The 7 Best Surf Fishing Reels on the Beach [2018 Edition]

The best surf fishing reels can handle years of use in an abusive environment under the strain of big weights, baits, lures, and fish. Constant saltwater exposure, banging against rocks, being dropped in wet gravel or blasted by wind-blown sand are all in day’s work for a surf casting reel. And even when fishing for smaller species, a surf fisherman never knows when a shark, ray, or other brutally strong fighter will take the bait. Toughness is the number one quality a reel needs to rank as one of the best surf fishing reels.

What Makes a Good Surf Fishing Reel?

Three types of reel are used for surf fishing: spinning, bait casting, and side-cast reels. Spinning reels are traditionally the most common, and they can cast a long ways in the right hands. A good surf spinning reel will cast long and smooth without line jump-off or premature bail closures.

Modern bait casting reels are becoming more popular in the surf as reel technology improves and fisherman come to prefer braided superlines. The new bait casting reels reduce the traditional problems caused by backlash and birds nest tangles. Bait casters also offer the potential for extreme distance and the benefit of precise thumb control.

Side-cast reels are rarely seen in North America, but they are common in Australia.

A tough drag is essential for the surf, not only to deal with big fish, but also because of the powerful waves and currents that put constant pressure on the reel. The bail on a surf spinning reel has to be very sturdy to handle the heavy lines and weights in use. A surf bait casting reel has to hold and level wind a lot of heavy line. And corrosion-proofing is of course a must for any reel in conditions that often involve accidental submersion in salt water.

7 Best Surf Fishing Reels - Comparisons

The Best on the Beach

There are some great surf casting reels on the market today, making it easier than ever for the serious surf fisherman to find the ideal reel for local conditions, favorite techniques, and targeted species. Join us as we take a look at some of the best surf fishing reels in both the spinning and bait casting categories.

7 Best Surf Fishing Reels - Reviews

1. Van Staal VS200BXP Spinning Reel

The high-end Van StaalVS200BXP is a favorite of the Long Island striper fishing crowd. This unique-looking reel is known for its ability to take a beating out on spray-blasted rocks and still come up fighting when it is time to land a monster. The VS200 is also an extremely high-capacity reel. It will hold an amazing 400 yards of 15-pound mono and 500 yards of 40-pound braid. This kind of capacity speaks to the reel’s heritage of fighting big fish in deep-water surf conditions.

Van Staal is famous for the completely sealed waterproof MicroClick drag. The drag is very smooth in operation, and spray or even full submersion's are nothing to this reel. That’s why it is a favorite of fisherman who crawl far out on rocks or wade into the surf for fun. This reel also has the largest hardened-steel main gear in the business. That’s what accounts for the reel’s unique body shape and extreme torque characteristics.

We loved the cut-away skeletal looks on this reel, and the performance was excellent as well. Van Staal has tweaked the spool and bail to perfect the line lay, and when paired with the right rod and terminal rig, this reel will cast well over 50 yards. If you fish tough conditions, the Van Staal is well-worth the investment.

What we liked

  • Really cool looks
  • Brutal strength
  • High capacity

What we didn't like

  • High price point

2. Abu Garcia Blue YonderBY-6500 Baitcasting Reel

Our favorite bait casting surf reel comes from Abu Garcia, the Swedish pioneer in bait casting technology. We love the simplicity of this reel, and it also casts forever once you get used to it. It is amazing what removing spool drag can do for casting distance. The Blue Yonder has a brake system that can be adjusted during the cast. The brake applies steady pressure throughout the length of the cast, making it easy to master precise control and stop the tangles we all fear when picking up a bait casting reel.

The handle setup on this reel is very powerful. Keeping the torque centered with the reel body and spool gives a fighting feel that is not there on a spinning reel. The carbon fiber drag is smooth at all settings, and the star drag handle is the only way to go if you fish with gloves on a lot. It is also nice to have the wide-open spool for line access. Although the Blue Yonder does not have as much line capacity as some of the spinning reels, it would be our choice for fishing braid. The overall feel and casting capability of this reel might convince die-hard spinners to join the bait casting crew.

What we liked

  • Powerful winch-like feel
  • Excellent reel for braid
  • Simple and easy to operate

What we didn't like

  • Hard to change out handles in the field
  • Low line capacity

3. Himenlens MC-A08-6000 Spinning Reel

The Himenlens 6000 projects strength and durability with solid machined aluminum construction and a bomb-proof industrial look that we loved. This professional-quality reel is a true beast at 3 pounds. All the internals are stainless steel, with an alloy drive gear and dual bearings on a stainless-steel main axis. The spool is ready to take braid directly, with a capacity of 210 yards of 35-pound line. The carbon washer drag on this reel can put on 55 pounds of brake force.

The detailing on the Himenlens is amazing, and the crank handle knob is our favorite of any reel in this test. Even though the reel is made in China, most reels are nowadays, and this one was built to quality specs. The reel can cast almost 100 yards with 12-pound mono spooled, and the retrieve is nearly as smooth as a Shimano. This is probably due to the use of similar computer-balancing technology on the rotor.

The only complaint we could find with the Himenlens is the numerous cutouts and through holes in the reel that provide places for sand to lodge. But the reel is extremely corrosion proof, so rinsing is off thoroughly presents no problem. It’s a great reel in the upper-medium price range.

What we liked

  • The heavy metal look is awesome
  • Obvious strength and corrosion resistance
  • The best drag screw grip tab in the test

What we didn't like

  • Too many openings in the reel

4. Quantum Cabo PT CSP60 Spinning Reel

The Cabo PT is a proven salt water reel that is popular with charter boat captains because of its simplicity and long-lasting performance. This is one of the most handsome spinning reels in our test with its titanium-grey finish, blue accents, sleek lines, and cut-away crank handle. The oversize crank knob feels great in the hand, and the thick, deep drag control knob is an excellent feature.

The beauty also has some beastly qualities. A smooth front control drag is advertised as going to 45 lbs of pressure and has tested out to achieve the full measure. The magnetic-trip titanium alloy bail is ultra-stiff and nearly indestructible. The over-sized center shaft has deep threads that let the reel lock down solid. Super-hard gears hold up to years of abuse, and seven layers of corrosion protection keep the saltwater at bay.The PT CSP60 can handle 325 yards of 30-pound braid, 225 yards of 12-pound mono.

The Quantum is a very smooth-casting reel thanks to the slick aluminum spool. The reel looks great, and you can feel the strength when you heft its 1.5 lbs. It casts braid like a dream with no tangles or slipping under the spool. The Cabo PT is an excellent mid-priced reel.

What we liked

  • Zebco durability
  • Classic looks
  • Super-slick spool

What we didn't like

  • The sharp spool lip

5. Shimano Baitrunner BTR12000 Oceania Spinning Reel

Like other Shimano reels, the Baitrunner is distinguished by its smooth winding retrieve. It pulls in 37 inches of line with each crank, and a computer-balanced rotor together with an oval oscillation gear that imparts a consistent spool speed makes this reel run like a Swiss watch. The added benefit of Shimano’s unique oscillation system is that line lays across the reel evenly, with none of the stacking that reduces casting distance and promotes tangles.

The Baitrunner has a waterproof drag featuring carbon washers and the kind of thick easy-to-grab adjustment handle we like.A cold forged Aluminium spool has the depth needed to hold 230 yards of 80-pound Power Pro braid. The Baitrunner 12000 is built to handle big fish in saltwater conditions, and you can feel the brawn of this nearly 2-pound graphite-bodied reel when you heft the rod and grip the machined aluminum crank handle. The coolest thing about this reel is the Baitrunner feature that lets line run out under control behind a swimming or floating bait.

It takes a 12-foot rod and 1 or 2 ounces on the terminal end to get full distance performance out of this big reel.This Shimano is one of our favorites among the spinning reels.

What we liked

  • Heavy-duty build
  • Baitrunner feature
  • Reparable clicker

What we didn't like

  • Mounting flange should be longer

6. Fin-Nor 8500A Offshore Spinning Reel

Fin-Nor 8500A Offshore Spinning Reel

The Fin-Nor Offshore is our top pick for strength and durability plus good performance in an economy package. Reels that cost almost twice as much cannot touch the 8500A when it comes to stamina. It has been designed and built heavy-duty from the ground up. This is a big reel with a long crank handle and an oversize knob. The size of the machined stainless steel drive gear gives the solid aluminum body a round shape somewhat similar to the Van Staal. Four double-shielded stainless steel bearings and an over-sized carbon fiber drag that can put on 60 pounds of pull set this reel up to tackle the biggest game fish and handle large baits in heavy currents.

The quality and detailing on this Fin-Nor is really good for a reel in the low price range. But note that the reel must be registered within 10 days of purchase to lock in warranty service. We loved the crank handle design on this reel, but one thing we did not like is the drag adjustment grips. We like a big, solid drag tab, and the low-profile bumps on this Fin-Nor are not going to work at all with gloves on. If you can get around this one item, Fin-Nor is the only reel company we have seen that puts “bullet-proof” in the reel description. The Fin-Nor offers best value for the money.

What we liked

  • Beast construction
  • Over-size crank handle
  • Casts far

What we didn't like

  • Ungrippable drag handle
  • Overall build is too light

7. Penn Clash CLA8000 Spinning Reel

We expected quality from Penn and were not disappointed in the Clash 8000. The reel is very stiff due to all-metal body construction, and the extra thickness of the aluminum bail wire is readily apparent. The internals on this reel reflect Penn’s experience with big salt water reels. The precision CNC-cut gear cluster is made to last for years, 8 sealed bearings give the reel a very smooth feel on the retrieve, and carbon-fiber drag washers are basically indestructible.

The Clash was designed for braided lines. The spool has a knurled grip surface and etched line capacity rings. More importantly, the Penn Leveline System combines slow reel oscillation with tuned spool diameter to make braid layer up in a perfect criss-cross to eliminate buried sections of line that jam up on the cast and cause tangles.

This reel handled well over all, and we could cast it far right out of the box. The drag felt great, and pulling it apart revealed a wave spring instead of the more common coil spring. This gives a very smooth adjustment and avoids the problem of bottoming out on a stacked coil spring.

What we liked

  • Heavy bail
  • Good extension and angle on the handle
  • Runs braid well

What we didn't like

  • Drag handle is too small
  • Overall build is too light

The Tough Ones 

Here you have seven of the best surf fishing reels you can get. They are the toughest, cast the farthest, and take a licking but keep on ticking.We picked the Himenlens as our top, but it was a hard decision over the Shimano. The Fin-Nor is ridiculous for durability. You could almost back the truck over that thing and not damage it, and it is cheap enough to buy a few anyway. Now it’s time to grab the reel you like, pair it with a powerful rod, and hit the surf!

David Valle
 

I started this blog to provide advanced material, guiding you towards a better and more comfortable fishing experience. I deliver more than fishing gear guides, and motivate people to hit the water!

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