Buyer’s Guide & Information

Best Tuna Fishing Reels Reviewed

We have reviewed and compared the best tuna fishing reels on the market. Catch this popular species of fish with these top-quality models.

by Andrew

Buyer’s Guide & Information

Best Tuna Fishing Reels Reviewed

We have reviewed and compared the best tuna fishing reels on the market. Catch this popular species of fish with these top-quality models.

by Andrew

by Andrew

Whether you’re fishing for bluefin or searching for skipjack, it takes a powerful reel to land the notoriously tough tuna. To help you find the best fit for your angling needs, we’ve collected our top 7 tuna fishing reel reviews below.

Preview

Product

Reel Weight

Max Drag

Gear Ratio

Check Price

Shimano Talica 12 Lever Drag Big Game...

Shimano Talica Tac12

1.44 lbs.

40 Lbs.

5.7:1

Shimano Torium 16 HGA Saltwater Star Drag...

Shimano Torium SW 16PGA

1.24 lbs.

33 Lbs.

4.6:1

PENN 1338222 Battle II 8000 Spinning Fishing...

Penn Battle II 8000

1.88 lbs.

30 Lbs.

5.3:1

PENN Fishing SQL50LW Squall Level Wind ,...

Penn SQL50LW Squall

1.53 lbs.

20 Lbs.

4.0:1

Penn 1292934 Fathom 40N Lever 2-Speed Lever...

Penn Fathom Lever Drag 2 Speed 40N

1.6 lbs.

40 Lbs.

5.0:1 & 2.5:1

Okuma MK-30II Makaira Two Speed Elite Lever...

Okuma Makaira Off Shore MK-30II

3.12 lbs.

37 & 55 Lbs.

3.8:1 & 1.7:1

Daiwa BG8000 BG Saltwater Spinning Reel,...

Daiwa BG

1.37 lbs.

22 Lbs.

5.6:1


Why Tuna Fishing Requires a Quality Reel

For such fast, muscular fish, the best tuna fishing reels come with a super-durable build, saltwater protection, and powerful drag.

Conventional tuna reels, which look similar to baitcasters, come with sizable line capacities for techniques like trolling. However, their specialized performance can make them an investment.

Level wind and line counter reels are also popular, as they help control line-lay and monitor line depth. Offshore spinning reels have larger max drags, and line capacities & can be more familiar to beginners, making them a more versatile choice.


Choosing The Right Tuna Fishing Reel

Fishing Style & Environment

Skipjack are generally the smallest adult tuna at just 40lbs. They tend to require lighter tackle, as compared to Yellowfin adults in the 50-200+ lbs range. Comparatively, bluefin can grow from 500-1000lbs. We recommend deep-sea trolling techniques for Yellowfin and Bluefin, who tend to lurk in deeper waters.

Reel Types & Size

Conventional, line counter, and level wind reels are all excellent for deep-sea trolling. Comparatively, offshore spinning reels offer a wider variety of uses. When it comes to what size reel for tuna fishing, we’d recommend around 40 - 60, with nothing smaller than 30. A versatile spinning reel is best for beginners, while a conventional or level wind is better for dedicated tuna anglers.

Drag System

Front drags are often more powerful, while rear drags allow for better maneuverability. Drag stars and levers are also options but, no matter your preference, any good tuna reel should have at least 20lbs max drag. If you are targeting bluefin in the 200lbs range, aim for a reel with 30-40lbs max drag.

Ball Bearings & Bail

Since tuna require steady performance while running the risks of salt and water exposure, all tuna fishing reels should come with a smooth bail mechanism and shielded or anti-corrosion ball bearings. We’d recommend double-checking the longevity of each model’s bearings before purchasing or consider replacing them with ceramics.

Retrieve Ratio

Unsurprisingly, such deep-sea bottom dwellers as tuna call for a high gear retrieve ratio: the faster you can lure a Yellowfin up from the depths, the better. Look for high-performance ratios of 5.6 - +6.0:1 and two-speed reels with low-and-slow alternate ratios for greater torque.

Spool Style

A spool with a large line capacity is essential for tuna fishing, but you’ll want a spool that doesn’t sacrifice smoothness for size. Internal spools can be susceptible to snags, so look for reels with skirted spool designs for easier handling. Consider the size and weight when comparing spools, and keep an eye out for lightweight corrosion-free builds.

Line Capacity & Gear Ratio

The deeper your waters, the larger your reel and line capacity should be. Gear ratios need enough powerful torque to drag tuna up from the depths but, once hooked, can benefit from higher gear ratios to finish the fight. Look for mid-range 4.0:1 - 5.7:1 ratios or two-speed reels with high and low options. 

Price & Warranty

High-quality tuna reels often come at a high cost, but don’t let the dollar signs worry you. These reels are usually built to last, with durable deep-sea features and heavy-duty metal builds. If you've committed to giving tuna fishing a try, a high-quality reel will always be worth the investment. Look for brands with multi-year warranties for added peace of mind.


7 Best Tuna Fishing Reels Reviewed

We have selected the top reels for tuna fishing below and reviewed each model.

Read more or watch our YouTube video to find the best option for your tuna fishing needs.

1. Shimano Talica Tac12

Best Tuna Fishing Reel

Reel Weight

1.44 lbs.

Max Drag

40 Lbs.

Line Capacity

Mono: 350/20, 280/25, 230/30
Braid: 700/50, 400/65, 355/80

Ball Bearings

6

Gear Ratio

5.7:1

It’s always hard to choose just one reel as our top pick, but Shimano makes it easy with their Talica Tac12 Conventional Reel. This powerful conventional tuna fishing reel is designed with lengthy fights in mind, with some of Shimano’s best features to give you the upper hand. With an ultra-smooth cast, powerful line capacity, and durable build, the Talica is our top choice for tuna.

Shimano’s high-efficiency gearing keeps the Talica’s cranking fluid and smooth, while the Hagane cold-forged body lessens the reel’s weight and enhances its strength. The Super Free Spool eliminates the risk of friction and saltwater corrosion, thanks to the proprietary anti-corrosion treatment on the reel’s spool and body.

Best, and most importantly of all, the Talica is a dream to cast. Each cast is butter-smooth, with enough torque in high-gear to keep your cranking effortless. Its carbon fiber drag system keeps you in control, with an impressive 40 lbs of max drag. With an S-Compact Body and 41” retrieve per turn (RPT), this Talica Tac12 Conventional Reel is a powerful pick for any tuna angler.

Pros
  • Super powerful drag
  • Impressive line capacity
  • Rapid line retrieve
  • Ultra-smooth cast
Cons
  • Relatively small handle
  • Left or right handed model

2. Shimano Torium SW 16PGA

Best Deep Sea Fishing Reel for Tuna

Reel Weight

1.24 lbs.

Max Drag

33 Lbs.

Line Capacity

Mono: 450/16, 320/20, 260/20
Braid: 530/50, 330/65, 250/80

Ball Bearings

3 + 1

Gear Ratio

4.6:1

Is it any surprise our second choice is still a Shimano? Perfect for deep-sea trolling, the Shimano Torium SW Saltwater Reel has a small profile but a significant impact. Its power gearing offers impeccable torque in the deepest of waters, while the Hagane cold-forged metal reel body ensures rigidity while preventing flex. The Shimano Torium is our top pick of the deep sea fishing reels for tuna.

Shimano’s Cross Carbon Drag system ensures peak performance and lasting durability, with a solidly-built drag star for ease of use. Reviewers were impressed by the Torium’s ultra-smooth drag, and we're no exception. The torque on the 16 Power Gearing model is our top pick for deep water, but the Torium’s HGA models offer less torque at higher gear ratios, with high speed retrieves for shallower waters.

The 3 + 1 ball and anti-reverse bearings are shielded for extra protection, but they have been known to corrode over time. Be sure to rinse regularly and consider the merits of switching to ceramic. But with its 34” RPT, ultra-smooth drag, and reversible retrieve handle, the Torium is sure to serve you well for many years.

Pros
  • Power gear ratio
  • Powerful drag
  • Rigid metal body
Cons
  • Reported reel clamp issues
  • Sensitive to water corrosion

3. Penn Battle II 8000

Best Rated Tuna Fishing Reel for The Money

Reel Weight

1.88 lbs.

Max Drag

30 Lbs.

Line Capacity

Mono: 340/20, 310/25, 230/30
Braid: 475/50, 390/65, 345/80

Ball Bearings

6

Gear Ratio

5.3:1

The eye-catching Penn Battle II is perhaps one of the best-known saltwater spinning reels, with a wide range of applications such as tuna. The carbon fiber drag system, heavy-duty aluminum bail wire, and anti-corrosive full-metal build make this spinning reel one of the best Penn tuna reels on the market.

Joe Sova wrote on Penn

“With the versatility to handle a variety of situations and the durability to last for years to come, the Penn Battle II is truly a necessary investment.”

A good spool is central to any solid spinning reel, and Penn’s SuperLine Spool is one of our personal favorites. This braid-ready spool is well-marked with line capacity rings and equipped with extra line capacity for offshore applications.

The Battle II’s heavy-duty aluminum bail wire is corrosion-resistant, as is most of the build. With a full-metal body, side plates, and rotor, this reel is built to last but can grow heavy over time. Anglers with wrist issues or hand fatigue may prefer lighter spinning reels, but the Penn Battle II packs a powerful drag into its durable build.

The Penn Battle II is perfectly priced, highly versatile, and consistently performs well, making this a great entry-level reel for anglers new to saltwater uses. But no matter your level of experience, this spinning reel is sure to give you your money’s worth.

Pros
  • Braid ready spool
  • Carbon fiber drag
  • Precision speed gearing
Cons
  • Requires corrosion maintenance
  • Heavy; risks wrist strain

4. Penn SQL50LW Squall

Best Trolling Reel for Tuna Fishing

Reel Weight

1.53 lbs.

Max Drag

20 Lbs.

Line Capacity

Mono: 435/40, 320/50, 285/60
Braid: 900/65, 775/80, 665/100

Ball Bearings

2 + 1

Gear Ratio

4.0:1

The Penn Squall LevelWind is our top choice for trolling, and it comes with the line capacity to prove it. This graphite reel is lightweight with a heavy drag, making it a powerful option for any tuna angler.

Arj writes on Penn,

“This reel has made me a believer in Penn. I would recommend this to anyone who needs a reliable, affordable reel.”

The Squall is made of machined forged aluminum, keeping it lightweight with extra rigidity. The braid-ready design requires no backing line, and the line capacity rings make it easy to check while reeling in a fight. And with Penn's HT 100 Versa Carbon Fiber drag system, you’ll be sure to win.

You can use the Versa drag handle to specify precise drag adjustments, and the audible drag clicker is a nice touch. Internally, the machined main gear is made of a marine-grade bronze alloy for extra strength and saltwater protection, while the stainless steel pinion gear and anti-backlash ARB keep the Squall easy to use under any strain.

We recommend the 50 size for tuna fishing, which comes with the added benefit of switchblade lugs. With a comfortable handle, speedy retrieve, and 2 + 1 stainless steel bearings, the Penn Squall LevelWind is an excellent choice for any troller in search of a well-priced reel.

Pros
  • High strength brass gears
  • Braid ready spool
  • Proprietary drag system
Cons
  • Occasional line-lay issues

5. Penn Fathom Lever Drag 2 Speed 40N

Best Bluefin Tuna Fishing Reel

Reel Weight

1.6 lbs.

Max Drag

40 Lbs.

Line Capacity

Mono: 410/30, 315/40, 235/50
Braid: 785/50, 665/65, 565/80

Ball Bearings

5 + 1

Gear Ratio

5.0:1 & 2.5:1

It’s hard to choose between two great options: Luckily, Penn ensures you don’t have to with their Fathom Lever Drag 2-Speed Reel. Thanks to its Dura-Drag system, 2-speed gearbox, and full-metal body, the Squall has consistently ranked as one of the best Bluefin tuna fishing reels.

The dual-drive gearbox is where the Fathom shines, with a high 5.0:1 and low 2.5:1 gear ratio setting for the best of both deep-sea torque and high-gear rapid retrieves. This reel is nearly effortless to use: It’s easy to switch from one ratio to the other, and the Dura-Drag system utilizes a sliding lever for precise drag adjustments.

The heavy-duty Dura-Drag comes with a whopping 40 lbs. of max drag, and Penn’s cranking power is no joke either. And thanks to its shielded stainless steel bearings and full-metal, die-cast aluminum body and side plates, the Fathom will keep cranking smoothly no matter the wear.

This reel is reasonably priced for beginners, and the 40N performs well on mid-sized tuna. We recommend the Fathom for live bait, jigging, and light trolling. If you’re searching through Bluefin tuna fishing reels, look no further than the Penn Fathom Lever Drag 40N.

Pros
  • Seamless 2-speed drag
  • Ratchet anti-reverse
  • Fluid cranking motion
Cons
  • Full metal frame weight

6. Okuma Makaira Off Shore MK-30II

Top of the Range

Reel Weight

3.12 lbs.

Max Drag

37 & 55 Lbs.

Line Capacity

Mono: 850/30, 700/40, 550/50

Ball Bearings

4BB + 1TB

Gear Ratio

3.8:1 & 1.7:1

The Okuma Makaira Off Shore has a golden anodized coating for a good reason; it's worth its weight in gold when it comes to tuna fishing. This powerhouse of a lever-drag trolling reel contains a 2-speed gear system, proprietary Double Dog anti-reverse system, and carbonite Dual Force Drag system for impressively powerful retrieves.

The two-speed gearbox utilizes two sets of stainless steel main and pinion gears, offering a 3.8:1 higher ratio and a lower, 1.7:1 for extra torque control. They come with an impressive set of max drags — 37 and 55 lbs, respectively — and are easy to switch between, with the press of a button or lever depending upon your reel’s size.

Made of cold-forged, Type-II anodized machined aluminum, the Makaira's spool comes equipped with a patented pin system for use with braid or monofilament line. The anodized gold housing keeps this full-metal reel ultra-rigid and corrosion resistant, making it long-lasting despite heavy saltwater use.

The Okuma Makaira may be a luxury, but it’s worth every penny for a dedicated tuna angler. And thanks to specially designed drainage holes throughout the reel, even a saltwater dunk is unlikely to do much damage. The Makaira may be costly, but it’s a tuna reel worth investing in.

Pros
  • Braid ready spool
  • Carbonite drag system
  • Helical cut gears
Cons
  • Luxury price point
  • Heavyweight build

7. Daiwa BG

Best Tuna Spinning Reel

Reel Weight

1.37 lbs.

Max Drag

22 Lbs.

Line Capacity

Mono: 350/14, 280/17, 210/20
Braid: 340/40, 270/50, 230/60

Ball Bearings

6 + 1

Gear Ratio

5.6:1

In the wake of so many level winds and trolling reels, it’s easy to wonder: Should I use a spinning reel for tuna fishing? The Daiwa BG 4500 Spinning Reel proves the answer is yes. With an Oversized Digigear system, machined aluminum body and side cover, and manual bail arm, the Daiwa BG is undoubtedly the best spinning reel for tuna fishing on our ranking.

The dynamic cut aluminum ABS spool is our favorite Daiwa feature, with a braid-ready build and snag-free design to keep every retrieve smooth. We particularly liked the manual bail arm on the 4500 model and the benefit of a waterproof drag system for extra protection.

Internally, the Daiwa BG keeps its build light via Air Rotors, weighing 15% less than competitors. The Hard Bodyz machined aluminum body and side cover are similarly lightweight, offering both internal support and added durability for rough saltwater use.

The black anodized coating further helps against corrosion and cuts a sleek image with the reel's gold accents. Impressive both inside and out, the Daiwa BG is our pick for a mid-range tuna spinning reel with impeccable performance.

Pros
  • Braid ready spool
  • Manual return bail
  • Fantastic value
  • 1-year limited warranty
Cons
  • Unsealed casing
  • Bail roller corrodes easily

Understanding Tuna Habits & Behaviors

Most tuna prefer tropical to temperate saltwater. A pelagic species, tuna have a wide migratory path ranging from New England to central South America and the Gulf of Mexico.

Check migratory maps to find the peak periods of tuna activity in your region. Although some skipjacks prefer shallower waters suitable for spinning reels, try bottom-fishing with chunking, trolling, and jigging on heavier-line reels for the best Bluefin and Yellowfin results.


How to Set Up a Tuna Fishing Rig

Your tuna set-up will depend on your approach: chunking set-ups will need balloons and sinkers while trolling calls for spreader bars. Your rod should be in a higher, 50-pound class range for Yellowfin or unlimited-class for bluefin.

Artificial bait works well, so aim for squid, plugs, or large spoon lures. Match the hatch for best results. Once you've chosen your reel and intended species, check YouTube tutorials like this for specific rig set-ups.


People Also Ask (FAQs)

What kind of fishing reels do they use for Wicked Tuna?

Each ship on the show has their own brand sponsor — including Alutecno and Accurate — but some of the most commonly used reels are Penn International 130s and Shimano Tiagras.

How much do tuna fishing reels cost?

Tuna fishing reel costs can vary, with quality beginner’s reels starting at $150-180 and higher-end models costing well over $500. Check online for the lowest prices and widest range of reviews before purchase!

What pound test line is used for tuna fishing?

Your test line should be tailored to your intended fish, such as skipjack, Yellowfin, or Bluefin. But for tuna up to 100lbs, a 40lb test line is recommended.

How do I clean and maintain a tuna fish reel?

Tighten the drag and rinse with fresh water after each use, and check your leader and line for wear before stowing. Saltwater damage and internal wear are some of the biggest concerns for tuna reels, so be sure to regularly apply reel oil or other lubricants.

Where is the best place to find these fishing reels for sale?

Since tuna reels can be a hefty investment, it’s important to know you’re getting the best deal. We recommend Amazon for the best variety of tuna reels and user reviews, so you can be sure you’re making a smart purchase.


Conclusion

When you’re trying to find the best reel for tuna fishing, it's easy to get intimidated by specialty equipment. But for a straightforward, durable reel that's well worth the cost, you can't go wrong with the power and quality of the Shimano Talica.

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