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How To Choose The Best Surf Reel

Close-up of reel

The wind is blowing steady onshore. Waves explode and crash all around. It’s dark and cold. This night would be unfishable for anyone except for surf anglers. Climbing out onto a rock jetty, wading into the shore break, or perching on a pier require an angler to cast with distance and accuracy. Nowhere is reel performance more important than surf fishing. High-speed bearings, fine-tuned casting brakes, a powerful drag, and bulletproof construction make surf fishing reels some of the most advanced on the market.

Harnessing this casting technology requires anglers to choose the right reel for the job. Spinning or conventional, 2500 or 6500, magnetic or centrifugal brakes: anglers have a lot of choices. PENN Pro Angler Jared Wood stalks the rocks and beaches of New England for striped bass. “Choosing a reel can be a complicated process, but I keep it simple,” he says.

Angler wading in ocean casting line

During the striper season, Wood faces diverse opportunities available to surf anglers. One day he may be launching big swimming lures off the rocks, other times he’s working light tackle through shallow water. He might fish bait on the beach or jigs in the shallows. He could use a different reel for each application but narrows it down to two choices.

Wood explains, “To fish sand beaches and boulder fields, I choose a spinning reel.” Spinning reels are perfect for casting lighter lures. Since the line leaves the spool with little resistance, a spinning reel will cast a lure weighing less than one ounce. Since a spinning reel hangs below the fishing rod, the angler can pinch the line to feel the slightest nibble making it the choice for finesse fishing where sensitivity is key.

Close-up of casting

Anglers ask a lot out of a surf fishing reel, so the reel must be fine-tuned and bulletproof to survive.

Mike Rice, PENN Director of Brand Development, promises, “All PENN products are torture tested in the lab and in the field prior to launching to the market.”​

Surf anglers making long casts with light lures or rigs like a manual bail trip to prevent wind knots. After making the cast, the angler flips the bail ring into gear, keeping the line tight to reduce the chance of a loop forming deep in the spool.

Angler standing on rock casting line

To keep out sand and salt, the Spinfisher VI Long Cast is protected from the elements inside and out. The full-metal body is sealed along with the carbon fiber drag and ball bearings for reliable service through the season.

Rice says, “All of our reels are designed by engineers and product teams along with consultants and pros appropriate to the project.” This input from technical experts and pro anglers troubleshoots problems surf anglers can expect to face.

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