If you are here, you probably know what surfcasting is and how it is different from other forms of fishing. However, if you don’t, here is the explanation. In simple terms, surfcasting is the act of catching fish standing on the shoreline.
Surfcasting also applies to fish while wading in the surf. Contrary to popular belief, you can catch a wide variety of fish from surfcasting. These include but are not limited to flounder, bass, rockfish, turbot, and mackerel.
Because of its specific conditions, surfcasting requires specific equipment. For example, you need rods that are 4-5 meters long to keep them above the waves and you also need them to be strong as you will be handling heavy baits and strong rigging.
They generally have a lot of power and have very fast casting distance. What makes them even better is that they are highly accurate. However, they do have their fair share of shortcomings. For example, be prepared to get a bird’s nest now and then. Nonetheless, when it comes to surfcasting, the pros outweigh the cons of conventional reels.
The next step, which conventional reels to go with. Yes, you are right, there are a lot of brands and they are churning out reels like there is no tomorrow. This is where you turn to expert advice or to somebody who has personally used different reels and can recommend a few.
We have put a lot of those reels out there to test and what follows are our picks for you to enjoy surf casting without worrying about the suitability of your reels.
Comparing Top 10 Picks For Best Conventional Reels For Surf Casting
Let’s jump right in and have an overview of our top 10 picks. We have mentioned some of the attributes in the table below. On the other side of the table, we will talk about each in further detail. So, let’s see if we can help you find the one you need for your fishing adventure.
1. Penn Squall Star Drag SQL15 – A Powerful Yet Affordable Conventional Reel
The Squall Star Drag series by Penn is available in five different sizes with varying characteristic features. It ranges from size 12 up to size 40 having the capability to drag 15 lbs to 20 lbs. SQL12 and 15 can drag 15 lbs whereas 20 lbs drag on models 25, 30, and 40.
Among these sizes, the sizes 12 and 15 targets the surfcasting market and they have adjusted-mag braking systems. With this, you can dial in magnetic adjustments and this eliminates backlashes. What makes this reel even better for surfcasting is the absence of a level wind system. This system typically adds more friction to your casts and this limits the casting distance which you need in surfcasting.
As you can probably guess from its name, this reel features a star drag. Star drag beats lever drag in the sense that it provides more precision and control over your drag. Moreover, experienced anglers believe that a star drag system has a slight edge on casting ability.
When it comes to construction, this reel has graphite side plates and a frame. Graphite reels are generally lightweight and are more resistant to saltwater corrosion than aluminum reels. However, the spool is all aluminum and so are gold accents.
Penn Squall also incorporates six shielded stainless steel ball bearings. Penn does not specify the shielding material but this does prevent corrosion if these ball bearings come in contact with saltwater. There is also one anti-reverse bearing which, as you can guess, prevents the spool from reversing.
Penn Squall has a rubberized counterbalanced handle. This handle provides a secure and easy grip.
2. Daiwa SGT50H Seagate – A Conventional Reel With Good Gear Ratio
Daiwa Seagate series comes in five different models starting from 20 up to 50 reel size. SGT50H is the largest. Since with increased reel size more amount of material goes in, prices also follow the trail.
By offering the Seagate series, Daiwa has moved up from their Sealine of conventional reels. Let’s look at the additional features in Daiwa SGT50H Seagate.
Daiwa SGT50H Seagate, like its other models in the series, possesses three CRBB or corrosion-resistant ball bearings and one roller bearing. These ball bearings have better anti-corrosive properties than regular ones in the market made of stainless steel.
Moreover, this reel has an anodized aluminum spool, which lends the spool a lustrous smooth finish. Apart from this, it also yields anti-corrosive properties to aluminum. This is what you need from a reel when you are considering surf fishing.
Daiwa SGT50H’s has a graphite frame. This makes it a light-weight reel and durable enough at the same time.
Also, it has a centrifugal spool brake which is considered to be one of the best braking systems in reels. As this system uses sliding plastic tabs, they rub against a brake ring to prevent the spool from spinning too fast. Apart from this, it also allows you to make incremental changes that provide you with a wider range of braking adjustments.
Furthermore, it will assist you in providing longer and more accurate casts as compared to tension brake alone.
3. Fin-Nor Lethal LTC16 Star Drag Reel – With Precision Comes Power
LTC16 is the smallest of the three sizes offered by Fin-Nor in its star drag reels. It rates for both monofilament and braided fishing line like all other models. It can wrap around 350 yards of 20 lb mono or 450 yards of 50 lb braid.
Lethal LTC16 has a solid one-piece aluminum frame which helps in keeping the weight down. Additionally, it gives you up to 25 lbs of drag lock-down. Briefly, it is because of the heavy-duty MegaDrag carbon fiber system that this massive amount of resistance is seen in its drag. Furthermore, with this capacity, you can winch any kind of fish species from the ocean floor without any hassle.
It comes with six steel bearings that are double-shielded stainless steel. Along with this, it also has a mega lock anti-reverse one-way roller bearing.
Lethal LTC16 comes with a gear ratio of 6.2:1 which results in 48 inches of line retrieval per handle revolution. With this substantially high gear ratio, you can easily go for general bottom fishing as well as drifting and jigging.
4. Daiwa Sealine-X SHA Conventional Saltwater Reel – A Smooth and Strong Performer
The Daiwa Sealine-X SHA is considered to be a preferable choice if you are looking for heavy shore fishing and upside casting from the boat. Daiwa Sealine comes in four different models; X20SHA, X30SHA, X40SHA, and X50SHA.
All the variants come with three corrosion-resistant bearing systems and a gear ratio of 6.1:1. However, other specifications vary with all the models.
The retrieval rate of 6.1:1 is fairly fast. Coupled with this feature is a large power handle and CRBB which makes fishing easier even in rough conditions. Altogether, this soft-touch grip that is fitted with the power handle costs nothing but gives you everything as your hand is resting on the handle for longer sessions.
Sealine-X SHA offers improved performance in terms of casting and a lot better smooth feel as compared to standard SL models. Also, a six-element sealed drag in Daiwa Sealine will give you added smoothness and consistency in heavy drag.
5. Penn Squall 50 LevelWind SQL50LW – A Balanced Option for Saltwater Fishing
Penn Squall Level Wind is an update to GT Level Wind which has been very popular Penn reels. This new series incorporates the same spool sizes for the most part. One improved feature from the GT’s is the line capacity rings. These rings let you know when you are one-third, two-thirds, or full spool a line.
One of the likable things about this reel is that it has got two bearings on the end of the spool shaft. This gives a good free spool and less resistance. Plus, this series has the Penn Squall specific Versa Handle and this lets the angler change the handle on the go and with ease.
When we talk about Penn Squall 50 Level Wind or SQL50LW, it is a heavy-duty fishing reel. In the first place, it has been specifically designed for those who are interested in long-distance and deep-sea fishing. Although it’s tough but quite smooth at the same time. It also possesses good braid and mono line capacity.
What makes it ultra-useful in saltwater is the graphite frame. It is corrosion-resistant and this makes its durability unquestionable. Also, Penn Squall 50 LW has ball bearings that are made of stainless steel. Listing to other components, it also has high quality and strong main gear, anodized aluminum spool, and machined marine grade bronze.
Further, the strength and quality of its components make it resistant to decay in saltwater conditions and hence its reliability. Due to the use of graphite in its build, it is comparatively lighter than many other options out there in this arena.
Not to mention, Penn Squall 50 LW has a gear ratio of 4:1 which is pretty decent for a big reel. For this reason, it also allows you a retrieval rate of roughly 32 inches of line per handle revolution, which is quite good. With this retrieval rate, you can easily drag your catch at a great speed not letting it get away at any cost.
In addition to this, Squall 50 LW uses HT-100 drag washers, which is a good drag system when compared with other types of drag washers. With this system, it can easily dissipate heat at a great speed thereby letting it stay cool at all times.
To top it off, the maximum drag on Squall 50 LW is 20 pounds, which makes it enough for smaller and medium fish. Furthermore, it can keep the line from snapping when you apply pressure of more than 20 pounds by letting the line out.
6. Daiwa M7HTMAG Millionaire – A Conventional Surfcasting Reel For Beginners
One characteristic that stands in Daiwa M7HTMAG is its ability to cast longer. It has fully adjustable controls and this gives the angler a real sense of control. Thus, anglers of any skill can use it without any difficulties. When in the cast, it can reach a speech of 30,000 RPM and this makes it one of the fastest conventional reels around.
This reel incorporates the Magforce Z technology and this refers to the magnetic brakes. These brakes get applied smoothly and prevent overruns when the spool reaches maximum velocity. Also, this ensures precise casting. This feature’s importance is enhanced due to the fast spool speed this reel has to offer.
Millionaire incorporates seven ball bearings. Out of these, five your CRBB or corrosion-resistant bearing balls, one is a simple bearing and one is a reverse ball bearing. The corrosion-resistant ball bearings come in handy in saltwater conditions of surfcasting.
What makes your fishing experience to a whole new level is its one-piece aluminum frame. M7HT7 weighs 12.2 ounces and at this lightweight, you can cast all day without being tired. Moreover, at a high gear ratio of 5:8:1, you get quick recovery of your line.
It has high-grade brass gear which is the reason behind its superior performance in this arena. Additionally, the stainless steel pinion works in perfect harmony with the brass gear.
7. KastKing Rover 50 S50LRE – Best Budget Conventional Reel For Surfcasting
KastKing says its Rover series is bulletproof and we do not want to validate that through any means. However, that is a good indicator of how strong this reel is. Rover was one of the initial KastKing products and recently it has undergone some subtle changes.
For example, it incorporates reinforced anodized aluminum side plates. Moreover, the newer version has brass gears instead of the plastic ones in the original series. All of these upgrades make Rover solid and built to last.
What is worth mentioning here is that KastKing Left-Rover 50 is bulletproof with its exceptional strength. This strength comes from its anodized aluminum side plates which are quite hard.
Another feature adding to the profile of KastKing Rover 50 is its carbon fiber drag system. It allows you to carry a weight of 30 lbs pretty smoothly with its uniquely designed Cymbal Washer System. With this feature in place, it does not snap or get damaged while carrying heavy drag.
What makes operating Rover super smooth is its 6+1 double-shielded stainless steel ball bearings.
The ergonomic design of this reel makes it easier and comfortable to use. While you have caught a heavy big fish, your hands will never slip off the handle due to its non-slip material. Even when you are into extensive fishing sessions, you will not feel tired.
8. Penn Senator Reel 117L – A Conventional Reel For Heavy Duty Performance
Penn Senator Reel 117L is one of the five different models offered by Penn in its Senator reel category. As you go up the ladder, the size of the reel and additional features keep increasing. However, the existence of two ball bearings remains the same in all features.
Looking at the highest end is Penn Senator Reel 117L weighing 136 ounces. With its heavyweight comes the ability to drag a maximum of 35 lbs. It can also grind up heavy species from the deep ocean floor.
Penn Senator Reel 117L comes with HT-100 drag washers that aid you in the provision of back-breaking drag. With this comes the smoothness of its operation under heavy loads. The multi-disc star drag system also combines with this feature in yielding smooth and consistent drag. Such power is quite enough to winch even the largest shark, tuna, and swords.
Besides, it has a gear ratio of 1.6:1 which can retrieve 29 inches of line per crank. Coming with both monofilament capacity and braided one, it can spin 1600-1025 yards of 80-130 pound mono or 7000-4000 yards of 80-130 pound braided.
Not only this but also the high-strength marine grade bronze alloy main gear of this reel offers the ability to withstand extreme pressure from the heaviest aquatic beings. These features make this reel one of the best conventional reels for surfcasting.
9. Okuma Cold Water 453 Linecounter Trolling Reel – The Perfect All-Rounder
Okuma Coldwater series is designed for all types of lines, may it be copper, braid, wire, or mono. With this property comes its ability to catch big-water salmon and trout.
It has a light frame manufactured with graphite giving it a lustrous look with anti-corrosive properties. Built with an anodized aluminum spool, the durability of this reel cannot be questioned. As with copper lines you need proper clearance, this reel will give you that as well. Integrated with wide-mouth level wind comes for rescue in this regard.
The heavy-duty mechanical stabilizing system installed in Okuma CW453d gives you the precise alignment at all stress points. MSS system will not let your reel flex under pressure making it stronger, smoother, and reliable than others.
Its internals comes with machine-cut brass gears that feature self-lubricating property along with a full-speed lock system. It saves you time and money when you are fully into your fish game and dont want to waste an iota of your time.
Additionally, Okuma CW453d possesses a multi-disc carbonite drag system that gives you a good drag force of 20 lbs. Plus, it has a gear ratio of 4.2:1 which is not high but still pretty decent.
Another very interesting feature is the anti-fogging Clear View Technology (CVT). This characteristic sets it apart from its competitors. With this, you need not worry about the reel getting washed away resulting in loss of vision. It allows the interior of the port to stay dry even in such tricky circumstances.
10. KastKing ReKon Line Counter Size 20 – Enormous Power with Elegance
Last but not the least, we have the KastKing Rekon. This series is considered to be of high-quality and durability. Rekon reels are engineered for high performance using premium stainless steel. Along with that, it is packed with brass main gears, pinion gears, and other important parts.
KastKing Rekon reel line has two variants. It comes in size 10 and size 20. The size 10 is ideal for small saltwater species. However, its performance with the larger fish is also fairly decent.
Looking at the features of the other size available with KastKing ReKon Line, left-size 20 is more powerful than the other variant. The maximum dragging power that you can enjoy with this reel is a whopping 30 lbs. Of course, the reason is the use of carbon disc drag which gives this enormous fish stopping power with utmost smoothness.
With this comes the line clicker function, which enables you to release planer boards with ease. You can also use this function as a strike detection system while trolling.
Rekon size 20 reel comes with a round knob with a single power handle giving you more leverage over larger fish and a longer retrieval rate. As the power handle has attached comfort to it, you won’t feel tired after hauling for bigger fish.
How Do I Select The Best Conventional Reel For Surf Casting – A Buyer’s Guide
We listed some of the best reels you can find for your surfcasting adventures. But, we are not here to tell you what we like. In this section, we will explain why these reels make our list and what you need to be mindful of when buying a conventional reel for surfcasting.
The following are some of the important points you need to keep in mind when going for your surfcasting reel.
The material of Construction – Strong and Corrosion-Resistant
The biggest threat surfcasting has to pose to your tackle is the corrosive properties of saltwater. To counter this, you need reels that are made up of corrosion-resistant materials.
However, there is a caveat here. The materials which are generally corrosion-resistant are not generally durable. On the other hand, durable materials are not very corrosion-resistant.
For example, stainless steel and aluminum are durable, but they are prone to corrosion. On the other hand, we have graphite which is not very durable but is corrosion-resistant. But, you need both of these properties.
What companies do nowadays is that they shield the parts which they need to be durable with anti-corrosion materials. These parts are your ball bearings, washers, and gears. Plus, they make the parts, which are more exposed to saltwater, of graphite such as frame and side plates.
Line Capacity – Higher the Better
One thing of paramount importance in surf casting for your reel is to have a good line capacity. This is because surfcasting gives the option to catch anything imaginable from a catfish to a shark. Plus, your catch has the whole sea to play with.
You need longer lines to accommodate your catch’s hot runs and you need stronger lines to house in big fish.
Higher Gear Ratio For Fast Casts and Retrievals
This can be said for any type of fishing, but specifically for surfcasting, you need fast casts and retrievals. For this, you need reels with higher gear ratios.
Generally, any reel with more than a 4:1 gear ratio is good for surfcasting. In this, for every turn of the handle, there are four rotations of your spool.
However, nowadays, reels also mention how many lines will be retrieved with one rotation of the handle. You also need to keep this in mind along with the gear ratio. This is because a larger spool may have a lower gear ratio but it can still retrieve a significant amount of line per handle rotation.
Ball Bearings – For Smoother Operation
One thing which ensures the smooth operation of your fishing reel is ball bearings. Generally, a higher number of ball bearings means smoother operation. They work to reduce friction and this results in easy working of your reel.
There is a general belief that you need to have five or more ball bearings in a good-sized reel. Nowadays, we also see reels which in addition to normal bearings also have anti-reverse ball bearings and these prevent the handle from cranking backward.
Normally, the anti-reverse bearings are mentioned with a plus (+) sign to the number of normal ball bearings. For example, 6+1 means six normal ball bearings with one anti-reverse one.
Lever Vs Star Drag – Which Is Better For Surfcasting
A drag system puts pressure on the spool and works to stop it from releasing more line. In surfcasting, a drag is important because it gives you the ability to pull larger fish without breaking the line. Drag is measured in pounds and needs to be adjusted before a cast.
Most reels mention their maximum drag, and the higher the drag better it will be for your fishing.
In conventional reels, we see either lever or star drag. Lever drags are generally considered to be better for experienced anglers because you can adjust them fast. However, in lever drags you can accidentally hit the lever and change its position. Plus, lever drugs are more expensive than star drags.
Star drags are difficult to adjust and it is virtually impossible to move them out of their adjusted position by mistake. Also, star drags don’t need your constant attention.
Frequently Asked Questions
Conventional reels are good for surfcasting because they are very strong and they have good casting distance. However, due to harsh sea conditions, you need reels that are purposefully built so that they last the condition and match your catch’s characteristics.
In other words, you need conventional reels that are made up of material that are anti-corrosion. Plus, you need to look for other qualities such as fast retrievals with good gear ratio and smooth working by incorporating good ball bearings.
If this list does not help you, we have put in a detailed buyer’s guide for all the different factors that you need to keep in mind when going for a conventional reel to aid in your surfcasting.
Do comment below if you have any questions and keep visiting for honest reviews and up-to-date content on outdoor activities.