Centerpin reels may seem similar to flyfishing initially, but skilled anglers report float fishing offers more catches with fewer tangles. Centerpins are lightweight reels designed around ball bearings, allowing for longer lines and effortless casts.
But this technique is only as smooth as the reel from which it’s cast: High-quality equipment is essential for any centerpin enthusiast. To help you find the best centerpin reel for the money, we’ve collected our top five centerpin reel reviews below.
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Centerpin Reel Comparison Table
Okuma Raw II
Machined Anodized Aluminum
Aventik Z 2nd Generation
Machined Anodized Aluminum
Saion 4.25 Inches
Saion 4 Inches
How Centerpin/Float Fishing Works
Centerpinning reels are made up of a large diameter reel, akin to a spool, resting on a center "pin" atop a flexible rod. These reels are designed to be lightweight and superbly balanced, spooling back and forth with no mechanical drag and little to no resistance.
These drag-free reels will unspool as the float is pulled by the current, allowing for a more realistic bait movement. Its lack of mechanical drag makes this reel practically effortless and is well-suited for river fish such as carp, trout, salmon, steelhead, and some freshwater bass.
Floating, or "mooching," is a slow-fishing method using a sinker, ball bearing swivels or bead chains, and a leader line. This technique uses lighter weights for a slower, more controlled descent than trolling, which utilizes a faster descent that can spook wary species such as salmon. You can even find specialized mooching reels, but these models can be expensive for such limited usage compared to more adaptable centerpins.
Choosing High-Quality Centerpin Reels
Power & Durability
A high-quality centerpin depends on its durability, and anglers aiming for such heavyweight species as salmon and bass depending upon a well-constructed reel. Look for corrosion resistance, particularly if you'll be in saltwater environments, and consider buyer reviews when comparing different brands' quality.
Most centerpin reels are ported, with holes or sections removed, and lightweight by machined design for easy spooling. Such lithe spools work best with lightweight rods and smaller waters, while bulkier centerpins perform better on open waters with similarly heavy-duty rods.
Speed & Smoothness
Smoothness is essential for centerpinning reels, as it allows for more believable bait action. Similarly, the speed with which the line is released is a deciding factor when choosing your reel. Long-range casting is the hallmark of centerpin reels, so be wary of models with clunky or slow performance reviews.
Speaking of smoothness, bearings can make or break a centerpin reel. Look for corrosion-resistant bearings and seek out ceramic bearings whenever possible; these can occasionally be limited to pricier models but are often worth the investment. Alternatively, consider buying and upgrading a more cost-effective reel with aftermarket ceramic bearings.
Just as there are specialized mooching reels, so too do mooching rods exist. Several such rods can work perfectly with centerpin reels, giving you the best of both worlds for optimized float fishing. If you’re eager to practice your mooching technique, keep an eye out for centerpin reels compatible with mooching rods.
Line Capacity & Gear Ratio
Centerpins’ easy spooling is only possible thanks to their lack of gear ratios and large line capacities. These reels are consistently capable of long-range drifts up to 60-80 feet, with some going still further. This, paired with the necessity of leader lines for float fishing, have us recommending line capacities up to or over the 250 ft mark.
Convenience/Ease of Use
Between their lightweight design, effortless spooling, and long-range drifting, centerpin reels are designed with convenience in mind. Once mastered, float fishing is a reliable technique that exerts far less strain on anglers’ arms and shoulders. For those looking to end their days with a large haul and less soreness, centerpins may be the answer.
As always, the more extended the warranty, the better. Centerpin reel warranties can vary, from 1 to 2 years to lifetime guarantees. While more affordable reels can be tempting, always factor the warranty's length — and potential for out of pocket repairs — into your decision.
Some reels can cost well over $600, while some of the best cheap centerpin reels come in at under $100. Ultimately, your skill-level is the best way to determine your price point. Beginner anglers are recommended to start with more affordable models, while experienced float-fishers may get more bang for their buck from pricier brands.
5 Best Centerpin Reels Reviewed
1. Okuma Raw II
Our Top Pick!
Machined Anodized Aluminum
2 Stainless Steel BB
There’s no surprise that Okuma centerpin reels are ranking high on our list, and few can beat the benefits of the Okuma Raw II. With its precisely-machined anodized aluminum frame and spool and a stainless steel spool shaft, this centerpin reel is built to last. Its ported spool keeps the rim visible for easy maneuvering, a definite coup for long-range drifts. And once cast, the built-in click ratchet helps anglers keep their tension under control.
This reel comes equipped with two Japanese stainless steel ball bearings for super smooth spooling, made even smoother with a touch of extra lubricant. And speaking of smooth: its two-toned orange and silver Machined Rigid Frame cuts a striking figure on any rod.
Not just a float fishing reel, the Okuma Raw II is also designed with mooching in mind. Thanks to its extra strength, this reel is well suited for carp, steelhead, salmon, and more. The model can take whatever you throw at it thanks to its durable construction and full corrosion-resistant coating. Plus, Okuma includes a protective neoprene reel shield to help keep your investment safely stored.
Combing the best of a mid-range price point and high-quality construction, we highly recommend the Okuma Raw II Centerpin as the best centerpin reel in our ranking.
2. Aventik Z 2nd Generation
Best Centerpin Reel For The Money
2 Japanese BB
In an industry that can seem full of $600+ reels, the Aventik Z 2nd Generation is far and away the best centerpin reel for the money. This model comes at a beginner-friendly price point, but don’t let the low cost fool you: this high-quality reel is machined from aerospace-grade aluminum, which has been cold-forged and tempered for heavy-duty durability and rigidity.
Aventik’s Type 2 is further anodized for additional surface and anti-corrosion protection. Paired with its attractive gunsmoke finish and stained wooden knobs, this reel is a beauty without breaking the bank.
Two Japanese-manufactured ball bearings keep this reel superbly balanced, while CNC machined ports under the reel seat and around the frame keep line moving smoothly with every cast. Better yet, this reel comes with a switchable positioning feature. No matter the angler's personal preference, this reel can be adjusted precisely to your liking for effortless casts.
A built-in clicker helps you manage line tension, but be advised: some reviewers have had difficulty with the clickers before. But so long as anglers are sure to keep up with their maintenance — and use the complimentary cloth storage bag — the Aventik Z 2nd Generation is built to last.
3. Okuma Aventa
Best Centerpin Reel For Steelhead
Machined Anodized Aluminum
2 Stainless Steel BB
Once again: what’s not to love about an Okuma reel? But while the Raw II ranks well as a multipurpose reel, few models can come close to the Okuma Aventa in regards to finding the best centerpin reel for steelhead angling. With anodized aluminum spools for extra protection, a one-piece Machined Rigid Frame, and precisely machined stainless steel spool shafts, this model comes with durable construction in mind.
Although the exposed-rim spool is ported for easy handling, this frame is slightly heavier than other lightweight models. This extra weight is a definite help with hooking steelheads, whose escape attempts can put immense strain on anglers’ arms and lighter reels.
We recommend using medium-to-large rods with heftier reels, such as the Aventa, and trying to angle steelheads against the current; the combined forces will tire fish more quickly, making it that much harder for your catch to escape.
The Aventa’s on/off click ratchet assists with line tension as well, but the clicker spring can weaken with repeated use. Fortunately, Aventa’s machined build is easy to take apart. We recommend lubricating your bearings with reel oil or soaking in degreaser, as well as separating and wiping down the reel sections after use to keep your reel in peak condition.
4. Saion 4.25 Inches
Best Cheap Centerpin Reel
2 Stainless Steel BB
By far the most affordable model on our ranking, this Saion 4.25” is the perfect price point for thrifty buyers or novice beginners. Both the frame and spool are one-piece machine-cut aluminum, with an anodized coating for additional defense against corrosion.
Paired with a stainless steel, anti-corrosion shaft that keeps the model’s design lightweight and durable, the Saion 4.25” offers everything a new centerpin angler needs from a beginner reel. This model comes equipped with attractive double wooden handles, but be aware that they are easily removed. Check if tightening is required before and after use.
The on/off macro-click rack offers precise tensile control with every cast, while the two stainless steel ball bearings are well-balanced for their price range. Saion offers a great reel at a low cost, and, for intermediate anglers on a budget, the money saved by this reel can be invested in upgrading to ceramic ball bearings.
If you’re a novice with no interest in upgrading or investing hundreds of dollars, the Saion 4.25” is a perfect launchpad into centerpinning. Keep your ball bearings well-oiled, and your reel free of grit, and this model can serve as the best cheap centerpin reel for any new enthusiast.
5. Saion 4 Inches
Smallest Centerpin Reel
2 Stainless Steel BB
This Saion 4” Centerpin Reel may be the smallest on our list, but it certainly packs a punch. Packing all of our favorite things from the Saion 4.25” into a smaller frame, this model offers sturdy design at an affordable price point. The Saion 4” is an excellent lightweight and low-cost option for any angler.
The machined aluminum frame and spool have a small diameter, well-suited for nimble maneuvering and lighter catches. Those aiming for larger targets should consider pairing this with a sturdy rod for reinforcement.
This reel comes with Saion’s standard two stainless steel ball bearings and on/off ratchet clicker, offering you a smooth cast right out of the box. Although well-balanced, be mindful of the space between the spool and backplate: a careless cast can have the line slipping behind the spool and into the clicker, so be sure to mind the gap.
Careful casting aside, this model is built to last. The Saion 4” is anodized for corrosion resistance to keep it looking sleek no matter its mileage. As with other Saion reels, the 4” centerpin pairs well with a variety of poles and is easily upgraded with ceramic ball bearings for a high-quality cast at a highly affordable price.
Centerpin Reel vs. Fly Reels
Although centerpinnning and flyfishing reels may look similar and their techniques are centered around realistic bait delivery — traditionally egg sacs for the former and insects for the latter — that’s about where the similarities end. Fly reels have drag systems, use specialized fly lines, and casts are dependent upon the weight of that line rather than the bait attached to it. Fly fishing is best for controlled casts on crowded shores, or angling in shallow, fast-moving runs.
Comparatively, centerpins are built for long drags in deeper pools. Bait delivery is dependent upon the bait and smaller line weights for a more vertical, dead drift. Butterfingers beware: with no artificial drag, centerpin fights depend upon an angler’s fingers and palm.
Setting Up a Centerpin Reel
A centerpin reel is only as good as its set up, so be sure to invest in the right equipment. Look for 12 - 15ft rods, ideally around 13ft with extra flex. You’ll want at least 200 yards of 8lb monofilament fluorocarbon to help keep long, deep drifts visible.
The float, leader, and shot set up are standard: start with a float, then swivel from your main line to a shot-leader of 6 to 8lbs test. Space out a few split weights down your shot line by placing them closer together at the top and wider apart at the bottom. Another swivel, then about 16" to 24" of .20mm line, then set your bait with a size 8 or 10 hook, and you’re set.
Bait can vary from soft-plastic worm lures to wax worms and nightcrawlers, but most centerpin anglers swear by spawn sacs.
Tips for Using a Centerpin Reel
People Also Ask (FAQs)
How far can you cast a centerpin?
A centerpin cast can range from 30 - 40 feet for intermediate anglers and 75 - 80+ feet for more experienced pinners.
Do I need to get a fishing license when centerpin fishing?
This varies depending upon your state of residence and can be different for visitors or tourists: always check the freshwater and saltwater fishing laws in your intended waters.
What is a mooching reel?
Called drift-fishing on the east coast, mooching is a float-fishing technique used by west-coast fishermen for Pacific salmon. To successfully land salmon, good mooching reels require strong drag systems and extensive space for mono line. We recommend the Okuma Raw II as our pick for the best mooching reel.
What is the best centerpin fishing line?
While the strength of braided line is tempting, its weight capacity can often be too much for lightweight centerpin reels. Unless you’re aiming for heavyweight angling, we recommend sticking to 8lb monofilament, such as Raven High Vis Yellow Mainline.
Is there any special maintenance that needs to be done to my centerpin reel?
We recommend rinsing your reel after any corrosive exposure and allowing it to air-dry. Wipe any grit or sand away after each use. Occasionally add plumbing grease to the reel and re-lube the bearings. Always check your shot line before casting, and renew line when necessary. Keep in a dry, clean cloth or neoprene bag when stored.
Where is the best place to find centerpin fishing reel brands for sale?
Although centerpins have become increasingly popular in the last decade, they can still be something of a niche. Local bait & tackle stores can be limited to selling prohibitively costly models, making it difficult for beginners to try. That’s why we recommend Amazon for finding the widest variety of models at the best prices.
Centerpinning is an innovative and effective way to angle for steelheads, salmon, trout, carp, and more. But with such hard-fighting fish, you don’t want to risk losing fights due to weak equipment.
Between its precisely machined, corrosion-resistant frame, built-in click ratchet for tensile control, and stainless steel ball bearings & spool shaft, few reels come close to rivaling Okuma’s quality. That’s why whether you’re new to mooching or an old hat at floating, the Okuma Raw II remains our pick for the best centerpin reel on the market.