In this article, I will show you 1: what you need to look for when buying a surf-fishing reel and 2: the best beach reels on the market. Whilst you can use a regular spinning reel (and I recommend that, if you are only going to the beach 1-2 times), you will have a much better time fishing at the beach when using a reel that was designed for beach use. Further down the article, I will give you my list of the best beach reels on the market. All the reels cost less than 200 bucks since I believe that is by far enough to get a good quality reel designed for salt, wind and sand.
Before we get started: a quick view of the reels I recommend for the beach
Look further below for the complete descriptions!
What you should look for in a surf fishing reel
In this section, I have put together a list of features you should look for in order to pick the right beach reel:
- Durability and corrosion resistance
- Easy to clean
- Cast distance
- Drag strength
Durability and corrosion resistance
Fishing at the beach is quite demanding for most fishing reels due to the combination of salt, water, sand (and hopefully: strong fish!). Due to these harsh conditions, it is important to pick a reel designed for surfcasting – or to be more precise: long-distance casts in salty surroundings. Therefore, I have set up some criteria that you should look for in a surf fishing:
- Corrosion resistant ball bearings that are sealed.
- Materials specifically chosen for their durability
- Easy to disassemble and clean
All the reels that I recommend in this guide meet these criteria for durability and corrosion resistance.
Many of the reels designed for saltwater use come with different kinds of drag protection. Some drag systems are waterproof while others come with a rubber gasket that prevents sand and saltwater from entering the drag system. It is hard to say which drag protection is the best, just keep in mind: the more drag protection, the longer your reel will last.
Easy to clean
In order for your reel to last, I recommend rinsing it after exposure to saltwater. The reels in this guide are (as stated above) all corrosion resistant and designed to withstand saltwater, but no reels are completely immune to corrosion (… yet). Furthermore, when fishing at the beach, sand will undoubtedly find its way in between certain parts of your reel, making it even more important to rinse it after use. My recommended reels below are all easy to disassemble so that the most crucial reel-parts are accessible for a quick rinse.
Maximizing cast distance is crucial when surf fishing. It is obvious that in general longer casts gives a higher chance of your lure meeting a fishing on its way back. At the beach, distance is crucial, because the fish will often times be located far out, and if you are not able to reach them, then your special hand crafted uniquely designed lure will have no effect! Am I stating the obvious? Perhaps! Nonetheless, distance is important when fishing at the beach.
Although the length and flexibility of your rod and the smoothness of your line will have a great impact on how far you are able to cast, the reel is also a very important factor. All surfcasting/beach-fishing reels should, therefore, be designed for long-distance casts.
The drag of your reel will be under pressure almost all the time due to the waves and the current. The tackle used for surf fishing is usually quite heavy which furthermore puts a strain on the drag. That is why it is important for a surf-fishing reel to have a strong and durable drag. As a rule of thumb, the bigger the reel, the more powerful the drag. The surfcasting reels that I recommend in this guide are equipped with a strong drag designed to withstand both the big waves and the aggressive saltwater beasts.
Now you know how to pick a good reel for the beach. There are of course still some things to consider that more comes down to your style of fishing: How strong do I need my drag to be? How long do I need my casts to be? I recommend you give my list of great beach reels a look, where I thoroughly describe what makes them great reels for the money.
Penn battle II 6000
An updated version of the Battle: by far the best bang for your buck
- Gear Ratio: 5.6:1
- Max Drag: 25 lbs
- Retrieve Per Turn: 41inches
- Ball Bearings: 6
- Mono Capacity (lbs/yds): 15lb/335yd, 20lb/230yd, 25lb/210yd
- Braid Capacity (lbs/yds): 30lb/490yd, 40lb/390yd, 355lb/50yd
- Weight: 22.10 ounces
Penn is known for their specialized saltwater-reels, and the Penn Battle series is no exception. As you might have noticed, this is not the only Penn reel in the article, primarily because Penn dominates the market when it comes to durable saltwater reels.
The Battle II rocks a full metal body (including the side-plates and rotor). The bail is a heavy-duty aluminum wire made for durability.
A better Battle
Penn made a bunch of improvements from the Battle I. For instance, the Battle II sports a more thorough paint job on the outer parts of the reel improving the corrosion resistance. The biggest improvements were however made to the ball bearings and the drag:
Ball bearings are sealed instead of shielded. Penn has really taken corrosion resistance to the next level here. Instead of a shield protecting the ball bearing, each bearing is now separately sealed to further prevent saltwater intrusion. Bear in mind that Penn states that even the sealed ball bearings are still not a hundred percent protected from saltwater even though this is a great step in the right direction.
The drag is now 20% stronger compared to the Battle I. Because of the stronger drag system of the Battle II, you can now use a smaller size reel and still enjoy a strong drag system.
The Battle II also comes with line capacity rings showing you how much line is left on the spool. This might be a handy feature for some people, but I personally find it a bit gimmicky. It definitely should not be a factor in your decision whether to buy this reel or not.
For surf fishing, the 6000 size seems to be perfect. It is big enough to handle the big fish without being too heavy for longer casts.
This reel is among the best-selling reels on Amazon. The popularity is a good indicator that this is a quality reel for the price. In my experience, going for a best-seller reel always makes it easier and cheaper to buy reel parts in the future (should you need it).
Pair it with this rod: With a Penn Battle 6000, I recommend going for a 9-10 foot rod with medium to heavy action. The St. Croix 4 pc. Travel Rod will suit the Battle well.Buy on Amazon
Penn Spinfisher V 6500
Great focus on seals – is it completely watertight though?
We are moving on to what many consider the best surf fishing reel by many anglers– the Spinfisher V made by Penn. The Spinfisher is quite similar to the above-mentioned Battle II, but it has some key advantages that I will go through in the section below. First, let us have a look at the specs.
- Gear Ratio: 5.6:1
- Max Drag: 30 lbs
- Retrieve Per Turn: 39 inches
- Ball Bearings: 6
- Mono Capacity (lbs/yds): 12lb/330yd, 15lb/300yd, 20lb/210yd
- Braid Capacity (lbs/yds): 30lb/430yd, 40lb/340yd, 280lb/50yd
- Weight: 22.30 ounces
A versatile gear ratio
The Spinfishers gear ratio of 5.6:1makes the reel quite versatile. (In case you did not know, what 5.6:1 means: 1 turn on the handle will make the rotor turn 5.6 times around the spool). You will be able to make a fast but controlled retrieve without the ratio being so high that you will lack the power if a big one strikes. If you are the kind of beach angler that only wants to go for the big fish, I recommend you have a look at the Shimano Spheros further below in the article.
What really sets the Spinfisher V apart from the Battle II (and most other reels) is how good it is at keeping out water and sand. This reel has six different seals: One at the top of the drag (mounted on the drag knob), two at the bottom of the drag, one on each side of the reel (where the handle meets the body) and one at the gearbox, so practically everything worth protecting is sealed.
Penn describes the Spinfisher V as being “watertight” using Penns special design. Many users have reported that this is not exactly the case if the reel is submerged for more than a couple of seconds. A big splash or even a quick dunk underwater is, however, no problem for the Spinfisher, as long as you do not use it underwater (= reeling in whilst submerged).
Even though Penn’s definition of watertight does not quite match that in the dictionary, it is still one of the best reels at keeping out water.
Should you manage to drown your Spinfisher, then the reel is very easy to work on – as with most other Penn reels. Have a look at the repair video-guide below.
The Liveliner feature – worth it?
Penn also made a Spinfisher V with the Liveliner feature, which is great if you are often fishing with live bait. If you are not familiar with this feature (it also goes under the name “baitrunner”), then you should know that it is simply an extra drag system that allows you to pay out line under control. If a fish strikes, you can switch to the main drag system with a flick of a switch instead of having to close the bail while the line is ripping out.
Therefore, if you are into fishing with live bait, I will definitely recommend going for the Liveliner model of the Spinfisher. As I am writing this, the Liveliner model is oddly enough a bit cheaper than the regular model – if that is also the case when you are reading this, I see no reasons not to go for the Liveliner model.
Penns reel size recommendations
Regarding the Penn surf reels; you should generally go for reels in the 5500-6500 range, depending on what kind of fish you are going for, and how comfortable you are holding a bigger reel for several hours straight.
With the 6500 version of the Spinfisher, the specs and size are very similar to the above-mentioned 6000 size Penn Battle II. As the size-number reveals, the Spinfisher is a bit bigger than the Battle II, which is evident when comparing the drags. The Battle II comes in at 22.10 oz., where the Spinfisher is a tiny bit heavier at 22.30 oz., so this size-difference is, however, not that important unless you are fishing for something very specific and you know your exact needs.
Who should buy the Spinfisher V, and who should buy the Battle II?
Overall, the Battle II and the Spinfisher V are both high-quality surf reels that are perfectly suited for the beach. They are quite alike, with the Spinfisher being the more premium reel. What sets the Spinfisher apart from the battle is the stronger drag, some better waterproofing and the optional liveliner feature. With the Spinfisher only being .2 ounces heavier than the Battle, the only real downside to the Spinfisher is the price.
So is the Spinfisher V worth the extra dollars? If you are often surf fishing directly from the beach, then you are more likely to expose your reel to splashes and some quick dunks underwater, where the Spinfisher will hold up better than the Battle. The extra drag power of the Spinfisher could also be a deciding factor if you really need the extra strength without wanting to go up a notch in weight-class. If you are more of a pier fisher that will only from the beach a few times, then the Battle II will fulfill easily your needs, as it will easily hold up against the few splashes here and there.Buy on Amazon
Shimano Spheros SW 6000
A saltwater powerhouse with a very low gear ratio
- Gear Ratio: 4.6:1
- Max Drag: 22 lbs
- Retrieve Per Turn: 6 inches
- Ball Bearings: 4
- Mono Capacity (lbs/yds): 30/290, 50/195, 65/140
- Weight: 16.20 ounces
I often see the Shimano Spheros SW being recommended by anglers on different forums because of its smoothness and durability. It also comes at a relatively low price when in comparison to other surf reels.
The Spheros is Shimanos simpler version of their high-end model called Shimano Saragosa. This means that the Spheros is a reel made of high-quality material only where it really matters – without all the bells and whistles. Anglers that have used both the Spheros and the Saragosa reports that there is little to no difference between the two reels. This makes the Spheros a great bang for your buck.
Is it watertight?
The Spheros comes with watertight gaskets and some sealing structure in what they call X-SHIELD. I stated earlier that the Spheros is a budget reel built with premium material where it matters – and keeping saltwater and sand away from the inner parts of your reel matters! Shimano used the gaskets that were originally designed for their top tier saltwater reel: the Stella SW.
So how does this reels waterproofness compare to the Penn Battle II and the Spinfisher V, you may ask? It is hard to compare the reels directly, but I would say that the Spheros is better than the Battle II, and almost as good as the Spinfisher V.
Oversized handle – great for surfcasting
The Spheros comes with a big, bulky handle that is deliberately oversized. Whether or not you will like a big reel handle is, of course, a matter of taste, but for surfcasting, I will argue that a big handle is preferable:
Firstly, when surf fishing you will (hopefully…) encounter some powerful fish. With a big handle, you can use the strength of your whole hand, whereas with smaller handles, you often times end up using only some of your fingers.
Secondly, it is easy to grab a large handle with wet hands. I am sure there are some beach anglers out there that manage to avoid being in contact with the water, but for those of you that are not so lucky; you should definitely consider buying a reel with a handle like the Spheros.
Demo of the reel in action – listen to that sweet sound
I came upon this great field test video of a guy using the Spheros to reel in a big Jack. You can actually see the reel up close in action. From the 55-second mark, you get to hear the drag in action (for some people, the noise of the drag is an important factor).
The gear ratio is for the big fish
As the headline states – the 4.6:1 gear ratio reveals how Shimano wants this to be used for the bigger fish. Compared to both the Penn Battle II and Penn Spinfisher V, the gear ratio is low, which will be either a great asset or a deal breaker, depending on what you are looking for in a beach reel. A low gear ratio will give you more power, but the retrieve will be accordingly slower. In other words, what the Spheros has in power, it lacks in versatility and finesse in the retrieve.
No line keeper
Oddly enough, there is no line keeper on the spool of the Spheros. You will have to use a rubber band or some tape to keep your line on the spool when not using the reel. It is a small thing, but I can imagine this getting a bit annoying in the long run if you lose the rubber band or it breaks when you’re out fishing.
In terms of price, the Spheros is in the same ballpark as the Penn Spinfisher V, and a bit more expensive than the Battle II. As the prices will probably fluctuate after I have written this, I will not mention specific price points, but you can check out the prices yourself on Amazon.
Who should go for this reel?
This reel is for you if you need a surf reel specifically designed for power during the fight. The Spheros is not a versatile reel, and if you regularly use bait designed for fast or smooth retrieval, then you should instead go for the Battle II or the Spinfisher V mentioned above.
If the above-mentioned specs are what you are looking for, then you are guaranteed a saltwater powerhouse that is built to last.Buy on Amazon