Having the right size spinning reel makes fishing a lot more enjoyable.
You need a reel that’s balanced with the rod you are using and carries enough line and stopping power for the fish you are chasing.
In this article we go through the different sizing systems for reels and how to select the spinning reel size for the types of fishing you enjoy.
Spinning reel sizes: The Two Systems
Some reels manufacturers (Shimano, Daiwa Penn and others) classify their reels with a sizing system in the 1000s. The smallest reels are size 1000 ultralight reels and they run through to 6000 or so, although there are game reels that go up to 30,000.
The other system of fishing reel sizes (used by Abu Garcia, Pfleuger and others) is essentially the same, but with two less zeros on the end. So small reels are 10,20 or 30, medium 40 and up and so on.
So basically to get the spinning reel size you need to look at the first two digits. For simplicity, in this article we are going to use the Shimano/Daiwa sizing system.
Fishing reel size conversion chart
|Daiwa, Shimano, Penn etc sizing||Abu Garcia, Pfleuger sizing|
Small sized spinning reels (1000 – 3500)
These are small spinning reels ideal for lightweight and ultralight rods in the 6-7 foot range and are well suited for targeting panfish such as crappie and bluegill, trout and potentially walleye and bass in the right situation.
As well as fishing in freshwater, these smaller reels are fine for light coastal and saltwater fishing too in bays, estuaries and harbors. Fishing with reels in the 1000-3500 size range is very enjoyable as these lighter outfits reduce casting fatigue and make the fight more compelling.
Reels in this size range should be spooled with line of between 4lbs and 12lbs as going higher than this means there is less line capacity on the reel (although this isn’t an issue when using braid because you can pack more line on to the reel).
For more thoughts on the best line for spinning reels check out our related post here.
Small to medium spinning reel size chart:
|Reel size||Line test (mono/fluoro)||Target Species|
|1000||4-8lb||Bluegill, crappie, trout|
|2000-2500||6-12lb||Trout, walleye, bass|
|3000-3500||8lb-16lb||Bass, Pike, Catfish|
Medium sized spinning reels (4000 – 5500)
These medium sized spinning reels are suited to rods in the 7-8 foot size range for anglers chasing the larger freshwater fish and some saltwater fishing applications.
These medium fishing reel combos are great for big pike, catfish and muskie on the freshwater side of things and fish such as redfish, snook and snapper when you are saltwater fishing (see the Shimano spinning reels range here).
Medium sized spinning reel chart
|Reel Size||Line test||Target species|
|4000-4500||8lb to 15lb||Pike, Catfish and Muskie; Snook, Redfish and Snapper|
|5000-5500||10lb to 25lb||Pike, Catfish and Muskie; Snook, Redfish and Snapper|
Large sized spinning reels (6000 – 30000)
These are heavy size reels for offshore boat fishing, surf fishing and rock fishing and are typically spooled with line from 15lb up to 60lb or more.
These larger reels can be used to target anything from striped bass, snook, and redfish at the lower end, to pelagic species such tuna and wahoo and even sailfish, tarpon and giant trevally at the other end. Roosterfish, dorado and amberjack are other good targets for these large-size spinning reels.
Large spinning reel size chart:
|Reel size||Line test||Fish type|
|6000-7000||10lb -25lb||Striped bass, roosterfish, snook|
|8000-10,000||15lb – 30lb||Amberjack, roosterfish, dorado, barracuda|
|10,000+||25lb+||Tuna, Sailfish, Sharks, Wahoo, Tarpon|
Spinning reels sizes FAQs
How do you match a spinning reel with a rod?
The first thing to do is consider the rod manufacturer’s ratings. Towards the butt of the rod will be the markings that detail the rod’s length and the strength of line that the manufacturer recommends using with it.
Using that line weight, you can use the tables above to select the right size reel.
By way of an example, let’s say you like rock fishing and surf fishing and your rod has a 10lb to 20lb rating. Well then you’d want to look at a 5000 sized reel to pair properly with your rod.
Let’s say you are into offshore boat fishing for tuna and other heavy fish and your rod rating is 10,000 to 20,000, well your ideal sized reel will be 10,000+.
What is the best size spinning reel for bass fishing?
Personal preference comes into this one. It depends on the type of bass fishing you like to do and the size of bass lures that you like to throw, but anywhere between a 2500 at the lower end (for ultralight bass fishing) and 4000 at the upper end is going to be the prefect reel size for bass fishing.
What is the best size spinning reel for surf fishing?
Surf fishing and other types of saltwater fishing relies on large powerful rods to cast long enough to get out beyond the first row of breakers. With surf fishing you aren’t holding the rod or reel for long periods of time, so our advice is go on the heavier side (5000 or so) paired with a high quality surf fishing rod. Heavy surf fishing reels also get a lot of punishment from the salt spray, so choose a brand that has good durable stainless steel ball bearings.
What is the best size spinning reel for rock fishing?
Similar to surf fishing, rock fishing reels have to be able to withstand salt spray and also some rough treatment such as being dropped on the rocks from time to time. Size wise, a 5000 is a good size if you are expecting to encounter larger fish when rock fishing.
Rember that rock fishing can be dangerous and rock fishing safety should be a primary concern – consider using a PLB if you are fishing on remote rock platforms so you can activate a distress call if you get in trouble.
What size reel for a telescopic fishing rod?
Depending on the fish type, you generally want a small sized spinning reel for your telescopic rod. After all, you are using the collapsible rod for portability so it doesn’t make sense to put a large sized spinning reel on it!
What size spinning reel for kayak fishing?
The right spinning reel size for most kayak fishers would be 2000 or 2500 – it’s small enough to pair well with the lightweight rods needed for kayaks but large enough to stop a wide range of game fish you encounter fishing in lakes and bays. This sized medium fishing reel with a 6-7ft spinning rod is a deadly kayak fishing combo that allows for a reasonable casting distance.