Best Value for Money Ultra Light Spinning Reel
Sub $50 price budget
Quality is very mixed in the under $50 price bracket, and thanks to inflation $50 does not go as far as it once did. Believe it or not, just a few years back some of these reels could have been gotten for under $30.
With that said, there are still some honest quality spinning reels available for less than the cost of a tank of gas.
For under $50, the three reels that I rate most highly are the Okuma Ceymar, the Shimano FX, and the Penn Pursuit.
Out of these three, my personal pick is the Okuma Ceymar. (review). The Ceymar offers a lot of features and quality for the money but what sets it apart from the competition is its weight. The C-10 size weighs just 6oz.
The Shimano Sienna or even the Daiwa Crossfire offers better durability but weigh considerably more. They are still worth considering if you need to balance out a longer or heavier rod. In most trout fishing situations, a lighter reel makes for a more balanced and nicer performing combo. (I have compared the Crossfire and Sienna head-to-head here)
To round out the sub $50 price bracket I have included the Penn Pursuit III. The Penn Pursuit is one of the cheapest reels that comes equipped with a sealed drag carbon fiber drag. The downside is that the Pursuit III is a fairly large and heavy reel. Out of all these budget reels, the Penn Pursuit is best suited for occasional saltwater use. I personally use mine when trolling in estuaries where the weight is negligible.
Sub $100 price bracket
There is a noticeable step up in quality from the cheaper reels. Although, the Okuma Ceymar still competes somewhat in this category. The sub $100 range in my opinion offers the best bang for your buck.
Two ultralight reels really stand out from the crowd. The perennial favorite is the Pflueger President (review) and the just as capable Daiwa Regal LT (Review). Deciding between these two is tough, they both represent excellent value.
If fishing braid, I will go for the Daiwa due to its better line management. But when fishing monofilament, it is difficult not to love the featherlight weight of the President which weighs in at an impressively light 6.2oz.
In 2022 Shimano released the new and improved Shimano Sahara FJ (Review). The Shara FJ is an excellent reel which is now the best trout reel for under $100. It is a touch heavier than the Daiwa or the Pfleuger but it is a much more durable reel with higher-quality gearing. It is also quite a bit more expensive.
Finally, the Penn Battle III (review) deserves a mention. Although, due to inflation it is now above budget. The battle III offers full metal construction and a sealed body. It is heavy (The 1000 size weighs 7.6oz), but no other reel, in this category, features an aluminum body and a sealed carbon drag. (Update: I really should recommend the Penn Fierce III instead, it shares most of the same parts but is significantly cheaper)
The Penn Battle III is also rated for saltwater use making it a good option for targeting trout living in brackish rivers. The extra weight does help to balance out longer rods typically used for catching sea run trout such as Steelhead. The Daiwa BG is a very similar reel, but I have heard many are struggling with damaged anti-reverse bearings in the smaller sizes. Check my head to head comparison here.
Premium Trout Reels
Two brands really dominate the market for more premium reels. These are Shimano and Daiwa. While Abu Garcia, Pflueger, and even Penn have offerings in this price range they simply lack the precise machining to compete. When buying a premium ultralight spinning reel I only consider Shimano or Daiwa.
The best premium trout reel, taking budget into consideration is the Shimano Stradic FL (Jump to review). The Stradic is simply an excellent reel with a full metal body quite impressive considering the 1000 size only weighs 6.5oz. I still fish with a Stradic that I brought in January 2007. It still feels smooth, despite years of abuse. They might cost over $200 but Stradics offers performance and features rivaling the flagship Stella and Exist.
If you prefer a carbon body reel, then look no further than the Shimano Vanford F. It is even lighter than the Stradic. On the hand, it is a seriously smooth and nice operating reel. Check for my review comparing the Stradic with the Vanford.
The Daiwa Luvias LT is an excellent alternative but quite a step up in price over the Vanford.
Finally, I will discuss the flagship offering.
The Stella and Exist are exceptional reels, and they both represent the absolute pinnacle of spin fishing technology but they are overkill when it comes to trout fishing. Neither offer better durability or fish catching ability than the Stradic which only costs a third of the price. The price is really hard to justify.