Best Fishing Reels for Fishing in Alaska

Daiwa Lexa-LC300HL Line-Counter ReelDaiwa-Lexa-LC300HL-line-counter-reel.jpg
Talk about a low-profile, Chinook-capable, line-counter reel that can do it all—from trolling heavy lead and flashers with herring in the salt chuck to back-trolling divers and Kwiks in the Kenai, back-bouncing, hover fishing, boon-dogging with an ounce and a half of lead or even casting big bobbers with eggs. It is the smallest profile, Chinook-capable line-counter reel we are aware of. The line counter is mechanical and measures in feet. Line capacity is listed as 180 yards of 55-pound braid, and we spooled it up with a little more than 150 yards of 65-pound Daiwa J-Braid. The clicker is loud and easily turned on or off. It’s available in left- or right-hand retrieve, with a power handle, in two retrieve ratios (5.5:1 and 6.3:1) and with a 22-pound carbon fiber drag, this reel is awesome! We landed roughly 30 Chinook on this reel this summer and used it in every Chinook fishing situation we had the opportunity to fish. 

Quantum Smoke Inshore SL40PTsAQuantum-Smoke-inshore-SL40PTsA.jpg
This compact inshore saltwater spinning reel was just the ticket for pounding pelagic rockfish in the waters of southeast Alaska in 2016. After landing about 100 rockfish and several lingcod on the reel, we can safely say it’s up to the abuse Alaska often doles out. It features 10 PT bearings, aluminum body and side plate, and titanium bail. With a large handle, 5.3:1 gear ratio, 200-yard-capacity of 30-pound-test braid and a beefy 20 pounds of drag, this reel is well-suited for targeting all species of rockfish and salmon, average-sized lingcod and chicken halibut. Quantum features their carbon fiber and ceramic drag system and coats the reel with their SaltGuard II multi-layered finish, both of which aid in protecting it against saltwater.

Abu Garcia Ambassadeur 5500LC reelAbu-Garcia-Ambassadeur-5500LC-reel.jpg
There is a reason Ambassadeur reels have been around for so long. They are durable, dependable, easy to work on and parts are readily available. The Ambassadeur line-counter reels have been around for a few years, but they have proven to be as tough as their non-line-counters. It’s made in both a 5500 size and a 6500 size, though we only tested the 5500. The difference, besides physical size and line capacity, is that the 5500 has a paddle handle while the 6500 has a power handle. The reel has carbon-fiber drag washers and a max drag of 15 pounds—plenty for small king salmon and all the other salmon species, plus steelhead. The 5500 holds a whopping 295 yards of 30-pound braid. As such, it will probably hold just under 200 yards of 50-pound braid. The best use of these reels is trolling, back-trolling and vertical jigging.

Quantum Monster MO300HPTQuantum-Monster.jpg
This reel lives up to its name with a stout 23 pounds of drag and fast line pickup with a gear ratio of 7.1:1 and 31 inches-per-turn of the handle. It’s got a sizeable capacity and can hold about 300 yards of 30-pound braid. We liked it for battling Chinook in fast currents and for taming rockfish and medium-sized lings and halibut over the pinnacles in Frederick Sound. Its light, weighing in at a little over 10 ounces due to an aluminum spool, gear side-cover and frame.

PENN Warfare Level-wind ReelPENN-Warfare-Level-Wind.jpg

We felt that this reel easily out-performed it’s price point, offering smooth and adequately powerful drag when we tested it on in-river Chinook and a range of smaller bottomfish in 2016. It’s available in three different sizes – with the largest size offering a generous line capacity of nearly 600 yards of 65-pound-test braid and the smallest able of holding 300+ yards of 50-pound-test braid. The smallest size casts well, and makes for a good choice when boon-dogging, back-bouncing, back-trolling, down-trolling, or hover fishing for coho and Chinook salmon.

Daiwa Ballistic EX 2500H Spinning ReelDaiwa-Ballistic-EX-2500H-spinning-reel.jpg
The Ballistic EX 2500H might well be the best spinning reel we’ve used in the sub-$200 price range. Due to its use of magnetic oil called MagSeal, a waterproof drag and corrosion-resistant parts, it is suitable for both light saltwater and freshwater use. Daiwa utilizes a carbon fiber called Zaion for the reel body and side plates. This material is not only corrosion-resistant; it’s also light and strong. Though it’s a 2500 size, this reel has a remarkable 15.4 pounds of drag, and the drag range is very wide. Line capacity is 140 yards of 10-pound-test monofilament, making it suitable for pitching spinners or twitching jigs for silvers, side-drifting for steelhead, bobber fishing pinks or silvers with bait or jigs, or dragging or casting slinkies and beads for large rainbows. This reel is silky smooth and refined, yet very tough. 

Daiwa Fuego 2500SH Spinning ReelDaiwa-Fuego-2500SH-Spinning-Reel.jpg
The Fuego 2500SH spinning reel is a very high-quality spinning reel for less than $100. It doesn’t have some of the new materials and features of the Ballistic, not as many bearings, and it weighs about a half-ounce more but it costs half as much. That said, it will handle steelhead, silvers, and large trout as well as the more refined Ballistic. This reel has a max drag of eight pounds—more than enough for the species mentioned. It holds 170 yards of eight-pound-test monofilament,or 140 yards of ten-pound-test. 

Pflueger Patriarch Fly Reel/ PAT78XPfluegerPatriarch.jpg
Our tester felt that this was a sound choice for an Alaska all-around freshwater fly fishing reel. The aluminum, large-arbor reel performed smoothly when fishing for both trout and coho salmon. He said that the fully-sealed carbon-fiber drag requires some palming with larger, hard-fighting coho, but worked well for most average-sized coho, and other species including sockeye salmon, rainbow trout and Dolly Varden char. This is Pflueger’s top of the line fly reel, allows anglers to retrieve with either hand, and comes in five sizes from 3/4 to 11/12.