1. Okuma Cold water 153DLX
MSRP: $119.99

Simply put, we loved this premium line-counter reel, which handled everything we threw at it over the course of the year and kept performing flawlessly every time we pulled it back out of the bag. Constructed with a powerful star-drag foundation including heavy-duty machine-cut brass gears, dual anti-reverse systems and full Carbonite drag system with up to 20 pounds of maximum drag output, the reel remains lightweight (14.6 ounces) and yet plenty durable. 
2. SpeyCo 3 ¾-inch River Switch Reel
MSRP: $400
The River Switch is an extremely solid reel built for switch rods and shorter Spey sticks. At 9.7 ounces (or heavier if any brass is used), it is not light, but it’s not supposed to be, as this reel is meant to balance two-handed rods. It features the SpeyCo Hexad check system that is internally adjustable, and the River Switch will easily hold 150 yards of 30-pound Dacron backing, 100 feet of monofilament running line and a 420-grain Skagit head. This reel is perfect for fish from Kenai rainbows to Kanektok silvers and on to Karluk steelhead. 
3. Daiwa AccuDepth  ICV Low-Profile Reel
MSRP: $164.99

The first-of-its-kind hybrid solar/battery-powered reel features a waterproof IC digital display that measures line out in feet, as well as a 3+1 bearing system that we found to deliver smooth performance. The low-profile design features one-hand clutch operation and a swept handle. 

4. Daiwa LEXA 100H Baitcasting Reel
MSRP: $139.95

Offering smooth operation with Magforce Cast Control and Infinite Anti-Reverse the LEXA series reels performed flawlessly on the water, but what our testers appreciated most was extra capacity for heavy lines, and heavy fish. With a massive, UTD Carbon drag, these reels also feature maximum fish-stopping power, along with a wider drag adjustment range for fine-tuning the pressure you want to apply. 

5. Quantum Exo 50PTi Spinning Reel
MSRP: $209.95

Combining a special, ultra-rigid aluminum alloy in load-bearing areas with a lightweight composite that reduces weight in non-critical locations by 50% made for the lightest possible frame—and it definitely proved durable enough to handle everything we could send its way. Twenty pounds of max drag is a nice touch as well. 
6. Orvis Mirage Big Game IV Fly Reel
MSRP: $495

Hauled along on various trips in Alaska this past season, the Mirage Big Game IV (line-weights 7- through 9) performed consistently well, whether fishing in freshwater or salt. We found the carbon-to-stainless drag provided smooth, consistent stopping power, and the positive-click drag knob offers accurate and repeatable settings. This is a true large-arbor reel that picks up line fast, with a completely sealed and maintenance-free drag surface, impervious to saltwater, dirt, grit and other corrosive elements. 
7. Release Reels SG
MSRP: $249

The Small Game model by Release Reels is a good performer and a great value. The lever-drag casting reel is light and strong and is made from 6061 T6 aluminum with stainless steel gears, ceramic bearings and a carbon fiber drag washer. It’s versatile; we fished in the freshwater for kings and caught bottomfish in the saltwater. Testers appreciated the comfort and cranking-ability of the handle and also the stopping power realized with 30 pounds of drag. It houses over 500 yards of 50-pound Spectra.