5 Best Centerpin Reels Of 2024

Centerpin reels for float fishing

As a Centerpin guide for the last 22 years, I have used dozens of Centerpin reels that performed well and were fun to use. I have also used some Centerpin reels that were poorly made, had problems, and made it difficult for my clients to learn on.

The best Centerpin reels are ones that fit your budget, have a good reputation, and are made by companies with good customer service. The best Centerpin reels are the Raven Centerpin reels, the Islander Centerpin reels, the KingPin Centerpin reels, and the Okuma Centerpin reels.

There are many other great reels, but you can’t go wrong with reels from these companies. These reels are widely used and loved by steelhead and trout anglers around the great lakes and on the west coast.

Best Centerpin Reels Of 2023

I will explain why I picked these reels below.

Testing Centerpin Reels

I have probably tried around 30 different Centerpin reels, ranging from mass-produced centeripn reels to custom one-of-a-kind centerpin reels. I even owned over 13 different Centerpin reels at once. I even sold some to of the best reel in my fishing tackle store.

What Makes A Good Centerpin Reel?

How put a Centerpin reel -This image shows proper placement of the reel
The Kingpin Zeppelin Centerpin reel is one of the best reels on the market and is a great reel is you want a high end Centerpin combo.

There are a few things that you want to consider before buying a Centerpin reel.

Before you buy your Centerpin reel you will want to take a few of these things into consideration.

  • Handle placement
  • handle type
  • bearing versus bushings
  • spool diameter
  • reel weight
  • the gap between the spool and the base
  • the sturdiness of the spool
  • the price
  • reel start-up
  • and the look of the reel

I’ll discuss a bit more about each of these below.

5 Best Centerpin Reels

These are the five best Centerpin Reels that you should consider when buying your next Centerpin reel. Each one of these reels has been used by me and other top guides and river anglers.

Raven Centerpin Reel Fully Ported Review
Raven Matrix fully Ported Centerpin Reel

Guides Choice

Raven Matrix Centerpin Reel Review.

I have been using and guiding with the Raven Matrix Fully Ported Centerpin Reels for the last six years now and I have four of them that i have tested extensively on hundreds of guide trips.

This is an incredibly smooth and lightweight reel and it’s a pleasure to fish with, and my clients love it.

I would consider this float reel to be the best all-around reel for just about any river, and it comes with an affordable price.

The Raven MXRFPT model is the reel that I use and is the reel that I most recommend to my clients and friends.

Kingpin Zeppelin Centerpin Reel
Kingpin Zeppelin Centerpin Reel

Best High End Reel

Kingpin Zeppelin Centerpin Reel Review

Some of my clients and friends have brought this reel out for me to try and it is one of the nicest float reels that I have used. Kingpin has a huge following with Centerpin anglers for good reason.

The Kingpin Zeppelin Centerpin Reel provides the smoothest casts compared to others on the market today.

I would consider this float reel to be the best High-End float reel under $800.00.

It comes in a bunch of really cool looking colors too.

Islander Steelheader Centerpin Reel
Islander Steelheader Centerpin Reel

Most Popular

Islander Steelheader Centerpin Reel Review

I have called this the workhorse of float reels for years because this reel is solid and durable and keeps on going even after I have landed thousands of steelhead on it.

Many veteran Centerpin anglers would agree.

It’s heavier than some other reels, but that’s what some guys like about it. It feels solid, and some say they like the heavier spool for reeling in the line better.

Kingpin Zodiac Centerpin Reel
Kingpin Zodiac Centerpin Reel

Super High End

Kingpin Zodiac Centerpin Reel

This is one of the nicest Centerpin reels on the planet, and it’s the top-of-the-line from Kingpin.

It is incredibly smooth, lightweight, has a great start-up, and it casts great and it also looks good.

If you want a very high-end reel that is above the rest, check this reel out.

Sheffield Centerpin Reels
Okuma Sheffield Centerpin Reels

Best Economy Reel

Sheffield Centerpin Reel Review

This may be an economy reel, but that doesn’t mean it’s not any good. I guided with three of these for many years and have caught hundreds of steelhead on it.

When I owned my tackle store I put six different brands of Centerpin Reels on the counter and spun them all and this one spun longer than Centerpin reels in the $500 to $700 range.

So, for the price, it’s a pretty darn good Centerpin reel that will do the same job as most higher end reels.

Cheap Centerpin Reels – My Warning

Now I was thinking about recommending the Okuma Aventa Centerpin reel as the best economy Centerpin reel becuase i have also used it many times, and have had many clients use it, so I know it’s a good reel for those anglers on a very tight budget, but for the extra $30.00 I think the Sheffield is well worth it.

It is the lowest-priced centerpin reel that I would recommend because when you start getting into reels cheaper than this, you start having problems.

I have guided clients that showed up at the river with reels in the $100 to $150 and under price range and almost all were crap!

Some felt clunky, some had rough edges, some didn’t spin smoothly, and some had a gap between the spool and the base so big that the line kept getting stuck behind and in the gears which damaged the line and even caused fish to be lost. Don’t be fooled by the knock-offs and junk you might find online.

Do yourself a favor and avoid the hassles of cheap no-name Centerpin reels and even some of the cheaper brand-name Centerpin reels that sell under $150.00.

Bearings Versus Bushings

Some of my clients have brought out custom Centerpin reels with bushings instead of bearings, and I spent half the morning trying to figure out what was wrong with the reel before I was told that it was a bushing reel.

For half of the day, he ended up spinning the reel with one hand to keep it moving in the slower water, before he finally switched over to one of my Centerpin reels so he could get good enough drifts and to start catching some fish.

Bushings are not as smooth as bearings, they don’t spin as easily, and although some anglers on some talk forums recommend Centerpin reels with bushings, I do not recommend them, especially in slower rivers.

The idea and the reason some anglers recommend bushing reels is that they think bushings are better in bigger fast water because bushing help slow the spool and the line down, which then helps control the float speed, which is very important.

However, I’d rather have a reel that spins super easy in slow water and then use my fingers to control the speed in faster water.

Guys, there is a reason why all the best Centerpin reel brands use super high-quality bearings that spin very easily.

For more on the importance of speed control, check my page Controlling Your Speed For More Fish When Float Fishing.

Centerpin Reel Sizes

Centerpin reels have different spool sizes and some guys prefer a larger diameter reel and some guys like the smaller diameter reels. You may see a reel listed as a 4 1/4″ spool or 5″ or some might even say it’s an XL.

The upside to a larger diameter reel is that when you reel the line in it comes in faster. This is nice if you are making very long drifts and have to reel a lot, or when a steelhead is coming right at you fast, and you need to take up the slack as quickly as possible.

The downside to a larger reel is that it may make the reel slightly heavier.

Centerpin Reel Handle Placement

Something many guys don’t consider is the handle placement on a Centerpin reel.

Most guys find it easier to reel with a handle closer to the outside rim of the Centerpin spool.

Centerpin Reels
Three reels with different handles and a different handle placement.

Handles that are closer to the outer rim of the spool might be better than handles that are closer to the middle of the spool for line uptake.

Handles that are very close to the outside edge of the spool require a different grip, so when fighting the fish and the fish is running fast, you need to make sure the handles are not hitting your fingers which can prevent that smooth drag pressure you need and it might cause more break-offs.

Centerpin Reel Handles

There are many different types of Centerpin reel handles with some of them better than others. The handle should be able to spin freely, provide a good grip, and feel good on the fingers.

Cheap reels won’t have the best handles and some may squeak or break, but the more expensive reels will use high-quality handles that last and will have fewer problems.

Centerpin Reel Looks

There are some really pretty-looking Centerpin reels out there and many different colors and designs. There are also some pretty plain-looking reels.

To be honest, the look of the reel has little to no effect on the performance of the reel or how many fish you will catch. The look of the reel is nothing more than esthetics.

Centerpin Reel Build Is Important

Centerpin Reel Gap
The gap between the spool and the base should be small. A good quality reel will have a tight gap.

The gap between the spool and the base of the reel should be very small. This ensures that the line won’t get stuck behind the spool.

Unfortunately, I have seen this happen even on reels over $1000 dollars but quality reels coming from well-known brands tend to do it less than the cheap reels.

You also want to make sure the reel you get has a snug fit on the center post that the reel sits on so that there is no excessive play or wobble in the spool. This means the spool doesn’t shake, move, or rattle if you shake it.

Good quality reels will have a firm-fitting spool that is smooth.

Centerpin Reel Weight

Fully Ported Centerpin Reel
An example of a lightweight fully ported Centerpin reel from Raven Tackle

Some Centerpin reels are ported, meaning much of the metal is left out and the reels have many holes or spokes instead of being solid in the spool and in the back frame of the reel.

The more open a Centerpin reel is, the lighter it should be.

Reels like the Islander, which is not ported, will be heavier when compared to reels like the Raven T4, which is very light in comparison.

For some guys, they like the super-light feel of the reel, which is less fatigue for the wrists.

For others, they like that solid feel of the weight and some also suggest a heavy spool that is not ported spins faster if you use the spin retrieve.

Custom Centerpin Reels Versus Brand Name Reels

I’m not going to say that custom reels are better or worse than big brands like Raven, Kingpin, or Islander reels, but I am cautious about recommended custom reels and reels from small companies.

The problem with custom reels is that you could be getting a beautiful custom one of a kind and very expensive reel, which is great, but what happens if that guy making it out of his garage or workshop disappears in a year or two or decides not to answer his emails or phone calls or becomes sick or dies and you need a repair or a replacement part?

If you need repairs or parts for that custom reel you may be out of luck. I have seen this happen with custom rods, so be careful if you are considering a custom centerpin reel.

The bigger brands are a safer bet. They sell lots of reels, they have good customer service and support, and they probably aren’t going out of business anytime soon, so I always recommend brand name Centerpin reels for that reason.

Centerpin Reel Price

I have used $100 dollar Centerpin reels and some reels that were over $1400.00 dollars.

To be honest with you, as long as the reel does what it’s supposed to do without any problems, I can catch just as many fish on a $180.00 Sheffield reel as I could on a $1400.00 Kingpin or custom reel.

I have said this a thousand times now, it’s not the reel that catches fish, it’s the guy using it. You’re skill with the reel matters more than whether you have a $200 dollar reel in your hand or a $1000 dollar reel in your hand.

Centerpin Reel Startup

Centerpin reel startup refers to how easy and how smooth the reel starts to spin once the float and the line starts getting pulled by the current.

A Centerpin reel with high-quality smooth bearings will start up smoother and easier than a Centerpin reel with bushings or low-quality bearings.

In my opinion, most Centerpin Reels at or above $175 will have bearings good enough for an easy startup, so despite what some brands claim it’s usually not a big difference.

Do Centerpin Reels Have A Left Or Right Hand?

Centerpin Reels Left Hand or Right Hand
Centerpin reels can be used for right hand or left hand. Just put the line on so that it goes on and off the bottom of the reel.

Centerpin reels do not come in left-hand or right-hand retrieves, they work both ways so when you buy your reel don’t go looking for a left-hand or a right-hand reel.

Centerpin reels go both ways since they have no drag which means to reel with your left hand, you just put the handle on the left side, and to reel with your right hand, you simply put the handle on the right side.

The only caveat is to make sure you put the line on properly from the start and to be sure the line comes off the bottom of the reel. You should also reel with your non-dominant hand. Meaning, if you are right handed you should reel with your left hand, I explain why in my article How To Put a Centerpin Reel On.

On that page, I also provide tips on how to secure a Centerpin reel properly on a sliding rings rod and where you should put the reel for maximum performance.

If you happen to purchase a Centerpin reel that has a drag system built-in (yes there are a few of them – see my page 23 Best Float Fishing Reels Of 2022: Buyers Guide), you will need to follow the instructions by the manufacturer to change it from left to right.

Best Float Fishing Line

A very important part of your Centerpin reel in the line that you use! A $1000 dollar reel won’t work so well if you have the wrong line on it.

Some lines are just not that good for float fishing and for Centerpin reels. Make sure that you check out my post on the Best Float Fishing Lines where I tell you what lines I use and recommend to all my clients.

I also provide advice on setting up your reel properly which will help you with your casting, controlling your float, and fighting fish.

Now that you have your reel don’t forget to check out my page on the Best Float Rods.

Centerpin Reels
My Centerpin reels rigged up and waiting for the next guide trip.

Centerpin Fishing For Beginners

If you are new to Centerpin fishing or even if you have been trying it for years I provide great step-by-step information and some advanced advice on Centerpin fishing on my Centerpin Fishing For Beginners: 20 Steps From A Top Guide.

On the Centerpin Fishing For Beginners page, I provide you with the four most critical things that I tell all my clients, and that all Centerpin anglers must know to maximize the amount of fish they catch.

If you have a question, a comment, or a tip regarding the best Centerpin reels or float fishing reels just ask in the comments section below and I will give you an honest answer.

Tight Lines


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


    1. Hi Jim, Centerpin reels that do not have a drag system, (which is 99% of the reels on the market), don’t have a left or right, they go both ways. Therefore, you simply put the reel on the rod side that you feel most comfortable reeling with and then you put the line on accordingly. The line should go on and off the reel from the bottom as seen in the pictures. A tip I give to all new Centerpin anglers and new anglers is to use your dominant hand for holding the rod, setting the hook, and fighting the fish, and for working the rim of the reel throughout the drift, and then use your non-dominant hand (I call it the dumb hand) to reel with. Anglers learning to fish with any type of rod and reel will struggle more if they try to make the dumb hand work the rod, set the hook, and fight big fish, so don’t make it harder than it needs to be and just teach the dumb hand how to reel and let your strong and coordinated hand do all the important stuff. The only time I suggest otherwise is if you’re an old dog who has been reeling for many years with their dominant hand and you are already used to holding the rod, fighting the fish, and setting the hook with your dumb hand.

        1. Hi Mike,

          If you think all a centerpin reel is good for is to hold the line, you really don’t understand centerpin fishing. There is a reason why a great angler with a Centerpin reel will almost always catch more than a great angler with a spinning reel or a baitcast reel. And, it has nothing to do with holding line.


  1. I am new to centerpin fishing i baught the lamiglass centerspin 11-3 with a spinning reel and raven Line 6lbs
    Raven 2.2gr float for rainbow, brown and ouananiche ( landlock salmon).and i have good sucess
    Fishing river in eastern township, Québec
    Magog river (50 feet ), massawippi river (30 feet), Coaticook river (20 feet)
    Do the raven helix 4.5 reel is a good choice or you have something else to suggest me
    Thank you for this very good site
    You help me a lot

  2. my question is the difference in bearings. Some models have abec 5 or abec 7 and even abec 9. how would you rate these bearings ?

    1. Honestly, I’ve never really compared the three side by side. I’ve always grabbed a reel and fished it to see how it felt and performed under eel fishing conditions.

      I look at how it feels in hand, start-up, and continuous spin, and if i’m lucky how it performs fighting some big fish.

      I’d bet 90 percent of guys won’t be able to tell the difference between the 3 and neither will you.

      In some cases with the exception of start up, a real that spins too easily can spin too fast which can be a problem. It means you need to keep slowing it down even more during the drift. It’s the reason some guys swear by bushings in faster heavy flows, it’s less work controlling the speed with a slower bushing reel.


  3. Hi Graham,
    I do free drifting, with a spinning reel and 6-8 Test no float just strait cluster eggs.
    I catch a lot of fish back spooling which is not always good since my reel is in reverse and I don’t always have positive direct pull when setting the hook. Also the line wants to coil some times!

    My questions
    is a center pin reel going to allow me to throw my bait as far as a spinning reel
    and what would you consider the retrieve ratio of a fully spooled 4.5 inch reel.

    Thanks for your consideration


    1. Hi Gene,

      The Centerpin is not really designed for drift fishing. It’s meant to be fished downriver with a float, not up river without a float. However, you might be able to make it work.

      Your casting distance will depend on your casting skill and the amount of weight on the line.

      I’m guessing the line ratio is 1:1, i’m not sure since I don’t think Centerpin reels are rated by retrieve ratio.


  4. Hello, I just bought a new Okuma raw -11 1002 center pin reel. I also bought a lamiglas 12 ft. Rod. I need help trying to learn how to cast this Rod. I have been practicing casting but not doing to well.Please help , thanks

    1. I teach my clients how to do the side cast and can have them casting fairly well in about 20 minutes. It’s the easiest cast to learn so that you can then focus on learning how to catch fish. And when you are good at catching fish, consider trying the Wallace cast, or just stick with the side cast and if the line starts to twist, just add a micro swivel above the float for a few drifts.

      See the cast on Youtube at this link. https://youtu.be/tLProkxUpm0?si=j5Tm2e55gEC4Vr8s

      Good luck.


  5. Hi Graham,
    I am interested in a guided trip for steelhead trip in fall 2024. Could you please let me know if you have any availability?