When it comes to Muskie fishing it takes skill and the right equipment to come away with a successful catch. Probably the most essential piece of Muskie fishing equipment is the Muskie reel. Muskies are known to be some of the largest freshwater fish, with records of Muskies being close to a whopping 70 lbs having been caught before. It is for this reason that ensuring you only use a high-quality, premium Muskie reel is important. Because of the large size of the Musky, the reels tend to endure a lot of wear and tear, so investing in a reel that can withstand the pressures of Musky fishing is vital. Read our Muskie Reel Buying Guide below to learn how to pick the proper musky reel best suited for your needs.
Once you have determined which Muskie rod best fits your needs, then it is important to find a reel that fits cohesively with the parameters of your chosen Muskie rod. A Muskie reel that does not fit could lead to tangled lines, broken reels, and a whole heap of frustration. When buying a Muskie reel, there are a few important components to consider.
- Determine if a baitcasting reel or a spinning reel is best for you.
- Get line capacity of at least 150 yards of 80-pound test.
- Determine if a left or right handed reel is best for you.
- Take the gear ratio of the reel into consideration.
- Stainless steel ball bearings will offer greater durability than brass.
- Aluminum frames and parts will generally offer greater durability than graphite.
- Price & warranty are always a consideration.
- Shopping online will offer the greatest selection and usually the lowest price.
Types of Muskie Reels
There are typically two type of reels that anglers choose to use when Muskie fishing: Baitcasting and Spinning. Both reels have their particular uses, so choosing between the two depends on various factors, such as skill level, weight of fish, and preferred mechanisms.
Baitcasting Reels – When dealing with tackle or lures that are heavy in weight, baitcasting reels are generally the go-to reel. Baitcasting reels tend to be used by the more experienced anglers because it requires the knowledge of exerting just enough inertia to move the spool of the reel, but not so much that it results in a mass of tangles. Baitcasting reels are typically preferred over spinning reels for Muskie fishing.
Spinning Reels – Spinning reels are the most commonly used reels and are a favorite among novice anglers because of how easy they are to use and maneuver. Constructed by a fixed spool placed underneath the fishing rod, the spinning reel works by the weight of the tackle, bait, or lure bringing out the fishing line. Spinning reels are often used by anglers who are looking to catch small or medium sized fish. Most muskie anglers do not use spinning reels for muskie fishing.
Line capacity of a Muskie reel is important in ensuring that you can promote peak performance when engaging in a Muskie fishing excursion. A line weight of under 25 pounds could result in breakage or fraying. Considering the average weight of a Muskie fluctuates from 15-36 pounds, it is better to be safe than sorry when buying a Muskie reel. When it comes to Muskie fishing the preferred line capacity for the Muskie reel should be at least 150 yards of at least 80 pound test line.
Left or Right-Handed
Most baitcasting reels are configured so the handle is placed on the right side. This means the rod will be switched to the left-side after a right handed cast, then will be used by the right hand to crank the reel. Although right-handed reels are still the most common reels seen, left-handed reels are being used more often, even by right-handed people. When using a left-handed reel, a right-handed person would cast with their right hand, and reel in the line with their left. This means that a right-handed caster would not have to switch hands during the process, making it more streamlined.
Spinning reels tend to be more versatile with the ability to switch the handle from either side, but anglers tend to use their left hand with spinning reels. This is because less power is needed for the lighter lures that are typically used on spinning reels, the less dominant hand can be used when reeling in the fish.
All in all, for Muskie fishing it is all about choosing which hand works best for the personal methods you employ when casting and reeling.
Gear ratio helps in determining how fast you want to move your bait. When determining what gear ratio works for you, it is important to analyze the characteristics of the fish that the angler is trying to catch. In this case since Muskies are the intended catch, it means that they are going to be heavier and larger, and Muskies are also known to pull more than the average fish, which means the ideal gear ratios for Muskie reels would be in the mid to lower end of the gear ratio spectrum. You want a gear ratio that has a high amount of torque that allows anglers to put less effort in getting the bait back and more effort in finding a rare Muskie.
Fishing reels which have a gear ratio of 5.5:1 to 6.3:1 are faster retrieving reels. If an angler needed more cranking power, they would select a reel with a lower gear ratio, such as 3.1:1 to 4.1:1. These numbers may seem confusing at first, but they are really simple to understand. The first two numbers you see are the gear ratio while the last number indicates the number of turns of the fishing reel handle. So, the spool of a fishing reel with a 7.1:1 ratio will turn around 7.1 times for every rotation of the reel’s handle. Some of the best musky fishing reels have gear ratios in the 5.1:1 to 5.7:1 range.
The gears of reels are mostly constructed from brass materials, which is way less durable than stainless steel. However because they require far less usage than bearings, the lesser durability in gears is not as detrimental as it would be in bearings. Therefore ensuring the bearings are of high-quality is of the utmost importance when choosing a reel.
Spinning and baitcasting reels typically feature ball bearings or bushings, which are used to increase the smoothness and reliability of the reel. Since bearings are used to reduce the friction between moving parts, the materials of the ball bearings used in the reel play a big part in the performance and speed of the reel. The materials used in the creation of bearings are usually stainless steel or ceramic.
Stainless Steel – Stainless steel bearings are the most common materials used for bearings. Stainless steel bearings are often durable and sturdy, but due to the heat treatment required to strengthen them, they also can fall victim to corrosion, more so than other materials that are used to make bearings, such as ceramic. This is especially true with salt water.
Ceramic – Solid ceramic is much lighter than stainless steel resulting in a much lighter reel, increasing the comfort aspects of the reel. A higher life expectancy than stainless steel is attributed to the characteristics of ceramic and how the material is less susceptible to corrosion or wear. However, these bearings usually result in a much more expensive reel because of the cost of producing ceramic bearings.
Regardless of what materials your reel is made of, it’s important to keep it properly oiled and lubricated with a quality lubricant such as this Angler Pack from Penn Reels.
Reel Housing, Frames, and Spools
The housing, frames, and spools of a reel work together in ensuring that the handling and enactment of your Muskie reel are as high-quality as possible. Aspects such as the material used in the construction and sizing can make all the difference in the way the Muskie reel works.
Housing -The entire housing of the reel are generally made from either aluminum or graphite. Reels that are made from aluminum are stronger than the graphite, but graphite is more corrosion-resistant than aluminum.
Frames – Frames are available in both aluminum and graphite. Graphite frames tend to be less expensive, than their aluminum counterparts, however they are not nearly as durable or sturdy as aluminum frames. Because Muskies tend to cause more abuse to reels, aluminum frames are generally the better option that will last you a lot longer and be a wiser investment in your Muskie fishing endeavors.
Spools – Spools are mostly always constructed from aluminum, but differ in the manufacturing process depending on the quality of the spool. Higher quality spools are created from forged aluminum, which involves the pressing or pounding of the metal. Forged aluminum means that the spool will be lighter-weight, allowing it to move faster and more efficiently than the less expensive spool options. Spools that are less expensive are die-cast, which involves the aluminum being heated until it is molten enough to be forced into a casting mold. The higher quality forged spools serve a better purpose for Muskie fishing because of the physicality involved.
There are many fishing equipment companies that offer various warranties that can cover manufacturing damages for a year and or more. For instance, Shimano offers a one year warranty starting from the date of the purchase that covers repairs to reels if there is damage that occurs to it due to “non-conformity in material or workmanship.” Shakespeare Fishing and Penn Fishing offer similar one-year warranties under the condition that damages are from manufacturing and not due to normal wear and tear. Overall, warranties on musky reels are pretty much on par with most other consumer products, with 1 year being the most typical warranty time frame.
As with most things, price is always an important factor when making a purchase. Keep in mind, however, that when buying a Muskie reel, you are making an investment. Getting a cheaper musky reel could cost time and money due to fraying of the line, damage to the reel, and the loss of possible catches that happen due to the low-quality of the reel. Opting for premium reels made from premium materials means that the Muskie reel will last a lot longer and will result in spending less money in replacement reels. Anglers will find that reels on the higher end of the price point will be made of high-grade aluminum that can last a lifetime with the right care.
For a good quality Musky reel that will last you many years, you should expect to spend between $200-$400. There are some decent muskie reels under $200, and if you only fish a couple of times a year or are just starting out muskie hunting, you would probably do OK with a muskie reel under $200.
If you’re on a really tight budget, check out the best baitcasting reel under $100 that we could find.
Where to Buy
There are a lot of different places to buy muskie fishing reels for sale, both brick and mortar stores and online retailers. Both of these options have their pros and cons that go along with it.
In-Store – Shopping in-store allows the reel to be looked at thoroughly and touched, which permits the buyer to see what they are getting. Shopping in department stores where sales can often happen could sometimes save a lot of money. Proper research and looking at multiple store options can help in making a smart reel purchase.
Online – Shopping online opens up the possibility of having many more options to choose from or even receiving a customized reel that has all of the components of the ideal Muskie reel. Online shopping also opens up the possibility of saving hundreds of dollars on one of the higher end reels by purchasing a lightly used reel from an online marketplace.
Our advice is to do your initial research online, go to a local brick and mortar store to check out a couple of reels in person, then head back home and order it online. We have found Amazon.com to have a large selection of muskie reels, and their prices are often hard to beat.
We hope that you have found this Muskie Reel Buying Guide helpful. Now that you know what to look for in a top quality muskie reel, check out our list of the Top 5 Best Musky Reels For Sale.
Be sure to check out our other useful buying guides.