Catching a shy species like trout can be somewhat of a challenge. However, the right gear will help you a long way. We tested and reviewed 10 of the best trout spinning reels. Discover the results in our comprehensive overview below along with a buying guide and a FAQ.
There’s nothing better than eating freshly caught trout, especially if it’s one you’ve caught out of a local stream or river.
But for many anglers, trying to catch trout is a whole new realm of fishing since the best water for trout is relatively shallow, trout are finicky and elusive, and since they put up quite a fight when you’ve got one on your line.
Although many people are familiar with fly fishing to catch trout, it’s not your only option when it comes to catching these beautiful fish. If you’re wanting to try your hand at fishing for this elusive species, using a lightweight spinning reel for trout is another way to enjoy your afternoon on the water.
Below, I review 10 of the best spinning reels for trout fishing, as well as going over some of the most important factors you’ll need to keep in mind when shopping for your next reel.
When you’re looking for a reel designed to perform, the Okuma Helios Lightweight Spinning Reel won’t disappoint. Constructed from C-40X long-strand carbon fiber, this reel has a lightweight graphite design that is sure to pack superior strength and precision into every cast you make.
The C-40X construction keeps your reel corrosion-free, with the carbon fibers continuing to hold strong in tough environments. Plus, this also helps ensure your reel is 50% stronger than most other similar graphite competitors, as well as being about 25% lighter.
With a Torsion Control Armor throughout the reel, the unique design holds the reel body within a wide yoke, virtually eliminating twist and flex.
If you’re looking for a full rotor system that goes above and beyond, the Helios SX takes things to the extreme. Unlike most systems that try to keep water out of the reel, the cyclonic flow rotor works to evacuate water entirely, while also simultaneously keeping the reel as dry as possible.
In other words, the Helios is able to perform in any water environment or any weather condition, making it the best overall spinning reel on our list, especially in terms of its versatility.
Bringing in a whole new generation of spinning reels, the Okuma Epixor XT is sure to add a powerful punch to your tackle box. Plus, with its lightweight design, you’ll be able to stay out all day without facing the dreaded wrist exhaustion that usually accompanies long hours on the water.
This reel’s rock-solid functionality is mainly due to its advanced technology integration, offering the latest insight and best technology. The C-40X brings a long-strand carbon fiber against the torsion control armor frame, along with the graphite side plates and rotor for the ultimate stability and control.
For fans of braided lines, the Epixor XT features a slow oscillation system, allowing for a clean, line lay during retrieval.
This spinning reel brings premium features to any tackle box, without the steep price point you’ll find with other similarly styled reels.
Looking for one of the most popular spinning reels currently available on the market? Then, check out the Shimano Stradic CI4+ Spinning Reel, which combines virtually all of the key features experienced anglers depend on, and some of the latest Shimano technology.
For instance, this reel combines Shimano’s Magnumlite Rotor with an aluminum spool and light-weight CI4+ carbon body, making it roughly 25% lighter than other previous models and styles.
Plus, it also has an X-Ship pinion gear-support to keep your gears in check, giving you smooth, uncompromising control, even under heavy loads, like when you hook your first trout of the day.
This is also designed to help reduce your inertia by 22%, for effortless action when you’re reeling in the fish of a lifetime.
Finally, this reel’s CoreProtect feature offers superior water resistance within the body, clutch, and roller, preventing corrosion and improving the longevity of your purchase.
In other words, the Shimano Stradic Ci4+ FB is designed to outperform, outrun, and outlive the competition.
With its 10-bearing system, consisting of stainless-steel ball bearings, the Pflueger President Spinning Reel offers a smoothness in every cast, that you simply have to feel for yourself to believe.
This reel’s graphite body and rotor are the ultimate combinations for strength and dependability, while still remaining lightweight on the arm and wrist.
Plus, the braid-ready spool helps keep your setup effortless, with your braided line being tied directly to the spool. Additionally, this reel is made from corrosion-resistant stainless steel, featuring a sealed drag system, with oiled and sealed washers, which ensure a consistently smooth feel, even after continued use.
You’ll also love the slow oscillation gearing, designed to help you minimize twists and improve line lay during retrieval. Finally, the President is built with an aircraft-quality aluminum handle and a soft-touch rubber to help you maintain a solid grip, regardless of the weather or water conditions.
You deserve a spinning reel that can handle the most extreme and punishing battles, which is exactly why you need to get your hands on the Penn Battle II Spinning Reel.
Packed with all the features to help you handle the most intense fish fights, this reel is specifically designed to perform year after year, helping you land the big ones time and time again.
Made from a full metal body, including a side plate and rotor, the Battle II has five stainless steel ball bearings, meant to function smoothly, without compromising functionality.
On top of that, the Penn Battle II brings an instant anti-reverse bearing that practically eliminates pullback, so you can continue reeling without interruption no matter what you’re fighting on the end of the line.
This reel is the perfect product for any angler looking to improve his game.
Every angler, regardless of their skill level, will love Okuma’s Ceymar Spinning Reel.
With a beautiful and sleek design, the 8-bearing drive system is the ultimate in precision gearing. Plus, the rigid, machined aluminum spool offers a foundation of strength for both monofilament and braided fishing lines, in a stunning two-tone design.
You’re also going to love Okuma’s RESII balancing technology within the rotor system itself, which helps your reel remain balanced and perform properly even at higher reeling speeds. And, the quick-set anti-reverse feature helps keep even the toughest fish on your line.
In fact, the multi-disc, oiled felt drag system offers smooth action at all times, even throughout a heavy-hitting fish.
In the end, this reel is the perfect combination of strength, comfort, and style.
Designed to be a premium reel, delivered at a fraction of most competitor’s pricing, the Cadence CS10 holds a well-crafted magnesium frame, 10 ball bearings, and an instant anti-reverse feature, giving you pretty much everything you could ask for in a reel.
So in other words, this reel was built to deliver.
The carbon fiber drag system and magnesium construction keep this frame light on the wrist, without compromising on the quality and functionality of the reel’s casting and reeling capabilities.
Plus, it has an oversized ergonomic knob and a comfortable carbon fiber handle to help reel in the big ones, while maintaining the perfect grip in virtually all weather conditions.
In my opinion, this one of the absolute best spinning reels currently available out there in terms of its versatility, making it ideal for freshwater fish like trout, bass, and walleye.
Designed specifically to help you land those record-breaking, trophy keepers in virtually any type of weather condition, the Sharky III represents the cutting-edge of angling innovation. This reel is also simply an excellent combination of both performance and durability, thanks to its graphite fiber-reinforced body and rotor.
Using a triple-disc drag system, an oversized stainless steel shaft, and manganese/brass alloy pinion gears, the Sharky III is already pretty impressive in itself.
But the best part about this spinning reel is that it uses unique, manufacturer-specific K.I.S.S. technology to keep both dirt and water from getting inside. K.I.S.S. stands for KastKing Intrusion Shield System.
Additionally, the Sharky III is rated for saltwater usage, as well as featuring instant anti-reverse drag, and a solid, durable, and corrosion-resistant aluminum handle, making it an ideal spinning reel for going after the big one in any type of weather.
The KastKing Sharky III may just be one of the best sub-$100 spinning reels inteded for saltwater usage.
With a high-speed (6.2:1) gear ratio, this spinning reel is the ideal solution for a wide range of different fishing applications. The skeletal C40 carbon rotor, and smooth 10-bearing system, offer premium stainless steel, double-shielded ball bearings.
And not only is its lightweight aluminum frame built for strong, rugged handling, but it’s also a lightweight design so you can fish for trout comfortably all day long.
It also has an S-Curve oscillation feature when retrieving the line, which is designed to decrease the chance of knots and tangles, while also helping you cast out further.
Finally, with a zero-reverse one-way clutch, you’ll prevent the line from turning when you a large fish fights your line, making the Mach II an excellent choice for your next trout trip.
Whether hitting the water for lakers or rainbows, you’re going to need a high-grade spinning reel, especially one that’s from a brand which seasoned anglers have come to appreciate time and time again.
Cue the The Penn Pursuit III; available at an affordable price, while also offering you top-grade quality from a trusted manufacturer.
With a graphite body that contains a 5 stainless steel ball bearing system, this reel remains lightweight and corrosion-resistant, regardless of what the elements throw your way. It also offers a Superline spool, so you’ll never need a monofilament backing, thanks to the rubber gasket that’ll keep your braided line from slipping.
The Pursuit III also features an HT-100 carbon fiber drag system, keeping your drag smooth at all times even under the heavy load of hooking a large lake trout. In the end, whether you’re trying to bring in large saltwater fish or hoping to pull out some freshwater trout, this reel is sure to have your back all day, every day.
Purchasing a new spinning reel seems easy enough. After all, you can simply pick your favorite from our list and call it a day.
But to choose the best trout spinning reel, the one that’s best for you, there are a few factors that you’ll need to keep in mind.
For most seasoned anglers, a good quality spinning reel is more of an investment than a purchase. So to help you choose the best option, here are a few things to consider before buying your next trout reel.
When it comes to spinning reels, the body, or housing, is usually made from one of two different materials; aluminum, or graphite, or a combination of the two.
If you’re looking for a stronger material, an aluminum housing is your best option and it will also give you increased durability, and considerably less flex than graphite. However, it is heavier.
When you need a lighter rod and reel combo, or need corrosion-resistance for extended periods, graphite is the best option.
Typically, you’ll find that most high-end reels use aluminum, particularly for freshwater applications. But in the end, it’s really a matter of personal preference.
Responsible for applying pressure to any fish you manage to hook and letting the line out during a fight, the drag system is always an important aspect to consider.
Today, there are two drag systems currently available on spinning reels. Your options are either a rear or front drag.
These terms namely refer to the location of the drag controls, but there are a few other differences between the two
Rear-drag controls are an easier option in terms of accessibility, particularly when targeting fish that tend to put out a lot of fight, where you need to adjust your drag on the fly.
Front-drag systems, on the other hand, feature multiple, large drag washers for increased performance and durability overall. But they tend to be trickier to adjust while fighting with a fish at the same time.
Not only does your spool hold your line, but it will also directly impact your casting ability, distance, and overall smoothness.
Typically, spinning reels have spools made of graphite or anodized aluminum. Similar to reel housing materials, graphite is the lighter material between the two, while aluminum remains stronger under pressure.
Another consideration is the spool style. Skirted spools and mag spools are the most common varieties available on the market.
Skirted spools simply wrap the line around the bail mechanism, over the upper part of the reel body.
Alternatively, a mag spool is an enlarged spool that's flatter and wider compared to traditional spools. These spools typically offer faster retrieval speeds, reduced line twisting, and better casting.
Placed inside the body of your reel, ball bearings help ensure your spinning reel has a smooth and stable functionality when reeling in your line. Most reels will also contain a roller bearing in the line roller too.
If you’re looking for a smooth-action spinning reel, you’re going to want to purchase a reel that holds the highest number of bearings you can afford.
As a rule, it’s best to purchase a spinning reel with at least 5 ball bearings, which will offer considerably smoother action while reeling than with any fewer.
However, if your budget allows for a higher quality product, the investment truly is worth the potential aggravation of a reel that simply doesn’t perform well when you need it.
When it comes to your reel, there’s nothing worse than a product that causes you to miss out on catching fish.
Whether it’s simply not performing well, or it just doesn’t offer a smooth retrieval, a low-quality reel usually means that you’re going to end up replacing it far sooner than you’d like to.
Although there are hundreds of spinning reels on the market, the price can vary considerably, depending on the make, model, and quality. From under $100 to well above $500, it’s hard to know which product to buy to get the most out of every dollar.
When you’re looking at a spinning reel, it’s best to purchase the highest quality item you can afford within your budget. Good quality reels will last season after season, meaning you won’t have to replace them consistently.
So as I said before, it’s best to think of your next reel purchase as an investment rather than an expense.
Below, we’ll go over a few of the most common questions we get asked.
The truth is that choosing the best spinning reel for trout really comes down to a matter of preference.
However, it’s always best to select a lightweight reel, especially if you’re planning on using spinning tackle. And ideally, you want a reel that fits comfortably in your hand, has an anti-reverse functionality, and has the highest number of ball bearings you can afford.
By keeping the line light and smooth, you’ll increase your chances of landing a trout, any time in the season.
Although this answer truthfully depends on the species you’re after and your comfort level, it’s best to stick with a smaller reel size when you’re fishing for trout.
Using a 2500 spinning reel is perfect for freshwater trout, preferably with a braided line of anywhere 5 to 12lbs, or monofilament line of between 5 to 8lbs.
Also, you can always use a smaller reel size, as trout really are finicky, meaning that it’s best to opt for the smallest line possible and the lightest reel you can find.
If you compare the mouths of trout with other game fish, trout have much less capacity to take big hooks.
In fact, when you’re trying to determine the best hook size, it’s always best to opt for smaller sizes, usually between a #8, #10, or #12.
Anything larger than this will be difficult for the fish to take, meaning you’ll likely be facing a slow day on the water, and might end up going home skunked
Another reason to opt for a small hook when fishing for trout is that trout are rather easy to scare and tend to be finicky species overall. In other words, you’ll also want to keep your line as natural looking as possible, to keep the fish from being spooked by it.
To set yourself up for the best chance at landing a trout, you’re going to want a light to an ultralight rod, paired with an ultralight spinning reel.
Ideally, you’ll want to use a monofilament line of 2lbs to 6lbs.
This setup works well for both lures and bait fishing, but just remember to keep your gear as light as possible.
For more info, we have a beginner's guide to catching trout.
Although they may seem difficult to find, catching trout can be done in virtually any body of water. That is, of course, if you know where to find them.
But when you do find those trout spots, trout fishing can be a great way to spend the afternoon, not to mention, a delicious meal to end your evening.
Once you’ve found the perfect spot, it’s time to get your rod set up for an afternoon of fun and all of the top-performing spinning reels for trout that I’ve selected above are a great option for your tackle box.
They’re all lightweight, smooth, and hold tough against both water environments and fish.
However, just make sure you take the factors I’ve mentioned into consideration before choosing a reel. The last thing you want is a ruined afternoon because you weren’t able to bring in the trout you keep hooking on your line.