Best Classic Fishing Reels: Spinning, Baitcast & Speed

Geoff Stadnyk in Fishing Reels on

In this post, we are going to attempt to give some truly unbiased fishing reel reviews. And to make things more fun, we are going to review some reels that are noted as being the best classic fishing reels, which have become must have items of tackle for many anglers.

For inshore spinning reels, check this article.

Table of Contents

Best Classic Spinning Reel

The Shimano baitrunner reels are legendary, and the choice of freshwater fishermen around the world for catching large fish. Build quality I excellent, and they simply last forever.

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There is probably no other reel manufacturer better known for innovation than Shimano. And when it comes to Shimano innovations, the baitrunner is the big one. There was no such thing as baitrunner reel before Shimano came up with the idea.

Now this type of freespool real is produced by every manufacturer, from cheap Chinese factories to major tackle companies. But you still can’t beat the Shimano take on the baitrunner, the original.

For those that don’t know what a baitrunner reel is. It’s an open faced spool reel, with a double drag setup. One drag works as normal, setting the drag to slip at a certain weight, when playing fish. The other, sets how freely the spool runs when the bail is closed and the baitrunner switch is on. This means that the rod can be cast, and the reel switched to baitrunner mode. When a fish takes the bait, it is free to run with it, as the spool will spin freely if the fish is pulling harder than the setting or the secondary drag. Once you pick up the rod, and turn the handle, the reel automatically switches to the primary drag, and then acts like a normal reel.

The BTR range of the Shimano baitrunner uses 2 drive gearing, and dyna balance, to ensure smooth delivery of power when playing large fish, and to keep the drag working consistently. The oversized power roller is also very good, making the likelihood of line jumps very slim. Put simply, if you want a freespool reel, you need a Shimano, it’s that easy.

Check this article for the best ultralight spinning reels.

Best Classic Baitcasting Reel

Overall, the Black Max range of baitcasters from Abu Garcia mixes modern design, with great quality, and a very affordable price. We highly recommend them.

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Abu Garcia have been king of the baitcaster reel for decades. They have constantly strived to improve this type of reel each time they release a new model.

Currently, the Black Max range of baitcaster reels from Abu Garcia really are something exceptional. For a start, they actually look modern, they lack the chunkiness of older baitcaster designs, and this is a good indication of just how progressive the design itself is.

This is a smooth, 4+1 bearing baitcaster. Don’t be fooled by this only being a 4 bearing reel. The build quality we expect from Abu Garcia means this is smoother that 5 or 6 bearing reels from other manufacturers.

What we really like about the Black Max, is the MagTrax brake system. This allows the caster to apply a completely constant pressure to the spool throughout the cast. This leads to greater casting accuracy.

It is also very helpful for beginners in baitcasting, as learning to use one of these reels (with the best fishing line for baitcasting reels) is quite tricky for newcomers.

No list of classic fishing reel reviews would be complete without an Abu Garcia baitcaster.

For more best baitcasting reels, check this article.

Best Classic Spincast Reel

The right product, at the right price. Instant classic.

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People might wonder just why we included this Daiwa spincaster in this list of classic fishing reel reviews. There are certainly better spincasters out there for sure. The thing is though, Daiwa got everything right with the Silvercast A Series.

It is an inexpensive spincaster, with all of the features we expect from this kind of reel. But Daiwa was smart. They knew that most fishermen, even if they own a spincaster, might only use it a few times a year, it’s a niche product. Most fishermen never buy a spincaster, they just use a standard open faced spinning reel instead. But they might like one. And at the right price, with the right features, they might buy one.

And this is what Daiwa did with the Silvercast.

Best Classic Speed Reel

There is nothing flashy about the PENN International. It’s tried and tested technology, combined with high quality raw materials, which combine to produce something greater than the sum of its parts.

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For sport fishermen, then the PENN International needs no introduction. This reel has been the powerhouse of offshore fishing for a very long time. Why? Because they go on forever.

Take a look at any sport fishing charter brochure, we are willing to bet you will find a PENN International in at least one of the photos. It’s the go-to reel for charter captains and boat owners around the globe. They almost never break, and when they do, the parts are easy to obtain, and you can fix them yourself with nothing more than a Swiss Army knife.

Of course, it’s not cheap, even the very smallest of them will run to over $500. But if you are serious about offshore fishing and trolling, you already know it’s worth it to pay for a PENN International.

Also Recommended Classic Reel

It is only fitting to close this post full of classic fishing reel reviews, with a truly aged reel, that has been revamped to become a hit with modern fishermen.

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There was a time, back in the late 80s and early 90s, when Mitchel were regarded as one of the top reel manufacturers. Indeed, the Mitchell Match 440 and later the 840 were the most popular match fishing reels in the world back then.

They also produced some very good fixed spool reels, much beloved of specimen anglers. For example the classic Mitchell 300. Unfortunately, Mitchel went through several acquisitions, quality dropped and popularity waned. So we are really pleased to be able to include in this classic fishing reel reviews list, and old friend in new clothes.

The Mitchell 300-C spinning reel, is basically the same design internally as the classic Mitchell 300. The shape is actually almost the same. The casing has been redesigned to look more modern, and the bail arm has been improved with an oversized line roller, but it is unmistakably an updated Mitchell 300.

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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