The 5 Best Ultralight Spinning Reels in 2021

Ultralight reels are the most suitable for an untroubled fishing experience. You don’t have to strain your arms having a brutal battle with a fish. Instead, you can get away with a light tackle that’s still as exciting yet less dramatic.

In our humble opinion, an ultralight reel is a must-have for both beginners to learn how to cast and tackle effectively as well as experts who’d like to kill some time every now and then.

In this article, we’ll cover the best ultralight spinning reels available so that you can pick the one that suits you the most, so keep on reading for some remarkable options that are worth investing in.

Comparison Table:

ReelWeightGear RatioMaximum Drag
Shimano Stella FJ 6 oz6:17 lbs
Pflueger President 7.41 oz5.2:16 lbs
Penn Conflict II 6.3 oz5.2:19 lbs
Shimano Stradic FL 6.5 oz6:17 lbs
Penn Fierce III7.8 oz6.2:19 lbs

The 5 Best Ultralight Spinning Reels in 2021

There are plenty of models on the market, but we narrowed them down to 5 outstanding ultralight spinning reels, each of which is targeting a distinct type of angler with a different fishing technique, so make sure to go through all 5 reviews to make an informed decision.

1. Shimano Stella FJ – Editor’s Choice

Shimano Stella FJ 

The Shimano Stella FJ is our favorite ultralight reel on the list, owing to its exceptional performance. It features the newest Advanced Shimano Technologies like Micromodule ii Gear and X-SHIP as a part of the HAGANE Concept.

The Micromodule ii Gear technology ensures a smooth rotation due to the low inertia that’s combined with reduced friction while providing a powerful transmission from the handle to the pinion gear, enabling the user to lure as precisely and effectively as possible.

On the other hand, the X-ship technology offers enhanced durability by supporting the updated pinion gear. This guarantees a steady gear with precise alignment even with the heaviest loads. Moreover, it helps with eliminating the friction that’s usually present between the spool shaft and the gear; therefore, the performance stays steady with lighter lures.

Another reason why the reel stands out is the X-Protect technology that entails using a repellant coating over specially designed channelings, offering high-level water resistance that, as claimed by Shimano, can be 5 times as resistant to long-term water effects as older models.

What’s even better is that it doesn’t compromise the reel’s weight; that’s estimated to be around 6 oz only.

Lastly, we appreciate the Propulsion Line Management System with the new spool design, which allows for casting longer distances. The system is tested using computer simulation to ensure efficiency and reliability. Meanwhile, it prevents wind knots and back-flashes from hindering the angler while casting.

Pros:

  • Smooth rotation and powerful transmission
  • Enhanced durability
  • Water-resistant
  • Designed for longer casting distances
  • Resistant to wind knots and back-flashes

Cons:

  • A bit too expensive

Bottom Line

The Shimano Stella FJ is a nearly flawless ultralight spinning reel that has what every professional angler dreams of, if not more. Although it’s a bit expensive, it’s worth every penny, especially when compared to other models that can be as expensive yet don’t offer the same performance.

2. Pflueger President – Best Value for Money

Pflueger President 

The Pflueger President is another trustworthy spinning reel that offers smooth and reliable performance with excellent durability.

The body of the reel is made of graphite, which explains the lightness (7.41 oz) while being sturdy enough to handle both fresh and saltwater without impacting durability. Being suitable for both types of water, you can use it for catching a wider variety of fish kinds, let alone the excellent line capacity that makes a huge difference, for that matter.

Another bonus is that the bearings are all made of stainless steel with an aluminum handle and stainless steel drag. All these parts are corrosion-resistant, providing more longevity than you’d expect from an ultralight spinning reel.

As per performance, it operates quite smoothly without any jamming or twitching, as long as you use the appropriate drag. The drag, however, depends on the class size, reaching 14 lbs with heavier models and 6 lbs with the smallest size.

The speed is another advantage; even though you can find higher speeds on the market, the 5.2:1 gear ratio is sufficient for beginners and the majority of expert anglers. Nonetheless, with average speed and drag, we believe the reel certifies as an outstanding entry-level option.

Pros:

  • Affordable
  • Made of a high-quality material
  • Enhanced durability with corrosion-resistant parts
  • Performs smoothly without twitching
  • Available in a variety of sizes
  • Relatively high gear ratio
  • Decent drag action

Cons:

  • Setting the drag is a bit challenging

Bottom Line

The Pflueger President spinning reel offers a lot for its price. Although it’s best for beginners, we believe that many professional anglers will enjoy casting with it, particularly with the incredible versatility it brings to the fishing experience.

3. Penn Conflict II – Best Construction

Penn Conflict II 

The Penn Conflict II is made to impress with its rigid Resin RR30 Techno-based rotor that drastically reduces the weight by up to 20% in comparison to the original model.

Furthermore, it features the CNC Gear Technology, including an aluminum pinion and main gear for long-lasting durability. Also, when you add the sturdy bearings with the aluminum machinery and the HT-100 carbon fiber drag washers, the reel becomes more suited for catching large trout fish as well as redfish and other heavy species.

Actually, the drag is a work of art as it provides excellent tackling capabilities. When using both sides of the drag washer, the angler gets such an improved range, allowing them to raise the drag range to its maximum easily. All that aside, the performance stays as smooth as you’d expect from any high-end spinning reel.

The Superline spool and Leveline systems are also quite unique. First off, with the Superline spool, there’s no need for backing. Instead, the angler can rely on the rubber gasket to prevent the line from slipping. Not to mention, the design improves both line capacity and retrieval speed.

As for the Leveline system, it focuses on improving the line lay on the spool by offering a slower oscillation and therefore reducing the friction.

Pros:

  • Features a rigid rotor
  • Extremely durable
  • Reliable spool
  • Powerful drag
  • Comes with sealed bearings

Cons:

  • Looks a bit outdated

Bottom Line

Penn Conflict II is a reel that’s built to last. Although it’s lightweight, it can handle relatively large fish with such a powerful drag, making it a good bargain for anglers who don’t want to compromise power for weight.

4. Shimano Stradic FL – Best Performance

Shimano Stradic FL 

The Shimano Stradic FL is a budget-friendly alternative for the Stella FJ we reviewed earlier. It features the HAGANE Concept as well, including the X-Ship technology that guarantees

steadiness when dealing with heavy loads. The Micromodule ii Gear and  X-Protect are also included.

Additionally, it comes with SA-RB bearings that are quite similar to the A-RB ones but are supported with shields on both sides. This makes them more resistant to various environmental factors like sand and salt. As a result, the bearings offer a smooth performance with reliable rotation.

The G-Freebody technology is another reason for the outstanding performance the Shimano Stradic FL provides.

This technology was developed to enhance casting while keeping the angler’s comfort in mind. In short, it depends on moving the center gravity to become closer to the rod; that’s to say that this shift significantly reduces fatigue, guaranteeing a better casting experience.

Last but not least, we can’t let the drag performance slip off our minds, especially that it’s currently among the smoothest ones available out there. It offers a wider range of settings making the reel an excellent catch for professionals.

Pros:

  • HAGANE body with unmatchable sturdiness
  • Outstanding performance and minimal flexing
  • Crosscarbon drag with wide-range settings
  • Designed to maximize comfort
  • Features a water-resistant coating
  • Reliable bearings

Cons:

  • The drag washers need frequent lubrication

Bottom Line

It’s crystal clear that the Shimano Stradic FL has the full package. In addition to the stunning performance Shimano as a brand always offers, the biggest bonus that comes with Stradic is FL is the good price point.

5. Penn Fierce III – Budget Pick

Penn Fierce III

This model is an upgrade from the previous PENN Pursuit that falls somewhere between it and the Penn Battle class. The major difference is seen in the bearings that are shielded on the Penn Fierce III, improving the overall performance of the reel.

Although it’s a pocket-friendly reel, it’s among the strongest you can currently get as it features a full metal body that’s extremely resistant to flexing. The metal construction makes it the heaviest on the list, yet it’s relatively lightweight, considering that metal reels tend to be quite heavy.

The most admirable feature of the Penn Fierce II is the Techno-Balance that enables the angler to get away with the best possible presentation with an extra smooth retrieval.

As mentioned earlier, the Superline spool is one of the most reliable spools of our time. It increases the casting distance, offers maximized precision and control, and ensures a smooth line lay while casting. Moreover, the rubber laid in the stool eliminates the need for backing the spool with mono as it’s already braided.

Finally, the HT-100 drag washers are stiffer and more durable than many more expensive options. They’re laminated with fiberglass and tested against 100 miles to establish smoothness, reduced friction, and optimum performance.

Pros:

  • Rigid construction
  • Extremely smooth performance
  • A reliable Superline spool
  • Sturdy drag washers
  • Inexpensive

Cons:

  • Only one sealed bearing

Bottom Line

For a budget option, the Penn Fierce III sure sports many great features. It mightn’t be as lightweight as other ultralight spinning reels, but it’s safe to say that it isn’t even close to being a heavy reel.

How to Pick an Ultralight Spinning Reel

In the coming section, we’ll highlight some features that you need to take into consideration to pick a worthy spinning reel.

Model Sizes

As you may already know, every spinning reel model is available in various sizes so that anglers can match them to the appropriate fish size they go after. Of course, the smaller the number is, the smaller the reel will be, which points out that the reel takes a thinner line. This doesn’t mean that a small reel doesn’t take a braided line. It does; however, that means it holds less line.

That being said, ultralight spinning reels are usually between sizes 1000-3500, with the smaller being suitable for sunnies and bream with a maximum weight of 4 pounds. On the other hand, 2000-class spinning reels are designed to hook larger fish of around 6 pounds. And lastly, 3000 and 3500-class reels can handle 10-pound fish at max.

Gear Ratio

The gear ratio determines how quickly the line retrieves, with the number on the left indicating the number of turns the bail takes around the spool. The higher the ratio is, the faster your reel will be, with 5:1 being the cut-off. In other words, a gear ratio higher than 5:1 is considered fast, whereas lower ratios are considered slow.

Drag Range

When it comes to a high-quality ultralight spinning reel, the drag range shouldn’t exceed 4 pounds. With that in mind, it’s best to set it at 25% of the line test or a little higher. For instance, if you’re using a 10-pound line, the drag should be at 3 pounds. This allows you to increase the drag power regardless of the line’s strength.

Line Capacity

In contrast to what a beginner angler might think, the line capacity has little to do with the reel size. In fact, it depends on the spool for the most part, which explains why some small reels hold more lines than bigger ones.

Moreover, the thinner the line is, the more the reel can hold and the other way around. Accordingly, it’s best to consider the fish size and the appropriate line thickness rather than choosing the line thickness that allows the reel to hold more of the line.

Frequently Asked Questions

What’s the Size of Ultralight Reels?

Usually, ultralight reels are between 1000 and 2500, or maximally 3500. Keep in mind, though, that some manufacturers shorten the size by removing the last two digits. So, 1000 becomes 10 and 3500 becomes 35.

How Much Line Does an Ultralight Reel Need?

Using too many lines causes tangles, but if you use too little, you won’t be able to cast well. The best way to find the right balance is to leave about a 1/6 or 1/8-inch gap between the spool and the line.

Can Ultralight Reels Be Used for Catching Big Fish?

Ultralight reels aren’t the best for big fish. A high-end one can be used to occasionally catch a large fish, but if you push it too hard, there’s a good chance you’ll end up breaking the line, or even worse, breaking the rod itself.

Final Thoughts

As challenging as finding the best ultralight spinning reel is, we’re sure you can find what you need on this list. As far as we’re concerned, the Shimano Stella FJ and the Pflueger President are the most worthy. Nonetheless, other options like the Penn Fierce III can be better for someone who’s looking for a high-speed and drag combo. You do the math!

See also: Top 5 Awesome Spinning Reels Under $50 in 2021

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