number of ball bearings.

Pick one with more ball bearings if you are torn between two reels with similar features.

Gear Ratio

The gear ratio refers to the number of turns of the reel’s spool for each handle turn. For example, a gear ratio of 5.0:1 means that 1 turn of the handle gives 5.0 turns of the spool. In reality, this refers to the retrieve speed of the spinning reel and you need to know how you will be using the reel. You will want a higher gear ratio if you intend to quickly retrieve a lure.

Remember that the higher the gear ratio, the less power you can apply. Heavy big gamefish reels often have gear ratios as low as 2.0:1. High-speed baitcasting reels can be as much as 10.0:1 gear ratio.

For spinning reels, I recommend selecting within 5.0:1 and 6.0:1 range. This gives the most versatility and allows you to fish in different styles.

Corrosion Resistance

If there is one thing that can destroy metal machines quickly, it is water and, in particular, saltwater. Anything you can do to avoid rust is worthwhile. But this will be reflected in the price as construction materials improve. If you are doing saltwater fishing or brackish water, you will want to select a corrosion-resistant spinning reel. The best way to get value for money is to increase the reel’s life.

If you only fish in freshwater and never venture into salt, you can pick a cheaper reel made from less robust materials.

Line Capacity

The amount of line you need depends on the size and type of fish you are targeting. Panfish need a lot less line than a tuna that will swim off at full speed as soon as it is hooked.

The more the line capacity, the heavier the reel will be, as the spool needs to be physically larger.

You will also want to consider the fishing line you will use. Braid fishing line has much higher capacity than an equivalent strength mono line.

Max Drag

Finally, a key feature to understand is the maximum drag. This showcases how much weight the drag can apply to the fishing line and the size of fish it can stop. The larger reels come with higher drags, so you can easily pick a suitable model/size of spinning reel to suit your target species. Ensure you get a large enough reel to handle the largest fish you will likely hook.

The last thing you want is to hook a trophy fish and only then discover that your drag is too light.

Previously Recommended Spinning Reels

Shimano Stradic Ci4+

Why I Removed It

The Shimano Stradic Ci4+ was one of the most popular spinning reels due to its balance of performance and cost, but Shimano replaced it with the much-improved Vanford. For this reason, I had to remove the Stradic from my list of recommendations.

Original Review

The Shimano Stradic Ci4+ is our recommendation for best saltwater spinning reel.

If you are looking for the best spinning reels, then the Shimano Stradic CI4+ front drag is the top contender. Shimano are renowned for making high quality products with leading edge technology. They are my favorite brand for fishing reels.

This lightweight spinning reel is designed for fishers who want an affordable option. However, it also gives high performance and looks good with great aesthetics, at least in my opinion. This combines into one of the top spinning reels.

This spinning reel comes with 6:0:1 gear ratio and weighs only 5.6 ounces.

Why I Like It:
  • 6 ball bearings for smooth operations
  • Max Drag of 7-24 pounds depending on the model
  • Line Retrieve of 31 inches per crank
  • Line capacity of 65 – 95 yards depending on the line thickness
  • Front Drag
  • Long casting range
  • Extremely Lightweight
  • Very Affordable
  • Looks Great
  • Well Crafted
  • Designed For Saltwater Use

It is one of my favorite spinning reels for small fish- it also works well in salt water. The Shimano Stradic is one of the most popular reels throughout the United States and has a good combination of low weight, affordable price, high performance, and high quality manufacture.

Okuma Trio High-Speed

Why I Removed It

While I enjoyed the Trio High-Speed by Okuma, it has now been discontinued. While you can still find it from some niche tackle stores, it will very quickly become impossible to purchase.

Original Review

Enjoy a heavy-duty performance in a lightweight reel – Okuma presents us with exactly this in their Trio High Speed option. And the best part is it is under 100 bucks. The Okuma Trio High Speed comes in two colors – black and orange.

There are three different versions – Trio 30S, Trio 40S and Trio 55S.

Why I Like It:

Let’s dig into the benefits and features of this excellent reel. Have a look.

  • Forged aluminum and EVA knobs
  • Like other Okuma reels, the gearing system is elliptical and precise
  • The pinion gears feature ensures long-lasting performance
  • Precision Dual Force Drag System
  • The narrow blade body design gives it maximum control
  • The aluminum component keeps it extremely lightweight.
  • The 9 BB + 1 RB Stainless Steel Bearings
  • Smooth Handle
  • Longer Lasting
  • No Slippage
  • Suitable For The Toughest Fish
  • 9 BB + 1 RB Stainless Steel Bearings
  • Has a different style to normal reels

This reel will not only give you a professional performance but is also incredibly durable and reliable. That’s why this reel has made my list of recommendations for your next fishing trip. 


To wrap up the best spinning reels, we could say that a great reel can be your best friend in your adventurous fishing experience. However, each spinning reel on our list also has an amazing specification. But we can understand that buying decisions are related to affordability, purpose, and preference.

My recommendation is the Pflueger President because of its durability, performance, and value-for-money.

We have also written some more specific guides depending on more stringent requirements:

There are also plenty of other models that I love that didn’t quite make the list, including the Abu Garcia Revo SX and the Penn Pursuit III.

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