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Best Spinning Reel For Bass: Spin-in a Largemouth

Written by: Pete D
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While baitcasting reels dominate the tournament scene, plenty of anglers already know that good spinning reels are more than up to the task for largemouth. 

And if you just don’t care for baitcasting reels, shy away from buying new rods to fit them, or want a one-rod solution to all your fishing, a spinning reel for bass fishing may be just the thing you’re looking for.

We’re here to help, and below, you’ll find an in-depth buying guide as well as reviews of some of our favorite spinning reels for bass:

Quick glance at the best spinning reels for bass:

Best Spinning Reel for Bass for the Money

Cadence CS8

Cadence CS8

  • Excellent build quality throughout
  • Strong aluminum gearing
  • Excellent drag system
  • Great durability
  • Really nice casting
Most Powerful and Durable Spinning Reel for Bass

Penn Battle II

Penn Battle III

  • Superb build quality throughout
  • Strong, real-world proven gearing
  • Excellent capacity--and a marked spool to help you keep track of your line
  • Great drag system
  • Unrivaled durability
  • Really nice casting
Best Premium-Price Spinning Reel for Bass

Shimano Vanford

Shimano Vanford

  • Excellent Shimano tech
  • Very rigid body
  • Excellent drag with ultra-smooth performance
  • Excellent gears
  • Excellent torque and power
  • Excellent speed
  • Very water resistant
Best Budget Spinning Reel for Bass

Okuma Ceymar

Okuma Ceymar

  • Nice build quality
  • Strong gearing punches above its price-point
  • Good drag
  • Nice casting
  • Performs like a more expensive reel
 

Pflueger President

Pflueger President

  • Nice build quality
  • Strong gearing punches above its price-point
  • Good drag
  • Nice casting
  • Performs like a more expensive reel

Related: Best Baitcasting Reels For Bass

Best Spinning Reels For Bass Reviewed

Cadence CS8 - Best Spinning Reel for Bass for the Money

CS8 Spinning Reel,Cadence Ultralight Fast Speed Premium Magnesium Frame Fishing Reel with 10 Low Torque Bearings Super Smooth Powerful Fishing Reel with 36 LBs Max Drag & 6.2:1 Spinning Reel

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CS8-2000

Drag: 16 lbs. maximum
Gear ratio: 6.2:1 (32” per turn)
Line capacity: 160/6 
Bearings: 9 + 1 roller bearing
Weight: 7.3 oz.

CS8-3000

Drag: 19 lbs. maximum
Gear ratio: 6.2:1 (35” per turn)
Line capacity: 150/10 
Bearings: 9 + 1 roller bearing
Weight: 7.4 oz.

CS8-4000

Drag: 20 lbs. maximum
Gear ratio: 6.2:1 (38” per turn)
Line capacity: 220/10
Bearings: 9 + 1 roller bearing
Weight: 8.5 oz.

If you happen to be a long-time reader, you’ll know that I’ve been really impressed with Cadence reels, and the CS-8 perfectly demonstrates why.

Light, strong, smooth, and durable, the CS-8 series is pretty much everything I’m looking for in a good reel, and I think it compares favorably with more established brands like Shimano.

For bass, I recommend the 2000, 3000, and 4000 size reels, each paired with an appropriate rod. All of these options sport an identical 6.2:1 gear ratio, but of course, as you step up in size, the spools get larger, increasing retrieve per turn from 32 inches to 35 and finally 38 inches. That’s plenty of speed for fighting largemouth, and it’s a good all-around pace for many techniques.

Speaking of spool size, the CS-8 range is roughly the middle of the pack in terms of capacity, offering reasonable length of line for the size and weight.

Cadence uses a carbon fiber drag system, and I’ve found the CS-8 series a delight to fish. Realistically, you’re never going to want or need a drag setting of 19 to 20 pounds, even if you fish 60-pound braid, but you can rest assured that if you do run heavy-weight line, you’ve got power to spare. This drag system is silky smooth--no skips, stops, or hesitation--even at low-end settings.

The pinion gear and main shaft are made from aluminum, and while not the equal of Shimao’s Hagane gearing, are plenty strong and smooth, providing confidence-inspiring torque.

Casting is great, too, with no complaints from the bail over a long, hard season on the water.

Relatively lightweight, this strong, stiff, durable reel is hard to beat.

Pros:

  • Excellent build quality throughout
  • Strong aluminum gearing
  • Excellent drag system
  • Great durability
  • Really nice casting

Cons:

  • ???

Penn Battle III - Most Powerful and Durable Spinning Reel for Bass

PENN 1338219 Battle II 4000 Spinning Fishing Reel

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BTLIII2500

Drag: 12 lbs. maximum
Gear ratio: 6.2:1 (33” per turn)
Line capacity: 255/6, 175/8, 140/10
Bearings: 5 + 1 roller bearing
Weight: 9.7 oz.

BTLIII3000

Drag: 15 lbs. maximum
Gear ratio: 6.2:1 (35” per turn)
Line capacity: 200/8, 165/10, 120/12
Bearings: 5 + 1 roller bearing
Weight: 9.7 oz.

Saltwater anglers will already be familiar with Penn’s legendary Battle II series of reels, and while they’re much less well-known in the world of bass fishing, they’re worth a very long look.

Penn builds reels that are bomb-proof tough, and the Battle II series is designed for the punishment only surf casting can deal out. From wind-blown sand to salt spray, these reels are prepared to shrug-off the worst Mother Nature can dish out, and for my money, there’s nothing more durable out there.

The 2000, 2500, and 3000 are great bass reels, offering outstanding drag performance, big spools, and the cranking power you’d expect to find on saltwater tackle. Powered by tough gears, the 3000 is more than capable of turning the heaviest, strongest bass back toward your boat.

Big spools with high capacity are one of the strengths of this series, and with spools pre-marked to help you keep track of your remaining line, it’s hard to find fault.

The Battle II also offers sealed bearings, a nice touch that guarantees serious long-term durability.

Carbon fiber drag systems offer fantastic performance, and this reel is no exception. Designed for real-world applications like reds, stripers, amberjack, and the like, you can count on the drag to deliver on even the biggest bass. The 2000 is no exception--at 10 pounds, there’s more than enough oomph there for 30-pound test or more, as there’s no practical need to exceed that mark.

If there’s a downside to the Battle II, it’s weight. These reels aren’t trim, and for their size, they’re a bit heavier than the competition.

But if you’ve ever had a reel break on you, rust up and stop working, or just not have the power to handle a big fish, you’ll know why so many anglers reach for the Battle II.

Pros:

  • Superb build quality throughout
  • Strong, real-world proven gearing
  • Excellent capacity--and a marked spool to help you keep track of your line
  • Great drag system
  • Unrivaled durability
  • Really nice casting

Cons:

  • A bit heavy

Shimano Vanford - Best Premium-Price Spinning Reel for Bass

Shimano Fishing Vanford 2500Hg F Spinning Reel [VF2500HGF]

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VF2500HGF

Drag: 20 lbs. maximum
Gear ratio: 6:0:1
Line capacity: 140/8
Bearings: 7+ 1 roller bearing
Weight: 6.3 oz.

VFC3000XGF

Drag: 20 lbs. maximum
Gear ratio: 6:4:1 
Line capacity: 140/10
Bearings: 7 + 1 roller bearing
Weight: 6.3 oz.

VF4000XGF

Drag: 24 lbs. maximum
Gear ratio: 6.2:1 
Line capacity: 160/12
Bearings: 7 + 1 roller bearing
Weight: 7.6 oz.

Shimano’s Vanford series of spinning reels are designed around the needs of inshore anglers chasing specks, reds, flounder, blues, and the like, as well as freshwater fishermen who need a reels capable of handling everything from nasty pike to finesse largemouth applications to panfish.

To accomplish this, the Vanford is offered in sizes ranging from a tiny 500 all the way up to a big 5000, covering all your bases with uncompromising Shimano tech. One thing to note, however, the little 500 skips some of the more refined features of its larger relatives, dropping the MGL Rotor, MicroModule Gear II, X-Protect Body and Long Stroke Spool.

Honestly, that’s not a big deal, as cutting vibration, reducing rotational inertia, and increasing casting distance aren’t critical when you’re running a 500-size reel for trout or panfish.

The entire Vanford line-up is equipped with Shimano’s excellent cross carbon drag system, and just as with the Sustain FJ, you can expect legendary performance from its high-quality washers. They produce reliable, ultra-smooth performance at every setting across their range, making them ideal for light lines and hard fights.

The larger models in this series offer 24-pound maximums, allowing you to use very heavy lines if you wish. They’re more than capable of wrangling a big muskie into your net or taming a bull red or massive striper.

On the other end of the size spectrum, the 500 and 1000 have no trouble with settings as light as one pound, making them perfect choices for ice fishing crappie or casting to panfish of all kinds.

The 1000 and 2500 are as good as it gets for finesse applications in freshwater, and the super-light bodies and very low initial spool inertia just scream to be used for drop shots, shaky heads, Ned rigs, and the like.

Whatever you ask this drag to do, it’ll do well.

Gearing is accomplished via precision-cut Hagane teeth that provide remarkably smooth performance while delivering fantastic torque. In the larger sizes, you’ll really notice the steps Shimano has taken to reduce vibration and smooth things out.

Gear ratios vary from size to size, with the 500, 3000, 4000, and 5000 offering remarkably fast retrieval rates. That makes the 500 quite adept for ice fishing, where time spent picking up your jigs will be decreased tremendously. And of course, the 3000, 4000, and 5000 offer the speed you need to keep your lines tight with big, fast fish.

Each size reel wears an excellent spool, but frankly, mono capacities are just OK. Loading them up with braid will go a long way, but I can only suppose that Shimano was more worried about weight and balance than the absolute yardage of line they could pack onto each reel. For instance, size-to-size, you’re not going to be impressed with comparison to Penn’s Pursuit IV.

Is that a deal breaker? Not by a long shot!

The water resistance of the Vanford is on-par with the Shimano Sustain FJ, and I wouldn’t worry a bit about saltwater intrusion.

Overall, these are extremely good reels that take smooth, reliable performance to a whole new level, and they’re the best Shimano offers for freshwater fishing.

Pros:

  • Excellent Shimano tech
  • Very rigid body
  • Excellent drag with ultra-smooth performance
  • Excellent gears
  • Excellent torque and power
  • Excellent speed
  • Very water resistant

Cons:

  • Spool capacities are just OK

Okuma Ceymar - Best Budget Spinning Reel for Bass

okuma Ceymar Lightweight Spinning Reel- C-30

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C-30

Drag: 13 lbs. maximum
Gear ratio: 5:1 (25” per turn)
Line capacity: 200/6, 160/8, 110/10
Bearings: 6 + 1 roller bearing
Weight: 8.2 oz.

C-40

Drag: 13 lbs. maximum
Gear ratio: 5:1 (29” per turn)
Line capacity: 270/8, 190/10, 170/12
Bearings: 7 + 1 roller bearing
Weight: 10 oz.

Okuma’s Ceymar series are reasonably priced rivals for better-known brands like Cadence and Pflueger, and I’m impressed enough by their performance that I own and fish one!

The C-30 and C-40 are very hard to beat for the price, offering remarkable strength, durability, and smoothness.

The strong suits of these reels are nice felt drag systems that while not the equals of carbon fiber, are very good for the price. I’ve had zero trouble with them, and they perform smoothly and competently, especially at higher settings.

With 13-pound drag settings, you won’t feel out-gunned with big fish, either.

Spool size is just OK, certainly a nod to weight reduction. Capacity and retrieval rate suffer as a result, but without space-age materials and high prices, that’s only to be expected.

Durability is great, as well.

This is a case in which a product can be greater than the sum of its parts: though each aspect is probably inferior to the other reels on our list, the sum of its performance is surprisingly good, rivaling Shimanos that cost twice as much (but not the Stradic!). The drag just plain works, the spool casts well, and the gearing has proven itself for me--and others--on big, mean fish.

In short, if you’re looking for a budget option, the Ceymar series is a great buy.

Pros:

  • Nice build quality 
  • Strong gearing punches above its price-point
  • Good drag
  • Nice casting
  • Performs like a more expensive reel

Cons:

  • To keep weight down, capacity and retrieval speed suffer (small spools)

Pflueger President

Pflueger PRESSP30X President Spinning Fishing Reel

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PRESSP30X

Drag: 10 lbs. maximum
Gear ratio: 5.2:1 (25.3” per turn)
Line capacity: 255/4, 145/6, 130/8
Bearings: 9 + 1 roller bearing
Weight: 8.8 oz.

PRESSP35X

Drag: 12 lbs. maximum
Gear ratio: 5.2:1 (28.1” per turn)
Line capacity: 230/6, 185/8, 155/10
Bearings: 9 + 1 roller bearing
Weight: 10.7 oz.

PRESSP40X

Drag: 12 lbs. maximum
Gear ratio: 5.2:1 (31.6” per turn)
Line capacity: 285/8, 230/10, 195/12
Bearings: 9 + 1 roller bearing
Weight: 11.5 oz.

Pfluger’s President series has as many fans as peanut butter, and it’s hard to spend a day on the water without seeing at least one of their reels. The President has proven its ability for decades now, and from crappie to largemouth, it’s caught them all. 

A mid-priced reel that punches above its cost, the President isn’t flashy. Instead, it’s quietly and consistently competent, performing day in and day out, season after season. As veteran anglers know, that’s far from faint praise!

Pfluger uses a sealed felt drag system in this reel, and while it’s smooth and strong, it’s just not the equal of the carbon fiber on more expensive competitors. With 10- or 12-pound maximums, it’s hard to imagine you’ll find yourself at a disadvantage during a fight, and I’ve found the President to be relentlessly smooth.

Do yourself a favor and give one a try!

Like the Okuma, weight-savings can’t be gained with expensive materials, so size counts. And as a result, expect small spools, lower capacity, and slower retrieves.

And like the Okuma, the President is somehow more than the sum of its average parts: a fishing legend that does everything you need, every time you ask it to.

Pros:

  • Nice build quality 
  • Strong gearing punches above its price-point
  • Good drag
  • Nice casting
  • Performs like a more expensive reel

Cons:

  • To keep weight down, capacity and retrieval speed suffer (small spools)

Spinning Reels for Bass? Pros and Cons Explained

While bait casters dominate the tournament scene, there are good reasons to give spinning tackle a chance with bass.

Casting in the wind

If baitcasting reels have a real weakness, it’s casting into the wind. And I don’t know about you, but I fish a fair number of breezy days in which I’ve watched gusts almost slow my lures to a standstill.

If you’re a real wizard with a bait caster, that may not be a problem, but for the rest of us, it’s a show-stopper. Watching that birdnest explode from my reel really gets my blood boiling, and when the weather’s not perfect, I often choose spinning tackle for bass.

Cost

Even the best spinning reels won’t set you back as much as a good bait caster, and for roughly equal performance, you’ll almost always spend less money on the spinning reel.

For many anglers, that’s a serious consideration, and if this is a concern for you, too, don’t worry--a well-chosen spinning reel can do everything you need to catch trophy bass.

Simplicity

Easy to cast, easy to use, hard to screw up: that’s spinning tackle in a nutshell.

And from novices to young anglers, bad weather fishermen to folks who are just tough on their gear, there’s a lot to be said for bomb-proof simplicity.

Poor Casting distance with heavy line

The one true weakness of spinning tackle is due to physics.

In contrast to the spinning spool on a baitcaster, spinning rods employ a fixed spool.

spinning reel spools

For the line to unfurl during a cast, it needs to slip up and over the retaining lip at the end of the spool, and this creates friction. The heavier the line, the larger the diameter, and over 10-pound mono diameters, that friction starts to impact casting distance.

How much depends a lot on spool design and quality, as well as line choice.

Slightly decreased sensitivity

Spinning rods wear their reels below the blank. With larger reels, this creates a gap between the blank or reel foot and the center of the spool.

spinning rod guide design

The larger that distance, the greater the need for a large “stripper” guide to gather loose line and bring it in closer to the blank, feeding it to smaller and smaller guides as it nears the tip.

By contrast, casting reels don’t have this issue, and casting rods can run smaller guides.

The upshot of this difference is that all other things being equal, casting rods are slightly more sensitive than equivalent spinning rods.

What We Look for in a Spinning Reel for Bass Fishing

Drag

By far the most important feature on any reel is its drag.

To prevent big fish from breaking your line and turn the odds in a fight to your favor, you need a strong, smooth drag. An ideal system will allow you to pull line with no skipping or binding, ensuring that the setting you choose is constantly applied.

Two designs are common: one that places the drag control at the rear of the reel and the other that located the drag knob on the end of the spool.

By placing the drag control on the spool, the drag system can apply greater pressure and do so more smoothly. This is the better system, hands down.

There are reels on the market that advertise drag settings upwards of 20 pounds; this is really overkill, as your drag setting should be roughly a third of your line’s tensile strength (for mono and fluorocarbon).

For braided lines, where you might be running 60-pound test, setting your drag to 20 pounds defeats the cushioning effect of the drag altogether. You’re not worried about your line breaking, but rather ripping the hook loose from the bass!

Gear ratio

A reel’s gear ratio describes the relationship between the crank and the spool: how many turns of the spool does one revolution of the crank create? For instance, a gear ratio of 5.2:1 means that one turn of the crank spins the spool 5.2 times.

This matters for two reasons.

For some lures, a slow, medium, or fast retrieve is ideal, and matching a reel’s gear ratio to its intended use can improve action. For instance, shallow crankbaits and topwater lures for bass tend to work best with a fast reel, defined by a gear ratio higher than 5.2:1.

The second reason you care about gear ratio is that it tells you how quickly it picks up line. 

When a big, quick bass races straight at you, you’ll need to match its speed to keep your line tight!

Capacity

Capacity matters, and too little can mean needing to re-spool--or switch spools--mid day.

Casting

A good spinning reel can cast lines lighter than 10-pound (mono) diameter better than even the best casting reels, and even with heavier lines, it shouldn’t lag that far behind its mechanically superior brethren.

Durability

When you shell out hard-earned cash for a reel, you want it to last, and in my experience, nothing is as frustrating as equipment failure on the water!

Most spinning reels don’t feature sealed drag systems, which typically isn’t that big a deal on fresh water. But some do, and I’d give them the nod for durability.

Another aspect to consider is the gearing: plastic gears just aren’t nearly as tough as metal, and metal micro-gearing like Shimano’s exceptional Hagane design increases smoothness as well as torque in a hard fight.

Final Thoughts

A good spinning reel is tough enough for even the biggest trophy bass while offering superior performance in iffy weather. And if you’re anything like me, you like your tackle to do as much for you as it can, stretching to fit more than one species and technique.

For my money, that almost always means spinning gear is in my boat.

I hope this article has helped you pick your next spinning reel for bass fishing, and if it has, I’d love to hear from you!

Please leave a comment 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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