The Best Conventional Reels: Plus Saltwater and Bottom Fishing Options

Last Updated on June 21, 2021 by Donnell Henderson

Conventional reels, also known as trolling reels, are what you need if you’re targeting big game species or planning to do any deep sea fishing. If you need any help choosing the best conventional reel for your fishing getaway, you’ve come to the right place.

There are several factors you must consider when purchasing a conventional reel. We have prepared this review of the top conventional reels in the market to help you pick the best option for you.

So, let’s dive right in…

 

My Top Pick

My favorite is Penn Fathom Lever Drag FTH25NLD, as it provides the extra power needed in tough fights. Penn Fathom Lever Drag FTH25NLD has a sturdy construction and corrosion-resistant ball bearings. Therefore, it can tackle saltwater fishing.

 

The Best Conventional Reels Are:

  1. Penn Fathom Lever Drag FTH25NLD — Best Overall
  2. Daiwa Saltist Levelwind Line Counter Saltwater Fishing Reel — Best Saltwater Conventional Reel for the Money
  3. Kastking Rover Conventional Reel
  4. Daiwa sgt40h Seagate Star Conventional Reel — Best for Bottom Fishing
  5. Penn SQL50LW Squall Levelwind
  6. Okuma Cortex Graphite Star Drag Reel
  7. Shimano Tekota Conventional Levelwind Reel
  8. Piscifun Salis X Trolling Reel
  9. Penn Squall Star Drag

 

1. Penn Fathom Lever Drag FTH25NLD — Best Overall

PENN Fathom Lever Drag

Penn is a reputable brand that has produced some of the best reels in the market, and Fathom Lever is no exception. Penn Fathom Lever has everything you will expect in a high-end reel. And the fact that it has a metal construction means that it’s not a featherweight reel. The gear ratio of this reel is 5.3:1. So you should expect an excellent retrieval rate when fishing with a Fathom Lever reel.

The Fathom Reel is equipped with a highly durable drag system that will provide you with the extra power needed in hard fights. Therefore, you will never have to worry about binding or slipping when fishing. The Fathom reel’s drag can be adjusted by a thumb lever positioned near its crank, making it relatively easy to use.

Penn understands that anglers can’t always control a fish that bites their bait, so they added a reliable dog-paw anti-reverse. This reel guarantees you an efficient and smooth fight every time you catch a fish. And since it has no level wind, fishing using a mono instead of braid can be quite challenging. However, many people have complained that it is quite costly.

 

Specs

  • Brand: Penn
  • Gear ratio: 5.3:1
  • Maximum drag: 33 pounds
  • Ball bearings: 5
  • Weight: 19.4 ounces

 

Pros

  • Durable
  • It has a reliable drag system
  • Efficient
  • Its gear ratio makes it easy to cast
  • Lightweight

 

Cons

  • It’s quite costly

 

Overall rating: 4.6 out of 5

Conclusion: Penn Fathom is an excellent choice for fishing offshore with braided lines. This durable reel is corrosion resistant; therefore, you will never have to worry about a premature breakdown.

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2. Daiwa Saltist Levelwind Line Counter Saltwater Fishing Reel — Best Saltwater Conventional Reel for the Money

Daiwa Reels Line Counter STTLW50LCHA Saltist Linecounter Reel, RH, 4CRBB + 1RB

If you’re looking for a high-quality conventional reel that will guarantee you excellent performance, then take a closer look at this reel. Daiwa Saltist is one of the best saltwater conventional reels in the market. Made from aluminum, this sturdy reel will give you great performance season after season. This reel features metal side plates and aluminum frames that give it exceptional durability and stiffness.

This reel has corrosion-resistant ball bearings that can last over twelve times longer than the steel ones. Plus, the shielded design helps keep grit and dirt out. The new Carbon U.T. drag provides fade resistance reliability and a smooth operation.

Equipped with easy spool release, brass gear, line counter, and a 24-pound line capacity, the reel is ideal for precision fishing. You can easily customize this gear and target a specific spot in the lake. The precision line measurement provides the accuracy required for controlled-depth trolling. However, this reel is not ideal for casting long distances.

 

Specs

  • Brand: Daiwa
  • Weight: 24 ounces
  • Material: aluminum
  • Maximum drag: 20 pounds
  • Gear ratio: 6.4:1
  • Bearings: 5

 

Pros

  • Excellent drag
  • Features a line counter and level wind
  • Fast and smooth retrieval
  • Highly portable
  • Durable

 

Cons

  • Low line capacity
  • Not ideal for long-distance casting

 

Overall rating: 4.2 out of 5

Conclusion: Daiwa Saltist is a great fishing reel for heavy Great Lakes and saltwater applications.

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3. Kastking Rover Conventional Reel

KastKing Rover Round Baitcasting Reel, Right Handed Fishing Reel,Rover60

KastKing has a reputation for producing some of the best fishing gear in the market, and Rover is no exception. Rover is a great reel that can help you fish offshore or catch huge fishes. This reel is ideal for anglers who love fishing deeper down or on the surface. Its all-metal design, stainless steel parts, and accurate shaft make it the best option for saltwater fishing. And the fact that it’s ideal for both right and left-handed anglers is a bonus.

The powerful KastKing Rover comes with a superior carbon fiber drag system. And thanks to its Cymbal Washers system, this reel offers a maximum drag of about 30lbs. And for smoother operation, this reel comes with seven double shielded steel bearings.

Rover is a versatile multifunctional reel that can handle a wide range of fishing options, including saltwater. Its unique anti-reverse mechanism, smooth release, and bait alarm gives you all the thing you will need to thrive in any fishing situation. But, some users have complained that it has a shorter casting distance.

 

Specs

  • Brand: KastKing
  • Maximum drag: 30lbs
  • Material: aluminum and stainless steel
  • Gear ratio: 6.2:1

 

Pros

  • It comes with a bait clicker system
  • Lightweight
  • It has an EVA handle grips
  • T-shaped handle for superior control and grip

 

Cons

  • It casts only a short distance

 

Overall rating: 4.4 out of 5

Conclusion KastKing Rover is a powerful reel on a budget that can serve you in a wide range of fishing situations.

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4. Daiwa sgt40h Seagate Star Conventional Reel — Best Conventional Reel for Bottom Fishing

Daiwa SGT40H Seagate Star Drag Saltwater Reel, 40, 6.4: 1 Gear Ratio, 6CRBB, 1RB Bearings, 19.80 lb Max Drag, Right Hand

Daiwa SGT40H is quite popular among individuals who love fishing in deeper waters. It’s a strong fishing reel with a capacity of about 350 yards. And thanks to its centrifugal spool brake, your reel’s spool won’t spin out of control. It is the perfect reel for people who are learning how to cast their lines. The centrifugal spool brake will also help prevent painful tangles, allowing you to spend most of your time fishing.

This Daiwa reel comes fitted with the Ultimate Tournament Carbon drag system. This strong drag system gives this reel its fish-stopping abilities. And for a smoother operation, this reel’s bearing system features 4 corrosion-resistant bearings. Daiwa SGT40H’s infinite anti-reverse can guarantee you no back play since it engages as soon as the reel is engaged. However, its four bearing system is not as smooth as other devices with more bearings.

 

Specs

  • Brand: Daiwa
  • Ball-bearings: 4
  • Material: synthetic
  • Gear ratio: 6.4:1
  • Maximum drag: 19.8 pounds
  • Weight: 15.9 ounces

 

Pros

  • Durable
  • Easy to use
  • It has a centrifugal spool brake which prevents tangles
  • It has an infinite anti-reverse
  • Corrosion-resistant bearings

 

Cons

  • Because of its 4-bearing system, this reel is not as efficient as the other models with more ball bearings

 

Overall rating: 4.6 out of 5

Conclusion: Daiwa SGT40H comes with many high-quality features that make fishing easier and fun.

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5. Penn SQL50LW Squall Levelwind

Penn SQL50LW Squall LevelWind

Penn SQL50LW is a great conventional reel that can handle big game fishing in a wide range of saltwater conditions. It is a great option for individuals running monofilament. The Penn Squall Levelwind series is available in a wide range of sizes, with the SQL20LW featuring a line counter. The line counter makes it ideal for precision trolling. Penn SQL50LW has a loud and reliable clicker that signals every time your bait catches a fish. Therefore, Penn SQL50LW is an excellent conventional reel for bottom fishing.

Penn SQL50LW’s body is made from graphite, which is not as sturdy as aluminum. But don’t let that make you ignore this conventional reel. What this reel lacks in durability and rigidity, it makes up for in weight-saving and price. Penn SQL50LW has a huge line capacity than most of the conventional reels in the market. Plus, its brass gears are smooth and can provide you with a reassuring toque.

Penn SQL50LW has a unique drag system controlled by a star-shaped knob situated next to the crank. This reel’s drag system can hold its own in a wide range of settings without binding or slipping. However, this reel is designed to run lighter lines, as heavy ones can easily outstrip the drag system’s power. But, many anglers have complained that it doesn’t have an auto-engage feature for the squall.

 

Specs

  • Brand: Penn
  • Gear ratio: 4.9:1
  • Bearings: 3
  • Weight: 16.2 ounces
  • Maximum drag: 20lbs

 

Pros

  • Available in numerous sizes
  • Lightweight
  • Great drag
  • Comes equipped with level wind
  • Ideal for a wide range of saltwater fishing

 

Cons

  • It doesn’t feature an auto-engage feature for its squall

 

Overall rating: 4.7 out of 5

Conclusion: Penn SQL50LW is a reliable reel with few drawbacks. So you can target big fish and easily catch some with this conventional reel.

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6. Okuma Cortex Graphite Star Drag Reel

Okuma Cortez 4+1Bb 6.2:1 Conventional Graphite Frame Aluminum Spool, 300/30

Okuma Cortex is a great option for anglers looking for a conventional reel to couple with their heavy rods for trolling or jigging. And despite its price, this reel can offer you all the features you would find in a high-end model. This affordable reel comes with graphite side plates and a frame. Some of the parts made from machined aluminum include Lever, handle, and spool. Therefore, this gear can serve you even in the worst conditions.

Okuma Cortex is available in four models, with the primary difference being their spool capacity. Okuma Cortex uses a Magnetic Control System to help you make long casts and eliminate backlashes. The Magnetic Control System is waterproof, so you will never have to worry about saltwater damaging your reel. However, many users have complained that it’s not ideal for precision trolling.

 

Specs

  • Brand: Okuma
  • Material: graphite and aluminum
  • Weight: 1.56 pounds
  • Gear ratio: 4.7:1

 

Pros

  • Ideal for saltwater fishing
  • Durable
  • The Magnetic Control System comes in handy when making long casts
  • Perfect for a wide range of casting activities and even jigging

 

Cons

  • Not ideal for precision trolling

 

Overall rating: 4.2 out of 5

Conclusion: Okuma Cortez is a great option for anglers with heavy rods or planning on casting iron. And thanks to its Magnetic Control System, this affordable reel is perfect for beginners.

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7. Shimano Tekota Conventional Levelwind Reel

Shimano Tekota 700 Saltwater Star Drag Fishing Reel

Shimano has produced some of the best reels in the market, and Tekota is no exception. Shimano Tekota is a unique reel that provides great performance in both freshwater and saltwater fishing. Shimano Tekota is a versatile reel for a wide range of anglers. Shimano combined aluminum and graphite to keep this reel’s weight down. Therefore, Shimano Tekota seems quite light for its size, and if the weight matters to you, you need to consider this reel.

Shimano Tekota is available in 5 sizes, with the same gear ratio (4.2:1). This reel features a reliable crossbar forward design that gives your direct access to its spool. And for better line management, it comes with a non-disengaging level wind system.

Despite have only four bearings, this reel provides a smooth experience. Plus, its crank spins and transmits the needed torque; therefore, you can easily muscle huge fish. However, some anglers have complained that it has a very low gear ratio.

Specs

  • Brand: Shimano
  • Material: aluminum and graphite
  • Maximum drag: 12 pounds
  • Weight: 14.3 ounces
  • Gear ratio: 4.2:1

Pros

  • Lightweight body
  • It has an accurate line counter
  • Smooth cranking
  • Available in a wide variety of sizes

Cons

  • It has a low gear ratio

Overall rating: 4.6 out of 5

Conclusion: Shimano Tekota’s perfect construction and advanced features make it a versatile reel.

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8. Piscifun Salis X Trolling Reel

Piscifun Salis X 3000 Left Handed Trolling Reel 6.2:1 High Speed Inshore Saltwater Round Baitcasting Fishing Reels Level Wind Conventional Reel

Salis X is one of the best reels from Piscifun that is designed to handle a big fishing adventure. Salis X was built with a lightweight graphite frame that provides incredible performance and toughness. This reel’s graphite side plates and frame paired with its steel handle gives you the needed strength to battle in big fishes.

Salis X’s carbon washers deliver a maximum drag of about 37lbs to help you tackle tough fishes easily. Plus, its gear ratio of 6.2:1 is bigger and faster than most reels in the market. Its high gear ratio provides you with a smooth drag and strength to control a battle with tough fishes.

Salis X comes loaded with numerous features that can’t be found on other reels in its class. Some of these features include an instant engage bait-clicker, a comfortable power knob, and a steel crank handle. The bait tracker notifies you every time you hook a fish. However, some anglers have complained that it is quite bulky compared to similar models.

 

Specs

  • Brand: Piscifun
  • Material: graphite and stainless steel
  • Weight: 35.6 ounces
  • Gear ratio: 6.2:1
  • Maximum drag: 37lbs

 

Pros

  • High line capacity and gear ratio
  • Powerful enough to handle huge fish
  • It comes with a bait tracker that notifies you when you hook a fish
  • Excellent line release
  • Excellent drag

 

Cons

  • Some anglers have complained that it is quite bulky

 

Overall rating: 4.3 out of 5

Conclusion: Salis X is a versatile reel that is designed to tackle huge fish.

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9. Penn Squall Star Drag

PENN Squall Star Drag, SQL25N

Penn Squall Star Drag is one of the best reels in the market that has been designed for bottom fishing. This reel comes with a star drag that can be easily adjusted; therefore, you switch from long cast to fighting huge fishes quickly. And thanks to its magnetic brake, you will never have to worry about backlash.

Squall star drag features a steel pinion gear, bronze alloy main gear, and graphite side plates and frame. This reel’s bearings and gears are precision-machined for long life and smooth operation. Therefore, you will never have to worry about corrosion when fishing in saltwater.

Squall star drag has plenty of line capacity that can allow you to fish reefs and deep wrecks where huge fishes are situated. Plus, it comes with a bait clicker to inform you when you hook a fish. This reel doesn’t have a level wind; therefore, you must keep your thumb on it as you reel in your line. However, some anglers have complained that it’s not fully sealed.

 

Specs

  • Brand: Penn
  • Model: SQL25N
  • Ball bearings: 7
  • Maximum drag: 20 pounds

 

Pros

  • Castability
  • Corrosion-resistant
  • Durable
  • It provides a strong and smooth drag

 

Cons

  • It is not fully sealed

 

Overall rating: 4.5 out of 5

Conclusion: Squall star drag is a fast-rate caster used for both surfcasting and bottom fishing.

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best conventional reel

 

Factors to Consider When Purchasing a Conventional Reel

Conventional reels are a powerful version of the bait casters designed to catch huge fish. Thanks to their tough gearing, big spools, and accessible drag levers, conventional reels can easily fight big fishes.

These reels can handle any fight when fishing offshore or trolling the Great Lakes.

Choosing the right conventional reel for bottom fishing or offshore fishing can be quite tricky. However, a reliable conventional reel should tackle massive fishes from the bottom of the lake.

A great conventional reel should be able to handle saltwater fishing. So here are a few factors you must consider when purchasing a trolling reel.

 

Drag

Fishing offshore always means tough fights. When a 300pound pon or 8-foot shark bites your bait, you need a reliable drag that can hold your heavy line.

Therefore, you will need a powerful drag. You might also want to look for a reel with drag control.

There are two types of drag control in the market, star-shaped knop or thumb lever. So choose a control system that you are comfortable with; however, the thumb lever is easier to operate when battling a massive fish.

 

Gear Ratio

Gear ratios refer to the number of times a spool rotates for a single handle rotation. A reel with a 4.2:1 gear ratio spins its spool 4.2 times for a single handle rotation. The reel specs also list the line speed, which shows the length of the line retrieved with one rotation.

Make sure you confirm both specs since the speed of the line is determined by the spool diameter and gear ratio. The best reels have spool diameter and gear ratios that can work together to deliver high line retrieval speed. A huge reel should have a retrieval rate of about 45” per turn.

 

Line Capacity

The strength of your fishing line is usually quantified in ounces, and it’s referred to as the test line. Line capacity refers to the maximum size of the fishing line you can use without overloading your reel. The fishing line’s diameter increases with strength; therefore, higher test lines occupy more space on the spool.

And since braided lines are thicker than monofilament lines, they need higher capacities. Therefore, you should consider the size of the fishes you plan on catching when considering the line capacity.

 

Ball Bearings

Other than the quality of the bearings, a reel with more bearing balls is better. And since these reels are used on saltwater, you should look for shielded or anti-rust bearings.

 

Construction

Massive fishes like sharks or lake trouts can put huge amounts of stress on your reel. So make sure you have a sturdy and high-quality reel. After all, the reel serves as the line’s anchor to the rod. However, a conventional reel mitigates the rod’s power and action, drag, and line stretch.

So pick a reel with a solid metal body. Graphite is effective, but it’s not as durable as a machined aluminum reel.

 

Conclusion

The success of any offshore fishing trip is determined by the quality of your conventional reel. And one thing that can mess your fishing trip is choosing the wrong gear to catch a massive fish. Remember, the best conventional reel for you should be sturdy and have more ball bearings, high line capacity, and high gear ratio. So make sure you pick a conventional reel that matches the size of the fish you plan on fishing.

Purchasing the right conventional reel can be quite hard, especially with the many options available. Remember, the right reel should be able to tackle a tough fish battle. We have created this review to help you select the right conventional reel for your needs.

If we were to select a top conventional reel from our list of the best options available, we would choose Penn Fathom Lever Drag FTH25NLD. It’s a tough reel that will provide the needed strength and stability when fighting a massive fish. It has an excellent retrieval rate, so you can easily control any battle with a fish.

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