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November 11, 2013

Top Offshore Spinning Reels

We covered 20 spinning reels designed to catch you giants.

A Reel Drag

Offshore spinners must have smooth and powerful drags to handle the speed and strength of today’s offshore quarry. Fortunately, most oversize spinning reels are pushing 40 to 55 pounds of drag. With any fish pulling more than 30 pounds of pressure, you’ll likely have to grasp your rod with a death grip.

The Shimano Stella 20000 SW has a maximum drag of 55.1 pounds. Does that mean the reel can lift a 55-pound weight from the ground?

“In theory, yes,” says Gant. “We measure drag with the line [directly from] the reel, attach it to a scale, and pull. So if the reel can pull 55 pounds, then it should hold a 55-pound weight.”

Gant says “in theory” because other factors affect drag. “I haven’t tried [that kind of test], but it sounds fun,” he quipped.

Understand that variables such as the line flowing against rod guides add drag. Lifting a fish up through the water column and lifting a heavy weight on land are completely different animals — water displacement and buoyancy help anglers bring fish to the boat.

So even if you can lift 50 pounds off the ground, it doesn’t mean you should treat your offshore setup like a crane.

Bail on Your Bails?

Spinners without bails — like those from Van Staal or ZeeBaaS — might seem intimidating, or even awkward at first. From the day you start fishing, you’re taught how to flip the bail open before casting.

But Chris Littau, director of marketing at Zebco, explains that there are several advantages to bailless reels. While not necessary for every fishing scenario, bailless reels are worth a look. The simple design is durable and less likely to fail, and there’s no wire to bend or springs to break.

“Once you learn how to use it, it is actually easier than fumbling with a bail,” says Littau. “This is great when fishing in the dark or in the surf.”

So it’s not surprising that bailless reels are popular with surf fishermen in the Northeast who target striped bass and bluefish — especially anglers who cast heavy metals or plugs.

“There’s no possibility of a ­premature ‘trip,’” says Littau. “That’s when a bail slams closed while casting.” Plenty of expensive lures are lost that way each year.

Live-Baiting Success

For anglers who live-bait fish ­extensively, numerous manufacturers now produce reels capable of live-lining. Called by a number of different names, the technique allows a hooked baitfish to swim away from the boat with the reel in free-spool. 

Once a fish takes the bait, turning the handle engages the reel; the angler never has to open or close the bail, except for casting. You’ll never have to use that homemade copper wire “hook” trick again! Spinning reels with this feature usually incorporate a dual drag system — one to add tension during free-spool and a standard drag to fight fish. 

Popular spinners with this feature include the Penn Spinfisher V Live Liner, Shimano Baitrunner OC, Daiwa Opus Plus Bite N’ Run, Fin-Nor Sportfisher Bait Teaser, Quantum Cabo PTs Bait Teaser and Okuma Cedros Baitfeeder.