Best Ultralight Spinning Reels
Ultralight spinning reels have become increasingly popular, partly due to the fun you can have with them, but also the improvements that have been made in creating smaller equipment that still packs a punch.
When to Use an Ultralight Spinning Reel
Ultralight spinning reels aren't for everyone, but they can certainly provide a different style of fishing from a conventional spinning reel, which can be challenging and fun. Generally speaking, ultralight spinning reels are used when you need a setup for casting very small lures. Lures in the 1/16 to 1/32 range can be very difficult to cast and provide enticing action with when using heavier line. Similarly, an ultralight rod will provide much more sensitivity to smaller bites. The reel will provide the connection between the lure action/line and the rod, maximizing your chances of success.
Most people use ultralight spinning reels for panfish and usually spool 2-6lb test line. This lighter line will allow for further and more accurate casting of light lures and will facilitate action that can be irresistible for many fish. Ultralight setups are great for fish 5 pounds and under, but as many have come to learn, you can also haul in some pretty big fish as well!
In order to catch larger fish with an ultralight setup, you will need to adopt a different strategy than when using a medium-heavy action setup. The most fundamental difference is that you will need to work the fish a bit more, rather than simply reeling it in. Much more emphasis will be placed on operating the drag, and usually the fight will last much longer. It certainly provides a challenge, but with an ultralight setup you will have an incredible feel of what's happening at the end of your line, allowing you to receive constant feedback to make any necessary adjustment.
Ultralight Spinning Reel Reviews
Now that we established that ultralight spinning reels can be very effective in certain situations, and also provide a fun challenge for any angler, it's beneficial to have an idea of what the best ultralight spinning reels are currently on the market. Check out our reviews below, where we will highlight good ultralight spinning reels in different price ranges.
- Very affordable!
- Reliable brand
- Good quality components for the price
- 3 bearings
- 4.4:1 gear ratio
- 7.2 ounces
- Reversible handle
- Lower durability
- No instant anti-reverse
- Bail can be a little finicky
- Slippery handle
If you're looking to test out an ultralight spinning reel for the first time, then the Okuma Ultralite spinning reel is definitely worth considering. The main reason for this is the price, as you won't find much else out there for a lower price. Okuma has designed a pretty good reel that performs above its price point, but nevertheless, it is still on the cheaper end, so you can't expect the durability to be maximized.
This reel can definitely handle a fight and actually supports a decent amount of heavier line by ultralight standards. The retrieval is smooth and the drag performs well, but there is no instant anti-reverse function, which may be a turn off to some anglers. Furthermore, some customers have reported issues with the bail sticking or just being a little finicky in general, but this doesn't appear to be a consistent problem.
At the end of the day, if you're looking for a cheap ultralight spinning reel, or are totally new tot he concept and technqiques involved, then this could be a great choice to start with. Then, once you have a better idea of what you need in an ultralight spinning reel, or in general just have decided whether or not it's worth pursuing, you can go on the hunt for a higher-end model.
- Good price
- Reliable brand, especially for reels.
- Precision gearing, fast retrieve
- Front tightening spool drag
- Slightly low durability
- Spool sometimes comes a little imbalanced. Should work fine regardless, but can be a little annoying.
The Daiwa Sweepfire Ultralight spinning reel is actually quite similar to the Okuma Ultralite spinning reel that we reviewed, but in this case, the Daiwa simply feels a little more sturdy.
This ultralight Daiwa reel also comes in at the lower end of the price range for an ultralight reel, and while you can still tell that it won't last an overly long time, it definitely performs well on the water. Most enjoy spooling 4 or 6 lb line, but anything over 8 lbs is not recommended.
Part of the reason this ultralight spinning reel surprises many is the drag system. It's nothing fancy, but it operates smoothly and definitely helps play the fish when you set the hook on a big one for the line you're using.
One of the main complaints is with the spool being a little imbalanced. This doesn't usually pose a problem in terms of overall performance, but can create an annoying rubbing feel upon retrieval and isn't good for the overall durability. However, for the price, if this is the main complaint, then that's still a win!
Overall, we would recommend the Daiwa ultralight spinning reel for anglers who are trying to save some dough but want something that's at least ok. THis would also be a great reel for those who haven't tried an ultralight before and want to give it a go without compromising performance too much. If you're an experienced angler and have used ultralight spinning reels before, then we would suggest looking for something a little higher-end if you have room in the budget.
- Good value
- Propulsion line management system
- Quickfire II one-handed casting system
- 6 shielded stainless steel ball bearings
- 6.2:1 gear ratio
- Lightweight graphite frame, sideplate, and rotor
- 7 lbs max drag
- Approved for saltwater
- Starting to get a little more expensive
- Double handle can feel a little weird at first
- Anti-reverse isn't quite instant
The Shimano Spirex FG ultralight spinning reel comes in at a moderate price range, but still offers great value due to the performance and reliability known from this brand.
This ultralight spinning reel has been crafted with more care in order to include some features that can be difficult to fit into a reel this size. For example, the 6 stainless steel ball bearing are shielded, which protects them from corrosion especially when used in saltwater. The max drag is a little higher than lots of other ultralight spinning reels, and the trigger provides an easy-to-use casting system.
The lightweight nature of this reel make it feel a little cheap, but the durability is definitely better than the Okuma and Daiwa (lower end) ultralight reels that we reviewed. The frame, sideplate, and rotor are all made of graphite, and the total weight of this reel is 8.8 oz.
The main complaints associated with this reel are the double handle, which can take some getting use to if you aren't used to that style. That's a minor complaint, but still worth noting. The other common complaint is that the anti-reverse isn't quite instant, but instead, can spin almost a full turn before it engages. This is something that you can address by being alert and anticipating the delay, but it's still not overly desirable.
Overall, the Shimano Spirex FG ultralight spinning reel provides great bang-for-your-buck, and simply put, is a good all-around ultralight spinning reel. The performance is solid and durability is better than all the lower end models. Keep in mind, even though it's approved for saltwater use, this will likely shorten the lifespan if you use it a lot in that environment. We would recommend this reel to anyone who wants a good ultralight spinning reel at a decent price.
- Superior performance
- Excellent durability
- Air rotor made from lightweight zaion carbon composite
- ABS air spool with cut-proof Titanium Nitride spool lip
- 13 bearings
- Magsealed contruction
- Infinite anti-reverse
- 'Digigear' digital gear design for speed, power, and durability
The Daiwa Steez EX ultralight spinning reel is awesome. It offers supreme performance and durability while still maintaining an incredibly lightweight design (as low as 6.9 ounces) and a sleek appearance, and is good to use in both freshwater and saltwater.
Each individual componite is manufactured with strong material such as the corrosion-proof Zaion body and the Titanium Nitride spool lip. The magsealed construction and 13 bearing system (7 CRBB + 5BB +1RB) allows for silent oscillation, and when combined with the Digigear digital gear design the retrieve can be performed with speed and power.
The main drawback to this ultralight spinning reel is the cost. It's REALLY expensive compared to the other ultralight spinning reels that we reviewed. Everything about it is definitely better, but it's not on a linear scale, so if you're at all tight on the budget we would recommend something a bit cheaper.
Overall, we would recommend this reel to any angler who needs the best ultralight spinning reel regardless of cost. Shimano, Okuma, and Penn are also great brands for these types of high-end ultralight reels, so those are other options as well. However, if you simply need a good ultralight spinning reel and don't feel like spending hundreds of dollars on one, then we would suggest looking for something cheaper.
Using an Ultralight Spinning Reel
Using an ultralight spinning reel will definitely feel a little strange at first, and if you keep your habits from a normal spinning reel, you may find it difficult to haul in larger fish. You're ultralight setup will limit you to a certain extent in that you likely won't land massive trophy fish, and keeping your tendencies from a conventional spinning reel may also provide some frustration when fighting a fish.
That being said, after a few cast you will definitely start to get the hang of it, and if you find a spot with an abundant amount of small fish, then you have the perfect practice water. Try going after the smaller fish first that are around the weight of your line or smaller. Then, as you begin learning hands-on how to play the fish with an ultralight setup, it will become increasingly fun with each cast!
For a great demonstration of using an ultralight setup in an area where most would probably elect for more conventional options, check out the video below. Matt Wettish provides some valuable info based on experience and also discusses his gear near the end of the video.