Man Fishing


While there is no right reel for every situation, thinking about the species you are going to target should help you make the best choice for your style of fishing.

There are so many different reels on the market today that it can be difficult to know which one to buy. To help less experienced anglers with their selection process, I’ve tried to put together this simple guide which looks at some of our more common saltwater species and outlines what

I think are the most critical features in a suitable reel. At the end of each section, I’ve also suggested some alternative species which might also fall into a similar category.

Note: Where breaking strains are given, they refer to braided lines.


Both these species are fish that respond to light tackle and finesse applications. While both give a reasonable account of themselves (for their size), lightweights like this will never put a great deal of stress on your gears or drag washers. That means total drag pressure is less important than a reliable drag that yields line smoothly under pressure.

The ultra-light rods being used call for reels which match and 1000 to 2000 sized reels are perfect. At this end of the tackle spectrum, weight can safely be saved by picking reels which are made of graphite. Look for tight tolerances and quality bearings as a good indicator of overall quality.

Fishing for bream and whiting is often done with lines in the 1-3 kilo range. Line capacity will rarely be an issue, so 100-150 metres of braid on your spool should be ample. Speaking of spools, look for one which has a longcast design and some sort of anti-twist feature in the bail roller to help avoid wind knots which are almost impossible to undo in such light line.

Other suitable species include Trout, Redfin and Carp.


As you step up to bass, your line class generally goes up a notch or two, however the need to be able to use finesse fishing techniques is still there. Generally speaking, lines between 2kg and 4kg would best suit the most common scenarios.

Again line capacity is not critical. If your reel holds 150 metres that would be more than enough. In most cases, a 2000 to 2500 sized reel is about right fit for your typical bass rod.

While bass put more pressure on your reel than bream or whiting, they are still well within the scope of better quality graphite bodied reels. Again, look for tight tolerances, and quality bearings. A drag with a little more stopping power but which still yields line smoothly would be nice too.

Other suitable species include Golden Perch, Trout and Tarpon.


These fish are popular targets for lure casters right around the country. The lures are generally heavier and the rods a bit beefier than already discussed, so you need to take another step up with line weights. While you could argue for going slightly heavier in some cases, about 3–6kg seems to offer the right mix of strength to castability, particularly when using soft plastics.

With these species spool capacity may need to increase slightly however 200 to 300 metres will still be more than ample. This means you don’t need to go too large and depending on the model you might use anywhere between a 2500 and a 4000 size.

Graphite is still perfectly fine in these mid-range line classes. Having said that, I’d tend to look for one which uses it in less critical areas such as spools and rotors. A metal frame and side plates will help with longevity, as would rust resistant bearings.

Other suitable species include Snapper and Silver Trevally.


While most people associate barra and jack fishing with baitcasters, it doesn’t mean spinning reels are not worth using. In fact, with more and more visitors headed north for that once in a lifetime trip, we are starting to see a few manufacturers come out with a range of barra specific spin sticks. These are generally shorter than normal and have some serious backbone, making them highly effective for tropical creek fishing. If you aren’t overly confident with a baitcaster then they are clearly the way to go.

For Barra and Jacks, lines from 6 to 10 kilo are about right. As with most snag dwelling fish, line capacity is not critical as the fishing tends to be of the ‘sudden death’ variety. If you can get around 150m of braid on you should be fine. A drag with some serious stopping power is a prerequisite for this type of fishing so you could make a case for metal bodied reels. Again, I’d look for something with quality, rust resistant bearings.

Reels like this may also suit Murray Cod, Saratoga and Jewfish.


Once you take the step up into the bluewater arena, strength and reliability become much more important than saving a few grams of weight. I’d also say that high speed spinning is one of the most brutal forms of punishment you can inflict on a mid-sized spin reel. If you plan to chase macs or tuna regularly, invest in a reel with full metal construction, quality high speed gears and salt resistant bearings.

Pelagic species fight cleanly so lines don’t need to be overly heavy. I find 10 kilo braid to provide enough lifting power to handle the likes of Mac and Longtail tTuna, while still offering maximum casting distance. Drags need to be super smooth and able to dissipate heat effectively to cope with sustained, high speed runs.

Size wise, most of my offshore spinning is done with 4000 to 6000 sized reels. I find this size bracket generally offers the best combination of gear ratio to spool diameter, giving you the maximum retrieve rate available. If your chosen reel can recover around 90 to 100cm of line for every turn of the handle that’s about the optimum for high speed spinning.

As you will be spending a lot of time cranking your reel flat out, pay particular attention to the handle. It will need to be sturdy and have a decent sized grip for you to hang onto.

Other suitable species include Australian Salmon and Tailor.


Jigging over wrecks and reefs represents the very top end of what will be covered here. Lines in the 15 to 30kg range put a lot of pressure on a reel and you should pay more than you think if you want something that will last. Unless you select wisely, cheaper reels might handle a couple of fish but won’t cope over time. This type of lure fishing calls for strong reels with full metal construction and the very best in gears, bearings and drivetrains. A very strong anti-reverse system is also highly recommended.

As you can never be sure what you will hook next, I’d be wary of using a reel with any less than 300m of your chosen braid on it and a drag you can get at least 10 kilos of pressure out of. For this stuff you really should buy the best you can afford.

If your budget is limited, the only cheap options I can recommend from personal experience are the old school Penn Spinfishers in 850 or 950 size which are as near to bullet proof as budget reels get. I’ve also heard a lot of good things about the Fin Nor Lethal 100 and they sound very promising however I’m yet to try one for myself. Both reels are relatively heavy but if you can’t justify spending somewhere around $500 (or even more), then they are probably your best bet.

Other suitable species include Black Jewfish, Red Bass and Red Emperor.




Jigging for reef species like Cobia requires heavy duty reels




Big trevally like this nice golden will really test the integrity of your reel




Snapper of this size will give your drag a workout




Redfin are a great little light tackle freshwater option




High speed spinning for tuna is tough on reels



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Dave Magner

Dave is a keen and experienced lure and fly angler who has travelled and fished right across Australia and New Zealand. He particularly enjoys tournament bass fishing, chasing freshwater species from his kayak and bluewater pelagics from his boat.