Field & Stream Online Editors
Field & Stream Online Editors

** 1 Scientific Anglers/System 2LA **
The 2LA sports a time-tested, heavy-duty disc drag with carbon-fiber pads that can easily turn determined trout and bass. It is well balanced, has a comfortable flat reel handle, and is anodized for saltwater use-and abuse. About $215. 800-430-5000;

** 2 Redington/Crosswater **
The Crosswater defies the old adage that “you get what you pay for.” Part with just $30 and you’ll own a graphite reel with a smooth adjustable disc drag and a spool that removes with one touch. It can be converted to right- or left-hand retrieve in a snap and handles bass, trout, and small saltwater species equally well. Need we say more? 800-253-2538;

** 3 Hardy/Baby Bougle**
If you’re still searching for a Hardy Bougle reel (only 77 were made), we’ve found the next best thing-a replica that outshines the original. This version is made from machined aluminum and has a classic click pawl drag. Want one? Don’t wait long-they’re only making 1,000. About $315. 607-756-2851;

** 4 Abel/Super Series **
One of the finest big-game reels on the planet, the Super Series is meticulously machined from a solid block of high-grade aluminum and has a silky cork drag. It’s doubtful you-or a greyhounding marlin-can destroy this reel, but there’s a lifetime guarantee just in case. About $650. 805-484-8789;

** 5 L.L. Bean/Meridien II **
Known for its legendary toughness and simplicity, the Meridien was revised this year with a composite Teflon disc drag. It still has a powder-coated finish and needle bearings for a smooth transition to the drag when the big one hits. About $90. 800-441-5713;

** 6 Ross/Evolution 3 **
The Evolution is part of the new generation of large arbors from Ross. A superlightweight reel, it has no springs and four pawls that virtually eliminate drag meltdown. (In other words, losing a big fish is entirely your fault.) About $300. 970-249-1212;