Steelhead, a close cousin of the rainbow trout is popular amongst anglers for their impressive size and fighting power. Anadromous, they grow to much larger sizes, and catching one requires you are armed with a fishing reel built for the fight.
The ideal fishing reel for steelhead should be lightweight, come with impressive drag, should be highly corrosion-resistant, and convenient to use.
Best Reels for Steelhead Fish
Listed below are five of the best reels for steelhead that check all these boxes and stand out from other reels with exceptional performance.
The body, rotor, and side-plate of the Helios reel are made from C-40X long-strand carbon fiber, making it stronger and lighter than most other reels. It comes with a brass machine-cut pinion gear and Precision Elliptical Gearing System for great drag. There are 8 ball bearings and 1 quick-set anti-reverse roller bearing all made from stainless steel, and the reel foot and stem have the Okuma Torsion Control Armor which prevents flex and twist.
- It is corrosion-resistant.
- High precision and balance.
- 8:1 gear ratio.
The M-Compact body design of the reel allows the oscillation gear to be close to the fishing rod, thus making the reel more balanced and decreasing the stress on your arm. The reel has a bearing system that consists of 1 ball bearing and 1 roller bearing, and the Super Stopper II feature provides instant anti-reverse. The Dyna-Balance feature prevents wobbling, and the Propulsion Line Management System allows for greater casting distances.
- 01:1 gear ratio.
- Max drag of 9 lbs.
- Suitable for steelhead.
This reel has a bearing system that consists of 10 corrosion-resistant bearings that are made from stainless steel, and the spool is braid-ready. The reel’s sealed drag system and handle are made from carbon, while the body and rotor are made from magnesium, thus making the reel lightweight. The combination of the SMARTretrieve feature and Slow Oscillation Gearing provides line precision when casting.
- High-density EVA knob.
- Lightweight reel.
- Smooth operation.
The presence of the Power Stack Carbon Matrix Drag System provides this reel with sufficient power to drag in large steelhead, with a maximum drag of 24 lbs. The reel has an adjustable dual braking system that consists of a centrifugal brake and a magnetic brake, and its X2-Craftic alloy frame is durable. The entire reel is corrosion-resistant, and there are 9 ball bearings + 1 roller bearing for smooth casting and retrieval.
- 6:1 gear ratio.
- Powerful drag.
- Comfortable PVC knobs.
The combination of the body, rotor, and side-plate which are all metal, and the heavy-duty aluminum bail wire provide maximum strength and durability. The HT-100 drag system provides enough drag for catching steelhead, and the Superline spool is braid-ready. The bearing system has 5 stainless steel bearings and 1 anti-reverse bearing, and the reel has carbon fiber drag washers.
- Smooth operation.
- It is durable.
- 2:1 gear ratio.
Steelhead Fishing Reels Buying Guide
Steelhead can weigh as much as 20 pounds, making them a worthy candidate for the competitive angler. They are not just elusive but even when caught, are masters at fleeing.
Having given you a rundown through the best fishing reels for steelhead, we now take a look at some of the factors we considered before making our picks. With these, we reinforce your trust in these products and place you on a pedestal to make an informed choice based on your new-found knowledge.
Whether experienced or a newbie, the fighting power of steelhead will always come as a slight surprise. And understandably so with their impressive sizes. The drag on your fishing reel is one of the most important qualities you want to consider. To quickly tire out steelhead hooked on your bait, the drag does the work for you by unspooling the line against resistance. With an adjustable drag setting, you can control the amount of resistance on your line. Most reels come with decent drag ratings but too little and it won’t have much of an effect, and too much and your line may snap before the reel unspools.
The best reels out there have corrosion-resistant ball bearings that provide anglers with a totally smooth performance while battling strong fish. Some reels have as many as 10 bearings, helping to distribute the pressure but will generally be louder than reels with fewer bearings. Fewer bearings, however, in theory, are not as smooth as multiple bearing systems. Finding the balance is where all the magic lies.
The general build of your reel is also very important, as the body should be made from durable, corrosion-resistant materials that can withstand long-term use in or around water. The best reels are either made from composites like carbon fiber or other metal alloys, and will resist the corrosive effects of both freshwater and saltwater conditions.