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Best Reel For Redfish And Speckled Trout Reviewed

Written by: Pete D
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Inshore fishing offers more opportunities for excitement than you can shake a rod at, and if you ask anglers lucky enough to live near the southern coasts of the US which words get their hearts beating the fastest, they’ll answer “reds” and “specks.”

Red drum and speckled trout are an almost unbeatable combo in shallow inshore saltwater, and from marshes swept by a moving tide to shallow coves and beaches, you’ll find these two spectacular sport fish just waiting for you to catch.

Of course, that takes the right tackle, and if you’re in the market for a new redfish and speckled trout reel, we’re here to help.

Below, you’ll find reviews of some of our favorites, as well as a complete buying guide to get you up to speed.

Quick glance at the best reel for redfish and speckled trout:

Related: 

Best Reel for Redfish and Speckled Trout Reviewed

Shimano Sahara FI C3000 - Best Reel for Redfish and Speckled Trout

okuma Ceymar Lightweight Spinning Reel- C-30

Amazon 

Capacity: 6/230, 8/170, 10/140 (mono)
Gear ratio: 6.2:1
Maximum drag: 20 lbs.
Inches per turn: 36
Bearings: 4 + 1
Weight: 8.8 oz.

Shimano’s inshore workhorse is the amazing Sahara, and for reds and specks, I’d pick the C3000-size.

Despite a relatively modest price for a Shimano reel, the Sahara delivers performance that’s top-flight. The spool offers excellent capacity, running nearly neck-and-neck with anything in this size. And whether you choose to run abrasion-resistant mono or super-sensitive braid, you won’t be disappointed with the amount of line you can pack on the C3000 Sahara.

Incredible Hagane gearing provides ultra-smooth feel and fight-winning torque. And with a gear ratio of 6.2:1, this Sahara burns up the competition, outpacing everything on our list with 36 inches of retrieve per turn.

That’s plenty fast for even the biggest, meanest reds out there, and there’s simply no question that this reel will get the job done.

Casting is excellent, as you’d expect, even in the wind.

But the heart of any reel is the drag, and the Sahara delivers typical Shimano quality: expect buttery-smooth release with no hitching, starting, and stopping. And with a maximum setting of 20 pounds, you’re ready for heavy braid if need be.

The Sahara sports an all-aluminum body, which beyond being extremely corrosion resistant, is very light, allowing all this performance to top the scales at just 8.8 ounces.

If you don’t own this reel, you should.

Pros:

  • Great capacity
  • Excellent gear ratio that delivers very high speed
  • Excellent drag
  • Shimano-quality components deliver very smooth performance

Cons:

  • ???

Okuma Ceymar C30 - Best Budget Reel for Redfish and Speckled Trout

okuma Ceymar Lightweight Spinning Reel- C-30

Amazon 

Capacity: 6/200, 8/160/8, 10/110
Gear ratio: 5.0:1
Maximum drag: 13 lbs.
Inches per turn: 26.6
Bearings: 7 + 1
Weight: 8.2 oz.

Okuma continues to deliver startling performance on a budget, and the Ceymar C30 is a great reel that won’t break the bank. 

Okuma’s sizing is a bit unusual, and the C30 is smaller than the 3000-sized reels on our list, while the C40 is much, much larger. In my opinion, the C30 is big enough for reds and specks, but if you’re worried about capacity, step up to the C40.

Okuma’s C30 sports a slightly smaller spool than the other reels we’ve reviewed today, but I wouldn’t worry too much about that, especially if you choose braid. You’ll find this little spool will pack on about 155 yards of 20-pound Sufix 832 or PowerPro, giving you more than enough line for a busy day of bull reds.

The drag system on the C30 offers a maximum of 13 pounds, making that 20-pound braid sound pretty tempting, especially if you plan on running a mono leader under a popping cork. It’s smooth and consistent, and it’s just a delight to fish.

The gearing in the C30 isn’t going to rival the Penn for power or the Shimano for smoothness, but it’s plenty good enough on the water and will more than get the job done. The gear ratio isn’t terribly fast, though, and 5.0:1 combined with a small spool yields just 26.6 inches per turn.

I’d say that’s fast enough, but a big red may give you a run for your money.

Finally, the graphite body and small spool make this an awfully light reel, rivaling the Shimano Stradic in this regard. That’s a big deal when you’re casting hundreds of times in a day on the water, and another good reason to reach for the capable C30 rather than the next larger size.

For anglers who need a great reel at a bargain price, the Okuma C30 is hard to beat.

Pros:

  • Fantastic price!
  • Excellent drag
  • Very light, rivaling the Shimano Stradic

Cons:

  • The spool is the smallest on our shortlist
  • The slowest reel on our shortlist

Shimano Stradic C3000HG

Shimano Stradic C3000HG STC3000HGFK Compact Spinning Fishing Reel With Front Drag

Amazon 

Capacity: 6/230, 8/170, 10/140 (mono)
Gear ratio: 6.0:1
Maximum drag: 20 lbs.
Inches per turn: 35
Bearings: 6 + 1
Weight: 8.1 oz.

Shimano’s Stradic series are elite-level reels, and you get the very best the company has to offer. Frankly, I think the Sahara closes the performance gap sufficiently, so what you’re paying for with the Stradic is improved longevity delivered by ultra-high-end components.

In real-world fishing, you probably won’t notice a difference in performance.

But plenty of anglers swear by the awesome Stradic, and there’s no question that reel techs will agree that everything from the worm gear to the drag system is built to last while performing flawlessly.

The C3000 Stradic sports a spool of equal size and capacity to the C3000 Sahara. That’s good news, as it’s a great size for reds and specks. 

You can expect the same awesome Hagane gearing that the Sahara incorporates, too, but with a worm gear that delivers even better smoothness and much greater long-term durability. This Stradic runs a gear ratio of 6.0:1, providing a very fast 35 inches per turn. While that’s one inch slower than the Sahara, you won’t notice the difference on the water.

The drag system has a 20-pound maximum, delivering even smoother performance than the already impressive Sahara. And whether you run 6-pound mono or 40-pound braid, you’ll find the drag is simply superb across the range of its settings.

Finally, the weight reduction the Stradic offers for nearly identical - or better - performance is pretty incredible, making this the lightest option on our list.

Overall, the combination of smooth reliability, excellent capacity, blazing speed, and light weight make the Stradic an excellent buy.

Pros:

  • Great capacity
  • Excellent gear ratio that delivers very high speed
  • Awesome drag
  • The highest-quality Shimano components deliver untouchable performance

Cons:

  • ???

Abu Garcia Revo X 30

Abu Garcia REVO2X30 Revo x Spinning Fishing Reel

Amazon 

Capacity: 6/225, 8/175, 10/140
Gear ratio: 6.2:1
Maximum drag: 11 lbs.
Inches per turn: 35
Bearings: 6 + 1
Weight: 8.3 oz.

Abu Garcia has earned something of a cult following among inshore fishermen, and the Revo X 30 goes a long way toward explaining why. A more or less direct competitor with the Shimano Sahara, it delivers excellent performance at a very reasonable price point.

The spool Abu Garcia equips this reel with is excellent, offering great capacity whichever line you choose to use. Fishing all day and cutting line to re-tie is not going to be a serious issue, and I’d be more than happy to fish a Revo X.

The gearing is strong and smooth, running a ratio of 6.2:1 that delivers 35 inches per turn. That’s blazing fast, and in the real world, it isn’t giving up a performance edge to the Sahara.

That said, Shimano probably has the best gears on the market, and I’d bet on greater longevity from the Sahara. I could be wrong, though, so I still wouldn’t give the edge to the Shimano.

The drag system on the Revo X is very nice, delivering excellent performance across a wide range of settings. You’re not going to get any hesitation or sudden stopping that can cause a line or knot failure. But with a relatively low maximum of just 11 pounds, the Shimano Sahara offers a greater range of possible braid weights, up to and including options over 50 pounds.

Do you need that for reds? Not even close!

So in the end, the Shimano Sahara might take the Revo X on paper, but on the water, there's just nothing to fault about this incredible Abu Garcia reel.

It’s also half an ounce lighter than the equivalent Sahara, a difference that can add up over a day’s fishing.

Give the Abu Garcia Revo X a try, and you won’t be disappointed.

Pros:

  • Great capacity
  • Excellent gear ratio that delivers very high speed
  • Excellent drag
  • Very smooth and very reliable
  • Lighter than the Shimano Sahara

Cons:

  • ???

PENN Battle III 2500

PENN Fishing PENN Battle II & III Spinning Fishing Reel (All Models & Sizes), Black Gold, 2500 (BTLIII2500)

Amazon 

Capacity: 6/255, 8/175, 10/140
Gear ratio: 6.2:1
Maximum drag: 12 lbs.
Inches per turn: 33
Bearings: 5 + 1
Weight: 9.7 oz.

Here at USAngler, we’re big Penn fans, and as legions of anglers can attest, they deliver awesome reels for the salt. One of our favorites is the new Battle III, replacing the tried, tested, and respected Battle II.

The Battle III 2500 is an incredible reel that in many ways sets the standard for other inshore tackle. 

Let’s take a close look at why.

The Battle III 2500’s spool is roughly on par with its competitors’ 3000-sized reels, and before you say that it isn’t fair to compare reels of different sizes, those size numbers are just that - numbers - and we want to compare apples to apples in terms of spool sizes to get real-world comparisons that matter to you.

There’s more than enough mono on the 2500 for all your needs, and if you switch to braid, you can really pack it on. That’s par for the course on our shortlist, however, and that fact doesn’t really make the Penn stand out.

Penn’s gearing is the stuff of legend, and you can count on the Battle III when you tie into the fish of a lifetime. The teeth are precision cut and ridiculously strong, adding bulk that the Shimanos and Abu Garcia lack at the price of crazy torque and durability.

A 6.2:1 drag ratio delivers 33 inches per turn, a slightly slower speed than its direct competitors but still more than fast enough for bull reds and mean specks.

For my money, where the Penn pulls away is drag tech. The HT-100 carbon fiber drag system in the Battle III is amazing, and while not perhaps as smooth as the Stradic, it’s simply better tech in a long, hard fight with a big, strong fish. There’s no red out there that’s going to test this drag in the real world, and it allows you to run braid as heavy as 30 pounds with no trouble.

The HT-100 is sealed against saltwater intrusion and provides ultra-durable performance.

Now, where the Penn suffers is weight: those durable gears cost bulk. So at 9.7 ounces, it’s far from the lightest choice on our shortlist.

Nevertheless, if I were buying a single reel for all inshore fishing, or if I were choosing a reel to fight bull reds, the Penn Battle III would probably be my choice.

Pros:

  • Great capacity
  • Excellent gear ratio that delivers very high speed
  • Excellent drag that’s sealed against saltwater intrusion
  • Great torque and durability from the Penn’s gears

Cons:

  • Heavier than the Shimanos and Abu Garcia

Pflueger President 35X

Pflueger PRESSP35X President Spinning Fishing Reel

Amazon 

Capacity: 6/230, 8/185, 10/155
Gear ratio: 5.2:1
Maximum drag: 12 lbs.
Inches per turn: 28.1
Bearings: 9 + 1
Weight: 10.7

Pfluger’s President is one of America’s most popular spinning reels, and countless anglers have been amazed by its affordable performance. While probably not the equal of its competitors on this shortlist, it costs about half as much as the Penn Battle III.

That makes it an affordable option for fishermen who need to count their pennies, and you won’t be disappointed on the water if the President is your pick.

First off, the spool is pretty big, offering slightly more line than the Shimanos, the Abu Garcia, or the Penn. A little extra line is never a bad thing, and whether you choose gold-standard mono like Stren or pick a great braid like Sufix 832, you’ll have plenty on hand for a full day’s fishing, even with plenty of cutting and retying.

Pflueger uses an old-style oiled felt drag system that delivers reliably smooth performance. It’s not fancy, and it’s certainly not high-tech, but it works and it keeps costs reasonable. With a maximum setting of 12 pounds, it’s ready for heavier lines than you really need for reds, let alone specks.

Where you’ll begin to notice a performance gap is speed. While the Pflueger President is admirably smooth, it can’t provide the feel of the Shimano Stradic, nor can it deliver retrieval rates that equal the more expensive reels we’ve reviewed today.

With a gear ratio of 5.2:1, even that slightly larger spool can’t catch the faster reels on our shortlist, delivering just 28.1 inches per turn. That’s not terrible by any means, and most reds aren’t going to be able to win slack from this reel, but that’s certainly not a number to write home about.

The 35X is also no lightweight, tipping the scales at a full ounce more than the Penn Battle III but without the torque or speed that a legendary reel supplies in spades.

None of that makes the Pfluger President a bad reel, however, and for the price, it’s still a very good choice. But for about $20 more, the Shimano Sahara is probably going to be the better bet.

Pros:

  • Great price!
  • Excellent capacity
  • Excellent drag

Cons:

  • Slower than the Shimanos, the Abu Garcia, and the Penn III
  • The heaviest reel on our shortlist

Buying Guide: What to Look for in a Reel for Redfish and Speckled Trout

Spinning tackle is your best bet

I know plenty of anglers who live for inshore fishing, and the vast majority prefer spinning tackle. 

Wind is a constant, and nothing outcasts a spinning reel when the gusts catch your line and lure. That’s not to say that you can’t use baitcasting tackle for reds and specks - I’ve done it, as have legions of other fishermen.

But for most people, most of the time, spinning tackle is the way to go, especially with lighter lines under 10-pound mono diameter.

Capacity

Capacity is directly related to spool size, and the larger the pool, the more line it can accommodate. To compare apples to apples, we’ve tried to review reels with as similar spool sizes as we can.

We generally recommend a 3000-size reel for reds and specks, but of course, those numbers are relatively arbitrary and vary from maker to maker. You can also go smaller to decrease weight or run a larger reel to fit more line if you think you really need it.

Keep in mind, though, that it’s rare to nearly impossible to be spooled by a red or speck. That’s just not going to happen with the size reel we’re recommending.

But you may need to cut and re-tie quite a bit if you’re fishing around rocks, pilings, or oyster shells, and more line is almost always a good thing.

Speed

Speed matters.

When a fish runs back toward your boat, you need to keep your line tight to maintain pressure on the hook. Slack can allow the fish to dislodge it, and a tight line is critical to ensure the red or speck you hook makes it into your net.

Speed is a function of two things: spool size and gear ratio.

As you turn the handle, you’ll spin the gear that connects it to the spool. Gear ratios measure how many turns of the spool one turn of the crank produces.

Thus, a gear ratio of 6.2:1 means that one turn of the handle spins the spool 6.2 times.

Obviously, faster gear ratios and larger spools create more speed, allowing you to keep a tight line with a big, fast fish on the hook.

And while you don’t need blazing speed, I like 30+ inches per turn on reds and specks just to be sure.

Drag

Drag is critical to protect your line and rod and from the stress of a hard fight.

The function of the drag system on your reel is to release line at a given weight, allowing the fish to strip line from your spool under constant, smooth pressure. Not only does this make the red or speck work harder, but it also prevents your line, knot, and rod from feeling the full stress of the fight.

An ideal drag system produces a very smooth release with no sudden starts or stops that could cause a sudden, dramatic increase in stress.

You want to set your drag to no more than ⅓ of the test strength of your line.

Weight

Weight may not seem like a big deal until you’ve been fishing all day.

But after your first couple hundred casts, you'll really notice every ounce!

Light is always good, but keep in mind that some components, like gears, need to be made from metal rather than featherweight - but weak - plastic. That can add ounces, but the durability and power are worth it.

Our Pick: The Shimano Sahara FI 3000!

While the Shimano Stradic and Penn Battle III are awesome reels in their own right, the Shimano Sahara delivers performance that’s on par with both of them but at a much lower price point than the Stradic and a much lower weight than the Battle III.

The Sahara FI C3000 offers plenty of capacity, an excellent drag system, and a svelte weight, making it a fantastic inshore reel for chasing redfish and speckled trout.

For anglers who need a reel that won’t empty their wallets, Okuma’s Ceymar C30 is a good buy. And while it won’t rival the best of the reels on our shortlist, it will absolutely work as it should, providing performance that’s far better than its price suggests.

In truth, any of the reels we’ve reviewed today will serve you well, and there’s no bad choice to be had from the bunch.

As always, we’d love to hear from you, so please ask your questions and leave your comments below.

About The Author
Pete D
Born and raised in Cleveland, Ohio, Pete grew up fishing on the Great Lakes. When he’s not out on the water, you can find him reading his favorite books, and spending time with his family.
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