Best Steelhead Reels of 2021 – Complete Buyer’s Guide

| Last Updated June 3, 2021

Looking for the perfect reel to use while fishing for steelhead? Well, then you have come to the perfect place!

In this article, we will be reviewing the best steelhead reels of 2020. It is common knowledge among the fishing community that steelhead is not like your average everyday fish. They need a different set of equipment since they have different behaviors and can put up a good fight.

Therefore, it is best to be properly equipped. Even more so, if you are just starting out. So then, let’s get right down to business. 

Comparison of the Best Steelhead Reels

  • Improved gear durability and enhanced casting performance
  • Long-lasting with strong performance
  • Offers great smoothness and casting capabilities
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  • Corrosion-resistant stainless steel ball bearings
  • Feather-light designed body and rotor
  • Ideal for wide range of species and angling applications
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  • Best for the Money
  • IPX5 Sealed body and spool design
  • Highly recommended for both beginners and veterans
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  • Best Steelhead Spinning Reel
  • Carbon Matrix drag for consistent pressure
  • Features K-Clutch anti-reverse
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  • Best Steelhead Fly Reel
  • Narrow spool prevents line barreling
  • Smooth and maintenance-free drag
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  • Best Steelhead Casting Reel
  • Micro Module Gear System for smooth retrieve
  • Less friction for longer casts
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What Type of Reel Do I Need For Steelhead?

The only definitive answer to this question is that you will need a reel with a good drag. There are different types of reels, and each angler has their own preference, but the factor that plays the most important role when it comes to steelhead is perhaps the drag of the reel. So what is the drag system? Basically, it comprises of a pair of small metal plates situated inside the reel. These plates are there to put pressure on the spool and prevent it from releasing more line. This way, the catch can be pulled in without the fear of the line breaking. 

What Makes a Great Steelhead Reel?

Before we start with the reviews, let’s go over some essentials. The following are just a few characteristics that should be present in a good steelhead reel. Their presence makes the reel function better and outperform all the competition.


Now, this factor depends a lot on the other equipment you will be using, for example, the rod. Depending on the rod, you can pick out the perfect sized reel for the best fishing experience. Keep in mind that big reels are not always heavy, and small reels are not always light. There are a lot of options that you can pick from. However, make sure to choose one that balances nicely with the rod you have. 

Spool Capacity

Spool capacity can have a great effect on your fishing. Make sure to check whether the spool capacity of your reel is adequate. However, be sure that it is not too much. Whether the capacity is too much or not can be determined further by the body of water you will be fishing in.


Yet another important part of the reel is the bearings. A good reel does not need a lot of bearings, but it needs them in the right place. Areas, where the load is best supported and distributed, are perfect for bearing placement. 

Review of the Best Steelhead Reels

Now that we have got all the primary information out of the way, let’s start with the reviews. In this section, we will be reviewing some of the best reels available today. Each reel will be reviewed in detail so that you can get a clear picture of what it is capable of. Without further ado, let’s start with the first reel. 

Best Overall:
Shimano Stradic HG Fishing Reel

SHIMANO STRADIC HG, Freshwater Spinning Fishing Reel


  • Reel is lightweight yet sturdy using the best quality materials
  • Incorporates both new and old technologies which bring out the best in the reel
  • Maintenance is easy as the covers can be opened and the insides can be inspected for any problems
  • HAGANE gearing and HAGANE body help to make the reel useful for both inshore and offshore fishing
  • X ship technology works to improve gear durability and eliminates friction between the spool shaft and gear


  • Although the reel is quite sturdy, the cost for repairing any damaged parts is quite high 

What Recent Buyers Report

This reel has accumulated a lot of positive reviews. Most buyers are satisfied as the reel performs well. In some cases, it has even exceeded the expectations of some of the buyers. Many buyers report it to be tough yet very smooth and lightweight. 

Why it Stands Out to Us

As mentioned previously, the reel is lightweight and, therefore, easy to handle. In addition to that, it is quite smooth, and there are no issues when it comes to casting. In fact, thanks to the technologies that Shimano has included in the reel, casting is very easy.

Who Will Use This Most

Shimano categorizes this reel as a freshwater reel. It is great for both inshore and offshore fishing. Thanks to its ease of use, beginners would enjoy using this reel as well. It makes casting easy; therefore, those still getting the hang of the sport can benefit from using this reel. 

Bottom Line

In conclusion, the Stradic HG reel really lives up to the Shimano name. It is made from high-quality materials, and not only is it smooth, but it is lightweight and sturdy as well. 

Pflueger Supreme XT

Pflueger SUPXTSP30X Supreme XT Spinning Fishing Reel


  • Carbon handle which is 21% lighter than aluminum
  • Weighs less than 6 ounces and is extremely lightweight
  • Built with a very ergonomic design that is easy to handle
  • Equipped with a 10 bearing system with stainless steel and corrosion-resistant bearings
  • Sealed carbon drag system ensures that the system is always lubricated and smooth 


  • Complex structure of the reel may make it difficult for less technically inclined users to maintain the reel 
  • With this reel, there have been instances of line twisting which are caused by manufacturing faults in some reels

What Recent Buyers Report

According to recent reviews, it can be easily concluded that this reel is much loved by a great majority of the users. The buyers love how amazing the performance of the reel is. It offers great value, which inevitably becomes its greatest selling point. 

Why it Stands Out to Us

This reel ticks all the right boxes. It is lightweight and has a magnesium body which is amazing. In addition to that, the overall design of the reel is ergonomic, which adds to its ease of use. Furthermore, the overall performance is great, and the longevity of the reel is superb as well. 

Who Will Use This Most

This reel by Pflueger can be used by both beginners and professionals. Although, professionals may be able to utilize it better as they have a better understanding of the specifications and can deal with any difficulties that may be faced, for example, line twisting.

Bottom Line

When it comes to value, there are not many reels that can compare to this one. It functions well and has a great build. 

Best for the Money:
Penn 1481260 Spinfisher VI

PENN 1481260 Spinfisher VI Spinning Saltwater Reel, 2500 Reel Size, 6.2: 1 Gear Ratio, 33' Retrieve Rate, 6 Bearings, Ambidextrous


  • Reel has a full metal body which makes it durable and sturdy 
  • Allows you to monitor how much line you have left on your spool with the help of line capacity rings
  • CNG Gear technology ensures that the gears are more precisely manufactured and better lubricated
  • 5+1 stainless steel ball-bearing system is protected from all potential damage and only requires occasional maintenance 
  • Equipped with the IPX5 sealed body and spool design which prevents sand, debris, and salt from getting into the gears


  • Complaints about the quality control are the most common issue with this reel 

What Recent Buyers Report

On average, the buyers are content with their purchase of this reel. Both the quality and the build of the reel have been praised by the buyers. In addition to that, its features like the IPX5 sealed body and water resistance have also been appreciated. 

Why it Stands Out to Us

The reason why this model stands out to us is because of its affordability. What we like about this reel is that it offers a maximum number of features that allow it to rival its higher-priced competitors. It provides quality at an affordable price, making it the best for the money. 

Who Will Use This Most

The Penn 1481260 Spinfisher VI would be great to use in both freshwater and saltwater as it has the kind of resistance that will protect it from damage. Those on a tight budget like beginners and hobbyists will also gravitate towards this reel. 

Bottom Line

All in all, this reel is a good choice for anyone looking for an affordable reel that provides quality and is worth the money. 

Best Steelhead Spinning Reel:
Abu Garcia Revo SX Spinning Reel

Abu Garcia Revo SX Spinning Reel


  • Body of the reel is lightweight and is built with C6 carbon
  • Graphite rotor of the reel is strong despite its lightweight body
  • Built with high-quality materials that ensure durability and longevity
  • Equipped with AMG Gearing which provides precision machined gears
  • Consistent pressure is delivered with the help of the Carbon Matrix drag


  • The resistance to water is a bit low in this reel, and it does not perform as well when it gets too wet

What Recent Buyers Report

With this reel, it is really difficult to find any negative feedback and reviews. Most buyers are extremely pleased with the quality of this reel and appreciate how smoothly it performs. It is able to provide good results and provides great value. 

Why it Stands Out to Us

This is a great spinning reel for steelhead fishing. It is lightweight yet strong thanks to its C6 carbon body. Moreover, it is durable and sturdy, and maintenance is no problem at all. The casting process is quite smooth, and the chances of encountering problems with this reel are very little. 

Who Will Use This Most

A spinning reel would be great for anglers that are just starting out in the world of steelhead fishing. It offers great control and is easy to use overall. In addition to that, it is a bit more affordable than the high-end reels; therefore, it can also be used by people looking for a quality reel on a budget. 

Bottom Line

If you are looking for a spinning reel for steelhead fishing, this is a great option. It has a good build and provides adequate features as well. 

Best Steelhead Fly Reel:
Waterworks-Lamson Speedster

Waterworks-Lamson Speedster Fly Fishing Reel


  • Retrieve of this unit is very fast
  • Spool changing process is very easy
  • Weighs approximately 4.2 ounces which is extremely lightweight 
  • Ergonomic design ensures the maximum level of comfort for the user
  • Built with a very modern design that enhances the look of your fishing rod 


  • The drag system leaves a bit to be desired

What Recent Buyers Report

A general overview of the feedback for this model will let you know that it is well received among buyers. Most of its aspects are highly praised, especially how well it is designed and how good it looks. Apart from that, the performance has also been positively reviewed. 

Why it Stands Out to Us

From its looks to its performance, this reel really has it all. It scores well in terms of the overall design. That is because it is able to fit in ergonomics and an aesthetically pleasing design. Apart from that, it is lightweight, yet it is durable and strong as well. 

Who Will Use This Most

Given the specifications of this unit, it would be more suited for intermediate users. In other words, it’s ideal for those that have a little more experience in the world of steelhead fishing. 

Bottom Line

All things considered, this is a great product to invest in. The reviews for this fly reel are overwhelmingly positive, and it even comes along with a warranty!

Best Steelhead Casting Reel:
Shimano Curado DC Fishing Reel

Shimano CURADO DC, LowProfile Baitcasting Freshwater Fishing Reel


  • Solid build and feels very sturdy in the hand 
  • Ergonomic design ensures that it fits nicely in hand and is easy to use
  • DC system controls the speed of the spool digitally down to the nano-second
  • Built with the signature HAGANE body which makes it durable and sturdy as well 
  • Equipped with the X Ship technology that eliminates friction between the spool shaft and gear


  • Making repairs for Shimano reels are a bit difficult, and it can be pricey

What Recent Buyers Report

This is yet another Shimano model that the buyers absolutely adore. Everything from the quality of the reel to its functions has been extensively praised by the buyers. Aside from that, the reviews from the buyers can confirm that this reel is a good investment. 

Why it Stands Out to Us

Shimano makes its equipment so that it can stand out from all the rest. Starting with the build, the reel is made from some of the highest quality materials. These contribute to making the reel sturdy and resistant to wear and tear. Furthermore, the performance of the reel leaves little to be desired. 

Who Will Use This Most

Well, this unit is just perfect to be used by beginners as it is easy to control. Casting with it is very easy as well, and the entire process is very smooth. 

Bottom Line

If you are just starting out on your steelhead adventure and are looking for a reel that you can put your faith in, then this one is a good option to consider. It will help you get used to steelhead fishing and will last you a long time as well. 

Advantages of Investing in a Quality Reel For Steelhead

Now that we are done with the reviews let’s take a brief look at the advantages of investing in a quality reel for steelhead fishing.

Different Build

The type of fish you can catch depends a lot on the type of reel you have. Of course, it comes down to the specifications and the general build of the reel. Investing in a quality reel specifically for steelhead will give you an advantage. Meaning there will be a lesser chance of your catch getting away. 


Reels used for steelhead are more versatile than your average reel. Unlike your average reels, these can be utilized for other fishing adventures as well. 

Great Addition to Your Collection

Investing in a good quality reel for steelhead fishing will undoubtedly be an excellent addition to your collection of fishing equipment. 


So that is it for our review of the best steelhead reels of 2020. There are a lot of things that we discussed in this review; however, if you want to choose the perfect reel for yourself, do not forget what features really matter. Always prioritize quality, functionality, and performance over everything else. 

People Also Ask 

The following are a few questions that are often asked by people looking for steelhead reels. Let’s check out what the answers to these frequently asked questions are. 

Are Steelhead and Salmon the Same Thing?

No, they are not the same thing; however, they are closely related.

What Kind of Fish is a Steelhead?

A steelhead is a type of trout. 

Where Are Steelhead Native To?

Historically speaking, the steelhead is native to North America.

What Is The Maximum Height That a Steelhead Can Jump?

They can jump up to 10.9 feet high. 

My name is Jeff and I have been hunting and fishing for over 40 years. I am an avid archery lover, bass fisherman, and all-around outdoorsman. Currently, I'm obsessed with elk hunting but I'm sure I'll move onto a different favorite soon. You gotta love hunting for that reason :) If you have any questions, or just want chat about your latest hunting score or big catch, you can reach me at Read more about Big Game Logic.