The market is full of very pricey (more than $700) fly reels, like the Tibor reels, and some as cheap as $20. For tarpon, I like to stay in the middle. Several middle-of-the-road options can be the best fly reels for tarpon because of their reliability.
Today I will list eight tarpon fly fishing reels. And Hardy SDSL Fly Fishing Reel from my experience is the best tarpon fly reel.
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- Best Fly Reels For Tarpon – Reviews
- 1. Hardy SDSL Fly Fishing Reel – Best Tarpon Fly Fishing Reel
- 2. Redington Run Fly Reel – Best Tarpon Fly Reel For The Money
- 3. Cheeky Fishing PreLoad Fly Reel – 3-in-1 Package
- 4. Orvis Clearwater II Fly Reel – Best Big Game Fly Reels in Die-Cast
- 5. Pflueger Medalist Fly Reel – Best Tarpon Reel With Vintage Design
- 6. Piscifun Crest Fly Fishing Reel – Tarpon Fishing Reels For Beginners
- 7. M MAXIMUMCATCH Maxcatch Sparta Fly Reel – Best Budget Tarpon Fly Reel
- 8. Piscifun Platte Pro Fly Reel – Best 12 wt Fly Reel
- Buying Guide
Best Fly Reels For Tarpon – Reviews
Here are our detailed analysis of the eight best tarpon fly reels:
1. Hardy SDSL Fly Fishing Reel – Best Tarpon Fly Fishing Reel
Hardy has been my go-to brand since the start of my fishing journey. They make solid reels and are pretty big on functionality too, and their durability is something I have no doubts about. The Hardy SDSL is their new fly reel that gives all the suitable functions without ripping you off your savings.
The SDSL fly reels are aimed at game fish and are available in enormous sizes. Their 6/7/8 or 9/10/11 sizes make them the best fly reels for tarpon fishing. Although less than Fortuna, the drag strength (10 pounds) is still enormous and sufficient for tarpon. There is noticeable startup inertia, however, in more than one place.
The storage capacity and retrieval rates are also acceptable for tarpon fishing. Also, the reel handle and the drag knob are ergonomic, but there is nothing extraordinary about them. The construction of the reel is right up to the Hardy standards. All materials are stainless and corrosion-resistant and can stand up against the wear and tear from the seawater.
- The sizes are appropriate for tarpon fishing
- It generates up to 10 pounds of drag strength
- The storage capacity and retrieval rates are okay
- The handle and the knob are ergonomic
- Corrosion-resistant materials make it fit for saltwater
- There is noticeable startup inertia
2. Redington Run Fly Reel – Best Tarpon Fly Reel For The Money
When you need power but cannot afford one of the Nautilus fly reels, Redington Run comes in quite handy. It is strong enough to land a big tarpon and doesn’t cost you an arm and a leg. They cut down the price by giving you a die-cast body which isn’t that bad a deal, by the way. Die-cast reels usually lack durability, but fly reels are not subject to that much wear and tear if you are not overly careless with them.
The Redington Run has a ported design to shave down some weight that also helps dry the lines faster. Although not fully sealed, the drag system is impressive, so you’ll need to make some efforts to keep it running smoothly.
The reel handle is tall and easy to grasp, plus the acoustics are on point. The spool-release mechanism is quick and straightforward. The paint job may need some getting used to, but overall, the finishing is not bad for a die-cast reel. And can be the best fly reel for the money.
- It is the best fly reel for tarpon at an affordable cost
- The ported design keeps it very lightweight
- It helps in drying lines faster
- The drag system is smooth
- Redington Run is overall ergonomic
- It is a die-cast reel, so it is not as durable
- The paint job is far from perfect
3. Cheeky Fishing PreLoad Fly Reel – 3-in-1 Package
When you get a fly reel preloaded with backing, fly line, and a leader, all under $100, what do you do? Say Hallelujah and jump at it. It is rare to find such affordable deals by a trusted name brand. One such deal comes by the name of Cheeky PreLoad Fly Reel.
And not only is this package light on the pocket, but it also ticks many boxes for the best fly reel for tarpon. The design is very airy due to ample porting, which helps keep the weight to a minimum. The reel’s body is die-cast, but multiple parts are machined like the handle, knob, reel foot, and central caps. Also, the overall finishing is surprisingly good for die-cast construction.
What I didn’t like about it was the weak drag. It maxes out at 2 pounds and also has noticeable initial resistance. Also, the frame and spool could have been tighter because the lines kept sneaking between them right now.
- A 3-in-1 package
- The reel itself is lightweight
- Many parts are machined
- The finishing is excellent for die-cast construction
- The drag system failed to impress
- Lines can sneak in between the frame and the spool
4. Orvis Clearwater II Fly Reel – Best Big Game Fly Reels in Die-Cast
If you are not someone who digs appearance, the Orvis Clearwater is a strong, sturdy, and affordable option for you. With a drag strong enough to stop a mighty fish in its tracks, it may be the best fly reel for tarpon.
First, the design is extremely practical. It has the right amount of ports to keep it lightweight and airy. The arbor is gigantic, so do not expect to deal with lines memory or lack of backing storage capacity. Second, the drag is powerful and smooth. I faced no resistance while I started reeling it. Next, the acoustics are modest too. Not too mute and nothing too shrieky.
But the durability is a concern since this is a die-cast reel. I was careful when I dropped it for testing, but it showed a few dents and scratches where it hit the ground.
- The design is extremely practical
- It is fairly lightweight
- The arbor is huge, so no lines memory
- The drag is smooth and powerful
- Acoustics are great too.
- Durability is not that great because of the die-cast construction.
5. Pflueger Medalist Fly Reel – Best Tarpon Reel With Vintage Design
If you are up for a nostalgic experience with a good old click and pawl reel that you have to palm when you are bringing the fish in, the revamped Medalist by Pfleuger is one of the best fly reels for tarpon. It has a classic design but with a modern twist.
Modern-day Medalist is machined from bar stock aluminum to keep durability high. It weighs less than the older version because of its machined construction. To finish off, the anodizing on top makes the reel even sturdier.
The traditional click drag system is smooth and simple. It makes a loud click sound that reminds me of when I used to fish with my grandpa. Also, the capacity to store lines is massive. You never have to worry about overfilling it, even with thick spey lines.
But alas, being old school also means that this fly reel does not have the modern technology that can stop the strongest of fish in their tracks. I sometimes feel that the drag is too soft and could cause a backlash if a fish tries to run away.
- It is an updated version of a timeless classic
- The construction is sturdy
- The click drag system is smooth and easy to use
- It makes a loud click sound
- The capacity to store lines is massive
- The drag is soft and backlashes if the fish runs away.
6. Piscifun Crest Fly Fishing Reel – Tarpon Fishing Reels For Beginners
For someone who wants to try their luck with tarpon for the first time or is starting at angling in general, Piscifun has a collection of some affordable and solid fly reels. The Crest is one such great option. It has a sealed drag and stainless construction, making it one of the best tarpon fly reels for novices.
The arbor is huge and can accommodate tons of backing lines without leading to line memory. Plus, the drag is sealed for easy maintenance and is powerful to fight a powerful fish in the sea. Adjustability is also top-tier compared to other reels of its class. The knob is big and rough to give a good grip in wet conditions.
On the other hand, the handle material feels cheap to me. Also, it was a pain to find and then change the spool. The reel got all jammed, and I had to take it to a local fishing equipment store to get it fixed.
- It is affordable and perfect for beginners
- The drag is sealed, smooth, and powerful
- Adjusting the drag is also easy
- The huge arbor accommodates lots of backing
- It is easy to maintain (requires only a rinse with fresh water)
- The handle feels a bit cheap
- Changing the spool is almost impossible
7. M MAXIMUMCATCH Maxcatch Sparta Fly Reel – Best Budget Tarpon Fly Reel
THIS IS SPARTAAAA!!!
True to its warrior name, the Maxcatch Sparta is a killer at what it does. It is an affordable and powerful reel that is fit for seawater too. You don’t get all of this in one purchase!
First, this reel looks so fine that it is hard to believe it costs well under $200. The color is stunning, and the finishing is spectacular. I couldn’t find a single rough spot on it. Next, the drag is smoooooooth! And I stand by every ‘O’ I added. I detected no startup inertia, and it kept reeling like silk all the way.
Also, it is silent on the retrieve, so you don’t have to feel embarrassed standing next to someone while using it. And last but certainly not least, the arbor size is perfect for storing ample backing. The downside? Well, it weighs a little heavier than its contenders. But honestly, I don’t mind the extra weight at all.
- Good looks and excellent finishing
- The drag is super smooth
- It is silent on the retrieve
- The arbor can store tons of backing
- The drag is sealed and perfect for saltwater use
- It weighs a little more on the scale
8. Piscifun Platte Pro Fly Reel – Best 12 wt Fly Reel
There are a few brands that can beat Piscifun in terms of affordability. Exactly why our tarpon fly reel reviews are closing in with a Piscifun reel, the Platte Pro; it is a beginner-level reel that offers big enough sizes to help an amateur face bigger fish confidently.
The arbor size is large no matter the size. So if you pick the best 11 wt fly reel or even bigger, you can be sure of a huge backing capacity and no worries of line memory which come as perks of large arbor reels. Furthermore, the build is excellent. I had some doubts about its machining because of the low price, but this reel surprised me with its flawless finish and solid overall looks.
Next, the drag is sealed and smooth. Which makes it best fly reel for saltwater. I found it better performing as compared to the more popular Piscifun Sword. The reel is pretty straightforward to take apart for maintenance and then assemble it back.
The weight is the only thing that holds this reel back. The Platte Pro weighs more than most other reels of its category, which annoys me a bit.
- Platte Pro is a very affordable reel for saltwater fishing
- The arbor is gigantic
- Finishing and machining is excellent
- The drag is sealed and smooth
- It is easy to maintain
- It weighs more than most of its competitors
Here are the key features you need in your best fly reel for tarpon:
1. Strong Drag
Tarpons are strong and can rip a weak drag system. Look for the ones that offer the most torque.
2. Sealed Drag
The drag has to be powerful AND compatible with seawater. Best sealed drag fly reels perform better in the long run and are easier to maintain.
You need bigger reel sizes i.e best large arbor fly reels for tarpon. Save yourself some backache and buy a lightweight reel. If you choose a heavier reel, it will weigh even more in a 7/8 or 9/10 size.
The best fly reels for tarpon are dependable pieces of gear you need in your backpack. You cannot afford a reel failing amid a thrilling fight with the mighty tarpon. The fly reel I usually rely upon under such circumstances is the Hardy SDSL fly reel. It has got the trust of an old brand, is resilient against water, and most importantly, is strong.