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Best Underspin Reels: Top Reels For New Anglers

Written by: John B
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For anglers new to the sport, occasional fishermen, and children just starting their fishing journey, underspin - or “triggerspin” reels as they’re sometimes called - are a great option.

Easier to use than spinning reels and much less demanding than baitcasting reels, underspin reels pair with spinning tackle, allowing you to throw light lures on sensitive lines.

For the vast majority of situations, that’s just fine, and you can fish for everything from panfish to bass or flounder to reds, provided you’ve made a wise choice in your reel.

If you’re interested in underspin reels, we’ve got you covered. 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 underspin reels:

Related: Best Spincast Reel

Best Underspin Reels Reviews

Pflueger President Underspin 6 - Best Underspin Reel

Reels Spinning Pflueger PRES6USCX President Sizeunder Spin Reel, 5 BRG. 3.4: 1 Ratio, 6

Amazon 

Capacity: 90 yards/6 lbs.

Gear ratio: 3.4:1

Maximum drag: 6 lbs.

Inches per turn: 14.5”

Bearings: 5

Pflueger is a trusted name in fishing reels, and the President spinning reel is simply legendary. That this underspin reel wears that name is a marker of quality, and this Pfluger reel may just be the best option on the market.

The drag on this reel is adjusted via a dial on the left-hand side of the body. It’s plenty smooth, offering excellent, hitchless performance whether you turn it down to almost no resistance or crank it up to its maximum.

That’s critical generally, but especially so when you’re fishing with light lines, as any sudden starts and stops can be disastrous.

This reel casts well for an underspin reel, and performance is tangle-free and uncomplicated, as it should be. The trigger is easy to reach, and just a few practice casts should have new anglers feeling comfortable.

The gear ratio of the Pfluger President Underspin 6 is pretty much average for this style of reel, meaning slower than you’d want for large fish. If a big bass or speck makes a run straight for you, you’ll have a hard time keeping a tight line.

That’s no ding against this reel, however, as that’s par for the course with this tech.

The pick-up pins that allow you to release or retrieve line are made from extremely durable titanium, providing excellent service life and reliable performance.

This is a small reel, and the spool reflects that. Expect roughly 90 yards of 6-pound monofilament, or at least double that with equivalent braid.

For bluegill, crappie, trout, croaker, small bass, perch, and other fish of this general size, the Pfluger President Underspin 6 is a very hard reel to beat.

Pros:

  • Excellent build quality
  • Very good drag
  • Hassle-free casting
  • Reasonable gear ratio
  • Good capacity for its size
  • Durable titanium pick-up pins

Cons:

  • Not fast enough for larger fish

Lew's Speed Cast Underspin

Lew's Speed Cast Underspin Reel, Multi, one Size (SUS1C)

Amazon 

Capacity: 125 yards/4 lbs.

Gear ratio: 4.4:1

Maximum drag: ???

Inches per turn: 16”

Bearings: 2

Lew’s knows fishing, and their baitcasting and spinning reels have quite a following. 

Does their Speed Cast Underspin offer the kind of performance that built their reputation?

I’d answer with a qualified “no.”

The Speed Cast wears its drag dial on the bottom of the reel body, and it’s easy to adjust. Lew’s doesn’t publish the maximum setting, but it’s certainly sufficient for 4- to 6-pound test.

Unfortunately, performance can be spotty. If you get a good reel, the drag functions well. If you don’t, it won’t hold its setting, and hooksets and fights can be miserable experiences.

The gear ratio is surprisingly quick in the Speed Cast, and 16 inches of line per turn is burning fast for a reel of this size and design. If the drag holds, that gives you a real chance with big fish.

Capacity is good, too, offering 125 yards of 4-pound mono, and by spooling on some braid, you can really get more line - and more strength - on this small reel. 

But that drag can come back to haunt you.

If it’s working well, braid can really turn this reel into a beast capable of tackling bass or specks. If it’s not, your line won’t matter, because the fish will just run with it.

Casting is good and reliable, but overall durability and longevity are definitely in the favor of the Pflueger.

Pros:

  • Hassle-free casting
  • Fast gear ratio
  • Good capacity for its size

Cons:

  • Drag quality is suspect

Daiwa Underspin-XD 40

Daiwa US40XD-CP Underspin US XDSpincast Reel, Ambi, 1-Ball Bearing, 4:1:1 Retrieve,Gold

Amazon 

Capacity: 85 yards/4 lbs.

Gear ratio: 4.1:1

Maximum drag: ???

Inches per turn: 16.1”

Bearings: 1

Daiwa makes reels that every angler covets, and their reputation is the envy of their competitors.

The Underspin-XD 40 is an ultralight underspin, and when paired with an ultralight spinning rod, this is a good reel for chasing panfish of all kinds.

This tiny reel is easy to cast with light lures, something that really matters when you’re hashing bluegill, sunfish, perch, and crappie, and even on breezy days, it’s easy to master. That’s confidence-inspiring for new anglers and something to take seriously if you’re trying to introduce someone new to the sport.

This reel’s capacity is about what you’d expect from an ultralight, offering 85 yards of 4-pound mono. I’d recommend immediately discarding the supplied line and spooling on some Stren Original, as performance will be much better.

You can also pack this spool with 8- to 10-pound braid, increasing your capacity and sensitivity. Casting will likely improve as well.

Daiwa doesn’t publish the maximum drag setting of this reel, but it’s appropriate for anything up to about a 10-pound test. You’ll find the drag dial at the rear of the body.

Build quality is simply awesome on the Underspin-XD series, and you'll find lots of aluminum components replacing the plastic more common at this price point.

The gear ratio is quicker than usual on this style of reel, too, and retrieval rates are very fast for an ultralight. Fights with monster crappie and big bluegill will be no sweat for this capable reel, and when paired with a good rod, you’ll be well-armed on any lake, pond, or river.

I’d still give the edge to the Pflueger for overall performance and longevity, and from rough retrieves to pick-up pins that won’t grab slack line, Daiwa still has a bit of work to do on this reel.

Pros:

  • Excellent build quality
  • Very good drag
  • Hassle-free casting
  • Fast gear ratio
  • Good capacity for its size

Cons:

  • Bad pick-up pins and rough retrieves

Daiwa Underspin-XD 80

Daiwa Underspin-XD Series, Trigger-Control Closed-Face Reel, Size 80 - US80XD-CP

Amazon 

Capacity: 75 yards/8 lbs.

Gear ratio: 4.3:1

Maximum drag: ???

Inches per turn: 21.8”

Bearings: 1

The 80-size Daiwa Underspin-XD is just the 40’s big brother, and there’s an even larger 120 on offer.

As easy to cast as the 40 and perfect for throwing small in-line spinners, tiny jigs, or hooks buoyed by slip sinkers, this is a capable choice for small fish, but it’s hampered by the same internal issues that are present on the XD 40.

The pick-up pins don’t always do their job, resulting in cranking with no effect, especially on lack line. And the gears, while plenty fast, just don’t generate the torque you need for bass or specks.

If I had to guess - and this reel is tough to disassemble to find out - Daiwa’s running plastic gears in this series. But I can’t say that for sure; it just feels that way.

The drag maximum isn’t stated by Daiwa, but it’s appropriate to the lines for which this reel was designed, and it works well. Expect a smooth release with no starts and stops, no matter where it’s set.

Capacity is good, and this reel’s spool holds 75 yards of 8-pound mono. As with the other reels we’ve reviewed, braid will increase that capacity substantially, and 10-pound Sufix 832 or PowerPro will give you a lot more line to play with while not exceeding the performance of the drag.

I’d love to recommend this reel, and if the pick-up pins were as reliable as the Pflueger and the gears provided the oomph to fight larger fish, this would be a great choice to pair with a medium-light rod.

Pros:

  • Excellent build quality
  • Very good drag
  • Hassle-free casting
  • Fast gear ratio
  • Good capacity for its size

Cons:

  • Bad pick-up pins and rough retrieves
  • Insufficient gear torque

Zebco 33 Micro Triggerspin

Zebco 33 Micro Trigger Spincast Fishing Reel, Size 10 Reel, Changeable Right- or Left-Hand Retrieve, Built-in Bite Alert, All-Metal Gears, Pre-Spooled with 4-Pound Zebco Cajun Line, Silver/Black

Amazon 

Capacity: 90 yards/4 lbs.

Gear ratio: 4.3:1

Maximum drag: ???

Inches per turn: ???

Bearings: 2 + 1

Zebco built its name on spincasting reels, and there’s no company out there that knows this tech better than they do. And I don't know many fishermen who didn’t at some point cast a Zebco 33!

The Zebco 33 Micro Triggerspin is exactly what it sounds like: an ultralight triggerspin built on the 33’s tech.

Easily the least expensive reel on our list, you can’t expect magic at this price point, but if you’re looking for a child’s reel or a once-a-year reel for an adult, you can’t go wrong with this choice.

You’ll find the drag dial on the left-hand side of the body. Zebco doesn’t report this reel’s maximum setting, but it’s appropriate for lines as heavy as 8 to 10 pounds. Performance is acceptable, with relatively smooth release and no abrupt pausing.

Casting is easy with this reel, and it handles light lures, jigs, and hooks well. 

The Zebco 33 Micro Triggerspin comes pre-loaded with red 4-pound mono. I’d recommend stripping this line off immediately and spooling on some quality 4- to 6-pound Stren Original.

The gear ratio is pretty quick in this diminutive reel, and though the spool is small, it picks up line pretty quickly. Gear quality is just OK, and if you catch a few large bass or specks with this reel, expect the guts to suffer.

That may not sound like a ringing endorsement, but for less than $20, this little reel delivers acceptable performance but can’t rival the 33s of old for durability or performance.

Pros:

  • Budget-priced
  • Acceptable drag
  • Hassle-free casting
  • Fast gear ratio
  • Good capacity for its size

Cons:

  • Overall longevity and durability are suspect

What We Look for in an Underspin or Triggerspin Reel

Why underspin?

Underspin reels are a variant of the spincaster, switching the position from above the reel to below it, and thus switching from casting to spinning rods as the appropriate tackle to pair with these reels.

To enable casting, underspin reels add a trigger actuated with your forefinger rather than the button you press with your thumb, but these two points aside, they’re identical to spincasting tech.

underspin reel with trigger spincast reel

You can see these two differences if you compare the Pfluger President reels above.

Underspin reels offer several advantages over spincasting and spinning reels.

Spinning rods - In contrast to spincasting reels, underspin or triggerspin reels allow you to use spinning rods. Spinning rods are available in very light powers and are designed to allow you to throw tiny lures, light jigs, and barely weighted hooks. 

That offers anglers a much better selection of rods to pair with their reel, and if I were in the market for this tech, I’d be looking for underspin reels rather than spincasting alternatives as a result.

Easy casting - And in contrast to spinning reels, underspin reels are easier to cast, offering fewer chances for tangles and knots. That makes using them simple, and for novice anglers, it typically makes for a more enjoyable experience.

But underspin and spincasting tech has some issues, too, and there’s a reason you won’t see these reels in any tournaments.

Three problems bedevil underspin and spincasting reels:

Friction - Friction is the enemy of long, accurate casts, and the guts and shroud of these reels create plenty of points of contact with your line. The result is that head-to-head, spincasting and underspin reels won’t cast as far as similarly sized spinning reels on the same rod.

That’s a fact, though it doesn’t necessarily rise to the level of a deal-breaker, especially if you value ease-of-use highly.

Pick-up pins - Spincasters and underspin reels rely on pick-up pins to grab line, acting like the bail on a spinning reel. Unfortunately, that creates a lot of wear, and those pick-up pins typically have a short service life unless they’re made from premium materials.

When they fail, your reel simply won’t reliably grab line anymore, and the impact will range from a complete failure to retrieve to a hit and miss retrieval.

Gears - Because spincasting and underspin reels are targeted at anglers new to the sport, they aim for an affordable price point. And to hit that mark, manufacturers skimp on internal materials.

So rather than high-quality brass, stainless, or aluminum gearing, you’ll often find plastic teeth. If metal is involved, it won’t be as carefully produced or machined.

On the water, that translates into weak torque and easy breakage.

That doesn’t mean that you can’t catch a big fish with these reels, or that every reel has plastic gears, but rather that, overall, you just can’t expect maximum durability or high-end torque from reels of this design.

Drag

The heart of any reel is its drag system, as the drag works to protect your line from sudden shocks and help you fight fish.

You want a drag that’s as smooth as you can get it, offering slick, seamless release across the spectrum of its settings. 

Typically, you’ll set your drag to about ⅓ of the test strength of your line, and it needs to hold well when you set the hook or when the fish makes a sudden change of direction.

Casting

Good underspin reels should prevent tangles and knots, shield your line from the wind, and be easy to use.

While you won’t cast as far with an underspin reel as you would with an equivalent spinning reel, long casts aren’t essential in most situations, and for anglers new to the water, ease of use is way more important.

Gear ratio and retrieval speed

Gear ratios state the relationship between turns of the crank and turns of the spool.

For instance, a gear ratio of 3.5:1 means that every turn of the crank spins the spool 3.5 times.

Higher gear ratios can generate more turns of the spool, and all other things being equal, they mean that a reel is faster than a competitor with a lower gear ratio.

But all other things are most certainly not equal, and spool size affects retrieval speeds as much as gear ratio.

Why?

Spinning a big spool 2.5 times might pick up more line than spinning a small spool 3.5 times.

That’s why we report retrieval speeds when they’re available.

Capacity

Capacity matters.

Whether you’re talking about maximum casting distance or discarding damaged line, more is almost always better.

And since filling a spool completely will cause problems, the reported numbers are more or less accurate measures of what you can expect with monofilament. 

Braided lines have a much smaller diameter than equivalent monofilaments, allowing you to pack much more line on your spool.

But be aware, braid has very different attributes and qualities than monofilament, including knot integrity and abrasion resistance.

Durability

When you append your hard-earned money, you want to get what you pay for. And having a reel fail midday is no one’s idea of a good time.

That’s why durability matters.

We report our experience with each reel on your shortlist, letting you know what to expect.

Typically, price and durability move upward hand-in-hand, though that’s not always the case.

Our Pick: Pflueger’s President Underspin!

A good underspin reel will be easy-to-use, sport an effective, smooth drag, and offer durability that promises multiple seasons of use.

Pfluger’s President Underspin delivers these qualities and more.

Casting with the President is hassle-free and accurate, and for new anglers, confidence-inspiring as they begin to learn the ropes of fishing. The drag on this reel is plenty smooth, with no sudden start and stops. And the pick-up pins are made from ultra-durable titanium, a real improvement over its competitors.

Fast enough for the size fish you’ll be tackling with this reel, it’ll get the job done on an occasional bass or speck, too.

Durability is excellent, and this reel’s overall performance is impressive.

When paired with a light spinning rod, this is the underspin reel to beat.

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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