We always need to ensure we use the right equipment for the right situation. Spinning reels are no different, and $100 gets a very nice reel that you can expect to last a good long while. We need to consider the following factors when making our spinning reel selection:

Where we’ll be fishing

Spinning reels can be made specifically or Saltwater or Fresh Water fishing. The main difference is the movement, and the protection or coating of the bearings, to delay corrosion and prolong a reels useful life. For today’s review we’ll be focusing on Fresh Water fishing and the spinning reels best suited for the less harsh fresh water.

Reel Bearings

A fishing reel with a good movement uses quality bearings, and the difference can be felt in its smoothness. All of the reels in our evaluation have quality bearings and lubrication making for smooth casts and retrievals. We favor bearings which have been coated to keep them corrosion-free.

Comfort and Fit

Some reels are smaller than others, and so for those with especially large or small hands it’s not a bad plan to see how a reel fits in your hand before buying it. When you have a reel in your hand pre-purchase, be sure to sample the movement and play with the reel bail to ensure it’s clear of your knuckles in its various positions. If you have more average sized hands, picking from this list of spinning reel options will save you money, and get you a good product. Note that some reels are offered in different sizes.

Fish Species

Consider what fish species you plan to fish with the reel, as that will determine what weight line, and what length line you’ll need. Most reels in this price range offer several different line capacities, line lengths often corresponding with reel size so consider what species of fish you’ll be targeting.

Drag

Drag is the process of letting out fishing line when thresholds are reached, to prevent the line from breaking under load. The bottom line is that drag is an important feature in a spinning reel. All of the reels in our review have quality drag systems.

Pflueger President ($47 and up)

Our Top Pick: Lightweight, Tons of Features

Which brings us to our top rated Spinning Reel Under $100, the Pflueger President. This reel is a virtual bargain at this price point, given its buttery smooth movement, lightweight, and overall quality. It’s movement is delivered courtesy of its stainless steel ball bearings, and Pflueger’s secret sauce lubricant. This reel is just plain smooth and it stays that way. It’s light, as in under 250 grams with line, due in part to its graphite body. It’s light but it’s durable like it should be. The drag on this reel is super smooth. Overall, this is an excellent option for Crappie, Trout, and Bass. It’s more than up to job of handling daily fishing duties for Salmon, and even occasional use fishing for Walleye, and Pike. The challenge with this reel can be finding a store with one in stock.

Ardent Bolt II ($72)

Our Second Pick: Light, Smooth, and Durable

Striking a nice balance between excellent quality and good pricing is the Ardent Bolt II spinning reel. Ardent uses 10 ball bearings in this reel, and it shows with smoothness. It’s graphite frame lightens it up to just 246 grams. That makes it light and smooth. And it held up very well with an extra sturdy bail. What sets this one apart is its speed – with its 6:1 gear ration, it reels in a catch with incredible speed. It’s arguably the fastest spinning reel on the market – and it’s durable, smooth, and well priced.

Mitchell 308-C Reel ($50)

An Outstanding Value, it’s our 3rd Pick Overall

We rated this as our 3rd favorite pick. Basically, it’s an excellent fishing reel for a bargain price. This high quality spinning reel has 8 bearings, with a polymer body (remember some firearm manufacturers make their bodies from polymer so you know it’s durable). It is more than capable of handling a good sized Northern Pike or Walleye. We’ve put this reel thru its paces, and it’s held up very well to everything. It’s still incredibly smooth, and hard to believe it’s just $50. The one trade-off over the top 2 reels is its weight – it’s heavier than the other 2, tipping our scales at 280grams. Mitchell has delivered a really fine product with the 308-C. Get one while you can because rumor has it the Mitchell 300Pro (also a very good product but about $22 more expensive) will be replacing it soon.