Best Striper Reels of 2021 – Buyer’s Guide Review

| Last Updated December 23, 2021

A striper, otherwise known as striped bass, is an incredibly popular fish to target these days.

They’re a lot of fun to hunt and the feeling of accomplishment that comes along with pulling in a huge bass is like no other.

This article will walk through some great reel options that can help you step up your striper-fishing game. 

Comparison of the Best Striper Reels

  • Synchronized level wind system ensures even lay and smooth retrieve
  • 5.1:1 gear ratio is perfect for fishing striped bass
  • Smooth carbon matrix drag system and bent handle with power knob
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  • Heavy drag power of 39.5 lbs makes it perfect for big striper
  • Water-resistant design for spool, body, and rotor for efficiency
  • Extra line capacity with a silent and smooth operation
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  • Features a 2-speed quick gear system for low/high speeds
  • Innovative dura drag system eliminates snag under all conditions
  • Fluid cranking with prompt anti-reverse system for retrieval
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  • Lightweight, corrosion-resistant frame, and great for seasoned professionals
  • Multi-disc carbonite drag system with precise drag settings
  • Drop-down gearbox with self-lubricating gear system
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Are All Striper Reels The Same?

While many striper reels may have similar qualities, not all reels are created equal. Bass fishing doesn’t require any specific technique, so many styles of reel can be effective in hunting the species. Depending on your preference, you may prefer a baitcasting, spinning, or trolling reel

A baitcasting reel is one that is set-up for advanced anglers. Though it can provide some serious accuracy and control, it takes a good bit of practice to master the technique associated with it. Unlike spinning reels, it requires more manual operation, and tend to be on the pricier side.

Spinning reels are a very popular style for anglers of all skill levels. They’re known for their easy-to-use design and super long, smooth casting abilities. These reels are usually more affordable and accessible.

A trolling reel is created to be used in conjunction with watercraft in offshore fishing. They are usually a little more heavy-duty, made to be stationary on the back or side of a boat. They often have very powerful drag systems incorporated into their design. 

How to Choose a Reel Perfect for Striper

If you know you’re in the market for a striper-specific reel, it’s ever-so-important to do a little research. All great striper reels will have a couple of factors in common which come together to give an angler the best chance at fishing success. Seek out striper reels with the following: 

Powerful Drag System

When it comes to fishing any species of bass, control is vital— a quality-made drag system can provide this. Not only should a drag system be powerful, but also smooth and absent of jerky motions or sticking. A high-pressure power can make all the difference in the fight with a strong fish, so in general, the higher the power, the better. 

Quality-Made Construction

Exceptional reels will not skimp on high-quality materials or thoughtful designs. Keep a watchful eye out for a reel created with breakable plastic parts as there is a good chance it won’t last more than one season. Anodized aluminum, graphite, or carbon fiber are solid choices in general. 

Solid Gear Ratio 

The higher the gear ratio, the faster your retrieval will be. The standard for bass fishing, striper included, is usually around 6:1 but your preference may be higher or lower depending on your angling style. If you need more cranking power, you may want to go a little lower. 

Review of the Best Striper Reels  

Now that you know some of the qualities that every great striper reel should have, we’ll walk you through some of our favorite options on the market. 

Best Overall:
Abu Garcia C3-6500STSPC Ambassadeur Striper Special

Abu Garcia Ambassadeur Striper Special Reel 1324559


  • Great For Big Bass
  • Large Line Capacity
  • Sturdy, Durable Design
  • Powerful Braking System
  • Easily Adjustable Drag System and Level Wind


  • Prone To Backlash
  • Some Plastic Parts
  • Low Ball-Bearing Count

What Recent Buyers Report

The majority of buyers of the Abu Garcia Ambassadeur reel believed it served its purpose well. Those who purchased had praises to give about the durable, sturdy round design and excellent line capacity. Many remarked it was a great rig for picking up large fish. 

Why it Stands Out to Us

Abu Garcia is an excellent, Sweden-based company that makes exceptional fishing gear— the Ambassadeur reel is no different. With a sturdy design, quality drag and braking system, and some awesome special features, we believed this reel easily earned the top spot on our favorites list. 

Who Will Use This Most

The Ambassadeur reel is one of our favorite picks for anglers looking to pick up big fish. If you’re hunting the trophies among striped bass, this is an awesome choice for you. Although it’s not a super frilly reel, its simple but effective design does it's intended job exceptionally well.  

What Could Be Improved and Why

With only a 3+1 ball bearing count, it could operate a little smoother with the addition of a few more. Also, as with any baitcasting reel, there is a learning curve. If you’re not careful, you can easily end up with a nasty birds nest.

Bottom Line

For anglers with a little more experience in baitcasting, the Ambassadeur reel from Abu Garcia really can’t be beaten. It is simple, effective, and has the power to pull in the fish that will impress your family and friends. 

KastKing Sharky III

KastKing Sharky III Spinning Fishing Reel,Size 4000


  • Great Drag System
  • Sealed For Protection
  • Braided Line Ready Spool
  • Awesome Value For Price
  • Comfortable To Use All Day Long


  • Sizes Run Small
  • Clicking Sound
  • Doesn’t Hold Up Super Well In Saltwater

What Recent Buyers Report

The Sharky III impressed buyers with its powerful drag system, comfortable, smooth performance that all comes at a super reasonable price. Many who purchased this product loved the solid feel, but were unimpressed with the size, which they say runs much smaller than advertised.  

Why it Stands Out to Us

KastKing is one of our favorite companies for affordable angling products. They keep a serious commitment to accessibility without compromising performance, which is admirable. This particular reel earns a spot on our list for its awesome drag system and comfortable, lightweight design. 

Who Will Use This Most

If you’re an angler on a budget with a serious need for power and consistency in your reel, look no further. We love this pick for those who want something reliable without breaking the bank. This is also an easy option for beginners who are new to spinning reels.

What Could Be Improved and Why

An issue that comes up over and over again with this particular model is complaints about the size running smaller than advertised. This can throw off the balance of your combo if you don’t plan correctly, so consider going a size up if you are concerned.

Bottom Line

When it comes to affordable reels, KastKing really takes the cake on several levels. It is tough to find a budget reel with an incredible drag system and durable construction, but the Sharky III checks both boxes. 

3. Penn Fathom Lever Drag

Penn 1292935 Fathom 60L Lever 2-Speed Lever Drag Fishing Reel


  • Easy To Crank
  • Awesome Value
  • Smooth Gear Shift
  • Super Large Line Capacity
  • Can Cast a Mile With Ease


  • Bulky
  • No Line Guide
  • Scratches Fairly Easily

What Recent Buyers Report

Those who purchased the Penn Fathom were seriously impressed with this behemoth of a reel. More than one reviewer claimed that it was the best reel they have ever used thanks to the strength and power it provides in the fight with a big fish. 

Why it Stands Out to Us

Another pick from Penn, it is no secret we’re fans of this company. The Fathom reel is special because of the power it provides at an exceptional price. This is a seriously heavy-duty reel for serious anglers. This reel earns major points for its pulling power and huge line capacity.

Who Will Use This Most  

The Fathom reel has all the components to make it an exceptional trophy-hunting setup. With a powerful drag system, buttery smooth casting ability, and durable core, this is an awesome pick for anglers who want something that can pack a major punch. 

What Could Be Improved and Why

Honestly, it is fairly hard to find faults with this Penn reel. But like any piece of gear, there are always improvements that can be made. This reel got complaints concerning the durability of the outer finish and the lack of a line counter. 

Bottom Line

All in all, the Penn Fathom is an exceptional reel that comes at a reasonable price point. It is hard to beat this reel’s qualities that come together to make it a generally solid choice. We love this reel’s abilities as a trophy hunter, and we think you would, too. 

4. Okuma Cold Water Linecounter Trolling Reel

Okuma Fishing Tackle Cold Water Linecounter Trolling Reel CW-203D Silver


  • Attractive Finish
  • Sizable Line Capacity
  • Pole Bracket Included
  • Line Counter is Easy To Read
  • Easily Adjustable Drag System


  • Noisy When Cranking
  • Retrieval Could Be Quicker
  • The Large Handle Makes it Hard To Balance

What Recent Buyers Report

Recent buyers of the Okuma Cold Water reel were pretty satisfied with this trolling reel for a number of reasons. Buyers complimented the easy-to-read line counter and appreciated the easy-to-adjust systems like the drag. Some wished the retrieve could be a little speedier.

Why it Stands Out to Us

The Cold Water is an awesome choice for anglers who prefer trolling, which is why we believed it belonged on our favorites list. It has several qualities of a great trolling reel including a high-quality line counter, a huge line capacity, and a powerful drag for control. 

Who Will Use This Most

This is a trolling reel which means that it should be used in offshore fishing. This particular reel is saltwater-resistant so it’s a fairly versatile choice for anglers who want to explore outside the realm of striped bass. 

What Could Be Improved and Why

There were a couple of complaints surrounding the Cold Water, one being that the large handle makes it off-balance. People also were unhappy with the speed of retrieval and thought that the clicking noise when reeling in was pretty annoying.

Bottom Line

All in all, if you’re looking for a trolling reel option, the Cold Water isn’t a bad place to start. A huge line capacity, high-quality drag system, and durable finish all come together to create an awesome pick for fishing stripers. 

5. Penn Pursuit II & III

Penn Pursuit II Spinning Fishing Reel


  • Easy To Use
  • Smooth Operation
  • Consistent Casting
  • High-Quality Drag System
  • Incredible Value For the Price


  • A Little Noisy
  • No Anti-Reverse
  • Hard To Get a Line To Spool Evenly

What Recent Buyers Report  

Those who purchased the Penn Pursuit reels were happy with several aspects of the models. Many commented on the smoothness of the drag as well as the buttery casting abilities. There were several complaints about the lack of an anti-reverse switch. 

Why it Stands Out to Us

Penn is another great company that is well-known in the angling world. We believed the Pursuit reels would make a great budget pick because they have high-quality standards at a super reasonable price. The value is exceptional overall and shines through in the quality-made construction. 

Who Will Use This Most

Angling is an expensive hobby, which makes it inaccessible to many folks. Fortunately, the Penn reels provide luxury quality at a mid to low-level price, which opens up the doors for more people to participate in this great sport. We’d recommend the Pursuit reels to any angler looking to get a great bang for their buck. 

What Could Be Improved and Why

The major complaint with the Pursuit reels, and other Penn reels for that matter, is the lack of an anti-reverse switch. This drives some anglers nuts, while others really can’t be bothered by it. If an anti-reverse switch is a must for you, you’ll probably want to consider a different reel. 

Bottom Line

For anglers on a budget, or anyone looking for another great striper reel to add to their collection, the Pursuit reels from Penn are an awesome option. Along with great construction, they are known for being consistent and reliable, a must-have in the angling world. 

Cautious Considerations to Keep in Mind

Although it may be hard to not jump right into a purchase you’re excited about, there are still some aspects to consider which could make or break your purchase. 

Is Your Reel Matched to Your Fishing Style?

Because an angler can use a variety of reel styles to target stripers, it’s very important to ensure that the reel you purchase matches the style of fishing you prefer.

If you buy a baitcasting reel but have never tried baitcasting before, you may be in a little bit of trouble. Likewise, a trolling reel won’t be effective if it is used as a spinning reel, and vice versa. 

Can it Fit Your Fishing Line of Choice?  

Some reels do better than others with heavier braided line. It would be disappointing to buy a brand new reel only to find that your line of choice can’t be used. Many will label themselves as “braided line-ready” or show their line capacity— double check that before purchasing. 

Is it Versatile Enough?

It might not be a good choice to buy a reel that can only be used for fishing striper. Keep your other fishing goals in mind when considering a purchase. 

Effective Baits & Lures for Striped Bass  

There is plenty of bait and lure options for fishing striped bass that may strike your fancy. Here are some general options that are popular in the angling community:

Umbrella Rig 

Named for the shape of the formation of lures, this rig utilizes five separate lures to tempt a striper. This is a good option for covering a lot of ground without a ton of effort. But be wary— they snag easily. 

Live Bait

Nothing is more tempting for a striper than it’s natural prey. Live bait is a great option for anglers willing to put in the time and effort to keep it fresh before use. 


With some solid reel choices now in your mind, you only have a couple of steps between you and the bass! Always consider quality and value and you’ll be set up with a reel that will last you for life. Happy fishing!

My name is Caleb and I am obsessed with hunting, fishing, and foraging. To be successful, you have to think like your prey. You have to get into the mind of your target - and understand Big Game Logic. 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.