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Top 3 Best Ultralight Spinning Reels—2017

Updated on August 10, 2017
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HuntnFish has spent many years on the water fishing for and catching nearly every species of fish in Washington State.

There are a number of reasons people choose ultralight fishing gear. Perhaps you're planning a backpacking trip and want to keep your additional pack weight to a minimum. Or maybe you often find yourself hopping between boulders in trout streams and feel heavier gear is too cumbersome. Whatever the reason, ultralight fishing gear is innovating rapidly, using new materials such as carbon fiber and magnesium, making it possible to pack an extraordinary number of features into remarkably lightweight packages.

A Rainbow Trout rising. When fishing in close quarters, such as streams, beaver ponds, and alpine lakes, ultralight gear provides plenty of range to reach the fish.
A Rainbow Trout rising. When fishing in close quarters, such as streams, beaver ponds, and alpine lakes, ultralight gear provides plenty of range to reach the fish. | Source

Advantages of Spinning Reels for Ultralight Fishing

If you've been shopping for ultralight fishing reels, you've probably noticed the majority are spinning reels rather than casting reels. There's good reason for this. Spinning reels are much better at handling lightweight fishing line, as well as casting the types of lightweight lures you'll be using. When casting you are essentially trying to build up and store as much energy into your lure and fishing rod as possible, and then transfer it quickly to the fishing lure, sending it flying out in front of you. With spinning reels, the lure does loses some energy to drag as the line spools off your reel. However, with casting reels, your lure loses more energy, as the casting reel spool has to accelerate to allow the line to leave your reel. Since the spool on a spinning reel is static during the cast, less energy is lost. Trying to cast a 1/16th oz spinner with a casting reel can be very difficult.

So, if you're thinking ultralight, think spinning reel.

What type of line do you prefer for ultralight spinning reels?

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Fishing Line for Ultralight Spinning Reels

If you want to get the most out of you ultralight spinning reel, you'll want to choose your fishing line carefully. Putting the wrong line on a top-end reel can all but ruin its function. A proper fishing combo, whether you're fishing in the deep sea or a backyard creek, is all about balance. If you're choosing an ultralight fishing combo, you'll want all elements of your rig to be kept lightweight.

As mentioned earlier, when casting a lure with a spinning reel, the stored energy in the reel and lure must accelerate the line as it leaves your reel. A number of factors come in to play here: line diameter, line weight, line type, and line stiffness. The larger the line diameter, the more air drag will occur as the lure flies through the air. It may seem trivial, but we don't have a lot of energy to start with, so it adds up quick. Also, the heavier the line, the more energy is lost from your cast. Different line types behave differently as well. Braided lines for instance have a much rougher surface and create additional friction. Finally, the stiffer the line, the more friction will occur between your line and casting guides. The more we can minimize energy loses to the line, the more casting distance and control we will have.

Choose a lightweight, smooth-coated, limp monofilament fishing line for the best ultralight casting performance. My suggestion: P-Line CX in either 4 or 6lb.

Ultralight Gear is Great for Crappie!

A great haul of crappie with an ultralight spinning set-up. Ultralight gear is a favorite for crappie and other panfish, as it makes casting microjigs and tubes possible.
A great haul of crappie with an ultralight spinning set-up. Ultralight gear is a favorite for crappie and other panfish, as it makes casting microjigs and tubes possible. | Source

Best Spinning Reel Sizes

The biggest factor in the weight of a spinning reel, quite obviously, is the size. While smaller fishing reels will weigh less, they will often lack in other features such as casting distance, line capacity and drag power. Larger reels will provide a better fishing experience, but at the cost of additional weight.

This is where the new innovations in ultralight spinning reels come into play. With new materials and methods of manufacture, you are now able to buy much larger, much more powerful spinning reels that weigh a fraction of traditional spinning reels. With the inclusion of carbon frames, some manufacturers have been able to cut the weight of "25" or "2500" size reels down to the weights of spinning reels half their size.The only drawback is increased cost.

In general, if you are going for an ultralight spinning set-up, I would suggest reels in the "10" to "15" or "1000" to "1500" sizes. Size standards are different between manufacturers, but that will apply to most. While there are "5" or "500" series spinning reels, I've personally found them to be almost too small, to the point of awkwardness. What I'll call "micro spinning reels" have very limited drag capabilities, very restricted line capacities, and reduced casting range.

Back when I lived in Montana, Arctic Grayling were one of my favorite fish to chase in the alpine lakes on ultralight gear.
Back when I lived in Montana, Arctic Grayling were one of my favorite fish to chase in the alpine lakes on ultralight gear. | Source

My Top Picks for Ultralight Spinning Reels

I've narrowed down my picks for the current top ultralight spinning reels on the market to three: Best Under $60, Best Value, and Best Overall. These spinning reels feel small, but cast and fish as well as or better than reels that weigh much more.

Best Ultralight Reel Under $60: Shimano Sedona

Technically the Shimano Sedona doesn't quite fit in the new class of ultralight reels. Then again, almost all of the new class of ultralight reels are going to be a bit more expensive. If you are looking for a lightweight, reliable spinning reel, the Shimano Sedona is the perfect place to start. It has a modestly low weight, and includes many of Shimano's leading features like the Propulsion Line Management System and Dyna-Balance, meaning you won't be sacrificing performance.

Budget Friendly- Shimano Sedona

Shimano SE2000FE Sedona Spin Reel
Shimano SE2000FE Sedona Spin Reel

The 2000 size will pack on 165 yds of monofilament, provide 9lb of front drag, and weighs in a 8.6 oz, all at a very reasonable price!

 

Best Value Ultralight Spinning Reel: Okuma Helios

When it comes to packing all the highest end features and materials into the most affordable ultralight spinning reel package, Okuma's Helios is a pretty clear winner. The first time I held this reel I was blown away. The carbon frame provides a rock-solid base while coming in at a mere 7.1 oz for the 20 series reel. The carbon frame as stainless steel bearing also protect against corrosion, making it more than ready for many seasons of backcountry use. Also impressive is the 13lb of smooth front drag, meaning you'll be able to handle much larger fish on your ultralight setup.

Best Bang for the Buck- Okuma Helios

Okuma Fishing Tackle HX-25 Helios Extremely Lightweight Spinning Reel
Okuma Fishing Tackle HX-25 Helios Extremely Lightweight Spinning Reel

13lb drag, 140 yds of 4lb test, and only 7.1 oz at an unbeatable price!

 

The Winner (Best Ultralight Spinning Reel): Shimano CI4

If cost is no matter, it doesn't get any better than the Shimano CI4. When it comes to line capacity, drag power, durability, and overall weight, the CI4 is the best of the best. Their large spool diameter means rocket casts, tangle-free line management, and quick retrieve speeds. The new Magumlite rotor leads to a near effortless line-pick up. The 3000 size can pack on an massive 230yds of 6lb test, has 20lb of max front drag, and still weighs a mere 6.7 oz.

Want to go even lighter? Size down to the 1000 size and you're looking at a 5.6oz spinning reel.

While most spinning reel manufacturers cut features and quality to create a lighter-weight reel, Shimano has managed to pack all of their highest end spinning reel features into the lightest possible package.

The Shimano CI4 is my go-to ultralight and backpacking spinning reel.

The Best of the Best- Shimano CI4

Shimano Stradic Ci4+ 2500 FB Spinning Fishing Reel With Front Drag, STCI42500FB
Shimano Stradic Ci4+ 2500 FB Spinning Fishing Reel With Front Drag, STCI42500FB

The 1000 series comes in at a mere 5.6oz. Check out the price!

 

I Want to Hear from You!

I would love to hear your feedback. If you have any questions, leave them in the comments section below, I'd be glad to help! If you found this article helpful, do me a huge favor and Share using the Facebook or Pinterest links at the top of the page. Best yet, if this helped you catch some fish recently, send me a picture using the 'Contact the Author' link at the top of the page and I'll feature you and your catch on an upcoming post! Thank you!

Some Great Trout on Ultralight Spinning Gear

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    • huntnfish profile image
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      huntnfish 2 months ago from Washington

      Hey Justin,

      I have a couple related articles for ultralight and backpacking spinning rods, you can check them out here http://hubpages.com/fishing/Best-Ultralight-Spinni... and here http://hubpages.com/fishing/Best-Backpacking-Fishi...

      However, that 4 piece Croix you have is already about as good as it gets for backpacking spinning rods, they are always my top recommendation. They do make an "ultralight" 5'6" version, which is one size down in weight from what you currently have (3.5oz to 2.7oz).

      While there are better ultralight spinning rods out there if you're willing to use a 2 piece or 1 piece rod (G.Loomis Trout and Panfish series rods are amazing), there isn't a better 4 piece than what you already have anywhere on the market. I'd just stick with what you've got.

      Depending on what type of fishing you do, the ultimate space and weight saving fishing solution is a Tenkara fishing rod. They work great for smaller rivers and streams, and even do alright at small lakes and ponds depending on the geography. Its basically a really nice telescoping fly fishing rod with no reel. Everything you need fits in your pocket, no joke. Super light and really fun to fish with. If you're interested, check out the last bit of my article here http://hubpages.com/fishing/Telescopic-Fishing-Rod...

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      Justin Rubaloff 2 months ago

      My setup for the last 10 years has been a 6.4 oz Okuma Aveon reel and a 3.0 oz St. Croix 6' 4-piece Premier traveler rod.

      I was happy to see your recommended Shimano CI4+ 1000 shaves almost a whole ounce off.

      Do you have any recommendations for ultralight rods for backpacking?

      Thanks for the article