Fishing in the surf is as rewarding as it can be challenging. Incessant waves, mighty currents, salty air, and heavy winds are just a few factors that test a surfcasters will as much as they test our gear. Surfcasters require reels with enough brawn to overpower large predators like striped bass, and enough durability to survive occasional splashing, sandblasting and full-on dunking.
While there are a number of reliable high-dollar reel options for dedicated surfcasters, for the fishermen looking to dip their wading boot into surfcasting, we compiled this list of reliable surf fishing reels that cost under $250.
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$119.99 – $129.99
The Tsunami Shield comes equipped with 10 to 13 interior shields to seal out corrosive saltwater and sand. Its lightweight machined aluminum body works in conjunction with a smooth, carbon fiber drag to minimize angler fatigue and maximize fishing time for a high-performance reel that won’t break the bank. Due to the lightweight exterior construction and smooth reeling action, this is a great reel for throwing small- to medium-size plugs. It is worth noting that the lightweight aluminum body construction may flex under significant stress. The drag system also seems to respond poorly to adverse conditions, occasionally locking up amid drastic temperature changes.
The Spinfisher VI Long Cast features a shielded stainless steel bearing system that maintains smooth performance, and the IPX5 water-resistant rating even further seals the interior components from saltwater damage, and a durable, full-metal body makes it an equally great choice for surfcasters fishing from the sandy beach or the rocks. The deep spool provides extra line capacity while allowing seamless long-distance casting, and works with a high quality drag system for additional security and confidence in fighting big fish in heavy surf. However, the all-metal body construction and a brass main gear on larger models leads to a heavier reel that may be less balanced with lightweight surf rods.
$149.99 – $209.99
For the surfcaster that does it all, the Spheros SW features Shimano’s X-Protect and X-Shield for combined sealing power that improves durability through prolonged exposure to saltwater. The durability of its IPX8 rated water-resistant body is amplified by the rigid Hagane gear and body construction, making the Spheros a dynamic reel for a number of surf fishing applications. The reel features a propulsion line management spool to allow for longer, more controlled casts and fewer wind knots when fishing through adverse conditions. The downfall is the lack of a line keeper on the spool for when you’ve finished fishing, and for anglers accustomed to Penn or Daiwa reels, the sizing leans small.
$189.99 – $214.99
Designed for the surfcaster who interchangeably throws plugs and large chunked baits in the surf, the Ultegra XTD is highlighted by Shimano’s X-Ship feature, which enhances the reel’s durability for fighting big game predators in powerful surf. It is surprisingly lightweight and well-balanced for its size, and the deep spool holds a ton of line for seamless long casting abilities. With a maximum drag of either 33 or 44 pounds (which is model dependent), this powerhouse brings in 41 inches of line per crank and is designed to haul large predators to shore in short order. But, because it lacks rigid outer-body construction, the Ultegra may flex under heavy loads that exceed the weight of the braided line chosen by the angler.
$119.99 – $149.99
For a sturdy reel with supreme balance and big fish stopping power, the BG fits the bill. Daiwa’s Air Rotor design eliminates excess weight that is often carried by conventional reels, and it features a waterproof drag system that can withstand prolonged exposure to corrosive saltwater and sand. Additionally, the aluminum spool and body further decrease the reel’s weight to minimize angler fatigue during long days on the water. Seven ball bearings and digitally cut gears using Daiwa’s Digigear technology create an exceptionally smooth reeling action, and a rigid “Hard Bodyz” body and size cover provide nearly unmatched durability. Due to its armor-plated body and side covers, the reel is slightly heavier than some other surf reels. Additionally, a higher maximum drag rating would prove beneficial on the larger sized models.