23 Best Float Fishing Reels Of 2022: 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 a few dozen float fishing reels over the last 30 years and I have been able to get feedback on float fishing reels from hundreds of anglers and other river guides. This is my list of the best float fishing reels that anglers should consider in 2022.

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 are also known as Centerpin reels so you may see me use those terms too in this article.

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, by my friends, or by some of my guides.

I am only reviewing the best float fishing reels that I have tested, 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, and not worth buying, or I do not know enough about it to recommend it. I also discuss custom reels below.

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.

Reel prices may change at any time so click the links for the most up-to-date pricing.

I’ve yet to use a custom Centerpin reel that worked better at catching fish than the top-of-the-line reels on this list. There are sure to be anglers that will disagree with my selection and will argue their custom reel should be on the list, and that is fine by me.

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.

In the future, I hope to write an article on the best custom reels and will test out many of the best ones for you so if you do not see your reel here today, it may show up on that article.

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 Centerpin reels that I have used or seen being used were brought out by my clients and they are junk. These reels did nothing but cause problems for my clients and prevented them from learning properly and fishing well enough to catch fish, therefore I will not recommend them.

I’ve also heard the problems that guys are having with these junk reels regarding getting a replacement, or parts, or service. Reels under $150 are buyer beware reels. They are good as a paperweight or decoration.

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 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.

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. The cheapest reels are always 90% of the problems.

With those types of problems and with a bad warranty and poor customer service from some company in China, 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 (I have) 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 a friends 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 that has guided around 1000 Centerpin 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 used the reel and 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 in this article in the future, 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 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 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 for 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 anglers 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 Centerpin 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 reels under $500 category have two of the best workhorse reels, the Islander Steelheader, and the Kingpin Imperial, which are two very solid reels that many guys love to use.

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

The 23 Best Float Fishing Reels

Okuma Aventa Review

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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

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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 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

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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

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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

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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 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

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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.

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

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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 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

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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 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

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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

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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

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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, this model 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

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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

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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

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Kingpin Zeppelin Centerpin Reel Review

Anglers that use this reel swear that this is 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 based 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

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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 and see it land some nice steelhead.

Although it was a decent reel I do not know enough about it regarding its durability and long-term use 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 one this reel.

The Rapala Concept Centerpin reel is a nice reel and I have used it a few times with clients, 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 that have brought it out and it was a decent reel for the price but I do not 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, but since they sell for around $600.00 but since I do not know enough about it regarding its durability and long-term use I can’t recommend it and there might be other proven reels in this price range that will be better for you.

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 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 Special 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 and because I do not know enough about it regarding its durability and long-term use 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 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.

Aside from fishing nice, I do not know enough about this reel regarding its durability and long-term use therefore I can’t recommend it yet.

Great 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 sometime be difficult to get and are not as redily 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.

The Centerpin 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 they are also used by many good anglers and river guides that love them and they have had good success with them, so recommending these proven and easy to purchase Centerpn reels makes sense.

These Centerpin reels are also from reputable brands with great customer service, easy-to-get parts, good warranties, and they will likely be there for you in the long run.

For all you guys that don’t see your favorite Milner, Frogwater, Rainwater, Ber, or water every custom reel you own, do not be offended, I’ve likely used all those reels before and most are great reels and are worthy of a top ten list. They are just not on this list for the above reasons.

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

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 and other readers know in the comments section below.

Tight Lines,

Graham

21 Comments

    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,

      Graham

    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,

        Graham

  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,

      Graham

  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.

    Cheers.

    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,

      Graham

  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.

      Graham

  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.
    Thanks

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