There are many forms of deep-sea fishing and whether you’re looking to catch a marlin, some big tuna or simply fishing off the bottom to fill up your freezer, there is a steady chance that you might hook the biggest fish of your life.
Let’s set the scene; you’re out fishing and from nowhere a 1000lb blue marlin eats your bait, you pick up the rod, the reel is screaming and you’re settling in for the fight of your life when all of a sudden, your reel fails, the line breaks and you watch as your dreams swim quickly away.
How’s your stomach? Mine feels sick just writing about it. So how do we avoid this scenario?
By having the right equipment for the job. I’ve spent countless hours looking for giant creatures in the ocean and being undergunned is simply not an option after you’ve put in all that effort and time.
At A Glance: Top 3 Deep Sea Reels
Here I have put together some of the best deep-sea fishing reels in the world so that when that fish of a lifetime comes along, you’re ready and prepared to win the battle.
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Best on a Budget
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Best of the Best
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Penn has a long-standing history when it comes to deep sea fishing reels. They were one of the first in the market and have continued to make quality reels ever since.
Once you’ve owned a Penn reel, you’ll fall in love with them and find it hard to move away.
The Penn International VIS 2 speed is one of the best reels Penn makes and that is certainly reflected in the price tag. This reel is at the top end in terms of price and quality, once you buy it, it will be with you for a lifetime and you won’t regret your investment.
The first thing you notice about this reel is how pretty it is. The gold finish around the machine aluminum body and side-plates is stunning and super durable. The reel is sealed to ensure no salt or grit gets inside.
It comes with a large line capacity and an amazing drag with an adjustable strike which allows you to set the strike level to your chosen pressure. The drag can also be tweaked in very fine adjustments so you can get to that perfect amount of stopping power.
The reel comes with a 2-speed system that allows you to retrieve in a high or low gear ratio at the flick of a switch.
This is ideal and necessary when you’re fighting big fish, using the high gear ratio to wind in that slackline quickly and the low gear to get every inch on a fish you’re trying to pull up from the depths.
This is a reel to seriously consider if you’re an offshore fisherman, especially when chasing big tuna and marlin.
Daiwa SGT50H Seagate Star Drag is an awesome little reel if you’re into your light inshore fishing for stripers/yellowtail or bottom fishing. It’s a well-made trolling reel that doubles up as a bait caster so it is truly versatile for anything you might fancy throwing it at in the ocean.
It handles everything from sailfish down but I wouldn’t put it in front of a marlin if I was you.
It’s made from a corrosion-proof composite frame that stops any salt or dirt from getting into the inner workings whilst keep the reel light and durable. The retrieve is quick, the drag is smooth and strong plus all the components are made to last, from the aluminum spool to the corrosion-resistant ball bearings.
If you’re looking for an all-around deep-sea reel at a great price, look no further. The only drawback is that it’s tricky to cast for beginners.
We have all heard of Shimano and we know they make awesome reels. The Shimano Charter Special, while not being the same standard as the TLD or Tiagra, is an excellent reel for the price. If you’re looking for a reliable trolling reel but don’t want to break the bank, this could be a great option.
It’s light but durable thanks to the graphite frame and super easy to use. The level-wind feature works well and makes fighting fish a lot easier, especially for beginners, as it spreads the line for you.
The drag is strong, smooth, and reliable plus the inner workings are made up of stainless gears and anti-rust bearings, making this reel excellent at handling corrosion and ensuring a long life at sea.
You can use this reel for anything; jigging, trolling, kite fishing for sailfish. Just don’t go looking for offshore giants with it as it’s not quite hefty enough for that.
Daiwa Sealine-X SHA is a deep-sea all-rounder if there ever was one. You can use it for anything from jigging to trolling and casting. Although it’s not the best caster, you can throw a live bait out quickly if you need to but =if you’re looking for a pure casting reel, this isn’t it.
The line capacity and drag are big enough and strong enough to handle any fish from a sailfish down. So whether you’re chasing stripers or bagging cobia in the Keys, this reel has got you covered.
It comes with a free-floating spool for castability, a 3 bearing system, and a six-element sealed drag. The component parts are all made from either bronze or stainless steel, making this reel very durable and you can be confident going out to sea with it every day.
One of my favorite things about this reel is how easy it is to maintain. You can easily take it apart, service it, and put it all back together by following simple online instructions. This means you can look after it well and enjoy it year after year.
This is the second Penn reel to feature in this article and it’s dramatically different from the first one. Penn Squall LevelWind still holds the Penn stamp of quality but with such an affordable price tag, it had to lose some of the good stuff right?
The reel is made from graphite and comes in a range of sizes to suit the line and fish you want to target. They’re durable, reliable, and can be used for anything from trolling to casting.
It comes with a level-wind which can be very useful but if it doesn’t work properly it causes a lot of issues. In rare cases, the level-wind on this reel can fail completely and often produces an uneven line-lay. This can take countless fishing hours away from you, so be sure to bear this in mind.
Overall it’s a good reel made with quality materials, but it’s not made for big offshore fishing, so don’t take it out there.
If you’re on a budget and love bottom fishing, then this might be your perfect match. The Sougayilang Line Counter Trolling Reel, although it is labeled for trolling, is also the perfect bottom fishing machine.
The line counter tells you roughly what depth you’re dropping down to, its not 100% accurate, but it ensures you know what depth the fish are lurking at when you get your bites. This is particularly useful when you don’t have a depth sounder, or while you’re drifting and your sounder takes its time to catch up.
Another great thing is that the level-wind lets you get on with winding your fish up rather than having to think about spreading the line, which is ideal for a beginner or anyone really. The level-wind doesn’t fail but it can make an uneven line-lay on occasion, so be aware of that.
Overall the reel is made for quality materials, has a powerful drag, and holds enough line for just about anything. But again, don’t go chasing monsters with it.
The Shimano TLD has made a name for itself as one of the most trusted deep-sea reels of our time. It’s probably the second-best reel Shimano makes after the Tiagra (which is next in the review).
The reel is super-light, super-fast, easy to use with ample line capacity, and has a powerful and smooth drag. Its component parts are made from quality materials and it is very easy to take apart, service, and put back together again.
The retrieve comes in two speeds, giving you both a high and low gear ratio to match the fight of the fish. What more could you ask for?
Some would say this reel isn’t going to cut it for big marlin and tuna, they wouldn’t be wrong. If you’re consistently hooking fish over 500lbs, there is going to be a day where the TLD doesn’t hold enough line.
But if you’re hooking those big ones 5 times a year and you know what you’re doing as a skipper and a fisherman, an arsenal of these reels is a great choice.
The Shimano Tiagra, in my opinion, is one of the best reels ever made. If I had to pick any reel in the world to go up against a 1000lb tuna or marlin, the Tiagra would be it.
This reel is made to be indestructible. It features a one-piece machined aluminum frame that holds a ton of goodies inside that gives this reel serious torque when it comes to its drag and retrieves.
The largest Tiagra gives you a whopping 99lbs of drag pressure and a line capacity of over 3000 yards of 150lb braid..do you know a fish in the ocean that can deal with that? I don’t.
The reel comes in a range of sizes from 30lb-130lb, each with varying drag pressure and line capacity to suit the respective line class. Each one has a 2-speed retrieve so you can choose to be in high re or low ratio, depending on what the fish you’re fighting is doing.
These reels are expensive but they’re worth the investment and will be with you for the rest of your life.
When it comes to deep-sea reels, the type you choose depends on what kind of fishing you’re looking to do. Any normal deep-sea reel can be used for trolling, jigging, and bottom fishing but there are some that are more specialized.
If you’re using the reel for bottom fishing most of the time, you might want a reel with a line counter that can tell you what depth you’re at. Be sure to think about what you’re going to use the reel for most and then search accordingly.
You also need to make sure that your reel can handle what you’re trying to catch. Most well-made reels will have you landing sailfish and anything smaller with ease but if you’re looking to catch big marlin and tuna, there aren’t very many reels that you can truly rely on.
Be sure to match the reel with what species you’re after. Remember that these reels are an investment and spending a little more will ensure your reel goes a lot further.
Line capacity comes back to the species you’re after. Make sure your chosen reel holds enough of the right weight line for what you’re trying to catch. This also relates to reel size. Some models can be bought in sizes from 20-150lb, each one made to hold enough of their respective lines and have enough drag to ensure you can land a fish while not being spooled.
While browsing for reels, check the specifications which will let you know how much mono or braid and in what size will fit on there.
Some deep-sea reels come with a 2-speed option and this is directly related to the reel’s gear ratio. It gives you the option to be in high-ratio so you can wind in a fish quickly, or low-ratio for those moments when a big fish you can’t lift is holding deep and the only way you’ll gather line easily is by winding a bit slower.
This feature is key if you’re fishing for big heavy fish that like to sit deep, like giant grouper, tuna, or marlin.
Deep-sea reels spend their life on the ocean and if you’re a charter captain, they might not leave the boat for 9 months at a time and simply live in the cabin overnight between trips. Therefore corrosion and durability are key to having a hassle-free life, knowing that every time you take your reels out, they’re going to perform. Make sure the reel you choose is well built and will stand up to what the ocean throws at them.
When you’re deep-sea fishing there is always the chance of hooking a giant and the only thing that’s going to stop them is your drag. You’re going to need a drag that’s powerful and reliable in order to put enough pressure on a fish with your chosen line class.
The best all-rounder is the Shimano TLD. The reel is light, durable, and super-reliable. It can handle pretty much everything the ocean can throw at it whilst not being too expensive. I’ve landed big tuna and big marling with this reel, I love it.
The best on a budget reel is the Daiwa SGT50H Seagate Star Drag. This reel is a great entry-level reel that’s reliable and suitable for every form of deep-sea fishing. It’s big enough to handle a sailfish and anything smaller which is what most of us need in our day-to-day lives.
The best of the best is the Shimano Tiagra. This is one of the best reels ever made. It’s an investment that will last a lifetime and can catch you any fish that swims in the ocean. If you’re into big fish, this is the reel for you.