The 7 Best Ultralight Reels of 2021

Use these top picks on your next fishing adventure

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TRIPSAVVY-best-ultralight-reels

Chloe Jeong / TripSavvy

The Rundown

Best Overall: Shimano Sedona 1000 Spinning Reel at Walmart

"Boasts excellent reviews, an affordable price-tag, and unbeatable quality."

Best Under $100: Okuma Ceymar C-10 Spinning Reel at Amazon

"Shares some of its features with the more expensive options."

Best Style: Pflueger President Pressp30x Spinning Reel at Walmart

"Its beautiful blue graphite body looks as good as it feels."

Best Under $150: Okuma Helios HSX-30 Spinning Reel at Amazon

"An investment that should stand the test of time."

Best Under $50: KastKing Summer 2000 Spinning Reels at Amazon

"Perfect for all skill levels and doesn't sacrifice on features."

Best for Fresh Water: Daiwa Tatula CT Type-R Baitcast Reel at capitolfishing.com

"A UTD Drag has low inertia which provides solid stopping power for fish up to 13.2 pounds."

Best for Saltwater: KastKing Kodiak Saltwater Spinning Reel at shopkastking.com

"The waterproof housing sits on an aluminum spool that also blocks out sand and other debris."

When it comes to assembling the best fishing kit, weight matters. A lightweight reel allows greater agility and reduces arm fatigue without sacrificing the key performance you need. From ultralight spinner casts suitable for fly- or fresh-water fishing to burlier baitcasting reels that still manage to shave the ounces considerably, this article covers the gamut, including lower-cost options that still deliver as well as saltwater reels capable of wrangling a 35-pound fish.

Taking into consideration the bearings, cost, and what fish you can catch with them, here are the best ultralight fishing reels.

Best Overall: Shimano Sedona 1000 Spinning Reel

Shimano Sedona FI , Spinning Fishing Rreel, Hagane Gear, Model 2017
Courtesy of Amazon
What We Like
  • Affordable

  • Durable

  • Smooth line retrieval

What We Don't Like
  • No anti-reverse

The Shimano Sedona 1000 Spinning Reel earns high marks 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 ultralight spinning reel also features 3 + 1 ball bearings for smooth line retrieval.

The 1000 model is well-suited for 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 a two-pound test line, or 140 yards of a four-pound test line.

Maximum Drag: 7-24 lbs. depending on pole | Line Retrieve: 26 inches per crank | Ball Bearings: 3 + 1 | Weight: 8.6 oz.

Best Under $100: Okuma Ceymar C-10 Spinning Reel

What We Like
  • Affordable

  • Precise

  • Long cast

What We Don't Like
  • Mild resistance in retrieve

Those looking for a quality, budget-friendly ultralight reel should consider the Okuma Ceymar 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 ultralight spinning reel's 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.

Maximum Drag: 5-22 lbs. | Line Retrieve: 21-36 in. | Ball Bearings: 6 + 1 | Weight: 6 - 20 oz.

Best Style: Pflueger President Pressp30x Spinning Reel

Pflueger President Spinning Fishing Reel

Courtesy of Walmart 

What We Like
  • Anti-reverse

  • Durable

  • Rigid

What We Don't Like
  • Retrieve could be smoother

If aesthetics are a priority when selecting your ultralight fishing gear, you’ll love the Pflueger President Pressp30x 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.

Maximum Drag: 6 lbs. | Line Retrieve: 20.7 in. | Ball Bearings: 10 | Weight: 6.2 oz.

Best Under $150: Okuma Helios HSX-30 Spinning Reel

What We Like
  • Comfortable to use

  • Accurate casting

  • Corrosion resistant

What We Don't Like
  • Expensive

The Okuma Helios HSX-30 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-inch 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 aluminum handle features lightweight EVA knobs for added comfort.

Maximum Drag: 6.5 lbs. | Line Retrieve: 24 in. | Ball Bearings: 8 + 1| Weight: 6.3 oz.

Best Under $50: KastKing Summer 2000 Spinning Reels

What We Like
  • Affordable

  • Good looking

  • Smooth cast

What We Don't Like
  • Occasional rust

  • Not good for saltwater fishing

For an even greater value, look no further than KastKing's Summer 2000 Spinning Reel. Perfect for all skill levels, the reel doesn't sacrifice on features — it offers 9 + 1 ball bearings for smooth casting, two-color anodized aluminum spool with a power launch lip, and its Superior Drag System, which features a maximum drag of up to 17.5 pounds. Plus, KastKing claims that the reel holds more line than most competitors that retail for much more. It also doesn't hurt that this ultralight spinning reel looks good, with its narrow, graphite frame and brilliant finish.

Maximum Drag: 17.5 lbs. | Ball Bearings: 9 + 1

Best for Fresh Water: Daiwa Tatula CT Type-R Baitcast Reel

 Daiwa Tatula CT Type-R Baitcast Reel

Courtesy of Bass Pro Shops

What We Like
  • Accurate

  • Long cast

  • Lightweight

What We Don't Like
  • Expensive

Precision-balanced to deliver smooth casting and power, the Daiwa Tatula Type-R leverages the brand’s T-Wing System, which uses a T-shaped line guide that’s larger, wider, and less restrictive than other models. This allows the line to exist freely from the spool with nominal friction to amplify accuracy, even on long casts. Line noise and backlash are also significantly reduced, while a UTD Drag has low inertia which provides solid stopping power for fish up to 13.2 pounds. An aircraft aluminum spool keeps things light, as does the compact aluminum frame, with an overall weight of just 7.21 ounces. The reel sits on an eight-bearing system, with two of them ready to combat corrosion, while the patented Magforce Z magnetic casting and braking system on the exterior makes it easy to adjust on the fly to handle variable wind conditions or different baits.

Maximum Drag: 13.2 lbs. | Ball Bearings: 7 + 1 | Weight: 7.21 oz.

Best for Saltwater: KastKing Kodiak Saltwater Spinning Reel

KastKing Kodiak Saltwater Spinning Reel

Courtesy of Amazon

What We Like
  • Impressive drag power

  • Waterproof housing

  • Corrosion-resistant

The aptly-named Kodiak Saltwater Spinning Wheel from KastKing is a bear of a reel, with more than 35 pounds of drag power thanks to a carbon fiber drag system that provides strength without packing on the ounces. The waterproof housing sits on an aluminum spool that also blocks out sand and other debris, with a direct-drive CNC aluminum handle and an EVA knob for smooth reel-ins when fighting even the most disagreeable game fish. Stainless steel in the main shaft means that the Kodiak will last for several seasons, and a corrosion-resistant 10-plus-1 network of shielded ball bearings allows the line to move seamlessly and smoothly. If the 35-plus-pound drag power found in the Kodiak 5000 model feels a touch unnecessary, you can shift down to the Kodiac 200, which drops down to a 32-pound weight limit and shaves off 2.27 ounces.

Maximum Drag: 35 lbs. | Ball Bearings: 10 + 1 | Weight: 10-12.38 oz.

Final Verdict

Built to last for years thanks to a cold-forged Hagane drive, the Shimano Sedona 1000 Spinning Reel (view at Walmart) is difficult to beat in both price and quality. But if you want to add a head-turning aesthetic to your fishing kit, consider the Pflueger President Pressp30x Spinning Reel (view at Walmart), which boasts a blue graphite body and a gold finish on the spool. With a max drag limit of 6 pounds and a smooth feel thanks to seven corrosion-resistant ball bearings, it also performs as well as it looks.

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.

FAQs

What's the difference between a spinning and baitcasting reel?

Of the two options, a spinning reel is the do-it-all option. They’re easy to use, making them ideal for novice anglers, and (in general) are less expensive. But they’re also better with lightweight lures and lines. In contrast, baitcasting reels sit on the top of the rod, rather than the side, and can be used with all types of lines, including braided and fluorocarbon. They have stronger drag, work heavier lures, and can handle heavier fish. But it takes skill—and practice—to master baitcasting. Either way, be sure you match your rod to the reel type; baitcasting reels should not be used with spin rods.

How can you prevent your reel from getting rusted?

If you’re fishing in salt water, be sure to rinse off any moisture after fishing—the salt can corrode and seriously damage the reel’s components. It’s also a good idea to do the same when fishing in fresh water to remove potential contaminants. Then dry everything—the reel itself, as well as a length of line before spooling it into the reel. The industry also has a handful of rod and reel cleaners in easy-to-use spray bottles to help fend off rust.

Why Trust TripSavvy

In selecting these products, the writers engaged in extensive research into the wide and varied landscape of lightweight fishing reels, taking all factors—weight, cost, performance, ease-of-use, and special applications into account. They also conferred with both pro anglers and scoured the reviews of verified reel owners to narrow the field to the ones in this list.

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