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Spinning reels are diverse tackle that can be applied to a wide range of fishing applications, including surf fishing. Because of the ease with which they can cast and retrieve, they are preferred by both beginners and professional anglers when they want to enjoy a simple, functional fishing experience without having to hone / fine tune their skills excessively.
However, you can’t really use any odd spinning reel for surf fishing – in fact, there are manufacturers who have created entirely separate product lines for this particular class of angling. What follows is an attempt to simplify the requirements and technicalities associated with these products, so you can choose the best spinning reel for surf fishing that matches your needs.
Number of Bearings
Shimano Ultegra 1000 XSC
Okuma Avenger ABF 90
PENN Spinfisher V 10500 Spinning Reel
Daiwa DF100A Giant Spinning Fishing Reel
Dr. Fish Spinning Reel Saltwater
Before we get hands-on with the best spinning reels for surf fishing right now, let’s talk some background info first: it involves standing along the shoreline or wading into the surf and casting your line to catch fish. Anglers use both artificial lures and live bait, and for the most part, it is done in salt water.
What sets surf fishing apart from ordinary shore / pier fishing is surf casting. Besides requiring extra-long fishing rods (roughly 12’ to 16’), the angler has to cast the line over a great distance – to the point that they have to use both hands (and sometimes even their entire bodies) to fuel the throw! This is necessary to reach the inshore fish which are feeding away from the shallows.
Consequently, surf fishers require resilient fishing reels that can cast effortlessly and powerfully over a considerable distance, and with a sizeable bait hooked on too.
Spinning reels utilize a stationary spool, around which the rotor and the bail will wind the fishing line. Because you don’t have to control the spool, it is quite easy to cast a line using a spinning reel – this is important in the context of surf fishing, where you’ll have to cast over a 100+ yards of line from the shoreline / surf. This is why these reels are highly favored by anglers who want to keep things simple while surf fishing.
Conventional reels (or baitcasting reels) have a revolving spool which spins as the line is removed or gathered from it. This makes them a lot trickier to cast, since a revolving spool can easily result in an overspin (commonly referred to as a bird’s nest). You’ll need to have a good deal of practice before you can master baitcasting reels to minimize the risk of overspin.
For all their intricacy though, baitcasting reels offer better drag control and casting distances, which is why they are employed by pros looking to push their surf fishing experience to the limit.
As mentioned before, surf fishing is mainly done along sandy shorelines in saltwater, which means the spinning reel must be exceptionally resistant to saltwater damage and preferably waterproof too.
Spinning reels can get damaged if they remain in sand / dirt for more than a few minutes so water-tightness is required to keep the grit out too. Naturally, even if the reel is waterproof, you should avoid exposing it to sand!
Spinning reels are inherently prone to wind knots and line twist because of the stationary spool – the problem is accentuated when you’re surf casting for massive fish such as striped bass (30+ lbs.) and blue fish (15+ lbs.) which cause a lot of line to come off the spool.
When you crank the handle to reel the fish in, the revolution of the bail is transferred to the line (since it isn’t being gathered on the spool yet), resulting in knotting and twisting in the subsequent casts.
The spinning reel must ensure tight casting and retrieval (i.e. ensure adequate tension on the line) to eliminate loose packing of the line – this will minimize the transfer of twist from the bail to the line and hence reduce the likelihood of knotting issues.
Bulky fish will place a significant amount of drag on the spinning reel: the reel must have a strong, dedicated anti-reverse mechanism in place (e.g. a one-way bearing) to prevent the handle from creating play in the line that can result in lost catch.
The drag washers should be well lubricated, and made from a material that can withstand the drag force without burning out.
Since you’ll be wanting to cast a good distance while surf fishing, the spinning reel must present no obstruction while casting / reeling, and should ensure optimum casting distance. In general, a greater number of high quality gears in the spooling mechanism coupled with decent lubrication will ensure low guide friction, which in turn will yield better casting results.
Obviously, when you’re going to be casting over a greater distance, you’ll need a spinning reel that can hold a good amount of line. For instance, if you’re fishing with live bait, you should have at least 200 yards of 17 to 20 lbs. mono-line, whereas plug fishing will necessitate around 250 yards of lighter monofilament at the minimum.
For anglers who intend to use braided line for surf fishing, the Shimano Ultegra 1000 XSC promises precise and reliable performance.
Utilizing a worm gear oscillation system (Aero Wrap II) with a specifically engineered pitch the results in optimum oscillation velocities, the Ultegra yields uniform laying of braided line even when it gets slippery. This reduces the energy losses, so you’re able to cast greater distances without expending a great deal of effort. However, you should note that the worm gear system is also more damage prone than the traditional transverse cam system by virtue of its complexity, so you should be prepared to maintain it periodically.
The pinion gear has been positioned near the center line of the drive gear to allow for enhanced power transfer between the handle and the rotor. The pinon gear is also bolstered by a couple of A-RB roller bearings to improve stability. Both these features come together to yield a smooth experience while reeling in the line.
The 4.3:1 gear system results in a powerful maximum drag of 44 lbs. that can put the brake on any fish that you’ll encounter while surf fishing! Even the slightest hint of back play (which was a problem with older Shimano models) is eliminated thanks to the Superstopper II feature. The 41 inches per turn retrieve makes bringing in the catch a breeze too, especially thanks to the 2 stainless steel ball bearings integrated into the spool system.
The Ultegra has line capacities of 12/440, 16/330 and 20/220 – more than enough for a surf angler. While the aluminum construction is quite heavy, it does lend the structure a degree of durability, however, bear in mind that the roller bearing isn’t waterproof so you should avoid dropping it in the water.
Those interested in an affordable tournament grade spinning reel (that fits the rough conditions of surf fishing nicely, among other capabilities) should consider the Okuma Avenger ABF 90 Graphite Baitfeeder.
Sporting a lightweight, precision-built corrosion-resistant graphite construction, the ABF 90 incorporates the manufacturer’s proprietary live line baitfeeding system, geared towards live bait surf fishers. The system lets you disengage the spool so the line runs freely which lets the fish pick up the bait without sensing the reel’s drag.
Once the bait has been caught, you switch to the conventional drag system and bring in the catch. An auto-trip feature notifies with a clicking sound when a fish has caught the bait, so you can catch some R&R as you wait.
Another praiseworthy feature is the ‘Quick Set’ anti-reverse bearing system that does away with handle play that can lead to potential lost catch. The performance of the 4.5:1 gear system is smooth and powerful thanks to the 6 ball bearings and oiled Japanese felt drag washers. A watertight drag seal also provides a reasonable amount of protection against water and surf spray.
On the flipside, the ABF can’t handle more than 22 pounds of drag, so you can’t use it when you’re looking to catch massive fish. While the majority of the users have been pleased with the reel’s performance on shores and piers, there have been complaints of damaged screws, bails and handles that point to poor quality control on part of the manufacturer.
With its full metal body and water tight construction, the PENN Spinfisher V is designed to take as much punishment as a surf fisher can possibly thrust on it. The manufacturer claims that the waterproofing is effective enough to allow the spinning reel to weather drops in the saltwater or getting sprayed by surf, without the drag system or gearbox taking any damage – judging from user ratings, this does seem to be the case.
The metal body is designed to keep the gears exactly in place, even under heavy duress, and reeling and casting is made smooth and easy thanks to the 5 shielded stainless steel ball bearings. The Sealed HT-100 Slammer Drag System (with 3 HT drag washers) can handle as much as 40 lbs. of drag, and coupled with an Instant Anti-Reverse mechanism, ensures that even heavy fish won’t be able to get away.
The sizeable spool can hold as much as 255 yards of 50 lbs. mono test line – which translates into a humungous amount of line for standard surf fishing test weights! The 4.2:1 gear system provides ample power for bringing in heavy catch, while the size of the spool ensures fast 42 IPM line retrieval in spite of the smaller gear ratio.
For all its solid features though, some users have complained that this PENN spinning reel’s baitfeeding version suffers from random engagements that can be distracting at best and cause you to lose your catch at worst! Others have noted that their reel gets stuck randomly and requires cleaning / oiling that implies faulty waterproofing. Since these reports are in stark contrast with what the majority of users have to say, they might stem from the fact these products are of Chinese manufacture.
In spite of its faults, this is perhaps the best spinning reel for surf casting in terms of the value you get for the money, particularly when you draw comparisons with some of the more expensive products in the market.
The DF100A from Daiwa promises to be a remarkably affordable solution for big game surf anglers, thanks to its powerful 3.4:1 gear system and rugged, corrosion resistant stainless steel construction.
A notable feature of the DF100A is its oversized spool that guarantees a health 39.4 inches per turn of line retrieval, in spite of the low gear ratio of 3.4:1. The low gear ratio deserves a mention in its own right: it is powerful enough to churn out a maximum drag 33 pounds: while this may not service the needs of extreme surf fishers, at this price, this is still a respectable number that will stop the majority of bulky fish. The large spool can also handle a good length of mono line for common surf fishing test weights.
Because of its low cost though, the reel has manufacturing quality issues such as a lack of waterproofing that necessitate periodic stripping and cleaning of the product after it has been soaked in saltwater. Some users have also reported defective drag and an unreliable anti-reverse system. This is probably due to the fact that the reel lacks the bearings to provide the necessary stopping power and smooth operation.
Here’s a great option for surf fishers that want reliable casting performance with medium sized fishing rods (7 to 14ft) without having to make a huge investment. The 11000 model of the Dr. Fish Spinning Reel series features a corrosion resistant high density graphite body made to withstand prolonged exposure to salt water.
Surprising for its low cost, the spinning reel has 9 stainless steel precision bearings which yields smooth and consistent casting and retrieval. Castability is further enhanced by the super strong carbon steel composition of the bail wire that lends uniform line lay and even winding. While the body isn’t water-tight, the rotor and side plates have been water-sealed to prevent harm to the core internal mechanism.
The sturdy aluminum spool can hold heavy duty mono-lines for long distance casting, and can handle the drag exerted by heavier catch such as striped bass and mackerel. The drag washers are a bit on the cheaper side though, so you’ll do better if you replace them with after-market carbon fiber ones.
Consumers have praised the reel’s anti-reverse system, saying that it is one of the best in this price bracket. However, there have been some complaints of design faults such as bent shafts and jammed spools, which is unfortunately a consequence of the product’s low cost.
As you will have judged from this guide and the reviews I’ve made, a good spinning reel for surf fishing should be able to cast line over considerable distances with minimal difficulties and should be able to retrieve the catch equally smoothly. It must also be prepared to put the stops on larger fish that are prized among surf fishers. Above all though, it has to be hardy enough to withstand constant spraying of surf and saltwater (perhaps even a few tosses in the saltwater!).
Keeping these factors in mind, my pick for the best spinning reel for surf fishing is the PENN Spinfisher V 10500 Spinning Reel. It may not be the cheapest product around – but it won’t exactly break your wallet either: especially considering the fact that you’re getting a remarkably sturdy, watertight product that can cast powerfully and smoothly, and is able to yield a remarkable amount of drag and line recovery.
While it has accrued some complaints from users, these are random design errors and not inherent issues with mechanism. Besides, even if you’re willing to spend cash on pricier products, these flaws are a risk that you’ll still have to put up with.
Loves everything to do with fishing and gear.
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