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Best Spinning Reels for Salmon (For All Budgets)

Best Spinning Reels for Salmon (For All Budgets)

Salmon are big and powerful fish that are found in fast-flowing water with a tough current. To land them, you’ll need the right fishing gear!

Choosing an appropriate spinning reel is crucial for a successful salmon fishing trip. Factors like size, strength, durability, and performance all play a significant role and should not be underestimated. 

But with so many reel brands and models out there, finding the right spinning reel for your fishing needs can be challenging. 

A size 4000 (40) spinning reel is generally the best choice when fishing for salmon. Such reels have a powerful drag system, enough durability, and a sufficient line capacity to battle large salmon in any river. 

If you’re searching for the best spinning reel for salmon and looking for helpful advice on choosing the right type of reel, this article is perfect for you!

QUICK SUMMARY: In this article, I’m reviewing three high-quality, reliable, and affordable steelhead spinning reels that you can find on Amazon. These are the Shimano Vanford, the Penn Battle III, and the Pflueger President XT.

What Is the Best Spinning Reel for Salmon Fishing?

a US angler on a river holding a really big chinook salmon that he has caught with a spinning reel
Courtesy of Lace Baumgartner

So, what makes an excellent salmon spinning reel? What factors are essential and shouldn’t be overlooked?

Well, there are a few things to focus on when it comes to big game fish, as these can make the difference between the salmon experience of a lifetime and an absolute disaster.

You may think I am exaggerating, but I cannot stress the importance of your fishing reel enough. It is probably the most important piece of gear in your arsenal!

So, let’s take a closer look at these factors and discuss why they are so crucial when fishing for salmon.


A spinning reel’s size is critical and basically determines all the other aspects discussed in this article.

Most spinning guys who fish for salmon will go for a size 4000 (40) reel, which is a solid pick for both lake and river fishing.

On smaller rivers with smaller fish, you can definitely get away with a size 3000 (30) spinning reel, but a 4000 reel would still be my preferred choice, as you just never know what you might hook up to!

Some anglers also use 5000 spinning reels for salmon, but that’s definitely too big, heavy, and bulky if you ask me.

They can come in handy when trolling the deep areas of the Great Lakes, but for spinning, drifting, or float fishing, a size 5000 reel is generally too big.

Line Capacity

A reel’s line capacity depends on its size; the larger the reel, the more line it can hold.

For salmon fishing, a mono line of around 15 lbs is generally enough for most situations.

If you’re using braid, you should opt for a line with a 20 to 30-lb test.

Your spinning reel should be able to hold at least 150 yards of such a diameter, so always check the line capacity of the reel you want to buy.

A size 4000 (40) spinning reel usually has a fitting capacity for those line strengths.


As stated above, the type of water you’re targeting also plays a role in determining the size of your salmon fishing reel.

If you’re fishing a small creek with a slow to moderate current, you can use a size 3000 (30) or 3500 (35) spinning reel if the fish aren’t too gigantic.

Most likely, they won’t be able to make very long runs, and you often don’t have to cast very far, either.

For medium to large river systems with moderate to fast currents and medium to large lakes, a size 4000 (40) reel is your best pick!


A spinning reel’s drag system and strength are vital when it comes to salmon fishing!

A weak and unsmooth drag system will cost you plenty of fish, as you won’t be able to stop or control them during their many runs and escape attempts.

On the other hand, a strong and silky drag lets you take complete control over the fight and ensures that you will land any trophy salmon, no matter its size!

A reliable and easy-to-adjust drag system allows you to dictate just how much or how little line the fish can take and helps tire the fish out during the fight.

Both are essential aspects of salmon fishing, as these fish are crazy strong and wild.

RELATED ARTICLE: What Are the Berst Spinning Reels for Steelhead Fishing?


Quality and durability are also vital components of a salmon reel. Naturally, you’ll want to fish with a quality reel that lasts many years.

Salmon are strong fish that often use the current against you, and during the fight, there will be a lot of pressure on your reel. It’ll have to do most of the work to get that fish in!

Additionally, methods like spinning and drifting require plenty of casting and retrieving, so there is even more work to do for your reel.

Therefore, it’s best to go for a high-quality reel. Otherwise, you might have to buy twice!

Thankfully, most reels on today’s market are of very decent quality, even the ones that aren’t on the high-end side of things.


And finally, let’s talk a little about the weight of your spinning reel.

Bigger reels can weigh quite a lot, and if you’re holding your rod and reel in your hands for many hours in a row, your wrists can start to hurt, and you can get some muscle aches.

It’s not a huge factor, but over time, this can become a real issue. So, your reel’s weight and ergonomy should definitely be taken under consideration as well.

Luckily, most modern reel models, even the larger ones, are made of light materials and don’t weigh much anymore.

Now that we have gone through some of the most important aspects of a spinning reel, let’s move on to some of the best salmon reel picks out there!

Top Pick: Shimano Vanford

a close up of a Shimano Vanford 4000 spinning reel

You can never go wrong with a Shimano reel! They make some of the best spinning reels in the world. Period!

The Vanford is one of their newest creations and a fine piece of modern engineering! 

I own a size 1000 and 4000 model myself, and these are, by far, the best spinning reels I’ve ever fished with. 

This reel has an insane performance and is exceptionally lightweight yet super robust and durable. 

It’s the perfect pick when spin fishing for salmon, but it’s also a great choice for float fishing and side drifting. 

The 4000 model is definitely one of the best salmon spinning reels you’ll find! 

This is the only reel I can also recommend in a size 5000 (for those deep lakes), as it’s so compact and lightweight. 

Here are some of the Shimano Vanford’s most important features (size 4000 model):

  • Gear ratio: 6.2:1
  • Bearings: 7+1
  • Mono capacity (lb test/yards): 8/240, 10/200, 12/160
  • Braid capacity (lb test/yards): 15/230, 30/180, 50/120
  • Max. drag: 24lb
  • Weight: 7.6oz

You can check out Shimano’s Awesome Vanford Spinning Reel on Amazon right here

Runner-Up: Penn Battle III

a close up of a Penn Battle III spinning reel

The Penn Battle III is a popular pick among steelhead and salmon anglers. This is a decently priced mid-range spinning reel with great strength, smoothness, and durability. 

The Penn Battle is aptly named, as this reel is a tank of a spinning reel. 

It’s very powerful and super robust, which makes it a great choice for bigger salmon in fast-flowing rivers.

This spinning reel has a deep spool and, hence, a great line capacity. You can spool plenty of mono or braid onto it. 

Again, it’s a solid big fish pick that’s also great for trolling in the Great Lakes.

It’s a little chunky and heavy, though, so most guys prefer it for float fishing or side drifting, but it’s also an okay choice for spin fishing. That’s up to your personal preference, of course!

Here are the Penn Battle’s most essential features (size 4000 model):

  • Gear ratio: 6.2:1
  • Bearings: 5+1
  • Mono capacity (yards/lb test): 270/8 220/10 165/12
  • Braid capacity (yards/lb test): 360/15 260/20 185/30
  • Max. drag: 15lb
  • Weight: 12.2oz

You can find out more about the Penn Battle III Spinning Reel on Amazon here

Budget Pick: Pflueger President XT

a close up of a bunch of Pflueger President spinning reels

Ask anyone, and they’ll tell you that the Pflueger President XT is an excellent budget spinning reel for both steelhead and salmon!

This reel offers a surprising amount of quality and many features for its price range, and it’s a popular choice among anglers with a limited budget.

The Presindet XT is a good choice for both lighter spin fishing and float fishing. 

It’s a great example of a well-made spinning reel that doesn’t break the bank.

However, it has its limitations. While it has an excellent line capacity for a salmon reel, it lacks a little in robustness and durability, making it not the best choice for really big fish or harsh currents.

For rivers with medium currents and smaller to medium-sized salmon, though, this is a perfectly acceptable reel choice.

Here are a few of the Pflueger President’s most important features (size 40 model):

  • Gear ratio: 6.2:1
  •  Bearings: 10
  •  Mono capacity (lb test/yards): 8/285, 10/230, 12/195
  •  Braid capacity (lb test/yards): 10/320, 14/280, 20/200
  •  Max. drag: 14lb
  •  Weight: 10.1oz

You can take a closer look at the Pflueger President XT Spinning Reel on Amazon here

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Featured image courtesy of Chris Blackburn