The best spinning reels

Five of the best spinning reels

by Mark Sawyer |
Updated on

A spinning reel is one of the most important items of tackle you will need to be successful with your lure fishing. Whether it's reeling in quickly to speed up the retrieve or a slow wind to work the lure deeper, a reel will be working tirelessly every, single cast so its important you choose the right one to make the process efficient and smooth.

As with all angling, balancing the reel to the rod will make holding and using it far easier. 1000-sized reels are ideal for dropshotting or light work, with short rods on small canals and rivers. The 2000 – 3000 sizes are better suited to larger venues and fish such as pike, while those in the 4000 bracket will be needed for big pike and heavy lines and big lures.

Best spinning reel shortlist:

• Best Budget Fishing Reel - Okuma Azaki

• Best Feature Packed Fishing Reel - Daiwa Ninja

• Best All Round Reel - Okuma Cardinal X

• Best For Cranking Power - Shimano Sedona FL

Matching the reel to your rod is very important when lure fishing as you need everything to be as balanced and lightweight as possible, due to the nature of holding the rod all day. The handle knob can also be an important factor, as you will be using it al day long, so it's important to look for one that you will find comfortable. Here is a guide to some of the best spinning reels available.

Best value fishing reel

The Daiwa Ninja boasts a staggering performance at a stunning price, the looks are backed up by high-end Daiwa features such as Air Rotor, which ensures exceptional performance under stress. Separate handle options are available and it’s supplied with a spare spool.

The versatile, lightweight reel has found many fans since its release. Available in 1500, 2000 and 2500 sizes with a 4.8:1 gear ratio, the 3000 with 4.7:1 and the 4000 with 4.9:1.


  • Great build quality
  • Spare spool included


  • Drag knob not the most sensitive

Best for cranking power

Shimano reel
Price: £44.99 - £89.99

This low-priced Shimano Sedona Fl includes Hagaine gearing ensuring direct transfer of power and feel from the handle for unrivalled control, plus a high rigidity body that eliminates flex. 

Other top features include a special lightweight, robust body, dependable AR-C spools. It’s also smooth-running thanks to Varispeed II system. Available in 1000, 2000, 2500, 3000, 4000 and 5000 sizes, with double handle and high gear ratio options to 6.2:1.


  • Lots of cranking power
  • Very balanced


  • line clip could be better

This low-priced Shimano includes Hagaine gearing ensuring direct transfer of power and feel from the handle for unrivalled control, plus a high rigidity body that eliminates flex.

Other top features include a special lightweight, robust body, dependable AR-C spools. It’s also smooth-running thanks to Varispeed II system. Available in 1000, 2000, 2500, 3000, 4000 and 5000 sizes, with double handle and high gear ratio options to 6.2:1.

Best lightweight reel

fox prism
Price: £59.99 - £74.99

Designed to partner the matching Prism X rods and boasting a weight-saving carbon rotor, soft-touch easy-grip handle, a super smooth clutch and an over-sized roller for reduced line twist. Lightweight material construction means the smallest 1000 size weighs just 171g. 

It’s available in 1000 (5.1:1 gear ratio), 2500 (5.0:1) and 4500 (4.6:1) sizes, with spare spools available.


  • Comfortable handle
  • Lightweight


  • Does lack a bit of power for larger fish

Best for dropshotting

Billed as a reel that’s really comforable to fish with, it has a super-smooth gearing which utilises a balanced fluid lightweight rotor encased in a slim, tough body. 

The powerful drag is matched with smooth and consistent line lay that’s ideal for long casts. Available in 1000, 2000 and 3000 sizes, all with a fast 6.2:1 gear ratio and with spare spools available.

Best budget fishing reel

Okuma Azaki
Price: £21.99 - £32.99

Designed specifically for lure fishing and featuring the company’s Cyclonic Flow Rotor technology, the Azaki has refined and classy looks to match its powerful performance. 

The reel is available in 2000, 3000, 4000, 4500, 5500 and 6500 sizes, with gear ratios varying from 4.5:1 to 5.0:1, and a fully loaded option with Sufix braid in the mid-sized 3000 and 4000 models.


  • Smooth operating system
  • Great drag


  • A little heavy

Best all round reel

Abu Garcia reel
Price: £27.99-69.99

The Abu Garcia Carindal X is a fantastic little reel. Incorporating a graphite body and anodised aluminium spool, the reel is both lightweight and strong. Featuring 3+1 stainless ball bearings, the reel has a very smooth rotation allowing the handle to be turned effortlessly, perfectly for reeling in lures.

High performance washers are included in the drag to make it perfectly smooth and reliable so when you get the bite, you can be confident of landing the fish.

Available in 1000, 3000, 4000 and 5000 there is sure to be a real that is ideal for every scenario, all at a very competitive price point too.

Best value fishing reel

This Shimano FX reel is a great addition to any lure fishing setup, lightweight and compact whilst still having all the necessary attributes to land big fish on light tackle. 

Available in different sizes the 3000 and 4000 sizes are generally best for larger fish as they hold more line and have a bit more cranking power to tame the fish. They are a front drag reel and as it is a Shimano, it’s a lovely smooth drag that will give you full control over anything you hook. 

The body is made from a strong XT-7 Aluminium so it will take the punishment of being laid on the ground and dropped as often happens when lure fishing. The reel is so compact and light it will balance with any rod perfectly making it easy to hold for prolonged periods of time.


  • Very lightweight
  • Super smooth drag system


  • Does lack some power for landing really large fish


Drag/clutch: An adjustable tensioning system that allows a hard-fighting fish to pull an additional line from the reel instead of breaking the line.

Freespool: Similar to a clutch but working at far lower tensions, the Freespool will allow a running fish to take line, preventing a rod on a rest from being pulled in. Once the rod is picked up and the reel handle turned, it will disengage, putting the reel back into 'fish playing' mode with the drag working as normal.

Spool: The cylinder at the front of a reel which holds the line.

Dropshotting: A drop shot rig is essentially a line tied to a hook with a leader underneath that's attached to a weight, so the bait hovers off the bottom and creates a very natural, realistic presentation.

Lure fishing: Using artificial baits that are replicas, designed to mimic real prey animals and attract the attention of predatory fish.

Line clip: A small clip on the spool that line can be placed under, stopping it from leaving the reel. Originally designed to stop lines from falling off in transit, they are now commonly used to repeatedly cast a set distance.

Line Twist: Casting, retrieving and using the freespool and clutch adds twist to your line, which can weaken it and reduces casting distance. In extreme cases, the line will bounce off the spool and ball up as it untwists. More expensive reels incorporate various technologies to minimise line twists.

Frequently asked questions

Should I use braid or monofilament line?

This all depends on how sensitive you want the setup to be. Braid transmits all of the indications or movements of the lure directly to the rod allowing you to feel everything that's going on. It is also stronger for diameter than mono but does break easier if it rubs over a snag. Mono is great for beginners as it is more forgiving and won't tangle up as easily as braid can.

What size reel should I use for dropshotting?

2000 is the perfect size with most manufacturers' reels, but a smaller 1000 might match lighter rods and finer lines in some models.

How much backing line should I use?

A cheap and thick backing line is often needed to bulk out a deep spool before adding the line you intend to fish with. Once the backing line and your fishing line has been added, the level of line should sit just beneath the lip of spool. Too little line on a reel reduces casting distance, whilst over filling will lead to tangles and frap ups. A shallow spool might not need any backing line.

How can I clean my reel?

A damp cloth and warm water should be enough. Although reels are designed to be as watertight as possible, keep their exposure minimal, as any that gets inside will rinse lubricants from the reel. An old toothbrush can be useful too.

Can I use one reel for multiple tactics?

Yes, as long as the size is suitable, you can use a smaller 2000 size reel for dropshotting, small crankbaits and surface lures as well as larger shads. The bigger the lure and the fish, the larger we recommend you go with the reels size as reeling a large lure in all day on small reel will put a lot of pressure on the bearings which ca make them fail.

How should I load a reel with line?

There are three methods.

1 Ask a second person to place a pencil through the hole of the spool and use a cloth to add friction to the spool to stop it spinning out of control whilst you wind it onto the reel.

2 Place the spool in a bucket of water and allow it to rotate whilst you wind it on. Beware, as getting it wrong will cause line twist.

3 Use a dedicated line loader.

Author Mark Sawyer holds the position of Tackle Editor at Angling Times, boasting more than thirty years of experience working within different fields of the angling industry.

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