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The Best Spincast Reels of 2024

March 8, 2024 - Blog

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Best Overall

Zebco Model 33


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Most Durable

Ugly Stik Ugly Tuff


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Best Budget

Shakespeare Synergy TI 10


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Almost every angler will agree there’s a learning curve to using standard spinning and baitcasting setups. Dealing with a tangled bird’s nest of lines is basically inevitable for new fishermen. However, there’s one style of reel that’s less prone to user-induced issues — spincast reels. 

The ease of use of closed face reels makes them perfect learning tools for the angler just starting out. With that in mind, I set out to test some of the newer models out there to find the best spincast reels.  

Best Overall: Zebco Model 33

Most Durable: Ugly Stik Ugly Tuff

Best High End: Daiwa Goldcast

Best Budget: Shakespeare Synergy TI 10

Best For Panfish: Pflueger President

How I Chose The Best Spincast Reels

As a lifelong angler, I’ve been using spincast reels for decades. In fact, I’ve probably caught more fish on spincast outfits than any other type of reel. Although I already have some old favorites from the past, this is a fresh review of brand-new reels. I evaluated the best spincast reels for casting distance, smoothness of retrieve, drag system smoothness, and construction quality. 

Best Spincast Reels: Reviews & Recommendations

Best Overall: Zebco Model 33

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Key Features

Gear Ratio: 4.1:1

Bearings: One 

Weight: 9.3 ounces

Pros

Smooth and reliable 

Metal gears add durability

Good feel

Cons

Reel face cover can be stubborn 

The Zebco 33 continues to be the gold standard by which all spincast reels are judged. It had been a while since I had handled one of these reels. For perspective, the last one I remember using had the classic chrome metal body look back in the late 90s. Zebco has streamlined the look quite a bit since then. Additionally, the body is now made of graphite which makes this reel much lighter than the other options tested. One thing that hasn’t changed is the performance. The reel casts with pinpoint accuracy and excellent distance. It wasn’t the smoothest reel I tested, but it was up there with the best of the bunch. The dial drag was easy to adjust. 

Note the pick-up pins that can make the cover hard to replace. Travis Smola

My only real complaint is the reel cover. It’s a bit stubborn to remove and replace because the ceramic pick-up pins stick out quite a bit. I found it much easier to do this with the cast button depressed. Otherwise, the pins easily get caught on the plastic notches and threads of the face. I know some anglers will likely complain about the plastic parts on this reel. However, I found them all to be quite durable and reliable in my test. At the end of the day performance matters most, and the Zebco 33 still shines above them all.

Most Durable: Ugly Stik Ugly Tuff

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Key Features

Gear Ratios: 3.2:1, 3.5:1, 3.8:1

Bearings: Three

Weight: 9.9 ounces

Pros

Surprisingly smooth

Rugged construction

Great handle

Cons

Feels heavy

The Ugly Tuff is one rugged reel. During my testing, I accidentally dropped this one on the hard gravel parking lot. The heavy aluminum frame shrugged that accident off as if nothing had happened. This reel is a tank that’s going to be perfect for anyone who is tough on equipment. In short, this thing lives up to the reputation of the Ugly Stik name. However, what surprised me the most was this was also the smoothest operating of all the reels tested. It gives silky-smooth casts and retrieves that must be felt to be appreciated. I didn’t look too closely at the reel before that first cast, and this performance caused me to do a double take. It all made sense when I looked at the reel cover and saw it has a three-bearing system. 

The Ugly Tuff’s beefy components make it tough as a tank. Travis Smola

The rugged materials do make this reel feel a lot heavier than the advertised weight. It’s somewhat puzzling considering I tested heavier reels, but it’s noticeable. Because of that, I think smaller kids might get tired quickly using this one. However, this reel also had the best handle of the bunch that I tested. The Ugly Tuff is excellent for anyone who’s frustrated with the quality of materials being used in many of today’s reels. It feels like a throwback to when equipment was built to last. 

Best High End: Daiwa Goldcast

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Key Features

Gear Ratio: 4.1:1

Bearings: One

Weight: 9.3 to 12.2 ounces

Pros

Reliable

Long, smooth casts

Crisp operation

Cons

Expensive for a spincast

Anti-reverse audibly clicks

The Daiwa Goldcast looks like a throwback to the golden age of spincast reels. This is appropriate because this reel operates and feels exactly how I remembered. In fact, I’m not even sure if Daiwa has changed much of anything with the design over the years. The Goldcast is a smooth casting and retrieving reel that’s a true joy to use. I was able to be very precise with my casting, even into a strong wind. This reel is also surprisingly smooth considering it only has one bearing. The reel body and spool cover are an all-metal construction that adds some excellent durability to the setup. Switching on the anti-reverse on this reel does produce an audible clicking noise. For me, it’s not a dealbreaker, but it is worth knowing before buying. 

The Goldcast features an excellent spool and interior components. Travis Smola

The Goldcast goes for about $75 now. While I think that’s a fair price point, it might scare away a new angler on a budget. Which is a shame because this is basically the Cadillac of spincast reels. It’s well worth the price of admission because it’s so reliable. Goldcasts have a simple design that’s built to last. 

Best Budget: Shakespeare Synergy TI 10

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Key Features

Gear Ratio: 3.8:1

Bearings: Two

10 ounces

Pros

Long casts

Affordable price

Crisp components 

Cons

Not the smoothest reel

At under $20, the Synergy is one of the most affordable spincast reels available today. I found mine in the Walmart clearance section for only $14. I know the reputation of Shakespeare has fallen off a bit in recent years. However, I’m encouraged by what we saw from their parent company, Pure Fishing, last year. It feels like they’re attempting to up the quality of the brand. In fact, this reel delivered the most casting distance of all the ones I tested. Most of the components, including the drag knob and release button, feel solid too. I couldn’t help but compare this to the Ugly Tuff because they’re both Pure Fishing reels. I believe they used the exact same grips for the handle as those on the Ugly Tuff. I love the feel and there is a tiny amount of tact that makes them easy to grip. 

The TI has better components than expected for a sub-$20 reel. Travis Smola

Additionally, most of this reel’s components are made of metal, which adds some durability to the setup. While it has two bearings, this reel is not nearly as smooth as some of the single-bearing options I tested. It’s not horrible by any means, but I do think it’s going to be best for panfish and light bass fishing applications. I wouldn’t want to task it with a hard fighter like a catfish. However, for casual anglers on a budget, this is a solid reel that will get the job done. 

Best For Panfish: Pflueger President

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Key Features

Gear Ratios: 3.1:1, 3.4:1, 3.8:1

Bearings: Five

11.2 ounces

Pros

Durable metal construction

Extremely smooth

Good drag system

Cons

Pricey for the size

The Pflueger President has an excellent aluminum frame, face cover, and handle that makes it feel bulletproof. That quality of construction extends to the interior titanium pins. This is another good option for anyone who’s tired of cheap reels breaking all the time. I found that the President offers excellent casting distance and accuracy. I was able to cut some casts deeply into the wind using it. Pflueger makes a few different sizes, but the one I tested was the size six with a 3.4:1 gear ratio. This size feels just right for targeting panfish. At the same time, it will also handle the occasional largemouth. This reel also had the nicest drag of all the options I tested. 

The President has excellent components inside and out. Travis Smola 

Depending on where you buy it, this reel often goes for $50, which seems a little expensive for this size of reel. However, the quality of the construction makes it worth the price. Additionally, this reel has five bearings, which makes for a silky-smooth operation. I also like the button on this reel. It’s got a nice, soft touch to it that makes it comfortable to operate for long periods. 

How To Choose a Spincast Reel

Spincast reels have an undeserved reputation as beginner fishing equipment. Don’t tell someone like pro bass angler Gary Klein that. He used a Zebco 33 on day two of the 2014 Bassmaster Classic. In 1973, David Zimmerlee pulled a monstrous 20-pound, 15-ounce largemouth out of Lake Miramar in California. Once again, it was a Zebco 33 that got the job done. These reels might not be as versatile as baitcasting and spinning outfits. However, they are more than capable of bringing in big fish. With that in mind, here are some considerations for choosing one. 

Line Weights

When fishing for bass, I prefer 8- or 10-pound monofilament on a spincast reel. This type of line is very capable for crankbaits, small spinnerbaits, and soft plastics. While targeting panfish, I like to drop down to a 4- or 6-pound test. The lighter line offers a little more sensitivity and makes for a fun fight with smaller fish. However, remember that spincast spools usually have a significantly reduced line capacity when compared to other reels. Although line waste is usually not an issue because tangles are less frequent with this style of reel. 

Bearings

Usually, the more bearings a reel has, the smoother the performance. Most spincast outfits only have one. However, companies are starting to beef up the performance of their reels with reels that offer three or four. Reels with more bearings usually cost a little more. However, performance-wise it’s usually worth the price. 

Materials

I personally prefer reels that use a lot of aluminum or metal components. Better materials add durability and strength to the setup, which is especially important for newbies who are tough on gear. Reels that have metal gearing are highly preferable. Mainly because I’ve had too many bad experiences with plastic gears eventually stripping and ruining the reel. 

While I don’t think plastic or graphite materials are a deal-breaker, it’s best to avoid reels that use too much. During testing, the Shakespeare Durango was a night and day difference compared to the Synergy TI. That was mainly because the Durango is almost exclusively graphite and plastic. While it cast well, I didn’t feel the durability was there. 

Durability is essential for reels intended for children. However, be careful not to select something that’s too heavy either. Kids won’t have fun if they get worn out casting a heavy setup before the fish even strikes. 

FAQs

Q: What is a spincast reel best for?

Due to the ease of use, spincast reels are often typecast as beginner fishing equipment. While that’s true to a degree, it’s also selling these reels a bit short, because spincast reels are versatile enough for a whole host of angling scenarios. They shine best with bass, bluegill, crappie, and yellow perch. However, larger versions are more than capable for hard fighters like catfish. There are a few more rugged models now being produced for use in saltwater too. 

Q: Can you put braid on a spincast reel?

Most spincast reels are designed to only handle monofilament lines in the 8- to 10-pound range. Spincast reels rarely work well with heavier braided lines, especially the lighter reels that are meant primarily for panfish species. 

Q: What are the benefits of a spincast reel?

Aside from being incredibly affordable, spincast reels have a large margin for error. These reels won’t turn the line into an instant bird nest because the angler messed up a cast. Novice anglers will find a spincast perfect for learning casting motions for this reason. Spincast reels are also great for lighter baits and lures. That is why this style is popular for panfish species. 

Final Thoughts on the Best Spincast Reels

While the design has changed dramatically over the years, the Zebco Model 33 remains a go-to reel for many species. This is the reel I want in hand while targeting largemouth bass, bluegill, perch, and other popular species. The reel is the perfect combination of price, materials, and performance. For any angler looking to add a tremendous spincast reel to their arsenal, it’s hard to go wrong with the Zebco 33. And that’s a real testament to this reel’s staying power. 

Best Overall: Zebco Model 33

Most Durable: Ugly Stik Ugly Tuff

Best High End: Daiwa Goldcast

Best Budget: Shakespeare Synergy TI 10

Best For Panfish: Pflueger President

The post The Best Spincast Reels of 2024 appeared first on Outdoor Life.

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