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Ultralight fishermen use lighter rods, reels and tackle than would normally be used for the same fishing situations. There are several reasons to do so, including reducing fatigue, keeping gear to a minimum for long-distance expeditions, increasing the thrill of fishing for smaller species and adding to the challenge of catching larger fish. Below, we have defined ultralight reels as those weighing 10 ounces or less. Other things to look out for include fast gear ratios and super-smooth drag systems that help to protect lighter lines from breaking.
Our Top Picks
Best Overall: Shimano Sedona FI 1000 Spinning Reel
The Shimano Sedona FI 1000 Spinning Reel takes the top spot on this list for its excellent reviews, its affordable price-tag and unbeatable quality. Like all Shimano Sedona FI reels, the 1000 model boasts a cold-forged Hagane drive gear designed to withstand years of extensive use. Its G Free Body shifts the reel’s center of gravity closer to the rod for improved comfort; while the angled spool lip reduces line friction for longer, more accurate casting. The reel also features 3 + 1 ball bearings for smooth line retrieval.
The 1000 model is well-suited to ultralight fishing, weighing just 8.6 ounces. It has a high gear ratio of 6.2:1, which makes for a fast line retrieval rate of 26 inches per crank. With a maximum drag force of 7 pounds, the reel includes an anti-reverse bearing that helps to eliminate back play and reduce the likelihood of lost catches. The reel’s generous line capacity comes in handy when targeting larger fish. It can hold 270 yards of two-pound test line; or 140 yards of four-pound test line.
Best Under $150: Okuma Helios HSX-20 Lightweight Spinning Reel
The Okuma Helios HSX-20 Lightweight Spinning Reel is praised as a worthy wallet-friendly alternative to more expensive options. Its C-40 X carbon frame and side plates allow for an overall weight of 6.3 ounces, while also increasing the reel’s strength and corrosion resistance. Torsion Armor Control technology reduces twisting and keeps the reel’s internal parts in perfect alignment - making this an investment that should stand the test of time.
With 8 + 1 stainless steel bearings, you can expect flawlessly smooth line retrieval, complemented by an anti-reverse roller bearing that guarantees solid hook-ups. Okuma’s Precision Elliptical Gearing System increases your casting distance and accuracy while allowing for smoother drag pressure. Other highlights include the 24-inche per crank line retrieval facilitated by the 5.0:1 gear ratio; and a maximum drag force of 3 kg (approximately 6.5 pounds). The anodized aluminium handle features lightweight EVA knobs for added comfort.
Best Under $100: Okuma Ceymar Lightweight C-10 Spinning Reel
Those looking for a quality ultralight reel at the budget end of the spectrum should consider the Okuma Ceymar Lightweight C-10 Spinning Reel. It shares some of its features with the more expensive options, including a Precision Elliptical Gearing System and a Cyclonic Flow rotor design that minimizes water intrusion to prevent corrosion. Other Okuma reel technologies help to eliminate spool wobble and reduce line twists.
The reel’s lightweight graphite body weighs just 6 ounces. It has a multi-disc oiled felt drag system, a quick-set anti-reverse function and 6 + 1 ball bearings for ultimate smoothness. With a gear ratio of 5.0:1 and a generous line capacity (260 meters of line with a 0.10 mm diameter), it can be used to target a broad range of different species. The forged zinc handle comes with lightweight EVA knobs.
Best for Bigger Fish: Abu Garcia Orra SX 10 Spinning Reel
The Abu Garcia Orra SX 10 Spinning Reel features an IM-C6 carbon body that keeps its internal parts in perfect alignment while also reducing weight. At 8.1 ounces, it’s at the heavier end of the ultralight spectrum and is an excellent option for targeting larger trout or bass. It has a maximum drag of 10 pounds and a smooth Carbon Matrix drag system that requires minimal start-up pressure (essential for protecting lighter lines).
If you’re using four-pound test line, you have a maximum line capacity of 140 yards - enough to allow larger fish the space to run and tire themselves out. The aluminium spool is braid-ready, and uses Abu Garcia’s Rocket Line Management System to lay line evenly and avoid knots. The reel has a gear ratio of 5.8:1 and 8 + 1 corrosion-resistant bearings.
Best Style: Pflueger President PRESSP20X Spinning Reel
If aesthetics are a priority when selecting your ultralight fishing gear, you’ll love the Pflueger President PRESSP20X Spinning Reel. Its beautiful blue graphite body looks as good as it feels, while the gold finish on the spool provides the perfect contrast. The graphite construction also has a practical function, keeping the reel’s overall weight to just 6.2 ounces.
The handle is made from aircraft-grade aluminum, while slow oscillation gearing allows the line to lay evenly on the braid-ready spool. The sealed drag system has a maximum drag limit of 6 pounds and a smooth feel made possible by seven corrosion-resistant ball bearings. Other highlights include an instant anti-reverse system and a 5.2:1 gear ratio that enables you to retrieve 20.7 inches of line with every crank.
Best Lightweight: Daiwa D-Spin 500 Ultralight Spinning Fishing Reel
One of the lightest options on the market, the Daiwa D-Spin 500 is specially designed with ultralight fishermen in mind and tips the scales at just 5.9 ounces. With lightness as a priority, this is a basic reel intended for small species only. It has a maximum drag of just 4.4 pounds and a limited line capacity of 190 yards for a two-pound line, or 100 yards for a four-pound line. The gear ratio is 4.9:1 - relatively slow for an ultralight reel but perfect for high resistance lures. The reel boasts Daiwa’s Digigear Digital Gear Design for a combination of speed, power and durability, while a single stainless steel ball bearing keeps your line retrieval smooth.
Best Splurge: Shimano Stradic CI4+ 1000 & 1000HG Spinning Reels
The Shimano Stradic CI4 1000 and 1000HG models are the ultralight reels of choice for those with cash to spare. The former has a more powerful gear ratio of 5.0:1; while the latter prioritizes a speedy retrieval with a ratio of 6.0:1. Both have the same set of high-end features, including a body and rotor made from CI4+ carbon, which allows them to weigh just 5.6 ounces each. With 6 + 1 ball bearings, both reels boast incredibly smooth line retrieval to prevent line breakages when using light tackle.
The ball bearings are corrosion-resistant, while CoreProtect technology prevents water from entering the reel body - making these models suitable for fresh and saltwater. Both reels offer a maximum line capacity of 270 yards for two-pound test line and 140 yards for four-pound test line. Other Shimano trademarks include a comfortable G Free Body; a cold-forged Hagane gear drive and an angled Arc Spool for the best possible casting performance.
What to Look for in an Ultralight Reel
Bearings Generally speaking, the greater the number of bearings on a real, the smoother the line should be for retrieval. Some pools reel in fine with three, but some top-of-the-line ones have eight bearings. Keep an eye out for corrosion-resistant ones for greater longevity—after all, you want to be able to keep this reel around a while.
Cost The amount you’re likely to spend on a reel should be correlated with how much time you spend using it. You can find budget-friendly options for around $20, but you can also pay several hundreds of dollars. Spending a little more should result in a reel that’s more durable and offers more in terms of features.
Fish Some reels are built for general catches, others for lighter fish, and still others for big trout or bass, which can weigh up to 10 pounds. Figure out what type of fish you're after before you select your reel. For heavier fish, you'll need a heavy-duty reel, which usually increases the weight of the reel itself. However, there are still lightweight options out there.