A while back we tried to help you nail down the best spinning reel for the way you fish, and when it comes to picking out the best conventional reel, there are plenty to choose from—as in, hundreds of candidates. In fact, depending on where you fish and what you fish for it’s almost impossible to limit ourselves to just three picks. There are, however, a few classic reels that stand out from the crowd. Here are three top picks, for the best conventional reel ever made.
Penn Reels has a number of classics, but the Senator tops them all. This line of conventional reels is simple, inexpensive, and bulletproof. In fact, I have some my father handed down to me decades ago, and they still work perfectly well. Don’t expect any fancy level-winders, magnetic brakes, or fast gearing—Senators are reels for the minimalist—but do expect to get your money’s worth, and then some.
Shimano is well known in all segments of the fishing world, from freshwater bass anglers to saltwater inshore specialists, to blue-water big game aficionados. And while this company’s offerings please all of the aforementioned anglers, their Tiagra series has become the gold standard for large offshore trolling reels. These reels range in size from the 12-pound class clear up to the 130-pound class, are some of the most reliable lever-drag reels in the world, and can do battle with the largest fish in the ocean. They’re also heavy, expensive, and have relatively low gear ratios. But when push comes to shove and there’s a 1,000 pound blue marlin on the end of the line, the Tiagra what you want to be cranking.
Shakespeare has a conventional reel that also belongs in this mix, even though it’s dirt-cheap and less than graceful: the EZ Cast. This reel goes for $40, and if you’re a hard-core angler you wouldn't want to use it for long. So, why the heck does it make this list? Simple—try as you might, it’s virtually impossible to get an EZ Cast to backlash. That makes it ideal for kids and first-timers, who may have their initial fishing experience ruined by bird’s nests and tangles. Keep one in your arsenal, for those newbies.
What's your favorite reel?