The ultralight spinning reel is an easy-to-use, low-weight fishing reel fitted with a fixed spool, which allows the line to flow freely as it casts. When paired with other ultralight fishing gear, the ultralight reel will enable you to accurately cast your lightweight line and lure to catch more fish.
The reel feels light as a feather in your hand, allowing you to hold it all day. Here we have found some of the best quality ultralight spinning reels on the market. Read on for ultralight spinning reel reviews to find the right one for your fishing needs!
What Are Ultralight Spinning Reels Best For?
Spinning reels, also called open-face reels, are great for the beginning angler due to their ease of use. An ultralight reel design is less likely to get tangled, making it less of a headache than most baitcasting reels.
Due to the lightweight line and lure that typically goes with it, this reel is great for catching smaller fish. You can easily perform light-line applications and finesse techniques with the ultralight spinning reel.
Buying Guide: Choosing Your Ultralight Reel
Type of Fish & Fishing Style
Ultralight reels are best used for catching small baitfish. Some of these fish would include crappie, bass, trout, perch, sunfish, bluegill, and panfish.
It can be challenging to catch these kinds of fish with heavier lure. Ultralight reels are great for spin fishing, where a spinning lure is used to entice the fish to bite. Ice Fishing is another fishing style that uses ultralight reels as well.
The reel bodies, or housing, can be made of graphite, aluminum, or a combination of both. Because of aluminum's corrosive quality, it is better to use for freshwater, and graphite is a better saltwater choice.
The size of the reel you buy should depend on what size line you are planning to use. The lighter the line, the smaller the reel you need.
When shopping for a reel, check the line capacity. Keep in mind the amount given is usually the middle line capacity. For example, “6 lbs/90 yards” would be suitable for 4, 6, and 8-pound line.
Not having a reel with a smooth, high-quality drag increases the chance of having broken lines and missing a catch. A line should pull out steadily with no constriction.
Front-drag systems usually are more durable and perform better due to their large drag washers. On the flip side, rear-drag controls are easier to access but don’t battle well with big fish that like to fight.
Also, consider purchasing a reel that is waterproof and sealed to ensure a smoother and long-lasting operating reel.
Ball Bearings & Bail
The ball bearings in a spinning reel provide smoothness, support, and stability. Usually, the more bearings a reel contains, the more smoothly it will work.
Sealed stainless steel bearings tend to be preferable over bushings because they are more durable and easier to control. We recommend at least 4 ball bearings, or even more if you can afford it.
A powerful cast, especially made by saltwater anglers, can sometimes cause the bail to close suddenly. This then causes the line to snap. One of the best ways to combat this is to avoid buying a reel with a swinging bail arm.
Spool Style & Capacity
Spools, whether internal or skirted, hold the line. They affect casting distance and smoothness. Internal spools are much less common these days because they get tangled within the housing. Skirted spools overcame this problem and are now much more widespread.
The "long cast" spool is a variation of the skirted spool. It allows for less line friction, which will enable you to cast your line even farther. This is a great benefit for clear water or sight-fishing.
This anti-reverse switch prevents your handle from spinning backward and engages the drag. This makes the hook sets powerful and accurate. The switch allows you to back-reel, or reel in reverse, instead of relying on your drag system or tension in your line.
And, when it comes to handles, make sure you buy one with a substantial handle and knob. This is so you can quickly grab onto the handle, and you will have less chance of slippage due to sweaty hands or wet weather.
When it comes to spinning reels, gear ratio refers to the number of times the bail rotates around the spool as the handle turns one rotation.
Low Gear Ratio/Slow (5.1:1 thru 5.4:1): Provides more torque for reeling in bigger fish. Good for casting deep crankbaits, big swimbaits, and deep water spinnerbaits to keep in front of the fish as long as possible.
Medium Gear Ratio/Medium (6.1:1 thru 6.4:1): We recommend using them for squarebill crankbaits, medium depth crankbaits, shallow spinnerbaits, and shallow castable umbrella rigs.
High Gear Ratio/Fast (7.1:1 thru 8.1:1): Good for bass-anglers who want to quickly retrieve drop shot rigs or tube baits in deep water. Try it out for jigs and big worms, shaky heads, Texas rigs, Carolina rigs, topwaters, jerkbaits, and lipless crankbaits.
Price & Warranty
Prices for ultralight spinning reels range anywhere to $30 to $300. Think about how much use the reel will get and factor that into how much you want to spend. If you have the money and you will put it to good use, the reel is worth a higher price.
However, it is important to note that there are many quality reels listed here under $100. Most reel manufacturers include a warranty. All of the ones listed offer a 1-year warranty but inquire about the details when you make your purchase.
6 Best Ultralight Spinning Reels Reviewed
1. Shimano Stradic STCI44000XGFB
Our Top Pick
HAGANE design concept
What is the best ultralight spinning reel? This Shimano Stradic model.
This beauty has the new Magnumlite (MGL) rotor, which is about 25% lighter than older models, making it the best Shimano ultralight spinning reel, in our opinion. That, combined with the G-Free body design, gives this model a light, comfortable feel. The body is made from carbon fiber, which contributes to its lightness. This is an especially great ultralight spinning reel for trout. You can fish all day with no wrist pain!
Not only that, but the Stradic is quite durable as well, making it the best ultralight spinning reel of all. It has CoreProtect 360-degree water-resistant coating, which means you can fish in both freshwater and saltwater without worrying about corrosion. This protection also applies to the 6+1 shielded anti-rust bearings.
The Shimano Stradic will have you “hooked” with its quick front drag system, with a large maximum drag capability at 24 lbs! It also boasts a great casting and retrieve rate (39 inches). This could be due to Shimano’s HAGANE concept; X-SHIP technology makes gears more durable by eliminating the friction of the spool shaft and the gear. Simultaneously, the metal body's high rigidity allows for no flexibility, which means effortless cranking power. This smooths out casting, which means you can make longer casts.
You can be assured that no back play will happen as the Shimano Stradic comes with an anti-reverse switch. And Shimano uses a great propulsion line management system, thanks to the AR-C braid ready spool design. If you are willing to pay a bit more, this is a great reel for the serious angler.
2. Penn 1338215 Battle II 1000
Best Ultralight Spinning Reel Under $100
Line capacity rings
If we are talking value for your money, the Penn Battle II is the best ultralight spinning reel under $100. It functions at the level of a higher-end reel. Not only that, but it will also last you for years due to its durability. It has a full metal body, side plate, and rotor, plus the bail wire is made of heavy-duty aluminum. This reel feels solid in your hand, but light and comfortable enough to hold for hours.
The Penn ultralight spinning reel boasts an HT 100 carbon fiber drag system. This creates a powerful drag by leveraging both sides of each drag washer, while still maintaining its smoothness. The drag washers are treated with a proprietary grease that allows them great longevity.
The 5 sealed stainless steel ball bearings allow for smooth cranking while the instant anti-reverse bearing will enable you to reel without interruption by eliminating pullback. Be aware that the anti-reverse bearing may come apart when you take the reel apart to clean it. Try to be extra careful with anti-reverse spring, as it may be difficult to put back together.
The Penn Battle II ultralight spinning reel is great for freshwater fishing, inshore, and reef fishing in saltwater. We recommend the Penn Battle II as the best ultralight spinning reel for crappie. Because it is a smaller reel, it can handle lighter lines and lures required for these smaller fish.
You can use this reel with Berkley or Spiderwire Superline. A rubber gasket helps prevent Superline from slipping, so you can use a braided line that doesn’t have monofilament backing. The line capacity rings are marked at ⅓, ⅔, and full capacity, which makes it easy to tell at a glance how much line you have remaining.
3. Cadence CS5-3000
Best Ultralight Spinning Reel Under $60
The Cadence CS5 has a price tag you absolutely can’t beat. Therefore we deemed it the best ultralight spinning reel under $60. It has premium features you would find on more expensive reels. For instance, it has a lightweight, strong, and corrosion-resistant body due to its carbon composite frame and side plates. The 8 ball bearings and 1 instant anti-reverse bearings produce a smooth retrieve and are durable and corrosion-resistant.
The powerful drag system is carbon fiber, which ensures reliability and smooth drag. The machined aluminum shallow match spool is lightweight and strong and comes with an additional graphite shallow match spool.
The Cadence CS5 is ergonomic with its oversized EVA handle, making it comfortable and lightweight. And the handle is metal, making it quite durable as well. In all, this affordable reel is strong, comfortable, and durable; all the things you want for your fishing experience!
You can use it for freshwater and saltwater fish thanks to the corrosion-resistant body. You’re going to want to add this one to your collection. We especially like it for freshwater fish like trout and walleye. It also works great for flounder, redfish, and speckled trout. Keep in mind, however, it is not great when hunting larger fish like pike or sanders.
4. KastKing Summer 500
Best Budget Ultralight Spinning Reel
Ease of use
The best budget ultralight spinning reel has to be the KastKing Summer 500. If you only have a few bills in your pocket, this is the one for you! But don’t let the low price fool you. It has some great features for the money.
This KastKing model, in particular, matches perfectly with ice rods, making it ideal for ice fishing. Grab your ice fishing chair and chill out as you wait for a bite.
We think this KastKing ultralight spinning reel has an attractive, brilliant finish. The anti-corrosive narrow graphite frame design on this compact beauty also makes it comfortably lightweight. And the hardened metal main shaft, mesh drive gear, and machined pinion gear make it optimal for a fish battle.
The nine quality ball bearings plus 1 instant anti-reverse allow for this model’s smooth performance. It also comes with an interchangeable handle for all you lefties out there!
The Summer 500 boasts a durable two-color anodized aluminum spool. This aluminum spool is CNC-machined (Computer Numerical Control), enabling precise line lay. The spool is lined up into grooves that retain lube, ensuring long-lasting performance. It is not hard to imagine that it holds more line than most competitors and makes longer casts. Due to the ease of use, we think this reel is great for beginners!
5. Daiwa QR750
Best Rated Daiwa Ultralight Spinning Reel
This is the best rated Daiwa ultralight spinning reel, in our opinion. It has a 750 size, which is excellent for targeting trout, panfish, and other smaller fish on a light line. It is also perfect for the ice fisherman. Take it with you in a backpack; it is quite light, and it has a convenient aluminum folding arm. And good news for the lefties: the soft-touch handle can be used ambidextrously.
The small lightweight body of the Daiwa QR750 is strong and durable, but still works well with ultra-light rod bends on the delicate side. It consists of 3 ball bearings and 1 anti-reverse bearing. The anti-reverse is activated by flipping a switch at the bottom of the frame, just below the reel.
Due to the reel’s low bearing count, you may have some issues with friction in your reel. The spool is a stiff aluminum and works well for 4 and 6-pound mono or a 6 and 8-pound braided line. The drag is smooth unless you run braid and catch a bigger fish, in which case it will pull the line.
We recommend this reel for freshwater fishing only due to its lack of corrosive protection.
6. Pflueger President PRESSP20X5. Daiwa QR750
Best Ultralight Spinning Reel Under $200
This is one of the most popular names in ultralight spinning reel under $200. The Pflueger President PRESSP20X has 6 stainless steel ball bearings and 1 instant anti-reverse bearing. The drag system is sealed, so the drag washers are always lubricated, smooth, consistent, and resistant to corroding.
The drag can be easily adjusted in micro increments, making it fairly precise. The line twist is minimal due to the slow oscillation gearing. The gear ratio is 5.2:1, meaning it is great for bigger fish. The bail is constructed of aluminum and makes a loud audible click, so you know the bail is open and ready to cast. A soft-touch ergonomic knob makes it easier to grip and feels better on the fingertips.
Pfleuger President has a lightweight yet durable reel construction due to its graphite body and rotor. The spool is braid ready, which can be tied directly onto the spool.
We wouldn’t recommend this reel for saltwater fishing because it is unsealed around the main shaft and bearings. This means it could easily corrode. However, it is not a bad option for saltwater fishing since it is so affordable but would have to be meticulously maintained to avoid damage.
How to Setup & Use Ultralight Spinning Reels
How to connect the spinning reel to the rod
- 1Loosen the reel seat on the rod. Make sure to make the reel seat big enough so the reel foot can fit.
- 2Place the reel foot into the reel seat.
- 3ten the reel seat. Make sure the reel isn’t able to wobble.
- 1Open the bail and place the line around the reel once.
- 2Tie a standard knot using the two pieces of the line.
- 3Tie another knot with the resulting pieces.
- 4Cut the loose piece of line approximately ¼” away from the reel.
- 5Close the bail.
- 6Tightly hold the line a foot away from the reel.
- 7Turn the reel until the desired amount is on the reel.
How to string the rod
- 1Grab the tip of the line.
- 2Open the bail arm with your free hand.
- 3Place the line through each of the rod guides.
If you follow these guidelines, learning how to cast a spinning reel will become much more natural over time!
People Also Ask (FAQs)
Which is the lightest option reviewed above?
The last two options listed, the Daiwa QR750 and the Pfleuger President PRESSP20X, tie for the lightest options at .39 pounds.
Are expensive spinning reels worth it?
This answer depends on what you want. Ask yourself if you fish enough to make it a worthwhile expense. There are many quality reels we have listed here that won’t break the bank and are good for a recreational angler. But we feel that expensive spinning reels are worth it if you go fishing a lot or enter fishing tournaments. And the expensive ones tend to last much longer if you take care of them.
Can bass be caught with ultralight reels?
You can catch bass with ultralight reels, especially if you use light and small lures.
What types of lures and baits should I use with my ultralight spinning reel?
Lures can include crankbaits, spinnerbaits, topwater lures, plastics, and even spoons baited with your favorite little grubs and worms.
Who makes the best ultralight spinning reels? (See keywords for brands)
We feel that Shimano and Pfleuger make the best ultralight spinning reels.
What is the best line to use for ultralight spinning reels?
The best line for ultralight spinning reel would be a 10 lb braided line with fluorocarbon or monofilament leader, which allows you to cast a long distance and improve your rod's sensitivity.
Where can I buy these ultralight spinning reels?
All of these ultralight spinning reels can be purchased on Amazon; simply click on the link under each product name.
In our opinion, the best ultralight spinning reel is the Shimano Stradic STCI44000XGFB due to its durability, quality, and comfort. However, each of these models listed above brings something of value to the table. We hope that you have found the best ultralight reel for you. Happy fishing!