Penn, Shimano, and Daiwa are the heavy-hitting brands when it comes to spinning reels; these are almost certainly going to be among the ones you choose from when shopping for a new reel. But what should you know about each brand? What should you check for in general? Here are a few tips.
Penn Reels' top-end Torque, though very expensive, maintains the legendary Penn tank-like stature and can go head-to-head with any reel on the planet. Mid-range Penn models are relatively light, have excellent drag systems, and reasonable price tags, but they’re not as hardy as they once were. Inexpensive models in the line-up should only be purchased for light duty use, and you should expect their life-span to be limited.
Shimano fishing reels include a huge range of quality, with top-end models that are shockingly expensive. But you get what you pay for — these spinners feel like an extension of your body and hold up with hard use. Mid-range models like the Stratic offer better longevity and performance than many spinning reels at the top of other manufacturer’s line-ups and offer superb bang for the buck. Even their lower-end models are well-built and tend to last for years.
Daiwa spinning reels vary quite a bit; their high-end Saltiga is the most expensive reel mentioned here, and its quality is on par with its competitors; some guys feel it’s the best spinning reel around. But many of the lower-end Daiwa reels will prove disappointing if given hard duty.
Spinning Reel Shopping Tips:
1. Check how many ball-bearings a reel has — more equals smoother. Low-end reels have a few, mid-range reels usually have four or five, and top-end reels may have a dozen or more.
2. The higher the gear ratio, the more line you retrieve with every rotation of the handle.
3. Check maximum drag rating, to see if a reel can handle the type of fish you’re going after. Remember that drag setting should equal about one-third of a line’s stated pound-test.
4. Frame and spool construction are critical; aluminum flexes the least and lasts the longest, but weighs more than graphite.
5. If you fish with bait and sit your rod in a holder, look for spinning reels with a freespool function, made popular by the Shimano Baitrunner.
For more information on spinning reels, see Fishing Reel Maintenance Tips.