The Best Ultralight Spinning Reels

best ultralight fishing reels 2020

If you are in a hurry and just want to find out which is the best ultralight spinning reel, then we recommend the Shimano Stradic Ci4+ FB1000 as the one ultralight reel you’d want to own.

Ultralight reels – also known as micro spinning reels or even just light spinning reels – are becoming more popular as ever increasing numbers of anglers look for lighter tackle for precision casting or to target smaller species such as trout or crappie.

Other anglers love ultralight spinning reels because – when paired with the right rod and spooled with light braidthey are effortless to cast with for the longest of fishing sessions.

Our top pick

Shimano Stradic Ci4+

A superbly balanced lightweight spinning real of impeccable quality. Our favourite option.

Best value pick

Shimano Sedona FI

A great ultralight reel at an extraordinary price. One third the price of competing reels but still offering great performance.

Best ultralight spinning reels: reviewed

In this article we are going to review what we consider the five best ultralight reels on the market today:

Choosing an ultralight spinning reel: facts and figures


Shimano Stradic Ci4FB1000Daiwa Ballistic LT 1000DAbu Garcia Revo2SX10 Spinning Okuma Helios HSX-30Shimano Sedona SE1000FI
Weight5.6oz (160g)5.8 (165g)7.2oz (205g)7.1oz (202g)7.6oz (215g)
Max drag (kg)7lb (3kg)11lb (5kg)10lb (4.5kg)13lb (6kg)7lb (3kg)
Gear ratio5:15.2:16.2:15:15:1
Bearings6+16+18+18+13+1
Line Capacity200 yards (183m) of 5lb (2kg)110 yards (100m) of 3lb (1.5kg)150 yards (140m) of 6lb (3kg)220 yards (200m) of 6lb (3kg) 15lb braid, 85 yards
FeaturesG-Free Body, Magnumlite Rotor, Hagane gears, CoreProtect
Aluminimum spool
Magsealed gears, Digigear II drive, Automatic Tournament Drag, Zaion carbon resin bodyMoulded carbon body, Carbon Matrix hybrid drag systemC-40X carbon frame and sideplates and Cyclonic Flow RotorHagane gears, Cross Carbon Drag, G-Free Body
Stainless steel ball bearings
Warranty10 years5 years1 year5 year1 year
Affordability****************

Best ultralight spinning reels: full reviews

Shimano Stradic Ci4+ FB1000

With its distinctive red cold-forged aluminium spool and carbon fiber body, the Stradic Ci4 is not only the most attractive of the reels in this category, it’s also one of the best

While we love its look, the light weight of just 5.6oz, when paired with a decent ultralight rod, makes it a breeze to cast with all day.

A super smooth drive, decent line capacity and retrieve rate, make the Stradic one of the best ultralight spinning reels ever invented in our eyes.

The extra investment over and above all reels bar the Daiwa Ballistic is well worth it in our view if you can afford it.

Please note though, this is a real finesse reel and may not suit those looking for a crossover option to light tackle applications as opposed to ultralight. For those looking for something a little bigger but still a finesse reel, the Stradic Ci4+ FB2500 weighs in at just 6.9oz (190g) and is a great ultralight reel in it’s own right.

Daiwa Ballistic LT1000D

Fans hail it the smoothest winding reel they’ve owned and it’s also a pleasure to cast with. The Daiwa Ballistic, with its carbon fiber housing, is the second lightest (to the Stradic) in our review, but boasts decent stopping power with 11lb of drag.

A clear second choice for us, this is a good high-end reel. Daiwa fans will not be disappointed.

Abu Garcia REVO2SX10 

Well regarded by fans for its smooth drag system and gearing, the Revo from Sweden’s Abu Garcia is a worthy competitor to the two Japanese reels. It’s also impressively rigid thanks to the carbon body, which ensures it remains light. Not as a light as the Stradic or the Ballistic, but light enough to be truly regarded as a genuine ultralight reel. With a 6.2:1 gear ratio, the Revo caters well for those needing a fast retrieve. Fans insist this reel stacks up alongside higher-end competitors.

Okuma Helios HSX-30

Taiwanese reelmaker Okuma is achieving a reputation for turning out some quality reels. The HSX-30, at 7.2oz, is a step up size wise from the Stradic and the Ballistic and you need to factor that in when choosing a rod to balance it with.

The Helios does everything well – line lay is great and it casts and winds perfectly well and friends who’ve had these reels report they are strong and tough and still going strong after consistent use in salt water thanks to the stainless steel ball bearings and other key components. A great combination of quality and value.

Shimano Sedona SE1000FI

At almost a third the price of its more expensive competitors, the Sedona is proof you can get a decent ultralight option for a reasonable price and ultralight fishing is not just a hobby for the comparatively well heeled. Shimano has installed the Hagane gears in Sedona. At 7.6oz, and without a carbon fibre body, it is the heaviest reel in this comparison, but paired with the right rod, it’s still going to be nice and comfortable to cast with all day. Critics of the Sedona report the bail action can be a bit tight. And the decision to remove the anti-reverse spool switch in favour of an automatic anti-spooling clutch in recent models hasn’t pleased everyone. Still, for the price, the Sedona is the clear winner for value for money. Check here for our full review of the Shimano Sedona.

RELATED POSTS: Shimano Sienna reviewShimano Sedona reviewBest baitcasting reels

Ultralight Spinning Reel Buyer’s Guide

My Shimano Stradic Ci4+ in 2500 size. Ultralight reel perfection

What is an ultralight spinning reel?

Shimano Stradic ultralight close up spooled braid

It is wise to consider what constitutes an this reel. There is no fixed definition of an “ultralight” spinning reel. And to make matters more confusing different manufacturers have different sizings. For our purposes, though, a spinning reel qualifies as ultralight if it weighs less than 10oz (xxx g). This usually means sizes 1000, 2000 and 2500 in most common brands.

Why use an ultralight spinning reel?

Shimano Stradic ultralight close up spooled braid

To put it simply – to catch more fish! These reels will balance beautifully with a light 4-6lb rated rod and particularly when spooled with 4lb or 6lb braid will cast light lures long distances with wonderful accuracy. This means you’re putting your lure in the strike zone more often and for more time and using a setup that’s not going to spook the fish. 

What rod to use with an ultralight spinning reel?

Shimano Stradic ultralight close up spooled braid

The first thing to consider is what rod the reel will be paired with. Personally I use a 6 foot 2-4 lb rated rod with my ultralight reels as this gives the best feel. But you could easily pair an ultralight reel with a 2-6lb rated ultralight rod or similar lightweight spinning reel.

Materials used to build the reel

Shimano Stradic ultralight close up spooled braid

Modern spinning reels use a range of materials from high grade aluminium to carbon fibre and silicon carbide, zaion and titanium.
The purpose of using these space age materials usually comes down to three things – strength-to-weight ratio, corrosion resistance and wear resistance.
Some of these materials are important in reel design, although they obviously add to the cost.

Drag range and type

Shimano Stradic ultralight close up spooled braid

All ultralight reels have a conventional front drag system adjustable by turning the rotor on the front of the spool. The drag’s maximum rating is the maximum weight at which it can still “lock” – ie release no line. All these reels have the conventional anti-reverse switch, with the exception of the Sedona, which uses an anti-reverse clutch instead.

Best line for ultralight reels (and capacity)

An important consideration for ultralight fishing, particularly if using straight mono instead of braid with a mono leader, is the capacity of the spool. If you need 150 yards or more of line, make sure that it will fit on the spool. Reel spools come rated with a storage capacity for both braid and mono.

Number of bearings

Shimano Stradic ultralight close up spooled braid

More the better up to a point. In today’s world, the bare minimum for ball bearings in an ultralight reel is three, but higher end models will have six or even eight ball bearings. More doesn’t always mean better as the quality of the ball-bearing used is also a factor, particularly once a reel gets some use and a few immersions in salt water. Manufacturers tend to list the number of ball bearings as 3+1 or 6+1. So what does that mean? It means three ball bearings (or six) and one roller bearing. A roller bearing uses cylindrical rolls in place of spherical balls and usually supports the pinion gear in a spinning reel. This great video explains this

Ultra light spinning reel gear ratio

We tend to to favour a high gear ratio for ultralight reels. There are a couple of reasons for this – it gives you the ability to crank fast for certain retrieves, and it can help you scoot your lure out of harm’s way if you are casting into structure and you overshoot or the current flow is pulling it towards a tree or jetty pylon or other hazard. This is more common than you might imagine as the beauty of ultralight spinning tackle is it allows you to get up close and personal with the very kind of structure where big fish live! The other reason we err on the high side is that the kind of fish we are targeting with ultralight spinning gear aren’t big enough to warrant the extra cranking power of a lower gear ratio. All these reels have a 5:1 gear ratio with the exception of the Abu Garcia, which has a slightly higher 6.2:1 gear ratio.

Price

Of course price is a factor – it’s why we chose a good spread of pricing for the reels in our review. Rather than discuss price in detail, we’ve opted to provide five reels here across a range of price points that we know will perform for our readers and give them years of good use.

Corrosion resistant ultralight spinning reels

The more corrosion resistant the materials used in your ultralight reel, the greater its longevity the most advanced reels on this list use some truly space age materials drawn from the aviation industry for both their lightness and their corrosion resistant designs. Stainless steel and brass components are standard for their resistance to rust. All these reels – as you’d expect feature stainless steel ball bearings for example This video explains the crucial role that maintenance plays in keeping your reel running smoothly.

Best ultralight spinning reel for crappie

Crappie can weigh between 1/2 to 4 pounds making them an ideal target for ultralight gear.
The Shimano Stradic Ci4+ in 1000 size is a great choice for crappie fishing, Paired with an ultralight rod it will provide great sport provided you don’t need to throw heavy jigs for crappie in your area.

Best ultralight spinning reel for trout

These reels are perfect for trout. You often need to cast light lures and use very light lines in targeting this sometimes spooky fish. Trout can get up to 10lb or more of course, so it is best not to go in undergunned. We’d recommend the Stradic Ci4+ (like my one pictured here!) as one of the best ultralight reels for targeting trout.

Can bass be caught with an ultralight spinning reel?

Ultralight bass fishing is becoming popular and it is a fun way to target America’s favourite sport fish, especially when you are using small lures. If the bass you are targeting are large or live in heavy structure, then conventional baitcasting or spinning gear is probably a better bet. But if you are chasing smallmouth bass or largemouth in an area where you can let them run a bit, then ultralight gear will work. Having a good drag is paramount – again we’d recommend the Shimano Stradic Ci4+.

When is it better to go with a standard spinning reel?

For fish that can really pull. There are essentially two limits to ultralight reels – there is an upper limit to how tight you can set the drag, so larger or more powerful fish are going to be able to pull line even with the drag fully locked. In situations with structure, that’s going to cost you fish.

The second limitation is in spool capacity – the smaller spool of an ultralight holds less line. Most anglers that fish ultralight will use braid, both the overcome this and for the castability and feel it offers. But even with light and thin braid, you aren’t going to be able to put much more than 150 yards on your reel, so again – a powerful fish is going to be a chance to spool you.

Tips for using ultralight spinning reels

Only two key tips, and they applies to all spinning reels, not just ultralight reels:

  • If using braid, be sure to line the spool with some nylon first to stop the braid slipping on the reel
  • If using fine braid, you sometimes want to pad out the spool out with a reasonable length of nylon to ensure that once you’ve added your braid the line is close to the edge of the spool to assist with smooth and powerful casting

For the right knots to use here for these connections, check out our article on the seven best fishing knots for any angling situation.

Author

  • Rick Wallace is a passionate angler and fly fisher whose work has appeared in fishing publications including FlyLife. He is a regular on fly fishing podcasts and appeared in the international fly fishing film Predator.

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