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Trout fishing is most often associated with fly fishing with the notion that to be really effective at catching trout you have to use fly gear. The perception is that fly fishing is the “true” and only way to pursue the species.
Nothing could be further from the truth, however. There are plenty of anglers who fish for trout with spinning gear, and they do it for many reasons.
One that quickly comes to mind is the affordability of spin vs fly gear. There are also situations where spinning tackle is preferred: you are fishing in a pond or lake instead of a mountain stream, or maybe you want to use crankbaits, other favorite lures, or live baits. Lastly, the angler may just have a personal preference for spinning gear, it could be that simple.
Regardless of the reason, there is one piece of equipment that is crucial to the setup – a good spinning reel. And that brings us to the topic of this article, the search for the best spinning reels for trout in today’s crowded market for those who prefer the thrill of the spin.
Our 5 Best Trout Spinning Reels
So to that end, I have compiled this list of our 5 best spinners for trout, along with their key features, to hopefully help you make an informed buying decision.
As we look at and talk about each trout spinning reel, we will pay attention to its body design/composition, ball bearings, drag system, spool, sealing/corrosion resistance as well as other components and factors that make the reel a good buy.
These are not “budget reels” (with reels, like anything else in life, you tend to get what you pay for). We are after impressive quality, performance and value. if your goal is to find the best trout spinning reel for the money, keep reading, you might just be in luck.
Lew’s Team Lew’s Custom Pro Speed Spin
Lew’s puts out this reel in four sizes from the ultralight TLC1000 to the larger TLC4000. For trout fishing, we want either the 1000 (90/6) or 2000 (160/8) reel.
The Custom Pro Speed Spin comes in an all-aluminum body for a lightweight yet solid feel. Internally Lew’s gives this reel CNC cut aluminum high-speed gears and pinion. A double anodized braid-ready aluminum spool is added for strength and durability while keeping everything very lightweight.
The TLC1000 and 2000 weigh just 7.3 and 8.8 ounces each. Though not the lightest reel on our list, the solid feel provided by that aluminum frame and rotor can’t be overlooked.
The reel’s overall performance is enhanced by 12 double-shielded stainless steel bearings, giving it maximum corrosion protection and ultra rotational smoothness throughout.
The drag systems on the two models are sealed against the elements and feature a multi-disc carbon fiber design. Though braking power on 8 lbs (TLC1000) and 20 lbs (TLC2000) is more than adequate for these small reels, it is the smoothness and reliability of this drag that you will come to appreciate.
Models 2000 and up also have a unique feature that serves as a flush and drain port. This lets you easily flush out grit and debris from the reel body. Nice touch!
All in all, this reel is an incredible bargain given its high quality and exceptional performance. The aluminum body and other components give it the strength to tackle not just trout but bigger catches such as bass, steelhead, and more. It also doesn’t hurt that it’s also one good-looking reel!
What Makes This Reel Attractive:
- All-aluminum body and sideplate – Increased strength and stability, no flex while fighting fish
- 12 quality, double-shielded SS ball bearings – good corrosion protection and smooth operation
- Multi-disc carbon drag system – smooth, reliable drag for trout and other species
Final Opinion: Simply put, this reel is an underrated bargain, with features and components rivaling more expensive reels on the market.
Cadence CS10 Spinning Reel
The Cadence CS10 is an improvement and a step up from another Cadence spinner, the CS8, featured in one of our earlier posts. The CS8 was already an excellent reel but the CS10 tweaks things a bit and improves on the design.
The main upgrades are the addition of an extra ball bearing 11 for the CS10 vs 10 bearings for the CS8 and a lightweight carbon fiber handle arm for the CS10 over the CS8’s aluminum arm. The results are smoother performance and slight weight savings.
The net effect is a spinning reel that is lightweight and well equipped for fishing trout. Like the previous reel in this post, the Cadence CS10 comes in 4 models/sizes ranging from the CS10-1000 to the CS10-4000. Again, we’ll be looking here at the smaller, trout-appropriate sizes, the 1000 and the 2000. The reels weigh in at just 6.3 oz and 7.2 oz apiece.
At the heart of the CS10 is a magnesium body that makes this reel’s core both lightweight and strong. As we mentioned earlier, there are 11 stainless steel bearings in total. These consist of 10 corrosion-resistant ball bearings (not sealed) and 1 instant anti-reverse bearing.
Now on to the drag system. A carbon fiber multi-disc stack provides smooth and even pressure on the fish with 11 lbs of drag for the CS10-1000 and 16 lbs for the 2000 model.
The Cadence CS10’s braid-ready spool is made of machined aluminum as is its one-piece bail. The reel’s aluminum pinion gear and main shaft provide it with a lightweight and smooth gearing system. Finally, a large EVA handle makes reeling comfortable.
Overall, this is a very good trout spinning reel for the money, offering performance on par with many reels costing more. Use it for trout, any small to medium-size freshwater fish and even light inshore saltwater fishing. This reel is right at home just about anywhere.
What Makes This Reel Attractive:
- Magnesium reel body – Magnesium is stronger and 33% lighter than aluminum
- Carbon fiber drag system – Excellent, consistent drag pressure, remains smooth throughout, even during runs
- 11 corrosion-resistant bearings – durable and smooth operation
Final Opinion: A good versatile, all-around reel that can fish trout, bass , walleye and even sw inshore species like redfish. Magnesium frame sets it apart from others.
Shimano Stradic FL Spinning Reel
The Stradic FL is one of the more expensive reels on this list but I can assure you the cost is well worth it. This is a high-tech reel, if you will, that has all the bells and whistles, both in components and features. It is without a doubt one of the best spinning reels for trout fishing you’ll find at any price.
The reel comes in 5 sizes and models, but for our purpose we are going to stick with the two smallest models, the ultralight Stradic ST1000HGFL (6.5 oz) and the lightweight ST2500HGFL (7.9 oz).
By the way, the HG in the model number is for “High Gear”, an indication that this is a serious reel for trout, bass, or any other application where quick line retrieval is important. Both models sport a gear ratio of 6.0:1.
Looking at what makes this reel an excellent choice for trout fishing, let’s start with its Hagane body. Shimano uses its Hagane body technology throughout most of its high-end reels. The Stradic FL’s Hagane high-strength aluminum frame resists flexing for increased cranking power and control while fighting fish.
The standard Hagane 3D cold-forged gear only enhances the strength, durability and smooth operation of the FL whether you are fighting a 3lb trout or a 10lb bass.
One of the features I love about the Stradic FL is the S A-RB bearings. This reel comes with a 6+1configuation that is not only specially coated to resist corrosion but also uses shields on both sides of the bearings to further increase protection against dirt and other contaminants from impeding their rotation. This reel can even be used for light inshore saltwater fishing.
The reel’s Cross Carbon Drag system is another gem, one of the best you’ll find on any reel. It is responsive and silky smooth. Some have compared it with that found on the Stella, Shimano’s renowned flagship spinner. The Cross Carbon design lets anglers dial up more settings while improving smoothness and performance overall.
The FL also features what Shimano calls a “Long Stroke Spool”, which allows the line to lay more efficiently on the spool and to come off more smoothly for longer casts.
There are a host of other premium features and technologies that make the Shimano Stradic FL one of the best spinning reels for trout. If cost is not an issue, this reel will not disappoint – it is that good.
What Makes This Reel Attractive:
- Shimano Hagane body – Very light, high-rigidity aluminum for almost no flexing while cranking or fighting fish
- 6 S A-RB double-shielded bearings – Specially treated SS bearings shielded on both sides provide a high level of anti-corrosion and performance
- Cross Carbon Drag – One of the best and smoothest drag systems on the market today
Final Opinion: This reel excels on so many levels. Lightweight, strong with an incredible drag system. Fish trout, freshwater, light saltwater. Not cheap but worth every cent.
Daiwa Tatula LT Spinning Reel
The LT in the Daiwa Tatula LT spinning reel stands for “light and tough”, and that it is. Built around the concept that a reel can be lightweight yet very durable, the Tatula is one of my favorites. This reel may have a spartan look to it, but don’t be fooled – it is packed with some advanced technology that makes it one of the lightest, smoothest workhorses I have ever handled.
There are 6 models in the series in all, ranging from one of the best ultralight spinning reels in the TALT1000D-XH all the way up to the powerful TALT4000-CXH. To underscore just how light these reels are, the 1000D-XH and 2000D-XH models weigh just 5.8 oz each and the 4000-CXH a mere 7.4 oz.
To create a reel that is both so light and strong, Daiwa starts with a body made from a proprietary high-density carbon material named Zaion, which the company says is lighter and more durable than magnesium. This is the same material used in their Exist and Catalina top-of-the-line spinning reels (JDM/ Japan imports).
Inside Daiwa uses their over-size digitally Machined aircraft-grade aluminum Digigear to create smooth and powerful cranking with no play. All Tatula LTs feature a 6.2:1 gear ratio.
Contributing to the reel’s smooth operation is a high-quality 7 bearing system (1 CRBB+5BB+1BB) that includes 1 crbb (corrosion-resistant ball bearing/shielded bearing), 5 stainless steel bearings and 1 anti-reverse bearing. This reel is meant primarily for freshwater fishing and will perform flawlessly with simple, routine rinse-offs after each outing.
The reel’s “Air Rotor” is an innovative rotor design that is rigid with a low center of gravity and 15% lighter than standard rotors for better balance while rotating. You can definitely feel the improved rotational performance due to this feature.
The drag system is sealed for protection against water and debris, is smooth, powerful, and allows for fine adjustments. The 1000D-XH and 2000D-XH put out 11 lbs of drag force each, which is more than sufficient for trout fishing. If you feel that need something a little bigger and more powerful, you will need to step up to the TALT2500D-XH with 22 lbs of drag.
The Tatula’s spool holds a generous amount of line given the reels’ small size and works well with any type of line, be it mono, braid, or fluorocarbon.
The Daiwa Tatula LT may not be the most eye-catching reel on this list, but it is impressive where it counts. It is one of the lightest, best performing, and most durable spinning reels you’ll find for trout and other freshwater fish. I think it is one of the most underrated bargains on the market today, outperforming many other reels costing much more.
What Makes This Reel Attractive:
- Daiwa Zaion high-density carbon body – Proprietary frame lighter and stronger than aluminum and magnesium with the anti-corrosion benefits of carbon fiber
- Oversize Digigear – Larger main gear than most of the competition translates to more precise and powerful cranking
- Unique Air Rotor – The low center of gravity rotor design makes this an incredibly balanced reel
Final Opinion: Light and tough (LT) describes this reel perfectly. It may not wow in terms of looks but it makes up for it in performance. Hard to find a better, lighter reel (the 1000 size is only 5.8 oz) for trout than this little workhorse.
Abu Garcia Revo SX Spinning Reel
It’s no surprise that the Revo SX, a reel we have featured before on the site, would make it into the conversation about the current crop of top trout spinning reels. In the dozen years or so that this reel has been on the market, it has consistently landed on various top spinner lists because it is one of the most versatile and well-made reels on the market.
Speaking to its versatility, the Revo SX is powerful and rugged enough to handle inshore saltwater species such as speckled and flounder, and even redfish and striped bass (when stepping up to the bigger SX models).
But where it really shines is in freshwater applications like fishing for trout, where its lightweight construction, smooth operation and sensitivity come into play. This reel doesn’t just look good, it also rewards you with performance that you might come to expect on more expensive offerings.
The SX is built on a solid and very lightweight foundation that starts with a frame that uses C6 carbon that incorporates a one-piece aluminum gearbox. This combination creates a body that is not only very light but also strong and durable. There is no flex while cranking this reel, just a solid yet nimble feel.
Lending to its ultrasmooth performance are 8 stainless steel HPCR bearings + 1 roller bearing. HPCR stands for “High-Performance Corrosion Resistant”. Fancy name aside, these durable, shielded rust-resistant stainless steel bearings make it possible to fish this reel in different environments and for a variety of species, including trout.
The gears are machined aluminum. The 6.2:1 gear ratio across all 4 models (REVO2SX10, REVO2SX20, REVO2SX30, and REVO2SX40) makes this a fantastic mid-range gear reel and can be used with different presentations and baits such as the Panther Martin or soft plastic worms and crawfish.
The SX sports the same sealed Carbon Matrix drag system we see in many of their higher-end models such as the Revo Ike and Revo MGX spinning reels. Here, the two models best suited for fishing trout, the SX10 and the SX20 have 10 lbs and 11lbs of drag respectively. The drag is durable, smooth and consistent, paying out even pressure throughout the fight with the fish.
Lastly, a feature that I am sure many will like a lot is the reel’s “Rocket spool lip design”, which in essence is a tapering of the spool lip. This works in tandem with the bail arm and the reel’s “Slow Oscillation” to improve line management and casting distance. If those are important to you, then this is the reel for you.
The Abu Garcia Revo SX comes across as the reel that can it all. It is an excellent choice for anyone who wants a light, versatile and well-made spinner for trout, bass, and even some light saltwater use. In a nutshell, what you get here is an exceptional value and one of the best all-around spinning reels made today.
What Makes This Reel Attractive:
- Insert Molded C6 (IM-C6) carbon body design – Integrates a one-piece aluminum gearbox into the carbon body for a light but very rigid frame that is the heart of this reel
- 8 Stainless steel HPCR bearings – High-performance corrosion-resistant shielded stainless steel bearings make the reel not only great for trout/freshwater fishing but also versatile for other environments
- Carbon Matrix Drag – Uses the same drag system as some of Abu Garcia’s high-end reels; reliable and even drag, one of the best in its price range
Final Opinion: The Revo SX is on so many “best” lists for good reasons. It is an outstanding, versatile spinning reel. You can fish for trout in a river or you can take it out to a pier or jetty and target flounder. While it may not be the best at any one thing, it performs very well in the most important areas. It’s a great all-around spinning reel.
A Few Things to Think About When Buying Trout Spinning Reels
Reel Body Construction – Carbon, Graphite, or Metal?
The reel body or frame sets up the core or foundation for the reel. The materials used today range from carbon fiber/graphite to metal and even magnesium, as we see in the case of the Cadence CS10 reel above.
While there is no doubt that many anglers like metal for its rigidity and strength. Metal reels generally mean aluminum use in reels. But all metals are susceptible to corrosion – even aluminum and stainless steel – if exposed to the elements long enough. Without proper routine care and maintenance, the process is accelerated.
Carbon fiber and graphite, in the case of fishing equipment, are really the same, with the difference in labeling depending on the manufacturer or brand marketing the equipment. Regardless, it is an is extremely strong and lightweight synthetic material that has is becoming almost standard today in the manufacturing of reels and rods.
Not only is carbon lighter than aluminum but it has none of the corrosion disadvantages that all metals share. Even magnesium, though said to be 33% lighter than aluminum and on par with carbon weight-wise, is a metal and can also corrode over time.
With continued innovation in carbon fiber manufacturing (See Daiwa’s claim about their proprietary Zaion carbon material above), it makes more sense to go with a quality carbon reel. The new class of carbon fiber reels is much lighter and nearly as strong and durable as aluminum, with the added bonus of having no corrosion issues. Weight savings is a big performance benefit.
Bearings – Do More Bearings Equate to Better Reel Performance?
Hmmm, yes and no. Let me explain. Having more bearings in and of itself is no guarantee that the reel is going to be smoother or perform better. You can’t compare a $29 reel boasting 12 bearings with something like the Shimano Stradic FL with 7 bearings.
Quantity alone does not trump quality. That Stradic is going to perform on a much higher level over many more years than the low-quality reel with the ridiculous amount of bearings. The quality of the bearings, i.e. high-grade stainless steel, ceramic… is a more important factor than the number of bearings alone.
Now, all things being equal, if two reels both used quality ball bearings in their build and one had more bearings, for example, a 9 vs 5 in the number of high-end bearings, then we could reasonably say the reel with the higher bearing count should have the edge in any rotational performance and feel “smoother”.
But even here it would not be guaranteed as there are other factors at play. The only way to tell is to fish both and see for yourself.
Reel Size – What Size Reel Is Best for Trout Fishing?
For fishing trout in small water, generally ultralight spinning reels in sizes 500 – 1000 range should be sufficient (the size numbers depend on the brand – some use 10, 20… and so on). Larger rivers, lakes and/or larger species of trout might call for a 2000 -2500 size reel.
Remember, try to stay on the small side. The reel will be lighter, more comfortable for extended fishing, and more sensitive to bites. The fishing will probably feel more enjoyable and rewarding too overall.
You are not fishing for saltwater species here, and even if you were fishing for steelhead you probably wouldn’t need anything bigger than a 30/3000. Lake trout can be massive, but then again they aren’t really trout – they belong to the char family.
Drag – What Should I Look for in the Drag?
With trout fishing, you want responsiveness and smoothness over a powerful drag. All the reels on our list here have more than adequate drag systems for trout and other similar size fish. What is important is that the reel pays out drag evenly and avoids any jerking or choppiness in delivering the line.
The key thing is to have the same pressure on the fish throughout the fight. That’s what you need, not monstrous drag force. A reel delivering 10 lbs of consistent drag is much better than one with a 20 lb rating but sticky. Look for high-quality multi-stack carbon drag systems.
Protection against dirt, sand, and other things that could ruin the drag is pretty much standard in your better-quality reels, such as the ones in this post. So you should not have much concern there.
Gear Ratio – What Is a Good Gear Ratio for Trout Spinning Reels?
For the uninitiated, the numbers in the gear ratio represent the rate of line recovery. In plain language, it tells you how many times your spool will turn each time you turn your reel handle. For instance, if you had a reel with a ratio of 6.2:1 like the Revo SX above, for every complete turn you make with the handle your spool would turn 6.2 times.
For trout, look for a reel with a mid-range to a mid-high gear ratio, something in the neighborhood of, say, 5.4:1 to 6.2:1. Some tell you to go a little lower while others suggest a ratio as high as 8.0:1. I prefer a mid-range gear because it allows for the use of more varied types of lures and presentations.
I like this range because it suits my style of fishing better. It gives me a good rate of line pickup, I don’t need it faster. The bottom line is, to get what you will be comfortable with and what fits your style. If fast line retrieval is important to you, go with a high gear ratio, but somewhere in the middle probably works best for most spinning for trout
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