Best spinning reels for trout fishing | 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.

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.

What to look for in a good value trout spinning reel?

Drag System – Modern spinning reels come with powerful and often smooth drags. In most cases they are totally overkill for trout and most other types of fishing. Powerful drags are becoming increasingly common on reels today. Marketing rather than any real fishing need has been the primary driver for the overpowered drags.

A high quality smooth drag system is important, especially when using ultra lightweight line. Trout angling rarely need drag over 10lb, and in most situations 2-3lbs of drag pressure is sufficient. When fighting trout over the magical 10lb only a couple of lbs of drag is normally applied.

Spool Size/Line Capacity – 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 1000-2500 size rating. Manufacturers often provide spool capacity for both monofilament (nylon) and braided line. Spare spools are still provided with some reels. I personally use the spare spool to fish two different weights of line or type of line.

Frame Material

Plastic: The cheapest of spinning reels predominantly have plastic frames. Unfortunately the majority of which are targeted at children. I have never tried a plastic reel which was any good and I would not recommend any of them. Plastic offers poor rigidity and durability. The poor quality of such products are likely to leave both child and parent frustrated.

Graphite / carbon: Graphite, or on higher end models sometimes marketed as carbon offers excellent rigidity at a low weight. 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.

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.

Bearings 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.

Best Budget Trout Spinning Reel for under $50

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.

Penn Pursuit III

best budget spinning reel for estuarine trout fishing

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

The solidly built PENN Pursuit III is excellent value and brings many features and technologies normally exclusive to much more expensive reels such as the HT-100 carbon fiber drag washers and the precision machined and the superline compatible anodized aluminium spool.

The smoothness and quiet operation belies its affordable price, with up to 10lb of drag, well in excess of the most commonly used line weights used for trout fishing. The Penn Pursuit has a sealed drag, which helps protects the internals against immersion, allowing the drag to remain smooth for longer. I have used Penn reels with comparable sealed drags for many years fishing from a Kayak which is among the most hostile conditions for reels and I have not noticed any significant deterioration in drag performance.

Rated for saltwater use means the Penn Pursuit III is our budget reel pick to use in estuarine or marine environments. Fishing can be challenging on reels. 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.

Shimano FX

Shimano FX.

Time tested and proven. The Shimano FX is a dependable entry level spinning reel for trout fishing. The Shimanox FX is one of the most affordable reels from Shimano. The worlds forefront manufacturer of fishing reels.

The first dedicated spinning reel I used for trout fishing was a much earlier version of the Shimano FX. While smoothness and precision are lacking compared with higher end reels. The shimano FX has proven itself to me, but also to be many other new fishermen to be a reliable and durable reel. I personally used mine to catch many trout and even a rather unexpected salmon. My little FX was always up to the task and gave no problems. Even 15 years later it still winds and casts like new.

Shimano makes quality and dependable reels, their reputation among reel manufacturers is second to none. That high standard even applies to their entry level reels like the FX. While they might be lacking in flashy visual appeal compared with many of the competition. The reel internals are to the same standard of Shimanos higher end models so you can have confidence that the reel is going to last.

Size and specifications

Available in 5 sizes, three of which are in the most suited range for trout spinning, the fx1000FC, the FX2000FC and the high speed FX2500HGFC which due to a high gear ratio winds in line at a greater rate. The normal speed FX2000FC is our recommendation for trout angling.

Depending on size the drag ranges from 7-9lbs, which is plenty enough to control even the most energetic of trout.

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)

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

The FX2000FC shares the same frame as the FX2500, making them very similar reels. The lower capacity means it takes less line to full the spool. This shallow spool is ideal for use with braid or superlines.

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 4000-5000 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.

Widely applauded by both reviewers and fishermen. The Okuma Ceymar is 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.

I have been fishing Okuma reels in both fresh and saltwater and have found them to be a reliable reel that provides value far beyond their price tag, and the Ceymar is no exception. Upon taking it from the box the first impression was the striking design which belies its low price.

On the rive the quality really showed, even after weeks of hard fishing the retrieve is still smooth and the drag gave no issues.

The build quality of the Ceymar is impressive for the price. The finish might be bright and flashy, but the underlying graphite frame is solid. Like most reels, the Ceymar comes with a machined anodized aluminium spool. The brass pinion gear offers improved corrosion resistance. 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.

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.

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

Best mid price spinning reel for trout fishing

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

Pflueger president reels are one of the most commonly fished reels on North American rivers. It is also a popular choice among fishing guides. High on quality, but not on price the president has quite the reputation for quality, reliability and overall dependability. It is widely regarded as one of the best freshwater spinning reel for trout fishing.

My first impression of the President its surprising smoothness and lightness. The strong yet light graphite frame, stainless steel gearing and 10 bearings results in a smooth performance cast after cast. The drag is strong yet smooth. All around it is 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. For all but the most finesse of situations it would be a bit on the small size.

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

Shimano Sedona, the best trout spinning reel for ultralight fishing on a budget.

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 is noticeably smoother due to an extra ball bearing and the more premium X-Ship gear technology. When fished under pressure, the X-Ship technology allows the gear mechanism to keep alignment. That does come at an expense of slightly increased weight.

I decided to include these two reels together, because there are many similarities between them. They both have graphite frames and use the same drag system and gear ratio. Both reels use the premium Hagane gear technology (cold forge gears) which improves smoothness and durability over the 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.

Shimano Sahara

The Sahara is noticeably smoother due to an extra ball bearing and the more premium X-Ship gear technology. When fished under pressure, the X-Ship technology allows the gear mechanism to keep alignment. That does come at an expense of slightly increased weight.

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. 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

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

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

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.

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.

Widely applauded by reviewers and anglers alike the Penn Battle III has a great and well deserved reputation. The Penn Battle III Penn uses Penns HT-100 carbon fibre drag washer and CNC Gear technology, found throughout much of Penns spinning reel line. Including the Penn Clash II which is a $200 reel.

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 a surplus of drag. I can not 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 and no extra weight. 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.

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

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

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.