The best beach casting reels, and how to find yours
Beach casting reels have to put up with a lot. Heavy leads demand a certain calibre of reel, and having good line lay can improve casting distance. The best sea fishing reels are like fricken’ sports cars, but this is not necessary. My aim is to find you a reel that will consistently do what you want it to do. First, let’s refresh your knowledge of the basics, then we’ll go through some of the best fixed spool reels on the market at each price. Then, I’ll go into more depth to help you find the best one for you.
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The best beach casing reels have fine-tuned brass cogs, more saltwater resistance and incredible line lay. Better reels have smooth and powerful drag systems that reduce tension on your line so it doesn’t snap when you hook a big fish. Cheaper reels have drags that release line unevenly, increasing line strain and fighting big fish feels like a struggle.
Key things to know about your next beach casting reel:
- Reel size: getting the right size reel for your rod is important. It’s also handy to have a larger reel for rough ground work and a smaller reel for estuaries or sandy beaches.
- Line recovery: A higher gear ratio means the reel retrieves line faster, but isn’t the most useful way to measure this. A better measurement is ‘line recovery’ – this is how much line comes in with one crank of the handle. A high line recovery is better for distance fishing or rough ground where fish can dive into snags.
- Reputable brands: Look for reels from Penn, Daiwa, Shimano unless you know about a specific reel from an alternative brand. They aren’t the only good options, but are safer bets.
The 7 best fixed spool reels
The following reels are ordered price high to low.
Shimano Ultegra 14000 XTD
Shimano’s Ultregra is a top-end premium beach casting reel that is designed for a very long life and the highest level of reliability. It’s one of the only reels we could forgive for looking so much like a carp reel…
Shimano has this thing called X-protect, which helps reduce water and dirt intrusion into the reel. If you’re as silly with reels as me, you’ll get all kinds of crap in there. This is a handy feature if you fish at surfy marks or areas where the sea breeze has a lot of water to it. These kinds of marks can ruin cheap reels within a season.
The reel also has excellent line lay, which does increase casting distance a surprising amount. It’s got a solid drag, as you’d expect, and comes with a spare pool and a line reducer, so you don’t have to use loads of backing line.
Somehow, the Ultegra weighs in at 540g. It has a maximum drag of 20kg, which is about as elite as you will get in a beach casting reel. Many good multipliers only have max drags of 8kg. One crank of the handle retrieves about 1m of line, which is typical of a beach casting reel. This allows for decent sport with smaller fish but is still powerful enough to handle whatever you throw at it. The Ultegra is a solid choice for anglers looking for a high-performance, reliable reel that can go the years without fail.
Penn Battle III Longcast
The Penn Battle is one hell of a reel. Exceptionally smooth and reliable, with a saltwater-resistant spool that’s been chemically treated. The main body is graphite so it’s not as heavy as you might expect. A safe bet for a long lasting premium reel. We are still testing this reel to assess it’s durability so the verdict is not out from us yet.
The metal handle has no flex – the whole reel feels solid. The round handle is super smooth in your hand, and the reel feels robust and luxuriously smooth overall. The drag is far more powerful than is needed for UK sea fishing. But if you take it on holiday, you might one day be glad of it (if you hook a shark or monster ray…).
Penn Surfblaster 7000/8000
The Penn Surf Blaster III 7000 LCEU is the upgraded version of Penn’s top-selling surf casting reel. It’s a pretty serious reel. Lightweight, robust and saltwater resistant (although I wouldn’t believe that too much; only mag-sealed reels can handle a good dunking). It’s got a shallow aluminium spool and an extra slow oscillation system. A reel from Penn at this price will feel sturdy, solid and much smoother than the vast majority of beach casting reels. Mostly, this makes it nicer to use. But it will also control line lay better, cast further, have a more reliable drag that goes out more evenly, etc.
The Penn Surfcaster also has a spare deep spool. It’s useful to have a couple of spools, one with lighter braid for fishing clean ground and optimal casting distance. The other with a heavier monofilament for very rough ground to minimise line damage on rocks.
The Penn Rival Longcast is a high-end beach casting reel that can handle anything you throw at it. The spool maximises casting distance by freeing the line from the spool with less friction. The graphite reel body has a smooth feel under load, and the aluminium spool is braid-ready and saltwater resistant. The reel has a solid and smooth front drag with a maximum drag of 8kg. This makes it ideal for hauling the biggest fish you’ll likely catch when UK shore fishing.
The T-shaped handle knob and 4:3:1 retrieve are pretty standard. But a reel at this price from PENN has more torque than a cheaper reel, so you can crank the handle against much more resistance. Perfect for pulling congers away from snags! The reel holds half a kilometre of monofilament. Realistically, this actually just means you’re going to need a load of backing line!
The reel weighs 669g. This is perfect for long casting sessions, although few would buy something like this for flinging feathers!
The Daiwa Shorecast is a high-end reel at a reasonable price point. It feels super smooth and robust, and as you can see, it has an excellent line lay. The rugged appearance could have you mistaking it for a Penn reel. Indeed, the experience of using this was similar to that of the Penn Battle beach casting reel.
The reel in the above photo paired well on a 12-14ft rod. Excellent for the price.
Okuma Surf 8K
The Okuma Surf 8k presents itself as a robust product. It can withstand the most challenging conditions we encounter in the UK. These conditions include bumps on rock marks and dropping out of the boot of your car. You might lean your rod against a shop to go in. You get a pasty, pie, sausage roll, or haggis, depending on your location. Then, you might find your rod has slipped, and your reels have hit the curb. A plastic reel with a low build quality might not handle this well. However, the Okuma surf will likely emerge unscathed.
The max drag is 18kg – this is nuts!
It has an 18kg drag – which is insane. Most multipliers used for shore fishing have 8kg drags. That means this thing can be adjusted to take out minimal line when playing huge fish. More often, it will be useful when pulling free of snags!
The reel boasts exceptional line lay and operates smoothly. Okuma has developed a system enabling the reel to dry itself more quickly. Some anglers might not find this particularly useful, but my reels often get dunked, making it a useful feature to reduce inevitable salt damage over time. The reel also has a system to prevent water ingress. However, relying on these systems in reels is unwise!
The reel has a gear ratio of 4:7:1, which is actually not that high. It’s better for playing fish like bass that you don’t need to crank like you would, say, a huss. One turn of the handle retrieves just over 1m of line. It has a gear ratio of 4.7:1. One turn of the handle spins the rotor around your spool 4.7 times.
The reel weighs 763g and is covered by Okuma’s 5-year warranty (check this with the shop you buy from). Overall, a great buy for a very solid beach casting reel.
SONIK SKS 8000 SURF REEL
SONIK produced one of my initial beach casting reels, though I can’t remember its exact size. It served me well as a beginner. This reel is a good budget option for anglers seeking more than just light summer harbour wall fishing. It comes with a metal spool and a large diameter bail wire. The large bail roller and the powerful front drag system provide control and fighting power. The reel has 5+1 ball bearings. However, you can’t always trust this as a quality indicator. Sometimes, companies increase the number without enhancing the reel’s function. The reel offers a smooth retrieve with a 4:6:1 gear ratio.
The oversized soft grip handle knob provides comfort. Veals states that the Songs SKS can hold 220 yards of 20lb monofilament line or 300m of 0.4mm. This beach casting reel is a great budget option, yet it still delivers sufficient performance for casting with serious leads and rigs. If you plan to purchase a budget reel for beach casting, we suggest opting for larger sizes. These handle leads more efficiently. Avoid using a budget reel that’s slightly too small. It could strain more than it can handle with heavier leads. We don’t recommend spending less than the price of the Sonik SKS. It’s probably the cheapest beach casting reel we would suggest. Reels priced below this can struggle with heavier leads. They may also have poor line lay, which can lead to breakages and tangles.
Multipliers are used by experienced anglers who want to up their beach casting game. The main advantages of a multiplier are improved casting accuracy and the ability to use advanced casting techniques. This can increase casting distance. The higher gear ratios mean that more line is retrieved with one crank of the handle than with fixed-spool reels. However, one of the main things to pay attention to is magnetic breaking. This is what prevents the birds nests and line tangles multipliers are notorious for causing.
What is magnetic breaking?
Magnetic breaking: when you cast with a multiplier, your thumb is on the spool and you apply pressure to set the speed you want the spool to spin at. When you apply more pressure, the spool turns more slowly and your rig won’t fly as far. The moment your rig hits the water, it stops taking out line. However, your spool will still be spinning. This can result in birds nests (line tangles) because the line continues to come out of the spool and there’s nowhere for it to go.
Magnetic breaking works by allowing you to manually adjust the speed the spool will spin. This means for instance you can set it to stop spinning so fast before the rig hits the water, thereby reducing the chance of a serious line tangle.
Final thoughts on choosing a fixed spool sea fishing reel
- Match Reel to Fishing Venue: Select a reel based on where you’ll be fishing. For clean beach venues with light lines, choose a shallower spooled model. This means you won’t have to waste loads of backing line or have line in your spool that never gets used. It also makes it easier to notice when line is damaged and needs replacing. For mixed or rough ground requiring heavier, thicker mainline, opt for a deeper spool.
- Spare Spools: Consider models with spare spools or pick up an extra one. Pre-load the spare with line and shockleader in case of break-offs – saving time means more time fishing!
- Line Level: Choose thinner lines for greater casting distance and ensure reels are properly filled to reduce friction during casting. You want a tiny bit of lip on the reel, maybe 3mm. If you have 1cm of lip, your line won’t fly out the spool.
- If you spend more you can cast a bit further: High-quality reels feature slow oscillation. This means your line will be wound onto the spool perfectly evenly, with no gaps. This helps you cast further, as there’s less friction.
- Clutch: High-end reels often have a quick drag system for the clutch, essential for controlling line tension during fights with big fish. Lower-priced reels may have clutches that take more turns to adjust.
- Gearing: Look for reels with hardened gearing for durability, especially when fishing over rough ground. Pulling into snags puts a lot of strain on reels and you want the components to be solid.
Alright then – well that’s about all for the fixed spool beach casting reels. Now what about the multipliers?
The 5 best multipliers
We’ve ordered the multipliers from price high to low.
Penn 525 Mag4
Penn’s latest long beach casting classic is the Mag 525 4. The reel pictured about is the popular mag3. This is an excellent all-round multiplier for beach fishing. It allows experienced casters to reduce the braking mid-cast to get a few extra meters in the cast. This is useful at certain marks, for instance, reaching channels in huge estuaries like the Bristol Channel. It has an adjustable magnetic brake system, a solid stainless steel main and pinion gears and an aluminium spool. The Versa drag system is smooth, and can handle a maximum drag of 9kg. The reel weighs in at 439 grams, which is pretty light for a beach casting reel. Despite this, the reel is strong enough that you can pull hard into snags and know that the reel will hold up to any pressure you put on it.
The retrieve is 6:1:1 and one turn of the handle brings in 29” of line… That’s a lot. Not ideal for the whiting or dab that make up the bulk of British winter catches! But – very useful for bigger fish like huss that can crash dive into the kelp at rough ground marks.
The older version of this reel was my first multiplier. I used it from beaches and estuaries around Cornwall with no trouble. Recommended. It’s got a good legacy for a lot of anglers.
Penn Fathom II 12 SD Mag
The second generation PENN Fathom II star drag reel is an ultra-tough and durable reel built with a rigid metal frame and sideplates. This reel features Penn’s access sideplate, allowing anglers to service their gears and HT-100 drag system quickly and efficiently. This multiplier is casts effortlessly (if you’re used to multipliers) and has a gear ratio that allows for easy winching of fish in deep water. Like other reels at this price point you can adjust the mag knob easily mid-cast. It’s a high performance reel with a bronze main gear and a generally high build quality.
It has a gear ratio of 6:1:1 and holds 405 yards of 15lb monofilament. The max drag is 13.6kg, which is significantly higher than most other beach casting reels on the market. One crank of the handle retrieves 30” of line. This reel is ideal for anglers looking for an advanced reel for flinging heavy rigs with precision.
We only hope that the legacy of these latest versions of the reel will be as impressive as the early PENN reels. A Scottish guide we interviewed told us that he has multipliers on his boat that are several decades old and still working fine. It will be interesting to see if the latest reels from PENN will have that kind of lifespan.
Daiwa Millionaire 7HT
There are three different versions of the Daiwa Millionaire and they come at very different price points. Our understanding is that the cheapest version – the Millionaire 7HT – is just as capable as the more expensive models, but does not come with magnetic breaking. This means that unless you’re an advanced angler, it’s much more likely to get birds nests but otherwise will perform just as well.
Then you have the second version, the Millionaire 7HT MAG. This version is a bit more powerful and has a higher gear ratio. The build quality is probably better, too. However the main difference is the magnetic breaking. This feature makes the reel much less prone to birds nests, so you get the benefits of a multiplier without some of the problems they’re notorious for creating (tangles!). The slight downside of the magnetic breaking is it might not allow for such long casting, because the spool spins more slowly the more you apply it.
The Daiwa Millionaire 7HT Mag reel is a good buy if you want to use a multiplier but want more control over the speed of your spool on the cast so you get far fewer tangles. Boasting Daiwa’s most advanced braking system the Millionaire 7HT Mag sets itself apart from other multiplier reels on the sea fishing market. Its sleek blue and gold cosmetics turn some people on but what matters more is how the thing actually works.
How does it’s magnetic breaking work?
The Magnofuge braking system is an intelligent system that detects the centrifugal force of the spool, allowing it to achieve maximum speed early in the cast and preserve as much of that speed as possible. As the centrifugal force reduces, the Magnofuge makes minute and gradual adjustments to the magnetic resistance, perfectly synchronized with the speed of the spool, resulting in effortless distance casting.
The Millionaire 7HT Mag is also incredibly smooth, thanks to its six ball bearings, including one corrosion-resistant ball bearing. This feature is particularly important for sea fishing reels, as they are often exposed to the corrosive nature of saltwater. If properly maintained the reel should go the decades.
With a gear ratio of 5.8:1, this reel offers a swift retrieve, even in rough conditions with ten buckets of kelp on your line. It’s got some pretty intense cranking power, as you’d expect.
The reel also has a weight of 12.2oz, a line capacity of 300m 15LB, and a gear ratio of 5.8:1. The Daiwa Millionaire 7HT Mag reel is a must-have for any serious angler.
7HT MAG ST
Which is why the third version, and most expensive option, is the Millionaire 7HT MAG ST. This reel has the magnetic breaking, but improvements have been made to it by the Daiwa engineers to allow for further casting while still getting the benefits of the magnetic breaking. We do not know how this new system works and have not yet tested each model to see for ourselves. This reel has the highest build quality of them all and is firmly in the ‘supreme’ end of multiplier reels for shore fishing.
The MAG ST provides the ultra high end of casting performance while managing the trade off between distance and control that cheaper models have to make. If you’re looking to elevate your fishing and casting experience and don’t want the faff of tangles then this might be the multiplier for you. Certainly a luxury option and most anglers will not find it necessary at all for their angling.
The Akios Nitron has two versions: the F-15 and the F-15 XP.
The XP is the newer version and has:
- UPGRADED Akios QUADRO Magnetic Braking System for even greater casting control
- UPGRADED Drag System
- EVA Ball Power Handle
The Akios NITRON F-15XP is a long distance casting multiplier for anglers who want more power than you get with a fixed spool reel. It’s got a 6.2:1 retrieve gear ratio, which is more than enough for any UK shore fishing, even for bigger cod or conger.
Like other reels at this price point the NITRON F-15XP features a good magnetic braking system. This reduces the chance of birds nests. It’s got a serious drag, so bigger fish can tear out line without screwing your reel over. The upgraded braking system is controlled by way of an accessible knob. With the mags wound fully on, the reel ensures overrun-free casting of large baits, while wound fully off, the lightweight spool runs absolutely free, allowing for maximum casting distances.
The NITRON F-15XP features precision-machined brass gearing and a colossal 10x44mm main gear. It’s got a lot of torque. The line capacity is 340m/0.35mm. With a gear ratio of 6.2:1 it has a line recovery of 34.4 inches and a maximum drag of 32lb. The reel weighs in at 440g, making it a powerhouse reel that is lightweight and easy to handle.
If you’re looking for a reel that can handle big baits and big fish, and deliver superior casting distances, the Akios NITRON F-15XP is the reel for you.
Tronix Pro Guerilla – 6500
The Tronixpro Guerrilla Mono Mag reel has both right and left-handed options in a 6500 size. It’s good for a variety of situations, as it has a lower retrieve ratio than some more expensive multipliers, meaning it’s actually more sporting with smaller fish. Realistically, you don’t actually need a very high gear ratio for the majority of British sea fishing.
It has an 8kg star drag and can hold 250m of 0.35mm line. Many multipliers come with deeper spools that hold much more line than that, but when has a fish ever taken out more than a quarter of a kilometre of line for you? You also won’t need to use backing on this reel.
The single magnetic brake design is favoured by much of the tournament casting scene as helps avoid the very worst bird nests but still maximises casting distance. We suspect that the single magnet system might be more of a challenge for a beginner due to there being fewer magnets controlling spool speed. The single magnet system can allow you to cast further because you can fine-tune the speed of your spool without as much of a risk of tangles.
This is an excellent option for the sensible angler that wants to use a multiplier but doesn’t want to sell a kidney. It’s also a useful generalist beach casting reel.
The Daiwa Sealine Slosh multiplier comes in a couple of sizes – the SL20SH and the SL30SH. The second of these is bigger and has a higher line capacity, so is better if you’re going to be use heavier monofilament lines. Anglers fishing rough ground appreciate the tough build of the thing and the 6:1:1 retrieve for pulling conger out of snags.
You can also use the Daiwa Sealine for boat work, like up tiding for powerful rays or tope. The SL20SH has such a cult following amongst sea anglers that they have nicknamed it The SLOSH. With a capacity of 310 yards of 15lb mono, it is perfect for general beach work or for rocky marks with its fast retrieves and great casting.
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