Fisherman Casting a Reel on a Beach

Top 8 Best Surf Fishing Baitcast Reels (2020 Buyer’s Guide)

Choosing the best surf casting or overhead reel (also known as a conventional reel) can be tough. These days, we’re kinda spoiled for choice.

Understandably, anglers want to know which reel is the best. Well…there’s no outright best. There’s only what’s best for you, your circumstances and your fishing applications.

“Best” is situational and subjective, indeed highly subjective at times. Brand loyalty alone impacts our ability to assess a reel impartially. 

And still, there are countless variables beyond brand that should be considered when Identifying the best surf casting reel.

I’d never be so bold as to state which surf casting reel is the best overall. In fact, beware of the advice of those that do.

After 40 solid years of surf fishing, I do know a decent casting surf reel when I see one. I know the bad ones too.

In this article, I’m going to identify eight good ones, and you can be the judge as to whether or not any of them suit you.

Before we get into it, however, I want to very briefly, address the spin versus casting argument and address the issue of level-wind.

Spin Versus Casting (Overhead)

The spin v casting reel debate has and will rage on forever. Ultimately, because it’s a personal preference these days.

The spin v casting reel debate has and will rage on forever…

There’s even an element of reel snobbery, with the more complex casting reels considered the more elite weapon in some fishing circles. 

While a few short decades ago the casting reel was king, spin technology has saddled right up next to casting reels, diminishing its claims to the throne.

The Rise of Spin

Some modern spin reels now offer the same strength and even greater drag capacities than casters. 

They can also outcast the casting reel, despite the seemingly advantageous physics bestowed on the casting reel.

The spool capacities of big spin reels have also advanced significantly. The big Daiwas and Shimanos can hold astonishing amounts of braided lines.

Importantly, the big game-changer is that the spin reel is far easier for everybody to master…

Importantly, the big game-changer is that the spin reel is far easier for everybody to master. This is a big advantage over the casting reel.

An average angler can expect to get every bit of casting performance from a spin reel, where they may never get the best from their baitcaster.

The Casting Reel Issue

Getting serious casting distances from your casting reel takes skill. An angler needs to learn and hone that skill.

The infuriating messy bird’s nest you can make with overrun or backlash can completely destroy a day’s fishing. And, while you may have mastered the reel, the potential of a bird’s nest is ever-present. 

…physics denies us the opportunity to be rid of backlash forever

Regardless of the superb casting technologies available, regardless of the skill of the user, physics denies us the opportunity to be rid of backlash forever.

Further to this, not all casting reels are created equally. Some are better casters than others. Some are more user-friendly than others.

NOTE

Some casting technologies and reel designs are not only just better than others, but innately more conducive to a speedy mastery, depending on the user, of course.

Choosing a Casting Reel

It can be nigh on impossible to make that assessment in a shop, or online. You won’t really know its casting capacity until you’ve used it and learned its ‘personality’ relative to your abilities.

TIP

If you’ve never used one before, see if you can use a friend’s first. Alternatively, just do some research and take it on. 

These days, there’s a lot of excellent affordable casting surf reels. To be honest, you will see a lot of anglers who are very content with surf casting reels purchased at a particularly modest price point. 

And, by the way, by the time you read this, you’ll also feel reasonably well equipped to make a solid purchase, whether a noob or experienced. 

The Casting Reel Advantage in the Surf

The perpendicular configuration of a casting reel helps prevent line twist. This can be a major advantage in a churning surf when casting huge distances.

Line twist can kill cast distance, as well as promote knots. Further line twist issues include poor bait presentation and poor lure performance.

Line twist is barely an issue with a casting reel. 

And importantly, the perpendicular configuration is naturally stronger than that of a spin reel.

A Quick Word About Level Wind

One of the most important features of a surf reel is its casting credentials. Ideally, a surf casting reel should be able to cast pretty heavy weights long distances. 

In my reel selection below I have included several reels that have level winds. Immediately I hear the surf casting reel puritans question the choice of a surf reel with level wind.

Because the line on a level wind must pass through a relatively small line guide, friction will come into play and negatively impact distance.

Level-wind

As we all know, friction is the arch-nemesis of the long cast. A level wind will decrease casting distance… at least on paper.

A good, well-designed level wind does, however, have the advantage of ensuring that line is evenly packed onto the spool.

A spool that is packed consistently and evenly will allow for excellent cast distance because it peels off the spool so easily.

Brilliant for the Average Angler

A level wind is a brilliant inclusion for the average angler, despite the probable loss of distance.

Surf fishing, particularly with lures, requires frequent lengthy retrieves. Without a level wind feature, an angler must become extremely proficient at packing the spool evenly with finger control.

This can be pretty tough while managing tricky surf conditions or battling a fish.

An unevenly packed casting reel casts poorly…in anybody’s hands…

If you cannot pack your spool evenly, you will likely negate the casting distance benefits of NOT having a level wind. An unevenly packed casting reel casts poorly…in anybody’s hands.

As with just about anything in life, there’s a trade-off and compromise. With casting surf reels, the trade-offs are only very minor, but they are there nonetheless and should be considered. 

The Ranking Process

So, instead of pros and cons, I’ll provide a bullet point list of key considerations for each reel.

In conclusion, I’ll name the top pick, the best value, and the one I’d buy…money no barrier.

Eight of the Best Surf Casting Reels

Daiwa Saltist 30 Levelwind Casting Reel

The Daiwa Saltist H-C 6.1:1 level wind is an excellent surf reel with outstanding versatility. While brilliant on the beach, you can also jig, troll and bottom bounce for countless species, pelagic or benthic.

Daiwa Saltist 30 Levelwind Casting Reel

The Daiwa Saltist H-C 6.1:1 level wind is an excellent surf reel with outstanding versatility. While brilliant on the beach, you can also jig, troll and bottom bounce for countless species, pelagic or benthic.

The Daiwa Saltist H-C 6.1:1 level wind is an excellent surf reel with outstanding versatility…

While the inclusion of the level wind will likely reduce casting distance, cast length is, however, better than adequate. 

Firstly, the silicon carbide line guide in the level wind guide design does reduce friction relative to similar reels in its class. 

the Daiwa level wind delivers an evenly packed spool consistently…

Secondly, the Daiwa level wind delivers an evenly packed spool consistently – a failing in other brands and models. This compensates to some degree for the distance lost to level wind friction

Bearings

Four corrosion-resistant bearings work brilliantly with the helical cut gears, delivering a smooth, inspirational crank. 

The solid feel is enhanced by the oversized bent handle. It encourages you to lay into a fish with confidence.

Build & Gear Ratio

The one-piece aluminum frame delivers excellent rigidity while keeping things reasonably light. All the torque goes into the fight. 

The fast gear ratio is ideal for lure fishing. I can cast big lures, especially metal slices that need plenty of speed. While the lure option is great, live baits are the go with the 30.

The fast gear ratio is ideal for lure fishing…

Most importantly, I can attack pretty big fish with the Saltist.

20 pounds of Daiwa’s super-smooth ultimate tournament drag works brilliantly in with a spool packed with over 400 yards of 30-pound braid.

Versatility

With this setup, big targets are a thrill, while there’s no feeling of overkill when battling medium size fish.

For the strength, spool capacity, and drag power, I’m happy to forgo a few yards casting distance to a level wind. 

Dollar for dollar, this is a quality reel for battling a larger class of powerful surf dwelling fish.

Specs

  • Gear Ratio: 6.1 / 1
  • Line Retrieve: 89cm
  • Drag: 9kg
  • Ball Bearings: 4 + 1
  • Spool Capacity: 6.4kg / 450m, 9kg / 270m, 11.4kg210m (mono)
  • Weight: 640g
  • One-piece aluminum frame
  • Anodized finish for complete saltwater protection
  • 4 CRBBs and one roller bearing
  • Precision machined aluminum ‘free spool’
  • Helical cut gears
  • UTD Drag (Ultimate Tournament Drag)
  • Infinite Anti-Reverse
  • Automatic clutch engagement
  • Heavy-duty level wind
  • See the full specs for the Daiwa Saltist 30 Levelwind Casting Reel

Pros

  • The heavy-duty level wind is up to the task of wrestling big fish. This is definitely one of the better level wind mechanisms and guides
  • The anodized alloy frame provides excellent corrosion resistance. A key feature for surf fishing
  • Strength and rigidity are definitely key features, with its versatility adding significant value
  • Ultimate tournament drag is smooth and powerful. It’s a great ally when you hook-up big
  • I like this reel for its all-round performance in all key performance criteria.

Cons

  • Other reels will cast further, however casting distance is better than adequate

Penn Squall Star Drag

Combination of strength, power, reliability, and capacity. You get a heck of a lot of reel and inclusions for a very accessible price.

Penn Squall Star Drag

While I’m pretty anti brand loyalty, a surf overhead reel review would seem a little naked without a Penn.

I love the Squall for its combination of strength, power, reliability, and capacity…

I love the Squall for its combination of strength, power, reliability, and capacity. You get a heck of a lot of reel and inclusions for a very accessible price.

It was hard to choose a size. I really like the 25 but the 15 is lighter and more compact. It’s a joy to hold for long sessions on the beach.

I would argue the 25 is more versatile, but 15’s combination of lightweight/ compact and awesome casting makes it my choice for the beach. The Live Spindle design gives it a capacity for superb cast distance.

Drag and Spool Capacity

With 15 pounds of HT-100 drag and a spool capacity of 500 yards of 20 pounds, this is a formidable reel with the capacity to manage big fish.

6 bearings deliver a really smooth and quiet crank. Quiet indicates a strong mesh of gears. What’s more, It feels strong.

I’d like to string it with 50 pounds and really test it against sharks bigger than 10 feet. I expect it’s too big of an ask with a 270 yard capacity in that line class.

I’d recommend this reel to any angler that’s tough on gear…

I’d recommend this reel to any angler that’s tough on gear. The bearings are shielded and stainless. The marine-grade bronze alloy main gear and stainless steel pinion gear are highly corrosion resistant.

Add a Graphite frame and side plates, and you get a reel well suited to the angler that fishes the tough surf conditions but is frequently lax at cleaning and maintenance.

The icing on the cake is the gear speed. With a 6:1 ratio, you can cast lures and crank fast.

Specs

  • Stainless steel pinion gear
  • Live Spindle design
  • HT-100 drag system
  • 6 Shielded stainless steel ball bearings
  • Instant Anti-Reverse bearing with silent backup ratchet
  • Mono Capacity (yds/lbs): 280/15 240/17 190/20
  • Braid Capacity (yd/lbs): 500/20 380/30 270/50
  • Bearing count: 7
  • Max drag lb: 15lb | 6.8kg
  • Gear ratio: 6.0:1
  • Retrieve rate: 28″
  • Star Drag
  • Ht-100 drag: 15lbs
  • Handle: Right hand
  • See the full specs for the Penn Squall Star Drag

Pros

  • Great corrosion resistance. Ideal for the less cautious angler who frequents the corrosive surfside
  • Great speed for casting lures
  • Prodigious casting cast capacity
  • Lightweight and comfortable to hold for long sessions
  • The magnetic braking system is user-friendly and easy to dial in. A good option for noobs
  • Expect longevity.

Cons

  • No level wind, but it’s compact enough so that level winding with your fingers is easier with the Penn than other reels in its class

Best on a Budget

KastKing Rover Round Baitcasting Reel S60

Under the hundred dollar mark, its claims and list of features are astonishing, considering its entry-level price.

KastKing Rover Round Baitcasting Reel S60

I’ve not used the KastKing. But at well under the hundred dollar mark, its claims and list of features are astonishing, considering its entry-level price.

under the hundred dollar mark, its claims and list of features are astonishing, considering its entry-level price…

I had to phone a friend for some verification. My question…”Is this for real or what?”

Marty told me, in no uncertain terms…”You gotta include this!” After he banged on for quite some time, I was convinced, and I’ve picked out the good bits from his spiel.

It’s available in a range of sizes and is available in left and right-hand configuration. That’s a big plus.

It’s available in a range of sizes and is available in left and right-hand configuration…

For the surf, I liked the 60 size, primarily because of its balance of capacity and lightweight feel. 

The 60 size has 6 bearings for a really smooth retrieve. You lose 2 bearings as the size progresses above the 60. Six bearings are a lot in a real at this price point.

There’s 13 pounds of drag and the spool will hold 210 yards of 20 pounds. This is definitely serviceable for medium-sized surf dwelling fish.

Gear Ratio

With a gear speed of 5:3, you’ll be cranking hard to get metal slices up to speed, but again, it’s serviceable.

The centrifugal casting mechanism is a great learning platform. While it might not cast massive distances, the level wind will keep a tidy spool without fuss.

TIP

While there are strong claims of durability, I’d be diligent with cleaning thoroughly around the level wind mechanism.

Bearings

The bearing is stainless and shielded, the worm gear and shaft are also stainless. Again, this is pretty impressive.

Ultimately, I like this reel for the casting beginner, novice or weekend angler. However, pros will enjoy this too.

There’s quite the level of versatility that sees the KastKing Rover perform nicely while trolled, jigged, or bounced on the bottom. This is ideal for those anglers who keep only a small fishing reel arsenal.

The Rover is not really billed as a surf reel. But for the budget-conscious, it’s a definite player and a good entry-level option that even the experienced anglers will enjoy using.

Specs

  • Carbon Fiber Star Drag
  • Reinforced Metal Body
  • Centrifugal brake
  • Reinforced thicker hard anodized aluminum side plates
  • Machined spool
  • Precision cut brass gears
  • Level wind
  • Metal idle gear
  • Stainless steel shaft
  • Bearings: 6 +1 Stainless and shielded
  • Capacity: 16/250 and 20/210
  • Drag: 13.2 lbs
  • Right-handed
  • See the full specs for the KastKing Rover Round Baitcasting Reel S60

Pros

  • Excellent entry-level reel with unbeatable pricing
  • Versatile
  • Lightweight and relatively easy to cast, yet distance will require practice
  • Line capacities good when spooled with braid
  • Performance compares admirably with reels at a much higher price point

Cons

  • Certainly durable, yet attention must be paid to the level wind mechanism. Regular cleaning required when used in saltwater

Shimano Torium HGA Spinnging Reel

Casting manners are superb. It’s compact, lightweight, and holds ridiculous amounts of braid for its relatively compact size.

Shimano Torium HGA Spinnging Reel

I love this reel. It does everything I need, and what I need is the capacity to wrestle monsters should they take my live bait.

Casting manners are superb. It’s compact, lightweight, and holds ridiculous amounts of braid for its relatively compact size.

It’s compact, lightweight, and holds ridiculous amounts of braid for its relatively compact size…

It has over 20 pounds of max drag and will hold 710 yards of 50-pound braid. With this on board, I know I’m in the driver’s seat should sharks take a fancy to my live baits.

Importantly, I can get decent live baits to where I want them in the surf. The VBS casting management system is perfect for big effort casts in tricky wind conditions. Practice is required, however, to get it right.

At a touch over 17 ounces, I’m happy to hold this reel all day long.

Bearings

With only 3 bearings, I’m surprised at just how smooth and solid it feels. Other brands offer twice the number of bearings for less. Don’t let that put you off though, the Torium is smooth as silk from crank to drag.

The Torium is incredibly versatile. Balanced with the correct surf rod, you’ll love it on the beach…

The Torium is incredibly versatile. Balanced with the correct surf rod, you’ll love it on the beach. However, It’s a gem fishing really deep, trolling and jigging.

Casting

Casting is such a joy; rock anglers will find the Torium a legend for casting massive poppers from the ocean rocks. In the right hands, the Torium casts a mile. Perfect for the surf.

When you hook-up, the drag instills confidence. With the oversized handle, you really do feel in charge, regardless of the odds. 

When hooked into a big fish, you feel like you have all the time in the world to play it out. This is very important in the surf. It’s so easy to lose fish in the shore break when they’re not played out sufficiently.

Maintenance

I do have a question about corrosion, despite all of its corrosion resistance claims. Keep it clean. If you get sand in it, get it out.

For the most part, corrosion is more the responsibility of the saltwater angler as opposed to the manufacturer.

The most corrosion-resistant reels will encounter problems if used in the surf and not maintained religiously.

TIP

Check the Torium specs, there’s quite a list of Shimano’s flagship technologies for what is a very accessible price. 

Thinking about this reel makes me want to go fishing. 

Specs

  • High-Speed Gear Ratio
  • 3 S A-RB (Shielded A-RB) Stainless Steel Ball Bearings +, 1 A-RB Stainless Steel Roller Bearing
  • Super Stopper Anti-Reverse Plus Backup Anti-reverse Pawl
  • Die-Cast Aluminium Frame
  • One-Piece Aluminium Handle-Side Sideplate
  • Precision “Click” Star Drag
  • Cross Carbon Drag
  • Oversized Clicker Button for ease of use
  • High-Efficiency Gearing (HEG)
  • S-Compact Body
  • E.I (Anti-Corrosion Surface Treatment)
  • Power Al Body Construction
  • Drag: 22 pounds
  • Line Capacity: 700yds/50lb
  • Ratio: 6:2.1
  • Bearings: 3 + 1
  • Retrieve: 46 inches
  • See the full specs for the Shimano Torium HGA Spinnging Reel

Pros

  • Brilliant for long casts. Intuitive casting system.
  • An ideal choice for a much larger class of fish
  • Feels great to hold and feels very solid casting large weights
  • Ripping speed. Awesome for casting big lures into the surf and getting them back quickly.
  • A powerful drag system works brilliantly with the huge braid capacities.

Cons

  • Solid construction but be very cautious of corrosion

Editor’s Top Pick

Daiwa M7HTMAGST Millionaire Surf Reel

This would be my every-fish model. It holds 200 yards of 20-pound line, which means it will hold ridiculous amounts of braid for its diminutive size. The line capacity is a great compensation for an underpowered drag.

Daiwa M7HTMAGST Millionaire Surf Reel

The Daiwa Millionaire is a very popular surf casting reel. And for very good reason. 

While max drag is pretty low relative to others in its class, I would choose this one as my go-to everyday reel over many others.

it will hold ridiculous amounts of braid for its diminutive size…

This would be my every-fish model. It holds 200 yards of 20-pound line, which means it will hold ridiculous amounts of braid for its diminutive size. The line capacity is a great compensation for an underpowered drag.

Weight and Casting

It weighs in at only 11.5 ounces, so it’s a joy to hold for the longer sessions on the beach.

The Millionaire casts a million miles. This gives you some serious reach and versatility in a host of surf conditions.

I’d be happy chasing flounder or big redfish with this guy without changing the line class.

Bearings

8 corrosion-resistant bearings are supporting the high-grade brass drive gear and stainless steel pinion. It truly is velvety smooth, both crank and drag.

The one-piece alloy frame delivers strength and rigidity.

The one-piece alloy frame delivers strength and rigidity. All the power goes to the fight. Again, further compensation for the light-on drag.

The Magforce Z cast control is so easy to dial in. It becomes second nature after a little practice and really helps reduce backlash, especially when you’re punching weighty lures out to the backline of breakers.

Maintenance & Gear Ratio

With a ratio of 5:8, it’s not the fastest, but it’s still fast. Cast whatever lure you like, and rip it back at pace if required.

Whilst it has some pretty strong corrosion resistance credentials, I’d still be cleaning it thoroughly following every session…without fail!

I’d like to see an oversized handle on the Millionaire, with a larger knob. However, this reel is so beautifully balanced, a larger handle may throw out its perfect feel.

Specs

  • Super Tuned machine cut spool–super-balanced, super-lightweight aluminum alloy
  • Carbon Swept Handle for reduced weight, maximum leverage, and control
  • EVA double handle knob
  • Fast 5.8 to 1 retrieve picks up 28″ per crank
  • High-grade brass drive gear and a stainless steel pinion
  • 10 Bearing System (8 CRBB + 1BB + 1RB)
  • Rigid, one-piece aluminum frame
  • Smooth star-adjust drag
  • Magforce®-Z cast control
  • Retrieve: 8″
  • Ratio: 5.8:1
  • Bearings: 8CRBB, 1BB, 1RB
  • Mono (lbs/yds): 15/330, 20/200
  • Drag: 11lb
  • See the full specs for the Daiwa M7HTMAGST Millionaire Surf Reel

Pros

  • Absolutely brilliant go-to surf reel for all skill levels
  • Cast across the continent. This reel has some serious length, even for an average skilled angler. The Magforce Z braking system makes you feel very confident when casting.
  • This is one hell of a smooth crank. It’s beautiful. 8 bearings and a very rigid body ensure the gears remain in perfect mesh, particularly under load.

Cons

  • The underpowered drag is still very smooth and reliable. What it lacks in power is made up for in spool capacity
  • Don’t be fooled by the corrosion resistance. Yes, the features a great and the claims are strong. However, clean it. Religiously. And avoid disappointment. Maintain it and you’ll have it forever

Okuma Andros Two Speed Lever Drag Aluminum Fishing Reel

This reel is jam-packed with Okuma’s best technology. It’s incredibly compact, super-lightweight, yet incredibly rigid and powerful.

Okuma Andros Two Speed Lever Drag Aluminum Fishing Reel

We’ve got to have a lever drag, and the Okuma Andros Two Speed Lever Drag is an awesome reel.

Granted, this little number is pretty pricey. Not Saltiga pricey, but expensive, nonetheless.

this reel is jam-packed with Okuma’s best technology…

However, this reel is jam-packed with Okuma’s best technology. It’s incredibly compact, super-lightweight, yet incredibly rigid and powerful.

Casting manners are refined, with an easy external adjustment that can be changed very quickly once you know the reel. A good operator will get plenty of distance for the Okuma.

There’s 24 pounds of max drag and the spool will hold 250 yards of 20-pound mono. That converts to copious amounts of braid.

Gear Ratio

The 2-speed gearing gives you an option of 6.4:1 & 3.8:1. That’s super-fast for cranking metal slices. When you’re live baiting and pick up a shark, you can turn to your cranking speed with plenty more torque with the flick of a switch.

While I’m a fan of the traditional star drag, lever fan drags will really enjoy the ergonomics of the Okuma. It really is a joy to operate.

a very lightweight unit considering its significant power…

At a touch under 15 ounces, this is a very lightweight unit considering its significant power.

I’d be confident tackling all-comers with the Okuma. Its huge handle inspires and aggressive approach to tackling big fish.

The silent retrieve is a constant reminder that the stainless steel helical cut gearing is in a perfect mesh. The rigid body keeps it that way too, particularly under load.

the Okuma is incredibly versatile. Use this anywhere against anything for heavy onshore or offshore…

Of course, the Okuma is incredibly versatile. Use this anywhere against anything for heavy onshore or offshore.

It’s a brilliant jigger, and awesome for casting big poppers at tuna, with the boat parked a safe distance from the school.

It’s an aspirational price point, but worth every cent.

Specs

  • Rigid 1-piece frame and left side plate construction
  • 6061-T6 machined aluminum frame and side plates
  • Cold forged, Type-II anodized, machined aluminum spool
  • CRC: Corrosion Resistant Coating process
  • 6 corrosion-resistant stainless steel ball bearings
  • External adjustable cast control system
  • Stainless steel ratchet drag lever for precise drag settings
  • Ergo Grip handle knob with anodized aluminum handle arm
  • One screw right side plate takedown for easy internal access
  • 17-4 grade stainless steel helical cut gearing
  • Silent retrieve system for ultimate cranking smoothness
  • Carbonite Dual Force Drag System with Cal’s drag grease
  • All models feature an anodized aluminum gear shifter housing
  • Integrated recessed reel foot design for low profile rod fit
  • Ergo grip handle knob
  • Ratios: 6.4:1 & 3.8:1
  • Max Drag: 24lbs
  • Weight: 14.8 ounces
  • Mono Capacity: 420/12, 300/15, 250/20
  • See the full specs for the Okuma Andros Two Speed Lever Drag Aluminum Fishing Reel

Pros

  • Great casting manners, and easily adjusted for various weights and wind conditions
  • Incredibly compact and lightweight with oceans of power you can feel
  • Outstanding drag system that is smooth, predictable and reliable.
  • The generous spool capacities, when coupled with the powerful drag, allow you to tackle massive surf dwelling species, including sharks.
  • Excellent corrosion resistance. However, don’t get complacent. Sand will hurt this guy plenty. Keep it out or get it out after every session

Cons

  • This is a pretty pricey reel but, in my opinion, worth it.

Editor’s Choice

Shimano Calcutta, Round Baitcasting Freshwater Fishing Reel

Compared to others in its class, it is geared more for torque than speed. While I’d prefer faster, what it lacks in speed is made up for in many other ways.

Shimano Calcutta, Round Baitcasting Freshwater Fishing Reel

The Shimano Calcutta is a beautiful reel in anybody’s language. Indeed, it’s pretty famous. 

While this is an expensive reel, it’s a reel that, with care, will be passed down to your kids.

While this is an expensive reel, it’s a reel that, with care, will be passed down to your kids…

While it has a level wind, it still casts long distances. And the spool is packed immaculately on every retrieve.

While the level wind line guide may look a little lightweight, I’ve never heard of a failure while battling huge fish.

Holding 620 yards of 50-pound braid, with 16 and a half pounds max drag, you can tackle anything the surf throws your way.

what it lacks in speed is made up for in many other ways…

Compared to others in its class, it is geared more for torque than speed. While I’d prefer faster, what it lacks in speed is made up for in many other ways. And build quality is just one point of compensation.

The ultralight forged aluminum frames and side plates keep the gears in perfect sync. Underload it feels incredibly solid.

It has fine lines and a classic round baitcaster profile, which is echoed in its performance, but with the added value of Shimano’s advanced technologies. 

Variable Brake System

The Variable brake system (VBS) is easy to operate and master quickly. It takes no time at all to change settings for bait load and weather demands.

The Calcutta has excellent corrosion resistance, with the anodized body not only keeping the rust at bay but also looking fantastic.

Strapped to a 14-foot rod, you’ll be unstoppable in the surf. And while 16 pounds of drag may sound a little light on, in this reel it’s not. The Calcutta has power to burn.

Specs

Pros

  • This is a classic by Shimano. Proven and acclaimed
  • The balance between casting length and the of the level wind is nigh on perfect
  • This is a very strong and capable reel, yet there’s nothing brutish about it. The Calcutta is the Ferrari, where the Penn is the Mustang
  • This is a reel to aspire to. Versatile, reliable, predictable and brilliant on the beach when strapped to a long rod.

Cons

  • While it is expensive, reasonable care will see it last a lifetime and then some. Indeed value for money. Durability is second to none

Pflueger President XT Low Profile Reel

This is a very lightweight reel that’s perfect for casting with all day long. The reel is the right size for targeting panfish in the surf but I wouldn’t want to hook a big fish with it.

Pflueger President XT Low Profile Reel

This is a very lightweight reel that’s perfect for casting with all day long. The reel is the right size for targeting panfish in the surf but I wouldn’t want to hook a big fish with it.

This is a very lightweight reel that’s perfect for casting with all day long…

The line capacity is ok, but the max drag is very low for bigger fish. The gear ratio and retrive rate on this reel are excellent and it’ll bring your baits in at a high speed. This is a great reel for lure fishing, where a low weight and quick retreive are advantageous.

Build & Drag System

The reel body is made from aluminum making it durable and corrosion-resistant. The drag is made up of a carbon multi-disc system. It’s very smooth, responsive and will not corrode easily.

It’s not sealed though so you’ll have to maintain it well to keep it alive. 

Specs

Pros

  • Fast retrieve rate.
  • Well made from quality materials.
  • Super light for easy casting.

Cons

  • Low max drag.
  • A small line capacity.
  • Not really made for big fish.

Editor’s Top Pick

My top pick goes to the Daiwa M7HTMAGST Millionaire Surf Reel. This would be my go-to daily workhorse. 

Regardless of what I was targeting at the beach, this reel would come with me. It’s lightweight, yet very strong and a legend cast. 

I would target just about every surf dwelling species with this reel, in a variety of conditions.

Best on a Budget

It’s impossible to look past the KastKing Rover Round Baitcasting Reel S60. I’m a big fan of getting anglers out on the water with quality kit for less. 

Yep, I’m a little suspicious about durability and reliability at such a price tag. But it’s such a small outlay.

Also, I have it on trusted authority that the KastKing is the reel deal. If my kids can afford to go out and buy this reel on their pocket money and tackle big fish on the beach, then it gets my budget tick.

Editor’s Choice

The Shimano Calcutta. It’s a classic. There’s something X-factor about the Calcutta that can’t be illustrated via the features and specifications.

The balance of casting length and the level wind is a winner for me, and it just feels so good in your hand.

Conclusion

All the reels on the list are great. They’ll all perform beautifully in the surf depending on your skill level and experience.

All of the level winds are great for the less experienced. Being able to pack a spool mechanically makes such a difference to the next cast.

If I jigged as much as I cast, I’d definitely choose the Okuma. This is one heck of a reel, and probably the most versatile of the eight listed.

Tougher Reel

For those anglers who are rough on their gear, choose the Penn. The graphite construction is a little more forgiving.

For casting with a level wind while restricted by budget, my first choice would be the Daiwa Saltist. 

Obviously, as stated before, the tightest of tight budgets should head for the KastKing Rover.

Versatile

The Daiwa Millionaire is ideal for those heading to the beach without a target in mind. It’s great for the avid cast and hope angler. The sort of angler who welcomes a mixed bag, and will adapt their approach to whatever fish are about.

The Shimano Torium is for those anglers chasing a larger class of fish. The spool capacity and drag capacity are designed for monsters.

This is true too of the Calcutta. However, there’s an added level of class in the Calcutta that few reels manage to compete with.

Right Reel for You

Whatever reel you choose, if it’s a casting reel from this list, I’m pretty confident you can’t go wrong. 

A final word. Whichever reel you choose, just remember. Corrosion resistance inclusions only go so far.

The beach, sand, and salt kill expensive and cheap reels alike. Take care of yours, Clean it, and you can expect it will last countless sessions against the toughest of fish

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