Fishing with ultralight gear offers an exciting and challenging way to chase fish where you downsize your fishing lures, your fishing line and your fishing rods and reels. An ultralight rod paired with an ultralight spinning reel can offer a formidable challenge when a good fish is hooked but it makes the catch that much more exciting and you’ll be blow away by what you can catch on ultralight gear. For our fans of ultralight fishing and in our minds a simpler way to approach fishing, we thought we’d offer a look at some of the best ultralight spinning reel options available today. We ran the gamut of affordable options to the very best options you can get for ultralight line fishing with 2-6 pound test line.
A lot of people have done ultralight reviews but then include reels that hold more than a 100 yards of 6 pound line. That’s not an ultralight reel. That’s just a regular old spinning reel (see our Best Spinning Reels article). An ultralight reel holds a couple cast lengths of 4-pound line. It’s made to be light to balance well on a light short ultralight action rod. You put a 1000 or 1500 size reel on an ultralight rod and it’s all out of balance. So we’re focusing specifically on reels for ultralight fishing in this guide. We love to wade streams for smallmouth, trout and other species. And using 2-pound line and an ultralight setup is some of the most fun you can have fishing in our opinion. So let’s take a look at some good options.
OUR PICKS FOR BEST ULTRALIGHT SPINNING REELS
- BEST FEELING REEL: Abu Garcia Max STX 5
- LIGHTEST REEL: Bass Pro Micro Light Elite 5
- BEST MULTIPURPOSE REEL: Daiwa QZ 750
- BEST BIG ULTRALIGHT: Lew’s Custom Pro Speed Spin 500
- BEST BUDGET ULTRALIGHT: Piscifun Viper X 500
- BEST OVERALL ULTRALIGHT: Shimano Sedona LT
BEST FEELING: ABU GARCIA MAX STX 5
This popular ultralight reel offers you 5.2:1 gear ratio, 6.4 pound drag and will hold 80 yards of 6 pound line. It casts very well and the retrieve is good on it. The reel is very light at 6.4 ounces and has a smooth operation thanks to its 5 ball bearings. All of these things have accounted for its popularity among ultra light finesse anglers. It too is very decently priced at $49. That makes it a great lightweight reel, with great performance and great price.
BEST LIGHT REEL: BASS PRO MICRO LIGHT ELITE
This is a very light ultralight spinning reel at just 6.2 ounces. But it fishes like a much stronger reel. The instant anti-reverse is very good on this reel and that gives you an improved hookset. Put this on a lightweight ultralight rod and you are going to have an excellent day of comfortable fishing with light gear. Not only light in action but light in your hands. Wading streams all day can be taxing and this light setup alleviates a lot of your hand fatigue on long days. It has a good drag, great casting and reeling performance. And it’s just a joy to fish with all day. It holds a lot of line so the spool is really deep. I acutally wish the spool was a bit shallower as you generally don’t need that much line and it would improve casting distance with smaller lures. But that one small facet is the only reason this is not the best overall. It’s a great value at $49 for a super light great performer.
BEST MULTIPURPOSE REEL: DAIWA QZ 750
The Daiwa QZ 750 was built to fit just between a 500 and 1000 size reel. It holds 80 yards of 6-pound monofilament line, it has 6 bearings and a very smooth drag. It reels very light lures well with no added tension. This fluid operation, smoothness of performance and great price is why we think it’s the best of all the ultralight options for ice fishing out there right now. But it’s just as good a casting reel as it is a drop reel. It’s got a comfortable cork knob, great drag, great bail, great smoothness on the cast and the retrieve and it balances so well on ultralight rods. It’s really a fun reel to fish all day while fighting fish on super light line. We use it for bluegill, crappie, trout and more on open water and through the ice. $59. Visit Dawia.com for more information.
BEST BIG ULTRALIGHT: LEW’S CUSTOM SPEED SPIN 100
The Lew’s Custom Speed Spin 100 is smooth, holds 90 yards of 6 pound mono and it’s a good casting reel. The sweet spot on this ultralight is with a little bit bigger lures and catching a bit bigger fish. For some reason this reel feels really solid in your hand when you are fighting a crazy smallmouth in current in a stream or a big trout in the rapids. It’s a 9 bearing reel, with a 5.2:1 gear ratio with a good drag system. But it feels rock solid when using a little bit bigger lures and catching big fish on ultralight gear. It’s a bit pricier in terms of ultralight reels but a solid option in the line up. $109
BEST BUDGET ULTRALIGHT: PISCIFUN VIPER X 500
I have a bunch of this reel. The main reason is it’s very smooth with light lures and it costs $26. This is my main spinning reel on my light action and ultra light action crappie, panfish and trout spinning rods. The reel is simply good, smooth and very affordable. It’s hard not to love this reel as an ultralight reel. It has a braid ready spool. It holds 87 yards of 4 pound line. So it’s very small but the EVA knob handle makes it very comfortable to use all day for such a small reel. And it’s also a 10 ball bearing reel. All for $26. It’s a steal of a deal in our book!
BEST OVERALL ULTRALIGHT: SHIMANO SEDONA LT
This solid ultralight spinning reel now incorporates cold-forged Hagane® gears, a lighter G-Free body frame, and a super-light and smooth Magnumlite™ rotor on all models. In addition, all models except the 1000 size now have higher gear ratios and increased drag power. And this is the reel that keeps your featherlite jigs feeling light as a feather on the retrieve. When you use very light lures, you need a spinning reel that feels like you are reeling in air. Any added tension on the rotor or the handle and you can’t feel a light lure anymore. So that’s why we dubbed this the best reeling of the ultra light spinning reels. Shimano has a storied history of not only making some of the best spinning reels at all price points, but year after year they push top level innovations and technologies down into their lower price point reels. So for the angler that means you get high performance at a lower price point. This Sedona LT is $79.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR IN AN ULTRALIGHT SPINNING REEL
When buying an ultralight reel, you want to concentrate on the lightness of the reel, the smoothness of the retrieve and the drag system. You want to stick with the 5/50/500 size reels if you can. Some 1000 reels are made small and will balance on an ultralight reel okay. But really, too big a reel will make using an ultralight combo cumbersome. The drag needs to be smooth as well because if you are using 2 or 4 pound mono, any tension on the startup of the drag and you run the risk of line breaks. So keep the drag turned down and adjust as needed. Make sure the rod feels comfortable in your hand. And then test it out with different light lines and light lures to find its sweet spot.
CHOOSING ULTRALIGHT SPINNING RODS TO MATCH
When you are using 500 size ultralight spinning rods, you want to pair them with a lightweight ultralight spinning rod that balances well as a combo. If your reel is 6 ounces, you don’t want a heavy rod. You want a really light rod. If your reel is a little heavier than a bit longer and heavier ultralight spinning rod will pair better. If you plan to get into the water and wade streams, you likely will be faced with tight quarters and casting limitations so a shorter ultralight spinning rod will be a better choice. For trout streams, we stick with a 5 foot or less ultralight spinning rod for trout. If we know we might tangle with big smallmouth, a longer rod can help play down a rambunctious fish on the fight. So maybe a 6 or 6 1/2-foot ultralight or light rod will work better.