An inexpensive fly fishing reel that is actually worth buying is no doubt a challenge to find. Fortunately, there’s some pretty rockin’ reels available at very reasonable costs if you do a little digging. We’ve tracked down a list of fly reels that are both very favorably reviewed by fishermen and also won’t break the bank.
Whether you’re looking for a quality, not too expensive spare reel or you’re new to fly fishing and want to purchase something entry level, there’s some solid options here.
I personally am a big fan of some of the newer reels by Redington. I have had the pleasure of fishing the Rise, the Zero and the Behemoth and have been quite impressed with all three models. As far as quality goes, there’s really nothing lacking from all three of these models so definitely don’t overlook them as your main piece of hardware due to their low price tag — they perform!
The Liquid by Lamson (reel #9) is another awesome option here that performs more like a top shelf reel than a budget unit. It’s built with the same components as Lamson’s highest quality, $400+ reels. Definitely give this one a look if you’re interested in something that borders a top notch, quality reel.
Okuma, Piscifun and Maxcatch have got some pretty decent model reels available for next to nothing! It feels just flat out wrong spending a mere $50 or less on a fly reel — but these reels really do perform! The quality is definitely inferior to the Redington models and Lamson reel listed here but when you get down to it these reels will fish just fine. There’s a plethora of fishermen reviews praising the quality of some of these dirt cheap models so if you’re in the market for a back-up unit or want an economic introduction to fly fishing then start here.
1. Redington RISE (3 wt — 10 wt)
I really enjoy fishing with the Redington Rise. I know a lot of experienced fly fishermen who own this reel and swear by it. It’s a great reel at a great price that pairs well with a wide array of rods. The Rise has a sleek and modern looking aesthetic, making for a pretty badass looking reel — there’s even a few different color options for customizing your look. This is an aluminum reel with a tough carbon fiber drag system. This reel comes as a 3/4 wt up to a 9/10 wt. It’s really geared towards trout and salmonid fishing but the 5/6 wt makes for a great bass reel. I would also absolutely consider the 9/10 wt for chasing some saltwater species due to the drag system on this reel — just make sure to always rinse your reel with freshwater after fishing in the ocean. The 3/4 wt has a backing capacity of 75 yards while the 9/10 wt can hold 250 yards. This is a great performing reel that you’ll likely want to own a few of for different fishing scenarios. The lightweight build coupled with the powerful drag system makes for a high performing and versatile reel.
Price: $93.00 – $219.99 & FREE Shipping
- Compact and smooth sealed carbon fiber drag system
- Large arbor design for quick line retrieve
- Easily converts to right or left hand retrieve
- Lifetime warranty!
- Some anglers find the drag to be a bit overkill — but I personally find it to be perfectly adequate
2. Okuma SLV Diecast Aluminum Fly Reel (4 wt — 11 wt)
Here’s a nice quality budget fly reel from Okuma. This diecast aluminum reel is designed with a large arbor and a roller bearing that engages the drag in one direction. The drag system is a washer pinch bearing system — it’s essentially adjusted by a screw that applies pressure onto a washer tightening or loosening the drag. This type of drag system is definitely bound to wear out sooner than higher end reels — but if you’re not too hard on it then it should hold up to some pretty heavy fishing. For around $50 you’re still getting much more than you’re paying for with this one. On the brighter side, fishermen reviews insist the drag system does not wander from where you set it and that it has some solid stopping power. The drag coupled with the large arbor design allows this reel to keep up with some serious fish. This is a silent reel, so if you prefer the sound of a clicker then you’ll have to look elsewhere. Spare spools are cheap and available for this model, so having a few different line types ready to go is easy and affordable. The spools also switch out without having to detach the reel from your rod — sweet! Some users of this reel complain about the fairlead claiming that line can become worn when you’re stripping. By sanding the area where your line rubs on its way out of the reel with a high grit sandpaper you can avoid this issue. It’s a simple and quick reel treatment that will ensure your line stays healthy. All in all I think this would make a great spare reel that will fish just fine when you need to put it in the game.
Price: $43.00 — $62.29 (up tp 34 percent off MSRP)
- Both the reel and extra spools are quite affordable
- The drag system coupled with large arbor design can definitely handle some powerhouse fish
- Quick exchange spool allows you to change spools with ease without detaching your reel
- Drag system although quite effective for fighting big fish is not built to last for years and years of fishing
- Wise fishermen will lubricate the internal of this reel and gently sand the fairlead in order to have it fish smoother
- Some complaints that the finish wears off after heavy use
3.Redington Zero Reel (2 wt — 5 wt)
Here’s another kick-ass reel by Redington that comes at a great price. The Zero is a pretty dainty model and the most lightweight reel in its class. The unmachinable die-cast construction is an excellent option for a smaller sized reel in the 2 wt to 5 wt range. It’s fairly comparable to the Redington Rise listed above but does not have an adjustable drag. Instead, the Zero employs a spring loaded, clicker drag system. It’s totally adequate for fighting freshwater species but larger saltwater species and monster salmonids will no doubt outcompete the drag system on this reel. Despite its light weight and less aggressive drag system this is still a tough little reel — it’s perfect for chasing trout and pond fishing for species like bass. The large arbor design helps to keep up with fish and reduces line memory. The quick-change spool on this reel makes it easy to pop on some new line when you need to. For less than $100 this unit really can’t be beat in my opinion. For fighting fish that don’t require a seriously powerful drag system the Zero is absolutely one of the best affordable options.
Price: $49.95 – $89.99
- Very affordable — one of the best value reels around
- Excellent choice for trout fishing
- If you’re looking for a super lightweight reel this is it
- Can be converted to right or left hand retrieve
- Does not have an adjustable drag
- There’s a conversion kit required for switching over the reel to right hand retrieve — no big deal but a bit more intensive than some other reels
4. Piscifun Blaze (3 wt — 10 wt)
Here’s one of the highly affordable and fairly decent reels by Piscifun. The Blaze comes in an array of sizes from 3 wt all the way up to 10 wt so it’s suitable for all kinds of both fresh and saltwater fishing. This reel’s multi-disc cork and stainless steel drag system employs a click drag and a silent retrieve. The drag has positive reviews for accurate adjustment and fortunately has o-ring seals to protect from corrosion. Piscifun went with a mid arbor design on this one so it has both decent backing capacity and line pickup. This reel has been cold forged and tempered for superior strength — it’s a pretty dam tough model built to take a beating. Fishermen reviews insist this reel is rock solid and furthermore there’s an included three year warranty from Piscifun! There’s easy left to right hand conversion with this reel so anyone can fish it! For a reel in the $60 range the Blaze no doubt has it going on.
Price: $49.85 – $74.89 (up to 35 percent off MSRP)
- Sealed click drag is silent on the retrieve if that’s what you’re after
- Comes in a wide array of sizes (3 wt to 10 wt)
- Hard anodized for surface protection and abrasion resistanceli>
- Reviews insist there’s no side ply or wobble with this unit despite its low price
- 3 year warranty
- There’s a spring clip that’s easily misplaced when switching the reel over to the other side so be mindful of that
5. Redington Behemoth (5 wt — 12 wt)
The Behemoth by Redington is perhaps my favorite reel on this list. This bad boy could stop an 8 year old on a bicycle. This reel is an excellent and surprisingly affordable option for a reel that can handle line-peeling fish in both fresh and salt water. Redington has employed a seriously powerful drag system that’s up for the task of fighting exceptionally powerful fish with this one. The Behemoth is built with an unmachinable, die-cast construction with a large arbor design. It’s built for speedy retrieves and also to reduce line memory. It’s got a seriously bad-ass look in my opinion and should pair nicely with most rods. The Behemoth has been built to pick up line fast when fighting hard running sport fish like salmon, bonefish and tarpon. The carbon fiber drag is up for the biggest challenges and is conveniently built with an oversized adjustment dial for easy handling when things get wild. The deep V-spool has been crafted with increased backing capacity in mind for handling those tremendous runs when fighting big fish. If you need something for either fresh or salt water that has some particularly high line capacity, then definitely check this one out. If you need to make the switch, this reel will convert over to a right handed retrieve easily. Redington offers a lifetime warranty on this model — testament to the manufacturer’s confidence in the construction of this reel. All in all, this is a mean reel for fighting mean fish that is built mindfully for ease of use and years of fishing.
Price: $59.95 – $129.99
- Exceptionally powerful drag system and high line capacity for fighting fish that just run and run
- Lifetime warranty!
- Oversized drag knob for making easy adjustments
- Excellent choice for targeting trout to tarpon depending on the size you choose — truly a versatile reel
- This reel should hold up to corrosion quite nicely based on the materials employed in its construction
- Some complaints about the dimensions of extra spools being slightly off — fortunately Redington has great customer service
6. Maxcatch Toro (3wt — 8wt)
Here’s another killer value reel that’s well worth the cost. Maxcatch was kind enough to send me out a sample of this unit to fish with, and I gotta say I’m impressed. For the cost, this unit would make an excellent spare reel, but you’ll likely end up using this piece of hardware more than you expect. I tried pairing the 5/6wt with one of my better fly rods and really enjoy fishing with the combo. The weight, balance and overall feel this model provides absolutely surpasses what you would expect in a $70 reel. The corrosion resistant CNC machined aluminum alloy is tough as nails — the finish on the reel may or may not hold up but the durability of the spool and reel body themselves is quite sound. There’s no wiggle in the unit at all after a good bit of fishing which is also always a great sign of sound craftsmenship. Other fishermen reviews agree this is a reel that can take a beating — there’s plenty of anglers who claim they’ve dropped their Toro onto solid ground without issue. The drag system is nothing particularly special — but it works well and it works reliably. It’s a Teflon disc and stainless steel drag system with a one way clutch bearing, so if you use this reel in the saltwater make sure to rinse it out very thoroughly. Although a sealed drag is always preferred, Maxcatch has built this reel with a more than adequate drag system that certainly won’t let you down. Furthermore, Maxcatch has added a clicker to the drag adjustment rather than leaving it silent — it’s a simple feature, but I for one really appreciate both feeling and hearing where my drag is set. The adjustment knob itself is also nice and large for easy handling while fighting line peeling fish. This is a large arbor design, and I can attest that this reel picks up line rapidly. It’s got a smooth retrieve that feels much more like a superior quality product than like a cheapo fly fishing reel. This unit will also switch over from right to left handed retrieve quite easily — the machined, knurled metal screw caps cooperate easy enough. Over all, this is no doubt one of the better buys on this list. Maxcatch has absolutely come up with one of the best value reels under $100 with this one.
Price: $69.00 – $79.00 (sale prices available on select sizes and colors)
- No doubt one of the best value reels at this price range
- Machined aluminum alloy body is very durable, this is one you can beat up on
- Drag adjustment clicks audibly and is easy to locate when fighting fish
- Easy to transfer from right to left handed retrieve
- Due to this reel’s tough build and better than average performance for the price, this could be the perfect spare reel to have kicking around in your tackle box or vest
- Metallic finish has kind of a cheap looking appearance
- The drag is not sealed, rinse this reel well after saltwater use
7. Maxcatch Avid (5 wt — 10 wt)
Here’s another unit from Maxcatch I find to be a great buy. All five color options have an awesome look, and the design of the frame itself is both sleek and tough. This reel is rated very well by anglers for having a smooth retrieve. Its made of NCN-machined 6061-T6 aluminum alloy, so this reel is designed for high impact durability. The machined aluminum also holds up to corrosion fairly well. The Avid is a mid-arbor design — it’s got a good balance between backing capacity and rapid line pickup. The Teflon disc and stainless steel drag system employs a one way clutch bearing for immediate drag engagement. The Teflon/stainless steel drag systems are definitely not my favorite, but this model is none the less reviewed for having good drag performance. My experience with the Toro’s drag system also by Maxcatch (see reel #6) was definitely a good one. As far as the capabilities of this type of drag system goes, Maxcatch is doing it right. Another solid back up reel or novice unit at a great price.
Price: $53.99 — $69.99 & FREE Shipping (up to 35 percent off MSRP)
- Includes a one year warranty
- Easy switch from left to right hand retrieve
- Pretty tough finish on this reel — it should hold up nicely long term
- Drag is not sealed
8. Piscifun Sword (3 wt — 10 wt)
This is likely the most popular model reel offered by Piscifun. I find the appearance of this reel quite attractive, and there’s even several color options to choose from. The Sword employs a multi-disc cork and stainless steel drag system that uses a one way clutch bearing. It’s a precise drag system that boasts impressively smooth and immediate engagement for such a budget reel. The Sword has a click drag and a silent retrieve. It’s a mid arbor design that’s meant to reduce line memory and provide quick line pick up. The Sword is made from machined aluminum alloy and built to take a beating. It’s a lightweight reel that’s built exceptionally strong for its price tag. Piscifun includes a three year warranty on this reel so you can purchase in confidence without concern of receiving a faulty reel. When buying an economic fly reel it’s absolutely a wise move to buy with a warranty — reels like the Sword perform wonderfully but definitely have potential to be faulty. Shop smart and ensure you’re taken care of if an issue arises.
Price: $49.85 — $74.85 & FREE Shipping (up to 23 percent off MSRP)
- Includes a 3 yea warranty
- Attractive, machined look with an array of color options to choose from
- Cold forged and tempered for some pretty serious durability
- The drag is not sealed — make sure to maintenance this reel after saltwater use
9. Waterworks-Lamson Liquid Fly Reel (3/4 wt — 9/10 wt)
This one’s a bit pricier than the other options on this list, but it’s a high quality reel at a mid quality price so we wanted to turn you onto it. The Lamson Liquid is a rugged, pressure-cast aluminum reel that is built with CNC-machined drag system components. It’s the best of both worlds! The fully sealed conical drag system is built with the same parts as Lamson’s top shelf reels. It’s a $100 — $200 reel with the same drag system as their $400+ models! Lamson even offers some extra spools for this model depending on what size you buy — that’s a dam good value. This is a high performing reel absolutely worth owning for a wide array of fishing scenarios. If you’ve got the money to spring for this one than you’re looking at a high quality reel you will own for years!
Price: $94.25 – $199.95
- Conical drag system is sealed….this unit is built to last
- Holds up fine to saltwater as long as you give it a rinse afterwards
- Drag system is built with the same components as Lamson’s high end reels
- Can purchase aftermarket sleeves and customize the color of the internal drag housing
- Has a very basic, modest look to it. Some may prefer this appearance
10. Orvis Clearwater Large Arbor (4 wt — 6 wt)
Orvis has come up with a pretty nice unit here. The Clearwater is a cast aluminum large arbor reel. It employs a rulon to stainless steel, stacked disc drag that has some pretty serious strength. Rulon plastics are renowned for their low friction and abrasion resistance so the materials employed in the design have no doubt been mindfully chosen for optimum performance. There’s a positive click drag knob for maintaining consistent settings so your reel never strays from where you want it to be. I personally think the clicker on this reel has an awesome, classic sound that I could listen to all day. This is a lightweight reel, so if you’re looking for something that provides some powerhouse strength that can also be paired with a lighter rod, definitely consider the Clearwater. Switching from left to right hand retrieve is easily completed, making this a great extra reel for friends. As an intermediate level reel, the Clearwater is a smooth and affordable option that comes at an excellent value.
Price: $89.00 & FREE Shipping
- Lightweight reel great for pairing with dainty rods
- Construction is unique and built to take a beating — this is a good knock around reel
- No extra spools available
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