The Best Spinning Reel for the Money – A Buyer’s Guide
Let’s go into more depth as to what can separate spinning reels from each other. This is important in finding the best spinning reel for the money. Understanding why a reel around 200 dollars is going to be so much higher quality than, say, a 30 dollar spinning reel will help you make a better purchase. Hopefully by the time you are done reading this guide, you’ll have a much better understanding of what type of reel you normally like and it’s just a matter of narrowing it down to the brand you want to buy. There are four main things to consider when searching for the best spinning reel for the money:
- Ball Bearings
- Gear Ratio
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Features to Look for When Buying a Spinning Reel
For starters and most obviously, the frames vary widely from each other. This is where weight is added on or subtracted, and also where comfort and ergonomics rule. Also, the frames must be built out of good material to last a long time, through many dunkings, and many drops from various heights.
You’ll find that many cheaper reels include a lot of plastic on the frame itself, and as you pay more, there is less plastic and more aluminum and stainless steel. Which do you think is more durable? I’d put my money on the all-metal frames. At a price range of 100-200, you should be looking only for all-metal frames if possible.
How heavy is the reel? For around 150 dollars, you can get fairly light reels that will last. For most fisherman, weight is never a huge factor, but it is nice to have a reel that balances nicely with your rod so you can comfortably fish all day long.
And lastly, take a look at the handle of the reel you are considering. There is a wide variety of handles and materials, and you can also get covers for them to modify them if you want. You’ll find most are shaped like ovals and circles, and it’s up to you to decide which you prefer. Personally, I like the oval shapes a whole lot better since they are more comfortable for me to grip, but some people like the circles since you can never miss the handle if you have to grab for it quickly.
The second important factor when looking at buying a spinning reel is going to be the number and quality of ball bearings a reel has. Ball bearings are what the reel spins on inside of it, and in general, the more the better in my experience. It just creates a smoother reel with less play and wobble, as well as a reel that lasts longer.
What’s a good number of ball bearings? For full size reels (not ultralight), 8-10 is a great number, and 6-8 will still give solid performance. Below 6 is questionable since then you’re relying on the quality of the ball bearings alone. Ultralight reels are a little different – those normally don’t have much more than 6 ball bearings.
Gear ratio is highly important for fisherman. It is what controls how fast your reel physically reels your lure in. Ratio is shown in the format of, for example, 6.2:1, so a number, colon, then the number 1. The first number is how many times the spool spins, and the second number is how many times the handle spins (normally always one time).
In simpler terms, you could say the the gear ratio shows how many times the spool will spin with one full rotation of the handle. In the 6.2:1 example, the spool would spin 6.2 times for every full rotation of the handle.
The higher the gear ratio, the faster but less powerful a reel is, and the lower the number, the slower but more powerful the reel is considered to be. This is due to basic physics – think of riding your bike. As you change gears, you get more torque and less power, or vice versa.
So, how is all this applicable to you? You should look at the speed of the lures you are fishing as well as the fish you are targeting, and the power you’ll need to haul them in. A panfish fisherman doesn’t need much power but it is handy to be able to reel lures in fast, so a higher gear ratio is ideal. Someone who fishes crankbaits for bass would want a fast ratio, while someone who fishes fake worms for bass might want a little slower reel with more power.
Look at all the factors and decide where you want to be on the spectrum. When you start looking, you’ll find a lot of reels around 6:1 – that’s because that’s about the middle of the pack, where a reel will still have power and speed. If you target many species and throw many lures, go with that gear ratio. If you target big fish with big lures, it can be helpful to go lower.
Most drags nowadays, especially in spinning reels around 150 dollars, are pretty solid and nothing to worry about. You can definitely take a look at different drag maximums to make sure you are getting what you want, but as far as mechanics go, you just don’t have much to worry about unless you see many other people complaining that the drag was junk.
Putting it all together
Now that you know the big four considerations for your spinning reel, the next step is to put it all together and get a reel that’ll perform for you and your exact situation. What you will want to do first is put together a mental list of the species of fish you will be fishing for – their average size in your area and the size lures you’ll be casting to get them. Then, you can put together technical specs for the reel you want. After that, it’s as simple as setting your price point and finding the reel you like best in that range. Feel free to comment below if you have questions!
What Is the Best Fishing Line for Spinning Reels?
Nowadays there are so many options for line that you can fish with it can be confusing, especially to those newer to fishing. The lines are getting better and better, and more and more companies are popping up with innovative new lines that you can fish with.
There are a few primary types of line on the market: monofilament, fluorocarbon, and braided line. All three can have their own separate time and place. The only issue is that fisherman rarely target one species only, so let’s go over each of the types and you can choose the type that works best for you.
Monofilament, or mono, is a single strand of synthetic plastic that is stretched until it meets the diameter and strength of whatever size line it is. This is the most basic and definitely the cheapest kind on the market. In general, it is highly stretchable, retains some memory, isn’t ultra sensitive, but it is the cheapest and it is also hard for fish to see in clear water. It’s also less dense than the other two types and actually is a floating line, which can create subtle differences in your lure presentation. You shouldn’t use it if you have light lures that you are trying to get down to a depth, as it will really slow the drop down!!
The floating aspect is important – if you have lures, like topwater, that stay near or on the surface, it can really help the presentation, but if you have light or medium size lures that need to get down past 10 feet, you could be waiting awhile after you cast for the lure to get down there.
Since it’s stretchy, it actually can be a good shock absorber for snags and hard-hitting fish. If you fish with braid or fluorocarbon and don’t have the drag set properly, sooner or later you’ll be reeling in and get a hard hit or a snag and your lure will be gone. Monofilament is stretchy enough to easily absorb that shock and instead you will end up trying to free it from a snag.
Let’s go over the benefits of mono:
- Stretchy (if that’s an advantage for you)
Since it’s so stretchy, monofilament is not very sensitive at all compared to braid and fluorocarbon. Our recommendation is to get sort of a “hybrid” type of line – the one we show below is perfect if you are looking to save money on your fishing line. With this, you can get some stretchiness and some sensitivity at a great price.
All in all, mono is functional if you want to save money, if you need stretch, or if you need your line to float, but keep reading if you don’t. If you do, the Kastking Fluorokote above is what we recommend.
Want to learn the difference between mono and braid? Click here.
Fluorocarbon is regarded as separate than mono, but it’s actually a monofilament line made out of fluorocarbon. Fluorocarbon is just about everything that standard mono isn’t, and even more invisible. It’s sensitive, it’s not stretchy, it’s highly invisible, and it’s actually a sinking line. It is a little bit more costly than mono, but not by much. If the following things are important to you, fluorocarbon is the type to get:
- Low memory
- Solid hooksets (no stretch)
The biggest consideration with fluorocarbon lines today is what type to get. There are so many that advertise as 100% fluorocarbon, but they must all be the same, right? No, actually there are differences in how they are treated and in the quality of materials used to make them. You’ll find there are fluorocarbons out there that have less memory than others, are more sensitive than others, and perform all around better than a run-of-the-mill fluorocarbon.
Our pick as the very best fluorocarbon fishing line on the market today is Seaguar InvizX, pictured below. In my own experience, this has had the least memory, so little it’s pretty much nonexistent. It’s also sensitive and invisible. This is the type of line I fish with myself.
Lastly, we have braid, which is by far the strongest line for its diameter. Braid is made by braiding together several smaller threads to create one ultra-strong thread. It has no stretch whatsoever, making it very sensitive. However, it isn’t invisible, making it a poor candidate for fussier fish unless you use a clear leader.
Braid has a very low diameter to strength ratio in comparison to either of the above two lines – for example, 10 lb braid would have a diameter of much less than 10 lb mono or fluorocarbon. This means when buying, you should actually match up the diameter to the same diameter of mono or fluorocarbon your reel and rod are rated for so they perform at their best.
If the following are important to you, then braid is a good candidate for you:
- Not invisible
- Far casts due to being coated with smooth coat
- Low diameter to strength ratio
Braid really does have upside when it comes to fishing for toothy predators like northerns – they aren’t fussy about what line you use, and you can get some serious strength in your line. Our recommendation for the best braided line on the market is the classic PowerPro, one of the most trusted names in braid.
The Best Spinning Reel for the Money Conclusion
It’s easier than you think to find a great spinning reel for the money. Just remember everything this guide taught you and you’ll have the perfect reel and line for any fish. If you’re looking for some options, check out some of the great picks we listed here.