There’s only one way to honestly compare the year’s new fishing reels and find out which are truly worth your hard-earned cash. And that’s to get as many as possible all in one place and put them through their paces. That place, last fall, was my garage. After unpacking and spooling 41 new reels for 2017, fishing editor Joe Cermele and I began our work of casting, cranking, dismantling, and punishing each one—both off the water and on—for F&S’s annual test. After tallying the scores, we thinned the herd to the top 10 finishers in both spinning and casting. Of those, we recognized the standouts for casting ability, build quality, value, and overall performance.
KEY: GR = gear ratio • IPT = inches per handle turn • MD = max drag • TB = total bearings
THE WINNERS: SPINNING
 Best of the Test: Shimano Stradic CI4+ 2500
This updated version of the popular Stradic CI4 is more advanced and significantly lighter than the original. The 2500 model we tested came in at just 6.7 ounces. Shimano shaved the weight by using a Magnumlite rotor, which also improves retrieval performance and line lay. The reel packs seven bearings, making for an incredibly smooth retrieve, aided by a knob material that feels great. The Stradic CI4+ had the most responsive drag of any reel we tested, and aesthetics and ergonomics were spot on. Bottom line: If you’re after the best new spinning reel for 2017, this is it.
 Best Build: Daiwa BG 3000
Daiwa went all out to make the BG indestructible, and we noticed. The 3000 size that we tested is capable of handling inshore saltwater species, and three smaller models have freshwater anglers covered. Both the body and the side cover are made of Daiwa’s Hard Bodyz material, a black anodized aluminum that’s supertough and lightweight. The BG 3000 also has a waterproof drag system, adding to its durability over time. With seven ball bearings, it’s decently smooth on the retrieve, it casts well, and it does all of this for around $100, which is a solid bargain.
 Best Caster: One3 Creed GT 2000
Most spinning reels achieve similar distances in our casting test, but there’s always one or two that blow the competition away. This year it was the Creed GT. Whatever subtleties lie in its spool shape and design to make it a bomb caster are working—overtime. A smaller company under the umbrella of the now well-known 13 Fishing, One3 and its first line of reels launched at last summer’s ICAST show, where they created a lot of buzz. The Creed GT 2000 failed to stack up in the drag and power tests, but if you want a sharp-looking reel with supreme casting ability, look no further.
 Best Value: Lew’s SSG Speed Spin Series 300
Nothing about this reel indicates that it costs $50. Well built with a solid feel, it looks sharp enough to go on your favorite rod. The SSG Speed Spin has a rugged graphite body and side plate, and a graphite skeletal rotor. A slightly oversize knob handle is constructed with Lew’s Custom SoftTouch, which makes it comfortable and easy to control. The reel casts a mile, and what it lacks in smooth retrieval, it makes up for in all other departments. Cermele and I agreed that it performed well above its price tag and was the clear winner for Best Value.
TOP 10 SPINNING REELS
$230 | Specs: 6.0:1 GR • 35 IPT • 20-lb. MD • 7 TB
Another killer spinning reel from Shimano—shines in every category.
$130 | Specs: 5.0:1 GR • 24.8 IPT • 13-lb. MD • 9 TB
High-end reel at a midlevel price. Well built and powerful.
$110 | Specs: 5.6:1 GR • 37.4 IPT • 15.4-lb. MD • 7 TB
A brute of a reel, incredibly powerful and built like a truck.
$80 | Specs: 6.2:1 GR • 35 IPT • 12-lb. MD • 10 TB
Stellar quality and a long caster for the price.
$200 | Specs: 7.0:1 GR • 40 IPT • 11-lb. MD • 10 TB
One of the smoothest retrieves in the test and a top caster as well.
$80 | Specs: 6.2:1 GR • 32 IPT • MD n/a • 10 TB
Great caster. We loved the Winn Grips.
$100 | Specs: 5.0:1 GR • 29 IPT • 20-lb. MD • 5 TB
Decent overall performance and a sweet retrieve.
$50 | Specs: 6.2:1 GR • 32 IPT • MD n/a • 10 TB
Performed better than some three times its price.
$50 | Specs: 5.1:1 GR • 29 IPT • 14-lb. MD • 7 TB
Didn’t light it up in any one test, but good overall performance for the price.
$90 | Specs: 6.2:1 GR • IPT n/a • 11-lb. MD • 11 TB
Fell a little short in a few categories, but the best caster of the bunch.
THE WINNERS: CASTING
 Best of the Test: Abu Garcia Revo MGXtreme
Abu Garcia’s new Revo MGXtreme puts high-end construction and flawless performance into an ultralight package that’s unmatched for all-day casting. With its one-piece magnesium alloy frame, it tips the scales at a feathery 4.5 ounces. When you pick it up, you can’t believe how light it is. The tiny but powerful package is perfect for casting light lures long distances. With 12 pounds of drag, this won’t be your go-to reel for flipping or pitching, but it will excel at virtually every other freshwater application and won’t tire you out in the process.
 Best of the Test (Tie) and Best Caster: Shimano Metanium MGL 150HG
Just like last year, we have a tie for top baitcaster. Initially, I found the Metanium’s flashy silver finish a bit jarring. But while testing it, Cermele and I both noted a level of quality we hadn’t seen before. The Metanium’s 11 ball bearings make every function smooth, and the Hagane Body provides a featherlight, yet rigid, feel. The Magnumlite spool delivers a flawless retrieve and enhances casting distance so much that, for the first time, a Best of the Test reel also grabbed Best Caster honors.
 Best Build: Okuma Komodo SS 364
This turned out to be the year of the tie, but we have to give credit where credit is due. Okuma’s upgrade on its popular Komodo is a beast. We tested the smallest model and it still destroyed our power test along with packing 25 pounds of drag. It is rigid and well built and leaves no doubt that it can hold up under a heavy load. The biggest surprise might have been how well it cast for a workhorse reel. Cermele and I agreed that the 364 could take on any lunker largemouth or even stripers in the salt. Just imagine what the larger models can tackle.
 Best Build (Tie): 13 Fishing Concept A3 8.1
Small and light enough for bass fishing but with the guts to handle saltwater monsters, the Concept A3 is a tank. Its maker, 13 Fishing, constructed it with hardened brass gears that are stronger and thicker than those you’ll find on comparable reels. The result is a baitcaster that overperformed in our power test and has the strongest drag of any reel we evaluated. Yes, the retrieve could have been a little smoother, but this is not going to be your finesse reel. The oversize cork handles are comfortable and give you added control and torque.
 Best Value: Pflueger President XT
A lightweight, attractive design that both looks and feels good in your hand, the President XT has a 7.3:1 gear ratio that retrieves an impressive 31 inches per handle turn—and does so fairly smoothly for the price. In terms of ergonomics and appeal, Cermele and I were both big fans of the reel’s sleek profile and comfortable cork knobs. Although it did underperform in the power test, it was a great caster with a smooth drag. With its solid performance in several categories and its $80 price tag, the XT easily took our Best Value category.
TOP 10 CASTING REELS
$500 | Specs: 8.0:1 GR • 32 IPT • 12-lb. MD • 11 TB
Insanely light and smooth. There’s nothing else like it.
$420 | Specs: 7.4:1 GR • 31 IPT • 11-lb. MD • 11 TB
Best of the Test and Best Caster: enough said.
$220 | Specs: 6.4:1 GR • 31 IPT • 25-lb. MD • 7 TB
This reel feels like it could survive a nuclear war and keep catching fish.
$130 | Specs: 6.3:1 GR • 26.3 IPT • 13.2-lb. MD • 8 TB
A long caster with one of the smoothest retrieves of any we tested.
$250 | Specs: 6.4:1 GR • 25 IPT • 17-lb. MD • 9 TB
A top contender for best caster and best build. Great reel at a fair price.
$225 | Specs: 8.1:1 GR • 37 IPT • 30-plus-lb. MD • 7 TB
You could stop small tuna or tarpon with this drag. Built to last.
$100 | Specs: 6.3:1 GR • 26 IPT • 11-lb. MD • 5 TB
Solid overall performance and very reasonably priced.
Team Lew’s Custom Pro Speed Spool SLP 1H
$260 | Specs: 6.8:1 GR • 27 IPT • 14-lb. MD • 11 TB
Solid reel, but we expected more for the cost.
$80 | Specs: 7.3:1 GR • 31 IPT • 12-lb. MD • 9 TB
This is an absolute killer value. Lots of good features at this price.
Quantum Vapor PT 100HPT
$150 | Specs: 7.0:1 GR • 27 IPT • 18-lb. MD • 11 TB
Bomb caster, but it came up a little light in the other categories.
Each of the following categories was worth up to 20 points, for a maximum total score of 100.
Casting: We spooled the reels to capacity, the spinning models with 8-pound Berkley ProSpec monofilament and the baitcasters with 14-pound Berkley Vanish fluorocarbon. Then, using 1/4-ounce weights for the former and 1-ounce weights for the latter, Cermele and I made and measured several casts with each, switching reels out so they were on identical rods.
Power: Using a heavy saltwater stick and 80-pound braid, we deadlifted a 5-pound weight to see how easily the reel pulled the weight off the ground (or failed to do so).
Drag: Taking max power into consideration, we tested smoothness and engagement by ripping line off as fast and hard as we could.
Retrieve: We tested for ease of retrieve, fluidity, line stacking, and noise via lots of casts and cranks.
Construction: We thoroughly inspected each reel inside and out to assess build quality, ergonomics, and fit and finish. —M.M.