7 Best Musky Reels: Reviewed, Rated & Compared

by John Laconsay

7 Best Musky Reels: Reviewed, Rated & Compared

by John Laconsay

by John Laconsay

When it comes to the legendary muskellunge fish (aka musky, muskie, or lunge), you need a legendary reel to catch it.

No puny reel will do the job. In this article, we will review some of the best high-quality reels that are up for the task. We will highlight the musky reel features that may suit your individual needs, requirements, and budget. 

Preview

Product

Reel Weight

Gear Ratio

Max Drag

Check Price

SHIMANO Tranx 400A HG Lowprofile Baitcasting...

SHIMANO TRANX 400AHG

.75 lbs.

7.6:1

18 lbs.

Abu Garcia Revo Toro Beast Low-Profile...

Abu Garcia Revo

T2 Bst50

.85 lbs.

4.9:1

25 lbs.

Okuma CV-15D Convector Line Counter Reel, 2BB...

Okuma

Convector

.99 lbs.

5.1:1

13.2 lbs.

SHIMANO Calcutta 400D Round Fishing Reel

SHIMANO

Calcutta 400D

.74 lbs.

5.1:1

15 lbs.

Lew's Fishing Lew's Speed Cast SC600 Reels

Cast SC600

.74 lbs.

5.3:1

15 lbs.

Abu Garcia 6500 Ambassadeur S Round Baitcast...

Abu Garcia Ambassadeur 6500S

1.01 lbs.

5.1:1

11 lbs.

KastKing Rover Round Baitcasting Reel, Left...

KastKing Rover

1.36 lbs.

3.6:1

30 lbs.

Why Fishing for Musky Requires Specialized Reels

Muskies usually weigh anywhere from 20 to 40-pounds and exceed 50 inches long, which is nothing to sneeze at.

You will need a heavy pound test line for such a creature, and therefore a powerful reel is a must. The muskies have an elongated shape, which likens them to somewhat of a missile as they swim at breakneck speed.


Buying the Right Reel When Musky Fishing

Reel Type

We like to think the more casts we make, the better the chance for a prized musky catch. Not only do we believe the faster geared musky baitcasting reels will improve our likelihood, but they also offer a quicker line pick-up and more control of the lure.

Line Weight & Capacity

The best musky line setup starts with 30 to 40 yards of mono, which will prevent slippage. Then we recommend at least 150 yards of at least an 80-pound test line tied onto the mono. Using a line weight under 25 lbs could result in a broken or frayed line.

Drag System

When it comes to muskies, we recommend reels with a tough drag. This would include reels that have a minimum of 12 pounds of drag. If you go for anything less than 12, the reel would be up for repair in no time.

Gear Ratio

Gear ratios of 6.3:1 work for most baits, although you may want a 5.3:1 ratio with a power handle for big bladed baits such as double cowgirls or big rubber baits. A mid to low-level gear ratio like 5.1:1-5.7:1 is a good range for musky fishing.

Reel Power & Durability

Reel housing that is made from aluminum is stronger, but graphite is less corrosive. When it comes to the frames, an aluminum frame might be the better option for long-lasting durability. Forged aluminum spools tend to be high quality because the lighter weight means the spools will move faster and more efficiently than a die-cast option.

Bearings

Stainless steel bearings are durable and sturdy, but can easily be corroded due to the heat treatment they get to strengthen them. Ceramic bearings tend to be much lighter than stainless steel, resulting in a lighter, more comfortable reel. Not to mention it is less likely to corrode and wear. However, ceramic bearings tend to be more expensive.

Line Retrieval

This number will tell you how many inches of the line you’ve retrieved per crank of the handle. In this way, you can know how much work you have to put in to retrieve your lure or hooked fish. Since baitcasting reels have lower gear ratios for muskies, the retrieval rate will be on the slower side.

Warranty

Many of the reel manufacturers we have listed in the following reviews allow a one year warranty along with their products. This is the typical amount, but various manufacturers will have varying rules of what they will and will not accept as part of the warranty. Be sure to research your specific warranty before buying.

Price

Keep in mind that buying cheap musky reels could end up costing you more in the long run due to factors like fraying of the line, reel damage, and not to mention the loss of possible catches due to the reel’s poor quality. Some reels on the higher end can last a lifetime if properly maintained.


7 Best Reels for Musky Fishing Reviewed

1. SHIMANO TRANX 400AHG

Our Top Pick

Reel Weight

.75 lbs.

Gear Ratio

7.6:1

Max Drag

18 lbs.

Ball Bearings

5+1

Hand Orientation

Right hand

Our top pick is the low-profile Shimano Tranx 400AHG. This incredible baitcasting reel is powerful and will put up a good fight against the elusive musky. Not only will it work for freshwater fish like our prized musky, but it also works great for your saltwater fishing trips, due to Shimano’s water-resistant technology. This will allow this durable reel to last the test of time through a variety of environmental conditions.

Shimano’s design concept Hagane incorporates a stylish yet stiff and durable metal body that will resist any impact. You will see no flexing, warping, or distortion of this reel. HEG and X-ship technology lead to Tranx’s powerful cranking. This allows for an effortless yet quick retrieve so you can throw big baits (which equals big fish).

We name the Shimano Tranx the best Shimano musky reel because of its incredible power. Admittedly, sometimes you need a bit of finesse to do the job, but you need a powerful reel for a powerful fish like the musky. And the Shimano Tranx is the reel for the job. If you are tired of wasting your money on cheaper equipment and are serious about your hunt for musky treasure, look no further.

Pros
  • Powerful drag
  • Saltwater and freshwater capable
  • Durable and solid
  • Massive cranking power
Cons
  • Smoothness and knobs could be refined
  • Heavy

2. Abu Garcia Revo T2 Bst50

Runner Up

Reel Weight

.85 lbs.

Gear Ratio

4.9:1

Max Drag

25 lbs.

Ball Bearings

7+1

Hand Orientation

Right-hand, both options available

The runner up for our pick of the best musky reel is the Abu Garcia Revo T2 Bst50. This baby comes in two models, and also has both right and left-hand options. Lefties, you can breathe a sigh of relief!

Our featured model has a gear ratio of 4.9:1 or an HS (high speed) model with a 6.2:1 gear ratio.  We think these are the best Abu Garcia musky reels because more often than not, the HS model is sold out on Amazon and Abu Garcia's website! That goes to show you just how popular it is!

Each model comes with 2 extra power handles, which is usually something you have to order from suppliers separately. The body is built with an aluminum alloy and includes 7 HPCR bearings, protecting you from corrosion and allowing for the saltwater fishing option. Another great feature is a level wind that is non-disengaging. This means that when the drag is activated, and the line is pulled out of the reel, it moves back and forth. 

This Abu Garcia musky reel is especially great for easily throwing your biggest, heaviest baits. It is the dream reel for bucktails. It has a large fishing line capacity, slower gear ratios, and a larger handle just for this purpose. You can even optimize your deep diving crankbaits. You’ll be pulling a prize musky in no time!

Pros
  • Large line capacity
  • Durable
  • Extra power handles
  • Saltwater and freshwater
  • Best reel for bucktails
Cons
  • Pricey

3. Okuma Convector

Best Musky Trolling Reel

Reel Weight

.99 lbs.

Gear Ratio

5.1:1

Max Drag

13.2 lbs.

Ball Bearings

2+1

Hand Orientation

Right-hand, other options available

Don't let the price fool you; the Okuma Convector is a powerful reel at a low price! You will be impressed with the value you get with this gearing and drag system. 

The Convector is built with aluminum and stainless steel at all the critical stress points but still maintains a lightweight frame. It also has a Mechanical Stabilization System to help maintain alignment and increase durability. The Convector boasts a machined aluminum and gun smoke anodized spool with a stabilizing system, allowing smoothness.

We like the ergo grip handle knobs, speed lock pinion gear system, and self-lubricating gear system. The line counters measure in feet but can stick.

The Okuma Convector has a quick-set anti-reverse with a special oversized one-way roller bearing. You can, therefore, easily avoid handle play and rely on instant hook sets. Along with the roller bearing comes two stainless-steel sealed bearings, which are anti-corrosive, along with the frame and side plates. You can precisely set your drag settings with the ratcheting drag star.

The Carbonite-composed multi-disc drag system features smoothness and high-end drag pressure. This enables you to softly set the hook for a lake trout, but also the drag strength to crank a running tuna to your trolling boat. For this reason, we find Okuma Convector to be the best musky trolling reel.

Pros
  • Affordable
  • Great for trolling
  • Multi-disk Carbonite drag washers
  • Spool stabilizing system
Cons
  • Line counters stick

4. SHIMANO Calcutta 400D

Top of the Range Musky Reel

Reel Weight

.74 lbs.

Gear Ratio

5.1:1

Max Drag

15 lbs.

Ball Bearings

4+1

Hand Orientation

Right-hand, but left is available in 201D model

If you are looking for the top of the range musky reel, the Shimano Calcutta 400D is it! Featuring a classic round design, it still maintains durability with its sleek one-piece aluminum frame. This model has some serious cranking power for reeling in those muskies. We feel it is definitely worth the price tag. This is a reel that lasts.

Shimano now offers X-Ship technology, which enables excellent free-spooling. The compact body rests comfortably in your hands due to its ergonomic design. This model is incredibly smooth due to its handle being located close to the reel body. You can easily crank while under the heavy musky weight.

The fluid and powerful retrieve will leave you with absolutely no wobble. The Calcutta 400D X-Drag crank knob makes it very easy to use your thumb or index finger to adjust the drag from both ends of the spectrum. There is a click that sounds off as you adjust, giving you confirmation that you have adjusted it properly to your liking.

All aluminum constructed, this Shimano design impresses. You can use the Calcutta at your neighborhood lake, or take it on a trip to the ocean. Enjoy the smoothness, durability, longevity, and quality of the Shimano Calcutta 400D. You’ll never need another.

Pros
  • Saltwater and freshwater
  • Ergo design
  • Durable
  • Smooth crank
Cons
  • Pricey

5. Lew's Speed Cast SC600

Best Musky Reel Under $150

Reel Weight

.74 lbs.

Gear Ratio

5.3:1

Max Drag

15 lbs.

Ball Bearings

4+1

Hand Orientation

Right-hand, but left is available

Lew’s Speed Cast 600 is built to catch big musky but still maintains a reasonable price. For this reason, we name it the best musky reel under $150. This little sweetie sports a classic round design and an audible bait clicker.

There are 4 stainless steel ball bearings and one Zero Reverse clutch bearing. The main gear and crankshaft are brass-construction, ensuring strength. Additionally, the anodized aluminum frame and side plates allow for rigid, no-flex housing. At the same time, the spool, also constructed of anodized aluminum, ensures smoothness.

Contributing to the SC600's toughness is the carbon fiber drag system controlled by its aluminum star. It also features a 6-pin centrifugal brake system that provides precision cast control, even in high wind and with varying lure weights. Some other mentionable features include the 100mm power handle and a comfortable EVA grip.

The serious line capacity makes the SC600 great for long-distance casts and musky hunting but also excels with snook, redfish, catfish, and stripper.

Although most buyers find this model smooth and durable, it has been reported that screws needed to be tightened after every high-wobble lure. Another issue could be the plastic bait clicker, whose construction quality could be improved.

Pros
  • Affordable
  • Carbon fiber drag system
  • Audible bait clicker
Cons
  • Plastic bait clicker

6. Abu Garcia Ambassadeur 6500S

Best Musky Reel Under $100

Reel Weight

1.01 lbs.

Gear Ratio

5.1:1

Max Drag

11 lbs.

Ball Bearings

2

Hand Orientation

Right-hand, but left is available

This is the best musky reel under $100, featuring a smooth multi-disc drag system. The Ambassadeur 6500S is fully adjustable, giving you value for your money. Set the drag just the way you want it for the conditions you are in and the fish you're after, whether musky or otherwise.

This model has a reliable 4-pin centrifugal braking system. Only a single finger is needed to apply pressure to the line and the reel itself. In this way, you can easily control the speed, accuracy, and distance at which you cast. With this brake system, you can avoid tangled lines, even in windy weather. The reel is great for saltwater as well as freshwater due to its corrosion-resistant stainless-steel construction.

This model can hold up to an impressive 255 yards of line. It works well with all kinds and sizes of line and is ideal for crankbaits, which require accuracy and distance. Another great feature is the level-wind system, which helps avoid one side of the reel having all the line.

The Ambassadeur 6500S has a lightweight and ergonomic design, built especially compact and small for your comfort. The handle is also specially bent so you can easily maneuver it. One drawback, however, is that the short handle takes a little more effort to crank in that fish.

Pros
  • Affordable
  • Saltwater and freshwater
  • Large line capacity
  • Level-wind system
Cons
  • Smaller handle
  • Needs maintenance and oiling often

7. KastKing Rover

Best Budget Musky Reel

Reel Weight

1.36 lbs.

Gear Ratio

3.6:1

Max Drag

30 lbs.

Ball Bearings

4+1

Hand Orientation

Left-hand, but right is available

The KastKing Rover is the best budget musky reel, in our opinion. Despite the low price, the reel offers excellent features like a CNC-machined high-grade aluminum spool, a brass shaft and gears, anodized side plates, alloy flawless level-wind, audible line out alarm, and stainless steel internal components.

The shielded stainless steel bearings allow for corrosion resistance and worry-free saltwater fishing. The non-slip over-sized T handles are equal-opportunity and are available to righties and lefties.

The carbon fiber star drag provides the reel with surprising power, so we name this the best musky reel for the money. Its power rivals competitors that are much more expensive. Pair the Rover with a high-quality braided line, and you’re set. Due to its large capacity, this model can use mono and braided line to give any musky a good fight. We especially recommend this one for beginners because of its ridiculously low price and sturdy construction.

The Rover is a great conventional reel and works well for trolling for muskies and wreck fishing for bottom feeders. With this reel, look out for giant catfish, carp, or walleye. On a budget, the KastKing Rover gives you so much value for what you pay.

Pros
  • Affordable
  • Saltwater and freshwater
  • Powerful drag
  • 4+1 smooth bearings
  • Clicker line-out alarm
Cons
  • Mono line can chew through line on retrieve

Things to Know for Targeting Musky

Muskies are known as ‘the fish of ten thousand casts’ because they aren’t easy. Since they are a top predator in their environment, they have lots of food to choose from. So you have to know what you’re doing to entice these elusive fish.

Knowing when and where the muskies spawn is critical in hunting them. Generally, muskies tend to spawn at a water temperature of about 55-65℉.

Anglers catch the most muskies late September to November, and then March through mid-June. Muskies are most active at dawn and dusk, which is when there is most action.

Wisconsin has some of the best musky fishing, but some other great lakes are in Illinois, Kentucky, Minnesota, New York, and Canada. These catch-and-release fish live long lives of up to 30 years. To catch one of these babies, try using a bucktail lure. The muskies can easily feel the vibrations they make in the water.


Comparing Types of Reels for Musky Fishing

  • Baitcasting Reel
    This is the best reel for muskies because you can easily point and shoot where you want to cast. After all, the line comes off straight. You can slow down the lure so it softly falls in the water and won’t spook the fish. Baitcasters can handle heavier line and can make longer casts.
  • Conventional Reel
    The conventional reels are made to pull the fish back to the boat efficiently and comfortably. They do not ensure against backlashes as baitcasters do.
  • Trolling Reel
    Trolling reels have a line counter which tells you how much line you have in the water. This helps you figure out what depths the fish are at and how far your baits are sitting. While this is helpful, it is not always necessary.
  • Spinning Reel
    Musky spinning reels often have about 50% less holding power than baitcasters. They are weak in drag and also in their ability to hold onto fish.v
  • Fishing Reel Sizing Guide
    For sizing your musky fishing reels, think of it like the smaller the numbers, the smaller the reel. However, keep in mind that some manufacturers number them a bit differently, i.e., 20 is the same as 2000. The numbers 1000 to 3500 are for smaller reels commonly used for light fishing in lakes, rivers, bays, and harbors. The numbers 4000 to 5500 are for medium reels commonly used for lakes, bays, harbors, and light offshore boating. The numbers 6000 to 10,500 stand for large reels commonly used for boat fishing, beach, or rock fishing.

People Also Ask (FAQs)

Why is catch and release a critical practice for musky fishing?

Catch and release of muskies are necessary to keep the delicate balance of other various fish varieties.

What kind of rod should I use for fishing musky?

For fishing musky, we recommend a rod that is either 6-foot-9 or 7-foot-6. Regardless of size, find the best rod you can afford.

How do I look after my musky reel?

Keeping your musky reel maintained will extend the life of it. You can look after it by keeping the outside of your reel clean and wiping it down after each fishing trip. Here is a helpful video to help you maintain your baitcasting reel.

Where is the best place to find cheap musky reels that are also high in quality?

Amazon is the best place to find cheap, high-quality musky reels because they have an outstanding selection to choose from that will, without a doubt, suit any musky fishing need.


Conclusion

We think the Shimano TRANX AHG is the best musky reel. Even if it might not be the one for you, we hope you’ve enjoyed our review and found something interesting you can incorporate into your hunt for the legendary musky. See you on the water!

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