Best Fishing Reels for
Fishing in Alaska in 2016 

Okuma Metaloid 5s
We loved the smooth lever-drag and the ability to cast big baits with this sleek, powerful, compact reel. Use it for big kings or take it out on the saltwater and pair it with a stout jigging rod to haul up the usual gamut of bottomfish. Testers appreciated the big handle and fast 6.4 to 1 gear ratio that piles line quickly back on this reel. 

Okuma Coldwater CW-354DLX Low Profile Line Counter Reel
The CW-354DLX is the left-hand retrieve version of this reel (it is also available in right-hand retrieve). Okuma nailed it with this design, especially for the angler who fishes for Chinook salmon in both fresh- and saltwater. Since the reel is low-profile, it can easily be used for hands-on techniques such as back-bouncing. It also casts comfortably and well compared to other line-counter reels. Since it has an incredible 25 pounds of max drag, it’s equally at home in heavy trolling applications—we used it with up to 16 ounces of lead trolling flashers and herring in the salt chuck. This reel is at home fishing for salmon on the Kenai, the Nushagak, Deep Creek, Kodiak, Seward, Valdez or any of the salmon fisheries in the Lower 48.

Penn Conflict Spinning Reel CFT3000
We appreciated the smooth drag contained within the sealed drag system; the Superline Spool feature, which is a rubber gasket built onto the spool that stops superline from slipping and eliminates the need to wind on monofilament backing; the lightweight design, which balanced nicely on high-performance lightweight rods; and the rugged construction we’ve come to expect in Penn reels. The reel incorporates Instant Anti-Reverse, has seven stainless-steel bearings and is available in eight sizes. We tested the CFT3000, which made for a good steelhead, big rainbow, coho and sockeye reel and with a gear ratio of 6.2:1, it puts line quickly back in the spool after a big fish makes a long run.

Daiwa Sealine SG27LC3BL Line Counter Reel
The Daiwa Sealine series line counters are durable, affordable reels that are quite versatile. We’ve used them back-trolling large plugs or diver/bait combos, pulling divers in saltwater and trolling heavy leads up to 16 ounces in combination with flashers. The SG27LC3BL is the left-hand version of this reel (it is also available in right-hand retrieve). The 27 size is the smallest in the series, but it has a line capacity of 240 yards of 50-pound-test braid. This capacity, coupled with up to 16 pounds of drag, makes it an excellent saltwater trolling reel or river back-trolling reel for all species of salmon. One of the really unique features of this reel is the ability to put the reel in gear by simply turning the crank. You can also put it in gear with the free-spool lever if that’s your preference. We landed numerous Chinook up to 30 pounds on this reel this summer.

Daiwa Tatula 100 HL Baitcasting Reel
The Tatula features Daiwa’s new TWS T-Wing Casting System, designed to increase casting accuracy and distance. It works. The Tatula is a low-profile reel that can hold 120 yards of 14-pound-test monofilament. This makes it suitable for most salmon and steelhead, as well as large trout. The Tatula is available in both left- and right-hand retrieve models. With a very wide range of casting control adjustment possible via the magnetic casting brake (20 settings) and the mechanical brake, this reel is one of the most adjustable on the market and will aid both beginning and advanced casters. It will enable any caster to dial-in the optimum amount of control needed for various lure weights, like when casting size 3 spinners, or casting light weight with a yarnie or small egg cluster. The carbon-fiber drag has a listed maximum of 13.2 pounds. You probably won’t need that much drag, but it is nice to know it’s there. Our testing was limited to fishing for steelhead. One day our tester landed 11 steelhead while using the Tatula, throwing size 4 spinners. It’s become his new favorite reel for steelhead and silver salmon in freshwater.

Quantum Smoke 25SXPTIA Spinning Reel
Battling one chrome-bright coho after another can be hard on gear, with the silver-sided slabs straining even the best of equipment, and that’s where the Quantum Smoke stood tallest over the past year. With 10 stainless-steel bearings, a carbon fiber rotor and a carbon fiber-and-ceramic drag system, the Smoke handled the workload and then some, performing right out of the box and still functioning without problem a month later, after more than a hundred silvers had been brought to hand.

Quantum Tour KVD 40PTIA Spinning ReelQuantum_TourKVDSP.jpg
Boasting a gear ratio of 5.3:1, this reel puts 33 inches of line on the spool with every turn of the big, easy-to-grasp handle. It’s capable of housing 230 yards of 10-pound-test and with a max drag of 20 pounds, it’s suited to handling all but the very biggest salmon Alaska has on offer. 

Truth Reels LG (Large Game) ReelTruth_Reels_LG_Reel.jpg
Truth Reels (formerly Release Reels) make high-quality, American-made conventional reels to handle a variety of big, strong species. The LG is fully machined, with an oversized crank with a 6:1 retrieve, hauling in an astounding 52 inches of line per revolution—a feature you will very much appreciate if you have to check your bait while fishing at 250 feet. This is a lever drag reel with an oversized carbon-fiber drag washer. Max drag is 35 pounds and will handle any halibut the world is capable of growing. The reel weighs about 20 ounces and is available in three different color combinations and either left-hand or right-hand retrieve. If you’re looking for an excellent reel for heavy bottomfishing in Alaska, this product will satisfy. 

Lamson Guru II 3.5 HD
Unlike the standard Guru, already a favorite here, this model has a complete cage design, helping it to live up to the HD (heavy-duty) label it arrives with. Paired with a quality 8-weight rod, this is one fly reel that can handle it all, and last season after season.