A top of the line fishing reel in today’s market can run you over $500, which does very little to fight the perception that bass fishing is becoming a rich man’s sport. However, like boats, fishfinders, and lots of other fishing products, there is still quality to be found amongst the “cheap” options if you know where to look.
There are lots of articles out there with some variation of the title “Ten Best Fishing Reels Under $100,” and while options are nice, that doesn’t do a lot to help you decide. Most market-leading reel companies don’t sell that many reels under $100, so a big list of them doesn’t narrow anything down. I’m here to narrow it down, with one recommendation for a baitcaster and a spinning reel of the budget variety.
Baitcaster: Abu Garcia Max series
The Abu Garcia Max series of reels recently got an overhaul, and while I haven’t had the chance to try the newest models, the older models set the bar for what a bargain reel should be. As someone who has owned almost every Abu Garcia baitcasting reel, I love almost everything I’ve bought from them, but the products that have impressed me the most are the Max series reels, mostly because of how far above their weight class they punch and for how long. They cast extremely well, and I’ve caught more 5+ pound bass on a Pro Max than any other reel. They’re also incredibly resilient for “cheap” equipment. My SilverMax is now six years old and has outlived some of the REVOs I’ve owned. You won’t get the buttery smooth feel out of the box or the fancy EVA foam handle that you might with more expensive baitcasters, but these reels have it where it counts.
See the full line of Abu Garcia Max Series reels here
- LIGHTWEIGHT CONSTRUCTION: The frame and sideplates of the Abu Garcia Max Pro Baitcast Reel are made from graphite and the spool is machined aluminum, keeping this Baitcast reel strong and lightweight at 7.4 oz.
- RECOVERY RATE: Recover 25” | 64cm of line for every turn of the crank. Gear ratio of 6.4:1. Made with the Duragear brass gear to extend your reel's life.
- BRAKE SYSTEM: The MagTrax brake system gives you consistent brake pressure throughout your cast. Left handle position. The compact bent handle and star, recessed reel foot and large co-molded soft touch knobs are ergonomically designed.
- DRAG SPECS: Synthetic Star Drag, Max: 15lb | 6.8kg. The Power Disk drag system gives you smooth drag performance. The flipping switch allows you to let out more line with only 1 hand. Your free hand can then take care of other tasks.
- LINE CAPACITY: Mono Capacity yd/lb: 150/10 120/12 85/17. Braid Capacity: 155/20 120/30 80/50. 5 stainless steel ball bearings plus 1 instant anti-reverse bearing provides smooth operation for any fishing experience.
Spinning Reel: Penn Fierce
At only $70, you will not find a spinning reel that offers more value than the Penn Fierce. It is indestructible. You can drive over it with a small tank and it would probably still work. It’s technically a saltwater reel, but is more of an inshore smaller tackle reel, meaning it’s well-suited for bass fishing too. It’s a little heavy and it doesn’t have an anti-reverse, but those are the only real downsides, neither of which should matter that much. Its drag system is smooth, which is incredibly important for a spinning reel, and it’s a high-performance reel that will last an eternity for a very affordable price.
- FULL METAL BODY AND SIDEPLATE: The PENN Fierce III Spinning Reel is made with sturdy all-aluminum composition, featuring a forged and machined aluminum spool with Line Capacity Rings. Right/left handle position.
- TECHNO-BALANCED ROTOR FOR SMOOTH RETRIEVES: Recovers at the rate of 37” | 94cm with every turn of the crank. Gear ratio of 6.2:1.
- 5 TOTAL BEARINGS: The Fierce III features 4 stainless steel ball bearings plus 1 instant anti-reverse bearing to provide smooth operation for any saltwater fishing experience.
- HT-100 FRONT DRAG SYSTEM: built with carbon fiber washers for a max drag of 15lb | 6.8kg, this system will handle big fish without wearing you down.
- EQUIPPED WITH SUPERLINE SPOOL to securely attach slick, braided line. Heavy-duty aluminum bail wire aids with precision casts. Mono Capacity yd/lb: 270/8 220/10 165/12. Braid Capacity 360/15 260/20 185/30.