25 Best Float Fishing Reels Of 2024: Buyers Guide

Best float fishing reel buyers guide
Best float fishing reel buyers guide

Running a very busy river guide service has allowed me the opportunity to test dozens of float fishing reels over the last 30 years. I even sold many reels in my fishing tackle store, so I have extensive knowledge of float reels.

A float fishing reel is also known as a Centerpin reel, and the best float fishing reels come from reputable brands like Kingpin, Raven, Okuma, Islander, and a few others. The best float reels will be smooth, lightweight, durable, and come from a company with good customer service.

Float fishing reels are also known as just float reels or Centerpin reels, so you may see me use those terms too in this article.

Best Float Fishing Reels: Quick Picks

I will explain why I picked these reels below.

If you are not sure what reels are best for you, I discuss how to choose the best reels at the bottom of this article.

  • Best reels for all budgets
  • Reel sizes, weights, and porting
  • Custom Reels – My Honest opinion
  • Why trust my reviews over others
  • Why you should avoid cheap reels

The 23 Best Float Fishing Reels

OKUMA Aventa Review

Best Economy Reel

It is a simple, basic economy Centerpin reel that I have used over 100 times with no problems. It’s not perfect, but this is a great reel for the price and a good entry-level Centerpin reel.

This is one of the best reels for float fishing for guys on a budget, and I would recommend it for that reason.

Average Price $189.99 – $214.99


  • Does a good job
  • Price is good
  • Well built for the price
  • Good reputation and good company


  • Handles are cheap (might squeak, get lost or break)
  • The handles are too close to the center
  • Only one color.
Raven Helix Centerpin Review

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Raven Helix Centerpin Reel

The Raven Helix is a simple basic entry-level Centerpin reel from a well-known Centerpin company.

It’s an unusual size at 4.5-inch diameter so not too big and not too small.

Although I like to recommend most of the Raven Centerpin reels, however, I’m not a fan of this one.

If it was only $150 bucks I would probably recommend the Raven Helix, but it’s not, so I would not recommend this float reel simply because I think you can get a better reel for the same price.

Average Price $219.00

Okuma Sheffield S-1002 Review

Best For $220.00

I guided with this float reel for a couple of years and also sold many of these reels in my tackle store. Out of about 100 Sheffield reels sold, only one had a problem in the first two years.

The Okuma Sheffield is one of the best reels for float fishing under $220.00.

Average Price $219.00


  • Smooth reel
  • Price is good
  • Well built for the price
  • Good reputation and good company
  • Comes in black and silver
  • Handles are closer to the rim for faster pick up of line


  • Handles are cheap (they might squeak, loosen and fall off, or break over time)
  • Might soon be replaced by The Okuma Raw II

OKUMA Raw 2 Review

The Okuma Raw 2 is another good float fishing reel under $220 that I have used many times. This is a popular reel with clients and is on par with the Sheffield float reel.

If you are looking for a unique-looking Centerpin reel at this price, then this is one of the best and is a good option.

Average Price $214.99


  • Cool-looking design colors
  • Does a good job
  • Price is good for what you get
  • Well built for the price
  • Good reputation and good company
  • Good handle placement


  • Handles are cheap (might squeak, get lost or break)
  • Only one color
Raven Matrix Review

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Raven Matrix Review

Raven has been my go-to brand for many years and for many reasons, but this isn’t the Raven Centerpin reel that I would buy.

The Raven Matrix is not a bad Centerpin reel, but I find it to be a bit heavy. It also has a few minor issues with the clicker and with the nob that secures the spool.

For a smaller Centerpin reel, the handles are too close to the center as well.

I would not recommend the Raven Matrix Centerpin reel for the simple reason that for slightly less money or for slightly more money, I think you can get a better reel.


Average Price $219.00

Raven Matrix Fully Ported Review
The Raven Matrix Fully Ported

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Raven Matrix Fully Ported Reel Review

Guides Choice

I have owned about 8 of these Centerpin reels over the last few years and these are the reels that I lend to my clients and what I use during my Centerpin fishing classes.

The reason I use and like this Centerpin reel is simple. It’s a great Centerpin reel at an affordable price that most guys handle. The company also has great customer service.

It comes in a 4 3/4 inch, which is what I use, or for bigger rivers. The 5 1/8 size is good for a faster line retrieve.

This is the best float reel for under $300.00, and I highly recommend this reel for anyone looking for a Centerpin reel under $300.00

Average Price $289.00

Okuma Sheffield DRII Review

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Okuma Sheffield DRII Centerpin Disk Drag Reel Review

Best Drag Reel Under $300.00

I have had a few clients come out with this Centerpin reel, and I have used it a few times myself.

This Centerpin reel has a built-in disc drag system, which is great for some of my clients and anglers who have problems applying steady pressure on big fish. It also gets great reviews.

This is one of the best reels for float fishing with a drag system built-in, and I would recommend this Centerpin reel for guys that want the option of a drag.

Average Price $299.00


  • One of few with a built-in drag system
  • Well built for the price
  • Good reputation and good company
  • Good handle placement


  • Handles are cheap (might squeak, get lost or break)
  • A little awkward trying to engage the drag when a big steelhead is going crazy on the other end of the line.
  • Only one color
Kingpin Kinetic Review
The Raven Matrix Fully Ported

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Kingpin Kinetic Centerpin Reel Review

Kingpin makes great Centerpin reels, and this is Kingpin’s entry-level reel and one I would consider a workhorse of a float reel.

It’s not the lightest reel or prettiest reel, especially by Kingpin standards, but it does the job well, and it gets good reviews.

If you want a Kingpin reel that won’t break the bank, this is it.

However, I would not recommend this reel simply because I think you can get a better Centerpin reel for slightly cheaper or for slightly more money.

Average Price $299.00

Raven Matrix Special Edition Review

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Raven Matrix Special Edition Reel Review

This is a very similar Centerpin reel to the Raven Matrix Fully Ported reel with the exception that it has a solid backplate.

Some anglers prefer no holes on the back where your palm cradles and holds the reel, so this is a good reel for them.

Because it is not fully ported, it means it’s a little heavier than the fully ported version, but it’s nothing that you would really notice.

This is an excellent Centerpin reel for under $350.00 and I would recommend this reel.

Average Price $309.00

Raven Matrix Fully Ported Limited Edition Review
The Raven Matrix Fully Ported

Raven Matrix Fully Ported Limited Edition Reel Review

This is basically the same as the Raven Matrix Fully Ported reel but in black, and is a great reel for the price.

The bigger 5 1/8 size makes it slightly heavier but it also makes it a nicer reel when fishing long runs on big rivers because the line will retrieve much faster.

Just like the regular Raven Fully Ported reel, this is a good choice for any angler who fish’s small and big rivers and wants a black reel.

Average Price $339.00

Islander Steelheader IS Centerpin Float Reel Review

This is a very popular reel for float fishing, and it has been around for a long time. I have used this reel many times and have had many clients and friends use it.

This is a durable and very well-built reel, and I consider this the workhorse of the float reel family.

Some guys like heavier reels because they feel it balances out their longer rods, and this reel is good for that.

This is one of the best float reels for guys who want a heavier, durable reel that has been proven for many years.

Even though it’s heavier than many of the reels on this page, it’s an excellent Centerpin reel and I would recommend this reel.

Average Price $425.00

Kingpin Imperial Review
The Kingpin Imperial Centerpin Reel

Kingpin Imperial Centerpin Reel Review

A great reel from Kingpin that competes with the islander float reel and this reel comes in as one of the best float reels available for guys that want a heavier reel to balance out their rod.

Like many Kingpin reels, this model comes in many colors.

The Kingpin Imperial float reel is well-built, super smooth, and durable.

The bigger 5 3/4″ size is one of the largest reels on the market,, and it is a great reel for fishing on big rivers with very long runs.

The 4 3/4 is a good size for most great Lakes rivers.

Average Price is $450.00 to $550.00

Kingpin R2 Centerpin Reel Review

The Kingpin R2 5.25″ reel is a great reel and one I have had the pleasure of using.

Like many of the Kingpin reels, the R2 has a great startup, is super smooth, and is durable. It also comes in a bunch of cool colors. I would consider this a medium-weight reel, and it’s definitely one of the best reels for float fishing available.

You can’t go wrong with this reel for big and medium-sized steelhead rivers.

It’s a bit heavier than some of the ultralight Centerpin reels on this page, but it’s an excellent Centerpin reel I would recommend.

Average Price $600.00

Kingpin Zeppelin Review
Kingpin Zeppelin

Kingpin Zeppelin Centerpin Reel Review

Anglers that use this reel swear that this is in the top two best reels for float fishing on the market and I would likely agree with them.

This reel is lightweight and incredibly smooth, with a great start-up. It also has a shallower spool, so there is less need for backing.

For reels under $1000.00 and based on my testing and user feedback, this is the best Centerpin reel on the market.

I would recommend this reel to anyone who can afford its $750.00 price tag.

Like many Kingpin reels, it comes in many colors.

This 4 3/4 reel is a great size for most rivers.

Average Price $750.00

Kingpin Zeppelin Aero Centerpin Reel
Kingpin Zeppelin Aero Centerpin Reel

Kingpin Zeppelin Aero Centerpin Reel

I`ve recently had some feedback for the KingPin Aero reel and it is a really sweet reel.

The reel sells for about $1000.00, but it`s made by a well-known Centerpin company, and it comes with a great warranty and great service.

For this reason, I would recommend it over some other custom reels in the same price range.

Average Price $1000.00

Kingpin Zodiac Centerpin Reel
Kingpin Zodiac Centerpin Reel

Kingpin Zodiac Centerpin Reel

Likely the best Centerpin reel on the market. Made in England where Centerpin reels originated from.

If you want the best, this is the reel for you.

This reel is balanced perfectly, is lightweight, looks awesome, and has a great start-up.

Centerpin Reel Reviews

My opinions are based on 30 years of fishing with Centerpin reels as well as guiding over 1000 centerpin anglers, many of which brought their own Centerpin reels, so I have used and seen more Centerpin reels than I can remember.

My client with his customer Centerpin reel
My client with his customer Centerpin reel that was put to good use on a lot of nice steelhead.

What’s wrong with cheap float cheap float reels?

The problem with many of the cheap float reels I have used is that they either had poor start-up, had low-quality bearings, had handles that came loose easily or wore out fast, had bearings that rusted or seized, had spools that wobbled or were loose, had a foot base that comes loose from the reel, or had spools with huge gaps so your line gets caught in the gears frequently.

Good reels like this Raven Matrix Fully Ported have a tight gap
Well built reels like this Raven Matrix Fully Ported float fishing reel has a tight gap so the line doesn’t get caught in behind the spool.

Even bad customer service and getting parts from these reels have been an issue for some anglers.

With those types of problems and with a bad warranty and poor customer service from some company in China, you will wish you had just spent the extra $50 bucks for a proven Centerpin reel.

Me trying one of my buddies centerpin reels.
The author trying a friend’s Centerpin reel. We hooked over 20 steelhead on this reel, and it was flawless.

Trusted Centerpin Reel Reviews

At least with me, you are getting reviews from a guy who has guided around 1000 Centerpin anglers over the last 22 years and has been Centerpin fishing for over 30 years.

You can feel confident that I have actually used every Centerpin reel on this page at one time or another or seen it being used under real fishing conditions.

I have also used reels that are not on this webpage. Reels that were custom-made, and over $1000.00.

I’ve even used Centerpin reels that were so old that 95% of Centerpin anglers have never even heard of them. Some of these reels were good, and some were not so good.

Lighter Centerpin Reels Versus Heavier Centerpin Reels

You will see some reels that are bulky-looking with no holes and some reels that you can see right through with lots of holes. The reels that have lots of holes are known as ported reels and are generally lighter in weight than other reels.

Lighter reels are great for shorter and lighter rods however they will also work on longer rods.

The slight disadvantage to the lighter reels is that you might find that on the longer cheaper rods where the rod is more tip-heavy that it will not be as nicely balanced. Cheaper rods will be heavier than the more expensive rods and the longer they are the heavier they are.

A heavier reel is sometimes a better choice for guys that use long 14, 15, or 16-foot float rods on the bigger rivers because the weight of the reel will help balance out the longer rod.

Some guys also prefer heavier reels because they tend to spin the line in easier or for longer, this is mostly true for guys that use the spool edge to reel the line in instead of using the handles, some call this retrieve style “batting the reel”.

The disadvantage to the heavier reels is simply that they are heavier and might fatigue your hand, your arm, and even your shoulders after a long day of fishing.

I have tried both heavy and light float reels, and I generally prefer lighter reels because of how I hold my rod, and where I place my reel. There are some reels on my list that are middle-weight reels which are good options.

If you need more details about Centerpin reel placement for balancing a rod, or about line setup on your Centerpin reel, as well as the types of handles, about reeling left or right and what is best, and even stuff like how to hold the rod plus more, visit my webpage 7 Best Centerpin Reels.

Also, be sure to check out these three great pages

The Best Centerpin Reels Under $200.00

As you can see, the big reel brand Okuma is really targeting the Centerpin reels under $200, and I think they have done a pretty good job for anglers looking for a reel in this price range.

The four best Centerpin reels under $200.00 are: Prices are subject to change.

  • Okuma Aventa
  • Okuma Sheffield
  • Raven Matrix
  • Okuma Raw 2

Best Centerpin Reels Under $300

There are four reels in the Best Centerpin Reels Under $300 dollars. These are reels between $200 and $300.

The 4 Best Centerpin Reels Under $300 are:

  • Raven Matrix
  • Raven Matrix Fully Ported
  • Okuma Sheffield DRI
  • Kingpin Kinetic

Best Centerpin Reels Under $500

The five best Centerpin reels under $500 are:

  • Raven Matrix Special Edition Ree
  • Raven Matrix Fully Ported Limited Edition Reel
  • Islander Steelheader Reel
  • Kingpin Imperial Centerpin
  • Raven Fusion XL.

More Centerpin Reels To Consider – Updated

I have added some reels to the original list. I will keep adding more as I get a chance to test them out.

Raven T4 Review
Raven T4 Review

Raven T4 Reel Review

I have cast and used both the Raven T4 and T5 reels, and I have seen them in action a few times.

They are super light, very smooth, and are great reels for any Great Lakes steelhead angler. I would recommend the Raven T4 reel for guys looking for a float reel for around $400.00.

Average Price $400.00

Raven T5 Review
The Raven Matrix Fully Ported

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Raven T5 Reel Review

It’s similar to the Raven T4, just with a slightly different design on the back, and it’s a bit lighter for those guys who want a super light reel for float fishing.

I would recommend the Raven T5 reel for guys looking for a lightweight float reel under $450.00.

Average Price $425.00

Rapala R-Type Centerpin Reel Review

Rapala is new to the Centerpin game, but a few of my clients have come out with this reel so I have had the opportunity to try this reel out and see it land some nice steelhead.

Although it was a decent reel, I do not know enough about it to recommend it.

I would personally get a proven reel from a company that specializes in Centerpin and river fishing. Average Price $300.00

Rapala Concept Centerpin Reel Review

I have had a chance to use the Rapala Concept Centerpin reel on a few occasions and have a few clients that use this reel.

The Rapala Concept Centerpin reel is a nice reel, but I do not know enough about it regarding its durability and long-term use to recommend it.

Rapala does it all, and I prefer companies that specialize in Centerpin fishing or at least river fishing since their reels are often designed and tested by Centerpin anglers. I think you can get a proven reel for cheaper. Average Price $450.00

Amundson Trend X3 Centerpin Reviews

I have used the Amundson Trend X3 float reel with clients who have brought it out, and it was a decent reel for the price, but I don’t know enough about it regarding its durability and long-term use to recommend it.

JW Young Atom Centerpin Reel Review

I have used JW Young reels in the past and sold them in my tackle store. I have used the JW Young Atom Centerpin reel before, and it was impressive.

It’s a nice Centerpin reel, and you don’t see them around, so if you want a unique reel, this is a good option. They sell for around $600, but since I do not know enough about it regarding its durability and long-term, I can’t recommend it at this time.

NOTE: All JW Young Reels, I believe are still made in the UK, so parts and service or replacements may be difficult or slow.

JW Young Bob James Special Centerpin Reel Review

The JW Young Bob James Special is another reel that I used to sell in my tackle store, and this Centerpin reel is one that I have used a few times before.. You won’t see many of these on the river, so it’s another good reel for guys who want a unique reel.

Since the JW Young Bob James Special sells for around $400.00 and because I do not know enough about it regarding its durability and long-term use, so I can’t recommend it.

There might be other proven reels in this price range that will be better for you.

JW Young Purist 2 Centerpin Reel Review

I sold the JW Young Purist 2 Centerpin reel in my tackle store as well, and I have been able to use it many times. The JW Young Purist 2 is a nice reel coming in at 4.5 inches, and seels for about $400.00.

Aside from fishing nicely, I do not know enough about this reel regarding its durability and long-term use to recommend it yet.

Custom Centerpin Reels

There are a bunch of other great custom Centerpin reels that are not on this list. For the average angler, an expensive custom reel is not necessary and there are many reasons they are not on this list.

  • #1. A custom Centerpin reel will not help you catch more fish!
  • #2. Custom Centerpin reels can sometimes be difficult to get and are not as readily available. You may need to wait for your reel.
  • #3. Custom Centerpin reels can be over-priced and expensive since they are not mass-produced.
  • #4. Custom Centerpin reels can be difficult to obtain repairs or replacement parts, or those repairs and parts can be very expensive or repairs might take a long time.
  • #5. Custom Centerpin reel companies may not be around and might be out of business in a year or two, so you are screwed if you need warranty work or repairs. (I have seen the happen)
  • #6. Custom Centerpin reels are not always better or any better then mass produced reels.

In the future, I may do a top ten custom reels shoot-out article so your favorite reel might show up there.

Do you have a question, comment, or a tip about the best reels for float fishing, let me and other readers know in the comments section below.

Tight Lines,


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    1. Hi Shaun,

      Thanks for your opinion.

      I have used a few Milner Centerpin reel models and I have had some clients come out with them and I would say that they are nice reels that might outperform some of the other less expensive Centerpin reels on my list.

      However, I would consider Milner reels as a “custom reel” as they are not mass-market reels and they are not readily available in most stores when compared to other Centerpin reels on my list.

      I also find many custom reels to be overly expensive for virtually little to no extra performance which means you are paying extra money just for looks, feel, and uniqueness, and maybe bragging rights. Therefore, I don’t like to recommend them until I’ve tested them out for a prolonged period of time. And at this time, I can’t honestly say that I have ever used a Milner reel that is going to make you, or I, or my readers, or my clients actually catch more fish, if they did, I would own one. I have learned through guiding thousands of anglers that it’s not the reel, it’s the guy using it that matters!

      I would say over 80% of the Centerpin reels on the rivers around the great lakes are the ones on my list, and these are the reels that I have extensive knowledge of and that I feel comfortable recommending. I have used more reels than I can remember including a bunch that I have no idea what they ever were. But to recommend a reel that I’m not that familiar with is irresponsible and not what my readers want. For some reason, I don’t see many Milner reels on the rivers around here, I wonder why?

      One day maybe I’ll get to put a Milner reel under some serious use and you will see it here and we can be buddies again 😉

      Maybe in the future, you can provide some positive feedback and explain why you like your Milner reels instead of just telling me I pooped the bed.

      Best Of Luck,


    2. Hi Shaun

      very interesting.

      As a UK angler I’ve used centre pins for freshwater fishing for years. Be interested to know which of the US reels rely on a true ‘pin’ and which use a ball bearing race.

      Also what type of rods do you use with pins?

    3. laughter…. I left the author of this post a comment with respect to the Milner reels putting him to the same test as he put to you with his choices…
      “if you have actual facts or statistics that show a Milner reel is actually better in performance and better at catching fish than any other reels on my list that are over $300 please let me know”……
      Ho promptly deleted the post like he will this one.

      1. Hi John,

        If I deleted a post of yours it was likely something that I found negative, rude, or something that provided little or no value to me or my readers. I’m trying to keep all posts positive and for learning purposes. Arguing about high-end reels with you would be like two guys arguing Ford trucks vs. Chevy trucks. Both guys will have a bias, and who is to say who is right or wrong, and many times it’s just a personal preference, especially when it comes to Centerpin reels unless you are a pro, and honestly, who cares. I simply do not have time to argue about Centerpin reels with anyone.

        Best of luck John,


  1. Thank you so much. This is an amazing source for people like me who are trying to learn centerpin fishing. Trying to decide between Okuma raw 2 and Sheffield. Also, any opinion on Luhr-Jensen Legacy reel?

    1. Hi Antonio,

      I think you will enjoy both of those Okuma reels, I’ve never used or seen the Luhr-Jensen Legacy reel being used so I can’t comment but I would say it might be safer to stick with a proven reel like the Okuma’s. I would also think that being a more popular reel and brand that the Okuma reels would be easier to resell in case you decided to upgrade in a few years.

      Good luck on the water buddy.

  2. When I came across your review site I said “cool, a guy who’s actually in the trenches guiding and fishing giving his opinion…..”
    Then I read you response to Shaun’s milner reel comment and you lost some of your hard earned credibility. I’m from BC and you’re from the great lakes region, and although fly is my fave, float is not far behind and each geographical region has its preferred products where milner / islander are at the top here for float and available from our high end shops. So 50/50 on the “custom”
    When you say a milner “might outperform some of the other less expensive Centerpin reels on my list”, then follow up with “if you have actual facts or statistics that show a Milner reel is actually better in performance and better at catching fish than any other reels on my list that are over $300”, I can tell you’re a great guide, but ……….
    First, Milners run about $550 – $800 CA ( hand made over 50 years) and the top kingpin on your list is approx $1000 CA (mass produced), and having fished both I give the slight edge to milner…. but who cares as they’re both great. Now, if you can show me a “kingpin reel is actually better in performance and better at catching fish than any other reels on my list that are over $300” ( your words) then I’ll understand what your talking about and not just giving subjective thoughts on products that may be paying you for their support and ignoring others that are not available in your region…
    Just sayin……

    1. Hi John,

      Milner reels are good reels buddy. I have used a few models in the past but there is a reason they are not on my list and since you are persistent and so bothered by this, I will tell you why below, but, I’m not going to argue with you so this is the last you will hear of it.

      In my area, there are far more guys running Kingpins, Islanders, Ohuma, and Raven Centerpin reels (probably 80%) and those guys love their reels just like you love your Milner. Out here, 7 out of 10 guys are running pin reels over other types of reels like fly reels and spinning reels, so Centerpin reels are very, very popular and used by thousands of anglers. But for some reason, I don’t see many Milner reels.

      I’m sure far more guys are in favor of those brands of reels I see on the rivers every day and they will argue they are better then Milners. That’s not because there reels are all better reels than Milners or other custom reels, it’s simply because that’s what they use, that is what is available, that is al they know, and that is what they prefer. And their opinions, much like yours, and mine, will always be based on what they know.

      I’m sure there are plenty of guys that would argue that their Frogwater reel is better than your Milner, or another guys Stanton is the best reel ever, or a Rainmaker can’t be beaten, or a Ber, or a “whatever” reel. Unfortunately, none of that BS helps my readers in any way and I’m trying to avoid BS and confusing my readers.

      I have taught and guided thousands of anglers (good and bad) with Centerpin reels and I have used more reels (which probably includes some Milner models) than I can remember, and based on my experience I still believe it’s not the reel, it’s the guy using it, which is why I ask if there is proof that a Milner is better at catching fish, and if so let me know, but there isn’t proof, and there never will be, and yes, that goes for other reels on my list too.

      The reels on this page are ones I have used extensively and have seen used by anglers that I’m standing beside all day long, and are also used by many guys and guides that love them and have had good success with, so recommending these proven and easy to purchase reels does help my readers which is why I chose to list them here and leave out other reels.

      If Mr. Milner wants to send me a reel for me and my guides to test out and compare under reel fishing conditions, I’d be happy to provide an honest and educated review and include it here. But, recommending reels that I’m not as familiar with is irresponsible and not what this website is about, which is why Milner is not on my list… Yet 🙂

      I think one day (just for fun) I’ll purchase or obtain 1 of each of the top 10 custom centerpin reels from all the brands and put them in the hands of 20 experienced guys and see which one comes out on top, and then I’ll do an article and let you passionate and opinionated guys battle it out while I sit back and laugh, because I know it’s still and always will be the skill and not the reel that really matters when you are standing riverside. COMING SOON 😉

      Best Of Luck John,


  3. Graham – what a useful review article.

    Anglers like me, my friends and brothers, who are interested in centerpin fishing and have done so for years, who aren’t experts by any means, who don’t have time to test or graduate through several reels to an eventual quality workhorse (not a custom job necessarily), and who have limited access regionally to custom reels from 1000’s of kms or oceans away… people like us – the average reader – TRULY DO APPRECIATE your advice.

    I am honestly quite saddened to read such intense criticism of your reviews. Your reviews clearly don’t pledge allegiance to any company brand, which should be lauded in these days of false online review experts or sponsored reviews. Somebody has to sort the wheat from the chafe and your reviews are specific to the features, uses and cost, which is what MOST readers want to know.

    I don’t think you will ever satisfy those who have bought into an expensive reel or have fallen in love with a brand, even if you buy 10 highest-end reels and review them. Perhaps do yourself a favour and change the title of your review from “best centerpin reels….” review to some mouthful like “best value for quality production centerpin reels” to deflect the high-end centerpin zealots from silly attacks? Ugh. I am a fly fisherman steeped in the range of gear values from bargain basement beauties to absurdly expensive custom fly rods and reels and can wholly affirm that you will never win an argument with these guys…. the same “discussions” happen in fly forums all the time. Does my Fenwick Aetos catch fewer fish than my Hardy or my Loomis Asquith at 1/3 the cost? We all know the answers. Look at Telluride Angler, Yellowstone Anglers, or other shops who do scientific comparisons with very precise metrics. It is eye-opening that brand affiliation and bias is a real thing.

    Keep up the great experience based recommendations. You are helping many people in their fishing learning curve.


    1. Hi Marc,

      I appreciate the kind words, so thank you. My ultimate goal with this website is to always provide good, honest, and attitude-free information.

      I know there will always be those people that disagree with me or don’t like me for one reason or another, and that is fine with me because I also know that few if any of those guys will ever have the on-the-water experience, the training from other expert anglers, and the knowledge obtained from working with and teaching thousands of anglers, both new and experienced, that I have, and therefore they will never see things the way that I see them.

      Best of luck on the water Marc,


  4. On another note Graham, Can you recommend a small arbor / diameter centerpin reel that’s reasonably available, has a low start-up intertia, to be used for a small spring-creek outfit to balance a 9′ float rod? I want to go where my GL3 and IMX steelhead rods won’t take me, and a Raven Matrix or Okuma Aventa may not balance as well. Cheers.

    1. That’s a tough one because good small centerpin reels are hard to find.

      Most Centerpin reels that I have used are made for steelhead and are larger in size.

      A buddy of mine Centerpin fishes on small streams for trout and he uses a reel called The River Wraith from Milner Reels he likes it and says it’s good, I believe it’s a 3.75″ reel and usesABEC-7 ball bearings which are good for an easy startup when using those smaller trout sized floats.

      When it comes to small stream centerpin reel, I’ve always been more concerned with the weight of the reel, rather than diameter. I have seen smaller diameter reels that are heavier than the larger diameter ones.

      I wish I have a better answer for you but it’s slim picking when it comes to small centerpin reels. I have it on my to-do list to test out some smaller centerpin reels so hopefully, I can have that done later this year. If you find a good one that you like let me know.


  5. Wow, what a knowledgeable web site for steelhead fishing you created.
    I have little question. I can’t find on your site what kind of bobber stop you recommend.

  6. Colville makes a great reel. I’m surprised I haven’t heard anything on any of those comments other than from Karl.

    1. Hey Jacob,

      Thanks for pointing that out. I have nothing against them, I just haven’t used the Colville reels yet, so I can’t review or recommend a product I’m not familiar with. I also don’t know anyone I fish with or guide with that uses them.

      The one thing I hate about the internet is many websites are recommending products they haven’t even used. They recommended products based on reviews they see online or based on what the manufacturer says about them, I don’t want to be that guy!!

      For the next article update in the new year, I hope to review the Colville reels and some other great custom reels soon.

      Best of luck,


  7. I own Rapala concept and classic drifter. Just by sound when spinning, they are very similar and the bearings are essentially the same . Price wise they are affordable since they are heavily discounted at times from retailers with the drifter I have seen priced from $125-200 and the concept for $300 CAD. The main issues I would say are clicker is controlled by a thin wire which I have heard from others are prone to breaking (unlike a kingpin) and parts are not necessarily easy to find, so be gentle on the clicker knob. Resale value isn’t the highest but there is a market for affordable float reels especially if it’s kept in mint condition. The concept is 5”, shallow spool so little backing if any is required. It’s anonidized for corrosion but not for hardness like a kingpin. I have caught fish on them and would say they are a great reel for the money, noting the downsides I listed. I also own an imperial and there is a noticeable difference in quality from the bearings (start-up), feel and smoothness, anodization, clicker durability and resale value. If you can afford it, get a better quality reel. If you are just getting into it or funds are limited, reels like a Rapala do deserve consideration. I bought full outfits (13’ rod, reel, line and backing) for 200 and 250$ which is a deal considering I wasn’t sure if I would get into it. This is a good reference article but lacking on feedback regarding Rapala.

  8. I’m looking to buy my first center pin to fish Great Lakes steelhead. When you discuss reel size, and say 4 3/4 is your preference for most Great Lakes rivers except for the bigger rivers. Can you elaborate a little more? Like is the Salmon River a bigger river or does that fall in the recommended 4 3/4 category? Thanks and appreciate your site.

    1. Hey Alex,

      You can use any size reel on any river regardless of size. Bigger rivers can mean much longer drift,s and therefore a larger reel will help reel your line back in faster, that all…

      However, a larger reel on a larger river is not mandatory.

      The Salmon River, (at average flows) is what I would consider a medium-sized river, and I have used my 4 3/4 reels there many times. The Niagara is a BIG river!!


  9. Hi Graham,

    I read your above report with great interest. I first started centerpin fishing in 1962 with a JW Youngs Rapidex reel which I still have today in perfect condition.

    I’ve looked at various bushed reels from John Milner in BC, what would be your assessment of them in general?

    55218 Ingelheim

    1. Hi Derek,

      I’m not a fan of busded reels, especially when fishing slow current rivers because in my opinion they just don’t free-spool easily enough. I prefer high quality bearings and then being able to control the speed of the reel with my fingers in both slower and faster water.

      However, Milner reels are highly rated and are loved by many anglers, and some anglers swear by bushed reels too, especially in faster currents.


    1. Hi George,

      I’ve only seen a few of them in actual use, and most of those were older reels.

      However, one of my buddies who has been out with me dozens of times uses one of the earlier reels and from what I’ve seen it is an excellent Centerpin reel, and the drag system is really impressive. He is the only guy I have seen land big steelhead after big steelhead on 6 pound test, and he does it faster than most guys using 10 pound simply because the drag is smooth and flawless. And he never breaks fish off!

      So, in my opinion, they are great reels.

      Hope that helps,