Best fishing reels for Alaska fishing are designed to withstand the demands of battling large and powerful fish species like salmon and halibut. These reels selected by the Editors at Fish Alaska offer durability, smooth operation, and ample line capacity to tackle the challenges of Alaska’s diverse fishing environments.

Best Fishing Reels

best fishing reels

Penn SQLII30LD Squall II

This stout reel combines sturdy stainless-steel main and pinion gears, with a lever-drag system capable of stopping most Alaska fish, all encased in a lightweight carbon housing that resists corrosion and by shaving ounces, helps the reel balance with lighter rods. This model comes in at 19.5 ounces, which is very light for a reel capable of taming big halibut. It features a fast 5.3:1 gear ratio and a generous capacity of 455 yards of 80-pound-test braid. The oversized reel handle helps an angler during the fight and makes it easier to fish all day in deep water where the reel handle spends a lot of time turning.

Daiwa Kage LT

best fishing

We’ve been using the 1000D-XH spinning reel for several years and are impressed. It’s tough and reliable. We pair it with the Daiwa Spinmatic SMD 704ULFS spinning rod and target grayling, dollies, cutthroat, and smaller rainbows. The reel has the capacity to house 200 yards of 8-pound-test braid, so there’s ample capacity for most fish we target. Sporting a 6.2:1 gear ratio, we can put line back on the spool quickly after a long cast or after a fish makes a long run. The ATD drag system is smooth, and we especially like how silky the reel casts. The LT in the reel’s name stands for Light/Tough. Daiwa uses Zaion, a carbon material that is lighter and stronger than an equivalent nylon and aluminum design, to craft the body of this reel. There are 3 models in the series (1000, 2000, 2500).

Hardy Fortuna Regent Fly Reel

best fishing

The new Hardy Fortuna Regent is a large-arbor, saltwater fly reel made in 3 sizes: 8000, 10000 and 12000. The 8000 matches line weights 7/8/9; the 10000, line weights 9/10/11, and the 12000, line weights 11 and 12. This fully machined fly reel features a multi-pad, carbon-fiber disc drag housed in a waterproof hub. The max drag varies with the model, but ranges from 12 pounds for the 8000 to 18 pounds for the 12000. Suffice it to say, it has enough drag for any fish you might hook in Alaska on fly gear. The large arbor provides a very fast retrieve. If you’re looking for a high-end reel to fish for big fish both in saltwater and freshwater, from Alaska to Seychelles, this reel will fill the bill.

best fishing reels

Cheeky Spray Fly Reel

The Spray is Cheeky’s new, premium fly reel. It is machined from the highest quality aluminum and is made in three sizes: 350, 400 and 450 (3.5” diameter, 4” diameter, 4.5” diameter). It is anodized and comes in a few different colors. The 350 is for line weights 4- to 6; the 400 for 7- to 9; the 450 for 9- to 12. The Spray comes from the factory pre-set to left-hand retrieve, but it’s simple to change if desired. We tested the 400 size which weighs 6.9 ounces.

The Spray’s arbor is both large and deep—providing both a fast retrieve and a large backing capacity—a nice feature compared to some other modern large-arbor reels which have rather small backing capacities. For the 400 size, it holds 250 yards of 20-pound-test Dacron plus an 8-weight fly line. That equates to about 187 yards of 30-pound-test Dacron. The drag is fully sealed to keep grit and water out. We especially like that the reel foot is rounded on the edges, so you can wrap your leader around it and hook your fly on a guide frame without sharp corners damaging your leader.

best fishing reels

Sage Spey Reel 7/8/9

The Spey Series fly reel combines a fully machined, anodized, full-framed fly-reel design, large arbor, and Sage’s SCS drag system. The result is a reel with classic good looks, but modern performance features. Fish Alaska’s resident Spey nut and Flyfishing columnist, George Krumm, has been using the 6/7/8 size for years for big rainbows and steelhead. This year, he tested the larger 7/8/9 size. The larger size is essentially identical to the smaller reel in features and construction, including the fully-caged frame to prevent thin running lines from slipping between the spool and frame. George continues to be impressed with the carbon-fiber drag, which has detents for consistent, repeatable performance.

The drag is smooth and consistent throughout its range, and there is no spot where the drag goes “from zero to 50” suddenly. George loaded this reel with 150 yards of 30-pound-test Dacron backing, 150 feet of mono running line, and a short Skagit head and there was room to spare on the spool. According to George, this reel reminds him of the Hardy Perfect, but with a really good drag system. It’s sure to be a classic!