1. PENN
Pursuit III

OUR TOP PICK

Penn Pursuit III 4000C Spinning Fishing Reel, Black/Silver, 4000

Overall Rating

4.9 /5

Construction Quality

4.9

Braking System

4.9

Casting Experience

5.0

Durability

4.9

PRICE ON AMAZON

General Impression

Penn is known for supplying some of the finest rods and reels available. While many of their products are considered high-end, they do offer a few items for the entry-level angler. These entry-level products are the same high quality with a few fewer features and less expensive components. The Pursuit series of reels is a perfect example. The body is constructed from lightweight graphite and accompanied by an anodized aluminum spool and side plate. The drag system consists of oiled felt washers and 4 stainless steel bearing, with a fifth anti-reverse bearing as well. Everything is topped off with a large ergonomically designed handle. What you get is a reel that performs far above its price. The graphite and aluminum components are both lightweight and corrosion-resistant. This allows for use in both fresh and saltwater. The 4+1 bearing offers farther casting and smooth retrieval. Plus, it offers an automatic anti-reverse feature. The oversized handle is comfortable to grip and allows for better leverage when battling fish.

Specifications

BRAND: PENN
PRIMARY MATERIAL: Graphite, Aluminum
REEL SIZE: 2500 , 3000
WEIGHT: 9-8, 11.8 ounces
BEARING COUNT: 4+1
MAX DRAG: 10, 12 lbs.
GEAR RATIO: 6.2:1

PROS

  • Automatic anti-reverse feature to prevent backlash
  • Suitable for both fresh and saltwater use
  • Superline spool is suitable for monofilament or braided line and marked for 1/3, 2/3 and full capacity
  • HT-100 drag system is one of the most reliable available in this price range

CONS

  • Only available in 2500 or 3000 sizes for under $50
  • A little bit bulkier than expected
  • These reels are not sealed against water entering the housing

2. PISCIFUN
Flame

BEST VALUE

Piscifun Flame Spinning Reels Light Weight Ultra Smooth Powerful Spinning Fishing Reels (2000 Series)

Overall Rating

4.8 /5

Construction Quality

4.6

Braking System

4.9

Casting Experience

5.0

Durability

4.6

PRICE ON AMAZON

General Impression

It is hard to believe this reel can be had for less than $30. From the moment you open the package and see the striking red and black design you will be in awe. Of course, looks are not everything. This reel has the features you need to back up those you see. With an astounding 10 bearing (9 standard plus one rolling) it is without a doubt one of the smoothest operating reels available regardless of the price tag. The brass pinion gear and triple washers provide a maximum drag just shy of 20 pounds and extreme durability. Thanks to the hollow design graphite body and aluminum spool it still weighs in at less than 10 ounces. This combination of features means you will be getting one of the sharpest looking, smoothest operating reels available. It also means you will be paying a fraction of what competitors charge.

Specifications

BRAND: PISCIFUN
PRIMARY MATERIAL: Graphite, Aluminum
REEL SIZE: 2000, 3000, 4000, 5000
WEIGHT: 8.5 ounces
BEARING COUNT: 9+1
MAX DRAG: 19.8 lbs
GEAR RATIO: 0.00349652777777778

PROS

  • Lightweight design results in less fatigue when used
  • Despite weighing in at less than 10 ounces the maximum drag is very impressive
  • It is available in 4 different sizes for pursuing a variety of species
  • With 10 bearings this is one of the smoothest casting reels in any price range
  • The unique design is as eye-catching as it is functional
  • Comes ready for use with braided line

CONS

  • Is not the best choice for saltwater
  • There are no line capacity markers on the spool
  • Gear ratio is lighter than other reels in the same class

3. PFLUEGER
Trion

PFLUEGER TrionPflueger Trion Spinning Fishing Reel

Overall Rating

4.8 /5

Construction Quality

4.6

Braking System

5.0

Casting Experience

4.9

Durability

4.6

PRICE ON AMAZON

General Impression

Sometimes tested favorites are the way to go and Pflueger’s Trion is just that. Over the years it has built a loyal following thanks to dependability, smooth action, and a reasonable price tag. By taking a design that has been tested streamside and updating with modern materials you get a top-quality reel with a bottom basement price tag. With 7 bearings, an anti-reverse bearing (operated by a flip switch) and multi-disc stainless steel & oiled felt drag system you get a reel capable of landing big fish with ease. The double anodized aluminum spool, graphite body, anti-twist titanium line roller and aluminum handle translate into a lightweight rod that performs under heavy pressure.

Specifications

BRAND: PFLUEGER
PRIMARY MATERIAL: Graphite, Aluminum
REEL SIZE: 20, 30, 35, 40
WEIGHT: 7.5 to 11.3 ounces
BEARING COUNT: 7
MAX DRAG: 10, 12 & 14 lbs.
GEAR RATIO: 5.2:1, 5.2:2 & 5:2.4

PROS

  • Lightweight components without sacrificing durability
  • Stainless steel bearings offer superior smoothness and casting distance
  • Backed by year of experience in building some of the finest freshwater reel available
  • Multiple sizes available allowing you to use same set up for a variety of species

CONS

  • The handle can be difficult to remove and reassemble for storage & use
  • Although corrosion resistant it is not sealed making it a less than perfect choice for saltwater
  • The plastic handle is not as nice as rosewood material used on previous models

4. OKUMA
Ceymar

Okuma Ceymar Lightweight Spinning Reel- C-30

Overall Rating

4.6 /5

Construction Quality

4.5

Braking System

4.6

Casting Experience

4.8

Durability

4.5

PRICE ON AMAZON

General Impression

This lightweight spinning reel offers a sleek, narrow blade graphite body that provides the perfect foundation. Add a machined aluminum 2-tone anodized spool, aluminum bail, and forged aluminum handle and you have a real workhorse ready for the toughest day on the water. The multi-disc oil felt drag system and elliptical gear system with 8 stainless steel bearings can take the fight to the biggest fish out there. A computer balanced rotor equalizing system eliminates spool wobble which in turn reduces fatigue while lengthening reel life.

Specifications

BRAND: OKUMA
PRIMARY MATERIAL: Graphite, Aluminum
REEL SIZE: 10,20,30, 40
WEIGHT: 6.0, 6.8, 8.2, 10 ounces
BEARING COUNT: 7BB + 1 RB
MAX DRAG: UNLISTED
GEAR RATIO: 5.0:1

PROS

  • Lightweight, narrow-body design for less fatigue
  • A total of 8 stainless steel ball bearings for exceptional performance
  • Rotor equalizing system eliminated spool wobble
  • Multi-disc drag system for ultimate control

CONS

  • Small size may not be a good fit for everyone
  • Some users have reported a problem with line catching on the spindle
  • Because the body and gears are not sealed it may not be the best choice for saltwater

5. SHIMANO
Sierra FE

Shimano Sienna 2500FE; Freshwater Spinning Fishing Reel

Overall Rating

4.6 /5

Construction Quality

4.6

Braking System

4.5

Casting Experience

4.6

Durability

4.6

PRICE ON AMAZON

General Impression

The Sierra FE is an updated model of Shimano’s Sierra line with modern composite construction. It is a general-purpose entry-level reel well-suited for chasing everything from trout to pike, perch & bass. Despite its value price, the Sierra FE offers some impressive features. The M-Compact body allows the oscillation gear to be mounted closer to the rod. This, in turn, increases balance and reduces fatigue. Balance is further increased thanks to the Dyna-balance system that reduces swaying during the retrieve. Speaking of improves performance wait until you try the Propulsion Line Management system. Thanks to this innovation you will enjoy longer, smoother casts without worrying about backlashes or wind knots. Finally, there is the Super Stopper II which includes an instant anti-reverse system.

Specifications

BRAND: SHIMANO
PRIMARY MATERIAL: XGT-1 composite, Aluminum
REEL SIZE: 1000, 2500, 4000
WEIGHT: 7.9, 9.5 & 12.5 ounces
BEARING COUNT: 3BB
MAX DRAG: 6.6, 8.8 & 18 lbs.
GEAR RATIO: 5.0:1, 5.2:1

PROS

  • Improved balance allows for better handling and less fatigue
  • Propulsion Line Management system increases casting distance and reduces backlash or wind knots
  • Lightweight composite and aluminum construction for durability without bulk
  • Available in multiple sizes from ultralight 1000 to medium 4000

CONS

  • A limited number of ball bearings means reels are prone to wear earlier than competitors
  • Not suited for larger fish
  • The short reel seat is prone to dislodging under stress

6. MITCHELL
300

Mitchell Fishing 300 - 180yd/12lbs Reel

Overall Rating

4.5 /5

Construction Quality

4.6

Braking System

4.4

Casting Experience

4.4

Durability

4.6

PRICE ON AMAZON

General Impression

Mitchell introduced the first modern spinning reel in 1948. For the last 70 years, they have produced innovative, quality reels at a reasonable price every angler can afford. The 300 has been designed using the latest in construction materials and systems that work together for peak performance. The body and rotor are constructed from the latest polymer while the spool and handle are machined aluminum. Eight ball bearings and a line management system allow for long casts and smooth operation. The anti-reverse system eliminates backlash and puts you in control of the fight. The innovative Halo Bail keeps the line from rubbing on the spool. The multi-disk drag system provides just the right amount of pressure where it is needed to land both light and heavy loads. Whether a beginner just getting started or a seasoned veteran the 300 deserves a place in your tackle box. As an added consideration, the 300 is very popular amongst drop shot fishermen. It will prove incredibly effective when paired with good technique and a quality drop shot fishing rod.

Specifications

BRAND: MITCHELL
PRIMARY MATERIAL: Polymer, Aluminum
REEL SIZE: 4000
WEIGHT: 9.9
BEARING COUNT: 8BB
MAX DRAG: 14 lbs.
GEAR RATIO: 5.1:1

PROS

  • Polymer body and aluminum spool reduces weight and fatigue
  • Innovative systems that work together for peak performance
  • Made by the first company to introduce the modern spinning reel
  • Carbon fiber drag for increased durability

CONS

  • Spool capacity is less than other models in the same category
  • Only available in small sizes, with largest being 4000
  • Spare parts are not readily available

7. OKUMA
Avenger ABF

Okuma Avenger ABF Graphite Bait Feeder Spinning Reel- ABF-500

Overall Rating

4.8 /5

Construction Quality

4.8

Braking System

4.7

Casting Experience

4.8

Durability

4.8

PRICE ON AMAZON

General Impression

This is a great rod for the price. Quality Japanese craftsmanship with many features not usually found in this price range. The graphite body and aluminum spool offer reduced weight even though it has a full-size traditional design. Multi-disk felt drag system with machined brass pinion gear for increased durability. Six stainless steel ball bearings and anti-reverse setting for smooth casting and rock-solid hook sets. Even flow roller system to reduce line twist. Corrosion-resistant frame, side plate, and rotor allows for use in both fresh and saltwater. As if this is not enough you also get the automatic bait feeding system. This allows the fish to take the bait without feeling tension from the line and permits a better hook set on the fish has committed. Not bad for under $50, plus it covered by a 1-year limited warranty.

Specifications

BRAND: OKUMA
PRIMARY MATERIAL: Graphite, Aluminum
REEL SIZE: 500, 1000, 4000, 6000, 8000
WEIGHT: 6.7 to 17.8 ounces
BEARING COUNT: 6HPB + 1 RB
MAX DRAG: 6 to 26 lbs.
GEAR RATIO: 5.0:1, 4.5:1

PROS

  • Plenty of features normally found only on much more expensive reels
  • The automatic bait feeding system is a big plus when fishing live bait
  • Available in 5 sizes from 500 to 8000
  • Backed by 1-year limited warranty
  • Suitable for fresh and saltwater

CONS

  • Although it is available in 6 sizes some of the more popular mid-range sizes are missing
  • The spool is not braid ready, surprising for a reel intended for saltwater
  • Some users have complained the line does not always lay evenly on the spool

8. KASTKING
Mela II

KastKing Mela II Spinning Reel, Light, Smooth Fishing Reel, Free Spare Graphite Spool, 10 + 1 BB, 5.2:1 Gear Ratio, Powerful Carbon Fiber Drag System.

Overall Rating

4.6 /5

Construction Quality

4.4

Braking System

4.6

Casting Experience

4.7

Durability

4.4

PRICE ON AMAZON

General Impression

KastKing has made quite the name for themselves producing low cost, high-quality reels and the Mela II is just one of many they offer. The graphite, aluminum, and carbon fiber construction greatly reduce weight. Even the larger 4000 model is less than 9 ounces. With a total of 11 stainless steel ball bearings, an amazing number for this price, it is ultra-smooth. The Stainless-steel shaft and mesh brass gears will withstand heavy fish and foul weather without blinking. Triple carbon disk drag system and corrosion-resistant components make it ideal for saltwater use. Thanks to some impressive drag limits, between 18 and 27 lbs. depending on size, you can tackle most small to medium sizes species. Plus, it comes with two spools. A standard aluminum spool is pre-mounted, and a spare graphite spool is included as well. The spare spool alone makes this a great deal.

Specifications

BRAND: KASTKING
PRIMARY MATERIAL: Graphite, Aluminum
REEL SIZE: 1000, 2000, 3000, 4000
WEIGHT: 6.95 to 8.68 ounces
BEARING COUNT: 10+1BB
MAX DRAG: 18 to 27 lbs.
GEAR RATIO: 5.2:1

PROS

  • Graphite, aluminum and carbon fiber construction reduces weight for less fatigue even after a long day of fishing
  • An impressive 11 ball bearing and graphite drag washers are smoother and more dependable than competitors’ comparable models.
  • Corrosion-resistant design is well suited for saltwater
  • KastKing is an award-winning company with an excellent reputation

CONS

  • After casting the bail sometimes sticks in the open position
  • Some users report difficult when using a braided line on carbon spool

9. CADENCE FISHING
CS4

CS4 Spinning Reel,Cadence Ultralight & Fast Speed Carbon Frame Fishing Reel with 8 Low Torque Bearings Super Smooth Powerful Fishing Reel Spinning with 16 Lb Carbon Fiber Drag & 6.2:1 Gear Ratio Reel

Overall Rating

4.9 /5

Construction Quality

4.8

Braking System

4.9

Casting Experience

5.0

Durability

4.8

PRICE ON AMAZON

General Impression

Cadence Fishing is known for producing some of the finest fishing equipment available and the CS4 is no exception. Although in a bargain price range it is by no means any less of a reel. The combination of specs and features makes it an ideal choice for any angler beginner to the experienced pro. A carbon fiber frame, CNC machine aluminum spool, and EVA handle provide a durable platform for a reel that will last a lifetime. Thanks to the sleek narrow body you also get a very lightweight reel, with even the 4000-model weighing only 9.5 ounces. The 8-ball bearing provides a very smooth operation and instant anti-reverse system, a nice plus for the price. They have truly packed a lot into this little package.

Specifications

BRAND: CADENCE FISHING
PRIMARY MATERIAL: Carbon composite, Aluminum
REEL SIZE: 1000, 2000, 3000, 4000
WEIGHT: 6.7 to 9.5 ounces
BEARING COUNT: 8BB
MAX DRAG: 9 to 16 lbs.
GEAR RATIO: 5.2:1, 6.2:1

PROS

  • A bold look with a graphite body and machined aluminum spool
  • One of the most corrosion-resistant designs available in this price range
  • Well suited for anglers of all experience levels
  • Lightweight yet rigid so it can tackle fish outside its weight class
  • Backed by 100% No Hassle return policy

CONS

  • Large EVA handle is comfortable but sometimes a bit bigger than you want on a reel this size
  • Some users have reported the bail nut backing off during use
  • The line does not always lay evenly on the spool

10. KASTKING
Sharky III

KastKing Sharky III Spinning Fishing Reel,Size 2000

Overall Rating

4.8 /5

Construction Quality

4.9

Braking System

4.9

Casting Experience

4.9

Durability

4.9

PRICE ON AMAZON

General Impression

The Sharky III is a beast of a reel! Even the smallest 1500 model offers 11 pounds of drag. The 5000 delivers a whopping 28.5 pounds. More than enough for a wide range of both fresh and saltwater species. Plus, the new improved design offers plenty of bang for your buck. A total of 11 bearings, including anti-reverse. Precision mesh brass gears and stainless-steel shaft provide slick retrieval and heavy-duty fish fighting ability. The triple carbon fiber drag system delivers one of the heaviest maximum drags available. What to hit the saltwater? No problem. The water intrusion system includes a rubber 0-ring spool, shielded clutch, and lube retention grooves to keep water and debris out. Plus, it is backed by a 1-year warranty.

Specifications

BRAND: KASTKING
PRIMARY MATERIAL: Graphite, Aluminum, Carbon Fiber
REEL SIZE: 1500, 2000, 3000, 4000, 5000
WEIGHT: 7.05 to 11.64 ounces
BEARING COUNT: 10+1 DSBB
MAX DRAG: 11 to 28.5 lbs.
GEAR RATIO: 5.2:1

PROS

  • Water intrusion system makes this reel waterproof for up to 3 minutes when completely submerged
  • The new design is 10% lighter and 30% stronger than previous models
  • Power launch ramp for improved casting distance and accuracy
  • High drag limit is well suited for a variety of fishing techniques and offers superior hook set
  • Four different sizes ranging from 1000 to 4000 available for under $50

CONS

  • Lighter maximum line weight than expected
  • No free spooling model available for use with live bait
  • A bit heavier than other reels in this class

If you are searching for a new spinning reel be prepared for two things: sticker shock and confusion. There reels, like those on the list, that cost less than $50. There is also the other end of the spectrum where reels cost several hundred dollars or more. This can cause confusion and concern for the inexperienced shopper. Why the huge difference in price? Are $50 reels going to be good enough? How do I separate the quality inexpensive reel from the cheap junk?

As you have probably figured out already not all reels are created equal. You also can not depend on price alone to determine quality. The previous list is a perfect example of a quality rod available at a price most anglers can afford. A similar list could be made with an equal number of lesser quality reels that cost far more. Instead of focusing on price you need to consider the features available and how they will compliment your fishing activities.

Quality Construction

You may want an inexpensive reel but that doesn’t mean you want to throw your money away. Not very long ago it was nearly impossible to purchase a graphite and aluminum reel for $50 or less. Thanks to advances in technology that is no longer true. Most of the reels on the above list include graphite or composite bodies and frames with aluminum spools, bail wires and handles. Stainless steel ball bearing, carbon or oiled disk drag systems and even brass gears are common as well. The proper combination of these materials will provide a lightweight, durable reel that will last for many seasons if cared for properly.

Try to avoid plastic or steel components as this is decrease durability or increase weight. Regardless of what materials are used look for a reel that is solid without excessive wobbling when used. It should feel comfortable in the hand and all handles, knobs or releases should be easily reached.

Weight

Too many anglers fail to consider weight when purchasing a reel. While a heavy, stout reel may be nearly impervious to the elements and last a lifetime it will be uncomfortable to use for more than a short time. Lightweight materials such as graphite and aluminum are a consideration. Next, you want to look at the overall design. A narrower body or smaller overall footprint will also reduce the weight. Just make sure you select a reel that is still larger enough to handle the type of fishing you will be doing; the species being targeted and tackle you will be using. Portability is another factor one would need to consider – Is the angler able to easily fit his reel in a backpack when hiking to the next fishing spot?

Ball Bearings

When you look at a specific reel the bearing count is a feature that is commonly highlighted but what does this mean? Most reels will list the bearing count a 4+1, meaning it has 4 bearing in the main hub plus one for roller or anti-reverse function. Is this a matter of more is better? Yes and no. Typically having more bearings will provide smoother operation and longer life. However, you also need to consider construction. A high number of low-quality bearings will fail long before a lower number of high-quality bearings. Selecting a reel with an anti-reverse function will help prevent backlash and ensure a solid hookset.

Most reels in the under $50 class will have 4 to 8 bearings. These will typically be stainless steel as it is corrosion resistant and highly durable. Those designed for saltwater use may also include shielding or replace the stainless-steel bearing with Corrosion Resistant Ball Bearings (CRBB) constructed from a higher quality alloy. An anti-reverse function is also common in this price range.

Maximum Drag

Many anglers focus on the maximum drag, picking a reel simply because it has a higher maximum drag available. This is not always an accurate measurement of quality. It is also often unnecessary. You want to look for a reel that has a maximum drag equal to approximately one quarter or one third the breaking strength of the line you will be using. If using 20 lb. test you do not need more than 10 pounds of drag. Next, you need to consider the drag system. Reels in this range will typically rely on a series of washers to produce drag. When tightened the drag you add more pressure to the washers, increasing drag. A multiple washer system will last longer than a single washer. Carbon washers will last longer than oiled felt washers.

Gear Ratio

The gear ratio determines how quickly the line will be retrieved. A 6:1 gear ratio is higher than a 4:1 gear ratio resulting in faster line retrieval. While the faster gear ratio reduces overall power and your ability to catch bigger fish but is less tiring to use. A lower gear ratio provides increased power but will fatigue the user quicker. The average reel, including most in the $50 price range, will have a gear ration near 5:1.

Water Resistance

IF you plan on fishing in freshwater having a water-resistant reel is nice but not necessary. The bigger concern is dirt. With proper care and occasional cleaning, this reel will function well even if completely submerged for a short period of time.

When fishing in saltwater water-resistance becomes more important. Saltwater is far more corrosive and will lead to early failure in reels designed for freshwater only use. If you will be fishing in saltwater look for a reel that is sealed or shielded and constructed from corrosive resistant material.

Warranty

Selecting a reel constructed by a reputable brand will increase the likelihood it is constructed properly and will function as intended. However, even the best manufacturers can make mistakes or let an inferior product slip through their screening process. This is when a solid warranty and excellent customer service with be worth its weight in gold. Most reputable companies will provide a written warranty explaining what is covered, for how long the warranty is extended and how to make a claim.

Customer Feedback

Once you have narrowed your choices it is recommended you take a few minutes to review customer feedback. Every company will claim their reel is the best. It is more likely that flaws, shortcomings and bad experiences will be reported by people who have purchased and used it already.

1. What is the best cheap spinning reel?

If by cheap you mean inexpensive all of the reels above are excellent choices. The PENN Pursuit III is our selection as Best Under $50 and the PISCIFUN Flame is our selection for Best Under $30. Both of these reels are quality made and suitable for a wide range of applications.

2. What should I be careful of when buying inexpensive spinning reels?

The first concern is quality. Some reels are less inexpensive due to being produced more efficiently or in large numbers by a major manufacturer. Others can be sold cheaper due to being made overseas in factories with less quality control, using cheaper materials by less reputable companies. A quality reel with be lighter, more comfortable to use and will last longer.

Next, you want to look for a reel that fits your style of fishing. It is not worth the few bucks you might save if you buy a less expensive reel that can not withstand the conditions it will face day to day.

Finally, it is recommended you purchase from a reputable, established manufacturer. Not only does this increase the likelihood of receiving a quality reel, but it also increases the chances of obtaining a solid warranty with good customer service.

3. What are the best spinning rod and reel combo under $50?

There are plenty of quality rod & reel combinations for under $50. Unfortunately, you usually end up sacrificing quality for quantity when trying to find a combo in this price range. This is what makes the Pflueger Trion Rod & Reel Combo our top pick. Not only do you get a top-quality reel, which you can read more about above, but it is also matched with a lightweight, durable rod. The I-M6 blank, stainless steel guides and cork handle provide the perfect complement to the Trion reel. When paired you get a well-balanced, lightweight workhorse well suited for a wide range of applications.

REACH OUT

As always, we create our content with you, fellow adventurers, in mind. So, how’d we do? Did you find this informative? Did it help you make a decision? Did we miss anything? We’d love to hear from you below. Thanks for reading and we hope your next adventure is a great one!

Tom Burrell

Tom is a product expert, a degreed career Conservation Officer, and an avid outdoorsman originally from Northeast Pennsylvania. Tom has spent 23 years as a Conservation Officer, during which time he has fished throughout the Americas. He has targeted some of the most prized fresh and saltwater species using a variety of techniques. His key interests include boating, reading, anything outdoors and spending time with his family. Tom takes unique pride in sharing his love for the outdoors with his young son and teaching him the subtleties of nature.

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