GUIDE – How to Choose the Right Size Spinning Reel

  • Date: June 14, 2022

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

We’ve all been there at some stage in our fishing lives. We decide we want to buy a lovely new spinning reel, only to get to the store and become overwhelmed with the multitude of size variations on offer!

Deciding what size spinning reel you need can be a bit of a challenge for some, especially when new to fishing.

These reels come in a lot of different sizes, and choosing the right size for your needs should definitely be one of the main factors when you are looking at buying a new reel.


Choosing the right size spinning reel – Explained

When you start looking at the vast range of spinning reels available, you will see all of the different models will have a number associated with them. This number indicates the size.

The main concept is that the smaller the number, the smaller the reel is. Easy, right?

Now you know this, I will go through the size range so you can better understand what you have to choose from.


Here is a spinning reel size chart

Spinning Reel SizesRecommended Line (Mono)Recommended Line (Braid)
Small Size Spinning Reels:
1000 2-4lb (1-2kg) 4-8lb (2-4kg)
2000 4-6lb (2-3kg) 5-10lb (2-5kg)
2500 5-8lb (2-4kg) 5-12lb (2-6kg)
3000 6-10lb (2.5-5kg) 6-15lb (2.5-7kg)
3500 6-10lb (2.5-5kg) 6-15lb (2.5-7kg)
Medium Size Spinning Reels:
4000 8-12lb (4-6kg) 8-20lb (3.5-9kg)
500010-15lb (4.5-7kg) 10-25lb (4.5-11kg)
600012-18lb (5.5-8kg) 12-30lb (5.5-13.5kg)
Large Size Spinning Reels:
700014-20lb (6.5-9kg) 15-40lb (7-18kg)
800015-25lb (7-11.5kg) 20-50lb (9-22.5kg)
900020-25lb (9-11.5kg) 20lb-60lb (9-27kg)
Largest Size Spinning Reels:
10,00020-30lb (9-13.5kg) 25-70lb (11.5-32kg)
14,00040lb+ (18kg+) 30-80lb (13.5-36kg)
20,00050lb+ (22.5kg+) 60lb+ (27kg+)
30,00060lb+ (27kg+) 80lb+ (36kg)

Note

One thing that should be explained is that most brands use either a two or a four-digit number to reference the size, but reels starting with the same number will be of the same size.

Example:
Brand A – spinning reel size 10
Brand B – spinning reel size 1000

Both 10 and 1000 equate to the same size reel. This is relevant throughout the entire size range of spinning reels.


Below is a bit more detail on the range of spinning reel sizes.

Starting from the very smallest of spinning reels up to the largest. This list also includes recommended line strength for each size and more detail on what each size is best suited for:

Small Size Spinning Reels:

Recommended line strength = mono 2-4lb (1-2kg) or braid 4-8lb (2-4kg)

Detail = Very small ultralight spinning reel, best suited for fishing in lakes, streams, smaller rivers, bays, and harbor sand estuaries

Recommended line strength = mono 4-6lb (2-3kg) or braid 5-10lb (2-5kg)

Detail = Small reel ideally suited for streams and smaller rivers, estuaries, lakes, harbors. Best paired with a light rod of 6-7ft in length that has a line rating of 4-8lb

  • Recommended line strength = mono 5-8lb (2-4kg) or braid = 5-12lb (2-6kg)
  • Detail = Still a small-sized reel, but with more line capacity than the 1000 and 2000 sizes. Can be used for fishing anywhere from rivers to estuaries, and also suitable for small kayak and boat fishing if targeting smaller species too.

Should be paired with a rod of around 6-7ft with a 4-10lb line rating. It can also be used for longer rods when float fishing too.

  • Recommended line strength = mono 6-10lb (2.5-5kg) or braid 6-15lb (2.5-7kg)
  • Detail = Reel size starting to get bigger now, so you can think about slightly heavier line and different fish species with this size reel.

Good for lakes, bays, estuaries, light surf, and harbors. Rod length can be 6-8ft for spinning, and up to 10ft for float fishing, with a line rating of 5-10lb

  • Recommended line strength = mono 6-10lb (2.5-5kg) or braid 6-15lb (2.5-7kg)
  • Detail = Usually very similar in size to the 3000 models, but with just a bit more line capacity.

Much the same recommended specs for the 3500 as the 3000, but you can go slightly heavier on the line if you want to.



Medium Size Spinning Reels:

  • Recommended line strength = mono 8-12lb (4-6kg) or braid 8-20lb (3.5-9kg)
  • Detail = Now we hit the mid-sized spinning reels, and you can start thinking about different species of fish again, and heavier line to target the bigger species with.

Great for fishing off kayaks and smaller boats, as well as surf fishing, harbors, and wharves. Look at pairing it with a 6-8ft rod for spinning, or up to a 10ft surf rod, with a line rating of 10-20lb

  • Recommended line strength = mono 10-15lb (4.5-7kg) or braid 10-25lb (4.5-11kg)
  • Detail = Now we’re getting to the reels with quite a bit of grunt behind them, so can be used for targeting bigger species. Great for fishing off boats, whether spinning or trawling, as well as kayaks, harbor and wharfs.

Can be used for bigger river species too. Goes well with a 6-7ft spinning rod of around the 10-20lb line rating, or a 10-12ft surf rod with a line rating up to 15lb.

  • Recommended line strength = mono 12-18lb (5.5-8kg) or braid 12-30lb (5.5-13.5kg)
  • Detail = Great size for rock fishing, as you have the power to tackle and lift heavy fish from the water, and use line strong enough to give you a chance against harder fighting fish that can be caught in these locations. Also great for boat fishing, and more heavy-duty wharf fishing.

Pair it with a more sturdy boat rod 6-8ft with a line rating up to 25lb, or 10-12ft surf rods. For rock fishing, 10ft is usually preferred, and a line rating of up to 20lb


Large Size Spinning Reels:

  • Recommended line strength = mono 14-20lb (6.5-9kg) or braid 15-40lb (7-18kg)
  • Detail = Now we are into the larger sized reels, and the dynamic continues to change. Best suited for boat fishing, heavier surf fishing, and fishing off the rocks.

You can pair 7000 reels with shorter boat rods up to 8ft in length, with a line rating up to 40lb. For surf fishing, 11-12ft rods with a line rating up to 20lb, and for rocks a 10-11ft rod with a line rating up to 30lb

Recommended line strength = mono 15-25lb (7-11.5kg) or braid 20-50lb (9-22.5kg)

Detail = Again, best suited for boat, surf, and rock fishing. Can be used with rods that range from 8ft for boat up to 12ft for surf, and line ratings from up to 50lb for boat and 25lb for surf.

Recommended line strength = mono 20-25lb (9-11.5kg) or braid 20lb-60lb (9-27kg)

Detail = Same usage as an 8000, just look at line ratings of up to 60lb for boat, and 25lb for surf. Rock fishing you can go slightly heavier than surf if you feel it necessary depending on the locations you will be fishing and target species.


Largest Size Spinning Reels:

  • Recommended line strength = mono 20-30lb (9-13.5kg) or braid 25-70lb (11.5-32kg)
  • Detail = Now we get to the big-boy reels! These offer great sport for larger fish, and ideal to use from boats, rocks, and beach.

When you start getting into reels of this size, it is recommended that you only consider them once you have a bit of experience. They are quite bulky and will weigh quite a bit too.

Recommended line strength = mono 40lb+ (18kg+) or braid 30-80lb (13.5-36kg)

Detail = Boat, rock, and beach, and now you’ll be targeting species such as Tuna, GT’s, smaller sharks, Mahi Mahi etc.

Recommended line strength = mono 50lb+ (22.5kg+) or braid 60lb+ (27kg+)

Detail = Now we’re really into the bigger stuff, so bigger species and heavy-duty rock, beach, and boat fishing

Recommended line strength = mono 60lb+ (27kg+) or braid 80lb+ (36kg)

Detail = You won’t find much bigger than this when it comes to spinning reels. This size is usually reserved for the bigger pelagic fish such as Marlin, big GT’s, sharks, and bigger Tuna

**Please note, you may find some brands that will offer sizes not shown here, that sit in the middle of what is listed above.

An example would be the Penn Slammer 3 7500. But the above will give you a good understanding of the range of sizes available, from smallest to largest.


What type of fishing will you be doing?

An important question to ask yourself before you buy a new spinning reel is what type of fishing you intend to use it for?

The size of reel you choose should suit the type of fishing you intend to do with it.

Likewise, if you are going for bigger fish you will need a reel that has the strength to deal with the hard battles they provide, so an 8,000, 10,000, or even bigger could be ideal.

What size fishing reel should you get if you’re just starting out?

If you are just starting fishing, you probably won’t know exactly what type of fishing you will be doing, or you may want to try a few different styles to see which one you enjoy the most.

You don’t want to be spending a lot of money on several different fishing reels, at least not initially.

So the best option is to buy a mid-size reel that will allow you to fish lighter tackle in freshwater or estuaries or heavier tackle in the ocean.



Look at either a 3000 to a 4000 size reel and use line with a breaking strain of around 10 to 15lb’s.

This is a great place to start and will give you the ability to catch a wide range of fish and use a number of different fishing techniques.

To big or too small – how to get it right

I have seen many people fishing with much to heavy gear for the fish they are targeting.

For me, this dilutes the fun you have when you catch a fish, as it largely negates the fight of the fish, as you are able to haul it in without any use of the drag.

If you are new to fishing then I would advise that you air on the side of caution and go slightly bigger rather than smaller.

But as you get more skilled with your fishing, if you want to have more fun with the fish then going with smaller lighter reels and line can give you a lot of satisfaction and entertainment when you hook into that bigger fish.

The thing to remember when choosing your next spinning reel is that there is no exact science to it, but if you use the size guide I posted above you are going to be in the right ballpark.


Q & A’s

To decide what size fishing reel you should buy you need to determine where you will be fishing, what type of fishing you will be doing, and how much you want to spend. There are good spinning reels available to meet all budgets and sizes for all types of fishing

A 30 size reel is the same as a 3000 size reel. Some brands prefer to use ’30’ to state the size, while others prefer to use ‘3000’. A size 30 reel is classed as a smaller size spinning reel

A 1000 size reel is a very small-sized spinning reel and will be used for very light fishing. It would be used in small rivers and streams, or for very light lure fishing in an estuary or inshore fishing.

If you are using a spinning reel when bass fishing then you will want to use one of the smaller sizes. The best size reels for bass are 1000 up to a 3000 size

  1. Hi, I have a question if you don’t mind?
    I currently fish for pike and perch with a 20-50g 7ft rod and 2500 reel.
    I’m looking to spin for trout and perch and have just bought a 1-11g Shimano catana 5’10 rod for this purpose to use as an ultra light setup.
    My question is do I need to also match it with a smaller reel, say 1000? I do not understand what the difference would be between a 1000 and 2500 and would it justify the extra cost of buying a new 1000.
    What is your opinion?

    Kind regards

    1. Hi Lee, you can use your 2500 on your light trout/perch setup (i would not use any bigger than a 2500 for such a light setup though). But your line is the important thing here. If you are currently running anything more than 5lb line on your 2500 reel, then I would suggest buying a spare spool and spool it up with some lighter line for your trout and perch sessions.

  2. Thanks for this good information. I have a question re. mono vs braid. I realize mono has a much larger diameter, so, for example, a spool will hold less 20 lb mono than 20 lb braid. What I am unsure of is the strength of a reel. If a 4000 reel will accommodate 12 lb mono and 20 lb braid, can I assume it will accommodate 20 lb mono but in limited capacity? As an unrelated comment, I understand what you state about hooking a large fish with light line; I know the joy of playing a fish. However, I believe it is generally accepted that fish that are released have a much better rate of survival if they are not played too hard. In Nova Scotia the guide to regulations given to everyone who purchases a sport fishing licence recommends using line heavy enough to not play out fish that will be released.

    1. Hi Fred, to answer the first part of your question on the reel strength, your assumption is correct in that the reel could still accommodate 20lb mono (using your example). The two things you should check for before buying a certain reel and size, is the amount of both mono and braid the reel you are after can hold, and also the strength of the drag. If you know roughly what you need then you should be able to find a reel within your budget that will match your requirements.

      To answer the second part of your question…if you are fishing mainly catch and release then you may want to adjust your line strength requirements and go slightly heavier. But i wouldn’t go too crazy on this. You don’t want to get to a stage where you are just hauling a fish in at will, as this will take a lot of the fun out of your fishing. And in my experience, most species can survive a good battle (not all though). But at the other end of the scale, you don’t want to be tiring every fish you catch out so much that it puts their future at risk. Personally i always buy spare spools for all of the reels i own and i add different strength line to each, so you have the options available to you to suit the target species.

      Hope that helps

  3. I need a new real I normally lake fish for rainbow trout but what is gear ratio please.i would normally be getting fish about 3 pounds top weight then under.all what weight of line as well please

    1. Hi Tracy, if you’re fishing that light then I suggest a small 1000 size spinning reel, and a gear ratio of 5.0:1 to 6.0:1 should suffice. As for the line, I know that personally I prefer to go lighter rather than heavier, so in this situation, I would fish with 3lb line. But I suggest using anything from 3lb to 5lb depending on what you are comfortable with.

  4. Hi Vince, excellent article. I’m fairly new to surf fishing but when I tried it I loved it. Looking to purchase my own rod and reel set up. Do you think a 9ft rod with a 6500 reel would be suitable for New England surf fishing – stripers and blues? Or is this reel to big? Thanks! Tom

    1. Hi Tom, your desired set-up would work although personally, i would go with a slightly longer rod (10ft at least), and a 5000 or 5500 size reel. Enjoy your fishing, let me know what choice you make in the end and how it works for you.

  5. Great article thanks for taking the time to write it. Can I ask more on the line strength to reel size? Should the line strength match the drag strength? Or is it not as simple as that? Before reading this article I was thinking of a 3000 reel which has a drag strength of 20lb and using 20lb braid. Your recommended line for a 3000 is up to 15lb. What would be the downside of using heavier braid?

    1. Hi Craig, the max drag you’ll find on spinning reels can vary quite significantly from brand to brand and model to model, so use the number on here as a guide but you don’t have to stick stringently within that range. There are no hard and fast rules to this, and especially if you want to use braid you can go heavier and 20lb braid on a 3000 spinning reel would be no issue as all. Good luck, and let me know how you go

      1. I am from Bangladesh. You know that our country is Riverian. Hundreds of rivers are flowing throughout the country named Padma, Jamuna, Meghna etc. etc. Wonderful guide ever I seen about the selection of reels. Very good information gotten from you. All the best.

  6. Hey I’m fairly new to shark fishing would a 10000 reel work and how big of a shark could I catch with that also what pound braid do you recommend

    1. Hi Luke, a 10,000 reel would work if you’re targeting smaller sharks, and if you do go for a 10k reel then I would go with a minimum of 70lb braid. Good luck, post some pictures here when you catch one

  7. Can you tell me how much 20lb braided line a Penn 8000 will hold? My reel only starts at 50lb. I’ll be using it for surf fishing.

    1. Hi Tom, it’s hard to find any official info on 20lb braid capacity for a Penn 8000 size reel, but by my calculations, it would be around 600 yards

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