3 Best Surf Fishing Reels For Beginners

Hey there my fellow fishing enthusiasts. Today, for those looking to get themselves started in the fine art of surf fishing I have had a good look around and come up with my 3 best surf fishing reels for beginners to spin in 2021. Surf fishing is a lot of fun and a pastime that can be enjoyed by beginners and experienced fishermen alike. That said, it is definitely a little more enjoyable if you at least catch something so setting yourself up with a good reel from the beginning can definitely give you a better chance of making this happen.

So, let’s see if the below can get you started on the right track in terms of a good reel for beginners…

My 3 recommended surf reels for beginners

I will review these in more detail below but if you just want to get moving without all the carry on, my 3 are listed here for your convenience:

 ReelPriceGet it
Best surf fishing reels - spinfisherPenn Spinfisher VI Spinning Fishing Reel$CURRENT PRICE
Best surf fishing reels - OkumaOKUMA FISHING TACKLE ABF55b Avenger Baitfeeder Reel$$CURRENT PRICE
Best surf fishing reels - pennPenn Spinfisher VI Spinning Fishing Reel$$$CURRENT PRICE

What should you be looking for?

Now, as is usual when it comes to all things fishing, there are a number of different equipment types and opinions when it comes to angling in the surf. And of course everybody has an opinion on what is best. For example, a friend of mine has just changed from a spinner reel to a baitcaster setup as he believes it helps him cast further out to sea (we chase surface fish with lures in the winter which usually sit just outside the shore break).

Some people also prefer to simply purchase a surf rod and reel combo rather than their gear separately. I admit to being on the fence on this subject as I have bought both together and individually in the past.

So with that in mind, assuming that you are interested in picking yourself up a nice surf fishing reel, I will run through some considerations below however before we do, let’s just quickly run through the types of reels we can consider:

  • Spinning Reel – Also known as ‘open face’ reels or ‘eggbeaters’, these reel types wind the line onto a front spool which is held on by a ‘bail’. Line is wound in via a handle on the side which is ratioed to bring the line in faster than the handle is turned. These are fantastic reels for beginners as they rarely tangle and as the inner workings are generally housed within a waterproof case, they are easy to maintain.
Best surf fishing reels - spinner reel
  • Baitcaster – Often referred to as a spincast reel as well, these are upside down models where the reel sits on top of, rather than underneath, the rod. Functionality can vary from the simple beginner models where the cover or closed face keeps all of the essential parts of the reel protected to the more complicated ones where casting speed etc. can be adjusted dependent upon the environment. The base models here can be good for beginners as they simply press down on the thumb button on the back to cast the line. In my experience however, these do tend to tangle or ‘birds nest’ a little more than their spinning cousins.
Best surf fishing reels - baitcaster
  • Overhead – These are similar to the baitcaster models in that they sit on top of the rod. However, as these tend to be more specialised for use on boats and/or larger species, we will discuss these in another post.
Best surf fishing reels - overhead reel
  • Surf – Surf reels are a totally different type of reel that I have always known as being produced by a manufacturer called Alvey. These are an institution here in Australia with increased availability and popularity worldwide. They are a big round reel which winds in on a 1:1 ratio and turned sideways to cast (think oversized fly fishing reel with normal fishing line). This was what I used as my very first rod and I love it but to be honest, in terms of surf reels for beginners, I would probably recommend one of the first two types listed above as they do take some getting used to. I will however be discussing these at length in another post.
Best surf fishing reels - alvey

Look, my personal opinion here is that for beginners, you really can’t go past the simple spinner reel (would love to hear comments below if you feel differently). They fit to most surf rods that beginners might be using and are simple to use without a lot of maintenance. So for the purposes of this post moving forward, I am going to discuss our needs from the point of view of a good spinner type reel…

Location

As always, it is generally a good idea to match the type of equipment you are using to the location in which you want to use it. In my opinion, these influences are more important to the type of surf rod chosen however when thinking about a reel for the surf, then the main considerations are generally around how far you need to cast (meaning bigger sinkers) and the size of the fish you are chasing. These generally affect the line capacity of the reel (which we will discuss below) however the things to consider are as follows:

  • Gutters: if there are gutters running close to the shore then your casting length will be reduced.
  • Holes: same as gutters – if there are any holes on the waters edge then that will also reduce casting requirements.
  • Flat surf: some beaches are just flat with no noticeable holes of gutters – this may require you to cast a bit further to get out past the waves to where the fish are.
  • Rocks and other obstacles: will you want to cast into them our over them?
  • Current: is there a strong current running sideways or out to sea?
  • Wind: Windy beaches are harder to cast in for obvious reasons.

There is more to this but from a beginners point of view, longer casting requirements will generally necessitate a larger line capacity to accommodate a heavier sinker and/or a longer rod. In these cases you will generally need to ensure that the reel you choose is capable of casting heavier lines and sinkers if your location makes distance a requirement.

Composition

In general, spinning reels for the surf are made from a corrosion-resistant metal, carbon fiber and/or aluminum body with variations of the following:

10% off on all Piscifun Fishing Gear,use code:EST10
  • Bearings – As with a car wheel, the spinning mechanisms inside a spinning fishing reel generally incorporate ball bearings for smoother operation. From my experience, most come with between 3 and 10 and I was always told that the more you can get for the price, the better. If the specifications are listed as 10 + 1 for example, this means that there are 10 ball bearings in the main housing and also a roller bearing incorporated into the bail to make line retrieval easier.
  • Rotation – One advantage of a spinning fishing reel is the winding rotation. This is usually set anywhere for 3:1 up to 6 or 7:1 (often listed as 6.0:1 etc.) This simply means that for every time the user turns the handle a full rotation, the spool holding the line has actually turned 3, 4, 5, 6 or 7 times meaning less winding for faster line retrieval. Higher rations are good for fast retrieval fishing such as with a lure or if there are a lot of rocks etc. Lower rations assist with the big fish catches. For a beginner, I like a ratio anywhere in the 5 – 6 range myself.
  • Drag – The drag of a fishing reel is its ability to release a little bit of line when a fish strikes or is being pulled in. This is in place to reduce the chances of a bigger fish snapping the line as it fights. As with anything, the more you pay for a reel, the better the drag system should be with the more expensive models containing precision setting capabilities. Most reels have a drag capability to match the line capabilities so regardless, even for a beginner, if the reel you are looking at doesn’t have a drag system on it – put it down.
  • Casing: This is the part of the reel that contains the springs, levers, gear cogs etc. that make much of the stuff above work. For a beginner, avoid any reel that doesn’t have this all housed in a sealed, waterproof casing. These are low maintenance and the components will not rust.
Best surf fishing reels - stripe 2

Line capacity

In this section, we will actually discuss two elements: spool size and line capacity. This is because the size of the spool generally determines the strength of the line that you can load into it. The problem we face here is that manufacturers don’t use a common specification when it comes to their reel capacities.

There is however a simple way to work this all out which via the first number. You see a fishing reel may be rated as a ’20’ or a ‘2000’. If this is the case, the ‘2’ is the common denominator and what you match the line to (this is not an exact science but it works for me). So, then all you need to do is match the line kilogram/pound strength to the spool.

To make this easier, I have whipped up a little table below (I have not included all sizes here but you can see that generally, the lower suggested mono line weight matches the first number of the reel size):

Reel SizeSuggested MonoSuggested BraidSuggested Rod Length*
10 or 10001- 2 kg/2 – 4 lb4 – 8 lb6-7 ft (line rating 1-4kg)
20 or 20002- 3 kg/4 – 6 lb5 – 10 lb6-7 ft (line rating 2-5kg)
25 or 25002.5- 4 kg/5 – 8 lb5 – 12 lb6-7 ft (line rating 2-5kg)
40 or 40004- 6 kg/8 – 12 lb8 – 12 lb8-10 ft (line rating 3-10kg)
60 or 60006- 8 kg/12 – 16 lb12 – 30 lb8-10 ft (line rating 4-10kg)

The main thing to keep in mind here is that regardless of the size, you really do need to make sure you are matching the correct line size to the reel. If the line if too big, you will generally enter the painful world of birds nest city (when too much spools off at once and tangles) and too small and you will be lamenting a snapped line every time you try and cast with a bigger sinker – or worse – if you catch a bigger fish.

At the end of the day, for a beginner in the surf where there is a the possibility of a big fish, or the need to add a heavier sinker if the current is strong, I would recommend anything that starts with a 5 or 6. That said, I have had some real fun catching medium size fish on a 3000 reel and light line too.

Other Influences

There are some other areas to consider as well when looking at a beach fishing reel. These don’t effect the outcomes as much as the above however they are worth considering:

  • Handle – Most are plastic but make sure it fits comfortably in your hand (more expensive models are carbon fiber).
  • Weight – Fishing can take some time so the lighter the reel, the better.
  • Anti reverse switch – these are usually found in the underbelly of the reel and simply put, will stop the reel going backwards. Some like to reel in reverse to let line out slowly but don’t want this to happen with the rod is in a holder.
  • Line holder – This is the little tab on the side of the reel housing that holds the end of the fishing line if it is not rigged up. These are not often thought of when a reel is purchased but something that is really missed if it is not there.
  • Interchangeable winder – there are not many that don’t do this these days however this is the ability to swap the winder handle around to allow for left or right-handed use.
Best surf fishing reels - stripe 3

What Did I use?

Now, as mentioned above, my very first surf fishing rig as a beginner contained a big round Alvey surf reel. It did take me a while to master it with many a tangle and bird’s nest along the way. Once I went to a spinning option for longer casting however I set myself up with the following:

  • Size: 6500
  • Bearings: 5 + 1
  • Ratio: 6.2:1
  • Composition: Stainless Steel, Aluminum and plastic handle
  • Drag: front of spool – 8kg/17.6 LB
  • Anti-reverse switch – yes

I have used this reel with a number of rods including surf and estuary with line ranges from 6 to 20 lb (naughty me) and sinkers of all shapes and sizes. It works very well as it suits most beach environments that I fish in although I tend to put it down for a larger but lighter model when I want to cast a long way.

My three recommendations broken down

So based on the information above, and my own experience, I recommend the following for beginners:

1. SeaKnight Rapid Saltwater Spinning Reel

I have chosen this first reel based on the fact that it is the best I have seen for the budget minded beginner. It allows for great variation in settings and fully sealed components reducing maintenance requirements and chances of saltwater corrosion. It’s specifications include:

  • Size: 5000
  • Bearings: 6 +1
  • Ratio: 5.2:1
  • Composition: Aluminum
  • Drag: On front of spool – 3 disc carbon+ 3 stainless steel drag washer – 17.6lb/8kg
  • Anti reverse switch: yes
  • Line holder: yes
  • Interchangeable winder: Yes

Other advantages include:

  • Lightweight composition – 9oz/200grams.
  • Fully sealed components and bearings.
  • Anti friction components for longer casting and fewer tangles.

Why have I chosen it?

As mentioned above, this is a good little reel for a good price. It has all the general specifications that make it a good one for beginners to use in the surf without too much trouble or intervention needed – especially if you ensure that the line weight is matched to the reel size. It will take a good range of line strength (5 – 8 lb) with effective cast length that should be able to handle some heavier sinker weight if the conditions require it. It is also versatile enough to work in both fresh and saltwater conditions with a number of target species.


2. OKUMA FISHING TACKLE ABF55b Avenger Baitfeeder Reel

My second reel is a good one for the beginner who is planning to do a little more fishing and hence wants something that will do the job with great durability and usability. At just under 1.5 pounds in weight, it is a good as it can handle most locations and line/tackle requirements (5kg-7kg/11-15lb) with low maintenance requirements. It is also not as expensive as some of the other models of this size and quality with specs including:

  • Size: 5500
  • Bearings: 6 + 1
  • Ratio: 5.0:1
  • Composition: Aluminum
  • Drag: On front of spool – Multi-disc, oiled felt drag system + Rear ‘bait drip’ feeder drag
  • Anti reverse switch: yes
  • Line holder: yes
  • Interchangeable winder: Yes

Other advantages include:

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  • Lightweight composition for longer use
  • Fully sealed components and bearings.
  • Rear drag switches off once handle is turned (bait runner capabilities)

Why have I chosen it?

I like this one as it is a good, durable reel for a decent price with a specification range that would allow it to handle most beach conditions including the ability to cast a bit further if needed. Bait runner capabilities are also great for those chasing a bigger species or wishing to also use it for boat fishing as well. Stick to the 4500, 5500 or 6500 models as they will handle any line and tackle setup requirements that a beginner would be using in surf conditions.


3. Penn Spinfisher VI Spinning Fishing Reel

The third rod I have chosen is a little more expensive but for a beginner, it is one that should last them for long enough to use when they are an expert. It does come in a number of options including bail-less (which I have used and to be honest, struggled with) but the ones with the bail are great for those who are planning to fish in the surf and lake/estuary. Its lighter line specs make it highly versatile and able to cast a little further than you might expect. The full metal body, full encased components and lightweight design make it is part of the reason for the higher cost but it also means that it can handle the bigger catches whilst maintaining the sensitivity that inexperienced anglers need. Its specs include:

  • Size: 5500
  • Bearings: 5 + 1
  • Ratio: 6.2:1
  • Composition: Lightweight metal and carbon fiber
  • Drag: On front of spool – Ht-100 carbon fiber drag washers+ Rear 4 setting bait runner drag
  • Anti reverse switch: yes
  • Line holder: yes
  • Interchangeable winder: Yes

Other advantages include:

  • Fully sealed components and bearings
  • Rear bait runner switches off once handle is turned
  • Instant anti reverse
  • Extremely durable and low maintenance

Why have I chosen it?

I have used a number of Peen reels in my time and found them all to be excellent in terms of durability and smoothness of use. This is a great one for beginners who a looking for a little quality over price with specifications that make it a very versatile option for most conditions and needs with the ability to handle most applicable line strengths as well. Stick to the medium to higher range around the 5500 – 6500 mark unless you need to are chasing bigger species or plan to use it in a deep sea fishing capacity as well. That said, this model would not be out of place on an ocean going fishing expedition either.

 

Conclusion

And there it is – my 3 best surf fishing reels for beginners. I hope it has been helpful and as usual, please let me know of your experiences with them.

Also, please do not hesitate to comment below if you have any questions, concerns, corrections or would like me to check anything else out for you.

Until next time

Have fun

Paul

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