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Best Surf Fishing Reels: How to Pick the Right Size, Style, Line, and More

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As an angler, the reel is one of the most important pieces of gear you have.

It has to perform at its best under extreme conditions. Water, friction, and extraordinary force are just a few examples of why you need a reel that can hold up to whatever you throw at it.

Top Surf Fishing Reels

best surf fishing reels
Reels come in many different types, shapes, weights, and sizes. You can’t go wrong investing in a quality reel.

If your reel does not perform as well as it should, or you are not familiar with the particular reel you are using, this could turn into a nightmare on the water.

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Here’s a good example of a nightmare example one of my friend Johnny experienced on a trip:

I was on a trip with a couple of friends and had just purchased an Abu Garcia Baitcast reel, that I was not familiar with and had definitely never used before. My friends were baited up and had already started fishing.

While I was convinced there was nothing to using this baitcaster, I got bated up and on the first cast, “MASSIVE BACKLASH”.

I can’t blame it on the reel as much as I blame myself for not becoming familiar with the reel before I took it out. Also to have to spend almost the entire trip untangling it was not pleasant.

Remember, you can have the best reel on the market, but if you don’t pair it with a quality surf rod and high-quality fishing line…you’re not going to have a good fishing day.

Let’s dive into the various quality surf fishing reels on the market and see which one will benefit you the most.

Casting: Spinning Reel vs Conventional Reel

Spinning Reels

Spinning reels have a very long casting distance And are great for lightweight lures and working with delicate action baits.

Spinning reels can have a larger line capacity (braided Line) than the conventional reel. This can be a major advantage when fighting a “hard-running” fish.

Skip casting is another advantage that spinning reels have over baitcasters. This allows the angler to fish effortlessly around docks and fallen trees.

Spinning reels, for the most part, are trouble free thus making them suitable for any skill level.

Conventional Reels

Conventional Reels offer excellent accuracy due to a shorter rod, on most setups. This, along with the ability to stop the bait at a specific location during cast by “featuring” the line with your thumb, allows the angler to hit a specific spot with almost “bullseye” accuracy

Anglers can opt to use a heavier braid and heavier mono without sacrificing very much casting distance, this allows for more leverage and overall strength.

best surf fishing reels
Pick a reel and master it. Don’t worry about having too many different ones until the situation calls for them.

Reel Features

Spinning Reels

On most modern spinning reels, a reel is branded with a model name and number. The brand and model is, of course, your personal choice. Below is a simple guide to understanding what the numbers mean on most modern reels.

Modern spinning reels will usually have the numbers presented in thousands (i.e. 2500) but they may be in double figures (i.e. 25) and occasionally in hundreds (i.e. 250). These examples would be all considered the same sized reel.

Spinning reel sizes

  • 1000 to 3500 (or 10 – 35) class reels are small reels likely to be used for a lightweight 6 – 7ft rod targeting small fish species. Typically the monofilament line weight range for these smaller reels is 2-10lb (1-5 kg) or 4-14 lb braid.
  • 4000 to 5500 (or 40 – 55) class reels are medium sized reels likely for a 6-7ft snapper or barramundi style rod. Typically the monofilament line weight range is 8-14lb (4-7kg) or 8-25lb braid.
  • 6000 to 9500 (or 60 – 95) class reels are large spinning reels to suit varied rod sizes including heavy-weight boat roads or surf / rock fishing rods. Typically the monofilament line weight range is 6-15kg+ or 12-30lb braid.

There are much larger spinning reels which are suitable for surf / rock fishing and game / offshore boat fishing classed from 10000 to 30000 with line weight classes suiting 10-30 kg monofilament line or 30-80 lb braid. These big reels are also good for lure fishing using big poppers for giant trevally and other sport fish.

Conventional Reels

Conventional reels are designed specifically for baitcasting rods and, while versatile, should be reserved for seasoned anglers. Though notorious for tangles, when mastered these reels offer high levels of accuracy and control.

Conventional Reels come in round or low-profile designs.

  • Low profile allows the angler to palm the reel during casting and retrieving which is ideal for sports fishing when targeting bass, barramundi and big bream.
  • A round profile reel generally holds much more line which is ideal for target species that take long runs. These can be good reels for trolling.

Conventional reels come with braking systems which can be adjusted with a spool tensioning knob. This allows the angler to tighten or loosen the spool’s rotation to avoid line backlash otherwise known as the dreaded ‘bird’s nest’.

Adjusting the spool’s rotation is required when using different weighted lures to make a longer, more accurate cast.

Whatever the braking system, learning to thumb a spool during casting allows you to better manage the spool’s rotation to avoid line backlash.

best surf fishing spinning reels
Don’t let a bad reel get in the way of a great fishing day!

How to Care for Your Surf Fishing Reel

To ensure the longevity of your reel, make sure you give it a good clean after every saltwater, brackish water or dirty freshwater fishing trip.

The easiest way to clean a reel is to give it a gentle rinse with fresh water. Every now and then it pays to remove the spool and handle and give any moving parts a little oil. A little bit of TLC can go a long way to extending a reel’s life.

Avoid opening any reel casings as they’re tightly packed with small washers, springs, and cogs and losing one can be painful. Leave this to a registered technician.

Surf Fishing Reel Buyer’s Checklist

  • What type of fish will you be going after? This is important to know to decide which size reel and line will best suit you.
  • What type of conditions do you expect to be fishing in? If you plan to be primarily in saltwater, you will want to make sure the reel you choose is ‘watertight” to prevent corrosion from the bearings to prolong the life of your reel.
  • What Is your skill and experience level? This is important in deciding the difference between a conventional and a spinning reel, in part because of the ease of use of the spinning reel.
  • What is your budget? There are many reels out there that are budget friendly without necessarily sacrificing quality.
best spinning surf fishing reels
Enjoy the day fishing, not untangling your reel

Best Surf Fishing Reels Reviews

Best Saltwater Spinning Reel

Shimano Stradric Ci4+ 4000

Sale
Shimano Stradic Ci4+ 4000 FB Spinning Fishing Reel With Front Drag, STCI44000FB
  • Gear Ratio: 4.8:1, Weight: 8.10 ounce, Max. drag...
  • Mono Line Capacity (lbs/yd): 8/240, 10/200, 12/160
  • PowerPro Line Capacity (lbs/yd): 15/280, 30/170,...

One of the most important parts of a reel is the housing and most of the better reels have an aluminum or graphite housings. While this has been the material of choice for most anglers, because of its lightweight and durability, Shimano has introduced a material that is 20 percent stronger.

This material is called Ci4 (carbon interfusion with 4 electrons). This material resembles carbon and makes the reel housing much stronger. The Ci4 material may feel somewhat like granite but is undeniably more rigid and remarkably less stiff than aluminum.

The Stradic Ci4 includes the Propulsion Lip Design which helps reduce friction. This design also helps eliminate possible backlashes and knots that can occur when casting.

The introduction of Ci4 not only adds strength to the Shimano Stradic but also provides corrosion resistance since Ci4 is not a metal, rust is not a concern.

Shimano Stradic Ci4 also has a front drag system that increases the reels durability and performance. This is especially beneficial when fighting a “hard-fighting” species of fish. Another benefit to the front drag system is it is waterproof.

The Shimano Stradic Ci4 has a maximum of 20 lbs of drag that can be adjusted easily in 2 lb increments.

Another bonus to the Shimano Stradic Ci4 4000 is The X-Ship Feature. With this feature, this reel has greater gear durability and increased power.

The principle behind the x-ship feature is that by supporting the pinion gear with bearings on both ends of the shaft, the pinion gear, and the main gear are placed at a better alignment under loads.

Shimano Stradic Ci4 4000 has a rated use or mono, fluorocarbon, and power lines. It has a line retrieval rate of 37 inches per crank and a line capacity (mono) of 8/240, 10/200, and 12/160 (number test/yards) While the line capacity (power) is 15/265, 30/175, and 50/145 (number test/Yards)

Good spinning reels typically have 4 ball bearings, the Shimano Ci 4000 has 6. This ensures smooth performance, support, and stability. Shimano has also upgraded to S-ARB ball bearings which are corrosion resistant.

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Best All-Around Saltwater Spinning Reel

Penn Battle II 3000

Sale
Penn 1338218 Battle II Spinning Reel, 3000
  • Durable, high-range spinning reel ideal for...
  • Full metal body, sideplate, and rotor and...
  • HT-100 carbon fiber drag system provides powerful...

The Penn Battle II 3000 is a popular reel among anglers for its durability, quality, and reasonable cost.

With full metal construction and powerful smooth drag thanks to HT -100 Versa – drag carbon fiber drag system the Penn Battle II 3000 is sure to help you land that big catch.

To make the Penn Battle II 3000 even more smooth it offers 6 ball bearings, which are sealed in the reel to prevent water intrusion that can ultimately lead to corrosion.

The crank handle on the Penn Battle II 3000 can be installed on either side of the reel, depending on whether you are right or left handed. This is made easy by a simple cover you can unscrew to move the handle.

Another advantage the Penn Battle II 3000 offers is that it is fitted with a rubber gasket that prevents Superline from slipping under pressure.

The spool will also accommodate Berkeley or Spiderwire Superline.

The mono capacity for the Penn Battle II 3000 ranges from 200/8; 165/10; 120/12 (yd/lb).

The braid capacity for the Penn Battle II 3000 is 250/15; 180/20; 130/30 (yd/lb).

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Best Long Cast Spinning Reel

Diawa BG

Sale
Daiwa 0001-4136 BG5000 Black Gold (BG)
  • Black Anodized Machined Aluminum Housing ("Hard...
  • Solid Screw-In Handle, Air Rotor, Dynamic Cut...
  • Braided Line Ready Spool, Waterproof Drag System,...

The Daiwa BG is equipped with a machined aluminum body and body cover providing strength and internal part stability. To increase the strength in the form of corrosion and scratch resistance.

Features

  • Black Anodized Machined Aluminum Housing (“Hard Bodyz” Body & Side Cover)
  • Over-sized Digigear (Digigear™ System)
  • Solid Screw-In Handle
  • Air Rotor
  • Dynamic Cut Aluminum ABS Spool
  • Braided Line Ready Spool
  • Waterproof Drag System
  • Carbon ATD
  • Machined Aluminum Screw-In Handle
  • Manual Return Bail (4500 and Larger)
  • 6BB+1RB
  • Infinite Anti-Reverse System (4000 and Smaller)
  • Infinite Dual Anti-Reverse System (4500 and Larger)
  • (BG Series 4500 and Above Have A Manual Trip Bail for Durability)

Daiwa has Black Anodized the body and body cover. The anodization process allows for better adhesion to the aluminum and will not chip or peel like a painted surface, extending the brilliant look of the BG spinning series.

Daiwa BG spinning series have integrated the largest drive gear in the history of Daiwa spinning reels. The benefit to having this oversized gear increases gear-tooth contact points, this provides smoother and extended gear life as well as more power and increased torque.

Daiwa’s Screw-in-Handle design provides zero movements or play between the main gear and handle arm. This lack of movement offers the angler both confidence and control when rotating the handle.

The ABS spool’s maximized core diameter and reversed taper mean 100% usable line. No “dead” line buried in a deep core. You can fill it with a line right up to the edge of the spool lip without fear of tangles. ABS cause less casting friction for longer and easier casting. The huge spool diameter line flows freely in larger coils and produces less line memory coil. Smaller spool diameter means line flows in tighter coils as well.

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Best Conventional Non-Mag Reel

Diawa Sealine

Daiwa Sealine-X SHA Conventional Saltwater Reel SL-X40SHA 6.1:1 High Speed
  • Free-Floating Spool, separates the spool from the...
  • 3 Bearing System (3CRBB), Massive, six-element...
  • Tough marine bronze and stainless steel gears

Daiwa Sealine SG Line Counter Reels feature three ball bearings and aluminum spools along with built-in, direct drive precision line counters. These reels are great for setting trolling patterns for Salmon, Trout or Walleye.

Features

  • UTD Ultimate Tournament Drag
  • Machined aluminum spool
  • Three ball bearings
  • Automatic engaging clutch
  • Direct drive built-in line counter
  • Rugged, corrosion-proof graphite frame
  • Spool click selector
  • Free-spool adjustment
  • Double-paddle handle (SG17LC3B, SG27LC3BW, SG27LC3BLW)

A great trolling reel for the price, this precision-built Daiwa Sealine B Linecounter Reel features a built-in Sealine line counter that measures in feet.

The spiral-cut gears mesh perfectly for strong cranking power while the tough, fish-fighting three-ball-bearing Power Mesh drive permits slick line payout.

U.T. drag system delivers smooth, fade-resistant control, and a loud spool click keeps you in tune to your line. One-piece composite frame with a machined-aluminum spool.

Automatic, self-engaging clutch. Models 17 and 27W come with a double-paddle handle.

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Best Conventional Mag Reel

Penn Squall Star Drag

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PENN Squall Star Drag
  • Used by professionals worldwide
  • Made using only the highest quality components
  • Tested for quality and durability

Penn Squall Star Drag Conventional Reels are designed from a lightweight graphite frame and outfitted with a free-floating spool due to the Live Spindle design.

Features

  • Lightweight graphite frame
  • Machined and anodized aluminum spool
  • Externally Adjust-Mag casting brake (on 12 and 15 sizes only)
  • Versa-Drag system
  • Versa-Handle
  • High-strength marine grade bronze alloy main gear
  • Precision-machined stainless steel pinion gear
  • Live Spindle Design with free floating spool
  • Shielded stainless steel ball bearings
  • HT-100 drag washers provide smooth drag under heavy loads
  • Stainless steel reel stand
  • Line Capacity Rings
  • Counter-balanced handle with oversized paddle knob

The revolutionary Live Spindle design provides exceptional casting performance by allowing the spool to spin independently of the spindle and pinion gear, which significantly reduces friction experienced from the extreme acceleration of the spool when casting.

Squall Star Drag Conventional Reels are equipped with a Versa-Handle system allowing anglers to choose how long the handle should be in less than a minute.

Assemble the Reels in the long position for more power or assemble in the short position for more speed, your choice.

The externally adjustable Adjusta-Mag braking system utilized on the 12 and 15 sizes create one of the most castable reels in its class.

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FAQ

Q: What size reel is best for surf fishing?

A: It’s personal preference, but for spinning reels, I like either 3000 or 4000 for most surf fishing adventures.

Q: What makes a good fishing reel?

A: Quality and strength of the housing, water tightness (to help prevent corrosion), number of bearings (for durability and added strength)

Q: How to cast a conventional reel?

A: Place your thumb on the spool to prevent the line from coming off while moving the lever all the way back to the “Free” position. Bring the rod back and then forward in one swift motion, releasing the spool during the forward motion, allowing the bait to be cast. Preventing backlash takes practice! Stop the spool with your thumb as the bait enters the water, then move the lever to the correct position for your application.

Q: How to surfcast?

A: For this cast, start with about five feet of line between rod tip and lure. If you are right-handed, your feet will be about the width of your shoulders apart and point down the beach to your right.

With the rod held high, start the lure on a swing that carries it up and away at right angles from the water. When that swing is completed, begin the forward cast. This is a relaxed unhurried movement, and power comes from arms, shoulders and a rotating motion of the upper body.

Q: How far to cast when surf fishing?

A: An ideal surf-fishing rod is 12 to 15 feet long with large line guides. Pair it with a large saltwater spinning reel and 20 to 25-pound test line. With that equipment, you’ll be able to cast a weighted bait up to 100 yds.

A: How to mag a reel?

A: Reel Takedown:

On the cranking side of the reel you will see a little round chrome-retaining pin. Unscrew this pin in the counterclockwise direction. It will not come all the way out but once it is on you will want to pull on it and you will feel it slide back 1mm to 2mm. Hold it in this position with your left hand and then turn the crank in the counterclockwise direction. The whole Side plate should turn and then come free from the frame of the reel. Now slide the spool out and you are ready for business.

Installing The Mags:

You will install two ¼ x ¼ magnets and magnet cups in the side plate opposite from the gearbox / crank side of the reel. Before you glue or epoxy them in be sure to clean the area with lighter fuel. It’s a good idea to clean the backside of the mag cups with lighter fuel as well.

Glue:

Crazy glue gel works great but if you want a permanent fix then use an epoxy. Apply glue or epoxy to the backside of the mag cups and then install them side by side onto the inside of the plastic side plate. They will be a perfect fit in between the little plastic fins on the side plate. Place them on the bottom side of the side plate rather than the topside as in the picture. This will allow the clicker to function properly. Be sure to not push them up to tight against the round clicker spring. This will make the clicker malfunction. Hold the cups firmly for a minute or two until the glue sets.

Putting In The Magnets:

Once the glue has dried you are ready to install the magnets. You simply place the magnets inside of the magnet cups where they are held in place by magnetic force. By placing one magnet in with the north field facing towards the spool and the other with the south field facing the spool you will achieve maximum mag force on the spool. If the spool is still to fast with the mags in North South configuration then you can take small flat washers and place them inside the magnet cups to shim the magnets closer to the spool.

If the reel is to slow for you with the mags in North South configuration then you can flip one over and put them in so they are both North North or South South. This will create less magnetic force and allow for a faster spool. If it is still to slow then simply remove one of the magnets from the magnet cup.

Putting The Reel Back Together:

Simply slide the spool back in. Then place the gearbox / crank side plate back into the frame. You will see little groves where the side plate lines up with the frame.

Be sure and hold up the retaining pin out and then twist the side plate back into place. Once it stops turning let go of the retaining pin and it should drop down into the reel.

Next, tighten the retaining pin by twisting it in a clockwise direction. It should screw in with little effort. If it feels like it is not screwing in or it is hard to turn to STOP! Unscrew it and twist the spool a little bit until you feel it drop into place.

Once the Pin is in place and you have tightened it up you are ready to go fishing!

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