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Best Electric Fishing Reels

Written by: John B
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When you’re fishing offshore in deep water, chasing daytime sailfish in 1500 feet of water, or just working deep for tuna or halibut, retrieving heavy sinkers all day can become a real chore. 

And fighting fish by hand from that kind of depth is exhausting, to say the least.

Enter the electric fishing reel, equipped with a powerful motor that can retrieve your line effortlessly and even help you fight fish until they're closer to the surface.

If the idea of effortless retrieval sounds great, but you’re not sure where to begin your search for a good electric reel, we’re here to help.

Below, you’ll find reviews of some of our favorites, as well as a complete buying guide to help steer you in the right direction.

Quick glance at the best electric fishing reels:

Related:

Best Electric Fishing Reels Reviewed

Daiwa Tanacom 500

Weight: 28.2 oz.

Retrieval speed (electric): ?

Gear ratio: 3.7:1

Bearings: 7BB + 1RB

RPT: ?

Capacity: (braid) 40/540; 50/530; 65/320

Maximum drag: 33 lbs.

Daiwa’s Tanacom series is available in three sizes, with the 500 being the “little guy” in the lineup.

Closer in size to a standard reel, it features familiar ergonomics and an English-language user interface. That may not sound like a big deal, but most electric reels are massive, heavy, and cumbersome, and the “little” Tanacom 500 is far more like what most anglers are used to.

That makes this reel palmable and compatible with fishing from your feet.

Expect Daiwa quality in every component, including a stout, high-quality aluminum frame.

Given the size of the spool, running braid is pretty much a necessity to get deep, and as you’d expect from a compact reel, capacity isn’t competitive with the big boys on our list.

Daiwa isn’t forthcoming about the retrieval speed, but in the real world, it’s proven fast enough to satisfy charter captains and their customers.

With a maximum drag of 33 pounds and 320 yards of 60-pound braid, this small reel still packs a lot of fight into a svelte package, and there are very few fish that I’d be afraid to tackle with this small reel.

Pros:

  • Light
  • Small and palmable
  • Excellent build quality, as you’d expect from Daiwa
  • Good price (relative to the competition)

Cons:

  • Capacity and speed will suffer in comparison to the larger reels

Daiwa Tanacom 1000

Weight: 52.5 oz.

Retrieval speed (electric): ?

Gear ratio: 2.3:1

Bearings: 4BB

RPT: 16.5”

Capacity: (braid) 50/1100; 65/900

Maximum drag: 48 lbs.

Daiwa’s Tanacom 1000 is the largest of that series, essentially just upsizing the performance of the 500 at a considerable increase in size and weight. 

Build quality is what you’d expect from Daiwa, so no worries there. And though the company is again not providing retrieval speed info, real-world anglers have no complaints when they’re retrieving lines in deep water.

Of course, by up-sizing the spool, body, and drag components, you get a more capable reel, but certainly not one that’s palmable or light.

But when you need to reach deep for sailfish, this is definitely the better choice in the Daiwa lineup.

Expect a relatively anemic gear ratio that doesn’t turn this big spool very quickly by hand.

And if there’s a real weakness to the Daiwa’s, that’s where you’ll find it: when the fight starts to use muscle rather than electricity, you’ll find these reels aren’t going to pick up line quickly.

But keep in mind that the Tanacom series is massively less expensive than many competitors, and you can see why it’s a popular choice for everyone from charter captains to weekend anglers.

Pros:

  • Good price (relative to the competition)
  • Excellent build quality, as you’d expect from Daiwa
  • OK capacity for its size

Cons:

  • Gear ratio and spool size don’t translate well into fighting by hand

Hooker Electric Penn International 50VISW

Weight: 67 oz.

Retrieval speed (electric): up to 500 ft. per min.

Gear ratio: (high/low) 3.5:1 / 1.3:1

Bearings: 5

RPT: 40" H / 15" L

Capacity: (braid) 100/1810; 130/1505; 200/1110

Maximum drag: (strike/full) 28/45 lbs.

Hooker Electric takes excellent reels like the Penn International and adds an unbeatable electric motor to them. The combination is expensive, but if you’re serious about fishing deep and saving time and energy on retrieves, this is one of the top products on our list.

Weighing in at 67 ounces, this is a beast, no question about it. The Penn International has a two-gear system, offering both a 3.5:1 and a 1.3:1 gear ratio that varies the retrieval rate by hand as well as the torque you can generate in a fight.

And of course, expect the two drag settings the Penn International typically sports.

Capacity is amazing with braid, allowing you to fish deep with heavy line and retrieve at speeds of up 500 feet per minute.

Now, this is a heavy reel and not the kind of thing you’ll palm and stand and fish with, but it’s not designed for that. It’s also very expensive, as you’d expect at this level of performance.

But for serious daytime sail fishermen and anglers who chase tuna in deep water, this is a reel that’s nearly impossible to beat.

Pros:

  • Excellent build quality
  • Two-speed gearing
  • Two drag settings
  • Awesome motor
  • Awesome capacity

Cons:

  • Heavy
  • Expensive!

Hooker Electric Gen II Shimano Tiagra 80WA

Weight: 115.2 oz.

Retrieval speed (electric): up to 500 ft. per min.

Gear ratio: (high/low): 2.5:1 / 1.3:1

Bearings: 4

RPT: 37” H /19” L

Capacity: (braid) 100/2445; 150/2365; 200/1920

Maximum drag: (strike/full) 35/44 lbs.

Hooker Electric doesn’t just upgrade the Penn - it takes the Shimano Tiagra electric, too.

The combination of an awesomely powerful motor and a huge reel adds up to a bit more than seven pounds, making this a true heavyweight. But what you get for that bulk is incredible.

Expect unrivaled capacity, allowing you to fish below 2000 feet. You can also anticipate two gears, a 2.5:1 and a 1.3:1 combo that delivers speed as well as torque to spare once you switch to hand cranking.

And of course, like the Penn International, you get a strike and fight drag setting.

There’s simply nothing not to like here other than the price!

For serious anglers who chase deep fish and need unrivaled capacity and power, this is the reel to pick.

Pros:

  • Excellent build quality
  • Two-speed gearing
  • Two drag settings
  • Awesome motor
  • Awesome capacity

Cons:

  • Super heavy!
  • Expensive!

Leobritz Daiwa 2017 S500J

Weight: 28 oz.

Retrieval speed (electric): up to 459 ft. per min.

Gear ratio: ?

Bearings: 7BB + 1RB

RPT: ?

Capacity: (braid) 546/65

Maximum drag: 33 lbs

Not every electric reel is built with sailfish in mind, and the Leobritz Daiwa S500J is designed more around the needs of anglers who may be struggling with arthritic hands than fishing monster sailfish at below 1500 feet.

Weighing in at just 28 ounces, its size and weight make it “normal,” that is, fishable as you usually would. All that changes is that this excellent Daiwa reel has an electric motor to help you retrieve line that might otherwise take lots of time and effort.

With braid capacity that gets you plenty deep and a drag setting that allows for heavy line, this is a great all-around electric reel for anglers who don’t need to get down to extreme depths. But this is, nevertheless, a serious reel capable of fighting halibut, tuna, grouper, and anything else cruising above 500 feet or so, and plenty of hard-core anglers love it.

Overall, this is probably a better reel than the Tanacom 500 we review above, if only because it holds more line. Unfortunately, the included instructions are in Japanese only, and you’ll need to look online to find them in English.

Pros:

  • Light
  • Small and palmable
  • Excellent build quality, as you’d expect from Daiwa
  • Good price (relative to the competition)

Cons:

  • Capacity and speed will suffer in comparison to the larger reels

Daiwa 19 Seaborg 500MJ

Weight: 34.6 oz.

Retrieval speed (electric): up to 210 ft. per min.

Gear ratio: 3.6:1

Bearings: 21 (1MBB)

RPT: 22.2”

Capacity: (braid) 40/550; 50/440; 65/330

Maximum drag: 51 lbs

The Daiwa Seaborg 500MJ is very popular in Japan, where electric reels are far more common. A rough competitor with the Leobritz Daiwa S500J and the Tanacom 500, it offers a stronger drag and thus the possibility of heavier lines.

Unfortunately, it’s a bit heavier than these rivals and doesn’t offer competitive capacity.

Is that a deal-breaker?

Not at all!

If you fish “shallower” water for big fish, but your hands just won’t do the work they once did, this is a great reel to consider. For reef fishing, where you wouldn’t normally use an electric reel to retrieve 200 or 300 yards of line, this is a godsend for anglers suffering from arthritis or other issues that make cranking an arduous task.

So if you find cranking long lines a real pain, fish shallower water, but hunt big fish, the Daiwa Seaborg 500MJ might be perfect for you.

Pros:

  • Light
  • Small and palmable
  • Excellent build quality, as you’d expect from Daiwa
  • Great maximum drag
  • Good price (relative to the competition)

Cons:

  • Capacity isn’t great

What We Look For in an Electric Fishing Reel

Why electric?

When you’ve got 500 yards of line in the water, and you need to retrieve it throughout the day, simply cranking that much will tire your hands and arms. Instead, you’d like to have a reel that does that for you and that can bring a fish - when you hook one - within a reasonable fighting distance.

And for anglers with arthritic hands or other issues that make retrieving long lines a real chore, electric reels can restore the excitement of offshore fishing, bringing the heart-pounding joy of catching big grouper, halibut, and tuna back into a fisherman’s life.

Depth and capacity

Increasingly, daytime sailfishing is becoming the most dependable way to catch this species, and they often hunt below 1500 feet. Indeed, once you get off a reef and start working truly pelagic species, capacity becomes critical.

If that’s what you’re after, look for electric reels that let you fish deep, maximizing capacity. But understand that this will also massively increase weight and cost.

For anglers who call 350 feet deep, smaller, less expensive options are available, and they’re perfect for reefs and deep channels where halibut, tuna, grouper, and other big fish tend to hunt.

Speed

The listed speeds for each reel assume an empty line, telling you how fast you can pick up your terminal tackle without a fish on the line.

Don’t expect speeds anywhere close to that with a fish on, and if your catch is big and strong enough, the motor may not be able to make constant headway.

That’s OK, and most of these engines are designed around momentary peaks of high torque and long, steady retrieves of lower power. And you can always stop retrieving, let the fish run under drag, or fight it by hand.

In short, an electric reel doesn’t replace the skill needed to fish a fish to the gaff.

Drag

Normally, we talk a lot more about drag quality and maximums in our reel reviews, but we’re dealing with Daiwa, Penn, and Shimano here, so let me assure you right now that the drag quality is excellent on each and every one of these reels.

Weight

This is a big issue, and the larger, more powerful reels can get so heavy that hand fishing just doesn’t make sense.

If you plan to hold your rod and fish conventionally, you’ll want to look at one of the smaller reels on our list. Otherwise, you’ll get really tired, really fast, holding a seven-pound reel!

Final Thoughts

Depending on your needs and budget, any of these reels could be the best pick for you. 

But one thing’s certain: they’re all dependable performers that charter captains, weekend anglers, and paying customers have put to the test.

As always, we’d love to hear from you, so please leave a comment below!

About The Author
John B
If it has fins, John has probably tried to catch it from a kayak. A native of Louisiana, he now lives in Sarajevo, where he's adjusting to life in the mountains. From the rivers of Bosnia to the coast of Croatia, you can find him fishing when he's not camping, hiking, or hunting.
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