Centerpin Fishing Gear: A Guide Recommended List

Centerpin Fishing Gear

As one of the top river guides in my area that spends over 300 days on the river every year, I’ve had the opportunity to test a lot of Centerpin fishing gear and this is what I recommend to all my clients that are looking to get set up with the right Centerpin fishing gear.

What Centerpin Fishing Gear Do I Need?

Centerpin fishing gear will include a Centerpin rod, a Centerpin reel, a good Centerpin line, a float that is designed for river fishing, the right leader material, swivels, weights, hooks, and baits. You will catch more fish with the right Centerpin fishing gear, the right leader, and good skills.

Having a great rod and reel setup only goes so far, if you are using the wrong leader, or the wrong hook, or the wrong float you will struggle to catch fish as consistently as the expert Centerpin guys do.

If you want to be one of those guys that seems to catch a lot of fish every time they hit the water, then getting all your Centerpin fishing gear right is the first step.

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The Best Centerpin Reels

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

Let’s face it, the Centerpin reel is what makes Centerpin fishing what it is.

Centerpin fishing is simply float fishing but with a Centerpin reel. Some anglers even call them a float reel.

You could float fish with a spinning reel, but why would you when the Centerpin reel is so much better at controlling your drifts and giving you a better presentation.

If you put two really good float fishing guys side by side, one with a spinning reel and one with a Centerpin reel, I would put my money on the Centerpin guy every time. Why?

I guide and teach guys how to float fish with a Centerpin and how to float fishing with a spinning reel and I know from years of experience that the Centerpin reel will provide you with a much better presentation which always ends up meaning more fish!

Even a guy like me with a lot of knowledge on how to do float fishing with a spinning reel still can’t get the same smooth controlled drifts that I could get with a Centerpin reel.

The good thing is that using a Centerpin reel is not that hard if you know a few basics for casting and controlling your drifts and speed.

Are More Expensive Centerpin Reels Actually Better?

More expensive Centerpin reels are better but that doesn’t mean you will catch more fish just because your Centerpin reel is more expensive.

I like to think of Centerpin reels like cars, you can buy a new Honda Civic and it will do the job of getting you from point A to Point B, or you can drive a new Porsche which will also get you from point A to point B.

They both do the job the same, just one is more expensive and more fun to use, and it looks better, which can also be said for both cars and for Centerpin reels.

I will catch just as many fish on a $199 Okuma Sheffield as I would on a $1000.00 Kingpin reel, and trust me, I have used both.

The reason for this is that a Centerpin reel is very, very basic. It simply holds the line and it spins: that’s it!

Doe’s a more expensive reel hold line better, NO. Does a more expensive Centerpin reel spin better, maybe, but not enough to make me go from catching 100 steelhead a month to 200 steelhead a month.

In fact, the more expensive Centerpin reels have better bearings and they might spin a little better or smoother, but it’s such an insignificant difference that I can not honestly say that I could catch more fish with a $700 reel than I could with a $200 reel.

Let me just say when it comes down to catching fish on most Centerpin reels, it’s not the reel that catches fish, it’s the user!

So the difference between a $700 dollar reel and a $200 reel is the smoothness of the reel, the finish, probably better handles, a weight difference, and the looks. Oh, and bragging rights!

The real upside to a better Centerpin reel is that it will likely have fewer problems and it will probably last longer.

The exception to all of this is that I have had some clients come out with cheap knock-off reels from China, and with some of the really low-low-end reels from some of the bigger brands, and they were crap, poorly built, clunky, and caused all kinds of problems for them and me. These are not the reels you want to learn on or fish with.

Therefore, my suggestion is to buy the best reel you can afford over $170.00 otherwise you may end up with junk that will make it harder for you to learn and harder to catch fish.

In this article, I’m recommending an economy reel, a mid-priced reel, and a higher-end reel. There are a lot of other good reels but these 3 are ones that I have used the most and feel comfortable recommending.

If you want to see more Centerpin reels go to my page 23 Best Float Fishing Reels: Buyers Guide.

Sheffield Centerpin Reels
Okuma Sheffield Centerpin Reels

Okuma Sheffield

I guided with three of these reels for a few years and it was great for a Centerpin reel for under $200.00.

Raven Matrix Fully Ported
The Raven Matrix Fully Ported

Raven Matrix Fully Ported

The Raven Matrix Fully Ported is the reel that I currently guide with and is an excellent choice for just under $300.00.

Kingpin Zeppelin Centerpin Reel
Kingpin Zeppelin Centerpin Reel

Kingpin Zeppelin

This is one of the nicest Centerpin reels on the market and is one that I have used many times. It comes in a few cool colors.

Best Line For Centerpin Fishing

Best centerpin reel line is the Raven mainline

The line is important and the line can make a difference on how many fish you will catch so make sure you get a good line for Centerpin fishing. The line that you put on your Centerpin reel should be a monofilament line and it should be thin, strong, supple, and buoyant.

Not all mono lines are good for Centerpin fishing. I have had many clients show up with lines that cause problems all day and that affects their ability to learn and to get a good presentation.

Raven Mainline Spool

I use the 8 pound Raven High-Viz mainline for every river that I fish and guide on around the great lakes region except for 10-pound line if I fish the Niagara River.

I consider the Raven line to be one of the best lines for Centerpin fishing for many reasons.

There are times when you may need a heavier line but remember that I heavier line can cause more problems like line sag, sinking line, poor casting, and even more line tanglers.

See more about that and lines that I recommend on my page 5 Best Float Fishing Lines For 2021

Before you put your line on your reel, with many Centerpin reels you will need a backing line. The backing line is simply a line that goes on first and goes under your mainline.

Most Centerpin reels hold a lot of line because sometimes you will make a 200-foot drift and then hit a big steelhead or salmon that will run down the river another 500 feet or more.

Most Centerpin reels hold way more line than most line spools hold. An average spool of monofilament line holds around 300 yards but a Centerpin can hold about 3 times that much line. It depends on the thickness of the line as well.

The backing simply fills up the spool so that you do not need to put as much mainline on. A full spool is best and the fuller the spool the faster the line and your float will reel in. A full spool tends to cast better as well.

Rio Fly Line backing is a must on your reel
Fly Line Backing should always be put on your reel before you add the fly line. Use a Nail Know to attach the backing to the fly line.

I usually fill the Centerpin spool about halfway or 2 thirds with the backing. You will need about 100 to 200 yards. For line backing for a Centerpin reel, I use fly line backing. I use Cortland backing which you can get at

The Best Centerpin Rods

Centerpin Fishing: An Expert Centerpin Guide Talks

The next piece of Centerpin fishing gear you will need is a good Centerpin Rod. I actually think it’s better to spend more on a rod than to spend more on the reel.

Centerpin rods are long for a reason. Most Centerpin rods used around the Great Lakes Region are between 12 and 14 feet long.

You may find 14 and 15-foot Centerpin rods are more common out west on the bigger steelhead rivers.

Whether it’s 12 feet or 15 feet long, the extra-long Centerpin rod allows you to keep the line off the water for a better and longer drift and the extra-long rod also protects your light leaders when fighting big fish.

For small creeks, a 10 to 11-foot rod could also be a good choice especially if there is a lot of bush that you need to walk through or fish under.

For medium-sized rivers of 25 to 70 feet wide a 12 to a 13.5-foot rod is a great choice. For very large rivers that are 70 feet or wider, a 13 to a 15-foot rod is a good idea.

Remember, the longer the rod the heavier the rod will be and heavy rods can tire out your wrists and shoulders after a long day of fishing. I mostly use 13 or 13.5-foot rods and I will spend more money and use better rods because they are lighter and will perform better.

You also need to consider what reel handle type is best for you. I prefer the sliding rings reel seat over the fixed rings.

For more on handles and how to secure the reels, as well as a complete Centerpin rod sizing charts go to my page 5 Best Centerpin Rods Of 2021.

The 3 Centerpin rods that I recommend are:

  • Raven IM8 Centerpin Rod – This is the rod I guide with and is one of the most popular rods. You can get it at
  • Raven RPX Centerpin Rod – Another popular rod. You can check prices at
  • G-Loomis – The 13-foot Medium light is a great rod for most great lakes fishing. You can get it at

The Best Centerpin Floats

Good river floats are a must have part of Centerpin fishing gear

Floats are an important part of Centerpin fishing gear. The right float can improve your presentation and that means more fish in the net. The wrong float will make it harder to get the right presentation.

I use different floats for clear water, shallow water, nervous fish, and in normal conditions.

Just imagine a 5-foot deep, 20-foot long, crystal clear pool on a small steelhead river and it has 5 fish sitting in it. If you cast a big fat and heavy float at them they are like to spook and go lack jaw. But if you cast a smaller clear float they are less like to spook.

However, If you cast the ultra-light clear float out into a big river, once it gets down the river 100 feet or more you won’t be able to see it so you are going to need a bigger float. You may also sink that little stealthy float with all that weight you need to get your bait down in that bigger water.

Knowing what floats to use and when will help you catch more fish.

The best float for Centerpin fishing on most medium-sized rivers around the Great Lakes region is the Raven FM float. Raven FM floats in a 4 to 6.2 gram size are the ones that I guide with most of the time. You can get them at

For clear water conditions on smaller steelhead and trout rivers, I use the Drennan Loafer Floats in the size 2 to 4 gram.

For more information on the best floats and how I rig them check out my page 5 Best Centerpin Floats For 2021

The Best Leaders For Centerpin Fishing

Leaders for trout

There are right leaders and wrong leaders for Centerpin fishing.

I use 3 different brands of leaders and I always use fluorocarbon leaders when steelhead fishing. The best leaders for Centerpin fishing are Drennan in 3 to 6 pounds, Seaguar Abraz-X 6 to 8 pounds, and RIO Fluoroflex 8.5lb. Many leaders are not rated properly, and since steelhead can be line shy it’s important to us the right leader.

The wrong leaders will either mean no bites or it could mean too many break-offs.

I use 3, 4, and 5-pound Drennan leaders for most of my Centerpin fishing but they are not rated properly so I always recommend buying your leader by the diameter size and not by the pound size. You can check Drennan Prices at

To learn how to set up your leader properly got to my page Steelhead Leaders: Best Float Leader And 2 Proven Setups.

The Best Swivels For Centerpin Fishing

For all my Centerpin leader setups I use the Raven micro swivels. Good swivels are the XXL Micro Swivels from Raven or Blackbird.

The Best Weights For Centerpin Fishing

Weights for float fishing

I use a lot of weight when Centerpin fishing. I use something called a shot line which is a slightly thicker piece of line that is meant to help my split shots.

The best split shots for Centerpin fishing are the Sure Shots in size BB and AB, or the Blackbird split shots in size BB-1 and BB-2.

The Best Hooks For Centerpin Fishing

Best Hooks for Float Fishing

Hooks are an important part of your Centerpin fishing gear. Not all bait hooks are good and you should be picky about your hooks because if you think about it, the hook is the only thing that is keeping that fish connected.

The best hooks for Centerpin fishing will be short shank hooks with a large gap and they will not be too big for your bait and also not so small that they will tear out of the fish’s mouth easily. The best hooks for Centerpin fishing are Raven Specimen hook and the Raven Sedge hooks.

You should have these hooks with you when Centerpin fishing:

For more info on the best hooks and why I use the ones that I do, go to my page 4 Best Float Fishing Hooks.

The Best Baits For Centerpin Fishing

The bait is an important part of your Centerpin fishing gear because without the right bait it doesn’t matter how good your gear is.

I use a lot of plastic worms, beads, spawn bags, and flies. Knowing when to use them and what sizes and colors are best in different conditions can be a bit confusing. Check out these great pages of mine:

The Other Centerpin Fishing Gear

Having the right waders and boots and wading jacket and all the other stuff that will make your day on the water more productive and more comfortable is something to consider as well.

I cover stuff like the wader and other gear that you would wear as well as the tools I use which include forceps, nippers, and nets all on my page River Fishing Gear: Everything You Need To Succeed In 2021.

The Centerpin Fishing Leader Setup

The leader setup is important and this is something that many of my customers want me to show them. If you set this up right you will be able to present your bait better and that will mean more fish in the net for you.

Check out my page 2 Float Fishing Leader Setups From A Pro River Guide.

The Final Step – Learn How To Centerpin Properly

Centerpin fishing and Float Fishing

Now that you have all your Centerpin fishing gear, you just need to know how to use it. I’d bet 90% of anglers don’t know how to Centerpin fish well and I say this because I’m on the water for over 200 days a year and I watch guys fish.

When my clients are hooking 5 or 6 steelhead and the other guys in the pool catch none, it’s clear they are missing the 4 fundamentals of Centerpin fishing. There’s a reason why some guys catch 10 fish while other anglers struggle to catch 1 or 2, and it’s not the bait.

A good start to help you learn to Centerpin fish better and for my 4 fundamentals of Centerpin fishing visit my page Float Fishing: Tips From A Pro River Guide For More Trout.

Winter Centerpin Fishing

Centerpin fishing gear for winter fishing

Some of the best Centerpin fishing for steelhead happens in the coldest months and if you are not prepared you can freeze.

My guides and I are often standing in waist deep water for hours and for days and days every year. If you plan to do winter fishing and you want to know how I stay warm and comfortable you should check out these two pages.

Centerpin Fishing Gear

That concludes the page on what you need for your Centerpin Fishing gear. If you have any questions about Centerpin fishing gear, leave a comment in the comment section below.

Tight Lines,


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One Comment

  1. Hi Graham I have a 13ft medium moderate 8-17lb Luhr Jensen Legacy float rod and I find it too heavy when using lighter line and 4-7gram floats for steelhead. I don’t have control on hooksets or casting and managing the line on a drift. I was thinking about getting a Raven 13ft IM8 but someone said I should go with an even lighter rod. I will mainly be fishing the nottawasaga and other medium sized rivers. I Know you guide with the IM8 but I just wanted to hear what you recommend for a strictly steelhead rod around $300 or under.
    Thanks, Alex