During my whole fly fishing career, one question I’ve answered the most is, “What are the best fly reels for the money?”
I know fly reels don’t just grow on trees, and you need to spend your hard-earned money to get them. And so you want to get the best value fly reel on the market.
Among all of the fly reels I have used and tested, Ross Reels Animas is the best fly reel for the money and definitely top of the list.
I will cover each of the best fly fishing fly reels for the money in detail. So the next time you need to buy a reel, you know where to look.
Disclosure: The Wading Kit is a reader-supported website and takes part in the Amazon Associates Program. We may earn a small commission if you shop through links on this page. At thewadingkit.com we test products and recommend them based on unbiased research. For info see disclosure here.
Best Fly Reels For The Money
In this article, you will find:
- Honest reviews for the ten best-rated fly reels
- A guide that will help you buy the best fly fishing fly reels for the money
- Tips for maintaining a reel
- Some frequently asked questions, and their answers
- A conclusion with a winner from the 10 reviewed best value fly fishing reels
So stay hooked!
10 Best Fly Reels For The Money in 2023 – Reviews
Here are the detailed reviews of the ten best value fly reels:
1. Ross Reels Animas – Best Fly Reel Ever Made
I once went on a fishing trip to the west with my friends, and there I was introduced to this revamped Ross Animas reel. I was pretty dumbfounded by how good this reel looks. The open design, lots of ports, and a silhouette of the Colorado mountains on the back look spectacular. Also, this new reel is significantly lighter than the former one.
As for the performance, I was equally impressed. The drag strength is good enough to do the job. The reel starts cranking without any resistance and rotates like butter. The drag knob is large enough to hold easily. Also, the clicking sound on both incoming and outgoing is solid.
Most people will tell you that the Ross Animas reel is a perfect reel out there with practically no flaws. But I found one after very close inspections. The size of the reel is written on the reel foot, making it invisible when the reel mounts on a rod. I’d rather have the marking elsewhere to make it more visible.
- The reel looks spectacular
- There is a significant decrease in weight
- Performance is impressive
- The clicking sound is solid
- Reel size on the foot where it is not visible
The Ross Animas is one of the best fly reels for the money out there. It looks good and performs even better. I doubt there could be a better reel in its class.
2. Sage Spectrum C Fly Reels – Best Quality Fly Reel
The minimal weight of this reel impressed me instantly when I took it out of the box. The ported spool and a sealed drag make this reel one of the best fly reels for the money. You may even call it the finest reel Sage has ever produced, with an affordable price tag.
Not only does it look sexy, but it is also a killer when it comes to performance. The drag is silky smooth and shows no initial inertia at all. The drag knob is straightforward to operate, unlike many other Sage reels where the knob was a bit sunken within the frame. Also, the handle of this reel is just the right size to grip.
The spool and the frame have no gaps between them so that you can reel it confidently without the fear of any lines sneaking into the void. I also like the narrow spool this reel offers because wider spools have the issue of lines not leveling correctly. But the large diameter and concave spool make up for the lack of capacity created by this thinness. You easily store an ample amount of backing in this reel.
The spool-releasing system, however, is a little too tight for me. Nothing major, but you need to exert a bit of force to separate them.
- Minimal weight ideal for light rods
- No startup inertia
- The drag knob and handle are ergonomic
- There is no gap between the spool and the frame
- The spool is narrow for better line leveling
- You need to exert some force to separate the spools
Spectrum by Sage may not be the cheapest reel you’d find, but it is easily one of the best quality fly reels under 200$. It is better to spend a few extra bucks to get the many handy features Spectrum offers.
3. Redington RISE Fly Fishing Reel – Best Lightweight
Redington has produced some of the best fly reels for the money, and it’s the same with Rise. This reel looks pretty and is great out in the water. The drag is powerful, and the ergonomics are top-notch.
The finishing is perfect all around, and I could find no blemishes or uneven surfaces. After making an excellent first impression, this reel accompanied me on a fishing trip. The drag was very smooth initially, but since it is not fully sealed, some silt and dirt got into it, making it a little bumpy. Not for seawater, I suppose.
Now, the handle was okay, but the drag knob felt a bit cheap, to be honest. Also, the lines holding capacity was a bit of a turnoff for me. It not only couldn’t hold full backing, but I also had to cut short the floating line to make it fit into the spool. So this reel is good enough for small lakes or ponds only.
- The price is affordable
- It looks rad
- The drag is powerful enough
- Craftsmanship is excellent all around
- The reel is suitable for smaller water bodies
- The drag knob felt a bit gritty
- The line holding capacity is relatively low
The Redington Rise reel is a great solid start for someone just beginning their journey into fly fishing. It is also equally suitable for those experienced anglers who only want to relax by a pond.
4. Galvan Rush Light Reel – Next Best Thing
Galvan’s Torque has been my favorite for a long time. Recently, Galvan came up with a more valuable option and named it Rush. The Rush LT is now one of the best value fly reels in the market. It is reasonably lightweight, the drag is not disappointing, and the pricing is much more subtle.
There is a bit of startup inertia, but apart from that, the reel cranks smoothly. The sound of reeling the line in is good, but the outgoing drag click is not as crisp and clear as I’d like. Likewise, the drag knob is comfortable to hold and make adjustments, but the spool handle is not as long as other more ergonomic reels. These are just a couple of things Galvan could work on.
Now comes the durability. I dropped the reel on a cemented surface to test how well-made it was. To my surprise, there were no noticeable dents but the paint scratched from a few places. So that’s that!
- This reel gives the best value
- It is fairly lightweight
- The reel cranks smoothly
- Incoming click sounds great
- The drag knob is comfortable
- is a bit of startup inertia
- The handle could be longer
- Outgoing sound is not loud enough
If you cannot afford the best quality fly fishing reels, the Galvan Rush LT is the next best thing. With a considerable decrease in price, it offers many features of a best-rated fly reel.
5. Waterworks-Lamson Remix Fly Fishing Reel – Best Value Fly Reel
The Remix by Waterworks-Lamson is an excellent choice for someone looking for a beginner’s reel under $200. Its name represents a mix of machined drag and a die-cast spool. Also, it is one of the lightest reels on our list.
Waterworks cut down on a few high-end features to produce a more affordable reel. For example, it is not anodized. Instead, they’ve painted the die-cast spool to save on the cost. Also, the drag is towards the lower side of the scale and pretty sticky.
What’s good about it are the acoustics which are loud and clear in both directions. Plus, the retrieval rates are impressive, too, due to the large-sized arbor. The handle and knob are both okay, nothing too fancy.
- Best value fly reel under $200
- Drag is machined, and the spools are cast
- Acoustics are impressive
- Fast retrieval rates
- Handle and drag knob is okay
- The drag is pretty weak and sticky
The Remix has its limitations but is still a good value reel under $200.
6. Temple Fork Outfitters NXT Black Label Fly Fishing Reel – Beginners Friendly
Talking of affordable reels, here’s another. This reel is the cheapest in our list of best fly reels for the money. But by cheap, I only mean the price. Quality-wise this fly reel isn’t bad at all.
You don’t often see a machined aluminum frame in a price range this low. Furthermore, the disc drag system is smooth and pretty durable since it is stainless steel. I have seen many institutes using this reel and a TFO fly rod to teach fishing to amateurs.
But because this reel is painted rather than anodized, you might experience some scratches or the paint flaking off after a few uses.
- Price under $100
- Perfect for newbies and rookies
- The disc drag system is smooth and durable
- The machined aluminum frame is strong
- The paint started to flake off after a few uses
If you are learning fly fishing or are just terrible at it, the TFO NXT Black Label might be the best fly reel for money if you are a beginner.
7. M MAXIMUMCATCH Maxcatch Sparta Fly Reel – The Smooooooothest of All!
Here is another good fly reel for the money. Maxcatch is a lesser-known brand that has dropped some of the best value fly reels over the last few years. I think they deserve some recognition for introducing very cost-effective yet best-quality fly reels to make fly fishing affordable for all kinds of folks.
Sparta is one of the smoothest reels I have ever got my hands on. I mean, I have experienced some high-end reels, but this one is hard to beat in terms of drag smoothness. The drag sound may not be the loudest, however. But I think I can learn to live with the mellow sound.
Now comes the appearance. This reel shows promise in terms of design. The color is beautiful and looks great on my fly rod. The weight may be a bit more if you compare it to better-rated reels of the same size. The sizing also felt a bit off because I ordered a 5/7 wt size, and it felt a bit heavier on my 6 wt fly rod. So you’ll need to be careful there.
- This reel is very cost-effective (under $100)
- The drag on this thing is the smoothest
- The design is terrific
- The colors compliment the fly rod beautifully
- Not to forget, it is very compatible with seawater
- It is not the lightest; hence you’ll need to be a bit careful to buy the right one for your rod.
- It sounds mellow
Sparta is a great value reel under $100. If you can live without the perfect click and a bit of weight, you must try this one.
8. Waterworks-Lamson Litespeed F Series Fly Fishing Reel – A Piece of Luxury
You may call the new “F-series” by Lamson a hybrid between their Litespeed and Speedster series. The features resemble closely with the former, while the looks are similar to the latter. But whoever the parent line is, these new reels are as perfect as a fly reel can get.
The weight is incredibly light. It is considerably more delicate than the previous models from the Litespeed range. Also, the design is phenomenal. The very open design makes for quick drying of retrieval lines.
As for drag, it features Lamson’s signature conical system that is sealed and robust. However, the F-series takes it up a notch with its innovative spring assembly and a drag knob that stops with a pleasant click.
The color whiskey is my favorite to pair up with any wooden fly rods. The only thing I don’t highly appreciate about this new F-series is the high price. I know this range is supposed to be more high-end and a piece of luxury, but Lamson has produced numerous best fly reels for the money with very similar features, yet they cost at least $100 less.
- The F-series reels are incredibly lightweight
- The open design helps fly lines dry fast
- Lamson’s signature conical drag system with spring assembly
- The color goes beautifully with wooden fly rods
- It costs at least $100 more than similar Lamson products
If you can afford it, the Lamson Litespeed F series is a piece of luxury that is also unmatched in performance.
9. Bozeman FlyWorks The Patriot Fly Fishing Reel – Good For Salmon
Bozeman is a smaller brand trying to make its way into the bigger fishing gear market. I tried their Patriot fly reel when I looked for a machined body, sealed drag, and affordable reel to go with my new rod. And this reel checked all marks!
It is incredible how many high-end features this reel gives you while staying on budget. The machined aluminum body is smooth and sturdy looking, and I could find no defects in the framework or the paint job. Furthermore, the sealed drag is smooth and powerful enough for enormous tackle, say salmon and steelhead.
The drag knob is functional and has excellent form. I can easily find and use it while I’m busy fighting a running fish. The drag adjustment is pretty fine, and I could find my sweet spot for the torque setting after just a few tries.
The only way this reel might trouble you is the capacity to hold lines. I bought a 5/6 wt reel, and I don’t think I can overline it at all because it will cost me a bit of my backing. Little backing won’t do you any good when you catch a 7wt fish like salmon.
- It is a good reel if you are on a budget
- The machined aluminum body is smooth and sturdy
- Sealed drag works smoothly and is perfect for salmon and steelhead
- The drag adjustment knob is ergonomic
- If you want more fly line, you’ll need to cut down on your backing
The Bozeman Patriots is a good value fly reel for anyone who doesn’t want to spend a lot of fortune. It has its limitations but is still a fair trade at its price.
10. Pflueger Medalist Fly Reel – For Vintage Vibes
Pfleuger has been around in the fly fishing market longer than I can remember. They have produced some classics in fly reels. The Medalist is the last one on our list of best fly reels for the money. It gives a vintage feeling with a more modern click-and-pawl drag system than the old brake shoe type we saw in prior versions.
This reel doesn’t look like it, but it weighs pretty little. The machined body is rough and tough, too, and the drag is smooth. The power on the drag system may not be a lot, but it is enough to catch small fish without a backlash. If you want a reel specific for higher weights, this is the wrong reel.
Now, the clicking sound is pretty loud, precisely as I like it, and the capacity to hold lines is excellent too. What’s not too good is the tiny drag knob that is not at all good for doing its job. The handle is also plastic and a little cheap-looking. I would have been okay with the plastic if this was a $50 fly reel sold at Walmart, but sadly it isn’t.
- Vintage looking design
- A more modern click-and-pawl drag system
- The body is machined and tough
- The clicking sound is loud
- The capacity to hold lines is plenty
- The drag knob is way too tiny, and the handle is very cheap looking
If you want a machined body and a retro look, the Patriot may be the best fly reel for the money. But if you need drag and are too bothered by the knob and handle, then not so much.
Testing different fly reels is my favorite job to do. I get to test so many products and tell you about my experience.
After testing the above ten best fly reels for the money, here is a list of the things you’ll need in your reel to make the most out of your money:
It is understandable; when looking for the most value for your money, you’ll need your fly reel to last you at least a few years. CNC machined aluminum body is good in this regard.
Smooth drag, adequate strength, and the ability to make fine adjustments on the drag are some of the factors that make a fly reel perform better than others.
Last but not least, you need your fly reels to be ergonomic. The handle should be long enough to grasp, the drag knob sufficient to adjust, and the spools should separate and reseat easily.
Related Fly Fishing Guides:
How To Care For Your Best Fly Reels For The Money?
Here are some tips for taking care of the best fly reels:
- Practice good handling of your reel.
- Rinse your reel with clean fresh water after use.
- Deep clean it after every fishing trip, if possible.
- Do not soak your reel for longer than 30 minutes.
- Grease the inners once a year.
- Loosen the drag knob to a minimum before storing.
- Store your reel bone dry.
Q. What are the top-quality fly reels for the money?
Q. Which are the top-rated fly reels for catching bigger fish?
Q. What is a sealed drag?
A drag that is covered to protect its components from the elements of nature (dirt, silt, sand, salt) is called a sealed drag. For that, we use saltwater fly reels.
The best fly reels for the money can nail their job and also give the most benefits to make your purchase fruitful.
Among the ten fly reels I have reviewed, the Ross Animas wins for being the most impressive. Thoughtful design, smooth drag, easy handling, and minimal weight are only some of the great features it provides.
So the next time you buy a reel, make sure it deserves your money!