Best conventional reel buyers guide: Cast away!

Best conventional reel for surf fishing
Image courtesy Bill Brine via Flickr. Used under a CC BY 2.0 license.

The best conventional reel is designed for casting and reeling in big fish.

While a spinning reel may have greater ease for beginners, conventional fishing reels give you more control after you have hooked the fish.

Let’s survey what you need to know when getting a good conventional reel for the money — whether under $100, $200, or $500. It is important to note that many conventional reel brands like Shimano, Daiwa, Fin-Nor, and Penn have reels that cost more than $500 so know your budget.

Best selling conventional reels on Amazon

Bestseller No. 1
Shimano Talica Ii Cam Conventional Reels, TAC25IICAM
  • Platinum Premier Service Plan
  • Hagane Body
  • S-Compact Body
  • HEG
  • Super Free Spool
Bestseller No. 2
Shimano Fishing Speedmaster Ii 20 Conventional Reels [SPM20II]
  • HAGANE Body
  • S-Compact Body
  • Super Free Spool
  • CoreProtect
  • Cross Carbon Drag
Bestseller No. 3
Piscifun Salis X 5000 Left Handed Trolling Reel 6.2:1 High Speed Inshore Saltwater Round Baitcasting Fishing Reels Level Wind Conventional Reel
  • Built to Hunt Monsters - The Salis X trolling reels are constructed with extremely durable light weight graphite frame and side plates paired with powerful stainless steel handle for big game fish in a variety of saltwater conditions
  • Incredible Power - Piscifun Salis X saltwater fishing reel is a real power machine! The top class carbon fiber washers deliver up to 37Lbs drag power, which helps fight against the biggest fish with ease. The precise Japanese Hamai Cut Gearing System greatly ensures the consistence to give you best in class performance
  • Braid Ready Spool - The Salis X conventional reel comes with a forged and machined aluminum spool which is braid ready to eliminate mono backing when spooling braided fishing line
  • Faster Retrieve - Piscifun Salis X saltwater level wind reel features a 6.2:1 gear ratio which is faster than most trolling reels offered today. With this capability, you are able to control the battles with big fish
  • More than Expected - The Salis X saltwater fishing reel is loaded with many un-matched features which cannot be found on other reels in its class which include an incredible strong stainless steel crank handle, super comfortable power knob, extremely durable and stable three bushing supported line winding, and an instant engage bait clicker
Bestseller No. 4
Reels Saltwater Lever Drag PENN INT30VISXS International Leverdrag Conventional 2-Speed Reel 30
  • Machined and anodized aluminum body and side plates
  • Stainless steel main and pinion gears
  • Quick-shift II 2-speed System
  • Dura-Drag System
  • Versa-strike adjustable strike Stop
Bestseller No. 5
SHIMANO Ocea Jigger Conventional Saltwater Star Drag Reel, OCEAJG2000NRHG
  • HAGANE Body: The HAGANE Body is a metal reel body with high rigidity. The body rigidity and impact resistance virtually eliminates body flexing. The result transforms the angler's actions directly into cranking power. It's efficiency through strength.
  • S-Compact Body: Allows for all-day comfort and improved fishability by making the palming side plate up to 25% smaller than A side plate
  • MicroModule Gear: The MicroModule system creates a smooth retrieve. The new gear set makes use of smaller teeth and more of them. This means that there are more contact points between the drive gear and pinion gear. The result is a more efficient gear train with less gear feel.
  • X-Protect: By combining our water repellent coating and our specially designed, water channeling, labyrinth construction, X-Protect provides high-level water resistance without sacrificing light gear and rotor rotation.
  • Cross Carbon Drag: This drag material provides a wider range of drag settings, along with the smoothest Shimano drag performance ever.
Bestseller No. 6
PENN Squall II Level Wind Conventional Fishing Reel
  • Fast Gear Access Side Plate
  • 3+1 shielded stainless steel ball bearings
  • HT-100 carbon fiber drag washers
  • Lightweight graphite frame and sideplates
  • Forged and machined aluminum spool
Bestseller No. 7
Gomexus Saltwater Trolling Reel Conventional Fishing Shark Offshore Game Reel Solid Powerful Silk Smooth Durable 2 Speed 90lbs 50W 10 Year Test
  • 📋【Product Name:HX50 Trolling Reel】【Material】aluminum,stainless steel 【Weight】 5.27lb/2.39kg 【Bearings】8BB+1RB【Max Strike】: 97lbs 【2 speed gear ratio】 3.1:1/1.3:1 🧵【Wide Line capacity】: mono 950yd/50lbs braided 740yd/100lbs
  • ⚙️【Prerium Material】9 shielded stainless steel ball bearings.All internal components gears and shaft are hardened and tempered stainless steel.HX series were anodized for a durable and saltwater resistant finish.
  • 💡【Unique Design】Also,it has the best smooth shift function with 1 touch 2 speed shift.CNC machine cut aircraft aluminum frame and spool,which makes it an oversized big game reel.
  • 💯【Perfect drag system】 HT-100 carbon fiber drags utilizing the best aircraft brake material.Max drag 97lbs.
  • 📧GOMEXUS HX trolling reel provides a 12-month warranty. Contact us and you will be satisfied in 24 hours.

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Read conventional fishing reel reviews from 2019 on Amazon.

Difference between spinning reels and conventional reels for casting

A conventional reel will have an axis and be perpendicular from the rod. Meanwhile, spinning reels sit in a parallel station to the rod.

The advantage of a conventional reel is how you can cast the line much farther and faster. Also, a conventional reel will communicate the vibrations of the line better, and that will mean that you miss less strikes in the water.

Round, low profile reels

Conventional reels often come in two flavors: round or low profile. Round feature a traditional design and are round in their cross-section. Low profile reels have less height than round and have a more oblong shape.

In general, round reels work well with casting bait, are stronger, and have a greater line capacity. In general, low profile may work best with lures and may have a level-wind mechanism.


While reeling, a level-wind helps distribute the line across the reel. Many conventional surf reels designed for off-shore fishing don’t have this feature.

A level-wind works well when there is a lot of casting and retrieving using small and medium lures.

With live bait, there is little to no casting and retrieving and a level-wind may be unnecessary.

Also, a level-wind diminishes casting distance and may break when a big fish like a tuna is hooked and runs.


Reels need a form of brakes to prevent backlash, which can occur when the bait / lure hits the water and the reel does not stop spinning. As you can imagine, the line gets snarled at the reel and makes a mess.

There are different types of brakes available: magnetic and centrifugal. Centrifugal tend to be more “set and forget,” but brake choices are subjective. Some reels come with dual brakes — both magnetic and centrifugal.

Saltwater vs freshwater

If you are fishing in saltwater, make sure your reel is designed to stand up to the corrosive nature of the saltwater. A conventional reel for surf fishing

Rod considerations

Because some rods have been designed to work better with certain reels, you want to look at the rod closely and make sure it will work with a conventional fishing reel.

A conventional reel on a rod intended for spinning reels will place greater demands on the reel that it has been paired with, and as a result, it will not last as long.

Whenever looking at the rod, you also need to look at the flexibility, action and strength of the rod to get the most from your choice.

You also want to choose gear that will fit with your style of fishing, so while a guide can put you in the right direction, you still have to look at what you’re fishing for. Both the rod and reel should be compatible in terms of strength and design.

Smaller guide, collector

The golden rule of thumb with conventional reels is that they will have a smaller guide and collector than a spinning reel rod. The reasoning behind this is that the line from a conventional reel will come out straight and even.

Spinning might be ideal for some species of fish, but their limitations include drag durability and capacity.

Choose a more modern reel

With a conventional fishing reel, the biggest complaint among fisherman is how it requires both coordination and practice to regulate the spool.

That problem may be combated with choosing a more modern reel because some newer conventional reels may include a drag system that allows you to adjust for the resistance and drag on the spool.

With this in mind, you can calibrate for speed and maximize the distance for casting.

Purpose matters

As fishing gear continues to improve, reel manufacturers have continued to make their fishing products better, and they have designed reels for specific purposes with characteristics that are intended for improving performance with a specific technique.

You should choose a reel based on the reason that you intend to use it — such as long distance surf casting.

Find the best conventional reel on the market in 2022 on Amazon.

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