12 Best Spinning Reels for Trout Fishing | Hands on Buyers Guide 2021

What are some of the best spinning reels for trout fishing? In this guide, we hope to share our experience to help you buy the best trout spinning reel. We also offer suggestions for the best value trout spinning reel, and what reel is best suited for different styles of trout fishing.

Armed with only an old rod and spinning reel, many young fishermen develop a lifetime passion for trout fishing. Few freshwater fish offer as much sport fishing potential as trout. While many experienced anglers have gone down the dark hole which is fly-fishing. Spinning still holds a special place in the heart for many fishermen.

Best Value for Money Ultra Light Spinning Reel

Over the seasons myself, and other contributors to this page have fished and reviewed many spinning reels from most manufacturers. Out of all the reels we have reviewed I highlighted my favourites.

Out of my top 12 reels, there are some which I feel represent the best value in their price bracket. A Shimano Stella is an exceptional reel, quite possibility best reel money can buy, but it is not going to catch more fish than a much more budget friendly reel.

So below are my thoughts on what are the three best value for money trout reels for the summer of 2021. Click the link below to jump directly to our review.

Okuma Ceymar. – Our Pick under $50

The Cerymar offers a lot of features and quality for the money. Costing well under $50 it is a surprisingly capable reel in a very crowded price range. We like the Ceymar for its light weight, and surprisingly high-end feel.

Pflueger President – Our Pick under $75

The Pflueger president is one of the most seen spinning reels on North American trout rivers. It is durable reliable and offers smoothness which belies its price. As a dedicated trout reel, it is very hard to beat. The President is our pick due to its lightweight and its proven track record as an excellent freshwater reel.

Shimano Stradic FL – Our premium pick

The Shimano Stradic is simply an excellent reel. Mine has offered me years of service. It might cost over $200 but it offers performance and features rivaling many flagship offers.

What are the best spinning reels for trout fishing when on a budget, in this section we will discuss what we believe are the best value spinning reels currently available.

Shimano FX – Hands on review

Shimano FX.

The Shimano FX is a dependable entry level spinning reel for trout fishing. One I happily recommend for any angler on a tight budget. While the FX might be lacking in flashy visual appeal of the competition. The reel internals shares many of the technologies found in Shimano’s higher end models. I have more confidence in Shimano reels lasting than any other brand.

Note: The Shimano FX and Shimano Sienna are basically the same reel, we suggest purchasing whichever is cheapest.

The Shimano FX is one of Shimano’s cheapest reels. There is no denying, that Shimano cut some corners but it is still a highly capable reel.

Shimano spent the money where it matters. Like the quality and tolerances within the gearing. So despite only having three ball bearings, it still feels smooth.

The frame is made out of some sort of composite material which feels a bit like plastic. In saying that, the frame experiences no flex or bending even at maximum drag pressure.

I have a 15 year old ‘variation’ of the Shimano FX, and the frame has shown no signs of weakening or becoming brittle with age. It is a well built, well price entry level reel.

The 2+1 Bearings are surprisingly good quality, they are the same ones which Shimano uses in the midrange Sahara and maybe even more premium models. Unlike some other brands in this price range, Shimano did not cut corners by using crappy quality bearings.

The 7lb of drag is smooth, and I never had it seize or become jerky. On ultralight reels, I actually prefer felt drags over the more pricy carbon.

My first dedicated spinning reel for trout fishing was an earlier generation of the Shimano FX. The name was slightly different but the fundamentals have not changed. It still fishes and cast fine even after 15 years. Maybe I was lucky, and in recent years it only seen light use but for any reel to last that long is an indicator of underlaying quality.

Today I mostly use it as a loan reel, my little FX is still up to the task. It casts, winds and lands fish without breaking. What more can I expect from an entry level reel. It has never given me any problems. Over the years Shimano has not changed much with the FX and the 2021 model seems to be even better built.

These entry levels shimano’s have not only proven themselves to me, but also to many other fishermen to be a reliable and durable reel. On mine, I have caught many trout and even a rather unexpected salmon. Once or twice, I even took it to the beach and slain pelagics. Not bad for a 2500 size reel spooled with 6lb monofilament.

Unlike most manufactuers, Shimano still makes their entry level reels in their own factories. The FX is made in their Malaysian factory. They have not outsourced it to some nameless Chinese OEM. Shimano as the worlds forefront manufacturer of fishing reels they have a reputation to uphold. Their high standards even applies to their entry level reels.

Want to know how the Shimano FX compares with the Daiwa Crossfire?, Check out my comparison here. To save time, I favor the FX due to its lighter weight and larger capacity, but the Daiwa Crossfire has slightly higher build quality.

Size and specifications

The Sienna comes in 5 sizes. Three of which are well suited for trout spinning, fx1000FC, FX2000FC and the high speed FX2500HGFC.

The sizes and capacity are

FC1000FC: 110yds of 6lb mono (Weighs 7.20oz)

Best suited for finesse fishing to smaller trout such as pannies in streams and small lakes.

FX2000FC 165 yards of 6lb mono, (weighing 8.8oz)

A good general purpose size for all trout fishing. The larger spools results in lower line memory.

FX2500HGFC 200 yards of 6lb mono, (weighing 8.8oz)

The FX2000FC and the FX2500 share the same frame. The 2500 has a higher capacity spool, allowing for more line storage and it has a higher gear ratio. That means it recovers line faster when reeling it.

The shallow spool on the 2000FC is popular to use with braid, because it takes less line to full iy to capacity.

The 2000 or 2500 is a good general purpose size which is suitable for targeting brown, rainbow and larger brook trout. I personally use 6lb monofilament or 8lb fireline on my 2500 size reel.

If you are planning on targeting Steelheads, monstrous Brown trout or lake trout then the Shimano 4000 size reels are worth considering. These large sizes are typically too big for typical spin fishing.

Okuma Ceymar (best budget spinning reel for ultralight trout fishing)

Okuma Ceymar a lot of great features at an affordable price. Excellent for ultralight trout fishing.

We rate the Okuma Ceymar as the best budget ultralight spinning reels for trout fishing. It weighs in at only 6oz 5lb, that is significantly lighter than the Shimano FX, Daiwa Crossfire and Penn Pursuit. This is a true ultralight reel for under $50.

I never use to like Okuma reels. I kept brushing off recommendations I hear from my mates and consider them just another budget brand from east Asia.

I admit, I was wrong. Okuma makes some very nice reels. They are no longer just a manufacturer of low quality entry level reels. They have grown to become one of the largest manufacturers of reels, and they still control their own production.

Their quality is even approaching that, and sometimes even exceeding the industry heavyweights of Shimano and Daiwa.

The Okuma Ceymar impresses me. Upon taking it from the box my first impression was of the striking design which belies its low price. It does not actually feel cheap.

The build quality of the Ceymar is impressive. The finish is bright, and the underlying graphite frame is solid. Very little flex is present in the handle and rotor.

Equipped with six ball bearings and one roller bearing, the Ceymar is remarkably smooth considering its entry level price tag. These all contribute to the reel out performing its price tag.

Like most reels, the Ceymar comes with a machined anodized aluminium spool.

The Ceymar comes with a brass pinion gear. This helps separates the Ceymar from much of the competition and should prolong the life of the reel. You will find Zinc Alloy gearing in most comparably priced reels including Shimnao’s and Daiwa. Brass is simply a harder wearing metal which should last longer.

The Ceymar costs close to $20 more than the Shimano FX above. The extra money gets you a true lightweight reel which weighs around 6oz. This means, the Ceymar feels much better when used wither ultralight trout rods than the much heavier Shimano FX, Sienna or Daiwa Crossfire.

I do not own a Ceymar myself, but I do quite frequently borrow my mates reel while writing this review. He has fished his Ceymar hard for nearly 9 months and it still feels like new. I was pleasantly impressed that even after months of use the retrieve was still smooth and the drag free of stickiness.

Don,t just take my word for it. The Ceymar has been widely applauded by both reviewers and fishermen alike. It is widely recognized for its great value for money. Okuma with their Ceymar has gained the reputation as one of the best, if not the best budget friendly spinning reels.

Sizes and specifications

The Okuma Ceymar is available in a range of sizes suitable for trout fishing. The C-10 is tiny, and a delight to use on any ultralight setup, weighing in at only 6oz and with a capacity of 70 yards of 6lb monofilament it is ideal for pulling in panfish or small brookies. Such a

Both the C-20 and the C-30 sizes offer increased line capacity; and more drag. Making them suitable for targeting larger trout or for when more line capacity is required.

C-10 70 yards of 6lb weighing 6oz 5lb of drag

c-20 120 yards of 6lb weighing 6.8oz 6lb of drag

c-30 200 yards of 6lb weighing 8.2oz 13lb of drag

The C-30 is comparable in size to the Shimano 2500, and is a good size to catch medium size trout.

Penn Pursuit III Review

best budget spinning reel for estuarine trout fishing

Penn Pursuit III our best value reel for trout fishing in estuarine environments.

The Penn Pursuit III is a great budget reel, but it is only suitable for larger trout. If you are after a reel for stream fish you can skip this review, but if you are after a reel for steelheads, sea run brown trout or even lake trout then this might just be the reel for you.

The solidly built Penn Pursuit III is excellent value and brings many features and technologies normally exclusive to more expensive reels such as HT-100 carbon fiber drag washers and a sealed drag.

While, I will not go as far to claim this reel is waterproof. It is certainly a lot more water resistant than the other reels in its price range. It is a good choice for fishing from kayaks or other small boats where the reel might get wet.

The Penn Pursuit III comes with a superline compatible aluminium spool which is designed to eliminate line slippage when using braid. It works, but I still recommend using a monofilament backer just as insurance and to greatly reduce the amount of braid it takes to load the reel.

To further add to its robust reputation, the 5 Stainless steel ball bearings are salt resistant. This prolongs their life compared with cheaper bearings.

Like most modern reels, the Penn Pursuit III feels smooth. The graphite frame it built around is rigid and I experience no flex even when I tighten the drag up to max.

Speaking of drag, the Penn Pursuit II has 10lb of drag and carbon fibre drag washers. I usually prefer felt washers on trout reels, but Penns drag was smooth and I had no issues with it. I will add, that 10lb of drag is too much for most trout fishing situations, but it is there if you need it.

The HT-100 drag is sealed. I have fished with Penn reels with comparable sealed drags for many years from my fishing Kayaks and they held up well to that hostile testing environment. The HT-100 drag Penn uses is a good one.

While the Penn Pursuit III is rated for saltwater use I still advise to rinse it down with freshwater after use in the sea. The Penn Pursuit III is my budget reel pick to use in estuarine or marine environments. Great cheap reel for targeting sea run trout.

The saltwater rating is achieved thanks to its sealed drag, 5 stainless steel ball bearings and a strong yet lightweight graphite body .

Size and specifications

If there was one criticism, is that the smallest Penn Pursuit III model is the PURIII2500 and with a line capacity of 255yds of 6lb monofilament, and weighing a relatively hefty 9.8oz it is getting a bit too large for smaller trout and more finesse styles of fishing, but for anglers targeting lake trout, steelhead or trophy browns then it will do nicely.

For a dedicated Lake trout, steelhead or the monstrous browns which inhabit some tailwater then the PURIII3000 model is worth considering.

Best Trout Spinning Reels for under $100

There is some excellent value for money spinning reels available for under $100. Many experienced anglers consider this price range represents the best compromise between price and quality. Spinning reels in this price range typically still use graphite frames. They also use better quality drags, more ball bearings and overall a more refined feel.

Pflueger President Review

Best mid price spinning reel for trout fishing

Pflueger president spinning reel, a very popular and reliable freshwater spinning reel.

The Pflueger President 20x is one of the best ultralight trout reels on the market. It is well built and impressively smooth. If you are looking for a well proven lightweight spinning reel for trout fishing it is hard to beat.

I can still remember the first time I picked up and played with a president. It was on the display shelf of my local tackle shelf. At the time I was not familiar with the brand, so was immediately surprised by just how smooth and free running it was.

Pflueger president reels are one of the most commonly fished reels on North American rivers. It is also a popular choice among fishing guides. I see them everywhere.

My first impression of the President its surprising smoothness and lightness. The strong yet light graphite frame, stainless steel gearing and upto 10 bearings results in a smooth performance cast after cast. The drag is strong yet smooth and nicely tuned for fishing 4lb or 6lb line. It is everything I want in a trout reel.

I also want to highlight the 20x weighs only 6.2oz. If you exclude the plasticky reels, it is one of the lightest reels for under $100. Only being beaten by a couple of Okumas including the very capable Ceymar.

High on quality, but not on price the president deserves its reputation for quality, reliability and overall dependability. It is widely regarded as one of the best freshwater spinning reel for trout fishing. Simply a very nice reel for the money. For a dedicated freshwater trout reel the President is hard to beat even equalling the performance of reels in much higher price brackets.

Sizes and specifications

The Pfluegar president comes in a range of sizes, the lightest and smallest of which the 20x weighs only 6.2oz with a miniscule capacity of 80yards of 6lb line, good size for small trout and fishing line lighter than 6lb. The 20x is an impressive reel considering its price and weight. It is considerably lighter than the similarly priced shimanos.

For typical trout spinning to medium size fish I would look at the 30x, it gives additional capacity to compensate for break-off and has line to spare to outplay even the feistiest of fish.

The 35x or even the 40x again represents a step up in size and capacity. The above sizes are best suited for targeting large trout such as sea run brown and steelheads.

Shimano Sahara Fi and Sedona

These two reels share a lot in common. Including many parts. In our experience, the Shimano Sedona, is the most durable trout spinning reel for on a budget. The quality of the gearing and tolerances is a step above the competition in this price bracket.

Shimano makes some of the best affordable reels on the market and the Sedona and Sahara both set in the sub $100 market. The Sedona, the more affordable of the two retails for around $70. While the Sahara sells for around $90. They are both great dependable reels which should pull in trout for many years.

I decided to include these two reels together, because there are many similarities between them. They are actually both based around the same platform. They share similar graphite frames and use the same drag system and gear ratios. The internals are nearly identical.

Both reels use the premium Hagane gear technology (cold forge gears) which improves smoothness and durability over Shimano’s entry level reels.

Shimano makes some of the best affordable reels on the market and the Sedona and Sahara both set in the sub $100 market. The Sedona, the more affordable of the two retails for around $70. While the Sahara sells for around $90. They are both great dependable reels which should pull in trout for many years.

The Sahara feels slightly smoother, maybe due to the extra ball bearing. It also features the more premium X-Ship gear technology.

In theory when fished under pressure, the X-Ship technology allows the gear mechanism to keep alignment which should prolong the life of the gears and maintain smoothness. That does mean the Sahara is slightly heavier.

If I were to have one criticism, both reels are a touch on the heavy side. With the 1000 size weighing in at 7.6oz. So, they can be hard to balance with some finesse rods.

Shimano Sahara

Sizes and specifications

They both come in a range of sizes suitable for trout fishing. The tiny Sedona 500 is a gem for the price.

Perfect for finesse and ultralight fishing on a budget. Such a fun little reel to use to catch Brooks and small Brown trout living in streams or small ponds.

I personally consider the 2500 size good for general purpose trout fishing. The larger spool diameter helps keep line twist under control.

It is ideal for targeting medium size fish. With skill and a degree of luck it can still handle some fairly large fish.

The 3000 and 4000 sizes are a bit on the large side, but can see some niche use when targeting very large trout or powerful steelheads. The reels above 5000 size are basically too large for trout fishing.

Penn Battle III Review

The best spinning reel for sea run brown trout for under $100

Penn Battle III a fully saltwater rated reel. A real workhorse.

If you are looking for a full metal trout size spinning reel for under $100 look no further. The Penn Battle III has excellent sealing against water intrusion and surprisingly high end drag system. It is one of my favourite trout spinning reels while kayak fishing.

The Penn Battle III is the second reel from Penn on our list of best spinning reels for trout fishing, and it comes as little surprised based on the Penn brands pedigree. While the recommended retail price sets just above $100, with discounts and promotions it is usually available for under $100 making it a steal.

This reel has been widely applauded by reviewers and anglers alike. It has a great and well deserved reputation. The Penn Battle III Penn uses Penns HT-100 carbon fibre drag washer and CNC Gear technology which is also found in the $200 Penn Clash II.

The Penn Battle III is my ultralight reel of choice to use for kayak fishing. For the price It has good sealing and corrosion resistant. Like all reels, the metals will slowly rust if not rinsed thoroughly after use in saltwater.

Penn has been making reels since 1932 so they have a lot of experience and design knowledge to full back on. While regularly rated among the top three reel brands for offshore and saltwater use the same technology and expertise works just as well in the less corrosive freshwater environment.

Penn Drags are known to be powerful and robust. Even the smallest reel in the Battle line up, the BLTIII1000 has a whooping 9lb of drag. It only increases from there. In my first hand experience I can assure you that the Penn Battle III has more than enough drag. I struggle to see any trout being able to push it to its limits.

At this price point you get full metal body and side plates, which gives a much more premium feel and increased durability compared with graphite. The price, is a slightly heavier reel, the 1000 size weighs in at 7.8oz.

Penn has tried hard to protect their reel with corrosion resistant coatings and a sealed drag. Making it a good option to use in estuaries for chasing sea run brown trout or steelheads. While this reel is rated for saltwater use, it will still corrode if abused. I suggest rinsing it down after use in the sea.

Sizes and specifications

Unlike the cheaper Penn Pursuit III the Battle III comes in 1000 and 2000 sizes, which is ideal for trout fishing.

The BLTIII1000 is the smallest, weighing in at only 7.8oz while still holding 105yards of 6lb monofilament.

While the BLTIII2000 jumps up to 9.4 oz and holds 180yards of 6lb line making it suitable for nearly all trout fishing needs. Those who want to target only the biggest of trout, the most powerful of steelheads or large canal lurkers might want to consider the BLTIII2500 or even the next size up.

Best Enthusiast Spinning Reel for trout fishing.

For serious trout fishermen. The spinning reels in the enthusiasts section are delightful reels to use and should give years of quality use. Full metal construction is common although there are still a few graphite/carbon options. Many features previously only found on flagship models have now started to appear in this price bracket.

Abu Garcia Revo SX Spinning reel review

Abu Revo SX Spinning, an excellent trout reel from Abu Garcia. Highly recommended.

Abu Garcia is one of the biggest names in freshwater fishing. The introduction of the first Revo spinning reel was the beginner of a sort of renewal of fortunes for Abu Garcia. The first Abu Garcia I added to my collection of fishing reels was a first generation Revo. I still use it to this day.

With the Revo Abu got everything right, from the smooth and powerful drag, to the slickly smooth performance, and a new corrosion resistant coating. All made to a high standard typical of Abu Garcia more premium lineup. The final result was an excellent, robust spinning reel at drastically low price point for the quality and features it offered. The Revo was done right.

Having been on the market for over a decade has only seen minor refinements among its numerous variations. Still today, the Abu Garcia Revo SX remains one of the best value spinning reels on the market.

As for my reel, even after 10 years of abuse, often in the extremely hostile environment which is kayak fishing my Revo, despite showing its age is still a perfectly functional reel which I have complete confidence in. I have only seen comparable longevity from my shimanos. I personally rate the Abu Garcia among the best spinning reels for trout fishing.

Variations and different models

While there are many variations of the Revo, I feel the SX offers the best value for a trout reel. With a carbon (graphite) frame allows the revo to be lightweight and corrosion resistant. There is also two niche variations of the Revo, being the Rocket and the Revo Winch, the rocket has a high gear ratio (6.2:1) allowing for lightning fast retrieves, while the Winch has a low gear ratio (4.7:1) allowing a slower more controlled presentation, although currently only available in size 30 which is on the large size for trout spinning

Although in personal experience, the speed one winds the handle also has a similar effect on performance.

If you want to stick with Abu Garcia, but prefer the sturdiness of an Aluminium  frame than the Abu Zata is also worthy of consideration. The specifications are very comparable.

Size and specifications

The Revo 10 provides 10lb of drag, and holds 110yards of 6lb line. While the slightly larger Revo 20 provides and additional lb of drag with slightly more capacity. Weighing only 7.2 and 7.3oz respectively both reels are light in weight.

Shimano Stradic FL spinning reel review

best all round spinning reel for trout.

Shimano Stradic, maybe the best trout spinning reel.

The Shimano Stradic might just be the best all-round spinning reel for trout fishing. If there is one reel which represents a dedication to timeless quality, reliability, and consistent improvement and all for a reasonable budget it must be the Shimano Stradic.  My first enthusiast trout spinning reel was a Stradic, and even 15 years later it remains my go to reel whenever I get the spin gear out.

From my first cast too the last the Shimano Stradic impressed me with consistently smooth performance. The bail arm sets with a reassuring security and reopens with a flick of my finger. The drag is solid and smooth and has never left me. Handling today’s Stradic is no difference, and if anything, it is now even more refined and precise in its operation.

I wanted to fish and play with my new stradic every chance I got. I kept wanting to push my new trout reel it to its limits by catching more and bigger fish. It was not long until I was launching off a surf beach in my fishing kayak to target offshore pelagic. My 2500 size Stradic did not disappoint and was even able to handle feisty bonitos just fine.

The trip back is the point of this story. As I was surfing my kayak back in through the breaking waves, I must of made a miscalculation and over my boat went. Into the water went myself, and all of my gear. Which included my newly purchased Stradic and a Daiwa Certate (which is an even more premium reel). My gear had a good wash around the surf zone. Even getting violently smothered by sand and pounded into the surf beach. While I was able to recover all my gear, my reels got an absolute hammering.

I took both reels home afterwards, I rinsed, cleansed and later got them serviced. The Stradic felt and performed as good as new. However the expensive Daiwa Certate while it survived, and I still fish with it, must of ingested one grain of sand too many and never recovered its silky smooth performance. This proved to me that the Shimano Stradics deserves its reputation. It survived getting pounded in the Surf and was no worst for fear. They really are remarkable reel and I personally feel they deserve their price premium.

I have no hesitation or doubt to recommend the Stradic, from ease of service and corrosion resistance. The high end Shimano, including the more budget friendly Stradic are in a class of their own and with the only real challenge coming from Daiwa. My Stradic has outlasted multiple reels from all other major brands and has never disappointed me. While the price is high, the quality and dependability is there. If you spread the price across many years of hassle free fishing, The Stardic is a bargain. If one reel deserves its reputation, it is the Shimano Stradic

Sizes and variations

The Stradic FL comes in a range of sizes suitable for trout fishing, the petit 1000 size weighs only 6.5oz, while the versatile 2500 is still a lightweight 7.9oz. Impressive for such a solidly built reel. The FL variation also comes with a long cast spool (long stroke spool) which allows for a slight increase in casting distance compared with more traditionally portioned reels.

Stradic CI4 is another variation, and a more mature product. The main difference is that the CI4 is made from a magnesium alloy which means it is even lighter, with the 1000 size weighing in at only 5.4oz and the 2500 only slightly more at 6.7oz. The ultimate finesse fishing at a budget the CI4+ is hard to beat. The much lighter CI4+ does come at quite a price premium so for most trout anglers the FL should more than exceed expectations.

Abu Garcia MGXtreme review

The best spinning reel from Abu Garcia

Abu Garcia MGXtreme an excellent trout reel

The flagship freshwater reel from Abu Garcia is the MGXtreme. It does not come cheap with a recommended retail price of over $400. It is marginally less smooth than the flagship Daiwa Exist and Shimano Stella line-ups it is also significantly cheaper and comes with a spare spool (which is shallower than the main spool which means less line wastage when fishing super light breaking strain line). A second spare spool is a rarity in premium fishing reels these days so Abu deserves applause for including it.

The first impression after handling the MGXtreme is its amazingly light weight with the 20 size reel weighing in at only 5.6 oz, that is even lighter than the feather weight Daiwa Exist. The lightweight is achieved thanks to the precision machining and the use of magnesium alloy in construction.

While they have made improvements in recent years, I personally would not trust an Abu Garcia magnesium reel anywhere near the sea, but as a premier reel to use for ultralight fishing targeting brooks and pan size browns and rainbows the MGXtreme 20 brings some great value to the table. So if you are in the market for a quality reel with a remarkably lightweight the MGXtreme is worthy of consideration.

Is it better value than the dependable, Shimano Stradic lineup? , or the new Vanford which costs nearly half the price I am not yet convinced. But as it stands, the MGXtreme is still the best reel Abu Garcia produces, and is quite a bit cheaper than other flagship models. I personally will be sticking with my well proven Shimano Stradic.

Shimano Stella vs Daiwa Exist

Which is the ultimate trout spinning reel?

What is the best trout spinning reel money can buy. A reel which combines durability, smoothness and lightweight in one ultralight package? Two names immediately spring to mind, both fishing powerhouses. They being Shimano and Daiwa with their Stella and Exist line ups.

I have been fortunate enough to have fished with and test both reels. Side by side and head to head. It goes without saying that both reels are silky smooth, barely any resistance cast after cast. They both bring me a lot of joy.

Spin fishing both side by side and I honestly cannot claim one is smoother than the other although some other testers and reviews have given a minuscule advantage to the Stella. Both reels are reaching towards the absolute apex of smoothness and quietness in operation. It is hard to know how either company can improve in this area.

They both use a state-of-the-art drag, and the design is remarkably similar. The drags are powerful, yet smooth, and consistent so can fish even with the lightest of line with absolute confidence. Another draw between the two. Neither drag will cost you a fish of a lifetime.

With regards to reel weight, the advantage goes to the Exist, their engineers and designers have certainly worked some magic to achieve such a low weight while maintaining excellent strength and durability. The Stella is also no heavy weight and weighs in at only 7.2oz for the 2500 size.

The Stellar frame is made from “HAGANE”, that word means nothing to me, so I decided to do some research. At the most basic level hagane simply means steel or metal in Japaense. Digging deeper I managed to discover that Shimano HAGANE is simply marketing speak for components made from Aluminum and Magnesium. Daiwa is much more direct, the frame of their Exist is made from Magnesium. Both reels use Aluminium spools and handles.

So a quick summary, there is not much to separate the two reels. They are both unbelievably smooth, powerful and are basically works of art. It is hard to go wrong with either reel. If I had to pick just one, I probably will go for the Shimano Stella, I personally feel their corrosion resistance is the best and the lower retail price makes it slightly better value.

Frequently Asked Questions About Trout Spinning Reels

Why Spinning Reels Rather Than Baitcasters?

Spinning reels are among the easiest reels to learn to cast. With only a few minutes of coaching, new anglers will be able to cast their lure into the water and hopefully catch fish. In the hands of experienced fishermen spinning reels offer great versatility, excellent accuracy and some of the best stopping power on the market. One of the major advantages separating spinning reels from baitcasters is that they are nearly impossible to tangle. So no need to spend, what seems like hours, of potential trout fishing picking away at a giant bird nest of twisted nylon.

Spinning reels are also much better suited at casting lightweight line and lures which are commonly used for targeting trout.

Why Spinning Reels Instead of Fly Fishing

Many fishermen place fly-fishing at the pinnacle of trout fishing. The grace, precision and ability to place even the tiniest of flies onto the water is hard to beat. Spinning for trout still has many advantages both new and experienced angler. Some of the key advantages include; the ability to cast further and with heavier lures. Spinning is also much better at punching into the wind. Thirdly spinning lures being heavier more quickly sink to the bottom. This can be essential when fishing in deep or swift water. Lastly, a good quality trout spinning reel and rod is usually much cheaper than the equivalent fly-fishing gear.

How Much Drag Does a Trout Reel Need?

When looking at ultralight spinning reels, the drag needs to be smooth, not powerful. A reels drag does not need to be much more powerful than 20-30% of the line breaking strain.

If you are fishing with 6lb line, probably only need 2lb of drag. If fishing 4lb line then you only need to apply a lb of drag pressure.

All modern trout spinning reels have powerful enough drags. There is no need for 10lb drag when fishing 6lb line.

Carbon vs Felt Drag in a Trout Spinning Reel?

A smooth drag, is more important than a powerful drag A well greased felt drag, is typically the best drag for ultralight fishing due to its smoothness.

Carbon drags are not better, they are simply more powerful and cheap carbon drags can even feel more jerky. This youtube video here gives a good explanation.

In most cases, the drags which come with modern spinning reels are totally overkill for trout and most other types of fishing.

Powerful drags are extremely common on reels today. I suspect, marketing rather than any real fishing need has been the primary driver for the overpowered drags.

I have landed trophy trout, and believe it or not. You do not need 10lb of drag to slow or turn a 10lb trout. That is because the trout is suspended in the water, the line and drag is only fighting a fraction of its total weight.

How Much Line Capacity Does a Trout Spinning Reel Need?

Spinning reels come in many spool sizes. When targeting trout we would be considering reels in the lower spool sizes. The numbering and rating systems does differ between manufacturers. Most spinning reels for trout will be in the 1000-1500 size rating.

For trout fishing, there is generally no need for more than 100 yards of line. They generally do not run that far.

If you are targeting large trout in big water, then a 2500 size spool can also be suitable. This larger spool size is also useful when trolling because you might have 50-60 yards of line trailing behind the boat.

If you are targeting steelhead, or powerful sea run trout then you can go up to 3000 or 4000 size. Steelheads, can go on powerful runs. So I will recommend 140 yards of 10lb line. If you are after steelhead specific recommendations check my guide here.

Best Frame Material For a Trout Spinning Reel

Plastic: The cheapest of spinning reels predominantly have plastic frames. Comparatively plastic offers poor rigidity and durability but it can be surprisingly impact resistant. Most plastic frame reels are marketed towards children.

Sometimes, people also refer to graphite and composite reels as plastic. This is because the reels are made from epoxy reinforced glass or carbon fibres.

What Is the Difference Between Carbon and Graphite Spinning Reels?

A question I have wondered, what is the difference between Carbon and Graphite reels. Technically speaking graphite and carbon are the same material.

I am no engineer, but from what I understand. Composite reels are basically a combination of carbon fibres bonded together with various co-polymers. In more basic terms, the material is a blend of plastics and carbon. The low end reels are typically marketed as graphite, while the more premium models carry the carbon labelling. For reels, I feel a more accurate description would be  carbon-fibre reinforced plastic.

While both graphite and carbon frame materials are made from carbon fibre, the resulting composites are not all the same. The proportionality, bonding agents and quality of the carbon fibres do differ.

The higher end carbon frames in theory offer more rigidity and strength. Composite reel frames, at least on trout size reels are every bit as tough as Aluminium.

Unlike metal reels graphite does not suffer from corrosion. My first trout spinning reel had a graphite frame. Even after many years the frame is still in good condition.

I own several saltwater reels which are over 30 years old. While the internals are certainly showing their age the frames; although dirty with dust they are still in reasonable condition despite years of neglect. Graphite can be somewhat vulnerable to hard impacts.

So I am convinced about the strength, durability and longevity of graphite.

What is Shimano CI4+, Daiwa Zaion, Okuma C-40X and Abu Garcia IM-CS?

These materials are graphite / carbon with a fancy name such as Shimano CI4+, Daiwa Zaion, Okuma C-40X and Abu Garcia IM-Cs. While the exact make up of these composites are kept secret, they are all basically a resin reinforced with carbon fibres. They basically using more carbon fibre rather than fibreglass like found on cheaper reels.

On their website, Daiwa Claims “ordinary carbon is made of nylon 6-6 resin and carbon fibres at 20%, ZAION boasts twice the density of carbon fibres. The result is a unique material that is as strong as magnesium.”

While Okuma desscribes their C-40C as “Okuma’s C-40X carbon technology utilizes a specially blended graphite polymer. The carbon fibers in this material are elongated and reinforced, creating a substantially stronger composite than standard graphite materials.”

How Good Are Metal Frame Reels for Trout Fishing?

Aluminium: Fishermen will now agree that Aluminium is the most popular frame material for spinning reels. Today most spinning reels are constructed with aluminium frames, aluminium is lightweight, impact resistant and offers good rigidity. The downsides is that aluminium frames can suffer from corrosion. Although with good maintenance, and most importantly washing away any saltwater corrosion should not be a major issue.

Magnesium. Magnesium is found on some more premium reels. Weighing 33% lighter than aluminium but is also comparatively less rigid. A magnesium reel with the same rigidity as aluminium requires more magnesium to be used. The extra magnesium needed counters the advantage of the weight savings. Like aluminium magnesium offers low weights and excellent rigidity, but like all metals it can corrode. Marketing claims aside, I personally do not consider magnesium reels much of an upgrade over aluminium.

How Many Ball Bearings Do I Need in a Spinning Reel?

Marketers love to increase the number of bearings inside a spinning reel. In some cheap reels of dubious quality you can find a dozen or more ball bearings.

While bearings help improve a reels smoothness after a certain number there is little benefit to additional bearings. They just add cost to the reel. A good trout spinning reel only needs 4 or 5 bearings any more than that is just a luxury. When I was young, I caught many good trout on an entry level reel with only two ball bearings.

Cheap entry levels are simply not made with enough precision to benefit from additional ball bearings. Even if a Shimano Sienna has as many bearings as a Stellar it would not feel as smooth, that is because the precision of the gearing and the frame is not as exact.

So the factor which limits smoothness in cheap reels, is not he number of ball bearings. But how precisely it was assembled.

Which Fishing Reel Brand Makes the Best Trout Reels?

There are many brands selling fishing reels, but few actual manufacturers.

Big Three Manufacturers

Three companies dominate the manufacturing and distributions of fishing reels. These three companies control their own factories and production. The big three companies are Shimano, Daiwa and Okuma. Shimano and Daiwa have their headquarters in Japan while Okuma is from Taiwan.

Shimano manufacturers their premium reels in Japan, and their cheaper reels in Thailand and Malaysia.

Daiwa manufacturers their premium reels in Japan, with additional factories in Korea

Okuma predominantly manufacturers in Taiwan.

Cottage Manufacturers.

These are small specialized manufacturers, they typically do their own design and manufacture relatively small numbers of reels to a very high standard. Some examples include Accurate, IRTReels, Alutecnos, Duel, Avet and ZeeBas. I am not aware of any cottage manufacturer making spinning reels suitable for trout fishing.


Several large conglomerates hold and market multiple fishing brands. These conglomerates mostly have their reels manufactured in china, with their higher end models made in Korea. These companies include PureFishing who owns Penn, Abu, Shakesphere, Mitchell, Pflueger and Berkely. The slightly smaller Zebco group who holds the rights for Zebco, Fin-Nor and Quantum ect.

Importers and House Brands

These are companies which do not design their own reels but rely solely on the expertise of OEM. For the most part, these designed and made in china and the brands simply choose the colors and branding. Quality is always questionable. These reels are often sold directly to the consumer via online sites such as Amazon and Ebay.

Some better quality house brands which might be worth considering include Gander, BPS, Cabelas who reels are mostly manufactured by Doyo in Korea, although Daiwa sometimes acts as an OEM for Cabelas.

Best Budget Trout Spinning Reel for under $50

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