When selecting the perfect fly reel to help land that lunker, four things should be considered: material, drag system, price and size. Some of these factors are subject to personal preference—like, say, how much cash you have to catch cutties—but size isn’t one of them. Your reel needs to match the weight of your rod and line, but you knew that. For a little help on everything else, Brandon Salayi, a manager at The Trail Head in Missoula, helped us single out some of the market’s best options.
Made in Colorado by Ross, $120
This large-arbor reel is manufactured out of high-quality aluminum and has a self-lubricating, synthetic drag system. Ross’ latest drag-knob design promises smooth rotation, infinite adjustments and secure settings. Impress friends with this added feature: a finishing coat of aerospace-grade polyurethane means this lifetime-warrantied baby can be used anywhere, from saltwater to freshwater.
Litespeed 2 Series IV Reel
Made in Idaho by Waterworks-Lamson, $339
This company originally designed bicycle suspension systems before switching gears and entering the fly-fishing market. The Litespeed series is billed as lighter and less complicated than the competition. It’s also more expensive. But you get what you pay for: a large arbor made of machined aluminum and stainless steel, and finished with Hard Alox coating, as well as an improved spool/stripping arm to prevent snags and line damage.
Madison IIa Reel
Made in Montana by Montana Fly Company, $205.95
Instantly recognizable for its “Brookie Skin” artwork courtesy of Ennis artist Bern Sundell, this reel boasts a light, durable, corrosion-resistant frame and spool that are fully machined from aluminum alloy.
BVK Series Reel
Made in Texas by Temple Fork Outfitters, $250
These extra-large arbors house a sealed drag system to keep out dirt and debris, making it virtually maintenance- free. Machined from bar stock aluminum and set up to easily convert from your right hand to left. If you’re picky about color, take note: It only comes in green.
Surge Disc Drag Fly Reel
Made in Washington by Redington, $79.95
A durable instrument for the thrifty fisherman, the Surge features a reliable aluminum frame and strong disc drag that claims superior fish-stopping power.