Man Surf Fishing at the Beach

Top 7 Best Surf Fishing Reel (2020 Edition Buyer’s Guide)

When you’re fishing in the surf your reel is probably the most important piece of equipment.

After considering all the options our top picks were…

It needs to be able to cast well, handle a big fish, and survive the harsh conditions that the surf is going to throw at it.

It isn’t easy to find the right reel and you’ll probably have to try and test a few before you find the one that suits you.

There are a lot to choose from and to make it a little easier, we have put a review together of the best surf fishing reels out there.

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…

Best All-Rounder

Daiwa Sealine-X SHA

This is a great multi-purpose reel that you can use for trolling, jigging and casting. The free-floating spool separates the spool from the gear train for less friction and long casts.

Daiwa Sealine-X SHA

When it comes to the all-rounder we’re looking for a reel that casts well, will handle the tough conditions, has some great features and is good value. This reel will do everything you want and need.

The all-rounder of the line up is the Daiwa Sealine-X SHA conventional reel. This reel is really well-made, casts like a dream and can be used as either a trolling or baitcasting reel. 

Best on a Budget

Seaknight Rapid Saltwater Reel

This is a lightweight reel that’s made more for inshore fishing, although the max drag and line capacity on the highest model is big enough for the surf.

Seaknight Rapid Saltwater Reel

Here we want a reel that does the basics well and will survive life in the surf. We’ll forgo some of the add on features for better value and have a sturdy reel that you can rely on for the best price possible.

The best on a budget is the Seaknight Rapid Saltwater Reel. It comes at incredible value and is well made from high-quality materials. It’s lightweight with an ok line capacity and the drag is powerful enough, but can be glitchy. 

Editor’s Choice

Quantum Cabo PT

Quantum has put a lot of thought into this reel. It’s made up of Quantum’s own SCR aluminum which eliminates impurities, removing any weak spots for corrosion.

Quantum Cabo PT

The editor’s choice is about the best reel in the review. The reel that has had thought put into it, is well made and has all the extra features to make sure that you can fish as comfortably and confidently as possible. 

This is the Quantum Cabo PT. They really put a lot of thought into this reel and it’s designed for the saltwater through and through. Everything from the materials to the design is made for surf fishing. The only issue is it’s pretty heavy.

Our top picks…

Here are our top choices of surfing fishing reels on the market today.

We’ve compared them against each other but they’re all great reels in their own right.

Daiwa BG

The Daiwa BG features an aluminum body, rotor and side plates, making it an excellent candidate for the surf.

Daiwa BG

The Daiwa BG features an aluminum body, rotor and side plates, making it an excellent candidate for the surf. Their Digigear system gives the reel a smooth retrieve and the largest model has an excellent retrieve rate thanks to the gear ratio and spool size.

The drag is sealed, smooth and powerful and the line capacity is huge…

The drag is sealed, smooth and powerful and the line capacity is huge. If you’re into big fish from the beach, this reel has got your back. The spool is braid-ready and has a large diameter to reduce line memory and small coils that can cause wind knots. 

The bail arm has been specifically designed to reduce twists and loops, meaning you can focus on fishing rather than having to fiddle around. The bail roller does corrode on occasion, this is one of the drawbacks of this reel. It’s easy to replace though. The reel is also heavy for its class, which is good for its power and durability but it’ll get tiring to cast with all day. 

Specs

  • Mono capacity LB/YD: 20/550, 25/440, 30/370
  • Braid capacity LB/YD: 50/730, 65/590, 80/440
  • Max Drag: 33lb
  • Gear Ratio: 5:3:1
  • Ball bearings: 7
  • Weight: 30oz
  • Retrieve rate, per crank: 53.3 inch
  • Retrieve Side: Right/Left
  • See the full specs for the Daiwa BG

Pros

  • It has a sealed drag that is smooth and powerful.
  • A great line capacity with a high retrieve rate.
  • Well made with corrosion-resistant materials.

Cons

  • It’s heavy to cast with, but its weight is a sign of how tough it is.
  • The roller on the bail arm can corrode but it’s easily replaced.

PENN Battle II

The Penn Battle II is a great reel for the surf. The side plates, rotor, and body are made from for durability in the saltwater.

PENN Battle II

The Penn Battle II is a great reel for the surf. The side plates, rotor, and body are made from for durability in the saltwater. The body is rigid to hold the gear alignment tightly for a smoother retrieve. This reel has a high retrieve rate thanks to the gears and ratio, your line will come in quickly at 44” inches per crank.

TIP

The main gear can corrode after a few seasons of heavy use but it’s easy to replace. 

It comes with Penn’s slammer drag which is one of the best out there. It’s made up of carbon fiber discs, great for corrosion, and the maximum drag setting is high enough. However, the drag isn’t sealed and you’ll have to look after it. 

The reel comes with anti-reverse and a braid-ready spool. The spool also features capacity markers making it easy to fill it. The reel is a tad heavy for casting with all day. 

Specs

  • Mono capacity YD/LB: 340/20, 310/25, 230/30
  • Braid capacity YD/LB: 475/50, 390/65, 345/80
  • Max Drag: 30lb
  • Gear Ratio: 5:3:1
  • Ball bearings: 6
  • Weight: 30.2oz
  • Retrieve rate, per crank: 44”
  • Retrieve Side: Right/Left
  • See the full specs for the PENN Battle II

Pros

  • Excellent retrieve rate and line capacity.
  • Strong and durable drag system.
  • It’s well made from quality materials.

Cons

  • It’s a bit heavy, but that’s what you need for big ocean fish.
  • You may have to change out the main gear after a few seasons.
  • You’ll have to maintain the reel well as it isn’t sealed.

Shimano Stradic CI4+

The body of this reel is made out of carbon fiber. This makes it extremely strong, corrosion-resistant and light. It’ll be a pleasure to cast all day.

Shimano Stradic CI4+

The body of this reel is made out of carbon fiber. This makes it extremely strong, corrosion-resistant and light. It’ll be a pleasure to cast all day.

Carbon Fiber Drag

The drag is made from carbon fiber too, adding to how light the reel is and it’s sealed for protection against grit and salt. The reel includes X-ship technology which supports the gear system under a heavy load. This’ll help you cast further and give you the edge when you’re fighting fish. The maximum drag isn’t huge but it’ll do for most fish. 

The line capacity isn’t that great compared to other reels and you might worry if you hooked a huge fish from the beach. The retrieve is fast and smooth thanks to the gears, ratio and ball bearings. The bearings are also sealed to protect the reel from the surf.

Shimano has included a grooved power roller to reduce twists and wind knots.

NOTE

The bearing on the line roller can break in rare cases and Shimano will replace it if it happens. The bail arm can also be a tad stiff, bear that in mind if you like an easy bail. 

Specs

  • Mono capacity YD/LB: 220/10
  • Braid capacity LB/YD: 15/280, 30/170, 50/150
  • Max Drag: 24lb
  • Gear Ratio: 6:2:1
  • Ball bearings: 6+1
  • Weight: 8.1oz
  • Retrieve rate, per crank: 39 inch
  • Retrieve Side: Right/Left
  • See the full specs for the Shimano Stradic CI4+

Pros

  • The carbon body makes the reel super light.
  • It’s got great line management to reduce twisting and wind knots.
  • The reel’s very durable and sealed.

Cons

  • The line capacity is a tad small for big fish.
  • The line roller bearing may break and need replacing.
  • The bail arm is stiff.

Editor’s Choice

Quantum Cabo PT Spin Reel

Quantum has put a lot of thought into this reel. It’s made up of Quantum’s own SCR aluminum which eliminates impurities, removing any weak spots for corrosion.

Quantum Cabo PT Spin Reel

Quantum has put a lot of thought into this reel. It’s made up of Quantum’s own SCR aluminum which eliminates impurities, removing any weak spots for corrosion.

It’s made up of Quantum’s own SCR aluminum which eliminates impurities, removing any weak spots for corrosion…

It has a great line capacity and an even better drag. It’s sealed, the maximum drag is huge at 50lbs and it’s made up of carbon fiber and ceramic washers, for power and smoothness.

The foot of the reel is offset to shift the weight of the reel rearward on the rod. This balances long surf rods for better casting and sensitivity. 

The spool is braid-ready and has been specifically made to increase your casting distance. The line comes off the lip very easily in tight coils, this reduces the friction on the spool and the rod guides, for longer, easier casts. 

Sealed and Coated

As well as being sealed, the reel is coated in primers and finishes for extra durability against the sea but it’s really heavy. At 50oz, you’ll feel the pain casting this all day. The braid can bunch up on the reel when filling it and it may take some time. The anti-reverse can also fail to engage but this is rare. 

Specs

Pros

  • The line capacity is great.
  • The materials used are the highest quality.
  • It has a huge max drag.

Cons

  • It’s really heavy, 10oz more than other reels in the line-up.
  • Braid can bunch on the spool when you first set it up.
  • In rare cases, the anti-reverse fails to engage.

Best on a Budget

Seaknight Rapid Saltwater Reel

This is a lightweight reel that’s made more for inshore fishing, although the max drag and line capacity on the highest model is big enough for the surf.

Seaknight Rapid Saltwater Reel

This is a lightweight reel that’s made more for inshore fishing, although the max drag and line capacity on the highest model is big enough for the surf.

The drag is made up of a combination of carbon fiber and stainless steel washers that pushes a max of 33lbs…

The drag is made up of a combination of carbon fiber and stainless steel washers that pushes a max of 33lbs, enough stopping power for most fish. The drag isn’t sealed though, so you may have to do consistent maintenance and it can be a bit catchy and not so smooth. 

It comes with a sealed aluminum spool and rotor that stops water and sand from getting into the gears. The spool is also braid-ready, making it easy to fill up. 

The retrieve ratio is 4.7 to 1, which is pretty good for the surf, you may have to wind a bit faster than with other reels though. 

Specs

Pros

  • Super lightweight, you won’t get tired casting all day.
  • Made of quality materials.
  • The spool is sealed to protect the gears.

Cons

  • The drag can be a tad catchy and not so smooth.
  • The line capacity is a little small for the surf.
  • The retrieve rate is a little slow.

Pflueger President XT Low Profile Reel

Really lightweight and comfortable to use. The reel has a low max drag of 12lbs, not ideal for any big fish but if you’re just after panfish from the beach it’ll work fine

Pflueger President XT Low Profile Reel

The President XT low profile baitcast reel is really lightweight and comfortable to use.

The reel has a low max drag of 12lbs, not ideal for any big fish but if you’re just after panfish from the beach it’ll work fine. The line capacity also reflects the maximum drag, you won’t get much heavy braid on here for bringing in big fish. 

It has a high gear ratio of 7.3 to 1, which is 7 turns to 1 wind and with the 9 bearing system, it’s very smooth. It’ll be great for topwater lure fishing. The reel is made up of C30 aluminum side plates and is very durable. The braking system is magnetic for great casting and the handle is also aluminum. 

Specs

Pros

  • Smooth and quick retrieve.
  • It’s made for durable materials.
  • The reel is really light and great for casting.

Cons

  • Small maximum drag.
  • Small line capacity.
  • Not really made for big fish.

Best All-Rounder

Daiwa Sealine-X SHA Conventional Saltwater Reel

This is a great multi-purpose reel that you can use for trolling, jigging and casting. The free-floating spool separates the spool from the gear train for less friction and long casts.

Daiwa Sealine-X SHA Conventional Saltwater Reel

a great multi-purpose reel that you can use for trolling, jigging and casting…

This is a great multi-purpose reel that you can use for trolling, jigging and casting. The free-floating spool separates the spool from the gear train for less friction and long casts. The spool is really fast, which is great for casting but can cause backlashes easily. The maximum drag is a little light at 17.6lb, it’ll cover most things but isn’t as powerful as other reels in the review.

Build

It’s made up of great materials that make it light for casting while being really durable. It’ll last a long time and it’s easy to take apart and maintain. The spool is aluminum and the gears are made from stainless steel and marine bronze. The line capacity is great and so is the retrieve rate. 

Specs

Pros

  • Great line capacity.
  • Excellent for casting.
  • Multi-purpose, can be used for trolling and casting.
  • Lightweight

Cons

  • The max drag is a little low.
  • Backlashes are common.

What to Look for

These are the factors to think about when you’re buying a surf fishing reel.

What are you fishing for?

You’re going to need a reel that can handle the size of the fish you’re targeting. If you love catching sharks from the beach, then you’ll need a reel that won’t fail you when that 8ft shark takes your bait. If you’re more into fishing for panfish, then you’ll want a reel that is a bit lighter so you can enjoy the fight.

TIP

If you love fishing for both, then a reel that can do both is the answer. Consider what you’ll be fishing for before you buy. 

Line Capacity

When you fish in the surf, there isn’t a boat handy to chase down a fish with so you can gain some line. You’re going to have to handle it with the line you have on your reel. This is where your line capacity comes into play.

TIP

Be sure to check the line capacity is big enough for your needs.

You don’t want to have the fish of your dreams run off with all your bait and line. 

Using Braid

Braid is key these days in terms of casting distance, line capacity, and longevity. If you’re fishing in the surf, you’ll most likely be using it and you’ll want a reel that is made for it.

TIP

Most reels today come with braid-ready spools, but just check first.

Fisherman Reeling in a Fish
Fisherman Reeling in a Fish

How Heavy Is The Reel 

Surf fishing involves a lot of casting and using a heavy reel is going to make casting tiring. Choosing a lighter reel will make casting easier and more enjoyable. That being said, you might need the power that comes with a heavy reel, especially if you’re targeting big fish.

TIP

Try to find a reel that has enough power for your needs but is also light for its class. 

Corrosion & Durability

The surf involves fishing on sand, or rocks and in the constant spray of the sea. We all know what this can do to reels, it can hurt them, and quickly. Be sure that the reel you choose is made of corrosion-resistant materials and has a water intrusion protection system. This’ll give the reel the best chance of lasting life in the surf.

Drag, Strong and Smooth 

Your drag needs to be reliable for surf fishing as you never quite know what you’re going to hook. You’ll need a drag system that is smooth, durable and strong. Make sure it’s sealed, has enough power and is made of corrosion-resistant quality materials.

Gear Ratio 

Gear ratio dictates how quickly you can wind your line in. If the gear ratio on the reel is 6:5:1, the reel will spin 6.5 times for every 1 turn of the handle. If you need a fast retrieve rate on your reel, think about the ratio.

Baitcaster V’s Spinning Reels 

Baitcasters are great reels and can offer a higher gear ratio than spinning reels, giving you a quicker retrieve. They also cast further and more accurately than spinning reels, as the spool is in line with your rod rather than being horizontal.

Baitcasters are much harder to cast with and require a lot of practice to learn how to use. You’ll suffer a lot more backlashes than you would with a spinning reel until you become a pro.

Conclusion

After considering all the options our top picks were…

Best All-Rounder

The Daiwa Sealine-X SHA conventional reel wins the all-rounder prize. The reel is multi-purpose and can be sued for trolling, jigging and casting. It’s made of high-quality materials and casts beautifully. If you’re not used to baitcasters, this one’s fast and can cause backlashes. The only issue is the max drag is a little low. 

Best on a Budget

The best on a budget reel is the Seaknight Rapid Saltwater Reel. It’s sealed, well made from high-quality materials and has an average line capacity. The drag is powerful enough but can be glitchy sometimes and the gear ratio isn’t the highest. 

Editor’s Choice

The editor’s choice goes to the Quantum Cabo PT. Quantum has pretty much thought of everything when it comes to this reel. It’s made from the highest-quality materials, has an incredible maximum drag and a huge line capacity. The reel is very heavy though and that’s due to its quality.

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