I stopped by Hatteras Jack Tackle Shop in Rodanthe, North Carolina to talk with owner (and distance-casting champion) Ryan White. “There are some exciting new reels on the beach this year,” he said and took me on a tour of his favorite big-game surf tackle.
Long-distance casting reels have several things in common. Most important is the casting brake. These reels use either magnets or centrifugal pads to slow the spool on the cast, reducing the chance of backlashing the line. To further improve casting performance, the best reels use a spool, spindle and high-speed bearings.
Penn Fathom II 15
One of the most popular new surf-fishing reels comes from one of the oldest tackle companies. Penn poured 90 years of experience into its Fathom II 15 ($239.95). The redesigned star-drag reel quickly gained fans with its magnetic casting brake, and stiff aluminum frame and spool. When the reel disengages, the spool floats freely on the spindle. A small dial on the side plate adjusts the magnetic brakes to match casting conditions. Machine-cut gears and a carbon-fiber drag apply the pressure you need to pull big red drum through the breakers.
Daiwa Sealine-X SHA30
This reel has probably caught more big red drum in the surf than any other. Known on the beach as the “Slosh 30,” the reel’s no-nonsense design and reliable performance are still popular for beginners and old salts. The SHA30 uses three shielded ball bearings and a free-floating spool to maintain reliable casting performance. Marine-grade bronze and brass gears along with six stacked drag washers provide the fighting power. When I started drum fishing, I used the reel for years without fail. Like a Kalashnikov rifle, the simple construction and sturdy components keep the Daiwa Sealine-X SHA30 ($139.99) firing in the worst conditions.
When a local reel company collaborates with hardcore drum anglers, the result is Seigler’s SM star-drag, magnetic-brake casting reel ($400). Virginia Beach-based Seigler Reels is located within casting distance of some of the best surf-fishing beaches and most experienced anglers. Designed for long-distance casting competitions, the reel uses the highest-end components for maximum casting distance. Smart design and sturdy construction make the SM one of the most user-friendly reels in the review.