Having the best spinning reel for lake fishing will make your fishing experience rewarding and enjoyable regardless of your location. Every experienced angler will agree that a wrong fishing reel can ruin the fun when fishing with your friend or family member in the lake.
Over the last ten years, I have experimented with different types of reels and rods fishing in Montana’s breathtaking lakes, including Swan Lake, Lake Mary Ronan, Lake McDonald, Flathead Lake, and Kicking Horse.
One of the best types of reels that never disappoints in lake fishing and beach casting is the spinning reel, especially if you’re a beginner or you have a beginner cousin or friend coming over to join you in a fishing expedition.
This is mainly because these reels are fairly cheaper than their more specialized counterparts, can be used for different fishing applications, and are quite user-friendly, especially for beginners.
Based on my experience with different reels, here is a detailed guide on buying the best fishing reel for your next lake fishing adventure, plus a review of some of my personal recommendations.
Who Needs a Spinning Reel for Lake Fishing?
As a fisherman or woman, you need the right fishing reel to enjoy your fishing pastime adventures at the lake. Whether you fish exclusively for trout in posh locations such as Hawaii or occasionally go out for the Finger Lakes regions in New York, you need the right pick of fishing reel. There is a wide range of fishing reel types in renowned big-box or online stores designed to meet the specific needs of every angler.
If you’re a beginner, however, you should consider starting with the beginner or budget options. You can later go for the purpose-built fishing reel types once you’ve mastered the right fishing techniques and determined the type of fish you intend to target.
If you’re a seasoned angler, you’ll agree that a reel designed for river fishing or beach casting won’t obviously match up when it comes to lake fishing. The next section covers some of the best reels designed specifically for lake fishing and why they suit such fishing situations.
Top Five Spinning Reels for Lake Fishing
1: Best Heavy-duty Reel: PENN Slammer III Spinning Reel
If you’re a seasoned fisherman capable of handling heavy-duty fishing for long hours out there in the lake, then you require heavy-duty gear, which should include the PENN Slammer III. The spinning reel comes with a rotor to help you enjoy the offshore battle maneuvers, a side plate, and a full metal body.
It’s a perfect spinning reel for retrieving trophy fish smoothly as it has sturdy CNC gear technology. Moreover, the fishing reel has a spool design and the IP67 sealed body for added protection. Therefore, you don’t have to worry about damaging your reel as you go for heavy-duty casting expeditions.
Furthermore, you’ll enjoy a maximum performance on all your trips because the device’s engineering can keep water out of your gearbox. You can have the confidence to enjoy fishing on the shore or the boat with this powerful PENN Slammer III. Besides, the reel is capable of withstanding the punishment that fishermen face when surfcasting and dealing with constant water sprays.
It can repetitively handle heavy lures comfortably, preventing the dunking that you may have been experiencing when wading. The new 9500 and 10500 models are capable of dragging up to 960 Ounces.
- Sturdy CNC gear technology
- Weighs 32 Ounces
- Made of aluminum
- The newer models can drag up to 960 Ounces.
- IP67 sealed body
- 2 handle knobs
- Solid rotor, metal frame, and side plate
- 6+1 stainless steel ball bearings
2: Best Budget: Ozark Trail 5+1 Ball Bearing Spinning Reel
This is one of the budget options on our list that is suitable for first-timers. The frame of this Ozark Trail spinning reel is made of corrosion-resistant anodized aluminum and graphite. Additionally, you can rest assured that the fishing reel will last longer because even the internal parts are made of aluminum.
Since it’s an affordable choice of the fishing reel as compared to other similar name-brand fishing reels, it’s a great middle-of-the-road reel that you can buy for every family member.
- It has a gear ratio of 5.1:1
- Ozark Trail 5+1-Bearing System technology
- Weighs 16.8 Ounces
- Fairly affordable
- Anodized aluminum and graphite frame
- Ambidextrous hand orientation
- Adjustable centrifugal brake system
3: Best for Saltwater Lakes: Piscifun Flame Spinning Reels
The Piscifun Flame fishing reel has a braid-ready spool, which translates to one of the most cost-effective angling tackles you’ll ever experience. With 9 + 1 quality ball bearings, you can be assured of having fun out fishing at the lake.
The 2000 and 3000 series of the Flame spinning fishing reel are perfect for freshwater fishing outings. But, if you want to go after big fish or want to try fishing in saltwater, your best options are the 4000 and 5000 series.
The reel is available in different colors, so you can choose what best matches your outing’s theme. Since the reel can pull out fish weighing up to 960 Ounces, you can use it with a fishing rod to catch large fish species.
- X Braid Ready Spool
- Can drag up to up to 960 Ounces
- Incredibly smooth
- Weighs 8.05 Ounces
- Handles heavy fish species
- Beautiful design
4: Best for Beginners: Pflueger President Spinning Fishing Reel
The fishing reel features a rotor and graphite body construction. It’s a lightweight reel that is quite suited for young anglers. The reel also has a braid-ready spool that is very convenient for fishers who want to tie the braid directly to the spool. Additionally, it has a 7 bearing system and ball bearings made of stainless steel. The spinning fishing reel weighs 0.46 pounds, which is quite a lightweight design. While the device’s body is made of aluminum, its bearing and handle are made of stainless steel.
With its ambidextrous hand orientation, any fisherman will find this reel to be very user-friendly. It’s perfect for people who are looking for smooth casting. To minimize line twists and strained fishing experiences, the reel has slow oscillation gearing. More importantly, the Pflueger President fishing reel allows you to enjoy a fishing experience likened to that of the “commander in chief” regardless of your location.
- Rotor and graphite construction
- Ambidextrous hand orientation
- Weighs 7.36 Ounces
- A braid-ready spool
- 7 bearing System
- Sealed drag
- Aluminum body
- Stainless steel handle and bearing
5: Best for Digital Control Braking System: Shimano CURADO DC Freshwater Fishing Reel
In the Curado lineup, this particular fishing reel is considered to be the most advanced model. One of the greatest features of this reel is its Digital Control Braking System, which makes it more durable, dependable, and more versatile.
You can use the microcomputer on the Digital Control Braking System to monitor the spool speed smartly at 1000 times per second. The fishing reel will then apply brakes automatically to maximize your fishing distance and prevent any backlash.
It’s designed for fishers of all skill levels. Aside from being a user-friendly device, it performs very highly. The reel features trouble-free casting regardless of the type of lure you choose to use. The device’s Micromodule Gear System and X-SHIP system enhances its performance. If you’re looking for one of the most enjoyable and smooth crankings at the lake, this Shimano fishing reel has you covered.
- Micromodule Gear System and X-SHIP system
- Gear Ratio: 8.5:1
- Weighs 7.9 Ounces
- Digital Control Braking System
- Trouble-free casting
- Microcomputer on the Digital Control Braking System
Things to Consider When Buying the Best Spinning Reel for Lake Fishing
Here are a few things to look for when shopping for the best fishing reel for lake fishing:
The popular options of fishing reel materials preferred by most reputable brands are aluminum and graphite. Even though both of them are lightweight, aluminum is more durable and more affordable.
Graphite is a better option for anglers who are looking for the most suitable fishing reels for saltwater fishing as they don’t corrode as easily as aluminum does. However, pricy fishing reels are often made from Anodized aluminum that doesn’t corrode that easily.
A majority of first-time fishermen get confused a lot when it comes to determining the right gear ratio for their fishing expeditions. A fishing reel with a lower gear ratio is lower than one with a higher ratio. For example, a fishing reel with a ratio of 4:1 is slower than one with a ratio of 6:1.
It’s advisable to go for a fishing reel that is of a medium gear ratio of 5:1 and up regardless of your fishing techniques. While a slower fishing reel is perfect for cranking in a huge fish slowly, a faster fishing reel is more flexible when it comes to cranking in any size of fish. In other words, you can make a faster fishing reel crank slowly, but you can’t make a slower fishing reel go faster.
Fishing reels are rated according to the weight of the line they can handle. For instance, if you’re looking for reels that can handle 6- to 8-pound test lines, then you need to think around those weights and not the actual size dimensions. In essence, a fishing reel rated 6 lb. or 48 Ounces test can handle that weight line or a few ounces more.
It’s important to be aware that some manufacturers may indicate the same rating as 6 lb./140 yards. Instead of focusing on the reel’s color, think about the fishing rod you’d wish to match with your reel. To prevent potential wrist injuries, if the fish you’re trying to catch puts on a long fight, avoid fishing reels that feel awkward in your hands.
The type of drag system (which applies friction on the reel’s spool) you choose is very critical, especially if you’re going after larger fish species. The drag system will come in handy when casting and baiting a fish. Older designs of drag systems are not as adjustable as the newer models that produce a clicking sound when you pull a line off the reel.
While the drag systems you opt for in a fishing reel may not affect the angler’s experience, front drag systems are sturdier and thus last longer than the rear drag systems.
Most of the high-end fishing reels on the market have waterproof drag systems, which enhances their durability. It’s wise to invest in a sturdy fishing reel that is capable of handling extra poundage if your fishing adventures take you to places where you can catch extra-large fish.
If you want a smooth drag system, consider disc drag system designs suitable for fly fishing. An adjustable disc drag system allows you to make adjustments to suit the drag pressure level. Depending on your fishing outing preferences, you can choose to go for spring and pawl, disc, or the caliper drag systems.
There are three common methods of casting:
1: Fly Fishing Reels
There is a wide variety of fly fishing reels to choose from. The term “fly” is derived from the small lures used for this fishing method. The small insects used as lures imitate the size of “flies” The lightweight artificial fly is cast using a fly rod, fishing reel, and a unique weighted line. The casting techniques you require for this fly fishing are very different from other types of casting.
2: Baitcasting Reels
If you’re an experienced angler, then consider purchasing this type of fishing reel. This reel uses the lure’s weight to pull on the line and turn the reel’s spool. The fishing reel is, therefore, perfect for smallmouth bass or larger, stronger game fish. However, you can find a spinning type of baitcasting reel designed for handling smaller baits. It’s a great fishing reel for anglers who want to stay out longer. The one-piece design of a baitcasting fishing reels lessens corrosion when fishing in saltwater.
3: Spinning Reels
First-timers prefer spinning fishing reels because installing or removing the spinning rod is simpler. They are great for smaller fish species and have an anti-reverse mechanism that prevents the line from pulling off and tangling your fishing line.
4: Spincast Reels
When you cast this type of reel, the line comes off the top of the reel’s spool. Until you press the button with your thumb to start casting, the spool remains motionless. The bait pushes the line when you release the thumb button. The entire process is quite simple and fun.
Freshwater Vs. Saltwater Fishing Reels
While any type of fishing reel can work perfectly for freshwater, you need to consider a high-end fishing reel for saltwater fishing outings. Fishing in a saltwater lake will require you to look for a corrosion-resistant fishing reel that is strong enough to deal with the large underwater monsters. If you’re targeting freshwater fish, focus on finding the best fishing line instead of worrying about corrosion.
It’s important to consider the weight of your new fishing reel because a heavy reel can wear on your arms, especially if you intend to be spending several hours at the lake. The extra ounces won’t be comfortable for older folks, kids, and beginners. Even though lighter fishing reels are often more expensive than heavier reels, they’ll offer you a pleasant fishing experience.
If you prefer catching the fish at the shoreline, look for a fishing reel and compatible fishing rod capable of withstanding the stress a fish causes when trying to flee. But if you usually fish from a boat, you can make do with a weaker fishing reel with more mobility.
The bearings count of most cheap fishing reels is around 11 or more. While buying a fishing reel with more bearings count will typically offer you a smoother operation, it’s good to think about the quantity, as well. For example, a reel listed as having a bearings count of 6+1 means that it has 6 ball bearings and 1 roller bearing.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Who makes the best freshwater fishing reels?
The brand you choose for your next freshwater fishing outing really depends on personal preferences and a couple of other factors. Some of the most reputable brands you should consider working with include Penn, Daiwa, Shimano, and Abu Garcia.
What’s better Shimano or Penn?
Compared to the Shimano fishing reels, the Penn Clash has 2 more bearings and can hold up to 70 more yards of braid. Furthermore, since the Penn is cheaper than the Shimano, it’s a great budget pick considering that the extra 2 bearings will give you a smoother reel.
While the Shimano may have 3 more pounds of drag than the Penn Clash, the Penn can keep the drag very smooth by applying two pounds of drag to maximum drag. That means that using a new coil spring may cause you to lose around 30 percent of your maximum drag, which makes the Clash more powerful than the Shimano. However, if you prefer lightweight fishing reels, then at 1.5 ounces, the Shimano beats the Clash.
What are the best freshwater spinning reels?
All anglers, experienced or not, can easily manage to handle freshwater spinning reels. Investing in spinning reels doesn’t require you only to pick corrosion-resistant reels, as is the case with saltwater fishing reels. Some of the best brands to consider are the Shimano Sienna FG Spinning Reel, Pflueger President Spinning Reel, and the Okuma Stratus VI Spinning Reel., etc.
Are more bearings in a fishing reel better?
The number of bearings you have on your spinning reels matters a lot in terms of how smooth the retrieve in the reel will feel. More ball bearings offer a smoother retrieve compared to reels with a small number of ball bearings. Consider settling for a fishing reel that has around 5 ball bearings. Always go for a fishing reel with the most bearings that you can afford.
Whether you intend to go after a scrappy trout or a big steelhead, knowing how to choose the right reel for your outing will make or break your fishing experience. While freshwater fishing reels are ideal for lakes and rivers, saltwater fishing reels are designed for cranking fish in large water bodies such as oceans.
My best pick for a workhorse of a fishing reel that’s not only sturdy but also durable is the Penn Slammer III. On the other hand, Shimano boasts better casting performance, versatility, innovative Shimano reel technology, and smooth functioning. If you enjoy fishing outings, take your time to understand the functionalities of all the features above of fishing reels and follow this guide keenly when shopping for your next reel.