Man Fishing at the Sea with a Spinning Reel

Top 5 Best Spinning Reels Reviewed (2020)

The great news for dedicated spin reel anglers is that modern spin reels are so good, it’s getting really hard to choose one.

Without further ado, here’s our picks…

Dollar for dollar, inclusions, quality and performance are nigh on inseparable between competing brands, famous and fringe.

You’re here to find out our opinion on some of the best spinning reels available today.

My Selections for 5 of the Best Spinning Reels

  1. PENN Slammer III (Top Pick)
  2. SHIMANO Stella SWB
  3. DAIWA 14 Saltiga 5500H (Editor’s Choice)
  4. SHIMANO Sienna FE (Best For The Money)
  5. SHIMANO Stradic Ci4

The Top Three…

Here are our top three choices from the lineup, each one in its own category.

This is so you can have a variety to choose from depending on your needs…

Top Pick

Penn Slammer III

Sitting firmly in the lower portion of the mid-price bracket, the Slammer is loaded with quality tech, including stainless bearings and the PENN IPX6 Sealed System.

Penn Slammer III

My top pick Goes to the Slammer. Class, power, durability and for the price it wins out. I find more anglers are better suited, and indeed prefer, more robust equipment.

Best on a Budget

Shimano Sienna FE

There’s serious honesty in this minimalist reel. There’s an absence of over-hyped technologies that leaves Shimano to rely on solid basics.

Shimano Sienna FE

The Shimano Sienna FE is the hands down king for the budget conscious. There’s class and honesty in its simplicity that’s a joy to own for mere pocket change.

Editor’s Choice

Daiwa 14 Saltiga

It’s higher-than-high price point will pull up many an angler. However, those who take the plunge will enjoy a stunning looking reel and immaculate performance for a lifetime.

Daiwa 14 Saltiga

I simply can’t go past the Saltiga. For me, the size is perfect. For pedigree, class, power and incredible versatility, I don’t think it can be beaten. Hurts the pocket, but it’s short lived.

So there you have it. The spin reel market is so aggressively competitive, all anglers and all budgets have turned out the winners. But how did we choose?

Our Top Picks…

Now onto the deep dives of our top picks.

Here are all the top reels we reviewed….

Editor’s Top Pick

Penn Slammer III

Sitting firmly in the lower portion of the mid-price bracket, the Slammer is loaded with quality tech, including stainless bearings and the PENN IPX6 Sealed System.

Penn Slammer III

Honest, powerful and reliable. With a few exceptions, this is what I have come to expect from PENN and they’ve certainly delivered with the Slammer III. The series covers the inshore waters starting at the 3500, with the biggest, the 10500, a very capable offshore workhorse.

the Slammer is loaded with quality tech, including stainless bearings and the PENN IPX6 Sealed System…

Sitting firmly in the lower portion of the mid-price bracket, the Slammer is loaded with quality tech, including stainless bearings and the PENN IPX6 Sealed System. This technology keeps reel wrecking water, salt and dirt away from your gears and out of your drag system.

Awesome Drag

Drag capacities are possibly the most significant feature. Spool capacities aren’t huge in the larger models, but they’re certainly adequate. The head turning power of the Dura-Drag system more than compensates. The drag is strong, smooth and predictable.

I like the Slammer for a larger class of fish, right across the series. I would prefer other reels for lighter work. 

Good Hard Fishing

With a Slammer in my hand, I’m heading out to the rocks or the surf for a serious brawl. I’m not casting smaller lures at the banks – even though this is more than doable.

And that’s not to say it isn’t refined either. But the focus is definitely on muscle and raw power.

For me, the big gold handle is brilliant. While it compliments the cosmetics, it enhances the feel no end – it feels awesome to crank hard.

Love the larger models for the boat, rocks and beach. Great reel PENN.

Is the PENN Slammer III Right for You? Key Things to Consider

Specs

  • Series: Penn Slammer II – Slammer 3
  • Full Aluminium Body, side plate, and rotor
  • CNC Gear: Machine cut
  • IPX6 Seal rated body & Spool
  • IPX6 Waterproof Rating (Independently tested and approved)
  • Dura Drag Front Drag System
  • Ball Bearings: 6+1 (Stainless steel)
  • Instant Anti-Reverse
  • Oversize, Aluminium Handle (Alternative EVA handle also supplied)
  • See the full specs for the Penn Slammer III

Pros

  • Sizes 4500 up are excellent for the surf, rocks and offshore
  • Outstanding drag capacities – so strong
  • The sealing is a very nice inclusion, but no doubt tips the price up a little
  • A great workhorse for the angler who is rough on their kit
  • The handle is truly special. It delivers such a confident crank
  • A robust reel. Longevity assured if well maintained
  • Alternative EVA handle supplied. Would prefer a spare spool

Cons

  • Prefer other reels for lighter inshore work.
  • The big models are a little too slow. Not so great for ripping metal slices and other fast lures. However the 6500 has a great high speed option which covers this.

Shimano Stella 18000 SWB HG

Everything about this reel is phenomenal because it contains every one of Shimano’s groundbreaking spin reel technologies.

Shimano Stella 18000 SWB HG

All the Stellas are special. Very special. So my rave review applies to all of them. But the 18000 is the reel I would select above all to tackle the oceans biggest.

While the 18000 is not the biggest Stella, I like the 18000’s higher gear ratio and stronger drag.

While the spool capacities are higher in the 30000, the 18000 is still blessed with eye boggling stats, including 5 more kilo of drag.

There’s 25kg of Tough Drag (Coil Wave Spring) that is as smooth as it is predictable and powerful. The spool has the capacity for 345 yards of 80 pound braid. Enough!

Nothing but the Best

Everything about this reel is phenomenal because it contains every one of Shimano’s groundbreaking spin reel technologies. There’s 14 bearings supporting a crank that has to be felt to be believed. Rotation is smooth beyond description.

Everything about this reel is phenomenal because it contains every one of Shimano’s groundbreaking spin reel technologies…

What’s more, they’re housed in a frame constructed of super strong yet incredibly light aircraft grade aluminum.

And it’s the reel’s strength that makes it something special. X-Rigid gear, Rotor, Bail and X-Rigid Handle are incredibly strong. They remove any flex and twist so all the power is delivered to the fish. Gear mesh is perfect.

Costly But Ever So Capable

If you’re using one of the big Stellas, you’re chasing monsters. Live bait for huge tuna. Cast poppers at GT’s – as big as they grow. Hooked a record sailfish? No problem for the Stella. Trolling or jigging for Wahoo? Grab the Stella.

Yes. The Stella sits way on top at an aspirational price point, and fits few fishing budgets. That’s my only real criticism.

NOTE

It costs a bomb. There’s something inside my head that suggests there’s a premium on the Stella that’s not related to the manufacturing costs… I’d like to see the Stellas a little more accessible to grass roots anglers.

Is the SHIMANO Stella 18000 SWB HG Right for You? Key Things to Consider

Specs

  • Gear Ratio 5.7 : 1
  • Line Retrieve 129cm
  • Max Drag 25kg
  • Capacity Braid 80lb / 345yds
  • Bearings 14 S A-RB
  • Weight 875g
  • X Ship
  • X Rigid Gear
  • X Rigid Handle
  • X Rigid Rotor
  • X Protect
  • X Rigid Bail
  • X Shield
  • X Tough Drag
  • Aero Wrap
  • One Piece Bail
  • S A-RB
  • X Protect
  • SW Concept
  • HD-Gear
  • Aircraft grade aluminium
  • Cold Forged Spool
  • AR-C Spool
  • Aero Wrap II
  • E.I Anti-Corrosion
  • Super Stopper II
  • Power Handle
  • See the full specs for the Shimano Stella 18000 SWB HG

Pros

  • Incredible Strength, built for the oceans biggest fish
  • Good speed for a big spin reel
  • Outstanding corrosion resistance a sealing
  • Contains all the very best of Shimano’s technologies
  • A masterpiece reel for land based game fishing and the heaviest offshore fishing
  • Built to last a lifetime under the toughest conditions
  • Brilliant casting manners
  • The smoothest rotation in the business. A dream to crank, even under the heaviest of loads

Cons

  • Ridiculously expensive. Few anglers will be able to justify this level of expenditure on a fishing reel. If you chase the oceans biggest on spin, however, the price can be justified.
  • I expect a percentage of the price tag is less to do with the manufacturing costs as it is for the badge and prestige
  • Despite its outstanding corrosion resistance and sealing, the Stella is suitable only for those anglers diligent and meticulous with reel maintenance.
  • A Stella is a pretty significant investment. If you don’t care for it, it will succumb to the corrosive elements.

Editor’s Choice

Daiwa Saltiga Expedition 5500H

It’s higher-than-high price point will pull up many an angler. However, those who take the plunge will enjoy a stunning looking reel and immaculate performance for a lifetime.

Daiwa Saltiga Expedition 5500H

The Saltiga spin series has always been a reel for the most discerning of spin reel users. This is one of my most favourite reels ever. Firstly, it doesn’t get any better in terms of spin reel technology.

performance is genuinely second to none. This is the benchmark, there’s no better…

Secondly, performance is genuinely second to none. This is the benchmark, there’s no better, only different. I’m not sure if there are any others that can claim the same level of performance bar Shimano’s Stella.

But the thing that really sells it for me is the versatility it delivers. Traditionally, a 5000 size would be considered an all-rounder. Well, the 5500H is an allrounder on steroids.

It’ll Do Just About Everything

It’s so light and refined relative to its size that it never feels like overkill on a smaller class of inshore fish.

However, it has genuine credentials for the rocks, the beach and outside the heads, where 15kg of ultimate tournament drag, coupled with over 300 yards of 60 pound braid, allows anglers to target serious big fish.

I’d happily cast big poppers at tuna with this guy. I’d also use flesh baits for stripy in the beach or kingfish from the pier.

The level of refinement suggests finesse yet it’s equipped to engage in ferocious battles with big aggressive pelagic species…

The level of refinement suggests finesse yet it’s equipped to engage in ferocious battles with big aggressive pelagic species.

Hyper Digigear works hand in glove with 13 mag sealed bearings. With silent oscillation, the crank and rotation is silky smooth.

It’s been sealed within an inch of its life, keeping out reel degrading salt, water, sand and dirt.

Is The Price Tag Worth It?

If you had an open budget, but could purchase only one reel, this would have to be it. It covers so many fishing styles, locations and targets I really can’t think of a better, more high performance all-rounder.

Of course, there is a significant drawback. It’s priced to put some serious pain in your back pocket. It’s higher-than-high price point will pull up many an angler. However, those who take the plunge will enjoy a stunning looking reel and immaculate performance for a lifetime.

Is the DAIWA Saltiga 5500H Right for You? Key Things to Consider

Specs

  • Gear Ratio: 5.7:1
  • Ball Bearings: 13+1
  • Weight: 635g
  • Drag Pressure: 15kg
  • Spool capacity PE 5 (50lb)/350m, PE6 (60lb)/270m
  • Real Four
  • Mag Sealed
  • Magseal bearings
  • Zaion Air Rotor, Rotor Break
  • Silent Oscillation
  • UTD
  • Hyper Digigear
  • Minimum Offset Gearing
  • Twistbuster II
  • Tough Air Bail
  • Manual Bail Return
  • ABS II
  • Super Metal Housing
  • CRBB system
  • Hybrid carbon/forged aluminium spool
  • Wide Open roller for heavy shock leader
  • Magseal Line roller
  • See the full specs for the Daiwa Saltiga Expedition 5500H

Pros

  • Unrivalled performance in an all-rounder sized spin reel
  • Perfect inshore, offshore, land based, from your boat, the bank, beach, rocks and pier
  • The refined feel of a finesse style reel with the brutal power of a dedicated blue water reel
  • The Saltiga contains nothing but Daiwa’s absolute best, cutting edge spin reel design and technology
  • UTD (Drag) is so smooth when triggered, bust ups from savage hits and initial runs are significantly reduced
  • Built to stand the test of time. Sealed to keep out the reel destroying elements
  • Designed to tackle a huge range of fish targets
  • Well maintained, you’ll hand it down to your kids…should you be able to part with it
  • One of the best looking reels on the market

Cons

  • Prohibitively expensive. However, if you want the best there is…save. You’ll forget about the price tag the moment you hook up
  • The sealing and corrosion resistance is not neglect proof. In my books a reel like this requires regular attention. Mistakes in care can be made as the sealing credentials promote a false sense of security.

Best on a Budget

Shimano Sienna FE

There’s serious honesty in this minimalist reel. There’s an absence of over-hyped technologies that leaves Shimano to rely on solid basics.

Shimano Sienna FE

The Sienna is a pretty radical shift from the last three reels. Relative to the low priced spin reel technology that is currently available, the Sienna FE is truly basic.

there’s serious honesty in this minimalist reel. There’s an absence of over-hyped technologies that leaves Shimano to rely on solid basics…

But there’s serious honesty in this minimalist reel. There’s an absence of over-hyped technologies that leaves Shimano to rely on solid basics. And that it does.

I have to be honest. While I love the feel and performance of the modern tech filled spin wonders, I have a genuine soft spot for quality grassroots style reels.

I’ve owned a Sienna 2500 since they came out over a decade ago. I still use it for light lake work despite having far better qualified reels in my arsenal.

For a small outlay, the 1 bearing reel will deliver all you need for great access to inshore fishing both salt and fresh.

NOTE

It’s billed by many as a freshwater reel, which is ridiculous designation. It should be fished throughout the inshore waters.

Shimano Make Excellent Entry Level Spin Reels

In my opinion, Shimano have an edge with rock bottom entry level reels. There’s a quality, consistency and reliability in the Sienna that I trust. There’s little that can go wrong and it’s easy to maintain.

There’s a quality, consistency and reliability in the Sienna that I trust…

Should you destroy it, or consign it to a short life due to neglect and rough treatment, it’s no skin off…you paid pocket change for it in the first place.

I’ve caught countless fish with my Sienna and it’ll take plenty more. It’s paid for itself a hundred times over in whiting fillets alone.

Sienna Upgrades

Super Stopper II technology, the M-Compact Body and Dyna-Balance are recent tech additions that have really enhanced the performance from the previous incarnations of the FE. Available in a 500, 1000, 2500 and 4000, I couldn’t think of a more worthy inclusion to this list.

The Sienna FE is for bread and butter, grassroots inshore fishing, land based or afloat. Regardless of all you here from reel manufacturers, you don’t need any more than a Sienna FE for truly satisfying fishing.

Honest Reel for an Honest Dollar

Of course it’s not the smoothest crank or rotation. And, of course it’ll struggle if you load it up with a huge fish. Longevity is a bit of a lottery, and the finish is far from catwalk quality. But you’ll have no trouble at all landing a 30 inch bass on the 4000.

In fact, I prefer the basic Sienna FE to many of the multi bearing, big drag cheapies. I don’t trust them. Corners have been cut to include these features, and in my books, basic quality is a corner that should never be cut.

Is the SHIMANO Sienna FE Right for You? Key Things to Consider

Specs

Pros

  • Incredibly affordable
  • Great value for money
  • Ideal for the salt and freshwater despite what the advertising says
  • Brilliant for the beginner
  • Perfectly adequate for lures and flesh baits targeting a broad range of species and sizes
  • The latest updates have genuinely improved the feel and performance
  • The basic design means there’s less that can go wrong
  • Will last quite some time with minimum maintenance
  • Predictable and reliable

Cons

  • It’s very basic. You don’t have to spend too much more for a reasonable increase in quality inclusions with other reels
  • There’s a lack of refinement. However, the Sienna doesn’t claim to be a finesse masterpiece
  • It’s not a great option for a larger class of fish
  • The feel in your hands is a little underwhelming if you’re used to more advanced models

Shimano Stradic CI4+

This is a beautifully appointed reel that will cover the vast majority of inshore fishing applications. There’s a 1000, 2500, 3000 and 4000.

Shimano Stradic CI4+

The Stradic is one heck of a popular reel and always has been. Each new model has succeeded due to an already well established fan base.

The latest model now includes Shimano Hagane gearing and a pretty significant weight reduction…

The latest model now includes Shimano Hagane gearing and a pretty significant weight reduction. While it might seem like a modest upgrade, the strength increase will deliver benefits when battling a larger class of fish.

Great Looks and a Stylish Catwalk Grace

The Stradic is certainly a classy looking reel. I often get the feeling Shimano knows this and bumps a few bucks for the eye candy. Maybe I’m just cynical, but I do think pricing could be a little more competitive.

6 bearings deliver a really smooth crank, similar to those in a far higher price bracket – and that’s really nice.

Needs Proper Care

Shimano Coreprotect adds some serious corrosion resistance, but it’s by no means a license to fish it submerged in the salty stuff. Look after it!

The AR-C Spool and Aero Wrap 2 work in concert to deliver fantastic casting manners. I could cast the Stradic all day and never get bored for a moment.

The centre of gravity has been reduced delivering a more balanced feel, particularly on the retrieve. It’s a light reel, sure…but it ‘feels’ light.

Built for Lighter Precision Inshore Fishing

The Stradic spool capacities are pretty limited by modern standards. Spools are better suited to lighter lines. One could argue the reel is more of a finesse, sports based fishing reel, perhaps limiting its appeal or appropriateness to more advanced anglers. 

This is a beautifully appointed reel that will cover the vast majority of inshore fishing applications. There’s a 1000, 2500, 3000 and 4000.

Most fishing budgets will have access to the Stradic. Although, Shimano will have to stay on their toes and watch their pricing to ensure the Stradic remains competitive going forward.

Is the Shimano Stradic CI4+ for You? Key Things to Consider

Specs

Pros

  • Beautiful looking reel
  • Refined finesse feel
  • Quite powerful relative to the compact design
  • Lightweight, fatigue free fishing
  • Excellent for inshore sportfishing
  • The 4000 has some light beach and offshore capability
  • The latest updates have delivered an all-round improved feel
  • Casting manners are an absolute joy
  • Beautifully smooth crank
  • Coreprotect technology delivers a reasonable level of corrosion protection

Cons

  • It’s a highly competitive price point. Other brands will have more appealing inclusions for some anglers
  • While drag capacities are adequate and there is a surprising level of power, it doesn’t inspire confidence should you hook up big and need the assistance of a big spool of line
  • Would prefer other reels for anglers who are rough on equipment

How to choose a spinning reel?

For the brand loyal, the reel selection process is far simpler. For those like me, with no brand loyalty whatsoever, finding a reel to meet a specific application can end up taking quite some time. Honestly, the deliberation can drive me nuts.

Even though I step out on a reel search with very strict parameters, I’m often torn between several options. It’s a great problem to have.

I’ve selected 5 spin reels that really stand out and reviewed them below. Are they the best? That’s subjective and highly debatable. But I’m not really looking for an argument.

If you select any of the spin reels below, so long as you are being true to the application, you literally cannot go wrong…

There are countless reels that deserve a prominent listing and honourable mention here. I’ve chosen no-brainers. If you select any of the spin reels below, so long as you are being true to the application, you literally cannot go wrong.

Key Selection Criteria

  1. Durability/Longevity
  2. Performance
  3. Feel
  1. Price point
  2. Fitness for purpose
  3. Aesthetics or cosmetic appeal

The Selection Process

Yes. I have included Stella and Saltiga. Somehow, it seemed dishonest to leave out the flagship models of the world’s most significant reel manufacturers. And remember, I did say no-brainer without a price qualification.

I have also considered the average budget and the absolute entry level budget. I don’t make any distinction between saltwater and freshwater reels. It’s a very silly distinction anyway, and I’m still a little baffled as to why it exists.

There’s a reel in this list for just about every fishing application…

I have also omitted free spooling spin reels, e.g. the Baitrunner (Shimano Trademark), as they are a category unto themselves. I’ve picked out specific sizes in some reels, reel series for others.

There’s a reel in this list for just about every fishing application. At least I’ve tried to accomplish this, some specific applications might not be covered.

Weighing up…

Let’s see a quick recap of our top three picks…

Of course, when I’m out chasing huge tuna I want the Stella. But I believe the majority of recreational anglers, me included, are not out chasing big tuna every weekend.

While I’ll sing the praises of the Stradic to all I don’t feel it has the versatility to win the top spot in my selections on this list. I do love it for light inshore work, however, and it’s just beautiful to hold.

I still use my Sienna, and that’s saying something after 10 years of continued use. It’s a no-brainer for beginners that will promote the joy of fishing and fishing skills at the same time. It’s so easy, so forgiving and so affordable.

The Slammer is a genuine no holds barred workhorse and probably the most suitable reel on my list for the majority of anglers.

Of course, the Saltiga is aspirational. But for those who love their fishing and dream of casting the best, all the street signs point to Daiwa. If fishing is what you do and love, you have every justification for the outlay.

No Wrong Choice…

There’s not a dud reel on this list, and I’m pretty certain there’s nothing controversial either. Of course, there are plenty of deserving reels that don’t appear here. 

And I’m sure you’re going to have a tremendous amount of fun searching for the one that suits your application perfectly.

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