MOST FISH COULD stay out of trouble if they only kept their mouths shut, or so the saying goes. I am not a fish (in spite of what my wife thinks). Sometimes I am inclined to argument, so here’s another fishing-tackle “best” declaration that will probably raise some hackles from Atlanta to Anchorage:

The world’s best fishing reel is the Abu Garcia 6000-series wide-spool baitcaster (, which comes in a variety of slightly different versions. I’m basing this selection on a combination of value, performance, versatility, and ease of maintenance. No other reel comes close–especially now that the series has been newly updated with a superior drag system.

No, this is not a bass reel. It’s a little too big for most bass casting. But know that in spite of all the attention they receive, bass fishermen are a minority among anglers, both nationally and globally. For the rest of the world, the wide-spool Abus are ideal for everything from walleyes and pike to steelhead, stripers, and more.

The Price Is Right
YOU CAN GET the base version–a 6500C3–for about $80. The reel has stamped-metal side plates and isn’t elegantly machined from solid aluminum like the similar-size Shimano Calcutta CTE-400, for example, but it costs almost $250 less. I’ve never had any durability issues with the Abus. And unlike most precision-made, high-end baitcasters, the Abu 6000s are extremely easy to take apart, clean, and maintain.

Walleye anglers can spool a 6500C3 right out of the box with fine-diameter braid or lead-core line for trolling. I use a similar lead-core setup on the same reel in trolling for landlocked salmon and lake trout in the Northeast. For precision trolling, there’s even a line-counter version of the same reel, the 6500LC ($110).

Steelheaders can set up a Trophy Series reel, the 6500TC ($110), with 12-pound mono for drift fishing or casting from shore or a boat. It has more than enough line capacity to handle the hottest fish. This version adds more ball bearings plus a power handle, which is easier to grab when you’re fishing with cold-weather gloves.

Surf casters, including Great Lakes jetty anglers, might use some of the foregoing but can also choose a new 6600EXT ($180) that adds an exceptionally effective magnetic cast control. This reel, coupled with a lightweight reel oil (included), is designed for distance casting. Reaching out with backlash-free casts of 100 to 150 yards, whether in the striper surf or in a tailwater for big catfish, is relatively simple for experienced casters, as long as the reel is well tuned and the rest of your tackle is matched appropriately.

The Need for Speed
THE BASIC 6500C3 weighs 11.3 ounces, has a 5.3:1 gear ratio, and holds 245 yards of 14-pound mono. That almost sounds like a description of some kid’s souped-up street rod, which is an apt analogy. Like small-block Chevy V-8 engines, these reels are mechanically simple, with many factory and aftermarket parts interchangeable among the versions. They’re a favorite of speed tuners.

Say you’d like a different retrieve ratio. It’s very easy to buy and install a set of 3.8:1 gears (for power) or 6.3:1 gears (for speed). For more casting distance, there’s a wide variety of upgraded spool-bearing options, and even magnetic cast controls that require replacement of the reel’s left side plate. For parts and conversions, visit Abu Garcia’s service department ( or Hatteras Jack (

Taken to an extreme, 6000-series reel modifications can give record results. North Carolina caster Tommy Farmer set a North American distance mark this spring of 826 feet with one such reel, casting a 150-gram (5.3-ounce) weight.

For mere mortals, the easiest way to get increased performance from your new Abu is simply to clean it. New reels come lubed with grease, the high viscosity of which slows the reel. Take the reel apart and clean away the grease with solvent. When you reassemble the parts, use a lightweight oil on the bearings and levelwind and a very small dab of grease on the gears and elsewhere as needed.

With most baitcasters, lighter-weight oil–such as a 5-weight watch oil–will speed up the reel, giving greater distance while requiring more precise casting control. A thicker oil, such as 30-weight motor oil, will slow the reel down, making it easier to control but at the expense of casting distance.