Best Bass Fishing Reels

Geoff Stadnyk in Fishing Reels on

There are as many reels out there to choose from for bass fishing as there are types of bass. Just in America there are largemouth, smallmouth, spotted, white bass, and many more varieties.

And depending on who you ask, whether it’s a tournament angler or a weekend warrior, you’ll get a different answer as to what works best as a reel for bass fishing.

I’ve done my share of bass fishing and I’ve got to admit, it’s one of my favorite types of fish to go for. I love going after any kind of bass, whether it’s the acrobatic and nimble smallmouth, the lunker largemouth, or the agile white bass.

But not every reel is the same when going after bass. It’s important to use the right tool for the job, and so I put together this roundup of the best bass fishing reels on the market.

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Top Pick - Bass Fishing Reel

The SHIMANO Sahara FI spinning reel is my top pick for a go-to spinning reel for bass fishing. What’s not to love? It’s priced right, the specs are on point, it’s lightweight, and it performs like the best. 

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Review

The first thing that I noticed about this SHIMANO Sahara reel is how it casts. Not only does it achieve distance, but it feels good, too. The body of the reel is large but still lightweight, coming in at just about a half pound, so it won’t tire you out after a day of casting.

That doesn’t mean this reel is weak. It packs a punch with drag up to 20 pounds, and it’s fitted with a 4 & 1 ball bearing system. The handle and bearings are aluminum. The spool holds a respectable 170 yards for 8 pound braided line.

SHIMANO is known for its quality reels. Some will cost more than others, but this Sahara FI model delivers on SHIMANO’s quality at a fair price, and that’s why it’s my top pick for spinning reels.

What We Like
Performance - This reel is smooth as silk when casting and during retrieval. It’s the kind of reel that you kind of forget you’re using because it performs so well. When the rubber meets the road and a bass hits, this SHIMANO can land even a formidable largemouth. But it has the nimbleness of casting spinnerbait all day if you’re going for white bass.
Simplicity - I don’t know about you, but sometimes I get bogged down in making a decision about what kind of gear I should choose to add to my tackle arsenal. There are a lot of factors to consider in a reel, as I’ve mentioned previously. But with this SHIMANO Sahara FI spinning reel, the choice is simple: there’s one model available and it’s a solid all-around choice for most angling scenarios. 
Lightweight - Weighing in at just a hair over a half of a pound, this is reel is light as a feather. If I’m going to hit the boat or the shore, I’m the kind of guy that will probably be there for awhile. And if I’m going to be casting all day it’s important that my arms and wrist don’t get tuckered out. This reel is the perfect lightweight option for this scenario.
Know Before Buying
- If you’re looking for a specialized reel with specific specs like greater line capacity or gear ratio, you might need to consider another reel. But for most bass fishing scenarios this reel will do just fine. 

Best Premium - Bass Fishing Reel

The Pflueger President spinning reel has gravitas. It’s a beautiful gray and blue reel with gold embellishments and its performance matches its good-looks. This thing is built to last with a graphite body and stainless steel ball bearings. But most important, it gets the job done when fishing for bass. 

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Review

It’s always a good idea to focus on quality when choosing fishing tackle. The last thing I want is to be out on the water and have something go wrong. It can waste a ton of time in the best case scenario, and in the worst case scenario it can lose you a fish! That’s why this Pflueger President reel sticks out above the rest. It is built with quality from head to toe.

There are five size options in this Pflueger model that you can choose from, so it offers a little something for every situation. Every size after the smallest is fitted with 10 stainless steel ball bearings. That means there will be less friction when casting and will have smooth motion and top-notch speed when retrieving the line.

But even the smallest model, the Pflueger President 20, offers 7 ball bearings. This will be suitable for lighter bass, like white bass or smallmouth. If going for anything bigger like largemouth then one of the mid-range models will do just fine.

What We Like
Quality - What’s not to appreciate about this reel’s quality? From top to bottom Pflueger took care to build a solid performance spinning reel. The graphite body and rotor along with the reel's sealed drag system with corrosion-resistance stainless steel ball bearings means this reel will last for years. Just like any good investment, or fishing tackle, should. 
Flexibility - No matter what kind of bass you’re going for, this Pflueger President line has a model that will fit the bill. There are five size options to choose from, which give choices for bearing count and line capacity. 
Spool - This spinning reel comes with a braid ready spool. This means you can tie braided line directly to the spool without having to use a mono backer. It’s a small detail but for some anglers this is an important feature, especially if you’ll primarily be using braided line in your bass fishing.
Know Before Buying
- Keep in mind that all of the different sizes for this Pflueger President model come with the same gear ratio, which clocks in at 5.2:1. This shouldn’t be an issue for most bass fishing scenarios but it’s good to keep in mind if looking for more versatility in this regard. 

Best for Larger Bass - Spinning Reel

The KastKing Sharky III is a hulk of a spinning reel. This model comes in five different sizes with max drag ranging from 33 to 39.5 pounds. Even though these are big reels they aren't super heavy, but it’s the reel I would choose when going after largemouth and bigger bass. 

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Review

This is the reel that can handle a lunker largemouth. The KastKing Sharky III is one of the most solid, biggest spinning reels I’ve come across. And the best part? It won’t break the bank. It’s one of those quality reels that you can pick up that will hold its own against whatever kind of bass you put it up against.

The body of these KastKing reels are made from graphite, which reduces their total weight. That means you can cast just as well with this big reel as you would with smaller reels without tiring out your arms and wrist. This reel will hold its own against any bass along with most other fishing even on saltwater. It’s also fitted with manganese brass alloy gears that will stay smooth and functional for years. The spool on this reel, made with aluminum, will also give you ample line capacity.

What We Like
Build - This is a formidable reel. There are five size options and no matter what one you go with you’ll be happy with the sturdy build. KastKing didn’t cut corners on the reel in terms of its construction and the materials used, from the graphite body, stainless steel bearings, manganese brass alloy gears, and stainless steel main shaft.
Smooth - Even though this KastKing packs a punch in terms of power, it doesn’t sacrifice any smoothness in terms of casting and line retrieval. You’ll find that you can still get a good, solid, long cast from this reel and when you’re out fishing for bass that’s important to land the bait or lure in the right spot. 
Know Before Buying
- The KastKing Sharky III is a great reel if you’re looking for gear that you can use both on fresh and salt water. Just take note of the gear ratio and the line capacity if you’ll be using the reel for anything outside of normal bass fishing.

Top Pick - Baitcast Reel for Bass Fishing

The Abu Garcia Max Pro is my top pick for a baitcasting reel for bass fishing. It checks all the boxes I look for in a reel from its construction, specs, smoothness, and reliability.

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Review

This Abu Garcia baitcast reel is built different. This isn’t the baitcast reel your grandpa probably used. The first thing I noticed about it is that it’s built with comfort in mind. That’s important because when I choose a reel, I look for one that I can use for hours at a time for several days in a row. Hey, when I fish, I like to fish, what can I say?

It’s a reel that’s easy on the eyes and nice to hold, but it’s also tough as nails. It’s built with an aluminum spool, stainless steel ball bearings, and a graphite frame that will hold up with years of use. It also boasts of 18 pounds of drag, so it’s good to go when setting the hook on a lunker. Most importantly, this is a baitcast reel that is suitable for beginners and pros alike.

What We Like
Ease Of Use - One thing that keeps people away from baitcasters is the difficulty to get them set up and tweaked just right. That’s not the case with this Abu Garcia Max Pro baitcaster reel. The brake setting is easy to adjust with a simple dial on the reel and that is a feature on its own that sets this baitcaster apart from others in the category. Anybody can learn a baitcaster with this reel, no matter who you bring with you on your next bass fishing trip: your wife, kids, or your buddy that hasn't fished in years. 
Well-made - This is a sturdy and very well-made reel. It feels solid when you hold it and it doesn't have any parts that feel loose or grind. It will hold up after intensive use, and that's one big factor I look for in a reel for bass fishing, as I try to go as often as possible when time allows. 
Know Before Buying
- Overall this is a very solid baitcaster that will appeal to beginners and weekend warriors alike. There are other premium reels in the category that might outperform this option though depending on what you’re looking for, but for your typical bass fishing, it will do just fine. 

Best for Budget - Baitcast Reel for Bass Fishing

The KastKing Royale Legend II is a baitcaster that is easy on the wallet. It offers a perfect option if you want to add a baitcaster to your tackle for a second rod. 

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Review

This baitcaster from KastKing won’t bust your wallet but more importantly it’s a pretty good baitcaster that holds its own against the competition.

It has a nice, modern design that is comfortable to hold and use even after a lot of casting. The material that goes into the reel is solid with a brass main gear, aluminum spool, and a handle knobs that are designed with a nice grip especially when you’ve got a big bass on the line.

What We Like
Price - At the price, it’s going to be hard to find a baitcaster of similar quality. I’ve searched around and sure, there are probably cheaper options, but then you’re giving up on important elements of quality and features that I look for in a reliable reel.
Know Before Buying
- If you’re already accustom to using baitcasters and you’re looking for a reel that will blow your expectations out of the water, this might not be the best option. But for a solid entry-level baitcaster that is accessible in both price and ease of use, this KastKing is a great choice. 

Product Reviews – Spinning Reels for Bass Fishing

a man's hands holding a spinning reel and fishing with the ocean sparkling in the backgroundPlease take a look at my other fishing photos:

Spinning reels offer a few key advantages over baitcasters. They are generally perceived as being more beginner friendly, and if I’m honest, I learned to fish on a spinning reel and it wasn’t until much later in my angler journey that I picked up a baitcaster (see also best baitcasting reels). Here are a few advantages of spinning reels:

  • The first advantage is that in windy conditions, a spinning reel will be easier to use when casting into the wind.
  • If you’re fishing around docks or in the weeds or trees, then a spinning reel will allow you to skip lures along the water to avoid hazards.
  • The drag can be adjusted very easily when fighting a fish. This is an often overlooked feature but comes in handy when you’ve got a bigger than anticipated fish on the line.
  • Finally, you can typically cast lighter lures a greater distance.

Those are a few key benefits of spinning reels, now it’s time to take a look at my top picks in the category for bass fishing.

Product Reviews – Baitcast Reels for Bass Fishing

Angler on the river with close up baitcasting reel in hilights

There are a few direct benefits of a baitcasting reel when bass fishing.

  • The first is that it gives you better control over your line, which allows you to cast with more precision.
  • It also gives you the crank power you need for baits like spinnerbaits and crankbaits. You can spool heavier line than you can with spinning reels that are the same size.
  • And maybe most importantly when bass fishing, you can control how the lure goes into the water, which helps when you don’t want to scare away fish that might be hiding in the weeds.

The main drawback that some anglers mention when talking about baitcast reels is that they are a bit trickier to set up and use than a spinning reel. Like with anything in life hard things take time and attention, but the rewards are many. The same applies to baitcast reels, and when you’re going after bass, it can be a useful tool in your tackle box.

With all that said, I’ll take a look and review a couple of the top baitcast reels for bass fishing below.

Buyer’s Guide for Best Bass Fishing Reels

A respectable largemouth bass is going to weigh in at about 10 pounds, and a smallmouth will come in around 5 or 6. They can get bigger, of course. The American record for a largemouth bass catch is from 1932 down in Georgia, where a man pulled in a catch weighing 22 pounds 4 ounces. The smaller, but still fun to catch, white bass averages about 1 pound or so.

As you can see, there’s a ton of variety out there in terms of bass fishing.

No matter if you’re going for a largemouth, smallmouth, white bass, striped, spotted, or black bass, there’s a reel that’s best suited for the task.

Here’s a brief overview of the most important features that I’ll be looking at when reviewing the best bass fishing reels on the market:

  • Reel Weight & Durability: The weight of the reel can have an effect on how you balance your rod and the impact and strain it has on your arm, wrists, and hands. A lighter reel can be handled with ease but you might give up strength in the line test. Luckily, most spinning reels can handle a solid 8 to 10 pound test line, which should suffice for most casual bass fishing. Remember, reel weight also relates to durability, as the material will vary between graphite or various alloys.
  • Drag: Most reels built these days can handle serious drag, typically up to 8 pounds. This is a setting on your reel you don’t need to overdo. Some anglers set the drag as light as possible, just to set the hook. A fair balance for bass fishing will be a drag setting between 4 and 6 pounds. Every angler has a different preference here and will depend on what kind of bass you’re going for and the conditions you’re fishing in, like in heavy weeds or in clear and open waters.
  • Line Capacity: Are you going to be using monofilament or braided fishing line? Will you be fishing from shore, or on a boat? How strong do you need the line to be (see also how long does fishing line last)? All of these factors will impact the amount of line you can put on your reel and how much line you’ll need. For bass fishing, there is no set rule for how much line you will want to spool, but it’s good to think about how you will typically be fishing, according to the variables listed above, to choose the right reel for line capacity. Also, make sure to use the right fishing bait when bass fishing.
  • Gear ratio: Some anglers say the gear ratio isn’t a large concern because it boils down to how fast you can crank your reel. The trend is to use faster reels generally. As a rule of thumb when you’re out bass fishing you can use these ratios: 7:1 for jigs and topwaters; 6:1 for spinnerbaits; 5:1 for crank and swimbaits

Conclusion

The first thing I think about when looking at a reel for bass fishing is what kind of bass I’m going for, how often I’ll be fishing, and the conditions I’ll be fishing in. These are all important factors that influence the decision on the type of reel I’ll bring out with me on the waters.

One thing I’ve noticed over the years is that reels have consistently improved specs and quality in key areas. There’s a lot of versatility in most reels where you can use a single reel in different conditions and for different types of fish.

At the end of the day, bass fishing is one of my favorite pastimes. When I think about fishing I think about bass, and that’s why I’ve put a fair share of thought into the different reels that are on the market. I want the best tool for the job when I’ve got a big bass on the line.

Geoff Stadnyk

Geoff started fishing as a child in the gorgeous lakes of Mammoth, while on family vacations. His fishing experience includes the use of fly rod and reel. Guided trips along the Madison and Gallatin rivers in Montana, the Frying Pan and Animus in Colorado, and the Deschutes river in Oregon have all paid off and helped make Geoff the angler and writer that he is today.

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