The Best Spinning Reels Under $100 for 2024

Spinning reels are versatile, wind-bucking options for anglers who want to run lighter lines or who need the capacity to fish in all conditions.
Reviewed by: John Baltes
Last Updated:
Fishing Reel Photo

TOP 3 SPINNING REELS

Spinning reels are popular for several reasons. They’re easy to use in the wind, easy to learn to cast with, and very effective for a wide variety of techniques and species.

The best spinning reels are great options for anglers, whether they’re fishing in their local pond, casting from beach or pier, or angling inshore. here

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Summary
Specifications
Pros & Cons

Here at USAngler, we love our Penn reels. There’s no more trusted name in saltwater fishing, and Penn’s Pursuit IV proves why.

Penn delivers the Pursuit IV with a graphite body that cuts weight, but this reel is still heavier than either the Daiwa or the Shimano. The body is stiffer than the Sedona and on par with the
Legalis LT, and you won’t notice any torque or flex when fighting big fish.

One of the strong points of Penn reels are their incredible drag systems, and the Pursuit IV runs the legendary HT-100, so named because 100 miles of line had no negative effect on the drag’s performance!

It starts smoothly, releases like your line has been coated in Crisco, and handles hard fights like a pro.

It’s a better fighting drag than Daiwa, Shimano, or Pflueger offer at this price point, and for my money, that makes it an easy choice. Yes, it’s max is only 10 pounds, but that allows you to run 30-pound braid, which is far more than you’re going to need on a 2500-size reel.

Penn runs aluminum alloy gears in the Pursuit IV, and they’re plenty smooth and fight ready. Despite a 6.2:1 drag ratio, this reel can’t keep pace with the Sedona or Legalis LT, offering just 33 inches of retrieve per turn.

I’d love to see this reel get faster gearing, but on the water, you’re not going to struggle to keep your line tight.

The Pursuit IV packs on the line, easily holding much more than its rivals. When you’re cutting and re-tying all day as you fish around barnacle-encrusted piers or oyster beds, that’s important.

If you’re in the market for an inshore allrounder for species like drum, speckled trout, flounder, blues, or striped bass, the Penn Pursuit IV is my top pick.

Give it a chance, and you’ll see why.

Material: graphite

Max drag: 10 lbs.

Capacity: braid 240/10, 220/15, 160/20

Gear ratio: 6.2:1 (33 IPT)

Bearings: 5

Weight: 9.8 oz.

Pros:

  • Light, stiff body
  • Great gears
  • Good gear ratio and speed
  • Unbeatable capacity
  • Unbeatable drag system
  • Fantastic all-arounder for saltwater
  • Sealed bearings

Cons:

  • A bit heavier than the Daiwa or Shimano
Summary
Specifications
Pros & Cons

Daiwa’s name is legendary on the water, but the Legalis LT is too often overlooked by anglers on the hunt for a great spinning reel. With a wealth of Daiwa options on the table, it’s easy to look past this awesome reel - and that’s a huge mistake.

We’ve chosen the Legalis LT 2500D-XH for our shortlist because it’s such a capable all-arounder in both fresh- and saltwater.

This Legalis LT sports the ATD drag system, an abbreviation for “Automatic Tournament Drag.” It delivers smooth startups and reliable release across its effective settings, as well as a heavy maximum that allows you to run strong braid when necessary.

Daiwa equips the Legalis LT with a carbon fiber body that’s certainly durable, and for its intended uses, this material is plenty stiff enough, keeping the guts of this reel where they should be. But the chief advantage of carbon fiber bodies is weight savings, and the Legalis LT 2500D-XH weighs in at a svelte 7.2 ounces.

You’ll see the same attention to weight reduction in the Digigears, Dawiwa’s precision-machined aluminum gearing. Sure enough, they don’t feel like brass gears would, but they also don’t add the ounces brass would either. And for their intended use, they’re plenty strong, very smooth, and completely resistant to corrosion.

Daiwa has chosen a 6.2:1 gear ratio for this model that, in conjunction with a big spool, eats 34.5 inches of line per turn. That’s pretty darn fast, and I can’t imagine having a serious issue keeping my lines tight with this reel.

The Legalis LT in the 2500 size holds plenty of mono or braid in useful weights for both fresh- and saltwater applications.

I’d definitely take a close look at this reel for finesse largemouth techniques, and it would be just about perfect as a redfish/speck reel inshore.

There’s a lot to love about the Legalis LT 2500D-XH, and it’s definitely worth a closer look.

Material: carbon fiber

Max drag: 22 lbs.

Capacity: mono: 8/240, 10/210; braid: 10/250, 15/185

Gear ratio: 6.2:1 (34.5 IPT)

Bearings: 5 + 1

Weight: 7.2 oz.

Pros:

  • Light, stiff body
  • Good gears
  • Great gear ratio and speed
  • Great capacity
  • Excellent ATD drag system
  • Fantastic all-arounder for fresh- and saltwater

Cons:

  • Lacks the smoothness of the Shimano gearing
  • Lower capacity than I’d like
Summary
Specifications
Pros & Cons

The Pflueger President XT is an upgrade to the standard model.

Perhaps the biggest difference between the President and the upgraded XT can be found in the gearing, with the XT sporting an aluminum main shaft and pinion gear. That cuts the weight of these reels by about 15% without much compromise to their fighting strength.

The body material, gear ratio, capacity, and drag remain identical to the President 25.

So in effect, you’re paying about 50% more for a modest decrease in weight.

Now don’t get me wrong: that can make a difference to how a rod feels in hand, especially on ultralight and light tackle.

Whether that’s worth it to you is a question only you can answer, but if you love ultralight fishing, the Pfleuger President XT is an awesome choice.

Why?

Its size and weight make it a good pairing for an ultralight rod without compromising fighting power. And its line weights and capacity match to a tee the species you’ll be chasing with ultralight tackle.

In that sense, aspects that would otherwise be issues become advantages, and I’d seriously consider the Pfleuger President XT for my ultralight rod.

Material: graphite

Max drag: 10 lbs.

Capacity: mono 220/2, 110/4, 90/6; braid 200/4, 140/6, 110/8

Gear ratio: 5.2:1 (22.4 IPT)

Bearings: 10

Weight: 6.6 oz.

Pros:

  • Smaller than a typical 2500
  • The lightest reel on our shortlist
  • Great gears
  • Good drag system
  • Fantastic all-arounder for panfish

Cons:

  • Low capacity
  • Slow retrieve
Summary
Specifications
Pros & Cons

Shimano has so many excellent reels on offer that it’s tough to pick the best for under $100. But today, the Sedona 2500HG FJ makes our shortlist as it’s a versatile performer that highlights Shimano’s strengths.

This Sedona sports a body manufactured from Shimano’s proprietary plastic resin, XT-7. Honestly, that’s not my favorite option, but it holds its own in daily use for this reel’s intended purposes.

That said, I’d prefer carbon fiber at this price point, as it’s undoubtedly more stiff.

Shimano’s strong suits have always been precision machining and careful design, and that’s evident in the G-Free Body tech that places the center of gravity closer to the blank’s center, reducing vibration and improving smoothness. When paired with world-class Hagane gearing, machined from an aluminum/magnesium alloy, you get the kind of smoothness few rivals can match.

And of course the Shimano Sedona is equipped with a great drag system, offering smooth, consistent performance and a heavy maximum setting.

Shimano tends to use a larger spool than Daiwa, size to size, and that shows here. Not only does the Sedona hold more line than the Legalis LT, with an identical gear ratio, it outpaces the Daiwa by a full 1.5 inches per turn (IPT).

The compromise is a bit more weight from those heavier gears, and the Sedona tips the scales at a hefty 8.5 ounces.

Be that as it may, the Shimano Sedona 2500HG FJ is an awesome choice for finesse techniques on your local lake, and that extra speed and capacity really come in handy when you turn to the salt, chasing fast species like reds, specks, and stripers.

If the idea of smooth cranking, excellent speed, and plenty of capacity get your heart beating a little faster, check out the Shimano Sedona 2500HG FJ.

Material: XT-7 plastic resin

Max drag: 20 lbs.

Capacity: mono 8/140, 10/120; braid 10/150, 15/145, 30/100

Gear ratio: 6.2:1 (36 IPT)

Bearings: 3 + 1

Weight: 8.5

Pros:

  • Light, stiff body
  • Great gears
  • Excellent gear ratio and speed
  • Excellent capacity
  • Excellent drag system
  • Fantastic all-arounder for fresh- and saltwater

Cons:

  • Lacks the rigidity of carbon fiber
  • A bit heavier than the Daiwa
Summary
Specifications
Pros & Cons

If you’re a freshwater angler chasing perch, smallies, bluegill, trout, and the occasional largemouth, Pflueger’s President is a great option to consider.

Smaller than comparable 2500-size reels offered by competitors, the little 25 is big on performance.

Pflueger uses a graphite body to provide plenty of stiffness, and despite its size, it fights like a bigger reel as a result.

The main shaft of the Pflueger President is manufactured from stainless steel, while the pinion gear is precision machined aluminum. That combination is plenty strong and smooth, but it does add a few ounces - a trade off I’d happily make.

Pflueger runs a modest 5.2:1 gear ratio in the President, and while that doesn’t seem to bother a lot of people in the real world, on paper, it delivers just 22.4 inches per turn.

Chalk that up to a very small spool offering the lowest capacity on our list, and you can see why I don’t recommend the Pflueger for the salt. But in ponds, lakes, rivers, and streams, you’ll find the President right at home, among legions of anglers who love these reels.

Pflueger runs an old-fashioned oiled felt drag system that keeps costs down and performs well, though it’s not in the same league as the Penn.

If panfish is your game and you love a light rod, the Pflueger President 25 is an awesome choice.

Material: graphite

Max drag: 8 lbs.

Capacity: mono 220/2, 110/4, 90/6; braid 200/4, 140/6, 110/8

Gear ratio: 5.2:1 (22.4 IPT)

Bearings: 10

Weight: 7.5 oz.

Pros:

  • Smaller than a typical 2500
  • Very light, stiff body
  • Great gears
  • Good drag system
  • Fantastic all-arounder for panfish

Cons:

  • Low capacity
  • Slow retrieve

Buying Guide: What to Consider When Selecting a Spinning Reel

Both are light, but there’s no question that graphite is more stiff. And stiffness matters.

When you’re fighting a large, strong fish, all the force transmitted by your line and rod comes to bear on your reel. And if the body flexes, the gears have space to misalign.

You want maximum stiffness and minimum weight, and for me, that means graphite.

Gear material

Gear material can get tricky.

In small spinning reels, smooth, easy-to-machine materials like brass are simply too heavy.

Instead, reel manufacturers turn to light but strong options like aluminum alloys, sometimes stainless steel for extra strength, and in cheaper reels, plastic.

Skip the plastic gears altogether!

But in reels in 2500-size, aluminum and stainless are both great gear materials.

For my money, no one machines gears like Shimano, and their Hagane gearing is the smoothest you’ll find at the price.

Gear ratio and retrieval speed

A reel’s gear ratio is merely a measure of the times the spool is turned by one revolution of the handle.

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

All other things being equal, higher gear ratios are faster and lower gear ratios are slower.

But of course, all things aren’t equal in the real world, and gear and spool size matter.

Reels with bigger gears turning larger spools can be faster than reels with higher gear ratios.

That’s why we report the IPT - inches per turn - each reel is capable of.

Faster reels can help you keep a tight line, maintaining pressure on the hook and making it harder to throw.

Drag

Drag is the heart of any reel, providing cushion for your line and knots as well as forcing a fish to work harder to take line.

Typically set at no more than 30% of the rated test strength of your line, a good drag system starts smoothly, releases smoothly, and never hesitates or stutters.

On our shortlist today, the real standout is Penn’s HT-100, a legendary drag system.

Capacity

Capacity matters, and it’s directly related to spool size.

Greater capacity means not only that you have more line at your disposal, especially for cutting and retying, but also more space for heavier test.

That’s especially critical in the salt, where 8- to 12-pound mono is common, or when heavier braid is needed for finesse bass techniques.

Final Thoughts

We can’t tell you which reel on our shortlist is the best choice for you, but one of them is going to fit the bill perfectly as an allrounder.

If you have questions or comments, we’d love to hear them, so please leave your thoughts below.

About The Author
John Baltes
Chief Editor & Contributor
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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