Enter the world of freshwater spinning reels where the information is more accurate than tales of the fish they catch. If you’re thinking about fishing and in the market for a spinning reel, you’ve come to the right place. Our buyer’s guide explains all the important details to look for. It will have you fishing with the best freshwater spinning reel for your needs.
Buyer’s Guide To The Best Freshwater Spinning Reel & Reviews
What Is A freshwater Spinning Reel?
A freshwater spinning reel is one that shouldn’t be used in saltwater. These reels typically aren’t made to withstand corrosive marine conditions. That being said, the specification rating system between freshwater and saltwater spinning reels remain the same. Saltwater spinning reels have no problem with use in freshwater. However, you might be paying for features that aren’t necessary in a freshwater spinning reel.
How To Choose The Best Freshwater Spinning Reel
The best freshwater spinning reel may not need extra marine protection but should still use quality components. Cheap parts make reels that don’t last long. Breaking down a freshwater spinning reel, you’ll find two categories that explain its use.
The first will be specs which tell you how much the reel can handle. Specs tell you things like reel weight, recommended line size, maximum drag setting, and more. Next you’ll notice a features category. These will include any extra technologies or special design the reel contains.
Freshwater Spinning Reel Specifications
You’ll find a list of specifications on our saltwater spinning reel guide. Freshwater spinning reels have the exact same specifications as saltwater spinning reels. The only difference to be aware of may be seen in the ball bearings.
Spinning reel specifications tell you how many bearings the reel uses but they sometimes say what kind as well. Freshwater spinning reels may save money in manufacturing costs by avoiding shielded and anti rust bearings. The best freshwater spinning reels still use stainless steel ball bearings.
Features Of The Best Freshwater Spinning Reels
The features of a freshwater spinning reel are those attributes which make it stand out from other reels. It could be a beefed up drag system or a special spool encasement like the Okuma Trio uses. There’s hundreds of different features that fishing reel companies add into their designs. They can be extremely helpful when you find features that enhance your type of fishing.
Reading Specs & Features To Find The Best Freshwater Spinning Reel For Your Needs
Reading the specs of a freshwater spinning reel is a good place to start and gets easier once you’ve seen a few. The ball bearing count tells you how smooth a spinning reel spins when turning the handle. Two of the more important specs are the line capacity and gear ratio.
If you need a reel that can retrieve a fast lure, look for high gear ratio. Line capacity will tell you how big the spool is and what size line you can use on it. 30 pound striped bass require heavier line while bluegill can be caught on a thread. Know your fish and you’ll narrow down your reel choices.
Finally, there will be times to consider the maximum drag rating. Start looking at this specification when you decide to target bigger fish. That 30 pound striped bass is a good example and the best freshwater spinning reels won’t skimp on their drags. Always check the maximum drag on spinning reels with the line capacity to handle big game fish. It should be in the 15 – 20 pound range to catch that 30 pound striper.
When you’re looking at features of the best freshwater spinning reels the choices are all yours. It comes down to what is important to you and what will be most useful applied to the kind of fishing you do. If you’re targeting heavier fish a strong triple carbon fiber disc drag will be important. Anglers that spend entire days on the water may want some light weight features in a spinning reel.
The one thing you can safely avoid on freshwater spinning reels is the extra marine protection. Many top saltwater spinning reels have features that seal the inside gears and drag and make them impervious to water. You should still look for durability and saltwater spinning reels can be switched over to freshwater without issue.
The Best Freshwater Spinning Reels – Our Top Picks
#1 Pflueger President Spinning Reel
We’ll venture to say that the Pflueger President spinning reel is one of the best selling reels in the world. At least among freshwater fishermen. The President offers a line of effective freshwater reels at a ridiculously affordable price. Made with a graphite body and rotor, President reels keep it light. They make use of 9 bearings for the smoothest reeling motion.
Other features of Pflueger President spinning reels include a triple carbon fiber disc drag and an oiled drag felt washer. Spools on the President are anodized aluminum with port holes to further reduce reel weight. Braided line can be tied directly to the spool because of its design and an aluminum handle provides a strong crank arm.
President reels offer 5 different models with a range of specifications. On the light end you’ll have a reel that weighs 5.9 ounces and can hold 200 yards of 2 lb mono line. The heaviest model weighs 10.9 ounces and can hold up to 195 yards of 12 pound mono line. Maximum drag ratings fall between 6 and 12 pounds depending on the model. President reels work well for lure fishing with a high gear ratio of 5.2:1. They offer great value and place top on our list for the best freshwater spinning reel.
#2 Shimano Sahara FI Spinning Reel
Shimano makes fishing reels like bakers make bread and the Sahara FI is a fine freshwater spinning model. They run just a little more than the President spinning reels above, but Shimano adds the features to make Sahara FI reels worth it. They spin on 4 bearings which still gives a smooth retrieve. Like President reels, anglers have 5 Sahara FI models to pick from.
Features of the Shimano Sahara FI include a G Free Body which moves the reel’s center of gravity closer to the rod. This makes casting and reeling more relaxed, natural motions. Shimano places their X Ship technology into Sahara FI spinning reels which supports the gears and keeps them in precise alignment. This is very helpful when reeling on heavier fish. The last key feature of Sahara FI reels is their Hagane gearing which uses angled teeth for stronger results.
With 5 models to choose from, the specifications have some range. The lightest model weighs 7.6 ounces and holds 270 yards of 2 pound mono line. On the heaviest end you have a reel that weighs 10.6 ounces and can hold up to 120 yards of 14 pound mono line. Maximum drags range from 7 to 24 pounds. You can see that the heavier models offer much higher drag resistance than Pflueger President reels. The Shimano Sahara FI earned its spot on our list for the best freshwater spinning reel.
#3 Abu Garcia Silver Max Spinning Reel
Abu Garcia has been sending anglers home with fishing reels for years and the Silver Max is another freshwater spinning reel you can depend on. Silver Max spinning reels use 5 bearings for a smooth retrieve and hardly put a dent in the pocketbook. Like our first two featured freshwater spinning reels, the Abu Garcia Silver Max comes in five models to choose from.
Abu Garcia is no stranger to features in a spinning reel and they start by keeping the Silver Max lightweight. The graphite body and rotor weigh less than metal or aluminum reels. Silver Max reels focus on casting with their Rocket Spool Lip design. A slow oscillating reel lays any size of fishing line evenly back onto the spool. The top feature of the Abu Garcia Silver Max spinning reel is the Rocket Line Management System. Even line lay and an improved spool lip provide superior casting each and every time.
The range of specifications tell you what kind of fish the Silver Max can handle. The lightest model weighs 6.4 ounces and holds 190 yards of 2 pound mono line. Checking the heaviest model, you’ll find it weighs 9.7 ounces and can hold up to 150 yards of 14 pound mono line. Maximum drag ratings on Silver Max spinning reels range from 6.4 to 14 pounds. Specs are similar to those of the Pflueger President and Abu Garcia’s Silver Max series joins them on our list of the best freshwater spinning reel.
#4 Daiwa Legalis Spinning Reel
It’s hard to have reviews of the best freshwater spinning reel without including Daiwa and the Legalis stands out in this category. You have 6 models to choose from in Daiwa Legalis spinning reels and they rotate on 4 stainless steel ball bearings.
Daiwa adds a few features to the Legalis series like their ABS spool. Many freshwater spinning reels have line trouble resulting in knots when you fill up the line too much. The ABS spool allows you to fill line right up to the lip of the spool without experiencing these issues. The Daiwa Air Rotor is another key feature of Legalis reels and its graphite material keeps the weight down. It also spreads the weight of a heavy pulling fish evenly across the rotor.
The range of specifications on Legalis reels comes close to our other recommendations. The lightest Legalis reel weighs 8.1 ounces and holds 155 yards of 4 pound mono line. On the heaviest side they offer a reel that weighs 13.6 ounces and holds up to 210 yards of 14 pound mono line. The maximum drag settings on Legalis reels range from 4.4 to 13.2 pounds. Daiwa offers solid performance out of the Legalis series and it easily makes our list of the best freshwater spinning reel.
#5 Okuma Ceymar Spinning Reel
Reviews of the best freshwater spinning reel aren’t complete if they don’t offer at least one suggestion that can handle heavier game fish. Hold on to your rod and take a closer look at the Okuma Ceymar series. These reels make use of 7 bearings (the smallest model uses 6) and anglers have 5 models to choose from. Unlike other reels on our list, the Ceymar has a wider range of specifications.
Okuma Ceymar reels offer solid features as they pay attention to every part of the reel. Their Cyclonic Flow Rotor acts much like Daiwa’s Air Rotor. Ceymar spinning reels use a multi disc oil felt drag system and a two toned anodized aluminum spool. Handles use ergonomic grips and hard anodized aluminum arms.
Okuma spreads the specifications out among the 5 models of Ceymar spinning reels they offer. The lightest reel weighs 6 ounces and holds 210 yards of 2 pound test. The models start very light then move up. The heaviest Ceymar reel weighs 20.7 ounces and holds up to 260 yards of 20 pound test. Now you’re ready to target 30 pound striped bass. Maximum drag ratings are perfect too and range from 5 to 22 pounds. Get the heaviest Ceymar model and you’re ready for lake trout and big muskie too.
A Finger On Qualities Of The Best Freshwater Spinning Reels
A couple more notes on freshwater spinning reels. Handles on spinning reels are interchangeable from left to right handed. You simply screw off the handle and screw it on the other side. You’ll need to switch out the cap on the other end of the handle too. If you want a long lasting durable reel, look at saltwater spinning reels that are built to stand up.
Saltwater reels offer features that when applied to freshwater fishing last even longer. What you’ll find is that most of these features use parts that cost more, and so do the reels. Notice you don’t find any Penn reels on our list? Penn makes saltwater reels. You can spend the money if you like but it’s not necessary for basic freshwater fishing.
Any one of the reels on our list of the best freshwater spinning reel will perform for you. Just ensure the specifications and features fit for your needs. Don’t worry about spending the extra bucks on a saltwater spinning reel if freshwater fishing is all you need it for. Good luck out there and tight lines to all.