Quality Alternatives to Baitcasting and Spinning Reels – Best Spincast Reels Reviewed

Like many of you, I started my fishing journey with a spincast or “closed-face” reel: the mighty Zebco 33. And from panfish to catfish, croakers to specks, it performed beautifully every single time I used it.

Ideal for beginners, spincast reels are easy to cast and fish. Yes, they suffer some mechanical disadvantages when compared to spinning and baitcasting reels. But they’re also immune to wind knots, backlash, and operator errors of all kinds.

Simple? Check.

More than up to the task of bluegill, crappie, perch, catfish, walleye, trout, bass, specks, reds, and most pike? Check.

Affordable and well made? Checkmate!

So if you’re curious about spincast reels, want to give one a try, or are thinking about where to get a new angler started, keep reading. Below, we’ll explain the ins and outs of spincast reels, help you pick the one that’s right for you, and offer reviews of a few of our favorites.

Quick glance at the best spincast reels on the market:

ImageReelCapacityBearingsDrag SystemGear Ratio
Reels Spincast Pflueger PRES6SCX President Sizespin Cast Reel, 5 BRG. 3.4: 1 Ratio, 6Pflueger President Pres6SCX(yards/test) 145/4, 90/6, 70/85Dial on cover3.1:1
Pflueger Trion Spincast ReelPflueger Trion Tri6USCB(yards/test) 145/4 90/6 70/82Dial on cover3.4:1
Zebco authentic Spincast Fishing ReelZebco 33(yards/test) 110/101Dial on cover3.6:1
Zebco 33 Micro Gold Triggerspin ReelZebco 33 Micro Gold(yards/test) 90/42Dial on cover4.3:1
Zebco ZB310BX3 Bullet Spincast ReelZebco Bulletyards/test) 90/109 (8 + clutch)Dial on cover5.1:1
Omega Pro Spincast Reel, 3.4:1 Gear Ratio, 14' Retreieve Rate, AmbidextrousZebco Omega Pro(yards/test) 85/107 (6 + clutch)Dial on cover3.4:1

Spincast Reels: The Basics

In contrast to baitcasting reels that spool in-line with the rod, spincast reels spool line like a spinning reel. In fact, an easy way to understand spincast reels is to think of them as enclosed spinning reels with a few mechanical differences.

Enclosed

The first and most obvious difference you’ll note is that the baitcasting reel is entirely enclosed, shielding the spool from weather, wind, sun, and sight.

This protects the line from damaging UV, and it also cuts the wind, preventing tangles and breeze-blown knots. For novice anglers, that’s a huge plus! Of course, a high memory line can still create problems beneath that cover, but it’s easy enough to open it and fix the problem.

And if you’re worried that it’s tough to respool them with line–don’t worry!

Button or Trigger

Traditional spincast reels are mounted above the rod like a baitcaster. At the rear of the reel, you’ll find a simple button that acts like the bail on a spinning reel. When you’re ready to cast, you just depress and hold that button. When you want to release the line, all you need to do is release the button, and the line will unspool. To re-engage, you just give the handle a crank.

spincast reel with button

A second option is now available as well, and it mounts below the rod like a spinning reel, giving it the name “underspin.” Instead of a button, this style of reel employs a trigger that’s depressed with a finger. The idea is exactly the same: press and hold, release, and crank.

spincast reel with trigger

Either mechanism makes spincast reels very user-friendly, and novice anglers can start casting immediately.

Take-up Pins

The mechanical magic inside a spincast reel depends on a take-up pin that acts as the bail in a spinning reel. These take-up pins are what allow or prevent line from spooling, enabling casting and retrieving. Indeed, much like a spinning reel’s design, the spool in a spincaster is fixed and immobile. These pins do the work of the bail.

Unfortunately, they’re not as durable as the bail on a spinning reel, and they don’t last forever. As they wear, they’ll miss line, causing problems on retrieval. Worse still, they limit retrieval speed quite a bit, and you’ll notice that difference if you regularly fish a spinning reel.

Better reels use metal rather than plastic or composite for these critical components, ensuring that they last a bit longer.

Gearing

Spincast reels tend to have low gear ratios. A reel’s gear ratio is represented by two numbers separated by a colon, such as 5:1. These numbers describe how many turns of the spool one full rotation of the handle produces: in this case, five full spool revolutions per crank.

In the fishing world, 5:1 is mid-pack; any lower is considered slow, and any higher is considered fast.

This number matters for two reasons:

  • Lure action – The faster you retrieve a spinning lure, the more speed and activity you demand from the fish, and the less time you give it to decide to strike. That can be a good thing in clear, warm water on bright days. But keep in mind that some lures are best fished quickly, while others perform best when retrieved slowly. You need to consider how you fish and what you throw when selecting a lure.
  • Retrieval speed – The higher the gear ratio, the faster the retrieve. When you’re jigging deep or casting at a distance and need to cover a lot of water quickly, a high gear ratio can help. But too much speed can be counterproductive, and you need to get the retrieve right for your lure and for the fish you’re after!

What We Consider When Selecting a Spincast Reel

Trigger or Button

Probably the first thing you’ll need to decide is whether you want a traditional button or a trigger. Both systems work well, and this is largely a matter of personal preference. Trigger or “underspin” reels are designed to work with common spinning rods, whereas push button reels are designed to be paired with a baitcasting rod.

Which is right for you? Give both systems a chance and find out!

Line capacity

Spincast reels usually offer less line capacity than a similarly sized spinning or baitcasting reel.

That’s a simple fact.

It’s rare to find one that can hold more than 150 yards of line or so, and overfilling them will affect their casting ability, just as in other styles of reel. But we also find that capacity just isn’t that big a deal, though if you need to strip line frequently or are fishing really deep, this is a disadvantage of spincast design.

Smooth operation

Your reel needs to do two things well: cast and retrieve.

Obviously, that means that you want the trigger or button to work 100 percent of the time and to reset easily by cranking the handle. You also want that crank to turn smoothly and consistently pull-in line.

Quality spincast reels will be smooth operators, and all of the models we review will treat you well in this respect. In fact, the high-end of spincast reels may surprise you by matching the performance of comparably priced spinning and baitcasting alternatives.

Quality drag

Whatever reel you fish, drag matters. From protecting your line from sudden shocks to helping you tire a strong fish in a long fight, a quality drag is often what separates the best from the rest.

Spincast reels feature one of three drag systems: a star wheel, an internal drag actuated by a slightly exposed dial, or a large dial at the rear or side of the reel. For the most part, these systems are equal in our experience, and all three styles will do a good job on a quality reel.

spincast reel with star wheel drag system

spincast reel with internal drag system

spincast reel with large dial drag system

Gear ratio and Retrieval Speed

As we mentioned above, gear ratio matters, and spincast reels tend to be sluggish. That’s not all bad, as slowing down your retrieve is one of the first steps to catching more fish.

And “tend to be” isn’t “always are.” Take a look at Zebco’s Bullet, for instance!

On a quality spincast reel, we look for gear ratios in the neighborhood of 3.1:1. By contrast, the Bullet offers an incredible 5.1:1.

We recommend that you assess what you really need, matching the gear to your techniques and lures.

Bearings

The number of bearings a reel features isn’t as important as you might think, and it’s usually over-hyped in ads as an easy way to outshine the competition. That said, it’s generally true that as the number and quality of bearings increase–causing the price to go up–the reel gets smoother.

Very low-end spincast reels may not feature any bearings at all, and this is something you want to avoid on anything other than a “toy” reel for a child.

Durability

Durability is not usually the strong-suit of spincast reels. Those take-up pins wear, and the gears on low-end models can be made from plastic, allowing them to degrade very quickly under strain.

If you fish a $20 spincast reel hard, expect it to last a year or so. And if you tackle some outsized fish, expect that to dramatically affect durability. A good friend of mine likes to fish a small Zebco for reds, but he knew he’d be replacing it once a year or so!

But if you come to spincast reels with reasonable expectations, and understand that you don’t buy a $20 reel for life, you won’t be disappointed. That’s true across the board for reels of all kinds.

The top-end reels we review below offer durability comparable to a spinning reel of the same price.

Best Spincast Reel Reviews

The products we’ve reviewed range from ultralight reels designed for four, six, and eight-pound line (Size 6) as well as those designed for 10-pound test (Size 10). If you like ultralight fishing, or have an ultralight rod and want to try a closed-face reel, we recommend the Pfluegers or the Zebco 33 Micro Gold. These are excellent reels, and we’re sure you won’t be disappointed, especially if you have reasonable expectations for a product at their price point.

If you fish for catfish, bass, reds, specks, or pretty much anything that demands eight to ten-pound line, we’d recommend a hard look at the Bullet and Omega Pro. While the Bullet is the top performer overall, it’s a bit pricier than the Omega Pro. Only you can decide if the extra speed is worth that premium.

A true beginner can do a lot worse than a Zebco 33 on a light action rod. And if you’re looking for a good reel for a new angler in your family, we can’t recommend the 33 highly enough.

Pflueger President Pres6SCX

Reels Spincast Pflueger PRES6SCX President Sizespin Cast Reel, 5 BRG. 3.4: 1 Ratio, 6
Amazon 

Capacity: (yards/test) 145/4, 90/6, 70/8

Bearings: 5

Drag system: dial on cover

Gear Ratio: 3.1:1

As you’ll see from the list of products we’ve reviewed, Zebco is the dominant name in spincast reels. Only Pflueger gives them a run for their money, though companies like Abu Garcia and Daiwa also produce this style of reel.

Build quality helps the Pflueger President 6SCX stand out, closing the gap with Zebco. There’s a lot of aluminum in this reel, and you can immediately feel that it’s solid. And like the equally excellent Pflueger spinning reel we reviewed, you’ll be well-pleased with its performance.

This reel is undeniably smooth, running on five bearings. Its multi-stop, anti-reverse system locks up well, and unlike Zebco, Pflueger uses titanium in its take-up pins. Not only does that make them longer wearing, but it also makes them corrosion-proof as well.

Casting is uniformly excellent with this push-button reel, and the drag works just as it should, even with light, four-pound line. And with ample capacity, we doubt you’ll find yourself needing more line than this reel can hold.

Be aware, however, that this reel can be a pain to fit on a rod. The problem is that its cover is pretty large, and when combined with its short frame, may not leave enough clearance between the seat and the reel cover. Some users have also reported problems with the anti-reverse system right out of the box.

Pflueger spools six-pound test on this reel from the factory, but we suggest you do yourself a favor with all these reels and spool some quality mono on at home.

Pros:

  • Excellent build quality
  • Titanium take-up pins
  • Very smooth
  • Nice drag
  • Casts well

Cons:

  • May not fit all rods
  • Some mechanical issues reported

Pflueger Trion Tri6USCB

Pflueger Trion Spincast Reel
Amazon 

Capacity: (yards/test) 145/4 90/6 70/8

Bearings: 2

Drag system: dial on cover

Gear Ratio: 3.4:1

Pflueger’s Trion 6 UCSB is a trigger-actuated spincast reel with the same build quality that makes other options from this manufacturer a good bet.

This Trion is best paired with an ultralight or light rod, and we wouldn’t hesitate to put it through its paces with crappie, trout, or small bass. It’s smooth operating, and more than a few anglers prefer it to similar Zebco models.

Like the other Pflueger we review, it features titanium take-up pins, increasing the durability of this reel and dispelling any concerns about corrosion.

Casting with this reel is excellent, and its gearing provides an ideal speed for a variety of lures. The multi-stop, anti-reverse feature isn’t as snazzy as an instant system, but it works well and keeps the price of the Trion at a very reasonable level.

The drag is strong enough to break the lines this reel is designed for, and we find that it’s pretty easy to set properly to four-pound test.

The drawbacks? Like other Pflueger reels, you’re either going to have problems pretty much immediately or get a lot of use from the Trion.

As always, we recommend you strip the factory line from this reel and replace it with some of your favorite mono.

Pros:

  • Excellent build quality
  • Titanium take-up pins
  • Very smooth
  • Nice drag
  • Casts well

Cons:

  • Some mechanical issues reported

Zebco 33

Zebco authentic Spincast Fishing Reel
Amazon 

Capacity: (yards/test) 110/10

Bearings: 1

Drag system: dial on cover

Gear Ratio: 3.6:1

If there’s a single word that you should associate with closed-face reels, it’s Zebco. Clearly the dominant manufacturer of this design, more people fish Zebco spincast reels than any other brand–no question.

The venerable Zebco 33 is a great place to start. Featuring an attractive, durable stainless cover, it’s all business. The Zebco 33 also offers ceramic take-up pins, so corrosion will never be an issue. Are they as good as the titanium Pflueger uses? We’re not sure, but we do know that legions of Zebco users aren’t complaining!

As generations of anglers can attest, this reel is durable and reliable, if somewhat lacking in flash. A single bearing doesn’t make this the smoothest operator on the water, and though Zebco advertizes all-metal gears, don’t expect miracles.

That said, it casts well and offers more than reasonable retrieving speed. It also holds a lot of 10-pound line, and if you strip that off and run six-pound mono, you’ll find that casting does nothing but improve.

The drag on the 33 isn’t exceptional, but it gets the job done. Given just how affordable this reel is, that’s saying something!

Pros:

  • Very inexpensive
  • Ceramic take-up pins
  • Casts well, especially if you respool with quality mono

Cons:

  • Not the smoothest reel on the water
  • The drag isn’t very subtle

Zebco 33 Micro Gold

Zebco 33 Micro Gold Triggerspin Reel
Amazon 

Capacity: (yards/test) 90/4

Bearings: 2

Drag system: dial on cover

Gear Ratio: 4.3:1

Zebco’s 33 Micro Gold isn’t just a smaller, underspin version of the 33; it’s also a step up in quality as far as we can tell.

Yes, it’s a lot like the standard 33: ceramic take-up pins, a stainless cover, and all-metal gears. But we found that the drag was much, much better, providing smooth performance with light line. Similarly, though it’s only running two bearings, it’s much smoother than the 33.

Keep in mind that the 33 Micro Gold is an ultralight reel designed for four-pound test! Holding a full 90 yards of this line, we doubt you’ll need more. Ideal for panfish and small bass, we’d hesitate to push this reel on trout in fast-moving water.

Pros:

  • Excellent build quality
  • Ceramic take-up pins
  • Smooth
  • Nice drag
  • Casts well

Cons:

  • The Pfluegers are smoother

Zebco Bullet

Zebco ZB310BX3 Bullet Spincast Reel
Amazon 

Capacity: (yards/test) 90/10

Bearings: 9 (8 + clutch)

Drag system: dial on cover

Gear Ratio: 5.1:1

If there’s one reasonable complaint about spincast reels, it’s that their retrieval rate can be sluggish. That may not sound like a problem, but if you jig deep or cast long, you’ll find that weakness immediately.

Similarly, if you fish lures that demand a quick retrieve, in most cases, you should give this style reel a pass.

But Zebco’s Bullet is an exception. Geared to 5.1:1, it retrieves as quickly as the best spinning and baitcasting reels, probably in conjunction with a larger spool than usual. We guess at that, but given the 90-yard, 10-pound capacity Zebco specifies, we’d bet we’re right.

Whatever magic they’ve worked on the Bullet, the results are exceptional: according to Zebco, each crank pulls in nearly 30 inches of line!

A bit less capacity, but with blistering speed? That’s a trade-off we’d be happy to make!

The Bullet offers an aluminum cover and very nice build quality. It feels solid in the hand, and everything from the crank to the knobs on its tips feels top-notch. The drag is easy to set and works well, and we’d fish this for bass in a heartbeat.

Casting is excellent, especially with quality line, and with nine–that’s right, nine–bearings, this is a smooth, smooth reel. Durability is awesome, too, and the gears are cut from solid brass. Like spinning reels, the Bullet’s spool oscillates, improving how the line lays and leading to better casting and fewer problems. And of course, instant anti-reverse is standard.

There’s just not much to dislike about the Bullet, but of course, be prepared to pay a bit more!

Pros:

  • Excellent build quality
  • Blistering speed
  • Very, very smooth
  • Nice drag
  • Casts well
  • Awesome durability
  • Oscillating spool
  • Instant anti-reverse

Cons:

  • Expensive for a spincast reel

Zebco Omega Pro

Omega Pro Spincast Reel, 3.4:1 Gear Ratio, 14' Retreieve Rate, Ambidextrous
Amazon 

Capacity: (yards/test) 85/10

Bearings: 7 (6 + clutch)

Drag system: dial on cover

Gear Ratio: 3.4:1

Zebco’s Omega Pro is probably the most popular choice for a spincaster right now, and given what it has to offer, it’s easy to see why.

Like the Pfluegers, there’s lots of metal in the Omega Pro, and build quality is excellent. Indeed, with features like instant anti-reverse and all brass gearing, it’s a testament to Zebco quality, outstripping all but the Bullet in performance.

Fully eight bearings offer this reel a silky smooth performance, and casting is excellent. The drag is easy to use, sensitive, and precise. In fact, we were surprised by just how good it was–on par with comparably priced spinning reels!

Geared for 3.4:1, it’s certainly no slouch, but don’t expect to burn lures through the water. Casting is awesome, however, and like the drag, it’s as good as similar spinning or baitcasting reels with mono.

Pros:

  • Excellent build quality
  • Very smooth
  • Nice drag
  • Casts well
  • Instant anti-reverse

Cons:

  • Expensive for a spincast reel

Final Thoughts

We’ve rounded up a few of our favorite reels, and as you can see, only Pflugers and Zebcos made our final cut. That doesn’t mean that other reels aren’t acceptable, but rather that these two brands offer products that really stand out.

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4 thoughts on “Quality Alternatives to Baitcasting and Spinning Reels – Best Spincast Reels Reviewed”

  1. I have searched several websites to find best spincast reel. I found this website is best for comparison among several brands of spincst reel. Thanks for a great resource.

    Reply
  2. Very good information on the best spincast reel for the money. Spincasters are really expensive if you don’t know how to pick the right one for you. Anyways, you made that part clear and easy to swallow. Great !

    Regards

    Chris

    Reply

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