23 Best Float Fishing Reels Of 2021: Buyers Guide

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

As a top float fishing guide, I have had the opportunity to test a few dozen float fishing reels over the last 30 years and I have been able to get feedback on float fishing reels from thousands of anglers. This is my NO BS list of the best float fishing reels of 2021.

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 fishing 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 and also known as Centerpin reels so you may see me use those terms too.

There are a lot of good float fishing reels available and there are some that are just junk. I have used reels from big brands to some unique and custom-made reels and everything in between.

There are not many reels that I haven’t used or haven’t seen being used by my clients, or by my friends, or by some of my guides.

I am only reviewing the best float fishing reels so if you don’t see a reel on my list of the 23 best float fishing reels, then it probably means that I either don’t like it, it’s just crap, or I haven’t tested it yet.

Centerpin Reel Reviews

I will review reels from $169.99 to about $1000.00 simply because reels under $150 are usually junk, and reels over $1000 are usually custom-made reels that most guys can’t afford anyway.

I’ve yet to use a custom Centerpin reel that worked better or that I liked better than the top of the line reels on this list.

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.

Junk Float Fishing Reels

Some of the under $150.00 junk Centerpin reels that I have used or seen being used were brought out by my clients and these reels did nothing but cause problems for my clients and prevented them from learning properly and fishing well, therefore I will not recommend them.

I’ve also heard the problems that guys are having with these junk reels.

Many of these junky reels either had poor start-up, had low-quality bearings, had handles that come loose easy or wear out, 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 have 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.

I know this first hand because I owned a tackle store that sold a dozen float reels from different companies and guys would come in looking for help to get parts or get their reels fixed from lots of different Centerpin reel brands.

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

Bad Review Websites

If you see cheap Centerpin reels being recommended on other websites just be cautious because I just did a little research for the best float fishing reels to see what came up, and I see some of these junky reels being recommended on other websites by guys (bloggers) that I doubt even fish with Centerpin reels.

I’m sure if those guys actually used some of the reels they were recommending they probably wouldn’t be recommending them anymore.

Me trying one of my buddies centerpin reels.
This is me trying one of my buddies Centerpin reels. 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 that has guided around 3000 anglers over the last 20 years and has been Centerpin fishing for over 30 years.

You can feel confident that every Centerpin reel on this page I have actually had in my hand at one time or another and that I have either used the reel or have seen the reel 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 not so good.

Unlike other guys that review float fishing reels, if I haven’t used a float fishing reel yet, I will tell you, or I just won’t review it until I do, which is why you might see more reels showing up on here soon, it’s as simple as that! NO BS, NO JUNK, just good float fishing reels.

Lighter Centerpin Reels Versus Heavier Centerpin Reels

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

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

The disadvantage to the lighter reels is that you might find that on the longer cheaper rods, that the rod is more tip heavy and is not 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.

The disadvantage to the heavier reels is simply that they are heavier and that might tier your hand and your arm and even your shoulders out 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 5 Best Centerpin Reels Of 2021.

Also be sure to check out these three great pages

The Best Centerpin Reels Under $200.00

There are 4 reels that you can choose from under $200.00. I list all 4 of these reels below in more detail.

The 4 best Centerpin reels under $200.00 are the Okuma Aventa, the Okuma Sheffield, The Raven Matrix, and the Okuma Raw 2.

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 angler looking for a reel in this price range.

Best Centerpin Reels Under $300

There are 4 reels in the Best Centerpin Reels Under $300 dollars. These are reels between $200 and $300 and they are all 1 step up from the Centerpin reels Under $200.00.

My favorite Centerpin reel to guide with is also in this under $300 Category.

The 4 Best Centerpin Reels Under $300 are the Raven Matrix coming is at $219, the Raven Matrix Fully Ported at $289, the Okuma Sheffield DRII at $299, and the Kingpin Kinetic at $299.

Of these 4 reels I would consider the Kingpin Kinetic and the Raven Fully Ported which is the one that I use to guide with.

See the details on these reels below.

Best Centerpin Reels Under $500

When you start getting into Centerpin reels under $500 you are getting into the higher-end reels.

The 5 best Centerpin reels under $500 are the Raven Matrix Special Edition Reel, the Raven Matrix Fully Ported Limited Edition Reel, the famous Islander Steelheader Reel, the Kingpin Imperial Centerpin, and the Raven Fusion XL.

Some of these Centerpin reels like the Raven fusion are bigger oversized reels suitable for bigger rivers.

The Centerpin reel under $500 category all has two of the best workhorse reels the Islander Steelhead and the Kingpin Imperial, two very solid reels that guys love to use.

See these reels, get the details, pricing and more below.

The 23 Best Float Fishing Reels

Okuma Aventa Review

Check Prices At

OKUMA Aventa Review

Best Economy Reel

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 float fishing reels for guys on a budget and I would recommend it for that reason.

Average Price $169.99

Pros

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

Cons

  • Handles are cheap (might squeak, get lose or break)
  • Handles are too close to the center
  • Only 1 color
Raven Helix Centerpin Review

Check Prices At

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 most of Raven Centerpin reels I’m not a huge fan of this one.

If it was $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 $199.99

Okuma Sheffield Review

Check Prices At

Okuma Sheffield S-1002 Review

Best For $200.00

I guided with this float reel for a couple of years and I also sold many of these reels in my tackle store. Out of about 100 Sheffield reels sold, only 1 of them had a problem in the first 2 years.

The Okuma Sheffield is one of the best float fishing reels for $200.00 and I would recommend it.

Average Price $199.00

Pros

  • 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

Cons

  • Handles are cheap (might squeak, get lose or break over time)
  • Might soon be replaced by The Okuma Raw II
Okuma Raw 2 Review

Check Prices At

OKUMA Raw 2 Review

Another good float fishing reel under $200 that I have used many times. This is a popular reel with clients and is on par with the Sheffield float fishing reel.

If you are looking for a unique looking Centerpin reel in this price range then this is one of the best float fishing reels and is a good option.

Average Price $199.99

Pros

  • 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

Cons

  • Handles are cheap (might squeak, get lose or break)
  • Only 1 color
Raven Matrix Review

Check Prices At

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 it’s a bit heavy and it 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

Check Prices At

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.

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

This is the best float fishing reels 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

Check Prices At

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 that have problems applying steady pressure on big fish. It also gets great reviews.

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

Average Price $299.00

Pros

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

Cons

  • Handles are cheap (might squeak, get lose 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 1 color
Kingpin Kinetic Review
The Raven Matrix Fully Ported

Check Prices At

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

Check Prices At

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 but it’s nothing that you would really notice.

This is an excellent Centerpin reel and is one of the best float fishing reels 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

Check Prices At

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 that fish’s small and big rivers and wants a black reel.

Average Price $339.00

Islander Steelheader IS Review

Check Prices At

Islander Steelheader IS Centerpin Float Reel Review

This is a very popular float fishing reel 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 float reel and I consider this the workhorse of a 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 fishing reels for guys that 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 Raven Matrix Fully Ported

Check Prices At

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 fishing reels available for guys that want a heavier reel to balance out their rod.

Like many Kingpin reels it comes in many colors.

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

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

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

I do recommend this reel for any angler that fish’s small and big rivers..

Average Price $450.00 to $550.00

Raven Fusion Review

Check Prices At

Also Available at FishHeadsCanada

Raven Fusion XL Review

The newest and top Centerpin reel model from Raven and it’s a really nice reel with a unique design.

I have not personally used this Centerpin reel yet, but with its 5 1/8 inch diameter and its super lightweight 10.6 ounces combined with good feedback from friends and clients, the Raven fusion has the potential to be one of the best float fishing reels available.

Average Price $499.00

Kingpin R2 Review

Check Prices At

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 float fishing reels 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 and I would recommend this reel.

Average Price $600.00

Kingpin Zeppelin Review
The Raven Matrix Fully Ported

Check Prices At

Kingpin Zeppelin Centerpin Reel Review

Anglers that use this reel swear that this in the top 2 of the best float fishing reels on the market and I would likely agree with them.

This reel is lightweight, 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 base on my testing and user feedback, this is the best Centerpin reel on the market.

I would recommend this reel to anyone that 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 great lakes rivers.

Average Price $750.00

More Centerpin Reels To Consider – Updated

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

This is a list and my opinions on some other Centerpin reels and my opinions on each.

These are reels that some of my clients have brought out so I have had the opportunity to see them in action and to was able to get their honest opinions on them.

Some of these Centerpin reels I have fished with but only in a limited capacity, and some were not much more than maybe casting them and making a few drifts while my clients are eating their lunches, or when teaching them how to cast or how to run a proper drift with them.

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

Check Prices At

Raven T5 Reel Review

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

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 and I have had the opportunity to try this reel out. Although it was a decent reel I would not buy it or recommend it simply because I think you can get a better reel for cheaper. 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 one this reel.

The Rapala Concept Centerpin reel is a nice reel but I do not recommend this reel simply because I think there are better reels for the price and I would need to use it longer to get a feel for its durability. Average Price $450.00

Amundson Trend X3 Centerpin Reviews

I have used the Amundson Trend X3 float reel a few times and it was a decent reel for the price but I do not recommend it since I believe you can get a better reel in that price range.

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, but since they sell for around $600.00 I do not recommend this reel because I think you can get a better reel for the same price.

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 and I liked it. You won’t see many of these on the river so it’s another good reel for guys that want a unique reel.

The Jw Young Bob James Specil is a nice float reel but it might be a little hard to get now, and my concern would be getting parts and service for it which is often my big issue with custom made rods and reels.

Since the JW Young Bob James Special sells for around $400.00 I don’t recommend it simply because I think you can get a better reel for the same price from local companies that you might have better customer service.

JW Young Purist 2 Centerpin Reel Review

I sold the JW Young Purist 2 Centerpin reel in my tackle store as well and I was able to use it many times and I liked it. The JW Young Purist 2 is a nice little reel coming in at 4.5 inches but for about $400.00, I think you can get a better reel.

Got A Question About the Best Float Fishing Reels – A Buyer Guide?

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

Tight Lines,

Graham

2 Comments

    1. Hi Shaun, thanks for your opinion. I have used more than a few Milner Centerpin reel models and I have had 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. I can’t honestly say that I have ever used a Milner reel or another custom reel that is going to make you, or me, or my readers, or my clients actually catch more fish. So for those reasons, I decided not to add custom reels to the list. In the future, I might do another list for custom high-end reels like the Milner reels. You are obviously a fan of Milner reels which is great, don’t feel bad that your reel didn’t show up on the list, maybe you can explain why you like your Milner reels instead of just telling me I pooped the bed, and I would be very happy to learn something new from you, so 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?

Leave a Reply

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