Best Spinning Reel for Lake Fishing in 2022

Our team of expert fisherman weigh in with their opinions on the best spinning reel for lake fishing.

These fisherman have years of experience fishing lakes all over the country, both recreationally and professionally.

They have experimented with different types of reels and rods fishing in some of the most famous lakes in America, as well as some of the lesser known gems that continually produce some of the best bass fishing you can find.

One of the best types of reels that we love for lake fishing and beach casting is the spinning reel, especially if you’re a beginner or prefer spinning reels over baitcasting setups.

This is mainly because these reels are fairly cheaper than their more specialized counterparts, can be used for different fishing applications, and are quite user-friendly, especially for beginners.

Based on my experience with different reels, here is a detailed guide on buying the best fishing reel for your next lake fishing adventure, plus a review of some of my personal recommendations.

Top Five Spinning Reels for Lake Fishing

1: Best Overall: Shimano Vanford F Spinning Reel

The Shimano Vanford F has become our spinning reel of choice for both fresh and saltwater. We love the super lightweight CI4 carbon frame and the ultra smooth drag on this spinning reel.

It is incredibly well balanced and one of the smoothest cranking spinning reels we have ever used , thanks to the state of the art gear system and MagnumLite Rotor.

The Long Stroke Spool technology results in longer casts and more efficient layering of the fishing line on the spool.

Shimano’s X-Protect technology and water-channeling construction keeps water out of the important components for a long lasting reel that will give you years of trouble free service.

It is available in a number of sizes for just about any fishing situation you may encounter.

Key Features

  • CI4+ Carbon Body
  • MagnumLite Rotor
  • Hagane Gear
  • State-of-the-art MIcroModule Gear II
  • SilentDrive
  • X-Protect technology
  • Long Stroke Spool technology
Shimano Vanford Spinning Reel
Pros
  • We love how lightweight this reel is, without sacrificing strength
  • Reduces hand and arm fatigue
  • Designed to keep water out of the critical components
  • Smoothest spinning reel we have ever used.
Cons
  • It is expensive

2: Best Heavy-duty Reel: PENN Slammer III Spinning Reel

If you’re a seasoned fisherman capable of handling heavy-duty fishing for long hours out there in the lake, then you require heavy-duty gear, which should include the PENN Slammer III. The spinning reel comes with a rotor to help you enjoy the offshore battle maneuvers, a side plate, and a full metal body.

It’s a perfect spinning reel for retrieving trophy fish smoothly as it has sturdy CNC gear technology. Moreover, the fishing reel has a spool design and the IP67 sealed body for added protection. Therefore, you don’t have to worry about damaging your reel as you go for heavy-duty casting expeditions. 

Furthermore, you’ll enjoy a maximum performance on all your trips because the device’s engineering can keep water out of your gearbox. You can have the confidence to enjoy fishing on the shore or the boat with this powerful PENN Slammer III. Besides, the reel is capable of withstanding the punishment that fishermen face when surfcasting and dealing with constant water sprays. 

It can repetitively handle heavy lures comfortably, preventing the dunking that you may have been experiencing when wading. The new 9500 and 10500 models are capable of dragging up to 960 Ounces. 

Key Features

  • Sturdy CNC gear technology
  • Weighs 32 Ounces
  • Made of aluminum
  • The newer models can drag up to 960 Ounces. 
  • IP67 sealed body
  • 2 handle knobs
  • Solid rotor, metal frame, and side plate
  • 6+1 stainless steel ball bearings 
PENN Slammer III Spinning Reel
Pros
  • The device’s engineering keep water out of the gearbox
  • Designed to handle heavy fish species
  • Very durable
  • Reputable brand
Cons
  • The full metal body makes it heavier than other brands

3: Best Budget: Ozark Trail 5+1 Ball Bearing Spinning Reel

This is one of the budget options on our list that is suitable for first-timers. The frame of this Ozark Trail spinning reel is made of corrosion-resistant anodized aluminum and graphite. Additionally, you can rest assured that the fishing reel will last longer because even the internal parts are made of aluminum. 

Since it’s an affordable choice of the fishing reel as compared to other similar name-brand fishing reels, it’s a great middle-of-the-road reel that you can buy for every family member. 

Key Features

  • It has a gear ratio of 5.1:1
  • Ozark Trail 5+1-Bearing System technology
  • Weighs 16.8 Ounces
  • Fairly affordable 
  • Anodized aluminum and graphite frame
  • Ambidextrous hand orientation
  • Adjustable centrifugal brake system
Ozark Trail 5+1 Ball Bearing Spinning Reel
Pros
  • Affordable
  • Corrosion-resistant
  • Great for beginners
Cons
  • Heavier than competitor reels

4: Best for Beginners: Piscifun Flame Spinning Reel

The Piscifun Flame fishing reel has a braid-ready spool, which translates to one of the most cost-effective angling tackles you’ll ever experience. With 9 + 1 quality ball bearings, you can be assured of having fun out fishing at the lake. 

The 2000 and 3000 series of the Flame spinning fishing reel are perfect for freshwater fishing outings. But, if you want to go after big fish or want to try fishing in saltwater, your best options are the 4000 and 5000 series. 

The reel is available in different colors, so you can choose what best matches your outing’s theme. Since the reel can pull out fish weighing up to 960 Ounces, you can use it with a fishing rod to catch large fish species.  

Key Features

  • X Braid Ready Spool
  • Can drag up to up to 960 Ounces
  • Incredibly smooth
  • Weighs 8.05 Ounces
  • Handles heavy fish species
  • Beautiful design
Piscifun Flame Spinning Reel
Pros
  • Unique design with four color options
  • Very durable
  • Customizable handles
  • Great for saltwater
  • 1-year warranty from the manufacturer
Cons
  • Long shipping from abroad

5: Best for Beginners: Pflueger President Spinning Fishing Reel

The fishing reel features a rotor and graphite body construction. It’s a lightweight reel that is quite suited for young anglers. The reel also has a braid-ready spool that is very convenient for fishers who want to tie the braid directly to the spool. Additionally, it has a 7 bearing system and ball bearings made of stainless steel. The spinning fishing reel weighs 0.46 pounds, which is quite a lightweight design. While the device’s body is made of aluminum, its bearing and handle are made of stainless steel

With its ambidextrous hand orientation, any fisherman will find this reel to be very user-friendly. It’s perfect for people who are looking for smooth casting. To minimize line twists and strained fishing experiences, the reel has slow oscillation gearing. More importantly, the Pflueger President fishing reel allows you to enjoy a fishing experience likened to that of the “commander in chief” regardless of your location. 

Key Features 

  • Rotor and graphite construction 
  • Ambidextrous hand orientation
  • Weighs 7.36 Ounces
  • A braid-ready spool
  • 7 bearing System
  • Sealed drag
  • Aluminum body
  • Stainless steel handle and bearing
Pflueger President Spinning Fishing Reel

Things to Consider When Buying the Best Spinning Reel for Lake Fishing

Here are a few things to look for when shopping for the best fishing reel for lake fishing:

Material

The popular options of fishing reel materials preferred by most reputable brands are aluminum and graphite. Even though both of them are lightweight, aluminum is more durable and more affordable. 

Graphite is a better option for anglers who are looking for the most suitable fishing reels for saltwater fishing as they don’t corrode as easily as aluminum does. However, pricy fishing reels are often made from Anodized aluminum that doesn’t corrode that easily.

Gear Ratio

A majority of first-time fishermen get confused a lot when it comes to determining the right gear ratio for their fishing expeditions. A fishing reel with a lower gear ratio is lower than one with a higher ratio. For example, a fishing reel with a ratio of 4:1 is slower than one with a ratio of 6:1. 

It’s advisable to go for a fishing reel that is of a medium gear ratio of 5:1 and up regardless of your fishing techniques. While a slower fishing reel is perfect for cranking in a huge fish slowly, a faster fishing reel is more flexible when it comes to cranking in any size of fish. In other words, you can make a faster fishing reel crank slowly, but you can’t make a slower fishing reel go faster.

Best Fishing Reels for Lake Fishing
Spin casting Reel

Size

Fishing reels are rated according to the weight of the line they can handle. For instance, if you’re looking for reels that can handle 6- to 8-pound test lines, then you need to think around those weights and not the actual size dimensions. In essence, a fishing reel rated 6 lb. or 48 Ounces test can handle that weight line or a few ounces more. 

It’s important to be aware that some manufacturers may indicate the same rating as 6 lb./140 yards. Instead of focusing on the reel’s color, think about the fishing rod you’d wish to match with your reel. To prevent potential wrist injuries, if the fish you’re trying to catch puts on a long fight, avoid fishing reels that feel awkward in your hands.

Drag System

The type of drag system (which applies friction on the reel’s spool) you choose is very critical, especially if you’re going after larger fish species. The drag system will come in handy when casting and baiting a fish. Older designs of drag systems are not as adjustable as the newer models that produce a clicking sound when you pull a line off the reel. 

While the drag systems you opt for in a fishing reel may not affect the angler’s experience, front drag systems are sturdier and thus last longer than the rear drag systems. 

Most of the high-end fishing reels on the market have waterproof drag systems, which enhances their durability. It’s wise to invest in a sturdy fishing reel that is capable of handling extra poundage if your fishing adventures take you to places where you can catch extra-large fish.

Drag Systems

If you want a smooth drag system, consider disc drag system designs suitable for fly fishing. An adjustable disc drag system allows you to make adjustments to suit the drag pressure level. Depending on your fishing outing preferences, you can choose to go for spring and pawl, disc, or the caliper drag systems.

Styles

There are 4 common fishing reels used for lake fishing:

1: Fly Fishing Reels

There is a wide variety of fly fishing reels to choose from. The term “fly” is derived from the small lures used for this fishing method. The small insects used as lures imitate the size of “flies” The lightweight artificial fly is cast using a fly rod, fishing reel, and a unique weighted line. The casting techniques you require for this fly fishing are very different from other types of casting.

2: Baitcasting Reels

If you’re an experienced angler, then consider purchasing this type of fishing reel. This reel uses the lure’s weight to pull on the line and turn the reel’s spool. The fishing reel is, therefore, perfect for smallmouth bass or larger, stronger game fish. However, you can find a spinning type of baitcasting reel designed for handling smaller baits. It’s a great fishing reel for anglers who want to stay out longer. The one-piece design of a baitcasting fishing reels lessens corrosion when fishing in saltwater. 

Baitcasting Reel
Baitcasting Reel

3: Spinning Reels

First-timers prefer spinning fishing reels because installing or removing the spinning rod is simpler. They are great for smaller fish species and have an anti-reverse mechanism that prevents the line from pulling off and tangling your fishing line.

4: Spincast Reels

When you cast this type of reel, the line comes off the top of the reel’s spool. Until you press the button with your thumb to start casting, the spool remains motionless. The bait pushes the line when you release the thumb button. The entire process is quite simple and fun.

Freshwater Vs. Saltwater Fishing Reels

While any type of fishing reel can work perfectly for freshwater, you need to consider a high-end fishing reel for saltwater fishing outings. Fishing in a saltwater lake will require you to look for a corrosion-resistant fishing reel that is strong enough to deal with the large underwater monsters. If you’re targeting freshwater fish, focus on finding the best fishing line instead of worrying about corrosion.

Weight

It’s important to consider the weight of your new fishing reel because a heavy reel can wear on your arms, especially if you intend to be spending several hours at the lake. The extra ounces won’t be comfortable for older folks, kids, and beginners. Even though lighter fishing reels are often more expensive than heavier reels, they’ll offer you a pleasant fishing experience.

If you prefer catching the fish at the shoreline, look for a fishing reel and compatible fishing rod capable of withstanding the stress a fish causes when trying to flee. But if you usually fish from a boat, you can make do with a weaker fishing reel with more mobility.

Bearings Count

The bearings count of most cheap fishing reels is around 11 or more. While buying a fishing reel with more bearings count will typically offer you a smoother operation, it’s good to think about the quantity, as well. For example, a reel listed as having a bearings count of 6+1 means that it has 6 ball bearings and 1 roller bearing.

Spinning Reel For Lake Fishing
Lake fishing reel

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Who makes the best freshwater fishing reels?

The brand you choose for your next freshwater fishing outing really depends on personal preferences and a couple of other factors. Some of the most reputable brands you should consider working with include Penn, Daiwa, Shimano, and Abu Garcia.

What’s better Shimano or Penn?

Compared to the Shimano fishing reels, the Penn Clash has 2 more bearings and can hold up to 70 more yards of braid. Furthermore, since the Penn is cheaper than the Shimano, it’s a great budget pick considering that the extra 2 bearings will give you a smoother reel. 

While the Shimano may have 3 more pounds of drag than the Penn Clash, the Penn can keep the drag very smooth by applying two pounds of drag to maximum drag. That means that using a new coil spring may cause you to lose around 30 percent of your maximum drag, which makes the Clash more powerful than the Shimano. However, if you prefer lightweight fishing reels, then at 1.5 ounces, the Shimano beats the Clash.

What are the best freshwater spinning reels?

All anglers, experienced or not, can easily manage to handle freshwater spinning reels. Investing in spinning reels doesn’t require you only to pick corrosion-resistant reels, as is the case with saltwater fishing reels. Some of the best brands to consider are the Shimano Sienna FG Spinning Reel, Pflueger President Spinning Reel, and the Okuma Stratus VI Spinning Reel., etc.

Are more bearings in a fishing reel better?

The number of bearings you have on your spinning reels matters a lot in terms of how smooth the retrieve in the reel will feel. More ball bearings offer a smoother retrieve compared to reels with a small number of ball bearings. Consider settling for a fishing reel that has around 5 ball bearings. Always go for a fishing reel with the most bearings that you can afford.

Wrap Up

Whether you intend to go after a scrappy trout or a big largemouth bass, knowing how to choose the right reel for your outing will make or break your fishing experience. While freshwater fishing reels are ideal for lakes and rivers, saltwater fishing reels are designed for cranking fish in large water bodies such as oceans. 

My best pick for a workhorse of a fishing reel that’s not only sturdy but also durable is the Penn Slammer III. On the other hand, Shimano boasts better casting performance, versatility, innovative Shimano reel technology, and smooth functioning. If you enjoy fishing outings, take your time to understand the functionalities of all the features above of fishing reels and follow this guide keenly when shopping for your next reel.

Photo of author

Brian Hopkins

Brian is an outdoor writer and the youngest member of our team, but he is extremely knowledgeable when it comes to fishing and different techniques for catching different species. He shares valuable information that the younger generation can relate to. When he is not fishing, you can find him hanging with his friends and gaming on his computer.

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