7 Best Musky Reels (2020 Reviews)
We’ve spent quite a bit of time pouring through the data and have come up with, what we believe, is the best guide available for helping you not only get out on the water with your new gear, but make sure that gear is still around years from now.
It does you no good to pick up a new reel only to find out 6 months from now that it isn’t what you thought, that it doesn’t work how you want it to, or that it’s built with low-quality materials and you’ve, essentially, wasted the money you spent on it.
At Tackle.org, that’s a nightmare we don’t want any of our visitors facing — which is why we’ve done the heavy lifting for you and broken down what we think about when we’re on the fence about buying a new Musky reel (or any new gear, for that matter!)
Before we get started, there’s one major question angler, after angler, finds themselves facing…
What’s The Best Musky Reel In 2019?
Something to keep in mind as you’re reading is that a lot went into comparing each of these reels. We considered everything from price, durability, specifications, customer reviews, manufacturer reviews, how long they’ve been available, and our own experience.
With that being said, the age old adage “you get what you pay for” has never been more true than it is when it comes to Musky reels. These fish put up amazing fights and can test the limits of even some of the highest-end gear you can get your hands on.
If budget is a concern, pay attention to the midrange reels before you jump straight to the bottom of the list — you can find some amazing “bargains” in the middle of the road, as long as you follow our recommendations and know what you’re looking for.
Without further adieu, listed below are, what we believe, the best Musky reels in 2019, listed in order from our #1 pick to our #10 pick.
#1 Abu Garcia Revo Toro Beast 60
When only the best will do, you’re going to have a really hard time finding a low profile Musky baitcaster that beats the Abu Garcia Revo Toro Beast 60-series. Specifically, the Revo T2 Bst60-hs.
It’s a high-speed reel that performs even better than it looks. The dual EVA rubber handles are comfortable and help bring in the line with a 27” per-turn pickup speed. A 4.9:1 gear ratio is a tad on the slower side but the handle design and pickup speed makes it almost unnoticeable.
The reel, in your hand, feels nearly indestructible. With a 25lb drag system built coupled to Abu Garcia’s InfiniMax breaking system, it casts like a dream and just won’t let up, even during long runs.
- Construction: Lightweight X-Craftic alloy.
- Line Capacity: 190 yards @ 80lb test.
- Line Weights: Up to 80lb test braid.
- Gear Ratio: 4.9:1
- Retrieval: 27” per-turn.
- Bearings: 7 Stainless Steel HPCR + 1 Reverse Roller
- Max Drag: 25lbs Max
Heavy duty internal gears and a titanium-coated line guide round out the quality built into the Revo Toro Beast 60. Once you get your hands on one, you’ll wonder why it took so long for a manufacturer to finally release a true piece of art that doubles as The Best Musky Reel in 2019.
|Abu Garcia Revo Toro Beast Low Profile Baitcast Fishing Reel||$299.95||Amazon|
#2 Daiwa Lexa Hyper Speed 6CRBB
Hyper Speed doesn’t begin to touch on the Daiwa Lexa 6CRBB reel. With an 8.1:1 gear ratio, you’re not going to find a reel that pulls line in faster.
The handle design and lightweight EVA rubber knobs makes it perfect for both high-speed swimbaits and low-speed glide baits, giving you a wide range of speed — so don’t let the name throw you off.
Since 1955, Daiwa has been staying at the forefront of the fishing industry (Musky fishing, included!) and haven’t let up — which is easy to see with their Lexa Hyper Speed 6CRBB reels.
- Construction: Lightweight aluminum & graphite.
- Line Capacity: 200 yards @ 80lb test.
- Line Weights: Up to 80lb test.
- Gear Ratio: 8.1:1
- Retrieval: 43” per-turn.
- Bearings: 6 Sealed Stainless Steel + 1 Reverse
- Max Drag: 25lbs Max
The reel was initially built for inshore saltwater use so you know it can withstand the punishment of freshwater fishing for big Muskies and Pike. A lightweight, palmable design feels good in the hand and the price tag is incredibly attractive, making it our #2 choice for the Best Musky Reel in 2019.
|Daiwa Lexa Hyper Speed 6CRBB, 8.1:1 Right Hand Power Handle Baitcast Fishing Reel - LEXA-HD400XS-P||$269.99||Amazon|
#3 Okuma Komodo SS Large Capacity
Okuma, while once considered a “budget” brand, has drastically stepped up their game over the last few years. Their Komodo SS line of large capacity reels are finding their way into more and more Musky anglers boats, too!
The Komodo KDS-364P is the one we’re looking at, specifically. It boasts a maximum of 25lbs of drag holding power, 31” of line retrieved per turn of the handle, and weighs a tough over 11 ounces, making it easy to palm and comfortable to hold for long periods of time.
- Construction: Aluminum frame, spool and side plates.
- Line Capacity: 150 yards @ 20lb test.
- Line Weights: Up to 80lb test braid, 20lb test monofilament.
- Gear Ratio: 6.4:1
- Retrieval: 31” per-turn.
- Bearings: 6 HPB + 1 Reverse Bearing (Sealed)
- Max Drag: 25lbs
Stainless steel gears have proven to hold up and the zirconium guide inserts keep your line fresh and free from knicks or binding as it lays back onto the spool. An on/off clicker helps when you’re trolling — if you’re trolling, the Okuma Komodo SS pulls double-duty.
|Okuma Komodo SS Large Capacity Low Profile Baitcaster, KDS-471P, 130 yds-30LB, Power Handle||$222.32||Amazon|
#4 Shimano Tranx 401AHG Low Profile
The Shimano Tranx 401AHG Low Profile baitcaster is another reel that was originally designed for inshore saltwater fishing but Musky and Pike anglers quickly took notice and began running it on their rods with quite a bit of success.
The reels are built with an oversized knob and a 7.6:1 gear ratio for an extraordinarily high line retrieval rate, pulling in a total of 40” of line with each turn of the handle. That gives you the ability to add massive speed to your baits, while the handle design lets you slow roll them when fishing gets tough.
A lightweight frame and metal body gives you excellent stiffness, even with the drag cinched down, and doesn’t lose its luster after banging it around the boat season after season.
- Construction: Hagane & Metal Body
- Line Capacity: 140 yards @ 80lb test braid.
- Line Weights: 20lb monofilament, 80lb test braid.
- Gear Ratio: 7.6:1
- Retrieval: 40” per-turn.
- Bearings: 5 Ball Bearings + 1 Reverse Bearing (Sealed)
- Max Drag: 18lbs
There’s two schools of thought on the Shimano Tranx 401AHG. The first believes in Shimano everything and has never had a problem, and the second compares the features to the price tag and wonders why they shouldn’t get the Abu Garcia Revo Toro Beast.
To that, we say: if you’re a die-hard Shimano lover, the Tranx could be the last Musky reel you have to buy. However, if you’re not tied to Shimano, even though it’s an amazing reel, you do get more drag and a higher gear ratio with the Revo Toro Beast, for only a few bucks more.
|SHIMANO Tranx 300A Lowprofile Freshwater Fishing Reel||$278.00||Amazon|
#5 Abu Garcia Revo Toro Rocket
We were torn between recommending the Abu Garcia Revo Toro Rocket and the Revo Toro Beast. Both reels are built with Abu’s patented X-Craftic alloy metal frames and sideplates, giving them incredible stiffness.
They’re also built eerily similar, using many of the same internal components, at nearly the same price tag. The reels are different, however, when it comes to their gear ratio and line retrieval speeds.
The significantly higher gear ratio on the Toro Rocket gives it it’s name, pulling in 42” of line for each turn on the handle. This is quite a bit faster than the beast, but the Rocket can be slowed down where the Beast can’t be sped up — if that makes sense.
- Construction: X-Craftic AlloyMetal
- Line Capacity: 180 yards @ 80lb test.
- Line Weights: 20lb test monofilament, 80lb test braid.
- Gear Ratio: 7.6:1
- Retrieval: 42” per-turn.
- Bearings: 7 HCPR + 1 Reverse Roller Bearing
- Max Drag:
Abu Garcia is proven quality, hands down. Whether you decide on the Revo Toro Rocket or Revo Toro Beast depends quite a bit on the types of lures you’ll be fishing with. If you need extra speed you’ll have a hard time getting it out of the Beast, while the Rocket has it in spades.
|Abu Garcia, Revo Rocket Low Profile Casting Reel, 10.1:1 Gear Ratio, 11 Bearings, 41" Retrieve Rate,...||$217.98||Amazon|
#6 Okuma Coldwater 450 Linecounter
The Okuma Coldwater 450 (454-DLX) Linecounter baitcasting reel for Muskies is probably one of the most affordable on this list — making it great for anglers who are focused on saving $100+ on a reel, while still being able to get a few seasons out of it.
Just because the price tag is almost half of the cost of more expensive reels on this list doesn’t mean you should discount it. We made sure to include it because it’s one of the only linecounter reels we can recommend, and Okuma is known for taking care of their customers.
A high-capacity spool coupled with a slower gear ratio makes it great for slow-rolling big swimbaits, deep-diving crankbaits, and jigs along underwater structure, weed beds, and steep dropoffs.
- Construction: Diecast Aluminum Frame & Side Plates.
- Line Capacity: 220 yards @ 80lb test braid.
- Line Weights: 20lb test monofilament, 80lb test braid.
- Gear Ratio: 5.4:1
- Retrieval: 28.7” per-turn.
- Bearings: 3 Ball Bearing + 1 Reverse Bearing (Sealed)
- Max Drag: 25lbs
The 454-DLX is built using high-grade aluminum and has one of the largest spools of any reel we’ve featured — able to hold 220+ yards of 80lb test PowerPro braided line. This is, by far, one of the best trolling reels available in 2019 for Musky fishing.
|Okuma Coldwater 450 Low Profile Linecounter Reel CW-454DLX, Left Hand||$180.98||Amazon|
#7 Shimano Calcutta CT400B
This is one of those times where you’ll see us break our normal recommendations so we can include a classic reel that’s known for big holding power and long-lasting durability.
The Shimano Calcutta CT400B, while being a round baitcaster, is world-renowned for its ability to stay hooked up to big fish without busting your budget in the process.
Being a round baitcaster does have some disadvantages when you compare them to low profile reels, such as being harder to access bird’s nests if you mess up your cast, but with the popularity of the Shimano Calcutta CT400B we couldn’t discount it — especially at this price.
Even though it’s last on our list, if you prefer round baitcasters or are trying to save a few bucks, this is one of the few “budget” baitcasters we’ll ever recommend for Musky fishing.
- Construction: Ultralight Forged Aluminum Frame & Side plates.
- Line Capacity: 330 yards @ 12lb test, 160 yards @ 80lb test.
- Line Weights: 12lb to 80lb test.
- Gear Ratio: 5.0:1
- Retrieval: 24 inches-per-turn
- Bearings: 3 Anti-Rust Ball Bearings + 1 Reverse Bearing
- Max Drag: 17.5lbs Total
- Drag Material: Dartanium
You can see from the specs why the Calcutta made it to our list — holding 160 yards of 80lb test makes it a beast among most round baitcasters. The slower gear ratio makes it great for trolling big baits, while the 24” of line-retrieval can add significant speed to your retrieve, when you need it.
Like we mentioned, if you’re a fan of round baitcasters or want a good budget-friendly trolling reel, don’t completely discount the Shimano Calcutta 400TB.
|Shimano Calcutta 400B; Round Freshwater Fishing Reel||$239.98||Amazon|
What Makes The Best Musky Reels “The Best”…?
Muskies are some of the toughest fish on gear we’ve ever seen — even tougher than many saltwater species and saltwater, itself.
Depending on how often you head out targeting big Muskies, you may be wondering whether the extra cost is worth it, or not. Or, you may be like us and tell the wife that it’s needed for you to have fun and get out of the house — giving you a chance to put even more gear in the boat.
Before you spend any money, though, there’s a few different factors you want to consider, some things you want to avoid doing, and some things you want to watch out for — to guarantee you’re getting the best bang for your buck and aren’t ending up with gear you didn’t need… or, worse, buying gear that’s going to let you down as soon as a fish strikes.
Below are five of the biggest factors we think about when it comes to picking out new Musky gear. Take a look and then keep reading for our recommendations on the 7 best musky reels in 2019.
1. Trolling vs Baitcasting
A good trolling reel is going to look a lot like a good baitcasting reel, with one significant difference: a line counter.
A line counter is, as the name implies, an extension of the reel that tells you, visually, how much line you currently have out in the water.
This lets you figure out the depth you want to fish at while also being able to know how far behind the boat your baits are currently sitting.
While we don’t necessarily recommend fishing with a line counter or trolling reel all day, it is possible to do. When you look at our recommendations you’ll see what we mean — there’s only one trolling reel and 6 baitcasting reels.
2. Spinning vs Baitcasting
This is an age old debate among most anglers, especially anglers trying to take their bass fishing gear or catfishing gear out for a day of Musky fishing.
If there’s one tip you can take from this, it’s to never plan on being able to hook up (and stay hooked up) to a big Musky for very long with a spinning reel.
The design of spinning reels makes them incredibly weak, both in drag, and their ability to hold onto a fish, as well as getting the big lures Muskies chase after to cover long distances during the cast.
When you cast with a baitcaster the line comes off straight, so you can point and shoot. When you’re casting with a spinning reel, though, the line is unwound which causes turbulence and slows down your casting speed — which means your baits don’t travel nearly as far.
Then, the drag on a spinning reel is forced into a smaller area, which means manufacturers can’t include the same thickness on the discs as they can in a baitcasting reel. That translates to less holding power than a baitcasting reel, often up to 50% less!
3. Heavy Duty Drag
Not all drags are created the same and the materials your drag is built out of do matter.
Some manufacturers are using plastic (and even asbestos in older reels) inside of their drags as a way to save money but Musky and Pike have proven that trying to skimp and save is always a recipe for disaster.
When a fish is on a deep run and your drag begins to have to hold its own, the plastic inside will begin generating heat and that heat can cause the materials to begin giving up.
Think about the temperatures inside of a common drag system and you’ll realize what we’re talking about — they often reach temperatures of 200 degrees or more!
A good drag system is going to have carbon and magnesium components that are able to withstand the heat from long runs — day in, and day out.
4. “No Flex” Construction
Plastic is a major no-no when it comes to picking out a good Musky reel. You want to avoid any manufacturer that uses plastic, whether on the internals or for the external body of the reel.
When a big trophy Musky takes your bait, your reel is going to be under intense stress. That stress translates directly into the internal and external components and if those components begin to flex, other parts of your gear — like your drag or your line — are going to feel the pinch.
The best way to stay hooked up with these freight trains from the depths is to make sure your reel does not have ANY flex in it, at all. On top of this, plastic helps heat buildup and heat is the killer for most of your internals, for both your drag, to your ball bearings, your spool, you name it.
5. Sealed Ball Bearings
Unless you enjoy performing maintenance on your reels, you’re going to want a baitcaster with a set of sealed bearings. Not just any sealed bearings, either — you want high-quality bearings and a lot of them.
If you’re not familiar, the number of bearings (and the material they’re made from) determines how smoothly your reel operates, both under drag conditions and while you’re retrieving without a fish on the other end.
If you have a low number of unsealed bearings your retrieval could be notchy and jumpy. While this doesn’t seem like such a big deal, you have to remember that Musky can put a massive strain on even the best gear.
That means notchy and jumpy retrievals can tax your drag even further, causing heat to build up, the drag to lose its holding strength, begin to buck or stall, and your line to snap.
For the most part, you want to make sure your reel has -at least- 5 sealed ball bearings. High-end reels are going to have more, ranging anywhere from 7 to 11 total.
How We Judge The Best Musky Reel Specifications
Now comes the fun part — actually dialing into the specifications that manufacturers include so you know what it is you’re looking at, and why you’re looking at it the way you are.
Product descriptions on new reels can be incredibly confusing especially when you’re trying to compare multiple reels against each other and the specifications are eerily similar.
The devil really is in the details so, to help make your life easier, below is a list of the different specs that we’re looking for (and recommend) any time we get asked what the best reels for Musky fishing are.
It’s already been mentioned, but it’s worth mentioning again so you know to avoid low-cost reels that may seem attractive (because of the price tag) but end up costing you even more money when it comes time to replace them because they ended up busted.
In general, you want to avoid any reel that has plastic components — whether on the inside or the outside, even if the body of the reel is plastic. Plastic has a way of flexing once large amounts of pressure are applied and flex is the last thing you want when you’re hooked up with a potential trophy fish.
Aluminum bodied reels are becoming more commonplace, especially for “middle of the road” reels but some manufacturers are using more exotic materials in their high-end reels, like titanium, in order to save weight and maintain a perfect balance.
This also goes for the types of materials used to keep the bearings in place, and which materials are used to construct the drag system. A good drag system is going to either be magnesium, carbon, or a mix of both.
These materials dramatically improve the drag’s holding power and keep heat down, especially when coupled with an aluminum body that acts as a heatsink.
Gear Ratio / Line Retrieval
When you’re fishing for Muskies, you’re going to be doing A LOT of casting and retrieving. That means you want to avoid buying a reel that has a low gear ratio, even though they may seem like they can provide more power-per-turn.
To give you an idea, a 4.5:1 gear ratio is going to spin your spool 4.5 times for every time you turn the handle on the reel. A higher ratio, like an 8.1:1 is going to give you significantly more speed on the line retrieval by spinning your spool 8.1 times for every revolution of the handle.
With the amount of time you’re going to spend casting and retrieving, you want to avoid any reel lower than a 5.1:1 ratio. To get a good action and a higher retrieval-per-turn, we highly recommend a reel with a 6.0:1 or higher ratio that retrieves more than 21” of line per turn of the handle.
Line capacity on your Musky baitcaster is always debated. Some anglers prefer thinner braided line that can have 200 yards spooled onto a reel designed for 140 yards of the same monofilament, while other anglers prefer heavy duty (and invisible) fluorocarbon-only setups.
Depending on what you’re fishing with, the types of structure that you’re fishing (or if you’re fishing in open water), and the size of fish you’ll be targeting, the general rule is: the more line you can hold the better.
As the day wears on you’re going to end up cutting off line here, and there, which can add up to quite a bit in the grand scheme of things.
Then, unless you’re relining your reel after every trip, you could get out on the water and find out you’re missing 40-50 yards of line because you’ve been cutting so much off and not paying attention.
When we’re picking a reel, we want to see at least a 150 yard capacity of 20lb test line. This will give you quite a bit of storage for both braided lines and thicker fluorocarbon, while also being able to hold the advertised 150 yards of monofilament.
Ambidextrous / Handle Type
Even if you aren’t actually ambidextrous, you’ll want to know whether, or not, the reel you’re thinking about buying is designed to be ambidextrous.
When a manufacturer starts catering to both right and left-handed people, they have to skimp on internal parts used to build the reel in order to accompany being able to move the handle from right to left.
While that doesn’t necessarily seem like a major issue, at face value, it means that the quality of your drag system, the quality of your bearings, the spools used, and other components are all being cut down in order to fit what’s needed to be able to swap sides with the handle.
In other words — you may be paying the same amount for the reel but you’re losing out in quality when the manufacturer avoids focusing the reel on either right-handers only, or left-handers only.
On the same token, the type of handle being used plays a significant role in how comfortable the reel is going to be after a long day on the water. A comfortable reel is always more fun to fish with and if the reel you’re using makes your hands and wrists hurt you’re not going to be looking forward to taking it out and making hundreds of casts every day.
Likewise, if the wrong type of handle is equipped, you could end up developing fatigue (or even blisters) after casting and retrieving hundreds of times.
For the most part, a good “power” handle or “double” handle is always going to be more comfortable than a single handle. Rubber grips are usually more comfortable than cork or plastic grips, as well.
It’s a small detail that often goes overlooked but can play a major role in how you handle the reel when you’re out on the water all day.
Not all reels are created equal, and not all manufacturers are honest about their line ratings.
While some manufacturers of cheaper reels like to hype themselves up and claim you can store 200 yards of 20lb test, you may find that you’re actually barely able to hold 150 yards and, even then, it’s pushing the reel past its actual limits.
Since big Musky can run back to cover and you tend to switch baits around a lot while you’re trying to figure out a good pattern, you’ll want the biggest reel you can comfortably handle.
Even though the reel is rated for 50lb test, you might find out that the drag components and bearings aren’t necessarily designed for that line weight — and begin to flex, build up heat, and give way once you start trying to hold 50lbs of force back.
Should You Buy A Cheap Musky Reel?
It goes without saying that, unless you enjoy throwing money down the drain (or tossing it in the lake), you should avoid buying “cheap” musky reels at all costs.
While the price tag may seem attractive, especially compared to some of the higher-end reels we’ve featured, you always get what you pay for.
When you realize that you’ll end up replacing that cheap $50, $75, or $100 reel once it breaks and add up the costs involved with buying a new one, you can start to see that it makes more sense to spend the money upfront and get quality from the get-go.
So What’s The Best Musky Reel In 2019?
You’ve heard it here first — the Abu Garcia Revo Toro Beast is an absolute beast and, what we consider to be, the best musky reel in 2019.
We’re curious to hear from you, though!
Is there a reel that you believe should be featured? Leave a comment below and let us know which one, why you think it’s the best, how long you’ve used it, and how it’s performed for you!