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Best Affordable Spinning Reels

Last Updated: May 2021
Nancy Perry
Product Review by Nancy Perry

Spinning reels are one of the most commonly used types of fishing reels for both professional and casual fishermen worldwide.

They are easy to use and versatile, which is why they are so beloved in the angler community. However, a good reel can be expensive.

For those who are on a budget, it can be challenging to find a great reel that’s why have listed the best reel for you, because you may not know what options are out there or what features to prioritize.

Our Reviews
1

Okuma RTX Spinning Reel

At some point in the future, you may wish to upgrade your reel to something a bit higher-quality. The Okuma RTX models are a great jumping-off point. This reel is regarded worldwide as one of the best middle to upper-range reels out there because it helps you to be more precise with casts and more smooth with retrieves.

The reason many fishermen love this reel is because of how lightweight it is. The frame, side plate, and rotor are all made of C-40X carbon, and the multi-disc Japanese drag system will give you added control over your retrieves and battles.

This reel is going to be a great choice for the higher-skilled fishermen or fisherwomen who like to fish inshore for smaller species. The weight and drag are ideal for this kind of fishing in both saltwater and freshwater.

Pros

  • Higher-end, but still a good value for the price
  • Smooth drag
  • Lightweight design
  • Good for fishing small species

Cons

  • Not a general use fishing reel—better for specific types of fishing
2

Penn Battle II Spinning Reel

Penn is a reputable company that is known for its wide selection of quality products.

The first thing to know about the Battle models is that they are considered mid-range when it comes to price. They aren’t the cheapest reels out there by any stretch, but they also won’t break the bank. For the money, we think that they deliver exceptional value mostly in the form of their quality construction.

The significant parts of these reels are made from solid metal. The body, side plate, and rotor are all constructed from high-quality metal for durability and ideal weight. While heavy-duty parts are a priority in some parts of the reel, it’s clear that being lightweight and sleek is the goal with other parts such as the drag washers.

The washers and some other small parts are made of lightweight, but durable carbon material while the 5 ball bearings within are made from stainless steel.

With a mix of heavyweight durable main components and some smaller lightweight parts within, this reel is an excellent choice for those who are looking for a versatile reel at a lower cost.

Pros

  • Durable metal body, side plate, and rotor
  • Affordable and high quality
  • Versatile and can be used in saltwater

Cons

  • On the heavier side for a reel
  • Spool could be more sturdy
3

Pflueger President Spinning Reel

If you’re on a tight budget, but still need a dependable reel, then look no further for a fishing reel! The Pflueger President Reel comes in several sizes and line capacities and in this particular reel, we have one of the most affordable options on our list. It might not have the premium features like some other reels, but for the price and spec, it’s a more than an acceptable beginner reel and does its job well enough.

Depending on what model series you choose to buy, you’ll either have a 9-bearing system or a 6-bearing system. Either way, the stainless steel bearing system should stand up to the most adverse weather conditions, as well as being protected from saltwater.

This reel is excellent for the beginner fisherman who wants to venture into the world of high-quality reels without having to invest a lot upfront. We’d probably recommend this reel for a casual fisherman, as professionals might want to have more features.

Pros

  • Great for fishing bass
  • Works well for backpacking and hiking
  • Works in saltwater
  • Affordable
  • Durable

Cons

  • Some problems have been reported of lines twisting or catching
  • Gears and bearings sometimes have short lifespan
4

Shimano IX R Spinning Reel

Behold the Shimano IX R, a spinning reel that truly brings fishermen back to their roots. This humble spinning reel is one of the least expensive options available on the spinning reel market. It has its limitations, but for the price, you really can’t go wrong.

This extremely lightweight frame is surprisingly sturdy, but probably wouldn’t be best for heavy saltwater fishing trips. It can be a general use reel, but we would recommend using it for small to medium-sized fish in freshwater bodies.

One of the problems with spinning reels in this price range is that the spools tend to get debris stuck in them which heavily and negatively affects the quality of the retrieve and definitely shortens the life of your spinning reel. That doesn’t seem to be a concern with this reel though, despite the low price.

If you need a reel that’s compact and lightweight, at a good price with basic features to bring out on the water for your fishing trip, then you could do much worse than opt for the Shimano IX R.

Pros

  • Very affordable
  • Made from lightweight carbon
  • Good for hiking and backpacking

Cons

  • Lower quality construction corresponds with the price
5

Shimano Saros Spinning Reel

If you’re after a more premium reel, take a look at the Saros spinning reel by Shimano. This spinning reel has a very large spool which appeals to saltwater fishermen and those who find themselves battling with big fish often.

This reel is simultaneously a beacon of strength and a prime example of a lightweight and easy-to-cast reel. The drag system is very high-quality and is waterproof, meaning water will never reduce the quality of your drag system.

If you need a reel that can cast great distances with ease, this reel should be on your radar. The Saros can cast with length and precision at the same time, all while featuring a tangle-free spool design.

Pros

  • Made with high-quality materials
  • Great for long casts
  • Resistant to tangling
  • Waterproof drag

Cons

  • Higher priced than other reels

We’ve put together this complete guide to help you in finding a functional, efficient, and quality made for those on a budget.

What Are Spinning Reels Used For?

Spinning reels are among the most popular types of reels used in all kinds of fishing. They are designed with an open-faced spool and feature a line management system that circles the braid ready spool as you reel. They are meant to be mounted under the rod and held in one hand while the other hand reels.

They are incredibly versatile and offer an excellent experience for all styles of fishing. They are generally used by fishermen who want the experience of a light cast while still being able to get some good distance on the cast. Because of the ability for low-impact casting, they’re also a popular option for those using live bait who want to cast without damaging the bait.

Why Choose A Spinning Reel?

Spinning reels have recently surpassed other reels as the common reel of choice among anglers. The reason for this shift is Bait caster reels take some time to master because the reel can easily backlash.

These are now more popular for nearly every type of fishing, but they especially shine when it comes to agile and lightweight types of fishing techniques. Since they are lightweight and versatile, you can use a lightweight spinning reel combo to perform many types of casts that you might have a harder time doing with a bait caster.

Factors In Selecting A Spinning Reel

When you are starting the process of shopping for the best cheap spinning reel, there are several features that you should be taking into consideration. These might not all be a priority to you, but if you do see some features that you consider to be a must-have, you may want to record them so that when you are shopping, you can organize your candidates.

Here are some of the factors that differentiate from each other, and you might want to keep an eye out for when doing your own analysis.

Drag

“Drag” refers to the capability to add or remove tension to your fishing line. This is perhaps the most important adjustable feature on a spinning reel, and you should most definitely pay attention to which type of drag your spinning value reel uses.

There are two options when it comes to drag adjustment: front and rear. Most commonly, fishermen will seek out a spinning reel with front adjustment. Front or top adjustments are more popular with fishermen who reel in bigger breeds of fish because they are more convenient to adjust while battling a fish.

In addition to being more convenient, front-adjusted drags are also more powerful. The larger surface area allows you to more effectively control very large fish on the other end of the line. A rear-adjusted drag is fine for some, but if you are going to be reeling in large fish, you should try to get a spinning reel with a front-adjusted drag performance.

Spool

The aluminum spool is the central part of your spinning reel weight that holds all of your lines. You may think that all anodized aluminum spools are the same, but some differences distinguish one spool from another.

The most notable feature of an anodized aluminum spool is its line size. Line capacity is what determines how many lines your anodized aluminum spool can hold. Having a large line isn’t a huge concern for freshwater fishing that only fishes in small lakes or rivers, but it is for the angler that likes to fish in saltwater oceans and larger bodies of water. The reason is that larger fish can anodize aluminum spool more of the line when you are fighting the fish.

Handle

The handle of your spinning reel is an important consideration for both comfort and practicality. Some spinning reel handles are made to be held with the right hand and reeled in with the left hand.

If that doesn’t sound like a comfortable reeling position to you, then you should consider getting a spinning reel that has a reversible handle that allows you to switch which side your reel is on.

Getting the proper handle might seem like a luxury, but we can assure you that it’s very much a necessity, especially considering that you will have to use the reel for hours at a time. To cut down on fatigue and discomfort, be sure to select the right handle for you.

Water Type

When choosing fishing equipment, many people assume that the most important factor is what type of fish you are aiming to catch. While breed type is an important consideration, water type is actually the most important environmental factor to keep in mind when selecting a spinning reel size.

If you are planning on fishing in saltwater, a saltwater  spinning reel would be ideal for you. Or if in tough cover, you need to find a spinning reel that is tough and made well. The abuse that these conditions could put on your reel force you to seek out a highly durable reel as opposed to one that could become damaged more easily.

In addition to general build quality, you also want to make sure that your reel is corrosion resistant if you are using it in saltwater. Failing to take this into account could lead to your reel being inefficient and ineffective after only a few uses out on the water, so corrosion resistant is important. We will recommend thorough cleaning after every use, but saltwater can really take a toll on a reel.

Fish Species

As we touched on earlier, it’s also important to consider what type of fish you are trying to catch. The most significant specification that will change based on what kinds of fish you are catching will be the amount of line management system that your spool can hold.

If you are going to be targeting very large freshwater species, you’re going to want to get freshwater spinning reels with a large management capacity. Long battles with deep-diving fish will require a lot of length and durability so you will need a spool that can accommodate that line.

Furthermore, the species that you are fishing for will determine the type and power of your drag settings. Large breeds of fish will want to be met with a front-adjusting drag that has more power than rear-adjusted drags.

When you are shopping for a spinning reel, you should make sure that you get a reel with the proper specifications for your desired species. If you were fishing for all types of fish, it would be best to have more power and capacity than you think you might need. It’s better to have more than less.

Bearing Quality

Regardless of what type of fish you are fishing for or what water you are doing it in, the quality of the stainless steel ball bearings within your spinning reel is vitally important. You want to avoid noise and vibration in your roller bearings for both comfort and stealth while fishing.

Vibration or friction is important to avoid so that your retrieves will be smoother and less likely to alert and startle surrounding fish. If you have low-quality stainless steel ball bearings, they could cause vibration or rust and create a loud retrieve.

If you are going to be fishing in saltwater, be sure to get a spinning reel with the highest quality ball bearings that you can possibly afford given your current budget. Saltwater is extremely harsh on stainless steel bearings and will cause them to erode and reduce the quality of your retrieve.

Affordability

If you are looking for the best spinning budget reel under $100, chances are that affordability is going to be a large part of your decision-making process. Though we can’t deny the benefit of a low-cost spinning reel, we also recommend that you consider the value in addition to the cost of the reel.

What we mean by that is that you should try to find both quality and affordability in your budget  reel under $100. This could mean different things to different fishermen concerning which features you want the reel to have, but generally, it means that the reel will fill both your budget restrictions and desired features.

By reframing your search from looking for the lowest price range to looking for the best value, you can make a significant impact on your ability to identify a reel that will fit your needs.

Comfort

The level of comfort at which you can use your spinning reel and rod is very important. For some fishermen, a day out fishing means hours of holding your rod and reel in various positions. If your reel is difficult or awkward for you to use, you’ll notice pretty quickly.

You should be sure to pick out a reel that is easy for you to use and adjust “on the fly” over and over. Failure to do this is going to result in fatigue and discomfort when you’re out on the water, and it can cause your day out to be pretty miserable.

Benefits of Spinning Reels

There are lots of reasons why quality reels are so popular among professional and casual fishermen, but none of them are a mystery. Some have tons of features and benefits that make them a better choice than other reels.

Here are some of the better-known benefits of using a cheap spinning reel.

Casting Distance

Spinning reels often perform much better when it comes to casting distance than other reels. This fact rings especially true when the fisherman is using lighter lures. If the distance is important to you and you use a lighter weight, a spinning reel will be the best choice for you.

The benefit of having a large casting distance capability should not be underestimated. Being more versatile with your casts and being able to work with a wider variety of baits makes you a versatile, more well-rounded fisherman that won’t be limited by reel selection.

Better Performance in Wind

It’s no secret that cheap spinning reels far outperform baitcasting reels in windy conditions. No matter the lure, you want to use a spinning reel for casting into or across wind gusts. Bait caster reels will often get blown back or off track. They can help you to maintain accuracy and distance even when casting into a headwind.

Easier Skip Casts

If skip casting is part of your arsenal as a fisherman, you’re going to want to use a spinning reel. Skip casting can be done with a bait caster reel, but it’s tough and takes years of practice to be able to do consistently and accurately.

A spinning reel makes skip casts easier and achievable with only a little bit of practice. Skip casting comes in handy when you are trying to fish under low hanging covers like docks piers, foliage, or trees. If you have not already incorporated this strategy into your spinning reel arsenal, you should check it out.

Reduced Pendulum Effect

When you cast with a traditional bait caster reel, your lure sinks into the water with something called a “pendulum effect,” which means that it sways back and forth as it sinks. As you can imagine, this effect has a heavy impact on accuracy, which is less than ideal for the serious fisherman who has a target in mind.

Using a spinning reel can help to solve this problem and ensure that your lure goes more accurately where you intend it to go. This strategy is helpful when trying to fish around obstacles in deep water where you don’t want your line to get tangled.

Handle Versatility

When purchasing a bait caster reel, you must choose whether you want it to be a right-handed reel or left-handed reel. This drawback limits your flexibility. While you are stuck with one version of your bait caster reel, a fisherman who uses a spinning reel can switch the side of their handle as they please.

This is a small feature but does add to the versatility of your reel and therefore should be looked upon with favor.

Drag Adjustments

A sweet spot of a spinning reel is the versatility that you have while you are fighting a fish. The carbon fiber drag system is a crucially important adjustable feature that you should be taking advantage of whenever possible. With the carbon fiber construction spinning reel you can adjust the drag while in mid-flight to suit your needs.

Bait caster reels can also be adjusted at any time, but the location of the carbon fiber drag system adjustment is really what sets these two types of reels apart. The drag adjustment location on a bait caster reel is not convenient at all for adjustment on the fly while it’s quite easy to do it on a spinning reel.

Who Should Use A Spinning Reel?

Spinning reels can be used with almost any age group or fishing skill level, though they do carry strengths and weaknesses with each demographic. Here are the benefits of the age group for the spinning reel.

Professionals

Spinning reels offer a wide range of functionality, versatility, and durability. Casting with a spinning reel is often more accurate, and you can fish in more complex situations with a spinning reel as opposed to a bait caster reel. Professionals love to use these because they are available in premium models and are reliable for tournaments and fishing guides.

Amateurs

The casual fisherman has so many options when it comes to reels. Spinning reels are a good option for casual fishermen because they can be used in a multitude of situations. Casual fishermen don’t often buy a reel for every type of fishing because they typically can’t afford it. A good spinning reel will serve you well in almost any type of fishing, and they are available in very affordable models, too.

Children

Children are the only group that we may not recommend a spinning reel for right away. Smaller children should start with a push-button reel and work up to a spinning reel.

However, it’s not unreasonable to start having children learning how to use a push-button very early on so they can get the hang of it for when they start to get serious about fishing.

Recap

After the in-depth analysis of each of the reels in our buying guide, we can confidently say that the Penn Battle II was the best overall best cheap spinning reel at this price point that we had the pleasure of looking at.

Though each of these reels delivered something unique that we loved, the Penn Battle II reel gave us the sweet spot with its wide range of features that make it suitable for almost any fishing situation.

Bottom line, It’s excellent-quality construction also comes at a real bargain compared to other comparable reels for the money. We’re happy to name it as our best spinning reel and one of the best on the market because it has the best value for the price point. 

We hope you have enjoyed reading our review of the best as much as we enjoyed writing it. If you liked this review please like or share it!

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