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9 Best Tuna Fishing Reels on the Market

For anglers, there’s nothing quite like the feeling of hearing the line scream off the reel as a monster tuna slams your lure.

man holding a tuna caught on a rod and reel

Fishing for tuna is the holy grail for anglers, and landing one of these majestic pelagics should be on every angler’s bucket list. 

To fish for tuna, you’re going to need some heavy artillery. Unfortunately, your 5000 series reel with 30-pound braid isn’t going to cut it when you’re grappling with a monster tuna.

To land one of these monsters, you will need a large, powerful reel with the drag and stopping power you need to get your trophy onto the deck. 

bigeye tuna

Read on as we take a closer look at the nine best fishing reels for tuna on the market today. 

We’ve checked out dozens of reels from the top manufacturers in the business and put them to the test in the most grueling environments possible. The reels below represent the best fishing reels for tuna on the market today.

Top 9 Fishing Reels for Tuna

  1. PENN INTERNATIONAL VISX 2 Speed, INT50VISX
  2. Shimano Talica Lever Drag
  3. SHIMANO Tiagra Conventional Saltwater Lever Drag Reel, TI50WA
  4. GOMEXUS Saltwater Reel Trolling Tuna Shark Fishing Big Game 2 Speed 130lbs 80W
  5. PENN Squall II Level Wind Conventional Fishing Reel
  6. Okuma Makaira 2-Speed Lever Drag Reel MK50WII
  7. Shimano TLD 2-Speed Conventional Reel
  8. Daiwa BG Spinning 8000
  9. Shimano Stella SW Spinning Reel 8000

PENN INTERNATIONAL VISX 2 Speed, INT50VISX

This American-made monster from Penn has been one of the most popular tuna reels for decades. These reels are manufactured in Penn’s state-of-the-art Pennsylvania facility operating since 1932. 

a penn international tuna reel

With its all-aluminum and stainless steel parts, a massive 60 pounds of drag from the sealed Dura-Drag system, and double-dog ratchet anti-reserve system, the International 50 delivers exceptional stopping power.

Whether you’re trolling or dropping live paint, this Penn reel is a top choice for landing the trophy fish of a lifetime.

Critical Specs

  • Line Capacity: 1330/100#, 1505/130#, 815/200#
  • Gear Ratio: 3.5:1 (high) 1.3:1 (low)
  • Bearings: 5
  • Weight: 63 ounces
  • Max Drag: 60 pounds

Shimano Talica Lever Drag

The Talica is the pinnacle of Shimano’s small lever drag reels, and it’s the perfect small reel for tackling smaller tuna species.

a shimano talica tuna fishing reel

Meanwhile, the larger Talica reels are more than up to the task if you’re after a trophy. 

This reel offers an incredibly smooth drag system that delivers 20 pounds of max drag and utilizes Shimano’s HEG gearing system to provide excellent cranking power.

At just over a pound, the Talica is also a perfect choice for jigging without burning out your arm.

Critical Specs

  • Line Capacity: 540/40#, 535/50#, 335/65#
  • Gear Ratio: 6.2:1 (high) 4.1:1 (low)
  • Bearings: 6
  • Weight: 18.6 ounces
  • Max Drag: 20 pounds

SHIMANO Tiagra Conventional Saltwater Lever Drag Reel, TI50WA

There aren’t many reels on the market for serious offshore anglers that can stand toe to toe with the Tiagra in this size class.

a shimano tiagra tuna fishing reel

This reel delivers performance for days at a more affordable price than most of the Tiagra’s top-of-the-line competitors. 

The Tiagra utilizes all Shimano’s latest technologies, including A-RB bearings, HEG gearing system, Hagane body design, and EI corrosion-resistant finish.

With nearly 40 pounds of rag, the Tiagra 50 offers plenty of stopping power for conquering offshore giants.

Critical Specs

  • Line Capacity: 1575/80#, 1235/100#, 1180/150#
  • Gear Ratio: 3.1:1 (high) 1.3:1 (low)
  • Bearings: 4
  • Weight: 83.4 ounces
  • Max Drag: 37.5 pounds

GOMEXUS Saltwater Reel Trolling Tuna Shark Fishing Big Game 2 Speed 130lbs 80W

This trolling reel from GOMEXUS is an exciting proposition for offshore anglers. This reel is an absolute monster that delivers an unheard-of amount of drag while looking like a million bucks. It should be a no-brainer, right? 

gomexus tuna trolling reel

GOMEXUS isn’t bringing the same pedigree to the table as brands like PENN or Shimano. This isn’t to say that this isn’t an excellent reel because it is by every measure.

But, it doesn’t offer much of a warranty, and it’s from a relatively unknown brand. Proceed with caution, but if you decide to go with this reel, you’ll be rewarded with a beautiful powerhouse with tons of drag.

Critical Specs

  • Line Capacity: 740/100#, 890/90#, 975/80#
  • Gear Ratio: 3.1:1 (high) 1.3:1 (low)
  • Bearings: 9
  • Weight: 84.3 ounces
  • Max Drag: 97 pounds

PENN Squall II Level Wind Conventional Fishing Reel

The Squall II 50LW is an ideal reel if you’re looking for a reliable introductory product that you can land some serious fish with.

penn squall II level wind reel

While these reels might not have the looks or high-end features of Penn’s American-made reels, they deliver where it counts. 

These reels offer plenty of line capacity for handling a running fish, a solid retrieve rate of 24” per crank, and 33 pounds of drag to help you stop even the biggest kinds of tuna in its tracks.

At around 1.5 pounds, the Squall II is also light enough to fish with all day without burning out your arm. 

Critical Specs

  • Line Capacity: 900/65#, 775/80#, 665/100#
  • Gear Ratio: 4.0:1
  • Bearings: 4
  • Weight: 24.7 ounces
  • Max Drag: 33 pounds

Okuma Makaira 2-Speed Lever Drag Reel MK50WII

The Makaira is one of the most beautiful reels Okuma offers, and it can stand toe-to-toe with any of the heavyweights on the market at a more affordable price point. This reel looks and feels amazing, and it’s built to deliver years of reliable performance. 

an okuma makaira 2 speel tuna fishing reel

The Makaira MK50WII offers a monstrous 85 pounds of drag, an exceptionally comfortable T-bar handle that makes cranking down on a big fish easy, and helical-cut gears for more torque and smoother performance. 

Critical Specs

  • Line Capacity: 820/60#, 
  • Gear Ratio: 3.2:1 (high) 1.3:1 (low)
  • Bearings: 4+1
  • Weight: 61.4 ounces
  • Max Drag: 85 pounds

Shimano TLD 2-Speed Conventional Reel

The TLD 50 from Shimano is another excellent choice for offshore anglers who need serious equipment on a budget.

shimano tld 2 tuna reel

This utilitarian reel provides premium components under the hood at a price that’s among the most affordable on the offshore reel market. 

The TLD 50 will hold up to 920 yards of 100-pound test braid, and it delivers plenty of stopping power with 42 pounds of maximum drag.

This reel is as heavy as a tank, but it’s an excellent choice for tuna fishing outside of that caveat. 

Critical Specs

  • Line Capacity: 440/80#
  • Gear Ratio: 3.5:1 (high) 1.4:1 (low)
  • Bearings: 4
  • Weight: 57.3 ounces
  • Max Drag: 42 pounds

Daiwa BG Spinning 8000

The Daiwa BG reels are legendary in the angling community because they deliver top-level specs at a price that virtually any angler can afford.

a daiwa bg 800 spinning reel for fishing tuna

The 8000 and larger reels are the perfect tools for jigging, popping, or live bait fishing for tuna and other large pelagics. 

This model boasts 33 pounds of drag while weighing in at only 30 ounces, and it offers features like a manual return bail, 6+1 bearings for smoothness, and a dual anti-reverse system. At under $2000, you can’t go wrong with the Daiwa BG 8000. 

Critical Specs

  • Line Capacity: 550/20#, 440/25#, 370/30#
  • Gear Ratio: 5.3:1
  • Bearings: 6+1
  • Weight: 30 ounces
  • Max Drag: 33 pounds

Shimano Stella SW Spinning Reel 8000

If you’re ready to step up to a pro-quality reel for surf or tuna fishing, the Shimano Stella SW is like the Rolls Royce of spinning reels.

a shimano stella 8000 tuna spinning reel

The Hagane body, coupled with other extra rigidity in the other components, ensures that the Stella’s perform as reliably on their 100th tuna as they did on their first. A Stella SW is a reel you keep for life, not a few years.

The 8000 size offers enough capacity and drag to stop most large pelagics in their tracks, including yellowfin and other smaller tuna species, wahoo, mahi-mahi, and much more.

The Stella is a culmination of virtually every technology Shimano has available, and it’s perhaps the best reel on the market for serious tuna fishing. 

Critical Specs

  • Line Capacity: 340/40#, 265/50#, 215/65#
  • Gear Ratio: 5.6:1 
  • Bearings: 13+1
  • Weight: 22 ounces
  • Max Drag: 55 pounds

Final Thoughts

Next time you’re steaming out to the tuna grounds for the trip of a lifetime, be sure to pack a few of these reels with you, and you’ll be well on your way to taming the tuna of your dreams. 

The Penn International 50 and Shimano Tiagra are our top choices for conventionals, while the Shimano Stella SW 8000 is our top pick for spinning rods.

Whichever you choose, you’ll be well on your way to fishing greatness with one of the best fishing reels for tuna. Don’t forget a nice rod to go with it!

Rocco Smith

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