Tackle Reviews

Best Spinning Reels for Fishing

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Many of us that grew up fishing spinning reels to learn how to fish. Back when I grew up fishing in the 1980s and 1990s there weren’t many spinning reels to choose from. Now there are dozens of manufacturers making hundreds of different models of spinning reels for the angling community. But that also made choosing the right spinning reel for your specific fishing a little more difficult. 

At the end of the day I feel like there are three different types of anglers when it comes to buying spinning reels. There’s the super avid enthusiast angler who wants the absolute best there is if they can afford it. Then, there is the angler that wants the most bang for their buck. And finally there is the angler who just wants a reel that works for the least amount possible. 

So while price is a factor, I think the majority of us anglers fall in that middle category where we want the absolute best reel we can get in our budget. So how do you determine that?

Well you factor in all the things that makes a spinning reel good. While price matters in any purchasing decision, if you’re looking for a good spinning reel for fishing, it really comes down to these factors:

        • Smoothness of retrieve
        • Drag consistency
        • Castability of spool
        • Line management
        • Durability
        • Price
        • Brand

I will explain each of these factors at the end of this guide so you can make your own determinations on best reels for you.

So based on these factors, we have collected a large sample of the top spinning reels available for this season and upcoming season and put each spinning reel through our tests and fishing to get on the water application experience with every reel we could get our hands on. 

We have tested a barrel full of spinning reels over the years, and we use that large breadth of knowledge and experience to quickly assess quality equipment. A lot of these brands and even models we are familiar with because the are the latest offerings of that model we already know from brands we know and trust. 

We tested more than 20 of the latest spinning reels and here is what we found.

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Best Overall Spinning Reel – Shimano Stella FK

I’ve tested tens of thousands of products over the last two-plus decades in fishing, and the Shimano Stella FK is the finest piece of fishing equipment I have fished with. At this level it’s nearly luxury engineering at its finest. The Stella FK uses the finest materials and Shimano’s decades of engineering and technology advancements to pack as many features as I’ve seen in a single piece of equipment. 

The reel is so smooth you can’t feel the handle turning in the hand gripping the stem. There is no pressure whatsoever on the handle when you retrieve your lure thanks to their Infinity Drive system that is a step up from their advanced X Ship technology. On the Infinity Drive, the main shaft, which had previously been supported by the pinion gear, is now supported by a new and unique low-friction bushing that significantly decreases frictional resistance which results in the lightest winding reel in the industry. 

The Infinity Loop and Anti Twist Fin make for the most precise level winding and no sagging tension you will find on a spinning reel so your line lays uniformly and evenly on your spool to give you the best line management possibly.

And finally, the Duracross drag washers offer 10X the durability without any reduction in smoothness resulting in a longer lasting, tougher drag system. 

I was literally blown away by how well this reel casts light lures and how exceptionally smooth it is in every way possible on a spinning reel. The bail is top notch. The handle, spool, and system oscillation all move so fluidly. It is an absolute dream to fish with. It is, however, one of the most expensive pieces of fishing equipment I’ve ever used at $749.  

That being said, I’m planning to purchase two of them now, as I was that impressed with them and think they are worth the lavish investment for 10 years of top-end, luxury performance and enjoyment in my fishing. I’m at that age where I don’t spend money on a lot of things, but I will spend more on the things I enjoy the most.

Buy at TackleWarehouse    Buy from Omnia

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Best Spinning Reels for the Money – Daiwa Ballistic MQ LT

The Daiwa Ballistic MQ LT made quite the impression on me. It’s light, but feels heavy duty, looks great and performances exceptionally well at price point close to $200. For a really solid top-of-the-line spinning reel, you’re generally looking at $165-$225. Those tend to be your best made workhorse reels, and that perfectly describes the Ballistic MQ LT.

The one-piece Monocoque Zaion V-Body gives the reel rigidity and strength which for an angler parlays into smooth operation while handling a tough fight. The oversized Digigear gives you a higher gear ratio with more cranking power. That added speed and power makes using a spinning reel a lot more enjoyable for bass fishing or larger prey. These reels are Magsealed for longevity and their Zaion V Air Rotor and Air Bail give you perfect performance with the lightest amount of pressure. 

This reel feels heavy duty without feeling heavy. It feels like it will last a long time and its casting and retrieving is buttery smooth with a seamless drag system. It’s a total package at $229. 

Buy at TackleWarehouse   Buy from Omnia

OTHER SOLID OPTIONS FOR THE MONEY:

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Shimano Vanford

The Vanford came out last year but availability just got where you can get these reels. At $239 this reel offers a lot of technology in a very strong frame. Built to last a long time, these reels feature the HAGANE cold-forged gearing that is much stronger than the Stradic. And the X-Protect coating helps prevent corrosion and wear. The Long Stroke Spool gives you increased casting distance and smoother line management. 

This reel felt strong and durable. It was pretty smooth with its 7+1 bearings and it held a good amount of line. I could cast pretty far with a 3/8-ounce lure and did not have any issues with loops or line management. It’s a very strong reel. It can take a lot of force which I liked. It comes in 6 sizes from 1000 to 6000 so it can work well for inshore and freshwater although it’s not sealed so it needs to be thoroughly washed for salt use. 

Buy at TackleWarehouse   Buy from Omnia

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Abu Garcia Revo SX

The Revo SX also performs very well in this best bang for your buck price range. At the lower end at $165, the Revo SX features a more compact X-Craftic aluminum body frame for comfort and durability. The oversized AMG Gearing and Friction Free Main Shaft gives you a lot durable, strong guts in this reel with smooth performance. This is a 9-bearing system gives you optimal smoothness and performance.

It casts really well. Fishes well. I used it with some crappie gear and was able to make some long casts with very light lures and retrieve them easily without a loss of sensitivity. The drag system was okay but I think the Daiwa and Shimano drag systems were slightly better. But you’re paying $60 less for this reel so there are tradeoffs here. 

Buy at TackleWarehouse

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Pflueger Patriarch

Built on an ultralight magnesium body with carbon rotors and titanium main shaft, the Patriarch is updated and renovated for improved weight, durability and performance. It’s a great feeling reel in the hand, and it fished exceptionally well. A solid performer that could easily be lumped in with the absolute best reels out there, the Patriarch is a great buy at $219.

Buy Here

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Best Spinning Reels Under $100 – Shimano NASCI FC

Shimano makes some great spinning reels and thankfully they do it at a lot of price points. There are a few companies that try to push down as much technology into lower price points as they can. Obviously certain materials restrict some the applications of this methodology but I always appreciate that brands like Shimano and Daiwa try to push top technologies down into lower price points where they can even with different materials.

The Shimano NASCI is a no-nonsense purposeful spinning reel. This reel employs HAGANE Gears, CoreProtect, SilentDrive, X-Ship, Propulsion Line Management and Cross Carbon Drag. Those technologies give the reel strength and quiet smooth performance. At $99 this reel is very smooth albeit a little heavier than some of the more expensive options. But a great buy at $99.

Buy at TackleWarehouse   Buy from Omnia

SPINNING REELS UNDER $100 WE RECOMMEND

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Favorite Phantom

The Favorite Phantom is a 9 bearing reel on a composite body. This reel is not as tight as some of the high-end reels, but it was very smooth and there was no tension whatsoever. Which makes it nice for using with finesse applications. The 5.2:1 speed is good and the drag was smooth. It was really nice to fish with. 

I was pleasantly surprised by this reel and it’s at a great price point.

Buy at Amazon    Buy at FavoriteUSA

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Shimano Sahara FJ

The Shimano Sahara holds a special place in my heart as it was one of the first spinning reels I ever owned after moving out on my own. I still have one of my Saharas from the late 1990s on my work bench.

The new Sahara FJ features 4+1 bearings and Shimano’s X-Ship technology in an all new body and rotor design meant to give entry level anglers and advanced anglers a quality reel at a very low price point. 

The Sahara FJ is a solid choice at just $84.

Buy at TackleWarehouse   Buy from Omnia

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Best Spinning Reels Under $50 – Shimano Nexave

The Shimano Nexave gives you pretty good performance at an easy on the wallet price point of $49. So for under $50 you get a good spinning reel that’s basically a solid no-frills reel. This reel performed better with a little heavier and easy to cast lures. There is a little tension on the handle when reeling so super lightweight stuff is a little more challenging. But again for $49 this was a very solid reel in our fishing.

Buy at TackleWarehouse

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Honorable Mention – Piscifun Viper X

While this is a bit older reel, it’s been one of my favorites for crappie and panfish. It’s light, with a good drag and casts light stuff well. I own 6 of these reels that I keep on my panfish rods. I fish a lot of 1/16 ounce crappie jigs on this reel and have never had the first problem with any off my reels which is pretty unheard of at $34. 

Read our full review of the Piscifun Viper X here.

Buy at Amazon

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Best Spinning Reel for Saltwater – Penn Authority

Penn is the name synonymous with saltwater toughness. Straight off of it’s Best of Show win at ICAST 2022, the new Penn Authority puts them up in the category of premium fishing reels as well. This reel boasts beautifully engineered craftsmanship from the IPX8 Sealed body and spool to the full metal construction, stainless steel gear train and sealed Slammer Dura-Drag system. 

This is a big heavy duty but great casting reel with a very even consistent drag. Retrieves fly with the big oversized EVA power knob. Even the smallest 2500 size is a big beefy strong reel and heavy at 11.9 ounces. But I can see it being a lot of fun for big saltwater fish or even some heavy duty freshwater applications like Catfish or big Muskies. It throws a big bait well and it can handle the weight of a big fight. I deadlifted a 25 pound block with it on a Penn rod and let it pull drag hard. It’s a tough piece of equipment built to last.

I can see this reel being a big winner for Penn going forward.

Learn More Here

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Honorable Mention – Shimano Exsence

Called the “Dark Horse Stella” by enthusiast anglers, the Exsence is built similarly to a Stella, but with a more heavy duty package. While the Exsence was built for inshore saltwater fishing, it has a very popular following for freshwater fishing because as many have said, you get Stella like performance for a little less money with saltwater construction. 

This 11+1 bearing reel is sleek at the first inspection. It’s casting and retrieve are both buttery smooth. While lesser reels lose balance when reeling at high speed (i.e. you feel the reel sway up and down and back and forth as you turn the handle), the Exsence construction on the Hagane body and the micro-module gearing keep this reel in balance at all times. It’s a really light weight reel for saltwater fishing standards which is why it is so popular with freshwater anglers. 

I tested the 4000MXG and it held the same amount of 10-pound braid as a standard 2500 reel holds. But I really liked that that the oversized spool casted that light braid so amazingly well. The X-Ship, X-Protect and MGL Rotor give this reel great performance on the retrieve. And the line management is exceptional. I consider this a more light duty inshore reel. Using lighter lines and casting topwaters and jigs into mangroves and around docks for snook, redfish, trout and more. But it was equally impressive as a high end bass fishing reel so I can see why it has such a cult following. 

Buy at TackleWarehouse   Buy from Omnia

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Fastest Spinning Reel – Abu Garcia Revo Rocket

The Revo Rocket reels offer the fastest gear ratios in the fishing space. And they have done it again with the Revo Rocket Spinning Reel. This newest version of the Rocket is lighter and more compact thanks to its X-Craftic body. The gear system is however 17% larger which gives it more guts and of course gear ratio. This reel has a whopping 7.6:1 gear ratio which is unheard of in spinning reels and the fastest we’ve seen. Over the course of a day of fishing or a year of fishing, the equates to a lot of saved time and more efficiency in your fishing.

The reel balances well in your hand on a spinning rod. I put it on the Abu Garcia Zenon spinning rod and it was a dream combo. It casts well thanks to an improved spool design and it was quiet and smooth on the retrieve with effortless pressure. It makes for a great finesse fishing reel because it casted small lures well and retrieved them equally well. The ergonomics and aesthetics were some of the best we’ve seen with Abu Garcia Spinning reels. A sharp reel that is a joy to fish.

Read our previous model review here.

Buy Here

THE OTHER BEST SPINNING REELS WE RECOMMEND

There are so many good spinning reels on the market now. It’s fortunate for the anglers because you can stay with your favorite brands usually and you have a lot of options under the top brands. 

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Abu Garcia Zenon

The new flagship for Abu Garcia is the Zenon. The reels features an uber lightweight frame (4.9 ounces for the 20 size). The Zenon builds on a one-piece magnesium body with a C6 V-rotor for super low startup inertia. The reel is feathery light on the retrieve and casts beautifully well. The AMGearing system gives the reel a super polished performance.

The line management is good. And the carbon fiber bent handle is compact but solid. The reel features beautiful precision cut aesthetics, a drop shot keeper on the side plate and hard case with spare spool. It comes in 20 and 30 sizes for $549. It was a joy to fish with.

Buy at TackleWarehouse Buy at Omnia

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Lew’s Custom Lite

In my opinion, this is the best spinning reel Lew’s has ever produced. It’s light, with no initial resistance on the retrieve and great castability with light braid. This 11 bearing spinning reel features carbon frame and rotor, and a hybrid carbon drag system that provides consistent performance. This is going to be a very popular spinning reel this season at $159. A very solid buy at 6.6 ounces and a gear ratio at 6.2:1. 

Buy at TackleWarehouse

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Shimano Miravel

A new reel for Shimano attempting to bring top technologies down to a lower price point. Built on the Ci4+ Carbon-infused body with a MagnumLite rotor for smooth starting retrieves and solid hookups. The reel casts really well and retrieves equally well. The 3000 model handled light lures easily and was balanced throughout. I really like this reel, especially at a $129 price point.

Buy at TackleWarehouse  Buy at Omnia

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Abu Garcia Revo Winch

The Winch was a solid performer in the bait casting lineup and now the Revo Winch Spinning Reel will offer the same toughness in a spinning reel. Built on a one-piece aluminum frame with oversized gearing and a friction free main shaft, the Winch is a smooth and strong spinning reel perfect for big bruising bass.

With 9 bearings and solid construction, the reel proficiently winds in baits and bass with ease. It’s black and red markings make it an attractive reel on just about any rod. For $169 you will find this reel is ultra competitive in performance and angling enjoyment. 

Buy Here

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Daiwa Procyon AL LT

Another of those well price workhorses, the Procyon AL LT is sleek but rugged, durable but precise, and an absolute pleasure to fish with. An angler would do well to have 2 or 3 of these on his deck. The Procyon AL LT features a lightweight aluminum body, DIGIGEAR, Air Rotor and Bail and Long Cast ABS Spool.

It throws light lures well, but can handle big fights on its Advanced Tournament Drag. It’s buttery smooth on start and stop on both retrieves and hard pulling drag.  It’s another crossover reel for freshwater inshore and all species in between. And at $189 it’s a very reasonable price for this kind of performance.

Buy at TackleWarehouse  Buy at Omnia

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13 Fishing Aerios

This 9 bearing reel is a new addition to the 13 Fishing line of reels. The Aerios handles really well. It’s water sealed and corrosion resistant. It can handle fresh and saltwater fishing. But it’s going to be a big hit with freshwater anglers as it’s been pro tuned to fish all of the bass fishing techniques on a spinning rod.

It’s Cast Iron Carbon Frame and Sealed Rotor and Cool Stop Drag system all perform very well. The reel feels heavy duty and durable with very smooth quiet operation while fishing. It had no resistance in the startup on the retrieve which made it very good with light lures. It has good line management and a durable bail.

This is one of the best spinning reels I’ve used in the 13 Fishing lineup and one they’ve been working on for several years. I highly recommend it. This reel is a real player at a good price point of $139. 

Buy at TackleWarehouse

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Best Spinning Reel Brands

spinning reels buyers guide

The best known spinning reel brands are easily Shimano, Daiwa and Abu Garcia. For a while there was only really these three. But, now, several brands produce high quality, great spinning reels. So the big three are still solid choices almost every time.

Brands like Lew’s, 13 Fishing, Pflueger, and others offer solid options as well. And brands that focus more on budget conscious anglers like Favorite Fishing and Piscifun are kicking out some really solid spinning reels now for extremely reasonable price points.

So take a look through the guide above and be confident in purchasing spinning reels from these brands. 

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Best Spinning Reel for Bass Fishing

For me, the best spinning reel for bass fishing is one that gives you good castability and performance for light to medium weight lures. Most good reels will last a decade. How they perform day in and day out is often as simple as making sure you have the right reel for the kind of fishing you do.

For bass fishing and most freshwater fishing, a 2000-2500 size reel works really well. The larger spool makes your coils looser and casting easier and more efficient for distance and accuracy. Some of the larger models build their reels with shallower spools to hold the same amount of line on a bigger surface area for better line management and longer casts.

But you don’t want a giant 4000 reel on a rod tiny enough to hold a 500 reel. So match your rods and reels and try to go with a bigger spool if you can for better castability and line management. 

The most popular brands typically among avid bass fishing anglers match the brands we mentioned above. 

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Best Spinning Reel options

When deciding which spinning reel to buy for fishing, there are options to weigh. So I’m going to run through how I decide if a spinning reel is good or not when I’m at a store. I hope this will help other anglers make good choices when choosing spinning reels.

Smoothness of retrieve

In my opinion, smoothness of the retrieve is the single biggest factor in a quality spinning reel. If you can’t tell what your bait is doing as you fish it because of your reel, then you are at a substantial disadvantage when it comes to fishing with spinning reels. Yes you can catch fish with a low end reel. But you’re also missing a lot more fish that you never knew bit. You’re also not making as precise presentations so you’re not getting bit as much. Disadvantaged. Without even knowing it most of the time. 

It’s the first test I do with every spinning reel. I pick up the reel and feel how much pressure it takes to turn the handle. This is known as startup inertia. If it takes more than the slightest pressure, then you are not going to feel your bait very well. The harder the reel is to turn, the harder it will be to feel your lighter lures on a retrieve.

Drag consistency

The next most important component in a spinning reel is the consistency of the drag. So if you hook a fish, you don’t want the drag to “catch” before it starts releasing line. You want it to smoothly and slowly release line under the correct pressure it should start and stop effortlessly when needed and be consistent throughout. 

You can do a quick check of the drag by adjusting the tension knob and turn the spool backwards while holding the reel fixed. You want to hear a consistent pinging of the drag as you wind the spool back.

Castability of spool

A spool that releases line effortlessly is also important. A lot of times this can be overcome by using a bit larger spool. The larger the spool, especially a larger shallow spool will uncoil line better on a cast. Companies like Daiwa and Shimano have perfected their spools for the best casting performance on their higher end reels. 

Line management

The other thing that affects casting is good line management. A poorly made or adjusted spinning reel will have the line get up under the spool too much and or criss cross the line too much because the spool travels too fast and too much as the roller oscillates around the spool. So I also prefer reels manufactured to use precision line winding to keep your line tight and clean on the spool so you deal with a lot less loops, knots and line under the spool.

Another thing that helps with line management is closing your bail by hand. If you will close the bail with your hand instead of turning the reel to close the bail, you will get a lot less loops or overruns in your reel on subsequent casts.

Durability

The materials a reel are made out of obviously matter as well. While composite reels are fine, they will have more play over time and they will break easier under too much force. So you have to be mindful. Most of the time as long as you’re not jerking on snags, steping on the reel on the deck or dropping it on the pavement, you’re usually going to be fine. 

Now reels need to be cleaned if used in saltwater and the better ones are water sealed to keep saltwater and other corrosion and deposits out of the moving parts. And saltwater reels are generally made with stronger stems. This added strength and durability in saltwater reels usually comes at a premium. 

Brand

Brand has been a good determination of good spinning reels in the past. The big three in spinning reels definitely have to be Shimano, Daiwa and Abu Garcia. But there are a lot of good spinning reels being made by several companies. That’s why we sought to bring some more reels into this guide so you can be more familiar with a larger base of options.

Reel supply has diminshed the last two years. Because of this, you may not be able to get your hands on some of the top reels. So using the other factors we’ve listed above will help you evaluate reels from brands you’re not as familiar with. 

Price

My advice with reels, especially spinning reels is buy the best reel you can afford. Good fishing reels will last you a decade if you take care of them. So you’re investing in many years of use. But you can also buy some cheaper reels and just replace them more often as they break or diminish.

Price usually increases as manufacturers add features and components. 

Generally speaking, an 11-bearing reel will be more expensive than a 5-bearing reel. But it will also generally be a lot smoother and quieter. A reel that has functionality built into the spool, the gears, the drag, the oscillation systems, and more technologies will obvious increase the price of a reel. And the materials can increase the price as well. A reel frame made out of magnesium will be stronger and lighter but also much more expensive than a composite frame. 

So this best spinning reels buyers’ guide should not only keep you up to date on good reels as we will add more to it as we go, but it will also help you make your own sound decisions on good equipment in the future. Let us know your favorite brands on our social pages.

SPINNING REEL COMPARISON CHART

 

Model

Price

Bearings

Gear Ratio

Specifications

Shimano Stella FK 2500HG

$749

13

5.8:1

7.4 ounces; 10/120 mono

Shimano Exsence 4000MXG

$549

12

6.2:1

8.6 ounces; 10/195 braid

Shimano Vanford 4000XG

$249

8

6.2:1

7.6 ounces; 10/200

Shimano Miravel 3000HG

$129

6

6.2:1

7.2 ounces; 10/200 braid

Shimano NASCI 2500HG

$99

6

6.2:1

8.5 ounces; 8/140 mono

Shimano Sahara FJ C3000HG

$85

5

6.2:1

8.5 ounces; 10/140 mono

Shimano Nexave C3000HG

$49

4

6.2:1

9 ounces; 10/140 mono

Daiwa Ballistic MQ LT2500D-XH

$229

9

6.2:1

6.9 ounces; 10/250 braid

Daiwa Procyon AL 2500D-XH

$189

7

6.2:1

8.3 ounces; 10/210 braid

Abu Garcia Zenon SP30

$549

11

6.2:1

5.4 ounces; 10/140 mono

Abu Garcia Rocket

$199

10

7.6:1

7.6 ounces; 10/140 mono

Abu Garcia Revo SX30

$169

9

6.2:1

7.8 ounces; 10/140 mono

Abu Garcia Revo X20

$119

7

6.2:1

7.5 ounces; 8/120 mono

Abu Garcia Revo Winch 30

$169

9

4.8:1

7.9 ounces; 10/140 mono

PENN Authority 2500

$499

13

5.7:1

11.9 ounces; 15/220 braid

PENN Clash II 2500

$219

9

6.2:1

8.8 ounces; 8 /175 braid

Pflueger Patriarch 35X

$219

11

5.2:1

7.3 ounces 10/150 braid

Lew’s Custom Lite CL200

$159

11

6.2:1

6.6 ounces; 8/160 braid

13 Fishing Aerois 2.0

$135

10

6.2:1

8.5 ounces; 10/155 braid

Piscifun Viper X 2000

$39

11

6.2:1

8.5 ounces; 15/150 braid

Favorite Phantom 2000

$99

9

5.2:1

10 ounces; 10/175 braid