Your Ultimate Guide to Choosing The Best Surf Fishing Reel

Surf fishing offers the fun of catching large hard fighting fish, and it requires a strong large capacity reel with powerful drag controls. The best surf fishing reel casts far offshore and is strong enough to handle tough fighting fish. 

Your Guide to Choosing The Best Surf Fishing Reel

Here are the most important factors to pay attention to, while choosing a surf fishing reel.

Surf Fishing Requires Strong Reels

Saltwater is corrosive, and it shortens the life of unprotected metal; the best Surf fishing reels must be strong and durable. They need metal parts to withstand the stress of heavy line and tough species.

Surf fishing reels must overcome winds and surf conditions to launch heavy line and weighted baits into the feeding zones for the target species.

The heavier reels do not necessarily handle shocks better than lightweight models; efficient designs and solid materials are the keys. The stronger drive shafts use tempered stainless steel and precision gearing. 

The strength of the surf fishing reel is in the overall construction of the handle, case, and gearing; they must have a functional design, durable materials, and precision engineering.

Saltwater Conditions

Ocean and Bay conditions include saltwater that can affect delicate parts when the reel gets immersed or frequently used in salt-air.

The conditions also include currents, waves, and tides. The natural forces in the water exert pressure on the reel as they constantly lift and pull the line and bait. 

The bail and rotor must work well in saltwater surf conditions. The bail must be strong to retrieve heavy line under fighting pressure, and the rotor must be balanced and strong to pull in large fighting fish.

Smooth Operation

A high-quality surf fishing reel can spin easily and with little effort. The key is the position and number of ball bearing assemblies that reduce friction between moving parts. The handle should spin easily and keep spinning when given a gentle turn.

The number of ball bearings in a well-made reel may vary between one and twelve. The durability factor favors those with high numbers of ball-bearings.

The rotor is the spinning platform that turns the bail as it collects line on the retrieve. When working lures, the rotor must function smoothly and consistently as the angler uses techniques to make the lure work as needed to spur strikes. 

Retrieve Speed is a Key

Surf fishing involves long and precise casts. When bringing in the bait or working the lure, the retrieve ratio must be fast enough to make retrieves quick and controlled.

There are lure presentations that work best with a slow retrieve in the range of 4:6 to 1, and other presentations work best with high rates like 5.6 to 1. The high to medium rates work well for surf fishing, and slower rates may limit the types of lures and their presentations when anglers must crank at unnaturally high speeds.

It is easier to slow a fast retrieve than to speed-up a slow retrieve reel. Control over the speed is best when the reel offers high speed retrieves that anglers can slow when needed.

Handling Tough Fish

Big fish take the bait with hard, forceful bites and fight with powerful actions. The pole and reel must absorb these shocks and forces and keep on working. The drag is a key part of handling large, tough fighting fish.

The drag must release line when the force of the fish fight would snap the line. You must be able to adjust the drag quickly during the fight to avoid losing the fish.

The drag also protects the gears inside the reel which have precision gears. The drag may wear when the reel gets heavy usage. The better models use high-quality carbon disks and stainless-steel drive shafts. Front drag levers permit quick resets without looking or taking one’s eyes off the action to adjust the drag setting.

Holding Tough Heavy Line

The reel must have a large line capacity, and it must have the strength to hold a large amount of heavy line. Surf fishing requires line weight of 16 lb. and more.

The reel capacity must be high enough to allow long casting with a line that is heavy enough to land 40 to 50 lb. fish.

Some conditions require toughened line, and toothy species and rocky conditions may require braided line or metal leaders. Surf reels can handle line weights up to fifty pounds.

Some conditions involve working around jetties, seawalls, sharp rocks, vegetation, and coral reefs. The reel must tough enough to hold some braided lines and metal leaders for toothy fish species.

Best Surf Fishing Reels Reviews

Shimano Ultegra CI4+ 14000 XT-B Surfcasting Spinning Reel Review

The Shimano Ultegra offers two very popular styles of fishing. It casts over surf waters with the power need to reach the feeding areas of the baitfish. It has slightly slower retrieve ratio that still fits fast or slow presentation of your favorite lures. It has five front ball bearings and one roller bearing for durable and smooth operation. 

The Ultegra matches with a wide range of rods, and you can select the style that meets your preferences including short heavy action rods and long fast tips for casting distance.

The reel also operates in the open bail mode for drift baits or live bait fishing. Baitfish can take out line as the attract the predators and the open bail lets the predator fish run with the bait before you make a hookset. The baitrunner mode has a separate light drag setting which you can turn off with a flip of a switch at the back of the reel.



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    Matches with a wide range of rods
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    Lightweight, strong construction permits long fishing sessions without tiring
  • An average drag power of 20 kg (45 lbs.)

Penn Spinfisher V Spinning Reel Review

The five ball bearing drive offers smooth retrieves and solid performance under the load of a large fighting fish. It has a fast 5.6 to 1 retrieve ratio which is among the fastest in the class. The spool has a large capacity for mono, heavy, and braided lines.

It comes with extra washers to adjust the lay of the line on the spool. The Spinfisher V has a separate bearing for the instant anti-reverse.

The Live line feature permits free spool bait running while the bail remains closed. The Long Cast feature is important for surf fishing; some spots require casts of 100 yards or longer to reach the target zones for the large predator species. Their patented drag system provides easy adjustment and control during fights.



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    Resists salt corrosion and sand interference
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    No bail feature removes casting errors due to premature bail closing
  • A little on the heavy side

KastKing Sharky III Fishing Reel Review

The KastKing Sharky III has a ten-ball bearing gearing and drive system. The price is in the low-end range for surf reels, and it is a feature-rich fishing reel. The smooth retrieves seem effortless. It had a forty pound drag maximum, and you can keep solid control during a demanding fish fight with easy drag adjustments.

It is a lightweight spinning reel with carbon fiber reinforced graphite construction. The Sharky III has a tight waterproof seal to reduce internal corrosion. The aluminum spool is backing- free- it takes a braided line directly and offers its maximum capacity for braided lines. The Sharky III is a versatile all-around fishing reel that works well in surf and other conditions.



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    Smooth retrieves
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    Powerful drag
  • The drag can handle up to 40 lbs. which is lighter than some other entries here

Fin-Nor Offshore Spin Fishing Reel Review

Four double-sided front ball bearings make for smooth casts and easy retrieves. The smooth operation lets you feel slight movement on the line. Its body, rotor and side plate are made of a strong aluminum alloy.

The drag uses a multi-stack technology with carbon fiber washers and its drag system uses 11 disks, which provides a heavy stopping power against the force of a fighting fish. The lightweight spool is a forged metal type, using a corrosion resistant aluminum alloy.

The solid design and strength of the reel work with a wide variety of large ocean fish. The reel handles large species like Grouper, Ling, Bass, and small sharks. The forged metal spool accommodates a large volume of fishing line including thick braided lines.



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    Durable center shaft stainless steel drive with pinion gears
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    It has up to 60 lbs. of drag
  • The reel is quite large, which may not be ideal for all users

ABU GARCIA Ambassadeur C3 5500 Round Reel Review

The Ambassadeur is one of the original lines of Abu Garcia Saltwater reels, and it is the only baitcasting reel in this roundup. Its redesign adds a comfortable thumb rest, and curved handles and star drag to allow for a more ergonomic combination. The Ambassadeur is a right-hand retrieve model with free spool baitcast build.

The Ambassadeur has a fast retrieve rate of 5.3 to 1. The low-profile design helps when slowing the retrieve for the best presentation of the lure. Anglers that prefer baitcasting reels for style and control also enjoy the added leverage of baitcast reel on a stiff, fast tip pole.

The reel has three ball bearings and a roller bearing. It provides level rewind, and even line lay with the level wind system. Experienced baitcast users will find the familiar, simple design and feel carries over in the new model.



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    Lightweight build
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    Helps casting distance and accuracy
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    Fine-tuned braking system that prevents line overrun
  • Maximum drag is 15 lbs.

Best Surf Fishing Reel Reviews Conclusion

Our selection for the best surf fishing reel is the Shimano Ultegra CI4+ 14000 XT-B Surfcasting Spinning Reel with Baitrunner System.

This is a powerful reel made of high-quality and durable materials. It can handle 500 yards of 50 lb. superline, and it opens up to drift bait fishing. The drag handles 20 lbs. with an easy front adjustment knob. Its weight is 19 ounces offering a strong and lightweight combination.

The easy operation makes this reel an ideal tool for casting into target zones and handling heavy and tough line. The versatility and strength of this surf reel make it stand out among the excellent models available.

Now that you have chosen a reel that suits your needs and preferences, you might want a rod that goes with it. Here you will find the reviews and an in-depth guide to the best surf rods.

Want to find out if you're a spinning or baitcast rod type of person? Check out our fishing rod review here. After you've selected the rod, you can take a look at our fishing reel review, where we take a look at some of the best spincastingspinning and baitcasting reels on the market.

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