Okuma RTX 30S Spinning Reel Okuma_RTX_thumb.jpg
MSRP: $99.99
With a carbon-fiber frame and rotor system to increase strength and cut weight, and priced at under $100, what’s not to like about the new RTX lineup from Okuma? After our outings with the reel, we like just about every detail, and the price is definitely right.

Islander Classic Spey Reel Islander_thumb.jpg
MSRP: $499
After four years of research and development, Islander has produced a winner here, with a reel that’s designed to address the needs of anglers fishing the Scandi- and Skagit-style lines, which are among the most popular in Alaska. Three spool sizes are available, all that fit a common frame, and from our trips with the reel in the state this past year, we can authoritatively proclaim that this is an outstanding choice for your Spey-fishing needs in Alaska.

Abu Garcia Ambassadeur Big Game Reel Abu_Garcia_Ambassadeur_Big_Game_thumb.jpg
MSRP: $169.95 to $179.95
This beefy level-wind is just the ticket when battling bruiser Chinook across Alaska. Testers appreciated the strong, smooth Carbon Matrix drag system, oversized handle and ample line pickup. It’s built to handle the abuse that Alaska’s fish often dole out, as it’s designed with two shielded stainless steel ball bearings, precision brass gears, and a corrosion resistant instant anti-reverse bearing.

Penn Conflict CFT4000 Spinning Reel Penn_Conflict_Reel_thumb.jpg
MSRP: $139.95
Designed for the technical inshore angler, we found this reel to offer top-of-the-line performance in every application we could muster for it. Lightweight and smooth-casting, the reel is also capable of applying big drag pressure to heavier fish.

SpeyCo 4-inch Skandi Spey Reel SpeyCo_front_thumb.jpg
MSRP: $425 to $475
Custom-made from aluminum bar stock by a single man in his shop, these reels are a real bargain at the price. They make a very unique sound due to the six pawl mechanisms in the Hexad drag. You can activate one or all the pawls to vary resistance. It is the most adjustable click-and-pawl system our tester has ever used, and while the reels appear Spartan in design, they’re both classy looking and really tough.  Reel maker Tim Pantzlaff is following in the footsteps of the likes of Stan Bogdan.  SpeyCo reels are heirloom quality and will be passed on to generations of anglers for as long as they are using two-handed rods for salmon, trout and steelhead.

Penn Squall Level Wind SQL20LW Penn_Squall_LW_thumb.jpg
MSRP: $149.95
This feature-packed reel from Penn offers all the top-grade elements one expects of the brand, including a lightweight graphite frame, machined and anodized aluminum spool, externally adjustable magnetic casting brake and a high-strength marine-grade bronze alloy main gear. Additionally, the reel’s Versa-Drag system allows for multiple drag settings for various fishing conditions, while the shielded stainless steel ball bearings and HT-100 drag washers provide smooth drag under heavy loads.

Wright & McGill Sábalos Saltwater Fly Reel
MSRP: $199.99 to $219.99
Fully sealed and saltwater tested, the large-arbor Sábalos is an economical yet quality choice for every saltwater fly enthusiast. Built tough and just right for epic days battling chrome in fresh or saltwater. We used the 7/8-weight and besides smooth drag and great functionality, the metallic teal reel is quite attractive too.

Quantum Iron PT Reel quantum_iron_thumb.jpg
MSRP: $199.99
Try this wide-spool, low-profile baitcasting reel for tossing hardware to salmon in both fresh and saltwater in 2014. The aluminum frame and inside components have been built to handle battling big fish. It’s got a centrifugal braking system and spool click tension knob to help reduce backlashing and is made for throwing down and picking up lots of line with 6.4:1 and 7.1:1 gear ratio options in both left and right hand retrieve.