4 Best Spinning Reels For Float Fishing

4 Best Spinning Reels For Float Fishing

I have been using spinning reels for float fishing for over 30 years and I have been guiding with spinning reels for 20 years. These are my guide tips and recommendations for the best spinning reels for float fishing.

The best spinning reels for float fishing are the ones that hold a large amount of line, have a large smooth spool to allow the line to come off freely, and have a good smooth drag system to manage those big fish. For most general river conditions a spinning reel in the size 30 will be perfect.

It’s a good idea to use the appropriately sized reels for Trout fishing, Steelhead fishing, and Salmon fishing as well as small to large rivers which I discuss below. It’s also best that you don’t put a giant reel on a small rod or vice versa.

Best Spinning Reels For Float Fishing

I have used a lot of different spinning reels for float fishing, but my four best spinning reels for float fishing are the Shimano Stradic C14 or the Pflueger Supreme XT, or the Abu Revo SX, or even the Pflueger President spinning reel.

Best Spinning Reel Size For Float Fishing
My Revo S30 and is a good sized reel for steelhead on medium sized rivers.

When float fishing with a spinning reel one thing you want it to be able to do is have the line come off the reel smoothly as the float drifts down the river.

This allows for long smooth drifts and that means more fish.

You can see on this reel in the pictures the taper on the spool which allows the line to come off easily.

Spinning Reel Sizing

Spinning reels are measured in sizes ranging from 10 to 50 or depending on the company 1000 to 5000 or bigger.

It’s not an exact sizing method since one company’s size 20 might be bigger or smaller than another company’s size 20 but it’s usually close.

Some companies will give their reel a number like a 30, which will likely be close to other companies’ size 3000.

Normally a size 20 is similar to a 2000 and a 40 is similar to a 4000, and so on.

Best Spinning Reels For Trout

The best spinning reel for trout should is usually a size 15 to 20, but your spinning reel should match the size of the trout and the size of the rivers that you fish.

Since trout in small rivers or even in larger rivers don’t get as big as steelhead and salmon do they do not require the same sized spinning reels.

Also, on smaller rivers, you can usually walk or chase a running trout so you won’t require a reel that holds much line which is why a sized 10 to 20 (1000 to 2000 Model) should work.

You also won’t likely be using a 13-foot rod on a creek that’s only 12 feet wide so your spinning reel should also match the rod you are going to be using.

The best spinning reels for float fishing for average-sized trout under 16 inches or on small creeks of 12 feet or less, or where a 6 foot to 9-foot rod is best, I recommend most reels in the size 15 or 20. (1500 or 2000 models)

the two new President  reels I bought in Jan 2023
My two new President reels I bought in Jan 2023, The size 20 on the bottom is what I use for trout.

If you are using a 5 to 6-foot ultralight rod for small streams then a size 10 to 15 should work well.

These same reels will work for lures and for bottom bouncing methods as well.

For trout fishing, I use and guide with the Shimano Stradic FL seen in the above picture.

I have also used the Abu Revo or the Pflueger President 20X model which is a great budget reel.

Best Spinning Reels For Steelhead

The best reels for steelhead will have smooth drags, hold plenty of line, and be in the size 30 range. They will also allow the line to come off the reel smoothly for extra-long drifts.

Since steelhead can make long fast runs and are often found in bigger rivers you will need a good drag system and one that works well in cold weather.

I can’t stress the importance of a smooth drag. Choppy uneven drags are horrible on a fish like steelhead and will cause break-offs or hooks tearing out of the fish’s mouth.

Spinning reels for float fishing for steelhead should hold a large amount of line in the 8 to 12-pound range since sometimes you will make very long drifts and sometimes the fish will run 300 feet or more.

My favorite reel for steelhead and a favorite of many anglers due is the Shimano Stradic 3000. This is a reliable and durable reel that will help you land lots of steelhead. It’s a great reel for steelhead due to its smooth drag system, solid gearing, and the way the line comes off the reel.

20 and 30 President XT reels

Another good option under $200.00 is the Abu Garcia Revo SX 30, or the Pflueger Supreme XT 30X which is the top reel in the above image.

For a budget spinning reel, I would choose the Pflueger President 30X but don’t go any cheaper than this or you may find yourself with a reel with lots of problems.

These are my President XT reels that I just bought in Jan 2023, and I will use them when guiding clients.

If they work for me, they will work for you.

These same reels will work great for lures and if lure fishing is something you want to know more about, check out my page on the Best Steelhead Lures.

Best Salmon Spinning Reel

The best salmon spinning reels will be bigger and hold a lot of line for those long powerful runs.

The best spinning reels for float fishing for salmon will also need to have a great drag system which is why I use the exact same reels that I do for steelhead.

Different brand sizes with determine if I’m Ok using the size 30 or 3000 size. Normally for bigger rivers, I may upsize to the 35/3500 or the 40/4000 model.

On smaller salmon rivers like the one in the picture, I will run the size 30, the same size reel I use for steelhead.

I recommend the Shimano Stradic FL 3000 or 4000 or the Shimano Stradic FL 3000 or 4000 for all your salmon fishing. This reel has solid gears for big fish and holds enough line. it also has one of the smoothest drags I have seen on a reel. The Stradic has been a very popular reel for river anglers for many years.

If you are looking for a less expensive reel for salmon you need to be careful because the cheaper reels often can’t handle these giant fish. Should you want to try a less expensive reel then try the Abu Garcia Revo SX 30 or SX40 spinning reel or the Pflueger President XT Spinning reel in size 40.

Best Float Rods For Spinning Reels

Centerpin fishing and Float Fishing - An anglr fishing a big fish on a Centerpin rod.

The best float fishing rod for spinning reels depends on the size of the river and the size of the fish. For Steelhead I use my Centerpin rods with the sliding rings and it works great.

There are also float rods in the 9 to 11-foot range with reel seats that are meant for spinning reels.

You can also float fish with ultralight rods of 5 to 6 feet. Check out my page Best River Fishing Rods Of 2022: Trout And Steelhead Rods.

There are a few good float fishing rods that I recommend and use on my Best Float Fishing Rods page.

Best Line For Float Fishing

Raven Mainline is one of the best lines for float fishing for trout,steelhead, and Salmon.
Raven Mainline is one of the best lines for float fishing for trout,steelhead, and Salmon.

It makes sense that now you know what the best spinning reels for float fishing are for the species or the type of fishing that you will be doing that you put a great line on it. Crappy lines cause problems like excessive tangles and can break often.

Check out my page on The Best Float Fishing Lines for what I recommend and what other anglers are having success with.

Also, If you really want to improve your float fishing game, be sure to check out my page Float Fishing: Tips From River Guides.

Got A Question About The Best Spinning Reels For Float Fishing?

It’s always great to hear about what you like so if you have a question, comment, or tip about the best spinning reels for float fishing, leave a comment in the comment section below.

Tight Lines!


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  1. Do you have any suggestions on bait casters for float fishing salmon and steelhead?

    I mostly fish in SW Washington and the S rivers closer to Seattle.

  2. Hi! Has your stance on spinning reel recommendations changed? I noticed the suggestions have been crossed out above. Lost my Presidential reel in an Ohio river so I need to replace and was thinking of all the options. Thanks in advance!

    1. The advantage to the higher gear ratio is you can get the line in quicker after very long drifts which is nice, however, I would go with the lower gear ratio for more power getting in those big steelhead and salmon.

      If your fish are all under 5 pounds then the higher gear ratio should be fine.

      Good Luck,