Our editors test a gamut of fishing reels for Alaska each year putting all kinds to the test from fly and spey reels to spinning, trolling, and casting reels best suited for Alaska. Here are several fishing reels for Alaska that performed well under last year’s gear testing across a wide variety of conditions, fisheries and types of gamefish.
Penn Slammer III 5500
Our testers reported that this reel is tough and sturdy, made to handle the stress of fighting 20-plus-pound salmon. The reel casts smoothly and the drag is fluid and strong, featuring a sealed system with Penn’s Slammer drag and Dura Drag material. Line lays smoothly on the reel during pickup and the reel is well-balanced. The 5500 has a capacity of 380 yards of 30-pound braid, a whopping 40 pounds of max drag and a gear ratio of 5.6:1. There are ten models in the series.
Islander TR3 Trolling Reel
It’s hard to beat the excitement of fighting large fish on a single-action reel. The fun factor is off the charts! Islander’s TR3 was designed for Canadian-style mooching rods used in trolling applications. Since this reel is made for trolling, there is no free-spool on this reel. The reel spool and frame are machined out of 6061-T6 aluminum and the spindle is 316 stainless steel. The drag material is an ultra-high performance fluoropolymer material with a very low coefficient of friction, extreme durability and consistent performance in a variety of conditions. These drag washers are stacked between layers of stainless steel. The entire drag system is fully sealed, preventing corrosion or debris from damaging it, and it is virtually maintenance-free. Bearings are ceramic, so they don’t corrode either. The large drag knob is easily adjustable over a wide range. The 4.6-inch spool provides really fast line pickup to catch up to fast-running fish. The TR3 will hold 350 yards of 30-pound-test monofilament. As with all Islander reels, the machined, anodized construction and corrosion-resistant components result in a beautiful, tough reel that will last a lifetime, and then some.
Okuma Helios SX Spinning Reels
We tested the HSX-30 in 2017 with use in the fresh water while tossing hardware to ornery coho and on the salt side to retrieve iron vertically jigged to black rockfish. It’s light, but strong, due to carbon fiber construction and incorporates a silky smooth drag that slows hard-charging fish. Its got adequate line pick up for mid-sized Alaskan fish at about 27 inches per handle turn. There are a range of advanced technologies at play in this reel to make it light, strong, durable and corrosion resistant.
Abu Garcia Ambassadeur CS Pro Rocket CS7000
This workhorse reel features a stout carbon-fiber drag, big handle, large capacity and dependable level-wind. We are impressed with how smoothly one can cast big baits with this reel, as well as the stopping power exhibited when battling large bottomfish. This is one of those reels that will allow you to fish a variety of techniques from trolling for Chinook to mooching for coho, boon-dogging for kings to fishing bait and jigs to saltwater bottomfish.
Penn Squall 16VS
This is one of the most serious fishing reels for Alaska meant for fighting the biggest fish in the ocean. Think 400-pound salmon shark or 200- pound halibut. Made from graphite, the reel is lightweight for its size and power. Capable of stopping all but the largest gamefish from spooling your reel, this model features 26 pounds of max drag with a braid capacity of over 1,000 yards of 50-pound-test. It boasts two speeds, as well as a lever drag. There are two bigger sizes in this reel family as well.
Pflueger Patriarch Spinning Reel
This reel is light as a feather but strong enough to battle trout and salmon. Combining a magnesium body, rotor and side-plate with a titanium main shaft and carbon handle creates this light, strong unit. We tested the 35 size reel, and it provides a respectable 14 pounds of drag, 150-yard braid capacity and retrieves 28.8 inches of line per turn. Pair this with a light rod of your choosing and you are set to cast all day long.
Fin-Nor Lethal Spinning Reel
The LT40 performed well in 2017 for us and was used to land many wild coho in both the river and sea. We also used it when vertically jigging for assorted rockfish. Made for saltwater anglers, the reel is constructed from aluminum and features a sealed carbon-fiber drag system, a braid-ready spool and oversized handle. Twenty-three pounds of max drag provide plenty of stopping power and with 31 inches-per-turn, the reel is efficient at picking up line.
Redington ID 5/6 Fly Reel
We used this reel to tame 18- to 24-inch trout and 3- to 5-pound pink salmon and it held up well. The large-arbor design allows the angler to pick line back up quickly; the disc drag is smooth, and the reel is light, which allows it to balance nicely on today’s light rods. One of the features that Redington boasts is the flat back surface of the reel that allows anglers to add their own decals to customize the look of the reel. It’s available in three sizes.
Quantum Boca 60
With a sturdy aluminum body, fool-proof titanium/magnetic bail system and SaltGuard corrosion protection, the Boca is built to withstand the salt assault, and our field-tester put the reel through its paces in waters ranging from Prince William Sound to the various nooks and crannies of Southeast.
Hardy Ultralite CADD Fly Reel
Full barstock 6061 construction and a stunning industrial design combine with an all-new 360-degree color-coded drag system to produce an outstanding large-arbor fly reel, which our tester loved in the HRECADT040 model for 6/7/8-weight lines. Whether hauling in acrobatic coho or hard-pulling rainbows, this reel performed flawlessly.
Abu Garcia Revo Rocket Spinning Reel
We tested the 35 size and liked it. The drag is smooth and adequate for most salmon; the reel piles line back on very quickly and it casts effortlessly. It’s lightweight, which allowed us to balance it on a lighter rod. The spool is braid-ready, allowing us to tie 20-pound Ande braid directly on it.
Fin-Nor Offshore Spinning Reels
Fin-Nor’s Offshore Spinning series offers powerful 4.4:1 gears made of solid stainless steel for subduing big, strong fish in deep water and heavy-duty, bulletproof construction capable of handling seasons of work in Alaska saltwater. Our testers have enjoyed using Fin-Nor reels for years now, and the Offshore only adds to their reputation.
Orvis Hydros SL IV
Our tester really enjoyed using this fly reel. It has a strong drag system that is fully sealed. It is easy to adjust and works well for a variety of salmon and trout fishing styles. It has a large arbor that holds a lot of line and retrieves quickly. This reel is an excellent fishing reel for Alaska to control hard-fighting fish.
Redington Behemoth 7/8 Fly Reel
Looking for an affordable reel to handle large rainbows, steelhead, and coho? The Behemoth 7/8 is a fantastic choice, holding 200 yards of 20-pound-test Dacron backing in addition to a weight-forward, 7-weight line. It has perhaps the most capable carbon-fiber drag in its class. Drag performance was smooth and predictable. Other key features include a large-arbor design for fast line pickup, an oversized drag knob for easy adjustment, and it’s easily convertible from left- to right-hand retrieve. Our tester used this reel to target Naknek rainbows to 31 inches, and also used it at Jurassic Lake for rainbows up to 19 pounds. To say this reel is a bargain is a huge understatement.
Our tester found this to be a good fly reel for lake or river fishing for species such as rainbows and Dollies. The drag system shows a real improvement compared to ones used in the past. This reel held up well to fall rainbow fishing.
Abu Garcia Revo SX Low-Profile Reels
The fourth generation of Revo SX reels delivers the most powerful, durable and high-performance reel yet—a statement confirmed by our testers this year after putting the reel to work this season in a variety of environments. An improved DuraClutch design along with an upgraded Infini brake system results in a smooth engagement and effortless casting performance.
Quantum Cabo PT 60 Spinning Reel
This saltwater reel is a tank. Pair this with a 30- to 80-pound-class spinning rod and you are ready to battle just about anything that swims in the Alaska salt. We landed lingcod, halibut and multiple species of rockfish on this reel. It features many advanced technologies, including a ceramic carbon drag system for stopping power and drag consistency, Saltguard protection that slows the damage from saltwater, Hot Sauce lubrication to lower friction, and is made with SCR aluminum alloy that’s corrosion resistant. It’s got a titanium bail, a comfortable large handle and casts nicely. It can hold 320 yards of 50-pound braid and picks up line at 35 inches per turn; there are six sizes in the series.