Fishing is one of the most rewarding and relaxing hobbies in the world. There’s nothing like spending a day on the water, when the only care on your mind is when your next fish will strike.
Of course, fishing becomes increasingly less enjoyable when you don’t have the right gear for the job.
You don’t have to spend tons of money to put together a reliable outfit, but you do have to know what you’re looking for. The truth is, for every excellent company that makes quality reels, rods, and accessories, there’s another company making unreliable trash.
With that in mind, it’s essential to do your homework on the best fishing reel brands to ensure the reel you’re selecting will stand up to life on the water.
Today, we’re going to take a closer look at a dozen of the best fishing reel brands, so you have the information you need to make a smart purchase.
From American giants like Penn and Pflueger to the envelope-pushing Japanese brands like Daiwa and Shimano, tons of excellent brands are helping to usher anglers into the 21st century. Let’s take a closer look at the best fishing reel brands on the market.
KastKing is the youngest of the brands that cracked our list, but what they lack in history, they more than makeup for with their youthful exuberance and a desire to improve the fishing industry.
The company was born among some friends studying at Syracuse University only a decade ago. The founders discovered fishing as the perfect way to spend their free time when they weren’t studying but were quickly discouraged by just how expensive fishing was. Using borrowed gear, the founders vowed to begin producing affordable fishing equipment.
Fast forward to 2022, and KastKing manufactures a full line of excellent fishing gear, from rods and reels to lures, terminal tackle, and accessories.
As for their reels, KastKing offers a complete line of spinning, spincast, conventional, and baitcasting reels. KastKing’s reels provide cutting-edge technologies, and comparable reels from their competitors regularly cost double what a KastKing reel would cost.
For budget-minded anglers looking to score a top-quality reel at a bargain price, check out KastKing.
Pflueger is one of the oldest brands in the fishing industry and was founded in 1880 by Earnest A. Pflueger as a manufacturer of fish hooks. When his son took over the company in the early 1900s, he expanded the brand to produce a full line of innovative fishing products.
Pflueger’s first breakthrough was a baitcasting reel that made its debut in 1916 and became the benchmark for all other fishing reels at the time.
Pflueger’s innovations didn’t stop there, and the early 50s saw the introduction of the Pflueger spinning reel. To this day, the design of this reel is still the blueprint by which other reels are made.
Today, Pflueger makes a wide array of products, including reels and combos. While you won’t find any baitcasters or conventionals in their current product line, they offer several spinning reels, a few spincast reels, and some fly reels.
The brand remains one of the most affordable in the industry, offering excellent reels at an attainable price for almost any angler.
Their President and Patriarch spinning reels are the jewels of the line, and you’ll want to give those a closer look before deciding on the best reel for you.
Quantum was founded in 1984 in Tulsa, Oklahoma, as a quality manufacturer of fishing reels. The founders of Quantum took an approach informed by science, subjecting their designs to rigorous testing and development before bringing them to market.
After years of producing standout reels, Zebco acquired Quantum, and the brand rose to prominence thanks in part to their association with legendary tournament pro Kevin Van Dam.
The brand has since been acquired by Rather Outdoors, who also owns Lew’s and Strike King, two other brands that KVD has been closely associated within recent years.
Today, Quantum continues to produce an excellent assortment of rods and reels. They’re best known for their spinning reels and baitcasters.
Their Smoke line of reels is one of the most popular options for serious anglers who need reliable equipment with cutting-edge features without spending thousands in the process.
Okuma was founded in Taiwan in 1986, and it hit the ground running, quickly becoming one of the foremost names in the tackle industry.
Okuma is known for producing pro-quality equipment at prices that are attainable for most anglers, and their entire line of tackle is built to stand up to whatever conditions you encounter on the water.
Okuma manufactures a comprehensive selection of reels, including spinning, baitcasting, conventional, fly, and float reels.
Each product line is vast, with tons of reel sizes available and heavily shielded spinning reels for surf anglers.
Okuma is notorious for offering a pro-quality product at a more affordable price than other premium brands, making them a wise choice for anglers on a budget who still need a heavy-duty reel that can handle saltwater environments.
A few decades before the AB Urfabriken company of Sweden would make their indelible mark on the fishing world; they sold watches and telephone timers.
After World War II, the founder’s son, who was an avid angler, shifted the focus of the brand to producing fishing equipment.
Early AB reels were groundbreaking and highly influential, and the company quickly found a distributor in the New York-based Garcia Corporation. The two brands would later merge, and they continue to produce excellent reels across several categories. One of our favorites is the REVO4 SX baitcaster.
Today, Abu makes baitcasting, conventional, spinning, and spincast reels, and they’ve been one of the most influential brands for well over 50 years.
Their Ambassadeur baitcasters have remained essentially unchanged since the late 50s, and they continue to be one of the best-selling reels on the market today.
The newest company on our top 12 list, Piscifun, was founded by two friends who wanted to bring affordability back to fishing.
Over the last few decades, the cost of quality gear has skyrocketed, making it difficult for casual anglers to acquire gear without a significant investment.
The founders purchased a production facility in China. Today, they make a full line of fishing gear that offers premium features and quality construction at a direct-to-consumer price. They also cater to ice fishing and fly anglers and produce spinning and baitcasting reels.
Piscifun doesn’t have the reputation that the more established brands do, but that doesn’t mean they lack quality. Plus, with all of their reels available for $100 or less, they’re ideal for beginners on a budget.
One of the heavyweight brands from Japan, Daiwa has established itself as a premier reel manufacturer, especially for saltwater anglers.
The company was founded as a reel manufacturer in Japan in the 50s. Daiwa was an innovator back then, and the same is true today.
Daiwa offers spinning, spincast, baitcasting, fly, trolling, carp reels, rods, lures, and tons of other tackle and accessories.
The best part about Daiwa is that they offer some of the most expensive and sought-after reels while also manufacturing plenty of affordable reels and combos.
Whether you’re going fishing for the first time or you’re a professional angler, Daiwa has something for you.
If you’ve ever ridden a bicycle, you’re probably already familiar with Shimano, the more than 100-year-old company that produces bicycle gears. They’ve also been producing some of the best fishing reels for over 50 years.
Since 1970, Shimano has been responsible for several breakthrough designs for fishing, from rods to reels to lures.
The brand helped introduce many of the finesse techniques from Japan that are so popular today on the East and West coast.
Shimano offers spinning, baitcasting, and conventional reels across many price points. Reels like the Tranxx, Stella, and Ocea Jigger have been hailed as revolutionary by pro anglers, but the brand makes just as many affordable reels aimed at those just getting their start.
Zebco is one of the most legendary names in the reel industry, and like many of the best fishing reel brands, they got off to an unlikely start. Initially the Zero Hour Bomb Company, they specialized in building time bombs for the oil drilling industry.
In the late 40s, a watchmaker from Texas is inspired to create a new fishing reel after watching the twine machine at a deli counter.
The watchmaker took his design to the Zero Hour Bomb Company, and the spincast reel was born. Spincast reels are the easiest to operate for beginners and children, and they’re how most of us learn to fish.
Zebco has diversified over the years, and today they produce spincast reels as well as conventional, spinning, triggerspin, and fly reels. As was the case in the 50s, Zebco continues to make affordable and reliable reels, mostly for beginners.
If you’re new to fishing, or you have difficulty fishing with a conventional or spinning reel, check out Zebco’s easy-to-use spincasters.
Since 1932, the Penn Fishing Company has been one of the most trusted names in fishing.
The company was founded by Otto Henze, who left Germany in 1922 and began working for the Ocean City Reel Company in Pennsylvania. Henze staked out on his own in 1932 and began selling reels similar in design to what he was producing at Ocean City.
By 1936, Henze had his first breakthrough, the Senator reel, which was the first reel of its kind for fighting large game fish. The Penn brand enjoyed continued growth before Otto’s untimely passing in 1948. Otto’s wife Martha took up the helm with her husband gone, and the Penn matriarch ushered in a golden age of development and innovation.
Today, Penn still produces some of the most trusted reels in the business, and well over a thousand IGFA world records have been set with Penn reels. The brand offers a complete line of spinning, baitcasting, conventional, and fly fishing reels.
The International line of reels has set a new standard for trophy anglers, and it’s the preferred choice when fishing for giant bluefin tuna, sharks, sailfish, and other pelagics.
Beyond these pricey reels, Penn’s more affordable options, such as the Spinfisher spinning reel and the Squall line of conventionals and baitcasters offer legendary Penn quality at a lower price.
Similar to KastKing and Piscifun, Cadence is one of the newer fishing reel brands on the market that’s appeared seemingly out of thin air.
Cadence offers a small but growing line of rods and reels, and while many of their products are a bit more expensive than the brands we mentioned above, they’re still more affordable than many of the major players on the market.
Cadence offers spinning and baitcasting reels, with only one reel eclipsing the $100 mark.
If you’re looking for an affordable fishing rig that provides the look and many of the features of the top brands, this brand is worth a closer look.
From humble beginnings tying custom flies with chicken feathers and dog hair, Berkley Bedell grew his tiny brand into a tackle empire. After attending college, Bedell returned home and started Berkley and Company, initially producing wire fishing leaders.
Several innovations followed, and in 1959, Berkley introduced their breakthrough monofilament fishing line, which proved revolutionary.
As the company grew, so did its product line, and today they produce some of the most popular baits, fishing line, and rod and reel combos, so there’s no need to stress over what rod to pair your reel with.
You won’t find Berkley reels on the market by themselves; instead, they’re paired with matching rods as combos. Berkley’s combo’s all run under $100, so it’s an ideal way to get a decent baitcasting or spinning setup in your hands at a very affordable price.
You don’t need an entire tackle shop worth of gear or the most expensive rods and reels to be an excellent angler. All you’ll need to fall in love with fishing is a reliable rig and a bit of patience.
Of course, it’s crucial that when you are sizing up new gear at the tackle shop, you’re spending your money on quality tackle from reputable brands.
With so many options to choose from, it can be a challenge to decide on the best gear for you. Each of the brands on our list above represents a considerable portion of the best tackle around and some of the best fishing reel brands.
Start your research with these brands, and you’ll be well on your way to selecting the perfect reel for you.