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Fishing Gear: Best Spinning Reels for 2018

Fishing Gear: Best Spinning Reels for 2018

For those who won't venture onto their favorite lake without a drop shot, wacky rig or shakey head tied on, here are some of the best spinning reels available today.

For almost every hard core bass angler out there, baitcasting equipment is the quintessential power-fishing play.

However, today, national tournaments are increasingly being won using an array of light-line techniques, those capable of catching fish when strong-arm tactics fizzle.

To be a complete bass fisherman, you must possess a comprehensive skill set, one which includes mastery of the finesse game.

Light-lining morsel-sized baits on spinning gear has become a staple of almost every professional angler, one which helps them consistently catch fish and cash paychecks.

Weekenders have also discovered spinning gear's unique ability to manage micro baits efficiently.

Here are seven standout spinning reels you should consider.

Shimano Exsence

best spinning reelsIndustry bellwether Shimano owns the high-end spinning market with its flagship Stella. The Exsence is another ultra-high-end spinner, and like its stable mate, it won't be an impulse buy for most as it carries a hefty $540 price tag. But if you're an angler who must own every technological innovation available in a lightweight package (the 3000 size is 7.1 ounces and the 4000 size is 8.6 ounces), then this is the reel for you. The stealthy black frame is a departure from many of Shimano's shinier models, but this reel is less about flash and more about manhandling giant fish.

Key Features: With a total of 12 ball bearings, this reel is built to be worm-snot smooth. But the addition of Shimano's other advances, like micro module gear teeth, Hagane gearing and the MGL rotor, means that it will never seize up, whether you're landing the tournament-winning fish or just trying to finesse a new personal best.

Why You Need It: X-Protect technology provides an anti-corrosion barrier that enables you to venture out into the salt without fear. If you chase redfish, tarpon or stripers, this is a one-reel solution to a variety of challenges. You can be sure that it won't let you down no matter how strong your quarry may be. — Pete Robbins



  • Gear Ratio 6.0:1
  • Line Capacity  110 yds / 8 lbs (Mono)
  • Weight   7.1 oz
  • Bearings 11+1
  • Price   $539.99

Bass Pro Shops' Carbon Lite

best spinning reelsAt just $80, the Carbon Lite is the ultimate bargain spinning reel, offering many of the same features found in reels costing several times more. As the name suggests, Bass Pro Shops has constructed the Carbon Lite series with generous carbon enhancements to lighten the assemblies. BPS has strategically placed carbon components throughout the reel and machined out unwanted material elsewhere. This keeps the overall build rigid, while dramatically reducing overall weight. All models in the Carbon Lite lineup weigh between 7 and 8 ounces yet punch well above their weight class.

Key Features: The BPS Carbon Lite has plenty of value-added features in a compact package. With eight bearings, this spinner is smooth. A titanium nitride-coated line roller decreases problems with line twist while minimizing roller-to-line friction. But where size is needed, it's there, including a lengthened and beefier spool arbor that increases casting distance by reducing line friction across the spool's lip.

Why You Need It: If you're a true believer in the value of spinning tackle and need to have four or five spinning combos on the deck or in the rod box much of the time, the Carbon Lite series is for you. You can get a set of these reels, in various sizes, at a price that won't break the bank. And you won't miss out on any of the features of reels costing much more. — Pete Robbins


  • Gear Ratio 5.1:1
  • Line Capacity  230 yds / 15 lbs (Braid)
  • Weight   7.7 oz
  • Bearings 9+1
  • Price   $79.99

Cabela's Verano

best spinning reelsIn conjunction with Daiwa, Cabela's Verano is built with the aggressive styling and space-age technology that's employed by much of the competition, and at a sub-$140 price tag. At this price, the Verano lets you get two or more so you can have them for use with multiple techniques and varying line sizes and types. Ten bearings, at key pressure points, provide the smoothness of reels costing twice as much. That's a big plus.

Key Features: The Zaion body is rigid, strong and lightweight. The hollow bail and ABS spool lighten the reel, so it won't wear you out while on the water or create an unbalanced combo. The spool tapers in a rearward direction allowing the line to thread off of, and onto, the spool with minimum friction, keeping your light line uncompromised at all times.

Why You Need It: If you put your reels to the test in challenging conditions on a regular basis, this one is built to take the harshest abuse you can dole out. The Verano's drag is waterproof, and the body is corrosion-resistant. Gear ratios of 6.0:1 and 6.2:1 are available, and they retrieve line at a faster rate than many of the more expensive reels (up to 41.3 inches per turn). Sweetening the deal even further, the Verano comes with a factory lifetime warranty. — Pete Robbins


  • Gear Ratio 6.0:1
  • Line Capacity 250 yds / 20 lbs (Braid)
  • Weight   8.5 oz
  • Bearings 10
  • Price   $139.99

Abu Garcia Revo Winch

best spinning reelsAs the name implies, this reel is a tug, with its low, 4.7:1 gear ratio. Game & Fish put the Winch to the test last fall at Lake El Salto, Mexico, taking advantage of its ability to slow down presentations. The reel excelled, providing powerful control while on the business end of two 8-pound-plus largemouth bass that fell for a creeped whacky-rigged Berkley General soft-plastic stick bait. That finesse technique boated dozens of suspended bass in the 3- to 8-pound fish range, with the Winch's drag system and gears performing flawlessly.

Key Features: The slow gear ratio is  the key selling feature of the Winch. However, other admirable features include 8+1 stainless steel bearings, the AMGearing system with precision-machined gears, a carbon body and a machined aluminum braid-ready spool. The Revo retrieves smoothly, and the front-reel drag adjustment is easily accessible when battling oversized fish.

Why You Need It: The Winch lets you slow down and fish a variety of finesse techniques with power and control. The Winch excels for those situations when only spinning gear makes sense, like when throwing small crankbaits in cold water, or while fishing downsized swimbaits or those wildly popular spy baits. — Scott Bernarde


  • Gear Ratio 4.7:1
  • Line Capacity  175 yds / 8 lbs (Mono)
  • Weight   8 oz
  • Bearings 8+1
  • Price   $159.99

Quantum Smoke S3

best spinning reelsAt $159.99, Quantum's Smoke S3 is a mid-range reel offering many features typically found only on high-end spinning reels, including a total of 12 bearings. The industry stalwart has increased the durability of their offerings, to withstand the most rough-and-tumble of use. While beefed up, the S3 remains relatively light, with a rubberized handle designed to let you fish in comfort for hours on end.

Key Features: An asymmetric gearing system forged from high-strength aluminum provides a rugged drag. A unique combination of ceramic, carbon fiber and stainless-steel components combine to increase durability in a package that handles gossamer-thin lines with ease. Furthermore, the gears use a special type of plasma arc ceramic washers that are more durable than typical ceramics, increasing longevity.

Why You Need It: Quantum claims this reel offers perfect "line lay." In other words, no  matter what type of line is used, it will pay on and off the spool smoothly, with no hitches or hesitation. This ensures longer casts and flawless fights. Whether you fish for a living or just for fun, the Smoke S3 is a tool that will make the experience better. Attention-to-ergonomic detail can be seen in the super soft handle knobs, which is a great grab. — Pete Robbins


  • Gear Ratio 6.0:1
  • Line Capacity  150 yds / 8 lbs (Mono)
  • Weight   8 oz
  • Bearings 3+8+1
  • Price   $159.99

Daiwa Ballistic LT

best spinning reelsDaiwa has taken a tried-and-true design and made it better, dropping 2-ounces per model off their already skinny frames without sacrificing strength. Even the powerful 4000 series weigh a mere 7.9-ounces, yet the lightweight Zaion housing is actually more rigid than the frame of many other heavier reels, all at a $230 price point. A sealed housing keeps all the internal components dry and any foreign gunk out. Daiwa's air rotor reduces rotational mass (as it spins) allowing the Ballistic to turn nicely with little-to-no inertia when cranking it quickly. A real plus for those who make lots of casts during the day.

Key Features: An aircraft-grade aluminum gearing system, plus seven bearings keep everything spinning smoothly from start to finish. A slick anti-reverse makes jarring hooksets easy, with all the power going into the rod and bait.

Why You Need It: If you're looking for a spinning reel that offers big performance in a downsized and lighter package, this is it. All of the strength of its predecessors remains, but Daiwa has figured out a way to make each component just as powerful but substantially lighter. If you're fishing all day, from sunrise to sunset, that's incredibly valuable. While being lightweight, you can cast all day in comfort, with increased accuracy due to less fatigue. —  Pete Robbins


  • Gear Ratio 5.1:1 to 6.2:1
  • Line Capacity  220 yds / 12 lbs (Mono)
  • Weight   5.8 to 8.1 oz
  • Bearings 7
  • Price   $229.99

Lew's Mach Crush

best spinning reelsFew reels at the $100 price point can make the same kind of splash as this orange-accented new offering from Lew's. This reel offers the durability that Lew's has become known for, all in a lightweight package. The Mach Crush comes from the factory performance-tuned with the company's proprietary "Speed Lube," so that it's slippery turn right out of the package.

Key Features: The aluminum body keeps all models, even the large-spooled 400's, at a weight that won't wear you out or negatively impact the balance of your rod-and-reel combo. With eleven bearings, including a zero-reverse clutch bearing, you assured of smooth operation during and after the cast.

Why You Need It: This eye-catcher is a lot of reel in a small package, and at a silly affordable price. It's also available in a pre-matched combo, with a rod that cosmetically matches the orange-accented Mach Crush. If you're not ready to spend $200 on just a reel, you can get this whole package for that amount. You can make mile-long casts with light line and still monitor every rock, twig and bottom feature your lure creeps over.  —  Pete Robbins


  • Gear Ratio 6.2:1
  • Line Capacity  145 yds / 10 lbs (Mono)
  • Weight   8.6 oz
  • Bearings 11
  • Price   $99.99

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