The best fishing reels for Alaska in 2019 are those that performed well under a variety of condition, fisheries, and types of gamefish for us over the last year.
We at Fish Alaska tested fly and spey reels, spinning reels, trolling reels, and casting reels best suited for fishing in Alaska, and chose the best fishing reels for 2019.
These are the best fishing reels for Alaska in 2019
|Daiwa LEXA-WN 300 HSL Casting Reel|
We initially tested this reel for light-to-medium duty fishing for rockfish. It performed extremely well. Daiwa’s LEXA series have proven to be very high quality over the past few years. The LEXA-WN has handle knobs made of the patented Winn Grips material. With a 7:1 retrieve ratio, it takes no time to get the line up from 100 feet or more. The reel holds 240 yards of 40-pound braid. The drag is Daiwa smooth and reliably strong at 22 pounds. Several lings put it to the test last summer. This reel will also double as a great Chinook or coho casting reel.
|Okuma Cold Water XW-454D Line Counter Reel|
We gave the smaller CW-354DLX an Editors’ Choice Award last year. The 454D version is larger, has more line capacity, and more easily handles big-water salmon trolling using leads of 8- to 20 ounces, or jumbo divers with K-16-sized plugs for backtrolling big rivers for Chinook. Despite their rather low price point, these reels have proven themselves to be completely reliable and have helped us land numerous Chinook. Very solid performance!
|Daiwa LEXA 100 LC reel|
The inspiration for Daiwa’s smallest line-counter reel was likely kokanee and trout trolling. However, this reel shines for some larger species as well. When spooled with 30-pound-test braid, it’s an excellent reel for steelhead backtrolling, large-trout backtrolling, and even backtrolling or trolling for small-river coho and pinks. Like its big brother 300 LC, it’s smooth, dependable, and the counter is very accurate.
|Okuma Epixor EPXT40 Spinning Reel|
We hammered on pink, silver, red, and chum salmon while on the Togiak in August, and used this reel to throw twitching jigs, spinners, spoons, bobber and bait, and Super Baits to receptive coho. It worked flawlessly. It’s got more than enough drag to slow a 10-pound coho and ample capacity to hold the 30-pound-test braid we spooled on it. The handle is comfortable and the reel picks up line quickly.
|Daiwa Tanacom 750|
These electric reels have been popular in Alaska for some time, so we wanted to test one out. According to our testers from Valdez who put some time on this reel, “The Daiwa Tanacom 750 performed really well. We were able to reel up multiple halibut up to 100 pounds using only the electric retrieve.” Our tester reeled in a 90-pound halibut manually and was pleasantly surprised by how smooth the action felt. The drag worked like a champ too.
|Okuma Tesoro 12S|
This star-drag reel is stout, with a max drag of 22 pounds, and picks up line quickly with a gear ratio of 6.2:1 and ensuing line retrieve of 46 inches-per-turn. We used it to haul up lingcod and halibut from a couple-hundred feet down. This reel model has a line capacity of 295 yards of 30-pound mono; we spooled it with about 250 yards of 80-pound braid. The oversized handle is comfortable and fits nicely in the hand. The frame, sideplate, and spool are machined from 6061-T6 aluminum. The drag system is comprised of multi-disc Carbonite drag washers and is packed with Cal’s drag grease. The end result is a strong, smooth, fairly-light reel with heavy-duty capabilities.
|PENN Spinfisher VI 2500 Spinning Reel|
We put this reel through several hard workouts on coho in August and it performed very nicely. The drag is smooth, consistent, and adequate for stopping raging silver salmon. We loaded it with about 250 yards of 8-pound-test braid; it can hold 240 yards of 10-pound-test braid, 220 of 15-pound-test or 160 of 20-pound-test. The drag system and gearbox are sealed, so the reel is well-suited for saltwater use. Other features we liked are the superline-ready spool, line-capacity rings, full-metal body, and 33-inches-per-turn line retrieve rate with a 6.2:1 gear ratio.
|Abu Garcia Revo4 Rocket-L Baitcasting Reel|
The Rocket is aptly named due to its blistering 10.1:1 retrieve ratio. One revolution of the reel handle moves 41 inches of line! The Revo series has been around for several years now so it’s safe to say the bugs have been worked out. The Revo4 Rocket is the perfect size for steelhead, salmon other than Chinook, sheefish, big rainbows, and pike. The fast retrieve allows you to wind in quickly after a cast, resulting in less time not fishing. The carbon-fiber drag system produces 18 pounds of drag. Line capacity is 145 yards of 12-pound-test mono or 140 yards of 30-pound-test braid. With 10 stainless-steel ball bearings and a roller bearing, it is silky smooth. The spool tension knob and magnetic cast control have detents, so they stay where you put them. The combination of the two works well to prevent backlashes.
We used these sweet, low-profile, line-counting bait casters when we put them to work on Nushagak River kings this summer and they stood up to the task over and over again. The Daiwa LEXA LC series uses their Ultimate Tournament carbon-drag technology with 22 pounds of max drag. The LC300PWR-H version features a cut-away, swept-paddle handle. This is another Daiwa among our line-up of best fishing reels.
|PENN Conflict II CFTII5000 Spinning Reel|
This is one tough, bad-ass reel! It features a rigid resin RR30 body and rotor that is both light and super strong. It sports a superline-ready spool that can hold 300 yards of 30-pound-test braid. It’s got a 5.6:1 gear ratio for fast line retrieve and 7+1 sealed stainless-steel ball-bearing system. We subdued many coho and steelhead on this reel in 2018 and it was supremely capable, putting it among the best fishing reels.
|Daiwa Fuego LT4000D-C Spinning Reel|
This feature-packed reel is impressively light and smooth. It features Daiwa’s LT design which incorporates a small, lightweight, carbon-based frame with a large Daiwa DigiGear for optimal performance and durability. The 4000 size that we tested is the largest of the five models in this series and boasts a 5.2:1 gear ratio, 25.6 pounds max drag, 32.5 inches-per-turn retrieve rate and an ample line capacity of 360 yards of 10-pound mono or 40-pound braid. One of the space-age features of this reel is Magnetic Oil which is a nano fluid which can change density and shape when a magnetic field is applied.
|Okuma Metaloid 12II|
We tested the size 10 version of this reel several years ago and thought it was awesome. So we were excited to test this larger version and it is another great offering. With a capacity of 320 yards of 30-pound-test mono, we stacked on 300 yards of 80-pound-test braid and did battle with all kinds of bottomfish. The two-speed reel has two gear ratios—4.7:1 on high and 2.1:1 on low—and with 34 pounds of max drag, an angler can do battle with the biggest fish that swim in Alaska. Aluminum frame, sideplates, and spool keep the reel light and strong. A sealed Carbonite drag system with Cal’s reel grease combine for a strong, smooth drag system well designed for saltwater anglers.
|Orvis Hydros SL III|
This 5- to 7-weight, large-arbor fly reel has a great drag system and performs as a high-end, machined-aluminum fly reel at a reasonable price of just over a couple-hundred dollars. The start-up inertia on this drag system sets this reel apart and we found the drag system to engage quickly when hooking feisty salmon. We paired the Hydros SL III with an Orvis Recon 6-weight and it was a smooth casting and catching setup, making this one of the best fishing reels this year.
|Daiwa Ballistic LT 4000D-C Spinning Reel|
Light, smooth, and strong is how our tester described this spinning reel from Daiwa. From throwing spinners to multiple species of salmon, to drift fishing beads to rainbows and dollies, this reel has the capability to subdue a wide range of species in Alaska. Features include a sealed drag with a max setting of 26.4 pounds, a speedy 32.5 inches-per-turn line retrieve rate, six ball bearings and a 5.2:1 gear ratio.
|Hardy Wide Spool Perfect, 3.75” “The Taupo” |
With a name like Perfect, it must be good. And it is. The first rendition of the Hardy Perfect was made in 1891. Aside from improvements in machinery used to manufacture them, the Perfect hasn’t changed much in the last 100 years. That is powerful testament to superior design. The Perfect is still a click-and-pawl reel, with little inside to break. That makes it astonishingly long-lived and reliable. The Taupo version is the perfect size for swing fishing big Alaska rainbows and steelhead with a switch rod or spey rod. Our tester used this reel extensively and landed Naknek River rainbows to 33 inches while using it. The tradition behind it, the Hardy workmanship, and the reliable functionality makes the Taupo a work of angling art that you’ll be able to pass down to your children or grandchildren.
|Daiwa Coastal CLTW200HSL Casting Reel|
We used this reel for everything from light-duty bottomfishing, to coho in rivers, to light-duty Chinook fishing. It’s perfectly sized for fishing for silvers, or large steelhead. With a 7.3:1 retrieve, this reel cranks in nearly three feet of line per revolution of the handle. The Coastal reel has been around for years; however, the addition of the T-Wing system is a big improvement to the reel’s already great casting performance. With a smooth, strong drag, and great casting performance, this is our tester’s reel of choice for small-river Chinook, river coho, and steelhead. It will hold 190 yards of 40-pound-test braid and uses Daiwa’s Ultimate Tournament Drag to produce 15.4 pounds of drag.