Musky reels need to be able to take excess strain and use. A musky will take off hard and fast when hooked and the wrong tackle will make you lose the fish. Reels need twenty pounds of drag or no less than 15-18 lbs for budget models. They have to withstand repeated casting with heavy lures or live bait. Then the 50-80 pound test line is another factor to consider, does the reel hold enough?
In other words, few reels will fit the requirements needed for musky fishing. A good bass reel will handle reeling in a musky a few times but not the casting or line capacity. An angler fishing for musky must buy the right tackle. In other words, the wrong reel will be tore up and ruined by the lures, repetitive casts, and the fights from a musky.
Best Musky Reels
There are four quality reels that fit the criteria for musky reels. Every angler wishes there were a few more quality options and some at lower prices. The best is for the avid musky hunter and the rest will work for someone fishing sometimes. Also, spinning reels although not recommended have to be large. Saltwater models of a 5000 size at the least.
A few anglers do have difficulties with the baitcasting models. Spinning reels allow them to enjoy the sport regardless of limitations. Cost should not prevent someone from enjoying the sport. So a few lower-priced models made the list. They are budget-priced and spinning reels with the quality needed musky fishing. The drags, line capacity, and other features make them good for musky also.
The Best Reels
The top two are a tie for the best reel. Anglers debate the two reels on forums and social media. The simple truth is both are exceptional reels for large freshwater fish. Guides use both models and claim durability and performance as second to none. The musky anglers that own one have no complaints except the price. You have to look at one of these reels as an investment in enjoyment, performance, and durability.
The Lexa and Calcutta B 400s come at a little less price-wise but do give up a little in some areas. The Calcutta is a round reel and not the sleek low profile models anglers often desire. The Lexa is a low profile reel considered not to perform quite as well. Although it is definitely good enough for musky fishing. You will not go wrong with any of the top four reels; it is a matter of personal choice.
Abu Garcia Revo Toro Beast
The reel is available in left or right-hand models. It is one of Abu Garcia’s highest quality reels. Two gear ratios allow the angler to pick a speed for their style of fishing. The reel has plenty of line capacity and one of the highest drags on a musky reel. A reel holding 285 yards of 30-pound braid is more than you need. Few anglers cast over 40-50 yards and a hundred yards is competitive length casting.
- Gear ratio; 4.9:1 or 6.2:1
- 5 stainless steel HPCR ball bearings
- 1 stainless steel roller bearing
- Up to 25 lbs. max drag
- Infini dual brake system
- Lube port
The low ratio comes with a power handle while the higher ratio has an extended double paddle handle. The 5+1 stainless steel bearings will hold up against the water and stress. A 25-pound drag can keep any musky under control when set correct. The dual braking system will reduce the dreaded backlashes common on cheaper reels. As a result, this reel keeps you fishing and not contending with backlashes.
The reel comes in two ratios, but the low ratio limits it to the right hand 400 model. A 7.6:1 ratio is ideal for the bucktails and this reel can burn double tens with ease. The lower ratio will do the rest. Line capacity is comparable to the Abu. Although stated lower, it is due to the heavier line specified in the rating. The reel does hold enough line for all purposes an angler needs in a reel.
- 5+1 system with S-ARB stainless steel bearings
- Cross Carbon drag with up to 22 lbs. of drag power
- Gear Ratio; 7.6:1 or 5.8:1
- Single handle with CI4+ handle knob or double handles
- Variable Braking System
- Advanced Coreprotect sealing system
The variable braking is easily adjustable. All the pins can be on for beginners or experienced anglers can use one or two pins. The drag ranges from 18-22 pounds with the high ratio version having a lower drag but it is not an issue. The high ratio models have the power handle compared to the lower ratio with a double handle. The power handle is great at reducing fatigue. Musky fishing is casting and reeling, in other words, the wrong handle will create fatigue
The Lexa has all the features of the previous two reels except for pins in the braking system. It relies on the Daiwa Mag force braking. It is an improvement on standard magnetic brakes but still not quite as effective as pins. An experienced angler will not have a problem. Beginners to baitcasters will likely suffer a few bird nests learning the reel.
- 6+1 bearing system
- Max drag 22lbs on the 300 or 25lbs on the 400
- Mag Force Braking System
- Gear ratio; 7.1:1
- Double paddle handle 300 model
- Power handle 400 model
As a lower-priced reel the Lexa does lack a few features. The single ratio tends to limit the reel to faster presentations. Otherwise the line capacity and drag are a match to the previous reels. If you need to save some money the reel is a good option although it does lack the better braking system. The braking may cause some difficulties with inexperienced anglers not familiar with baitcasters. Since beginners with baitcasting reels will have a learning curve to experience. Although it is normal regardless of the reel.
Shimano Calcutta B
The Calcutta CT400B model is more than adequate for a musky reel and at a modest price. The other models are too big or not enough drag. This one hits the sweet spot with 18 pounds of drag and plenty of line capacity. It is a round reel so not as compact as the low profile reels but will cast well. As the reel comes with the variable braking system using pins.
- Cold-forged aluminum frame, side plates, and spool
- A-RB (Anti-Rust Bearings) 3BB+1RB
- Max drag 18 lbs.
- Gear ratio; 5.0:1
- Right hand only
The one-piece frame is sturdy. As a result, the reel will work for trolling or casting and take the stress. The lower ratio is offset by a larger spool diameter and picks up 24 inches per crank. The 200 model does have a 6.0:1 ratio making it more versatile but only 11 pounds of drag, a little low. The 200 is additionally around two hundred dollars making it a budget offering. I recommend going with the higher drag since an 11-pound drag is in the range for bass fishing tackle.
Best Budget and Spinning Musky Reels
Saving money on a musky reel means sacrificing performance. The following reels are good for musky fishing but lack the sturdiness or ratios of the better reels. Reels in this range of price are the budget offerings as anything less will not hold up. The strength, drag, and line capacity of larger reels increase the cost. You will not get a reel for musky under a hundred dollars.
Musky fishing takes 1000s of casts to catch a fish at times and the reel needs to be able to handle the use. Then the pressure the fish inflicts on the drag and other components are higher. A cheap reel will cost you fish, spending hours to hook one and lose it due to an inferior reel will break your heart. The drags can hang, bearings wear out faster, and quality is lower on cheap reels.
Abu Garcia C3 6500
The Abu Garcia C3 comes in various models but the striper special has a power handle. The handle will make a difference cranking big lures and fish. A C3 6500’s quality is well known, this is not the cheap SX model sold in box stores. This reel is built with higher quality for serious anglers.
- 3 stainless steel bearings + 1 roller bearing
- 6-pin centrifugal brake
- Synchronized levelwind system
- Gear ratio; 5.3:1
- Max drag of 15 pounds
A higher gear ratio than the Calcutta although a little less drag makes it a worthwhile reel. Abu Garcia’s centrifugal braking system works consistently at reducing backlashes. The levelwind system keeps the line spooled even. This is something to consider since not all reels are synchronized levelwind reels. At the low price, you will not find a better reel for musky and big pike.
Spinning Reels for Musky
Spinning reels are thought to be inferior for musky. A reel large enough of good quality will do the job. The reel needs the drag, line capacity, and gear ratios the same as a baitcasting reel. As a result, the spinning reels recommended are 5000 size or larger reels. Smaller reels have insufficient drags and line capacity for bigger fish.
Penn Clash Spinning Reel
Line retrieval at 36 inches per crank makes bucktails possible. A twenty-pound drag coupled with 300 yards of 30-pound braid makes fighting a fish easy. The CLA5000 by Penn has what you need for big fish. Reels in this class are designed for saltwater so it can handle a big musky.
- 8 sealed stainless steel ball bearings
- Sealed Instant Anti-Reverse bearing
- Braid-ready spool requires no backing
- Leveline Oscillation System
- HT-100 carbon fiber drag 20 lbs. max
- Gear ratio: 5.6:1
- Full Metal Body
Plenty of bearing for smoothness and durability inside a full metal body. A braid ready spool that prevents line slipping. Plus an oscillation system to keep the line on the reel right are nice features. Besides, the 5.6:1 gear ratio will keep up with a charging fish. This reel is a gem for someone seeking a spinning reel for musky.
Mitchell 398 Series
The 298, 398, and 498 are all capable reels but the 398 stands out as not too big nor too small. Line retrieval of 36 inches, 24 lbs of drag, and almost 300 yards of 50 lb. braid makes it a serious reel for the money. The reel can hold enough heavier line but is not recommended as a spinning reel bail will not take the pressure.
- 7-stainless-steel-bearing system with instant anti-reverse
- Full metal body and side plate
- Max drag 24.3 Lbs.
- Gear ratio; 4.7:1
- Line capacity markers
- Aluminum spool
All metal construction with stainless steel components inside for strength and durability. A metal spool to handle the pressure of the braided line. Enough bearings to handle loads and feel smooth. All-round out the features of the Mitchell 398 series spinning reel. At a price of about $120 dollars it makes musky fishing affordable.
Shimano Baitrunner OC Spinning Reel
Some anglers choose to use live bait instead of throwing lures. This reel’s baitrunner makes it the choice. The 6000 size has the drag and a line capacity comparable with the other spinning reels. The 245 yards of 30-pound braid is more than enough for live bait fishing.
- XT-7 graphite frame and rotor
- Baitrunner feature for live-bait use
- Oversized power roller on bail
- Cold-forged aluminum spool
- Bearings 3BB+1RB
- Max drag 20 lbs.
The dual drag system allows the fish to run and you to set the hook when it is time. One drag lets the reel free spool with a closed bail. The graphite frame and rotor reduce weight. An aluminum spool and 20 pounds of drag can handle the pressure from a musky. The bearing although fewer will last on a live bait set-up. Plus the oversized roller aids in the smooth retrieving of a big fish. A nice reel in the budget class for live bait musky anglers.
These are a few of the best, budget, and easier to use musky reels available for anglers. Every angler has preferences and a budget. So take the time to think through which reel suits your needs best. The top 3-4 are for serious musky fishing and built for a lot of use. The other fit other needs angler may have in search of a reel for musky. Choose the one you feel comfortable with and fits your fishing habits. Don’t forget to leave money in the budget for a rod.