3 Kayak Fishing Reel Options For Beginners

Hey there my fellow fishing enthusiasts. Today, for those looking to get themselves started on their kayak fishing adventures, I have had a good look around and come up with my 3 best kayak fishing reel options for beginners. Now I love kayak fishing and spend a bit of time doing it, is a lot of fun and a pastime that can be enjoyed by beginners and experienced fishermen alike. However I have to admit that it became a lot easier once I had acquired equipment better suited to the task at hand.

You see when I first bought my kayak I just loaded it up with the same gear I used to use on the beach and in boats. Little did I realise that once I matched my rod and reel to the needs of a kayak just how enjoyable it could be. Plus, 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 absolutely 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 kayak fishing reel options 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
Kayak fishing reel - option 1Sougayilang Light Weight Spinning Fishing Reel$CURRENT PRICE
Kayak fishing reel - option 2Piscifun® Carbon X Spinning Reel$$CURRENT PRICE
Kayak fishing reel - option 3Daiwa Tatula LT Spinning Reel – $160 – 225$$$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 options when it comes to angling on a kayak. 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 more accurately when chasing fish in the mangroves. I personally prefer the good old egg beater myself.

So with that in mind, 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 ratio’d 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.
Kayak fishing reel - spinning 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.
Kayak fishing reel - 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.
  • Surf – As the name suggests, Surf reels are a totally different type of reel that are an institution here in Australia with increased availability and popularity worldwide. As with the Overhead reels above, we will leave them at that as they are definitely not suitable for the good old kayak.

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 rods that are suitable for a kayak 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…

Kayak specifics

The next thing here is rather obvious but the type of kayak you are using can also be a factor. The main thing to remember is that with kayak fishing, you generally do not have a great deal of room to move around in so you need to ensure that your reel can work in well with the type of rod and kayak you are using. So, consider the following:

  • Type – There are two main types of kayak:
    • Sit on top – flatter, wider models where the paddler sits on top of the vessel and,
    • Sit in – the ones with the cockpit on top where the paddler sits in.

Generally the type of kayak would not determine the type of reel you can use however the lighter it is, the easier it is to work with. Heavier reels however can be a bit harder to use in sit in models as you need to hold them higher to account for the upper deck.

  • Length and width – Same as above, a longer kayak shouldn’t really affect the type of reel but longer vessels tend to be used in more environments so a larger model may be required for ocean fishing etc.
  • Rod holders – This may sound obvious, but the number of rod holders that the craft has can determine the rods you use. I have four in my kayak so I can take two types of rod with a space for my net. If you only have one holder then you may want to look at a general sized reel that can be used for casting but also work well for when you just want to drop bait directly beneath you.

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 kayak rod chosen however when thinking about a reel for your vessel, 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 influences generally affect the line capacity of the reel (which we will discuss below) however the things to consider are as follows:

  • Holes: If there are any holes on the waters edge then that will also reduce casting requirements.
  • Rocks and other obstacles: Will you want to cast into them our over them?
  • Current: is there a strong tidal current running? If so, larger tackle may be needed.
  • Wind: Windy waters are harder to cast in for obvious reasons.
  • Mangroves etc.: Casting here will require accuracy.

There is more to this but from a beginner’s 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.

Kayak fishing reel - stripe 2

Composition

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

  • 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 ratios are good for fast retrieval fishing such as with a lure or if there are a lot of snags 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.

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:

Reel SizeSuggested MonoSuggested BraidSuggested Rod Length*
10 or 10001- 2 kg/2 – 4 lb4 – 8 lb5-6 ft (line rating 1-4kg)
20 or 20002- 3 kg/4 – 6 lb5 – 10 lb5-6 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 lb6-7 ft (line rating 3-10kg)

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 a kayak, unless there is the possibility of a really big fish, or the need to add a heavier sinker if the current is strong, I would recommend anything that starts with a 2 or 3 as this simply means everything is a little lighter. 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 kayak 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 – In a kayak, 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.

What Did I use?

Now, as mentioned above, my very first kayak fishing rig as a beginner was a reel that I actually used for surf fishing. It was big and heavy and the line weight was way to big for what I needed. I then purchased myself a 3000 egg beater with 3lb line and everything just got so much easier. Its specs were as follows:

  • Size: 3000
  • Bearings: 5 + 1
  • Ratio: 5.1:1
  • Composition: Stainless Steel, Aluminium and plastic handle
  • Drag: front of spool – 8kg (I think)
  • Anti-reverse switch – yes
Kayak fishing reel - my rod

To be honest, I picked this one because it was extremely light in weight and available at a discounted price at the time. That said, I was looking for something that worked with lighter line and I have used it with a number of rods and different locations including from the river bank, in the mangroves and even the beach (although it struggles if longer casting is needed). It has been set up with with line ranges from 2 to 6 lb (naughty me) and my only issue with it is that the drag is not as sensitive as I would like (i.e. it seems to be either on, nearly on or off hahaha) which is common with cheaper reels.

My three recommendations broken down

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

1. Sougayilang Light Weight Spinning Fishing Reel – $28

kayak fishing rod - Sougayilang

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: 1000 – 4000
  • Bearings: 12+1
  • Ratio: 5.2:1
  • Composition: Aluminum and Carbon
  • Drag: On front of spool – carbon fiber up to 42 lb/19kg
  • Anti reverse switch: yes
  • Line holder: yes
  • Interchangeable winder: Yes

Other advantages include:

  • Lightweight hollow frame design and computer balancing system.
  • Fully sealed components and bearings.
  • Deep spool for longer line capacity.

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 a kayak 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 (4 – 8 lb) with fast wind speed ratio and comfortable handle. And most importantly it is super light weight and versatile enough to work in both fresh and saltwater conditions with a number of target species.


2. Piscifun® Carbon X Spinning Reel – $70

Kayak fishing reel - option 2

My second reel is a great 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. With a complete carbon fiber body and components, it weighs just 5.7 oz making it perfect for the kayak. It is strong enough to handle most locations and line/tackle requirements (that match size obviously) 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: 1000 – 4000
  • Bearings: 10 + 1
  • Ratio: 5.2:1 (1000) – 6.2.1 (2000 – 4000)
  • Composition: Aluminium
  • Drag: On front of spool – up to 33 lb/15kg
  • Anti reverse switch: yes (2000 – 4000 models only)
  • Line holder: yes
  • Interchangeable winder: Yes

Other advantages include:

  • Super Lightweight composition for longer use.
  • Fully sealed components and bearings.
  • Oversized drag for the size of the reel.

Why have I chosen it?

I originally chose this one as it is so light in weight however it is also a good, durable reel for a decent price with a specification range that would allow it to handle most kayak conditions including the ability to chase larger species if needed. It has been built for comfort and highly recommended for those planning to spend a lot of time out on their water craft.


3. Daiwa Tatula LT Spinning Reel – $160 – 225

kayak fishing rod - diawa

The third reel 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. Diawa is an extremely well-known brand when it comes to fishing (I have a couple of these and love them) and their durability alone makes it a good options for beginners. Its lighter line specs make it highly versatile and able to cast a little further than you might expect. The synthetic body, fully 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: 2000 – 4000
  • Bearings: 7 – 1 CRBB + 5 BB + 1 RB
  • Ratio: 6.2:1
  • Composition: Lightweight synthetic and aluminum
  • Drag: On front of spool – up to 22lb/10kg
  • Anti reverse switch: yes
  • Line holder: yes
  • Interchangeable winder: Yes

Other advantages include:

  • Fully sealed components and bearings.
  • Extremely light weight – 5.8 oz.
  • Highly durable and low maintenance.

Why have I chosen it?

I have used a number of Diawa 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 2500 – 4000 mark as these will allow you to chase a more versatile range species or even allow for use in a boat as well. That said, this model would not be out of place on an ocean going fishing expedition either if you want to have some fun on lighter gear.

Conclusion

And there it is – my 3 kayak fishing reel options 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

Note: If you make a purchase from this page, there is a very good chance that I make a commission from it – these commissions do not increase your sale price.

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