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When it comes to bass fishing, spinning reels are the go to tackle for many seasoned anglers – they’re simple to operate (compared to their baitcasting counterparts), and are versatile enough that if you pair them with a medium sized fishing rod and 8 to 10 pound mono line, you’ll be able to catch most kinds of bass.
The tricky part is to select the right spinning reel – since bass fishing techniques often require a degree of finesse that can only be achieved if the spinning reel possesses certain core traits. Things get even more complex when you want to pick a reel geared towards catching a particular variety of bass.
I’ve got plenty of experience with bass fishing, having gone on frequent trips to reservoirs all over North America since my childhood – so I have written this guide to help you pick the best spinning reel for bass fishing for yourself.
Max. Drag Pressure(lbs.)
Shimano Spirex FG
Piscifun Steel Feeling 4000
Yoshikawa Baitfeeder 4000
Daiwa Ballistic EX
When most anglers discuss bass fishing techniques – they’re referring to largemouth bass. However, bass is a general term used for several different species of fish that include smallmouth bass, Choctaw bass, Guadalupe bass, white bass, striped bass and spotted bass as well.
Talking about North America though, the most popular type of bass by far is the largemouth – they’re an apex predator that can reach weights of up to 22 pounds, and can prey on animals as much as 50% of their body length.
The right spinning reel will play an important part in successfully catching bass, and crucial to the right choice is getting to know about the behavior of the bass in the area where you’re fishing. For instance, when you catch your first bass, analyze the contents it throws up from its stomach.
You might learn something about what the bass are feeding on in the area, which could clue you in on the type of lure you should be using to get the best catch – for a pro angler, the type of lure will affect the choice of spinning reel to use!
Drag system: Both strength and smoothness are required in a bass fishing spinning reel’s drag system. A drag system that can churn out a greater amount force against a fish will let you set the hook exactly when you need to, even when you’re dealing with bulkier species.
A smooth engagement system will keep the line from breaking once the hook is set in, or when the fish attempts to make one last escape attempt as you’re reeling it in. Smooth drag will also enable you to perform finesse techniques such as wacky worm, drop shot and shaky head easily.
A drag system comprising of multiple bearings and durable drag washers will ensure this level of performance.
Spool size: Ideally you should go for a spool in the 3000 – 4000 range which can provide you with enough capacity to hold plenty of 8lb to 10lb mono line (the type of line needed to catch most bass) for long distance casting. You could go for bigger sizes but only if you can handle the added weight.
A larger spool size will provide you with greater IPT values so you can quickly reel in your catch. It will also bring down the likelihood of line twist (an inherent problem with spinning reels) by quite a bit.
If you’re dealing with heavier fish, I’ll advise going for braided line – this will provide you several times the breaking strength of mono for the same diameter and weight.
Body: The body should be made from a light yet strong material to better transmit the force resulting from a fish catching the bait – a vital feature when you’re fishing for lighter species of bass.
If at all possible, go for a carbon frame since it is more durable and lightweight than conventional aluminum / stainless steel bodies, and has better resistance to saltwater corrosion.
Type of bait: If you plan on using topwater lures, smaller crankbaits and soft plastics for catching bass, you’re good to go with a spinning reel. But lighter lures may present a problem when you’re fishing in heavy cover though and you’ll need a powerful spinning reel that can handle heavier line and bait, or switch to a different kind of reel altogether.
Paired with a medium / medium heavy 6.5 foot graphite rod, a spinning reel with the qualities described above will make for a fine spinning rod and reel combo for catching most kinds of bass.
While there isn’t a direct correlation between the size of bait and the size of bass you can catch, if you do want to move to bigger baits and thicker line in the hopes of catching bigger species of bass, or fish hiding in deeper cover, you’ll find that the spools of average priced spinning reels simply won’t be able to handle the extra pressure.
Unfortunately, this limitation can only be truly resolved by switching to a casting rod and reel combo. If you’re willing to spend some extra cash though, you can get by using braid instead of mono.
It should be kept in mind that the latter solution will only work up to a certain diameter of braid – beyond which, the spinning reel will simply need to be replaced.
The SF4000 series from Piscifun is a stainless steel / aluminum fishing reel for those bass anglers who expect to fish for massive catch in rough conditions – even saltwater.
The reel yields incredibly smooth performance thanks to a couple of stainless steel bearings placed on both sides of the slider. The coating on these bearings ensures that the reel can withstand serious exposure to saltwater: it may not be watertight, but even if you do forget to wash it after it was dunked in saltwater – all you have to do is take it apart, wash the insides and apply some quality lubrication oil!
The 4000 size aluminum spool can hold a healthy amount of line – even when you’re upping the diameter for greater test limits. The pinion gear is supported by 2 stainless steel bearings to eliminate shaft misalignment and torsional twisting which can result in power loss and wobbling under load. Ultimately, this translates into a powerful, long-distance casts.
The SF4000 has a 5.1:1 gear ratio which, combined with its large spool size, can manage to provide both a powerful drag (22 lbs.) and a generous line retrieve. Especially praiseworthy are the carbon fiber drag washers which ensure a smoother drag across the range, and also last a lot longer than standard felt washers.
A one way bearing ensures enough stopping power to do away with any back play in the handle – but you can always disengage it for finesse techniques by means of a switch. Most anglers have been pleased with the way this reel performs against powerful fish (which means you can go looking for big bass!).
Design complaints have been restricted to a customer losing a handle (fortunately the reel comes with a spare) and the reel being slightly heavier than it appears to be (a 4000 size spool can do that). A couple of consumers did report being shipped a completely different product though, so you should check your package carefully after it arrives.
I’ll say from the outset that this is a Chinese brand, so design flaws are an anticipated risk, but if you’re looking for an advanced fishing solution that fits a tight budget you may want to take a look at the Yoshikawa Baitfeeder Spinning Reel 4000.
The most prominent feature of this reel is the bait-running system which lets you free up the spool so a finicky fish can run with the lighter rear drag after it has picked the bait. Once the bait is fed, you engage the front drag once more to put the brakes on the now (hopefully) exhausted fish. This feature works great when you’re dealing with a species such as spotted bass (known to put up quite a fight).
While the graphite construction is a bit unorthodox for a bass fishing reel, it nevertheless manages to provide better protection against saltwater corrosion compared to aluminum. The 4000 size spool system has 10 corrosion-resistant gears installed for smooth operation, and indeed, the reel has received praise from anglers for its buttery casting in spite of its low cost.
The multi-disk drag system, although it packs oiled felt washers instead of CF ones, is nevertheless reliable and smooth – a fact attested to by several consumers. You will also be able to put on plenty of line for bass fishing purposes (up to 12 lbs. / 130 yds. Mono); and if paired with braid, you’ll be able to go for heavy bass with this reel.
I couldn’t find a maximum drag value, but going by the 5.5:1 gear size and silent anti-reverse system (and feedback from seasoned anglers), 20 lbs. seems a reasonable estimate. You can also expect decent IPT figures thanks to the large spool size.
As expected from a Chinese made product, QC problems and random design flaws are the biggest reported concern with this reel. There’s also the matter that it is heavier than its counterparts by a couple of ounces on average. If you’re ok with the added weight and are bound by a budget though, this is one of the best deals out there.
The Daiwa Ballistic EX 4000, with its innovative ‘magsealed’ design is a fine candidate for bass anglers that want proactive protection against saltwater corrosion.
Mag-sealing refers to the use of a ferrofluid (microscopic magnetic particles) to create an impermeable barrier – Daiwa has used it to block the minute gap between the opening of the body and the rotor through which saltwater creeps in.
Consequently, the core components are not exposed to the corrosion and can therefore last a lot longer in saltwater, even when compared to traditional sealing techniques such as rubber seals. The other big advantage is that you won’t feel the slight inertia when cranking the handle that is typical of rubber seals placed on the rotor.
The reel itself is made out of a proprietary material – Zaion® - which, according to the manufacturer, is 20% stronger than ABS and 50% lighter than aluminum. This translates into improved durability, sensitivity and maneuverability, critical features when you’re fighting tough bass.
An Air Rotor design is used in favor of traditional rotor designs to evenly distribute the stress on the rotor and produce a lighter frame overall. The spool system is backed by multiple corrosion resistant ball bearing, placed at strategic points to ensure optimum smoothness and power transmission in the mechanism.
The waterproof drag system has also been bolstered by a couple of ball bearings to keep the washers nicely aligned and capable of consistently yielding an impressive maximum drag of 17.6 lbs. The 5.6:1 gear system will provide you ample power to reel in your catch, and thanks to the 4000 size spool – quite swiftly too.
It goes without saying that this lightweight reel is fully capable of holding more than sufficient lengths of both mono and braided lines. While most users have praised this reel’s performance in all respects, it is surprising that the few complaints which did surface have all been directed at premature damage from saltwater, indicative of poor quality control since the ‘magseal’ feature should not let saltwater enter in the first place!
Meant for sporting scenarios where you’ll have to cast dozens of times a day to catch as much bass as possible, the Pflueger is a lightweight solution that excels at maneuverability and sensitivity necessary for catching speedy fish.
Featuring an ultra-light magnesium body and rotor, carbon handle, carbon/aluminum arbor, and titanium main-shaft, the reel manages to bring its weight down to a fraction of what conventional products in its league weigh.
Besides taking less of a toll on your stamina, the lightweight frame will also be significantly better at transmitting the force of a fish’s bite to your hands, letting you know right away when a fish is feeding on your bait.
The skeletonized spool, and aluminum main gear, are backed by 9 stainless steel ball bearings so you can expect smooth and powerful casting performance. The slow oscillation gear system manages the line in an even fashion to prevent issues such as knotting and slipping, characteristic of spinning reels in general.
A sealed carbon fiber drag system ensures that you get the silky drag at all times – even when the reel has been roughed up a bit in saltwater. A 3 step coating is also applied on the magnesium based parts of the reel to protect them from corrosion.
Naturally, the use of a lightweight materials has to take a toll somewhere, and in this reel’s case, it is the maximum drag which suffers: it’s rated for 14 lbs., which means you can’t go after heavier kinds of bass. The 35 size spool is also a bit restrictive when it comes to line retrieval at a modest 28.8 IPT.
But these inherent concerns aside, the carbon handle may not be the most durable out there, so you may want to exercise caution before putting it through excessive punishment.
It should be evident, now that you’ve finished my guide, that choosing a bass fishing reel about doing your homework on the bass you intend to fish, and matching its habits and characteristics with the features of a spinning reel.
Depending on the kind of bass, you may have to prioritize powerful drag; or fluid, extended casting; or even spinning reel weight. Therefore, there isn’t really a single answer to the question of what is the best spinning reel for bass fishing.
Among the products I’ve reviewed though, the Piscifun Steel Feeling Spinning Fishing Reel seems like a decent choice – it offers reliable casting performance, a high drag limit, good saltwater resistance, and ample line capacity at a very balanced price point, making it a reasonably suitable starting point for fishing most kinds of bass.
While you may find candidates better suited to your needs if you’ll only be fishing for a specific type of bass, this is perhaps the best bass spinning reel for the money and the closest you’ll get to a jack-of-all-trades in this category.
Loves everything to do with fishing and gear.
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