best ultralight spinning reels

Best Ultralight Spinning Reels 2024

DISCLOSURE: This post may contain affiliate links, meaning when you click the links and make a purchase, I receive a commission

Fishing with ultralight tackle is fun! But you need the right gear if you want to do this well.

Using the right spinning reel in your ultralight setup is so important, but the good news is that there are some excellent options available now across a wide range of budgets, so you’ll be able to find an excellent ultra-light spinning reel that meets your requirements.

Ultralight spinning reel sizes on the larger end, are 2000 size reels, but mainly 1000 size spinning reels, or even 500 sizes if available. Anything larger than this in my opinion is not classified as an ‘ultralight’ reel.

Here are the top 3 ultralight spinning reels for 2024

Shimano Stella FK
  • New FK model released in 2022
  • 1000 size available
  • New and updated Shimano technology premiered in this reel
  • Featuring the all-new Duracross drag system 
Shimano Vandord
  • 500 and 1000 sizes available
  • Super-smooth reel that is perfectly designed for finesse fishing
  • Packed full of premium Shimano technologies
Daiwa Exist G LT
  • New release in 2022
  • Features new Airdrive technology
  • Smooth and ultra-lightweight design
  • Premium spinning reel

Shimano Stella FK – Best Overall

The Stella is the pinnacle of Shimano’s spinning reel range, and the new 2022 FK model comes with some brand-new technologies that enhance the performance of the reel further still.

The Stella FK has a 1000 reel size available, so you have the power and finesse of this reel packed into this ultralight body.

best ultralight spinning reel
Shimano Stella FK

The 1000-size reel is great for freshwater fishing and targeting species such as bass and trout, but it has the power to deal with a range of species and some light estuary and inshore fishing too.

This new 2022 FK ultralight reel premiers some brand new advancements, focused around their new Infinity Cross (aka ‘Infinity Xross’) technology that has raised the bar in the spinning reel market.

When you pair the Stella FK with an ultralight rod, you have a combination that is hard to beat for light finesse fishing. 

The 13 (12+1) stainless steel ball bearings on this reel ensure that every moving part is a perfect motion. The new Infinity loop technology on the FK reel really improves casting performance, not only for distance but also enables you to cast your lures with precision. 

Here is a detailed walkthrough of the Stella FK reel:

The performance of this new FK reel is what makes it so appealing. Shimano has really thought of every little element of the reel and made improvements and innovations where possible.

The attention to detail is clearly evident, it seems every part has been well thought through to work in the symmetry it does.

The end result for the FK is a butter-smooth lightweight reel that combines power and finesse in an eye-catching, durable body that should maintain its high-end performance for many years.

Here are some of these new technologies on the Stella FK:

  • Infinity Xross – Superior gear strength 
  • Infinity Drive – Improved cranking power
  • Dura Cross – 10x more durable drag
  • Infinity Loop – Enhanced casting performance
  • Anti Twin Fin – Reduced wind knots

As well as the new technologies that Shimano has introduced into the new Stella FK, it also includes some of the existing technology that has made it such a popular and high-performance reel over the years.

Here are some of the specifications for the Stella FK 1000 size reel:

Reel Size:1000
Bearings:12 + 1
Gear Ratio:5.1:1
Max Drag (lbs/kg):7lb / 3kg
Retrieve Per Crank (in/cm):25in / 63.5cm
Weight (oz/gr):5.8oz / 165g

The Stella FK 1000 size reel is hard to beat in all areas of performance and durability when it comes to ultralight fishing.

Yes, you will have to pay a premium price to get yourself a Shimano Stella FK, but you will be getting an ultralight spinning reel that delivers unrivaled performance.

Shimano Vanford – Runner up

When Shimano introduced the Vanford to its range of spinning reels, it included 500 and 1000 sizes for those that wanted the ultralight gear for their finesse fishing requirements.

Having personally owned and extensively used my 1000-size Vanford for a while now, I can attest to this reel’s quality and performance abilities.

ultralight spinning reel
Shimano Vanford

It is a super-smooth reel that is also extremely light and responsive. I love that you can feel even the slightest of knocks on your lure and that the reel is super-responsive.

The 1000 size Vanford is actually lighter than the 1000 size Stella FK (5.3oz vs 5.8oz), and it is so easy to flick lures around for hours on end without fatigue to your arms or wrists.

For such a light finesse reel, the 1000-size Vanford has impressive drag power. 7lbs of maximum drag will give you the ability to do battle with some hard-fighting fish. A lot of fun on such light gear!

The balance of the reel is excellent. The center of gravity ensures that it sits conformably in the hand when paired with a decent rod, without having to try and counter-balance the rod and reel.  

Specifications for the two ultralight Vanford reels:

Reel Size:500
Bearings:6 + 1
Gear Ratio:5.6:1
Max Drag (lbs/kg):6lbs / 2.7kg
Retrieve Per Crank (in/cm):27in / 68cm
Weight (oz/gr):4.9oz / 139g

Reel Size:1000
Bearings:7 + 1
Gear Ratio:5.1:1
Max Drag (lbs/kg):7lbs / 3kg
Retrieve Per Crank (in/cm):25in / 64cm
Weight (oz/gr):5.3oz / 155g

The Shimano Vanford is a high-quality reel that provides some of Shimano’s premium spinning reel technologies and is one of the very best ultralight fishing reels available on the market today.

I have been so impressed with the 1000-size Vanford reel since I purchased it. I have found it to be a very worthy replacement for the older Shimano Stradic Ci4+. 

The fact that this reel is one of the lightest spinning reels available, it casts so long, and is so responsive makes it one of the very best ultralight spinning reels currently available on the market.

It comes in at a very close second place to the Stella FK, only due to the incredible new technology that Shimano has added to the new FK reel. 

But if you don’t want to spend the premium price for the Stella FK and you want some serious bang for your buck, then the Vanford 1000 size reel is an excellent choice for your ultralight fishing.

Shimano Vanford 1000 ultralight reel
Shimano Vanford 1000

Daiwa Exist G LT – New 2022 Model

Another new spinning reel to hit the market in 2022 is the updated version of the excellent Daiwa Exist.

The new Exist G LT is a premium spinning reel, with a price to match!

Yes, it is an expensive reel and will cost you a lot of money to buy, but you are getting a lot of quality for your money in this new Exist G LT upgraded version.

I do want to mention that the smallest size the new Exist G LT reel comes in is a 2000, they do not have a 1000 size. 

Daiwa Exist G LT

But the 2000-size reel comes with a lot of brand new Daiwa technology and is a high-performance reel that is well suited to finesse fishing. 

It is also extremely light. The 2000 size Exist G LT weighs just 5.3oz (155g), which is the same weight as the 1000 size Shimano Vanford reel.

This is why the 2000-size Exist reel is very good for throwing lightweight lures and should also be considered if you want to target slightly larger fish than you normally would with a 1000-size reel.

Daiwa has introduced a new technology initiative called ‘Airdrive Design’ into this 2022 Exist G LT reel to enhance and improve on the previous 2018 model.

Here are some of the new Airdrive technologies used on the Daiwa Exist G LT spinning reel:

  • Airdrive rotor – Zaion rotor is lighter and has lower inertia
  • Airdrive bail – Thinner and lighter bail with adjusted angle to improve line movement onto the roller
  • Airdrive spool – Reduced spool weight and improved oscillation
  • Airdrive shaft – Provides smoother and quieter rotation as well as more torque and power

The innovation in this new Airdrive technology certainly produces amazing results in the overall feel and performance of this reel.

You can expect long smooth casting, powerful retrieve, a butter smooth drag, and exceptional feel. This reel is built using high-quality corrosion-resistant materials and is built to last. 

It will enhance your fishing experience, no doubt. If you have the budget for the new Exist G LT reel, you will quickly appreciate the quality it provides.

Here are the main specifications for the Exist reel (2000 size):

Reel Size:2000
Bearings:12 + 1
Gear Ratio:4.9:1
Max Drag (lbs/kg):11lb / 5kg
Retrieve Per Crank (in/cm):24.1in / 61cm
Weight (oz/gr):5.3oz / 155g

Other Worthy Ultralight Spinning Reel Mentions

While the above reels are my top options for ultralight spinning, there are some other very worthy contenders that you can also consider.

The below reels also provide a great deal of quality for finesse fishing and give you more options as far as budget goes as well.

Shimano Stradic FL

Shimano Stradic FL
  • 1000 size available
  • Features a number of Shimano's premium technologies
  • Good quality design and build
  • Very smooth operator
  • Great value for money

What a great workhorse of a reel the Shimano Stradic FL is! It incorporates a number of Shimano’s advanced technologies and has become a really popular spinning reel since it was launched in 2019.

Shimano Stradic FL lightweight spinning reel
Shimano Stradic FL

The Stradic FL is a robust reel. It feels extremely well made, you can tell it uses a number of Shimano’s premium technologies as soon as you start using it.

The reel is extremely smooth and responsive and will hold up to some tough battles with hard-fighting fish. 

The 1000-size FL reel is not the lightest reel in its class, the 1000-size Vanford for example is 1.6oz lighter. 

But if you pair this with a longer rod (7ft to 7.6ft is ideal), then you will find the balance is excellent and you really get the most out of this reel.

It casts extremely well, the casting distance achieved from the reel is impressive as well as the accurate casting it provides. It is ideal for throwing light lures around and targeting a wide range of fish species. 

The excellent drag system on the Stradic FL gives you the ability to turn the pressure back onto the harder-fighting fish. It is also incredibly smooth and it gives you a lot of confidence when into a larger fish.

One thing to note about the 1000-size Stradic FL reel is that it comes with felt drag washers (3000 size and above come with carbon drag washers).

While the drag is super-smooth, these washers may need replacing after a while. But this is easy to do and you can buy a set of carbon washers very cheap and easily from many places.

Here are some of the specs’ for the Stradic FL 1000 reel:

Reel Size:1000
Bearings:6 + 1
Gear Ratio:6.0:1
Max Drag (lbs/kg):6.6lb / 3kg
Retrieve Per Crank (in/cm):30in / 76cm
Weight (oz/gr):6.9oz / 195g
1000 size ultralight spinning reel

Penn Clash 2

Penn Clash 2
  • 1000 size available
  • Strong and durable design
  • Powerful HT-100 carbon fiber drag system
  • Leveline oscillation system that reduces wind knots
  • Hydrophonic line roller bearing
  • Instant anti-reverse

Penn are better known for their larger saltwater spinning reel range, but they do also have some excellent smaller 1000-size spinning reels, and the Penn Clash II is one of these.

Penn are also known for building really robust and durable reels, and they have a lot of loyal and repeat customers around the world because of this.

The Clash 2 gives you that renowned durability, so you know your money is going to go a long way and you will get a lot of usage out of this reel if looked after properly.

lightweight spinning reels
Penn Clash II

The 1000 Clash II also packs a lot of power. It uses Penn’s HT-100 powerful drag system, and with 9 pounds of drag available on this UL spinning reel, you have a very capable fishing reel that gains your confidence as soon as you start using it.

One of the things I really like about the Penn Clash II, is that although it does feel really sturdy and robust, you do also get the responsive feedback and feel from the reel that you want for your light finesse fishing equipment.

The 1000-size Clash 2 is a light reel, weighing in at 7oz, although there are lighter 1000-size reels mentioned on this page. It also feels super-smooth, the 9 (8+1) stainless steel bearings really helping this reel glide when in motion.

Here are the main specifications for the Penn Clash 2:

Reel Size:1000
Bearings:8 + 1
Gear Ratio:5.2:1
Max Drag (lbs/kg):9lbs / 4kg
Retrieve Per Crank (in/cm):22in / 55cm
Weight (oz/gr):7oz / 198g

Piscifun Carbon X Spinning Reel (Best ultralight reel under $100)

Piscifun Carbon X
  • 500 and 1000 sizes available
  • Extremely lightweight carbon design
  • Very smooth operator
  • Strong drag system

If you are looking for a budget option for your ultralight setup, then the Piscifun Carbon X is one of the best lightweight fishing reels for its price.

Coming in at well under $100, you are getting a lot of quality for your money here. The reel has both 500 and 1000 sizes available, so you have the choice of two ultralight reels depending on your needs.

Although available at a very affordable price, the Piscifun Carbon X spinning reel certainly does not feel cheap when you start to use it. It feels sturdy, and the balance of the reel when paired with a suitable ultralight spinning rod is really good.

One of the first things you will notice when using this reel is just how smooth it is. The 11 (10+1) ball bearings used in the reel give it the smooth operation you want when finesse fishing.

Piscifun Carbon X ultralight spinning reel
Piscifun Carbon X

This reel is extremely light. The 1000 size weighs in at just 5.7oz (162g), which is lighter than the 1000 Shimano Stella FK. And the 500 size is even lighter, weighing in at just 5.1oz (145g).

If you are throwing lures around all day, then you need something as lightweight as this to avoid getting any fatigue in your wrists and arms. 

The drag on the Piscifun Carbon X reel is also very smooth and effective. You have 4kg of maximum drag to work with on both the 500 and 1000-size reels, and the sealed drag system on this reel will give it the protection it needs to keep functioning to its optimal levels at all times.

Note – one thing to highlight on this reel is that both the 500 and 1000 sizes do not have the anti-reverse switch, so if you are somebody that likes to have this functionality on their reels (I personally hate these now, but I know some people still like them), then this is something to be aware of.

Main specs’ for the Piscifun Carbon X spinning reel:

Reel Size:500
Bearings:10 + 1
Gear Ratio:5.2:1
Max Drag (lbs/kg):9lbs / 4kg
Retrieve Per Crank (in/cm):20.1in / 51cm
Weight (oz/gr):5.1oz / 145g

Reel Size:1000
Bearings:10 + 1
Gear Ratio:5.2:1
Max Drag (lbs/kg):9lbs / 4kg
Retrieve Per Crank (in/cm):22.4in / 57cm
Weight (oz/gr):5.7oz / 162g

This reel is ideal for both novice anglers, because of the affordable price, and also great for experienced anglers due to its excellent quality and performance.

So if you are looking for a good quality ultralight spinning reel at a very affordable price, I highly recommend this Piscifun Carbon X, you will not be disappointed!

Shimano Nasci FC

Shimano Nasci FC
  • 500 and 1000 sizes available
  • Comes with some of Shimano's premium technology
  • Very smooth performing reel
  • A lot of quality at an affordable price

Shimano released an updated version of its very popular Nasci in 2021, and it comes with a stylish new design that incorporates some of Shimano’s premium features and technologies.

This latest Nasci FC spinning reel offers both 500 and 1000 sizes for finesse fishing. The reels are also very responsive, you can feel the tiniest of bites and react quickly to set the hooks with no lagging from the reels.

Considering you can get the Nasci FC reel for around the $100-mark, you are getting a lot of quality for your money.

Some of the features in this reel include the cold-forged HAGANE Gear technology, Shimano’s X-Ship, and CoreProtect technologies, and also added to this new Nasci FC model is the excellent SilentDrive technology, which has been used in all of Shimano’s premium line of spinning reels.

It should be said that the 500 and 1000-size Nasci reels are not the lightest in this range (although they are not heavy by any means). But the performance of this reel is what makes it such a popular option for many anglers around the world.

Here are the specs’ for the two Nasci ultralight reels:

Reel Size:500
Bearings:4 + 1
Gear Ratio:5.6:1
Max Drag (lbs/kg):7lbs / 3kg
Retrieve Per Crank (in/cm):27in / 68cm
Weight (oz/gr):6oz / 170g

Reel Size:1000
Bearings:5 + 1
Gear Ratio:5.0:1
Max Drag (lbs/kg):7lbs / 3kg
Retrieve Per Crank (in/cm):26in / 66cm
Weight (oz/gr):7.2oz / 199g

Note – The 500-size Shimano Nasic does not include the following technologies: CoreProtect, SilentDrive, and X-Ship. (All three ARE included in the 1000-size)

Abu Garcia Revo SX Spinning Reel

Abu Garcia Revo SX
  • 1000 size available
  • Insert molded C6 carbon body
  • Rocket line management system
  • Braid-ready aluminum spool
  • K-Clutch anti-reverse
  • Carbon Matrix hybrid drag system

The Revo SX spinning reel from Abu Garcia is a compact and robust spinning reel that provides a really smooth fishing experience. 

The 1000-size is a great option for finesse fishing situations and is suitable for a wide range of species. It looks great, and also gives you a great feeling of confidence with its build and performance.

Abu Garcia has put a lot of thought into the design of this reel. The Insert Molded C6 carbon body and the 1-piece X-craftic™ aluminum gearbox combine to make a really strong and responsive reel.

Weighing in at 7.2oz for the 1000-size reel, the Revo SX is not the lightest in class for sure. But you do not lose any of the delicate feel that you need from your ultralight setup.

Here are the reel specs’ for the Abu Garcia Revo SX:

Reel Size:1000
Bearings:8 + 1
Gear Ratio:6.2:1
Max Drag (lbs/kg):10lbs / 4.5kg
Retrieve Per Crank (in/cm):30in / 76cm
Weight (oz/gr):7.2oz / 199g

The type of reel you get is often a very personal choice, with several factors playing into your purchase decision. 

Price is one of the main factors people look at and the price range of some of the lightweight spinning reels mentioned here will vary significantly.

But there is also the individual feel of a reel, and how it pairs up with a rod.

Ultralight fishing is all about the delicate touch, the responsiveness of the tackle you use, and the ability to set the hook on the slightest knick on your lure, and then have the ability to do battle with the fish with a good quality rod and reel.

The above-mentioned ultralight spinning reels all provide the quality you want for your finesse fishing trips. You just need to decide which one best meets your needs and budget.

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