The best fishing reels for Alaska in 2020 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 2020.
These are the best fishing reels for 2020
|Penn Fathom II Line Counter Reel FTHII30LWLCLH |
This is a big, stout, line-counter reel. With 30 pounds of drag and a line capacity of 605 yards of 65-pound-test braid, there isn’t a salmon in the world this reel can’t handle. And if you happen to hook a 300-pound halibut while trolling for salmon off of the Bluffs, it won’t be the reel that causes you to lose it. The Fathom II line counters are made in smaller sizes, too, in both left and right-hand retrieve. Penn overengineered this reel to take the abuse of hardcore charter captains. The full-metal body provides rigidity to ensure gears stay in alignment even under extreme loads. The Fast Gear Access Side Plate makes maintenance a breeze. Our tester commented that if he was guiding salmon in saltwater and the Kenai full-time, the Fathom II line counters would be the reel he put on his rods. He added that the size 30 is overkill for salmon; the size 15 or 20 would be better choices. He plans to use the 30 for halibut next year.
|Penn Fathom FTH25NLDLH|
Like all reels in the Penn Fathom line, this is a heavy-duty reel. The Fathom Lever Drag reels were engineered for use with superlines and are most well-suited to jigging and bottomfishing. The spools are narrow in width but deep, and the larger circumference offers fast retrieves compared to reels with wider but shallower spools. The Fathom 25 LD has 33 pounds of max drag, enough for any fish that swims in Alaska. With a line capacity of 395 yards of 65-pound-test braid, this reel can probably hold 300 yards or so of 80-pound-test. That drag and line capacity is plenty for Alaska’s biggest bottomfish, all in a compact, tough package.
|Quantum Accurist S3 |
Lightweight, with a smooth and adequate drag system, this reel was put through its paces catching salmon and trout in 2019. We tested model ATB100HPT. It casts well, incorporates a Continuous Anti-Reverse feature, weighs a mere 7.8 ounces and can house 170 yards of 30-pound-test braided line. It worked well both casting hardware and pulling plugs.
|Quantum Energy Series EN30SPT Spinning Reel |
We used this spinning reel to catch many hard-fighting coho in 2019. It performed admirably. It combines many solid features including: one-piece aluminum frame and a total weight of nine ounces, 5.2:1 gear ratio, 8+1 bearing system, 31 inches of line retrieve per handle turn, max drag of 18 pounds and a line capacity of 220 yards of 20-pound-test braid.
|KastKing Speed Demon Pro Baitcasting Reel|
The first thing we noticed is that this carbon-body reel is extremely light and at 6.5 ounces, it balances nicely with today’s lightweight rods. It is equipped with a lightning-fast 9.3:1 gear ratio, which helped when fighting hot coho on the Tsiu River. Our testers commented that they appreciated the magnetic brake system which eliminates the “professional overrun” that sometimes happens with baitcasting reels, and that the reel handle is very comfortable to use. With a max drag of 13.2 pounds and a capacity of 160 yards of 12-pound-test mono or 160 yards of 50-pound-test braid, consider this for a coho or steelhead reel. It’s available in either left- or right-hand retrieve.
|KastKing Kapstan 300 Baitcaster|
This is a versatile reel that we used to fish for freshwater salmon, and then took it out in the saltwater to fish for a range of medium-sized bottomfish. It’s large capacity—230 yards of 50-pound-test braid—makes it a viable option for deep jigging to rockfish, lingcod and halibut. Thirty-five pounds of drag make it possible to stop all but the biggest of bottom dwellers. The graphite frame is burly, yet light, so weight is minimized and it balances nicely on lighter rods. The handle is large and comfortable, which we find indispensable when battling big fish. High-performance, stainless-steel ball bearings and an anti-reverse bearing promote smooth casting and performance.
|Shimano Tekota TEK501HG LC Line Counter Reel |
The new, upgraded Shimano Tekota line-counter reel is a compact, reliable saltwater or heavy freshwater salmon reel. Shimano finally got on the bandwagon and now produces their Tekota line counter in both left- and right-hand retrieve. Whether trolling in the salt for silvers or kings, or backtrolling a large river, the Tekota line-counter is right at home. We used this reel in both scenarios and it proved itself utterly reliable. Some of the time, we used it to pull 360 flashers with up to 20 ounces of lead. Braided-line capacity is 240 yards of 65-pound-test PowerPro, or 330 yards of 50-pound-test PowerPro. It features 24 pounds of maximum drag, much more than we’re likely to use, even for king salmon. With its power handle, it has no trouble with this kind of load, nor with a number 50 Jet Diver and K-16 Kwikfish. The line-counter has proven reliable despite the kind of abuse our tester inflicted upon it. Based on this year’s performance, he expects years of reliable use from this reel.
|KastKing Speed Demon 3000 Spinning Reel KRLSPNSD-S30BK|
We primarily cast spoons and spinners with this reel to coho salmon in 2019. Landing white-hot fish to 12 pounds, this reel put up with hours and hours of drag abuse by irate silvers. It performed nicely. We tested the size 3000 reel, which provided an impressive 25 pounds of drag from its carbon-disc drag system. The spool is braid-ready, which we find to be a helpful feature, and it houses 130 yards of 12-pound-test mono or 220 yards of 30-pound-test braid. Putting line back on the spool after a long run is easy, due to the 37.1 inches-per-handle-turn specification. This reel also comes in one smaller and two larger sizes.
|Redington GRANDE 7/8/9 Fly Reel |
The GRANDE is a machined, fully-anodized, high-performance fly reel. It features Redington’s very capable SUPER-TORQUE drag system, making it as tough as it is visually appealing. It has more drag capability than most of us will ever use in Alaska. It also has an oversized palming rim to assist in slowing fish down at lower drag settings. Our tester used this reel to swing for king salmon with an Echo King two-hander. With a 4.1” diameter, this large-arbor reel picks up line fast and it can hold 200 yards of 30-pound-test Dacron backing, plus running line and a short Skagit head. This reel is a great match for single-hand and two-hand rods from 7- to 9-weight. It’s a great match for all salmon, large rainbow trout and steelhead.
|Hardy HEB050 Reel Bouglé 4i Heritage |
The first rendition of the Hardy Bouglé fly reel was made in 1903. This latest version, the Bouglé 4i Heritage, carries on the tradition. It’s unique in appearance with its hand-polished, deep-anodized “pearl silver” finish and its rolling pillar. It’s machined out of bar-stock aluminum and is the kind of reel you’ll want to pass on to the kids or grandkids. It has a reversible click check for easy conversion from right- to left-hand retrieve, and the range of the check is fairly wide. The check is also loud; your fishing buddies will know it when that 30-plus-inch ‘bow you just hooked races downstream. We used this reel with two-handed rods from 12- to 13 feet long, primarily for large rainbows and steelhead. It has a huge backing capacity and since it’s not a large-arbor reel, we recommend you put a lot of backing on it. With a Skagit head and running line, 200 yards of 30-pound-test Dacron should be about right.