Who doesn’t like getting the best deal out of little money? I’m sure no one!
So why don’t you buy one of these ten best budget fly reels to kick start your angling dream without spending a lot of fortune.
A cheap fly reel doesn’t mean you have to compromise on the quality. If you look carefully enough, you can get the same great features of a pricey reel without costing you an arm and a leg.
I have always been interested in reviewing the best budget fly reels that are available in the market. I believe that promoting affordable equipment will make more people try out fly fishing. So today, I am reviewing the ten best budget fly reels that have proven to be as good, if not better, than the more fancy ones.
10 Best Budget Fly Reels – Overview
Here is a quick round-up of the best budget fly reels;
- Orvis Clearwater II Fly Reel 5 wt – Smooth Drag
- Waterworks-Lamson Liquid 3+ Fly Reel – Conical Drag System
- Redington Behemoth Fly Reel – Go Big or Go Home
- Hardy Ultralite MTX Fly Fishing Reel – Seawater Friendly
- Orvis Battenkill Reel 1-3 wt – Click and Pawl Drag System
- Echo Bravo LT Fly Reel – Lighter, Better
- Templefork Outfitters Prism 7/8 Fly Reel – Pro at Freewheeling
- Okuma Sierra 5-6 Fly Reel – Best Budget Fly Reel For Starters
- Maxcatch AVID PRO Fly Fishing Reel – Best For Backup
- Piscifun Sword Fly Fishing Reel – Four Color Options
10 Best Budget Fly Reels – Reviews
Here are the detailed reviews of each of the ten best budget fly reels:
1. Orvis Clearwater II Fly Reel 5 wt – Smooth Drag
To start our inexpensive fly reel reviews here is a good one. Orvis is a name known to all anglers. They make some of the best and affordable fly reels. Their Clearwater II is my most recommended and best inexpensive fly reel. Let’s see why:
First, this reel has a smooth drag system. I didn’t expect a budget fly reel to be this silky smooth. But, to my surprise, there was no bumpy movement and zero resistance to begin with. Next, the ergonomics on this thing are top-tier. The handle and the knob are easy to grasp, and spool-release couldn’t be easier.
Also, the sound of it is pretty good as well. But, to cut down on the cost, this reel had to be die-cast. Hence, the finish is not as refined as other higher-end reels, and durability isn’t too outstanding either.
- The drag system is very smooth
- Zero startup inertia
- Handle and drag knob are ergonomic
- Spool-release system is straightforward to use
- This reel sounds good too
- Since this reel is die-cast, it is not the most durable
- The finishing is a little off in some places
This reel is high on functionality but not so much on the finishing. If that doesn’t bother you, this might be th best budget fly reel you could get your hands on.
2. Waterworks-Lamson Liquid 3+ Fly Reel – Conical Drag System
Lamson is a fly reel-only brand, so understandably the quality of the reels is their sole focus. Their Liquid fly reel is one of its kind since it is one of the best budget fly fishing reels without compromising quality. It is pretty rare to find an all-in-one package similar to it.
First, the reel structure consists of high-grade die-cast aluminum, which is pretty good strength-wise, if not better than machined aluminum. Then the polyurethane top-coating adds more durability.
Drag is the signature conical system offered in all Lamson reels. Even the most expensive Lamson reels feature the same drag, so there is little doubt regarding its efficiency. The possibility for adjusting it is infinite since there are no preset values for it, and you can change it to wherever you deem fit.
A few of my friends didn’t like its feel since it is die-cast and may feel a little cheap when you hold it. To be honest, I’ve seen them break after a few uses, too, and the clicker also doesn’t feel to be of the top-most quality. But I’d still vote this reel as one of the best budget fly reels out there for the value they provide.
- The construction looks solid
- There is a polyurethane topcoat for added durability
- It features Lamson’s signature conical drag system
- The drag adjustment is infinite
- An overall well-designed reel
- Die-cast construction may feel a bit cheap
- The clicker isn’t very good
The Lamson reels are always top of the class because of their unique drag system. For a die-cast reel, this one is definitely a keeper.
3. Redington Behemoth Fly Reel – Go Big or Go Home
Seawater fishing and other more extensive angling aspects need better-equipped reels with a lofty price tag. The cost has been the main factor why newer anglers are hesitant to try the big games. Redington came up with the perfect solution. They designed the Behemoth suitable for anglers that dream of getting a step ahead than just catching trout at a peaceful lake.
The name of this best budget fly fishing reel gives its secret away. It is big and targets the big. The arbor is gigantic. It means you can store loads of backing and fly lines without the fear of lines memory.
But the highlight of this reel is not the size but the immense power its drag possesses. No matter how fast or aggressive a fish is, this reel has the strength to stop it. However, the drag may not necessarily be the smoothest out there but is still satisfactory.
But there has to be some catch, right? The affordable price is justified by a die-cast construction, which by the way, is quite strong compared to other similar reels. Also, the plastic knob and handle may bother a few lads. The only serious problem may be with the drag setting since there is very little middle ground.
- This reel is suitable for bigger fish
- Its arbor is gigantic for storing more lines
- The drag is powerful enough to tackle any fish
- Even it is die-cast, it is still pretty durable
- It reels smoothly, if not the smoothest
- The plastic handle and knob may feel a bit cheap
- Drag adjustment has little middle ground
The Behemoth can dwarf any other reel with its size and power. I’ve nicknamed it the Hercules of fly reels!
4. Hardy Ultralite MTX Fly Fishing Reel – Seawater Friendly
The Hardy Ultralite MTX reel isn’t an inexpensive fly reel, but if you need a 3/4/5 size, you may have one under the $200 mark. This reel is seawater-friendly and one of the lightest reels we have on our list today. It is so light that you may even have a bit of trouble balancing it on a fly rod specific for seawater fishing.
To keep the weight to a minimum, Hardy also had to cut down on the arbor size and bring it down to a humble 4-inches. While this is enough for cutthroat or other smaller species, you cannot expect to catch a mighty salmon with it.
But here’s what stands out: this reel is precise when it comes to drag adjustment. The knob adds very fine increments to your drag setting, and even after weeks of use, it won’t loosen up at all. Also, this reel oozes quality. The materials are top-notch and very durable.
- One of the best inexpensive fly fishing reels
- It is extremely lightweight
- It is compatible with seawater fishing
- The drag adjustment is precise
- Construction is durable
- It may be too lightweight for some rods
- The arbor size is not too large
This reel is too good for some of your fly rods. But if you enjoy ultralight gear, this is the perfect catch.
5. Orvis Battenkill Reel 1-3 wt – Click and Pawl Drag System
I’ve said this before, and I’ll say this again: if you need the best affordable fly reel, you need to check out the Battenkill, among other options. The traditional click-and-pawl drag system is not only less expensive but also pretty lightweight.
The Battenkill 1-3 wt is perfect for the tiniest tackle in small streams. The drag can be adjusted to four settings, but you can only do it internally because there is no drag knob. The drag is smooth but not quite powerful, so don’t expect it to stop a monstrous trophy fish.
The construction looks pretty solid. The heavy-duty bar-stock aluminum is very durable due to its neat machining, and I could find no rough edges on any side. The arbor size is modest and not for you if you are a large arbor fan.
- The click-and-pawl system is lightweight
- The drag is smooth
- There are four drag adjustment settings
- The construction is solid
- The drag is not the most powerful
The Orvis Battenkill is immensely famous among the budget reels’ club, and rightly so. The drag is smooth enough to win many hearts.
6. Echo Bravo LT Fly Reel – Lighter, Better
When I reviewed the Echo Bravo reel, I listed its two cons: heavy and not maintenance-free. With the new Bravo LT, it’s like Echo heard me and worked on getting these two things better. LT is a more budget fly reel than its predecessor and lighter and better protected against sand and salt.
The drag system has also improved. It is smoother, has little startup inertia, and can disassemble completely for service without needing tools. And because it is compatible with seawater, the substantial drag comes in very handy when you need to stop a feisty fish running away from you.
The arbor size is more than many of your other reels, and hence picking up lines becomes very fast with this. The construction seems pretty durable, and I think it can withstand years of seawater fishing. But although this fly reel is considerably lighter than its older model, it is still not the lightest one in these budget fly reel reviews.
- This reel is seawater friendly
- The drag system is strong, smooth, and sealed
- You can disassemble the reel for service without any tools
- The arbor is pretty huge
- This model is lighter than the older one
- It is still not the lightest fly reel out there
With so many improvements, the LT is a better version of the Echo Bravo reel.
7. Templefork Outfitters Prism 7/8 Fly Reel – Pro at Freewheeling
The Prism by TFO is the best affordable fly fishing reel if we ditch the appearance and finishing altogether and judge it solely on its performance. The body of this reel, although machined, looks as if it is made with cheap-grade aluminum using outdated machinery. But since this reel is pretty solid when at what it does, I still hold it in high regard.
The drag is smooth and can be adjusted precisely. My favorite feature is its ability to freewheel. Picking up the reel is faster than many other expensive fly reels I have tried. Moreover, the capacity to hold lines is adequate too. You can easily store 200 yards of backing weighing 20 pounds, with some room still left for the fly line.
The Prism may not be the most good-looking among our affordable fly reel reviews, but it can beat many others for its functionality. The ⅞ size pairs beautifully with an 8 wt TFO Clouser fly rod and is a perfect combo to hit the sea with. Oh, did I forget to mention that it is saltwater-friendly too?
- The drag is smooth
- You can adjust it to multiple drag levels
- You can freewheel it to pick up loose lines quickly
- The capacity to hold lines is adequate
- It is compatible with sea
- Not the best looking
- The materials and construction look a bit cheap
When a fly reel is so good at doing its job, do looks even matter?
8. Okuma Sierra 5-6 Fly Reel – Best Budget Fly Reel For Starters
Next up in our best budget fly reels is this lesser-known Sierra fly reel by Okuma. It is an excellent beginner’s reel because of its easy-to-use features and exceptionally reasonable price, although a bit tiny in size.
The Sierra is a die-cast aluminum reel, so it may not be “bullet-proof” but is still good enough to be dependable. The drag is not as strong as other market giants, but I have landed several salmons with it, which says a lot about it. The clicking sound is subtle too, neither too loud nor too mellow. And the ambidextrous retrieve is a bonus.
I have had this reel for nearly a decade now, and apart from minor chipping off of paint, there is still no difference in its performance. I’ve done a lot of casting practice on it and always carry it to my fishing trips as my backup reel.
- An excellent beginner’s choice
- The drag is good enough to tackle salmon
- The clicking sound is just right
- Ambidextrous retrieve
- Great backup option
- It is not very rough and tough
- The arbor isn’t too big
The Sierra by Okuma is perfect for newbies with all the properties that make this reel easy to use.
9. Maxcatch AVID PRO Fly Fishing Reel – Best For Backup
Even if you own an expensive reel, the chances are that you’ll look for a cheap fly reel as a backup.
The Maxcatch Avid Pro is one of such best cheap fly reels you can always rely on if your main fly reel fails you. Not only is the color beautiful, but the features are also gold. Here’s how:
The first thing you’ll notice about it is how stylish this reel is. The airy design looks fantastic, and the colors go well with most of my rods. Then, the mechanics are excellent. This reel spins super smoothly with no bumps. Also, it is pretty lightweight even though the arbor is large.
There are a few imperfections in the finishing but nothing too major. I can easily let it slide because of the low price point. You don’t find such a durable machined reel at this cost. Plus, this reel is corrosion-resistant too, so that you can use it at sea too.
- It is a reliable backup reel
- The design is stylish, and the colors are beautiful
- The drag is super smooth
- It is lightweight with a large arbor
- It is durable and corrosion-resistant
- The finishing is not perfect
I have this reel as my backup and make a point of fishing with it without reason too. This reel is delightful to use.
10. Piscifun Sword Fly Fishing Reel – Four Color Options
Piscifun has given out many cheap fly fishing reels that have suited the needs of anglers that are a bit tight on budget. The Sword is a nice little reel that is good at going its job while being light on the pocket.
And talking of light, the main selling point of this reel is its weight. It is lighter than I expected from a cheap fly reel. Out of the box, it looked neat with nice finishing all around. Numerous color options are a plus too.
The aluminum body is durable if maintained well, and the machining looks promising too. Moreover, the anodizing on top further adds to the strength.
The drag isn’t that great, although, and it feels a bit sticky and bumpy. But I guess you can expect that from a reel from this class. The drag system also seemed to loosen up after a few uses. I recommend keeping this reel for occasional light tackle and euro nymphing only.
- Piscifun Sword is very lightweight
- The finishing is neat
- There are four color options
- The machined aluminum body is durable
- Anodizing on top adds to the strength
- The drag is straight-up horrible—only suitable for very light fishing.
I bought this reel for my eight years old niece, who wanted a pink reel. With its lightweight and tiny size, I think this reel may be perfect for her.
Buying Guide For Cheap & Budget Fly Reels
Finding the best budget fly reel isn’t easy, especially when you want one that isn’t cheap quality-wise. Here’s a guide about what’s necessary and where you can compromise a bit to stay within budget.
1. Arbor Size
The difficult your fishing conditions get, the bigger arbor you’ll be needing. While a larger diameter is suitable for storing lines and minimizing line memory, you don’t need an enormous diameter if you are fishing for minnows at a tiny pond. A mid-size arbor will do just fine too.
CNC-machined Aluminum reels are solid and durable but come with a hefty price. Die-cast ones can ding if you drop them on a hard surface, but they aren’t entirely useless. You can go for them since it is not often that a reel is subject to much abuse.
3. Drag strength
Like arbor size, you don’t need a lot of power in your budget fly reel’s drag if you aren’t aiming for huge or powerful fish. So you can easily save some money here.
Here’s something you should not compromise on. Buying a heavyweight fly reel won’t do you any good. It will be a hassle to carry it, and it won’t balance as well on all of your rods. So always try to look for a budget fly reel that weighs the least,
Q. Which is the best budget fly reel?
I’ve found the Redington Behemoth fly reel to be the best inexpensive fly reel. It is enormous in size and light on the pocket, and the power is unmatched.
Q. Are budget fly reels any good?
It depends on how hard you look for the best cheap fly fishing reel. If you do your research thoroughly, read some cheap fly reel reviews, and go through trial and error, you may find a decent option.
Q. What are the best cheap fly reels good for?
A best cheap fly reel can be helpful as a beginner’s reel, for training new anglers, for someone who fishes only sparingly, and as a backup reel if your main reel breaks or fails somehow.
Q. Do the best budget fly reels have a good drag?
Yes! Thankfully there are quite a lot of budget fly reels that have a powerful and smooth drag. The Orvis Clearwater II and the Maxcatch Avid Pro reels are famous for their buttery drags, while the Behemoth by Redington has all the power you need to stop a truck.
The best budget fly reels can prove even better than the expensive ones if you put enough effort into finding the right one. I have particularly more interest in trying and reviewing these affordable reels to make fly fishing accessible to even the most unresourceful anglers.
Among the ten best budget fly reels I have reviewed above, I found the Redington Behemoth to be an all-rounder. Its sole purpose is to have enough power to tackle whatever you set your eyes on. You can buy this fly reel once and enjoy fishing in all sorts of conditions. It can work splendidly in freshwater as much as it is perfect for the sea as well. It is fantastic for small fish and unmatched for a big salmon too. Talk of value!
So spend less and enjoy more now that you know what you need to buy!
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