11 Best surf fishing reels to buy now in 2023

[In a rush? You just CANNOT go wrong with the Daiwa BG for the best surf reel – rated overall top performer in this article.]

Daiwa BG

Author photo of the Daiwa BG Reel

Best Surf Reel Overall

  • Crazy value for money
  • Features you find in top-end reel models
  • Incredibly versatile, reliable and durable

Picking the best reel for surf fishing is a tough task, so what do you do…?

Surf fishing reels are used in harsh conditions so picking a top surf reel to withstand saltwater and sand, as well as knocks, scuffs, and large fish is important – but what factors to pay attention to?

That’s why I hope I’ve done some of the hard work for you in this article – picking the best surf reels for different applications and users. All you have to do now is choose.

But why listen to me? Well, you are totally free not to!

But! I’ve spent the last 20 years of my life living and predominantly fishing from the beach, bombing casts out across the breakers, off piers and jetties with all sorts of gear, and plenty of different surf fishing reels.

(Looking for the best budget spinning reels – click here for our top list?)

This article represents first-hand experience of using and testing many of these reels over time (many of which I still own, hence why they are on the list!).

As well as extensive research into first-hand experiences from anglers, from experts to novices just starting out.

All to cut through the advertising fluff and give you an honest point of view of the reel that’s best for surf fishing no matter what situation you are looking for.

If you’re still with me, let’s get into it! 

[Side note: this article focuses on spinning reels. This is what I fish with and the technology in spinning reels has progressed rapidly over the past years.]

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Table of Contents

1. Best surf reel overall – Daiwa BG

Why the Daiwa BG made the top list

Simply put, you’re probably getting a reel worth 1.5x its actual price with the Daiwa BG.

If you look across the internet, it’s consistently rated as one of the best value reels out there – and I agree.

I bought one for beach casting, and I expect to hold on to it and be using it for a very long time.

There is just tonnes of durability and technology packed into this reel that make it so worth the money. It’s not even that expensive compared to where reels can go for.

The new Daiwa BG is an evolution of a reel that was in the market for… 35yrs! So you can trust it comes from good stock.

This is a reel that many charter captains turn to, to equip their boat because they know how tough it is and how well it performs day-in-day-out for its price.

The author's Daiwa BG

Daiwa BG at a glance

  • Best for: Surf anglers looking to upgrade from entry-level gear, and those who want a reliable workhorse reel for the beach.
  • Sizes: 10 sizes. 1500 – 5000, 6500, 8000.
  • Drag: 17.6lbs max drag on a 4000 size
  • Line capacity: 280yds/30lb braid OR 200yds/40lb on the 4000 size
  • Weight: 14.3 oz on the 4000 size

Read the individual review: Daiwa BG Spinning Reel Review

Daiwa BG Pros

Firstly, the combination of the solid anodized metal body, the deep teeth of the oversized Digigears, the new Air Rotor technology, and the ATD drag system make this an incredibly solid and rigid reel to use. What I also like is that the handle is one solid piece that engages with the deep-set main gear, making the Daiwa BG feel sturdy and reliable in-hand.

Secondly, this reel comes fitted with ball bearings (Minebea) that you’d otherwise find in top-end reels like the Daiwa Saltiga or Shimano Stella – that’s crazy value for a reel of this price and it really pays off in how smooth the BG is.

Lastly, the other thing I think is neat is that I was able to change over the handle to the other side of the reel. It’s super easy to do, so if you prefer one side over another, or want to change it up half way through a session, you can do. The reel comes set one way, but you can easily change it.

Daiwa BG Cons

There isn’t a hell of a lot to complain about with this reel at the going price, but if I had to…

The bail arm I noticed is pretty slim compared to other reels like the Penn Battle 3. Penn typically use chunky bail wires but the BG just seemed a little light – especially given everything else feels so solid.

With a 5.7:1 its not the fastest reel with that gear ratio, however the spool is actually wider than some competitors, (again, against the Penn Battle 3), so you can actually wind in pretty quickly with the BG.

Daiwa BG Rating Score

4.9 stars

  • Performance: 4.9 stars
  • Durability: 5 stars
  • Value for Money: 5 stars
Author photo of the Daiwa BG Reel

2. Best surf reel Runner-up – Penn Battle III

Why the Penn Battle III made the top list

For me, this reel is pretty close behind the Daiwa BG as the best surf fishing reel in terms of performance and value, coming just under the Daiwa BG in price.

Take a closer look at our comparison of the Daiwa BG vs Penn Battle 3 here

The Battle 3 feels almost like a totally new reel compared to the earlier Battle 2 model. It’s a reliable, tried and tested reel that many saltwater anglers turn to for beach casting.

It has a solid metal body that feels nice when you’re holding it and is rigid with very little to no give when reeling and braking, it’s rare to find solid metal bodies in reels at this price range.

The gear and rotor feel very responsive, and the gear itself is solid aluminum in the smaller sizes which switches to solid brass in the 6000 size and upwards, which again is difficult to find in similarly priced reels.

Check out our Penn Battle 3 High Speed Review here


The author's Penn Battle 3

Penn Battle 3 at a glance

  • Best for: Those with a slightly tighter budget willing to trade off a little performance compared to the Daiwa BG.
  • Sizes: 1000 up to 10,000, with faster gear ratios in the larger models (4k, 6k, 8k).
  • Drag: Max drag of 15lbs on the 4000 model.
  • Line capacity: 185yds / 30lb braid
  • Weight: 12.2oz on the 4000 size, jumps to 20.8oz on the 6000

Read the individual review: Penn Battle III Spinning Reel Review

Penn Battle III Pros

Penn has included their CNC machine-cut gears in these reels with incredibly deep gear teeth to create power in the reel and avoid flex or slippage under pressure. In the earlier Battle 2 model there were complaints of the gears not being solid and strong enough, so this upgrade comes most welcome.

The Battle 3 bearing system and side plate is sealed and the body design helps keep saltwater out of the reel. I’m not sure if it can be dunked and survive well – time will telll! – but it’s designed for saltwater so holds up well against saltwater exposure.

However, if you’re expecting your reel to get really wet, then you might want to opt for a Spinfisher VI which has better sealing (reviewed below).

The Penn Battle 3 continues to carry the infamous Penn HT100 drag system giving this reel a lot of stopping power to big fish when they run and turn.

And two more positive usability factors for me are the nice big grippy Penn-style EVA handle and the drag adjuster wheel which feels chunnky and easy to grip when you want to adjust it.

Penn Battle III Cons

Line capacity on the Battle 3 standard models is not as high as say the Daiwa BG, which is an important factor when surf fishing and one of the reasons it came 2nd to the BG. On the 4000 you get 185yds of 30lb braid on it – compared to the 280yds we saw on the BG.

I’ve noticed this a little when reeling, and it’s been reported by other anglers too that the reel feels less smooth than other similarly priced reels, not as smooth as the Daiwa BG and can feel a little ‘bumpy’ at the top and bottom of the spool oscillation under pressure. Some say this may be the seals that the reels has so may be a bit of a design trade-off for additional durability.

Penn Battle III Rating Score

4.8 stars

  • Performance: 4.7 stars
  • Durability: 4.8 stars
  • Value for Money: 4.8 stars
Photo of Penn Battle 3 taken by the Author

3. Best Long Distance Surf Casting Reel – Penn Spinfisher VI

Why the Penn Spinfisher VI made the top list

This had to make the list as one of the top spinning reels for surf fishing and beach casting – I’ve rated it equal to/below the Penn Battle 3 based on price and value for money as the Spinfisher VI Long cast is a little more expensive than the Battle 3.

The Penn Spinfisher VI is a stalwart of the Penn range and has been and is the popular choice for anglers for years.

I managed to buy a Spinfisher VI spinning reel in a combo deal and got an outrageously good deal on it – so keep your eyes out!

The Spinfisher can really handle a hell of a lot of water exposure, which is critical for saltwater anglers especially.

That’s why I purchased one of these because I know it’ll stand up against a lot of battering. And this is why Penn designs the SpinFisher in this way – it’s perhaps not the slickest, lightest, most techy reel but it’s incredibly durable for multiple applications.

Author's 2nd photo of Spinfisher VI reel

Penn Spinfisher VI at a glance

  • Best for: Anglers that typically get wet! Fishing in or close to the breaking shore waves. Also a top choice for kayak anglers.
  • Sizes: Long cast: 5500, 6500, 7500.
  • Drag: 20lbs max drag on all the above sizes
  • Line capacity: 430yds/30lb braid on the 6500 size
  • Weight: 24.4oz

Read the individual review: Penn Spinfisher VI Spinning Reel Review

Penn Spinfisher VI Pros

The Spinfisher Longcast version also has a spool that’s almost double the length of the normal version to really pile in the line for surf fishing from the beach and casting your bait or lure way beyond the breakers to the larger fish out the back.

The HT100 drag system – as we’ve mentioned before this is what Penn is known for and it stands strong on the Spinfisher well.

Penn has installed a gasket all the way around the gear box assembly which keeps any splashing seawater out, whether you’re on the rocks, beach or fishing in a boat or kayak. This is a real solid addition that helps make the Spinfisher last a long time. Not a lot of other brands are doing this, even to their top range reels that completely seal their gearbox. Penn have really invested heavily into the durability of this reel, meaning you know you’re investing in a reel you’ll use for a long time.

Penn Spinfisher VI Cons

Tends to be on the heavier side compared to other reels – especially against something like the Daiwa BG.

Similarly to the Penn Battle 3, the Spinfisher VI doesn’t feel as smooth compared to say the BG, or the Van Staal reviewed below – but this may be a trade-off for the comprehensive waterproof sealing thee Spinfisher VI has.

Penn Spinfisher VI Rating Score

4.8 stars

  • Performance: 4.8 stars
  • Durability: 4.9 stars
  • Value for Money: 4.7 stars
Author's photo of Spinfisher VI reel

4. Best Surf Reel Under 200 Alternative- Penn Conflict 2

Why the Penn Conflict 2 made the top list

Here we have another long cast reel, and from Penn again! The reason the Conflict 2 Long cast reel is on the list is to give a cheaper alternative to the Spinfisher VI at a lower price, while still accessing some of Penn’s awesome reel technology.

Penn’s aim with the Conflict 2 was to try to create a long cast reel that was lightweight.

In comparison to the Spinfisher VI in the 6500 size which weighs 24.4oz, the 6000 size Conflict 2 weighs only 18.5oz – which can make a difference on a long beach casting session, especially if you’re lure fishing and reeling in from out across the breakers.

Despite being lightweight though, this is still a solid, strong reel capable of holding a significant amount of line on the spool perfect for surf fishing.

Penn Conflict 2 at a glance

  • Best for: Long casting with lures due to lighter weight
  • Sizes: 4000, 5000, 6000, 7000, 8000.
  • Drag: 13lb, 15lb, 18lb, 20lb, 22lb
  • Line capacity: 265yds/30lb braid on the 5000 size, 590yds 30lb/braid on the 7000 size.
  • Weight: 16.8oz on the 5000, 21.7oz on the 7000 size

Read the individual review: Penn Conflict 2 Spinning Reel Review

Penn Conflict 2 Pros

The reel contains 8 ball bearings and 7 are RCL stainless steel making it an incredibly smooth surf casting reel – it holds Penns quality gear system that is stable and consistent with minimal slippage or give.

The RR30 body makes the reel feel solid in hand and when reeling in under pressure, able to withstand the pressure and strain of the long-distance launch casts this reel is designed to handle.

The bail wire on this is particularly thick and solid, unlike the bail arm on the Daiwa BG, helping support the overall body of the reel, and the bail mechanism itself is manual so you’ll need to flip it after casting.

Penn Conflict 2 Cons

When pushed near to its max drag some anglers have had issues with flex in the RR30 body under heavy pressure from a significantly large fish leading to the gears not lining up properly and becoming more difficult to wind.

It’s not designed to be exposed regularly to water – so best to be cast back from the water on the beach or a boat where it won’t get too splashed. If you’re going to be dunking the reel in the ocean, then I would recommend the Van Staal or Spinfishers VI we reviewed which have comprehensive waterproof sealing. That said, with the distance you’ll get from this reel you shouldn’t need to go into the water.

It comes with a reverse switch which on a big surf reel like this feels a little redundant. It’s also at the back of the reel and I fear my fingers or hand might accidentally knock it when battling a fish.

Penn Conflict 2 Rating Score

4.75 stars

  • Performance: 4.7 stars
  • Durability: 4.7 stars
  • Value for Money: 4.8 stars

5. Best Surf Reel Under 100 Alternative- Okuma Rockaway Surf Reel

Why the Okuma Rockaway made the top list

This is an affordable long cast reel for tackling surf, beach, rock and pier applications.

Because you have so much spool capacity and ability to cast far you’ll likely be way up on the beach or jetty anyway so less likely to expose to saltwater… but it happens. The Rockaway should be able to withstand it anyway. 

These reels are pretty robust and durable against the elements.

I’ve heard they rarely are returned or need repairs against saltwater exposure so are good long-lasting and long-casting surf reels if taken care of and cleaned properly.

Okuma Rockaway at a glance

  • Best for: Your first long cast surf reel if you are budget-conscious.
  • Sizes: 6000, 8000
  • Drag: 26lbs max drag, or 35lbs max drag
  • Line capacity: 400yds/40lb braid on the 6000
  • Weight: 17oz

Read the individual review: Okuma Rockaway Surf Spinning Reel Review

Okuma Rockaway Pros

300yds of 50lb braid on the 6000 model size means you can absolutely torpedo it out the back of the surf to target the larger species predating out there. 

Steady and smooth oscillation creates a comfortable reeling experience and the 5 ball bearings feel very smooth and it has a bronze pinion gear to contribute to durability and performance over time.

It has a nice chunky EVA foam handle which is great for surf fishing conditions where your hands might be sandy and wet – much more comfortable and greater grip when reeling in a beach monster. The handle is also one solid piece to increase rigidity and decrease flex when reeling fish in.

Okuma Rockaway Cons

Again, this reel also comes with an anti-reverse switch which I think is a little unnecessary and where it is positioned I fear my hand might accidentally hit it when battling larger fish species.

The bail arm is chunky but a little bit clunky and sticky at times when you try and flip it over.

The reel feels stable but because of the non-metal body it’s nowhere near the solidity and rigidity of the Daiwa BG or Penn Battle 3. When fighting larger fish I’d worry about the flex of the reel and gears within it. Fine for smaller/medium-sized fish.

Okuma Rockaway Rating Score

4.6 stars

  • Performance: 4.5 stars
  • Durability: 4.6 stars
  • Value for Money: 4.7 stars

6. Best Budget Surf Reel – Daiwa Sweepfire

Why the Daiwa Sweepfire made the top list

This is a REALLY cheap reel that I think massively punches above its weight when used for surf fishing.

It’s mainly made of plastic but does come with some metal elements, which is often unheard of for reels costing so little.

I bought a 4000 size reel to use for beach casting and you’ll see from the photo that I’ve bashed it around over the past 3 years. However, I’ve had no issues with it at all since recently.

It’s been dunked in the ocean, blasted by sand, dropped in the stuff, not washed or rinsed every time, and it’s been an absolute workhorse.

Only a couple of months ago did the anti-reverse break (which is apparently fixable). I’m inclined to buy one or two new ones, to be honest, to use as reels for when friends come fishing with me.

My expectations were low when I bought this reel and it has been surprisingly pleasant to fish with. It’s a fantastic inshore surf reel to target small to medium species like bait fish, small flounder or puppy redfish.

Author's 2nd photo of Daiwa Sweepfire

Daiwa Sweepfire at a glance

  • Best for: A cheap inshore surf reel you don’t mind others using, or want something effective to turn to for bait fishing.
  • Sizes: 1000 – 5000 and the 500s in between.
  • Drag: 13.2lbs max drag on the 4000 size
  • Line capacity: 280yds/30lb braid on the 4000 size.
  • Weight: 13.4oz on the 4000 size.

Read the individual review: Daiwa Sweepfire Spinning Reel Review

Daiwa Sweepfire Pros

It has a massive spool capacity meaning its great for surf casting because you can reach surprising distances from the beach on the 4000 size.

The drag and rotor has remained pretty smooth despite the conditions it has faced, only change really has been a slight stickiness to reeling, accompanied by a faint noise.

Has Digigears which Daiwa is known for but pretty straightforward engineering otherwise. The ABS spool does help me to cast out surprisingly far on this reel in the 4000 size.

Daiwa Sweepfire Cons

The drag adjustment wheel feels a bit small and can be easy to slip on when you’re trying to move quickly and have wet hands.

The handle is a hard plastic which can become a little uncomfortable if your lure fishing in the surf all day, and a bit slippy if your hands are slimy. 

But hard to knock this reel too hard at the price point its at now…!

There is a bit of flex to the reel when reeling in a fish due to the plastic elements of the reel.

Daiwa Sweepfire Rating Score

4.5 stars

  • Performance: 4.2 stars
  • Durability: 4.6 stars
  • Value for Money: 4.7 stars
Author's photo of Daiwa Sweepfire

7. Best Lightweight Tough Surf Reel – Van Staal VR-150

Why the Van Staal VR-150 made the top list

This reel was designed for pretty extreme surf fishing – the kind that sees you submerged in water up to your waist, and the reel too!

Ok, so the price is quite high on this reel but you are getting a very high quality reel. I put it on the list because it fits the bill of best lightweight tough surf reel very well.

Van Staal has done everything it can to remobve weight from this reel while retaining rigidity and stability. You’ll see that the stem, body and handle is almost like an exo-skeleton!

But they’ve also thought about comfort with the large round shaped handle knob that doesn’t catch or burn your hand after repeated winding.

And the reel is fully submergible – it has multiple waterproof seals in the body to keep water at bay.

The Van Staal VR 150 is built as a bail-less reel so you can actually wind it with the bail arm up. This is unlike many other models from Shimano, Daiwa and the like that require the bail arm to be engaged again, whether automatically or manually.

This is quite a luxurious reel though, so you’re paying a hefty fee for the quality and stature of the brand. There are other reels that on a tighter budget can still dish out fantastic performance – like the hero of this article the Daiwa BG or even the BG MQ if you can afford it. 

Another great alternative to this reel is the Shimano Stradic – which is our best reel for striper fishing reviewed below. It’s a bit cheaper but packed full of the best of Shimano’s performance for saltwater fishing.

Van Staal VR-150 at a glance

  • Best for: Surf fishing in conditions when you may get the reel very wet or even submereged. Great for albacore and tuna from the beach and surf.
  • Sizes: 50, 125, 150, 175, 200.
  • Drag: 35lbs max drag on the 150 size
  • Line capacity: 440yds / 30lb braid on the 150 size
  • Weight: 18.7oz

Read the individual review: Van Staal VR-150Spinning Reel Review

Van Staal VR-150 Pros

Incredibly light for a reel that packs so much punch in terms of drag (35lbs on the 150 size!) and also a tonne of braid capacity too – 440yds of 30lb braid means you won’t be worried about battling fast, hard-fighting fish that strip your line and test the drag system.

This reel can go years without any issues, it can survive a dunking as it is sealed well, and even the dumbest and clumsiest of anglers struggle to cause damage to this reel.

The drag sounds like a train whooshing through a tunnel – it’s awesome!

Van Staal VR-150 Cons

But be warned – one thing to watch out for though is because of how much body material has been removed from this reel to make it lighter, heavy exposure to sand can lead to sand grains affecting the bail arm spring – which stops the bail arm from snapping right over when you need it to. So if you hit the sand with it, just check the bail arm closes cleanly and make sure you wash it afterwards. 

THe advice is to keep this reel free from sand as much as possible.

Anglers have complained of the drag being much stickier and less consistent than say a Daiwa Saltiga or Shimano Stella.

It’s pricey! So you might want to consider the next contender as a comparison, the Tsunami SaltX revieed below which is a little cheaper but similar in style and function.

Van Staal VR-150 Rating Score

4.85 stars

  • Performance: 4.9 stars
  • Durability: 4.9 stars
  • Value for Money: 4.75 stars

8. Best Sealed Surf Reel – Tsunami Saltx Saltwater Reel

Why the Tsunami Saltx made the top list

This reel is great for using dead and cut bait targeting larger inshore species like Redfish. Also fantastic at handling lures around inshore applications. 

It also works great as a surf fishing reel specifically because it is completely sealed – this is why it’s become popular with surf anglers and beach casters because it can handle a lot of what the ocean, beach or rocky environment can chuck at it.

They say about 75% of the reel is sealed – so the feeling and movement of reeling is sightly different, meaning the reel arm will come to a stop when you let go of it. The Van Staal VR150 reviewed above does a similar thing.

However, if you’re thinking the Van Staal is a little above your price range then this is a cheaper alternative that still comes with the ruggedness to face the harsher conditions of surf casting. the reels look very similar in style and design.

The Tsunami SaltX is made in China vs Van Staal which is made in US, hence the cheaper price tag.

But that said, this is still a high-quality reel that is growing in popularity among surf anglers.

Tsunami Saltx at a glance

  • Best for: Tough surf conditions, a big game fishing reel in a lightweight set-up with tonnes of drag.
  • Sizes: 4000 or 6000
  • Drag: 50lbs (!) on the 4000 size
  • Line capacity: 330yds/ 20lb braid
  • Weight: 14.6oz on the 4000 size

Read the individual review: Tsunami Saltx Spinning Reel Review

Tsunami SaltX under review

Tsunami SaltxPros

The Van Staal would fit into both the above and this category, but here is a cheaper great alternative.

This reel has a HUGE amount of drag on this reel with 50lbs max drag. With that amount of drag you can target some beastly fish on pretty lightweight gear.

You can wind this reel underwater when completely submerged, making it a popular selection for harsh saltwater applications, just like the Van Staal. But it’s surprising the performance you get out of this for the price tag.

The spool drag sounds pretty cool and it’s also a pretty responsive drag system that can be set really light for fishing bait and much lighter gear if needed.

The drag itself is fully sealed and waterproof and can be set to a fishable drag really quickly, meaning less messing around trying to set the drag right.

Tsunami Saltx Cons

Again, this reel doesn’t come as cheap as the Daiwa BG if you’re budget doesn’t stretch that far.

There are limited sizes in the 4000 and 6000, compared to the Van Staal which has 5 different sizes, but the SaltX sizes are appropriate for surf fishing.

Tsunami Saltx Rating Score

4.8 stars

  • Performance: 4.8 stars
  • Durability: 4.8 stars
  • Value for Money: 4.7 stars

9. Best Surf Reel for Stripers – Shimano Stradic FL

Why the Shimano Stradic FL made the top list

A very strong and durable reel. Saltwater resistant and is fine with exposure to saltwater and will continue to spin freely and smoothly but try to avoid being dunked in water – this reel is often the choice of kayak anglers as well as surf anglers.

It’s an incredibly versatile reel and is used across many applications by different anglers. 

That said, it seems to hold out better than the Ci4+ in terms of how the bearings across the reel parts stand up to saltwater effects.

The FL has a slightly longer spool than the Ci4+ which increases longer casting distance without fear of losing line capacity and gives you further reach compared to other Stradic and Shimano models.

2nd Photo of Shimano Stradic by the Author

Shimano Stradic FL at a glance

  • Best for: aaa
  • Sizes: 1000, 2500, 3000, 4000, 5000.
  • Drag: 24lbs max drag on the 5000 size
  • Line capacity: 235yds / 30lb braid
  • Weight: 10.4oz on the 5000 size

Read the individual review: Shimano Stradic FL Spinning Reel Review

Shimano Stradic FL Pros

Many anglers have said that they’ve never had to repair or take apart their Stradic FL even after years of use. So despite the higher price point, it’s a solid investment for a quality striper reel. But as mentioned try to avoid submerging the reel completely. 

Shimano’s MicroModule Gear II is built into this reel along with their famous SilentDrive too. What this means in laymen’s terms is that the reel is incredibly smooth, precise and powerful even under huge amounts of pressure.

The waterproofing on this reel is comprehensive too, with seals and a water-repellent coating making it a solid choice for surf fishing.

The Stradic FL has a long oscliating spool to evenly distribute the line across that longer spool design. When chasing and fighting stripers you aren’t going to need to worry about running out of line.

Shimano Stradic FL Cons

There isn’t much to add as a con for the Stradic FL, other than perhaps the price tag but you’re getting serious amounts of quality Shimano technology in this reel.

One thing that has been flagged by anglers is the drag can initially be a little sticky, which seems to affect only some unfortunate models – but can be sorted by cleaning and re-greasing the drag washers.

Shimano Stradic FL Rating Score

4.9 stars

  • Performance: 4.9 stars
  • Durability: 4.9 stars
  • Value for Money: 4.8 stars
Author's photo of Shimano Stradic reel (1)

10. Best Surf fishing reel for Big Sharks or Tuna – Shimano Stella SWC

Why the Shimano Stella SWC made the top list

If you’re fishing for big sharks or tuna then you’re probably a seasoned angler and are looking for a decent piece of kit to handle the thrash of a shark battle. 

The Shimano Stella is one of the most sought after premium reels for shimano because it’s the epitome of the great Japanese engineering and manufacturing that goes into Shimano’s top-billing reel.

The Stella is super smooth and super tough. 

Anglers enjoy the buttery smooth feeling of reeling the Stella, the sound of the drag, and the ability to bash it, dunk it and knock it around knowing that it’ll withstand a lot of what is thrown at it.

Shimano Stella SWC at a glance

  • Best for: Targeting big sharks or tuna.
  • Sizes: 10 sizes from 4000 all the way up to 30000.
  • Drag: 40lbs max drag on the 4000 and an insane 62lbs max drag on the 8000
  • Line capacity: 180yds/ 30lb braid on the 4000, 700yds/80lb braid on the 30000
  • Weight: 12.5oz on the 4000, 34.4oz on the 30000.

Read the individual review: Shimano Stella SWC Spinning Reel Review

Shimano Stella SWC Pros

The infamous HAGANE body material from Shimano is what is behind the stability of this reel. There is no slippage or error in how the gears mesh and work in unison perfectly under high pressure to deliver and sustain power against ocean beasts.

The Stella is packed with Shimano’s tech, from heat-reducing drag design ‘HeatSink’ and it’s IPX8 waterproof body, to the Infinity Drive and SilentDrive technology creating that buttery smooth reeling feel. 

It is fully sealed and incredibly rigid – a durable, stable and consistent reel to rely on when targeting such massive and hard-fighting fish as sharks and tuna.

Huge handle knob – very good fit and easy to grab and reel.

The drag clicker sounds great too when one of the beasts your targeting gets hooked up and runs for it.

Shimano Stella SWC Cons

This is Shimano’s most expensive reel with Shimano’s top technology built into a beautifully designed reel.

It’s hard to fault such an outstanding top-tier reel.

Shimano Stella SWC Rating Score

4.9 stars

  • Performance: 5 stars
  • Durability: 5 stars
  • Value for Money: 4.9 stars

11. Best Surf fishing reel for Beginners – Shimano Sienna FG

Why the Shimano Sienna FG made the top list

This is one of the first reels I bought to do closer inshore surf fishing for species like whiting. It’s a fantastic little reel perfect for a beginner that doesn’t want to blow their bank account. 

It’s actually a pretty good all-round reel – I’ve knocked and splashed it around in the surf and also used it to target bass in freshwater over the past 2-3 years and have not had any issues with it yet. That said, it’s never been completely submerged so I’d recommend avoiding giving it a dunk just in case. As a budget reel, the waterproofing is likely low. 

You may be surprised but I have the 2500 six reel and it’s still been fun to target fish close into the shore, like whiting hanging out just behind the first breaker, with worms. 

I’ve heard of anglers using the 3000 size for blues, stripers, and speckled trout – and some even catching carp over 20lbs on these reels without issue.

Check out our list of best fishing rods for beginners here too!

2nd Photo of Shimano Sienna by the Author

Shimano Sienna FG at a glance

  • Best for: Beginner surf anglers, beach casters and rock fishermen
  • Sizes: 500-4000
  • Drag: 19lbs on the 4000 size
  • Line capacity: 180yds / 30lb braid
  • Weight: 11.3oz on the 4000 model

Read the individual review: Shimano Sienna FG Spinning Reel Review

Shimano Sienna FG Pros

The body is not just made of plastic and actually contains aluminum contributing to the solidity to this reel.

The drag can handle surprisingly hard-fighting fish and is pretty capable.

It’s a tonne of value for the price you are paying – a fantastic gift or first reel for a beginner angler. 

I know that in sports store chains in Australia, they stock a lot of these reels, and they’re used in tough conditions and applications, which says a lot for the durability of the reel itself.

Shimano Sienna FG Cons

The drag wheel is a little small and can easily be slipped over when needing to adjust it.

The handle has a little play in it but not as much as you’d expect. 

The handle knob is pretty small. I’ve slipped off it at the beach before when my hands have been wet or slimy. 

Anti-reverse switch can become a victim of water and sand exposure, and as mentioned before I don’t really see the point of anti reverse switches when surf fishing.

Shimano Sienna FG Rating Score

4.7 stars

  • Performance: 4.7 stars
  • Durability: 4.6 stars
  • Value for Money: 5 stars
Photo of Shimano Sienna by the Author

Best surf fishing reels – FAQ

How do I choose a surf fishing reel?

Typically I look at 4 main features when it comes to choosing a the best surf reel


We can’t all afford a Shimano Stella unfortunately, so have a think about your upper budget limit and start from here. I hope this list helps in determining what is the best value for money for you. Just because a reel is expensive doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the one to go for. There is a huge gap between a Daiwa BG and a Stella in price, but the BG still tops it as the best value for money.

Size and line capacity

Think about what type of species you’ll target – large or small? Hard-fighting or less so? Where will you target them? Close in or far out past the breakers?

Answering these questions will help determine the size and line capacity you need for your surf reel. The smaller the species and closer in you’re fishing (i.e. Whiting near the shore), the smaller you can go on the reel. Also, with more expensive reel models, you don’t necessarily have to go.large, because of the stability and power of the higher grade reels.


This is related to the question above – how much force are your target fish going to put on the reel? A lot of reels on this list have already huge amounts of drag pressure, so unless you’re targeting beasts, this is less relevant. If you’re unsure, ask your local tackle shop specific to your target species. 15-20lbs drag is enough for most surf fishing aplications.

Durability and waterproofing

Surf fishing is messy and harsh at times. If you want your reel to really last, look for features and indicators of high durability. Go for sealed and protected reels if you’re likely to get wet. Otherwise just take good care of the reels and consider a reel cover if you invest in an expensive model.

What kind of reel is best for surf fishing?

Personally, I prefer spinning reels for surf fishing and casting from the beach. The technology and usability has improved massively over the years and the spinning reels in this list can really hold their own against some pretty tough-going situations.

The other great thing about spinning reels is they are versatile and can be used for other applications too. Conventional and side-cast reels can be a bit trickier to handle.

Is a 4000 reel big enough for surf fishing?

A 4000-size reel is adequate for surf fishing – it’s what I use for most of my beach casting because it’s light but still holds a decent length of line.

That said having a larger set-up (longer rod, larger reel) can be a good option to carry with you too for casting out further.

Check out this article I wrote on whether a 4000-size reel is good for surf fishing.

Is a 6000 reel good for surf fishing?

The 6000 size is a great size for surf fishing. The larger spool holds more line and often the reel has a littl more leverage and power to it than smaller sizes. The drag in a reel model often increases with the reel siz, so a 6000 size reel should have plenty of drag built in for medium to large surf fishing species. or example, the Penn BAttle 3 6000 has 25lbs of drag.

Here is an article I wrote on whether a 6000 reel is good for surf fishing.

Final thoughts on the best surf fishing reels for saltwater in 2023

Picking the right surf reel can be tough. But I hope I’ve made it a little simpler for you to choose the best surf fishing reel for saltwater applications in 2023. Remember the 4 key factors: price, size, drag and durability and you should be ok!