Best Surf Fishing Reels

Best Surf Fishing Reels in 2020 – Buyer’s Guide

Surf fishing has its own fair share of risks and delights. Whether you’re wading on the surf or standing on the shore, you need to be equipped with the right gear. 

Out of all the fishing tackles you should possess, reels are the controller of your fishing game. Wisely picking the right one enables you to achieve your dream long-casts, and overcome the effect of constant saltwater exposure and harsh bangs against rocks and rough currents.

A good surf fishing reel should be light, durable, maneuverable, and have large line capacity. Some reels excel in just one aspect, though the best surf fishing reels ideally gather the most effective specs to make them fit for tough jobs.

During this review, we’ll take you on a ride to show you the best surf fishing reels currently on the market. We take into account the features, design, and price range of each product. Besides, clearly explaining the pros and cons of each reel.

List of the Best Surf Fishing Reels:

  • Penn Battle II Spinning Reel – Best Surf Spinning Reel
  • Daiwa BG Spinning Reel – Best Durability
  • Shimano Stradic Ci4+ Spinning Fishing Reel – Lightest/Most Advanced Design
  • Quantum Cabo PT spinning reel – Best Design
  • Abu Garcia Ambassadeur Blue Yonder Baitcasting Reel – Best Surf Casting Reel
  • Daiwa M7HTMAG Millionaire Surf Cast Reel – Smoothest Baitcaster
  • Pflueger President XT Low Profile Baitcasting Reel – Most Cost Effective

Comparison Table:

ReelGear ratioWeightDrag
Penn Battle II6.2:112.8 oz15 Ibs.
Daiwa BG5.3:113.8 oz35 Ibs.
Shimano Stradic Ci4+6:16.7 oz20 Ibs.
Quantum Cabo PT5.3:113.6 oz45 Ibs.
Abu Garcia Ambassadeur6.3:116 oz15 Ibs.
Daiwa Millionaire5.8:112.2 oz11 Ibs.
Pflueger President XT7.3:17.7 oz12 Ibs.

The 7 Best Surf Fishing Reels in 2020

1. Penn Battle II – Best Surf Spinning Reel

Penn Battle II

There’s a reason for the Penn Battle II being top rated on the market for a long time. Penn has lived up to its reputation and designed this reel with surf anglers in mind. One of its best features lies in being built with a corrosion-resistant aluminum body that withstands saltwater rigor along with a heavy-duty aluminum bail wire, side plate, and rotor.

Its HT-100 carbon fiber drag washers render it perfectly smooth with outstanding retrievals. That means the reel has more pressure capabilities to help you adjust the drag according to your preferences. Another plus is that the drag is wholly sealed against sand and debris.

We love Penn Battle II for its extreme durability and ability to hold heavy braided lines and metal leaders without the use of mono backing. With five sealed high-quality stainless steel ball bearings and a single anti-reverse one, the reel promises you a competent spool that can last a long time in good condition.

What’s more, Penn offers eight different models with different sizes starting from 1000 up to 8000. Most users settle for the 4000 model with a 6.2 gear ratio. Although sizes bigger than 4000 may have more drag power and line capacity, they suffer a significant increase in weight, which is not met with much praise from users.

In practical terms, at the current price point, you’ll hardly find a better real than a Penn Battle II.

Pros: 

  • All-metal, extremely durable body
  • Corrosion resistance
  • Aluminum bail wire
  • Outstanding drag capability
  • Sealed bearings
  • Accessible price

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Cons:

  • Models larger than 4000 are on the hefty side
  • The seal can be flawed
  • The undesirable clunkiness of the spool

Bottom line

Penn Battle II is definitely a good start for novice anglers who wish to conquer the surf. Even though it may come short on the long casting side, it’s perfect in every other aspect. We recommend it should you be looking for a robust mid-priced reel that has a revolutionary drag system with a long lifespan.

2. Daiwa BG – Best Durability

Daiwa BG

Daiwa BG is the definition of a brutal reel. It’s equipped with a body covered with anodized, corrosion-resistant aluminum housing. Hence, users have been praising its ability to endure the potential bumps and bruises against rocks and jetties with stability and strength. 

Its over-sized Digigear allows more teeth to be in contact with each other, which reduces the stress on individual teeth. This way, your gear will run smoothly with increased torque. Also, this ensures an extremely long lifespan. Moreover, Daiwa BG is armed with a light rotor that excels in stress distribution. 

Its dynamic cut aluminum ABS spool is something worth praising. You won’t feel the need of a monofilament backing, since this spool minimizes braided line issues as wind knots and line slipping. It’s worth mentioning that it’s combined with six ball bearings and a dual anti-retrieval system for effective tugging.

Daiwa introduced ten models that vary in sizes from 1500 to 8000. Each model has a distinct line capacity and drag capability, which gives you the freedom to choose what suits you best. Nevertheless, all of them have a large gear ratio that provides you with the confidence to handle large species.

We regret to say that some users have reported that its bails can corrode easily, and sometimes it comes unlubricated, though this problem can be solved by regular maintenance. Luckily, the simple construction of this reel makes it easy to disassemble and wash.

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Pros:

  • Outstanding ATD drag system
  • Smooth casts and retrieves
  • Waterproof, corrosion and abrasion-resistant body
  • Accessible price
  • Plenty of models to choose from

Cons:

  • Needs continuous maintenance as bail rollers corrode easily
  • Suitable for large rods only
  • Heavy

Bottom line

All we can say is that this reel would have been perfect if it hadn’t been for its heavyweight and relatively large size, that only suits big rods. Other than that, we totally recommend it for beginner surf fishermen, as it can withstand all the clumsiness brought by inexperienced hands.

3. Shimano Stradic Ci4+ – Lightest/Most Advanced Design

Shimano Stradic Ci4

Shimano is well known for its crazy prices but good quality, and honestly, the highlight of this model is its lightness. The Ci4 carbon construction and Magnumlite weight reduced its weight to 6.7 oz. This provides you with adequate control over the reel. 

Actually, it’s the type of reel you won’t trade for anything, owing to its excelling technology and well-designed systems. It’s equipped with a Dyna-Balance motor, a Fluidrive II system, and a propulsion line management system that offers maximum casting and outstanding control.

Thanks to the Hagane gearing and X-ship technology, Shimano Stradic reels possess an outrageous strength that can handle the fight of big-game fish without wavering. That’s beside the durability that withstands prolonged exposure to the water. All of these features make it a great candidate for being one of the best surf fishing reels.

It has four designs with various specs and sizes, yet the Stradic 4000 XT FB is the most favored by anglers since it’s considered a middle-ground in price and features.

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Pros:

  • Very light
  • Utilizes advanced technology
  • Strong and durable
  • Powerful and smooth drag

Cons:

  • Lacks an anti-reverse switch
  • Noisy
  • costly

Bottom line

With Shimano technology, you can hardly be disappointed. The casting and retrieval rate is awesome! It’s indeed highly-priced, yet its high technology compares to no other. If you’re willing to invest in a very comfortable and extremely advanced reel at the same time, then the Shimano Stradic Ci4 is your best choice.

4. Quantum Cabo PT – Best Design

Quantum Cabo PT

Out of all the other reviewed reels, this one has, by far, the most stylish design. With its titanium grey finish and blue accents, you can hardly find another reel that compares to it in terms of classiness. Nonetheless, that doesn’t cut away from its performance.

Quantum Cabo doesn’t usually manufacture surf fishing reels, so when it finally took that step, it paid extra attention to all the details to make the reel meaningfully serve its purpose. The PT in the model name stands for “performance tuning,” which is exactly what the company did.

For starters, taking the saltwater hazards in mind, they covered the reel with SaltGuard 7-layer corrosion and abrasion-resistant paint. The sealed magnum CSC drag in the design is achieved by adding a stack of carbon fiber washers. It can handle up to 45 pounds and is actually comparable to the Shimano drag, which costs five times more.

Apart from being the best at its price point, it enjoys a large line capacity that’s up to 400 yards per 100 pound of line. Hence, you can aim for crazy long casts. As for strength and robustness, they have a titanium bail system and a magnetic trip, which stand out for being nearly indestructible.

Lastly, we can’t forget to mention that they come with slick aluminum spools that utilize LMS line management, which enables you to cast heavy braided lines with no risk of tangles or slipping.

One thing that we didn’t like is that it’s not entirely sealed for extra protection of saltwater and sand. Also, some purchasers have complained about receiving faulty products with some defects.

Pros:

  • Classy design
  • Massive drag
  • Hybrid bearing
  • Superior protection from saltwater
  • Comfy handle
  • mid-priced

Cons:

  • Not fully sealed
  • Sharp spool slip

Bottom line

To sum it up, Quantum Cabo reels are classy reels that lack the attention they deserve. They may not be the best in their genre, but they do offer high-quality features at a quite reasonable price range.

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5. Abu Garcia Ambassadeur Blue Yonder – Best Surf Casting Reel

Abu Garcia Ambassadeur Blue Yonder

Moving on to baitcasting reels, we choose Abu Garcia Ambassadeur as the best baitcasting reel, owing to its super long and extremely precise casts. 

It has gained a good reputation among inshore anglers for its customizable centrifugal brake system, which can be set to stop the spooling when the line hits the water. For one thing, that can help you aim accurately to a specific spot. For another, you can set your mind at ease since you’ll be able to get the job done with almost no tangles or bird nests.

With a consistent drag, two stainless steel ball bearings, and one roller bearing, smooth reel maneuvering is guaranteed. Another feature that has gained much praise is the extended bent cranking handles that give you a fighting feel and render this reel capable of catching any kind of species.

Some users have complained about the absence of a level-wind mechanism, which helps you distribute the line evenly on the spool without using your thumb. However, others preferred this open spool design much better, as they could get to the spool easier.

Pros:

  • Simple and user-friendly design
  • Long-distance casting
  • Flawless braking system
  • Has a clicker
  • Efficient carbon matrix drag system
  • Corrosion-resistant

Cons:

  • Lack of level-wind mechanism
  • Not the smoothest, compared to other baitcasters

Bottom line

To cut a long story short, you can’t go wrong with Abu Garcia Ambassadeur. It’s extremely loved by pro anglers, who like nice and long surf casts while having good control over the line to prevent backlashes. As any baitcasting reel, it needs experienced hands, but the good thing is that Abu Garcia is a good start if you’re willing to jump into the world of advanced reels.

6. Daiwa M7HTMAG Millionaire – Smoothest Baitcaster

Daiwa M7HTMAG Millionaire

Daiwa Millionaire has the advantage of being smoother than Abu Garcia Blue Yonder, but with the expense of being pricier. 

Featuring seven corrosion-resistant ball bearings together with a lightweight aluminum spool, this model from Daiwa is incomparable to other members of the same category when it comes to smoothness.

Another significant advantage is that it combines centrifugal and magnetic brakes altogether. The major difference between magnetic and centrifugal brakes is that magnetic brakes work less at higher rates, giving space for higher initial speed. On the other hand, centrifugal ones work exponentially with more top speed, so they don’t leave space for high initial speed.

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In other words, this means you’ll have the capability of adjusting the amount of braking based on the wind, the weight of the payload, and your casting style.

On top of that, Daiwa has never been more proud of anything than their MagForce Z control system, which controls the intensity of the magnetic fields throughout the cast to maximize casting distance.

In spite of being a heavenly reel, users were still bothered by sand getting into the inner workings, besides lacking a clicker. This means that you won’t have the chance to avert your eyes from the rod while casting.

Pros:

  • The smoothest gear
  • Maximum casting distance
  • Magnetic brakes
  • Perfect ergonomic handle

Cons:

  • Expensive
  • Sand can get under the drag
  • No clicker
  • Putting the line back is quite troublesome

Bottom line

This model here is built for experienced anglers who are willing to sacrifice a good sum of money in return for unequaled pro features. Unlike the Blue Yonder, it doesn’t really suit novice anglers since it needs a lot of experience under your belt to master the braking system.

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7. Pflueger President XT Low Profile – Most Cost-effective

Pflueger President XT Low Profile

Compared to the $120 reel competitors, this reel is ridiculously good for the price. Baitcasters are known to be more expensive than spinning reels. However, surprisingly, among spinning and baitcasting reels on our list, this reel is the cheapest.

The good thing is that you don’t compromise much in return of affordability. For better casts and retrieves, It has nine anti-corrosion stainless steel ball bearings accompanied by an anti-reverse one. Also, let’s not forget about its great magnetic brakes that yield smooth casts with almost no backlashes.

Unlike Daiwa and Blue Yonder baitcasting reels, Pflueger baitcasters are low profile and weigh no more than 7.7 oz, which is extremely helpful for novice anglers who are still learning how to handle the reel well. Its aircraft aluminum handles and soft-touch knobs provide excellent grip and control over the reel.

Not only that, but it also has a gear ratio of 7.3:1, opening the door for faster-than-usual retrieves to reel in fast swimmers before they let go of the hook.

The drag has a maximum of 12 Ib, which is a disadvantage for a surf reel that requires more powerful drags to withstand adverse conditions and large challenging catches. Another bothering drawback is its small line capacity. The spool can only hold 185/20,140/30 and 100/50 Yd/lbs braid, and 145/12, 125/14 and 100/17 Yd/lbs mono.

Pros:

  • Cost-effective 
  • High-speed retrieval system
  • Magnetic braking system
  • Small size and lightweight
  • Double shielded bearings
  • High-quality, soft-touch handles
  • Easy to master

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Cons:

  • Low drag power
  • Not suitable for game-fish
  • Short casting range

Bottom line

The Pflueger President reel may not be the best surf baitcasting reel owing to the lack of long casts, but with this price, the quality is worth far more than you’re paying. It’s robust, fast, and its low profile makes it suitable in the hands of beginners. Surf anglers who aren’t concerned about casting distances can undoubtedly go for this model.

What to Look for When Buying a Surf Fishing Reel

Investing in a worthy reel requires you to know what you’re looking for in the first place. With many options on the market, we present you with the criteria by which you should pick a surf fishing reel that lasts long and endures harsh conditions.

1. Quality

Depending on the price, you’ll find reels made of plastic, aluminum, or graphite, with plastic being the most economical yet least reliable. While aluminum and graphite are on the higher end of the price range, they’re your best choice to have a reel resilient against rust and corrosion. 

Moreover, aluminum reels are credited for being sturdy enough to withstand the wind blasts and savage waves, given that surf fishing reels are prone to all kinds of accidents. Also, aim for a reel made of graphite if you’re looking for lightness and durability at the same time.

Being waterproof is a plus, and it’d be better if the reel came with a sealed body that doesn’t allow sand or debris to get inside the reel or accumulate under the drag.

Keep in mind that even if the reel is reliable enough to be corrosion-resistant, that doesn’t eliminate the necessity of periodical cleaning to maintain its efficiency and prolong its life.

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2. Bail

Whether the reel comes with an automatic or manual bail, it needs to be strong enough to bear heavy lines and weights.

3. Ball Bearings

Ball bearings guarantee smooth rotations of the spool by reducing the friction between the moving parts. The number of ball bearings needed depends mainly on their quality and the load of work for which you’re aiming. 

Two ball bearings made of good quality and high tolerance should be sufficient for most spools. However, for better performance, opt for 5-12 balls with the bigger numbers reserved for big-game fishing.

4. Line Capacity

Since all the work is done from the shoreline, surfcasting requires long lines to be able to reach far distances and depths. To achieve that, the reel capacity must be big enough to hold a line that reaches 300-400 yards, let alone the strength to handle 50-60 lb fish.

Sometimes, you’ll need to attach braided lines and metal leaders to your reel in case of working around jetties or sharp rocks. In light of that, make sure that the reel can operate with line weights up to 50 pounds.

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5. Drag System

The drag system lets you set how much resistance the fish feel by an adjustment knob on the spool. On the surf, you’re mostly dealing with big fish. Applying the right pressure is critical because it gives you the asset benefit of hooking big fighting fish without the risk of snapping the line. Hence, it’s the most crucial part you should check before you make the purchase.

To avoid having your drag wearing down after a short period of heavy usage, aim for the best models that are made of high-quality carbon disks and stainless steel driveshafts.

6. Gear Ratio

Gear ratio decides your reel’s speed, or in other words, the rate by which you pick up the line after hooking the fish. Surf fishing includes casting from a distance. Hence, you’re in great need of fast retrievals to avoid losing a catch half-way. 

The higher the ratio, the more line retrieved on each crank. For example, 5-6:1 gear ratio would be for slower fishing when you want to keep your bait in the strike zone longer. 

A medium gear ratio, that’s between 6:1 and 7:1 should help when you’re seeking a reaction strike from a bass. 7:1 and higher ratios should be reserved for fast-action fishing. This helps in situations where you’re primarily working the lure with your rod and want to overcome the slack of this technique.

Bear in mind that it’s easier to slow down a fast reel than speed-up a slow one. Thus, your best bet should lie on a speedy reel that can handle deep crankbaits, which need slower speed, with the same efficiency of managing live baits, which warrant the use of high speed.

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Frequently Asked Questions:

To get a better hang of the subject, we’ve gathered the most frequently asked questions about surf fishing reels, and now we provide you with clear and straight-to-the-point answers.

What Type of Reel Should I Use for Surf Fishing?

Both spinning and baitcasting reels are widely used by surf fishers, with the spinning reel being favored a little bit more by newbies. That’s because spinning reels are more versatile and much easier to learn. They may not provide you with the largest line capacity, but they offer a lower risk of backlash.

Contrary to spinning reels, baitcasting reels are more advanced in terms of accuracy, long casts, and handling braided lines and heavy lures. Therefore, they’re commonly preferred by skilled anglers who like to cast distances, but know how to pull it off without drowning in a bird’s nest.

Are Surf Fishing Reels Different from Other Types of Reels?

You can say they’re different in terms of the conditions they face. Saltwater, accompanied by the natural forces in the water, can abuse your reel. That’s why you need to choose the sturdiest all-metal reel you can afford, with a reliable bail that can retrieve a heavy line under fighting pressure.

What Size Reel Is Best for Surf Fishing?

The size of the fish you’re targeting is the deciding factor here. In regards to spinning reels, a size between 4000 and 6000 is widely popular among surf anglers. This should be sufficient for medium-sized fish and intermediate levels. You can always step up your game and reach for reels of a size more than 6000 if you’re into sport fishing. 

On the other hand, baitcasting reels have only two sizes; low profile and round profile. We recommend low profile baitcasters for novice anglers since they’re light and easy to cast and retrieve.

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Can You Use a Baitcaster for Surf Fishing?

As we mentioned before, yes! Many anglers prefer them over spinning ones for their super long casts and second to nothing precision.

Final Thoughts

After revealing our list of the best surf fishing reels on the market, we hope that you’ll be able to choose a reel that best matches your skill level and preferences.

All in all, we recommend Penn Battle II as the best surf spinning reel with regard to versatility and price. Moreover, Abu Garcia Blue Yonder reels are undoubtedly the best selection for entry-level anglers who specifically like to use baitcasters.

At the end of the day, make sure to match the reel you pick with the right rod and suitable lines and lures. Then you’re all set up to hit the surf.

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