6 Best Surf Fishing Reels and Why

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best reels for surf fishing

Choosing the best surf fishing reel can be a challenge, and with all the options out there, it’s good to know a few things and ask around. You’ll want to match your reel to the class of fish you’re up against as well as the line you’ll be using. As if it weren’t obvious enough, you’ll also want to pair your reel with the best surf fishing rod for it. Below is the breakdown of the best surf fishing reels, but let’s touch on two crucial “need to knows” before we dive in.

Appendix of Best Surf Fishing Reels

  1. Shimano Vanford
  2. Penn Spinfisher VI
  3. Penn Slammer
  4. Penn Battle II or III
  5. Daiwa BG
  6. Penn Fierce III

What Size Reel for Surf Fishing?

For a surf fishing reel, you could use as small as a size 2500 and as large as well… that depends what you’re fishing for. When I target corbina, croaker, and surfperch (1 to 5 pound fish), I use a 4000 series reel with 15-pound test mono, but many anglers will use as small as a 2500 reel with 8-pound mono. When I target halibut and white seabass (3 to 20 pound fish), I use a 4500 series reel with 30-pound braid. And when I target sharks and rays (20 to 80 pound fish), I use an 8000 series reel with 50-pound mono. It all depends on the strength and tendencies of your target species and the terrain you’re fishing.

What Do the Specs and Numbers on a Fishing Reel Mean?

Some characteristics to look for include number of bearings it has, the gear ratio, and the max drag capacity. The more serious an angler you are, the more you’ll know and care about these characteristics.

Bearings: Usually, the more bearings a reel has, the higher quality it is.

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Gear Ratio: This is a ratio between number of spool rotations and the number of times you turn the handle. For example, if a gear ratio is 6.2:1, that means for every 1 full turn of the handle, the spool (more accurately, the bail) will rotate 6.1 times. The higher that first number is, usually the higher the quality of the reel is.

Max Drag Capacity: This refers to the maximum amount of pressure (in pounds) that the reel’s drag system can effectively restrict line from being pulled out when your drag is set to the max tightness. This becomes more important in shark fishing. I wrote an in-depth article on what all these mean and how to chose a fishing reel so check it out if you’re interested.

Best Surf Fishing Reels

1.) Shimano Vanford

This saltwater surf fishing reel is one that won’t ever fail you and it’s considered one of the best surf fishing reels by anglers around the world. It’s built to withstand some pretty harsh abuse and it’ll remain smooth and reliable throughout its lifetime.


  • Has a sealed body (though not completely water proof) and handles splashes well.
  • Very smooth drag and retrieve.
  • Spool is designed to optimize casting distance as line flies off with ease.

Cons: More complex to dissemble.

2.) Penn Spinfisher VI

The Spinfisher is my favorite surf fishing reel. It’s right in that sweet spot of not too expensive but high enough in Penn’s line-up that it’s built to last and it’s ultra high quality. I like that they kept the option for a paddle handle on this one which is actually the only reason I rank it above the Slammer… along with the price.

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Look no further than the Penn Spinfisher VI. This saltwater surf fishing reel is one of the best in its class. Coming fully sealed, expect nothing but the best when you purchase this guy.


  • Sealed body to protect against salt water.
  • Not as heavy as one might assume.
  • Well balanced weight distribution.
  • Smooth drag and retrieve.
  • Extremely durable and strong

Cons: Complex disassembly with sealed body, but given its extreme high quality, you shouldn’t need to.

3.) Penn Slammer

For the angler looking to up his game from traditional “high performance saltwater reels”. The Slammer is a dream come true and as smooth as they come with drag capacity to fend off a beast. My buddy Gary uses this reel and absolutely loves it. My one complaint is that it doesn’t come with an option for a paddle handle, but rather a “ball” handle. None the less, certainly one of the best surf fishing reels.


  • Smooth retrieval and casting.
  • Good retrieval rate.
  • Braid-ready strips built in to spool.
  • Durable and strong.
  • Well balanced reel.

Cons: Complex Disassembly

4.) Penn Battle II or III

The Battle is the reel I believe every angler should try out. It’s a durable, reliable and smooth reel. Classified in the “middle-of-the-road” category, this is what I’ve used for a long time now and I can’t complain. If you don’t plan on dropping your reel in the sand or water, this saltwater surf fishing reel is one of the best out there for the price.


  • Equipped with HT-100 Carbon Fiber Drag System.
  • Ball Bearings are sealed off.
  • Smooth drag and retrieve.
  • Braid-ready strips built in to spool.
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Cons: Some say this reel is a little on the heavy side, but nothing too noticeable.

5.) Daiwa BG

The Daiwa BG is very comparable to the Penn Battle. It’s going top feel just as smooth but have a different style in appearance. This comes down to which brand appeals to you more. For me, Penn has won me over.


  • Built in braid-ready strip.
  • Holds an abundance of line.
  • Smooth retrieve and casting.
  • Epitome of a shark reel: It’s on the bigger side for reels and it’s very durable with loads of power packed in.

Cons: A little on the heavy side

6.) Penn Fierce III

The Fierce is a step down from the Battle. Bottom line here, it’s not going to stay as smooth as the Battle for as long. It’s still a high quality saltwater reel for surf fishing, and if it’s at your budget, it’s a good option.


  • Smooth retrieval and casting.
  • Good retrieval rate.
  • Braid-ready strips built in to spool.
  • Durable and strong.
  • Well balanced reel.

Cons: This reel is also said to be a little on the heavier side with its full metal body. Additionally, if drag is set too tight, the Fierce has an infrequent tendency to lock up.

Thanks for reading! If you have any questions don’t hesitate to reach out and be sure to subscribe to my fishing reports at the bottom of the screen.

Best Rods for Surf Fishing

Now that you’ve got the best reel for surf fishing, you’ll want to pair that with the best rod for surf fishing. If you enjoyed this guide, be sure to take a look at my guide on the best surf fishing rods here.