The best fishing reels have been exhaustively tested on all the target species. These reels are tough and will undoubtedly withstand Alaska fishing. Here is the Fish Alaska Editors’ 2023 selection.
Best Fishing Reels
Penn Slammer IV 4500 DX
The Slammer IV series of spinning reels has been around for a bit. We’ve certainly enjoyed catching hard-fighting fish on the 3500 model, consequently, this year we tested the 4500 DX model. The DX line offers several upgrades to the standard Slammer IV series. Particularly, enhanced stainless-steel main and pinion gears that use CNC Gear Technology and an additional bearing in the spool which improves the drag system.
The DX line sports a black-and-silver design in contrast to the black and gold in the standard Slammer line. Reels are braid ready, feature a sealed, stainless-steel ball-bearing system, and are in fact tough as nails. We tested the reel on silvers, lingcod and halibut, and were suitably impressed.
Cheeky Sighter Fly Reels
Cheeky’s Sighter Fly Reels feature their Rev Carbon Drag System. All reels in the series are fully caged and have large backing capacities. We like fully caged reels. You don’t have to worry about the running-line portion of your system jumping outside of the spool, as with uncaged designs. We also like that the retrieve is silent, and the drag is nearly silent, too. Caged reels like the Sighter are strong and durable.
The fully caged design, capable drag, and big backing capacity makes the Sighter reel very versatile. For example, the Sighter 375 is at home on a 9’ 6-weight rod used for indicator/bead fishing. But that same reel has enough spool diameter (3.75”) and backing capacity (WF 6 floating plus 240 yards of 20-pound-test Dacron) to easily be used on a 7-weight switch rod with Skagit head or a trout-spey setup. The Sighter comes in 4 sizes to cover everything from grayling and 3-weights to kings and 9-weights. At less than $200, these reels are a bargain.
Daiwa Lexa TW LX-TW400XH-P
Publisher Marcus Weiner torture tested this in the Alaska saltwater on halibut, lingcod, and coho salmon in 2022 and it performed like a champ. He spooled it with 235 yards of 50-pound-test Daiwa J-Braid X8 and jigged iron wherever he went. Landing halibut to 80 pounds, lingcod tipping the 50-pound mark and multiple coho well in excess of 10 pounds, he can say with confidence that this reel will hold up to what you can dish out. The model he tested has an 8:1 gear ratio, which picks up line in a hurry—42.9 inches of line per crank—and offers 24.2 pounds of max drag, which is plenty for most Alaska fish. He really appreciates the swept power handle with a custom EVA handle knob when fighting big fish.
Hardy Zane Pro Carbon Fly Reel Model HREZANCA020
This 8000-size reel was designed for saltwater anglers targeting bonefish, permit and tarpon. The sealed drag, the strength of the drag, the excellent anodizing, the light but strong construction, and the large arbor with great backing capacity, makes this an excellent reel for species in Alaska. Consider it for your spey setup. The machining and quality are impeccable, like most Hardy products.