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Best Fishing Reel Review and Buying Guide

There are so many different fishing reels that hit the market every year, it’s impossible to keep track and be able to compare one reel to the next.  No matter what type of fishing you are into, be it saltwater, freshwater, or fly fishing, there is a reel out there that will suit your needs and I’m here to help you find it.

I, myself, am an avid angler and enjoy all the types of fishing noted above. It is a tradition that has been passed down from generation to generation, and I am in the process of passing it down to my kids who seem to enjoy it as much as I do.  Our one true passion is surf fishing for big bull Red Drum on a barrier island, but we will not pass up the opportunity to hit up a local pond or jump in the boat and try our luck elsewhere.

Being this is now February, there isn’t much fishing to be done around this area, so the next best thing is to get out and visit all of the trade shows and outdoor expos that are going on. It’s the one time that you can have hands-on access to all the new fishing equipment and products that are being introduced that year. Or maybe you just want to get out of the house and tell a few fishing stories and share some camaraderie with your fellow fishing folks. However, if you’re not able to make it out to any of the shows, well that’s what we’re here for.

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KastKing Sharky II

The KastKing Sharky II is one of the better all around spinning reels for both the freshwater and saltwater angler. This is an upgraded model which is lighter and stronger than it’s original version boasting more carbon fiber drag washers, more ball bearings with less weight and increased line capacity. And this reel will not break the budget with the reasonable price of about $55 for the largest model.

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Some notable features of this reel include:

  • 10 + 1 shielded stainless steel bearings
  • Instant stop anti-reverse
  • Triple disc carbon fiber drag system
  • Up to 41.5 LBs of smooth carbon fiber drag on the 6000 model
  • Upgraded 30% stronger precision mesh brass gears
  • Stainless steel shaft
  • Lighter yet stronger large capacity machined aluminum spool

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MODELS

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There are 6 models to choose from, however, these are the 4 main models necessary to get the job done:

Sharky II 1500

  • Weight 7.05oz/200g
  • Max Drag 11LB/5KG
  • Gear Ratio 5.2:1
  • Braid Capacity 0.205mm/150m, 0.235/100, 0.26/70
  • Mono Capacity 6LB/165Yds, 8/110, 10/75

Sharky II 4000

  •  Weight 11.18oz/317g
  • Max Drag 28.5LB/13KG
  • Gear Ratio 5.2:1
  • Braid Capacity 0.31mm/170m, 0.33/150, 0.37/115
  • Mono Capacity 14LB/185Yds, 16/165, 20/125

Sharky II 5000

  • Weight 11.64oz/330g
  • Max Drag 28.5LB/13KG
  • Gear Ratio 5.2:1
  • Braid Capacity 0.33mm/190m, 0.35/170, 0.37/150
  • Mono Capacity 16LB/210Yds, 18/185, 20/165

Sharky II 6000

  • Weight 16.52oz/468.5g
  • Max Drag 41.5LB/19KG
  • Gear Ratio 4.9:1
  • Braid Capacity 0.405mm/195m, 0.435/165, 0.47/145
  • Mono Capacity 22LB/215Yds, 25/180, 30/160

KastKing Mela II

Around this area during this time of year, everyone is itching to get outdoors or just out of the house. We’ve been teased with some warmer temps as of late and had days that you can’t help but want to wet a line and do some freshwater fishing. The reel I’m showcasing today is one that you ought to take a look at when getting ready to hit the local freshwater scene.

NEW for 2017! The KastKing Mela II Spinning Reel is light, smooth, powerful, and comes with a FREE spare spool! Mela spinning reels are a great addition to your fishing tackle and could be used whether you’re freshwater or saltwater fishing. Compare a Mela spinning reel by KastKing with a free spare graphite spool to a similar size fishing reel from other brands that cost more. KastKing proudly manufactures quality fishing reels, fishing rods, fishing line, and fishing tackle management products. KastKing Keeps Fishing Fun!

Key Features: 
• 10 + 1 ball bearings and instant stop roller bearing and stainless steel main shaft

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• precision ultra-mesh brass gears with powerful gear ratios

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• triple disc carbon fiber drag washers

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• Corrosion resistant components

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• Right / Left interchangeable CNC aluminum handle

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KastKing Mela II 2000

  • Weight – 7.09oz/201g
  • Max Drag – 20lb/9kg
  • Gear Ratio – 5.2:1
  • Line Cap – .185mm/250m, .235mm/150m, .285mm/100m
  • Mono Cap – 5lb/270yds, 8lb/160yds, 12lb/110yds

KastKing Mela II 3000

  • Weight – 8.32oz/236g
  • Max Drag – 24lb/11kg
  • Gear Ratio – 5.2:1
  • Line Cap – .235mm/180m, .285mm/130m, .335mm/100m
  • Mono Cap – 8lb/200yds, 12lb/130yds, 16lb/110yds

KastKing Mela II 4000

  • Weight – 8.68oz/246g
  • Max Drag – 26lb/12kg
  • Gear Ratio – 5.2:1
  • Line Cap – .285mm/120m, .335mm/100m, .375mm/80m
  • Mono Cap – 12lb/130yds, 16lb/120yds, 20lb/90yds

KastKing Rover

The KastKing Rover is a conventional round baitcaster reel that offers all of the necessary tools for trophy hunters to go after the big ones and are available at under $75. Whether you are after giant catfish, carp, walleye or trolling offshore fishing for large saltwater species, or wreck fishing for bottom feeders, the KastKing Rover is the perfect weapon to conquer the beasts of the deep.

A KastKing Rover is the perfect round baitcasting reel for trolling, bottom fishing, and other techniques used in freshwater and saltwater offshore fishing. Rover’s large line capacities easily handles the lengths of braided or monofilament line needed for those applications and targeting species.

  • Reinforced hard anodized aluminum side plates and spool
  • Precision machined brass gears
  • All alloy flawless level wind
  • Industry-first stainless steel worm gear
  • Stainless steel shaft and other components for superior corrosion protection .
  • Carbon fiber drag system. KastKing Rover (formerly RXA) now offers up to 20 LB / 9 KG of smooth drag.
  • Fatigue reducing oversized nonslip EVA grips
  • Line out clicker alarm
  • Premium shielded stainless steel deep race ball bearings (4 + 1 BBs)

This is the perfect conventional reel for trolling, bottom fishing, and other techniques used in freshwater and saltwater. Anglers who want an affordable, dependable levelwind round baitcasting reel to add to their trolling reel fishing tackle will appreciate the low price and high quality of a KastKing Rover.

The KastKing Rover reels are built with functionality, quality, and are built to last. KastKing Rover Series deliver fantastic design, power, and performance at an affordable price of about $70.

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KastKing Rover 70R

  • Ball Bearings – 4+1
  • Weight (g) – 539
  • Weight (oz) – 19.0
  • Gear Ratio – 4.2:1
  • Line Cap – mm/m – .4/400, .5/250
  • Line Cap – lb/yds – 16/430, 25/260
  • Drag (k) – 7.0
  • Drag (lb) – 15.5

KastKing Rover 80R

  • Ball Bearings – 4+1
  • Weight (g) – 618
  • Weight (lb) – 21.8
  • Gear Ratio – 3.2:1
  • Line Cap – mm/m – .4/600, .5/400
  • Line Cap – lb/yds – 16/650, 25/440
  • Drag (k) – 9.0
  • Drag (lb) – 20.0

KastKing Rover 90R

  • Ball Bearings – 4+1
  • Weight (g) – 626
  • Weight (lb) – 22.1
  • Gear Ratio – 3.2:1
  • Line Cap – mm/m – .4/700, .5/500
  • Line Cap – lb/yds – 16/750, 25/540
  • Drag (k) – 9.0
  • Drag (lb) – 20.0

Daiwa Opus

The Daiwa Opus Saltwater Spinning Reel is perfect for boat, jetty, pier, or use in the surf. A heavy action reel for freshwater, but can also handle the harsh elements and rigors of saltwater, Opus can do just about everything.

The features of this reel include:

  • Infinite Anti-Reverse (Double Stopper)
  • Smooth, multi-disc drag
  • Twist Buster line twist reduction
  • Ball bearing, plus roller bearing
  • ABS Composite Spool
Model
Number
Action
FW / SW
Bearings Gear Ratio Line Per
Handle Turn
Wt.
(oz.)
Line Capacity
(Lb. Test / Yards)
Drag
Max
OP4500 XH / H 1BB, 1RB 4.6:1 39.1″ 20.1 MONO: 12/360, 14/290, 17/220 33
OP5000 – / H 1BB, 1RB 4.6:1 39.1″ 19.9 MONO: 14/340, 17/250, 20/190 33
OP5500 – / XH 1BB, 1RB 3.4:1 32.4″ 24.7 MONO: 20/290, 25/230, 30/190 33
OP6000 – / XH 1BB, 1RB 3.4:1 32.4″ 24.5 MONO: 25/260, 30/220, 40/160 33

FW = Freshwater, SW = Saltwater

BB = Stainless Steel Ball Bearing, RB Roller Bearing

Pros

  • Ambidextrous reel – works for right and left hand
  • Easy drag set
  • Smooth retrieval
  • Very reasonably priced

Cons

  • There have been cases of the bail arm being tight when first being used
  • The reels are pretty heavy for casting lures and holding the rod all day long, but if you plan on making a cast and putting the pole in a sandspike, then that is not a problem whatsoever.

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KastKing Spartacus

The KastKing Spartacus is quickly becoming the go-to reel for many freshwater anglers who like a good quality casting reel without breaking the budget. The cost of these reels can run from $40 to $90, depending on the model. Check out some of the features the Spartacus model has:

  • Micro-cast dual centrifugal and magnetic brakes and tournament ready carbon fiber drag with 17.5 LBs of fish stopping power.
  • Superior shielded 11 + 1 corrosion resistant ball bearings, CNC machined aluminum spool for smooth casting, powerful precision matched brass gears, instant stop anti-reverse for devastating hook sets, and braid line ready ceramic line guide insert.
  • Versatile 6.3:1 gear ratio
  • One way clutch system
  • Left and Right Hand models with CNC Aluminum Handle and EVA Knobs

Not many reels in the $50 range can say they have a carbon fiber drag and 11+1 corrosion resistant ball bearings.

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Some specifics about the reel.

  • Weight(oz/g) 7.2oz/205g
  • Gear Ratio 6.3:1
  • Line capacity (lb/yd,mm/M):
    • 0.285mm/115m,0.33/90, 0.37/75, 0.4/60
    • 10LB/125YD,12/100,15/85,18/65

With a 4.2 out of 5 star rating and price tag of about $50, there isn’t much more you can say about this reel, except to give the KastKing Spartacus a try and see for yourself.

Penn Fathom

My first saltwater casting reel was a Penn reel, it was the Penn Squidder 140L. The Squidder has been and continues to be my favorite! This reel is a no bells and whistles true workhorse that when serviced annually has lasted me for years! I’m still using Squidders that my father used to use. However, Penn discontinued making this reel a few years back which upset many a angler that used them. Many can be found on eBay, but there is no other reel like it. That is when Penn started to make a reel that was comparable yet modern by today’s standards.

 

Penn Fathom star drag is lightweight, quick on the retrieve, and extremely castable due to its revolutionary Live Spindle design. The revolutionary Live Spindle design makes the Fathom SD one of the longest casting reels on the market. A Full Metal Body and sideplate keep precise gear alignment under heavy loads, and the powerful HT-100™ drag system will stay smooth from start to finish.

Penn Fathom 12

  • Mono Cap – YD/LB 360/10 260/12 230/15
  • Braid Cap – YD/LB 525/15 420/20 320/30
  • Bearing Count – 6
  • Max Drag – LB 25lb | 11.3kg
  • Gear ratio – 6.0:1
  • Mono Cap – YD/LB 320/12 280/15 190/20
  • Braid Cap – YD/LB 500/20 380/30 270/50
  • Bearing Count – 6
  • Max Drag – LB 25lb | 11.3kg
  • Gear Ratio – 6.0:1
  • Mono Cap – YD/LB 320/20 290/25 220/30
  • Braid Cap – YD/LB 650/30 450/50 370/65
  • Bearing Count – 6
  • Max Drag – LB 25lb | 11.3kg
  • Gear Ratio – 6.0:1

Penn Fathom 30

  • Mono Cap – YD/LB 440/20 300/30 250/40
  • Braid Cap – YD/LB 625/50 500/65 440/80
  • Bearing Count – 6
  • Max Drag – LB 25lb | 11.3kg
  • Gear Ratio – 6.0:1
  • Mono Cap – YD/LB 350/30 300/40 220/50
  • Braid Cap – YD/LB 725/50 600/65 525/80
  • Bearing Count – 6
  • Max Drag – LB 25lb | 11.3kg
  • Gear Ratio – 6.0:1

Penn Conflict Spinning Reel

The Penn Conflict Spinning Reels striking cosmetics, durable design, and silky smooth drag are a few of the reasons why so many anglers fish this reel. The Conflict’s full metal body construction allows it to maintain precision gear alignment under severe punishment while its Techno-Balanced™ rotor (reinforced graphite on 1000-4000 sizes) ensures a smooth retrieve. From tuna to trout, the Conflict was designed to perform and engineered to last.

The Conflict shines mostly in rotor and line management including line lay. It remains light even compared to nowadays standards. It has all the features like braid ready spool, full metal body to keep itself relevant in today’s market as well.  Another thing I like is the handle which is made from EVA foam knob. Very comfortable to fish even on a colder day.

Now for a breakdown of the sizes and uses for each. The Conflict comes in eight different sizes.

Penn Conflict 1000 Spinning Reels

The smallest of the models can be used for both Freshwater and Saltwater handling largemouth bass and crappie very easily, and even small panfish in saltwater.

  • Mono Cap – YD/LB 275/2 135/4 105/6
  • Braid Cap – YD/LB 160/6 130/8 110/10
  • Bearing Count – 8
  • Max Drag – LB – 9lb | 4.0kg
  • Gear Ratio – 5.2:1

This reel is ideal for lakes and small ponds, but can also handle striped bass and many 10+lb bluefish with ease. Another good use is for reds and trout fishing inshore saltwater.

  • Mono Cap YD/LB 240/4 180/6 125/8
  • Braid Cap YD/LB 210/8 180/10 165/15
  • Bearing Count  – 8
  • Max Drag – LB- 10lb | 4.5kg
  • Gear Ratio – 6.2:1

Penn Conflict 2500 Spinning Reels

It’s the 2000, with a little more beef!

  • Mono Cap YD/LB 255/6 175/8 140/10
  • Braid Cap YD/LB 240/10 220/15 160/20
  • Bearing Count – 8
  •  Max Drag LB – 12lb | 5.4kg
  • Gear Ratio – 6.2:1

Penn Conflict 3000 Spinning Reels

This size is great for inshore saltwater from flounder, trout, redfish, snook and bluefish.

  • Mono Cap YD/LB 200/8 165/10 120/12
  • Braid Cap YD/LB 250/15 180/20 130/30
  • Bearing Count – 8
  • Max Drag LB – 15lb | 6.8kg
  • Gear Ratio – 6.2:1

Penn Conflict 4000 Spinning Reels

The graphite rotor in this size makes the reel extremely lightweight and doesn’t compromise strength. This reel is well capable of catching stripers and bluefish in the 30+ inch range with no problems, even in moderate current.

  • Mono Cap YD/LB 270/8 220/10 165/12
  • Braid Cap YD/LB 360/15 260/20 185/30
  • Bearing Count – 8
  • Max Drag LB – 15lb | 6.8kg
  • Gear Ratio – 6.2:1

Penn Conflict 5000 Spinning Reels

  • Mono Cap YD/LB 225/12 200/15 135/20
  • Braid Cap YD/LB 420/20 300/30 240/40
  • Bearing Count – 8
  • Max Drag LB – 25lb | 11.3kg
  • Gear Ratio – 5.6:1

Penn Conflict 6000 Spinning Reels

Looking to catch grouper or kings from a boat? Maybe even a tarpon? This reel will be able to handle that and put the fish, and you, to the test.

  • Mono Cap YD/LB 335/15 230/20 210/25
  • Braid Cap YD/LB 490/30 390/40 335/50
  • Bearing Count – 8
  • Max Drag LB – 25lb | 11.3kg
  • Gear Ratio – 5.6:1

Penn Conflict 8000 Spinning Reels

Surf fishing here we come! This is the perfect (maybe even a little oversized) reel for catching large red drum, striped bass, black drum, and sharks from the surf.

  • Mono Cap YD/LB 340/20 300/25 230/30
  • Braid Cap YD/LB 475/50 390/65 345/80
  • Bearing Count – 8
  • Max Drag LB – 30lb | 13.6kg
  • Gear Ratio – 5.3:1