Rods and reels for musky fishing are stronger than traditional freshwater setups. Your standard bass fishing equipment won’t cut it, as musky are larger, heavier, and fight harder than bass.
Musky can be caught in lakes across the US, and they are an exciting species to target. While a heavy-duty rod is essential, a high-performance fishing reel is the most important factor of a musky setup.
However, you don’t need to get a second mortgage on your house to start fishing with decent tackle. This angler’s guide will discuss the best musky fishing reels of 2022, with reviews of baitcasters and spinning reels in every price range.
The team at Bass Tackle Lures has years of experience testing and reviewing fishing equipment. We’re confident we can get you set up with a musky setup you’ll enjoy for many years of fishing outings.
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Musky Reel Qualities
Musky fishing can be fatiguing. Throwing heavy baits all day can wear you out if you’re using the wrong equipment. Many beginners buy low-quality reels to save money, which isn’t ideal.
Most cheap reals have reduced performance, worse build quality, and break down faster. While you can get away with using a less expensive rod, picking up a performance-oriented musky reel is a worthwhile investment.
The best all-purpose musky reels are 300 to 400-size baitcasters with a 6.3:1 gear ratio.
Baitcasters are the most popular type of reel to use for musky fishing. While they have a steeper learning curve, baitcasting reels offer more power, precision, casting distance, and overall performance.
Size 300 reels can be easier to manage and have enough versatility for fishing larger baits. However, if you frequently fish larger baits and hook into a heavier musky, a 400-size reel could be the best option.
Regarding gear ratios, faster reels are ideal for lower resistance lures such as glide baits and jerkbaits. These reels help you keep baits moving quickly, but they have less strength, requiring more cranking power.
Slower, low gear-ratio reels will give you more torque, but they can make it difficult to fish baits at high speeds. Reels with a power handle and a large frame are ideal for fishing larger, high-resistance baits.
Overall, reels with a gear ratio around 6:3.1 tend to have the most versatility.
Musky Spinning Reels
Some anglers prefer to fish for musky with spinning setups. This type of equipment is ideal for fishing smaller baits such as the Mepps 5 and Mepps musky killer and also gives you more control when vertical jigging.
While you won’t get as much power and casting distance, spinning reels offer more sensitivity and control over lightweight presentations.
When searing for a spinning reel, look for 3000 or 4000 size reels with a well-made drag.
Reels like the Daiwa Fuego allow back-reeling and have enough drag strength to fight large musky. See our reviews of the Daiwa Fuego and other spinning reels below.
Best Fishing Reels for Musky
1. Daiwa Lexa HD 400 - Best Overall
4.5 Stars | 46 Angler Reviews
Our favorite reel for musky fishing is the Daiwa Lexa HD 400. This beast of a baitcaster has a 6.3:1 gear ratio, but it offers a ton of strength even with the faster retrieval speed. Whether you’re fishing blade baits, spinnerbaits, or big bucktails, this reel makes musky fishing nearly effortless.
Daiwa recently upgraded the clutch system for the Lexa HD, which increased the power and made it even easier to fight big fish. We’ve been fishing this reel for years; however, the new model is better than ever.
The Lexa HD features an “all-grease bearing system,” which makes the cranking action smooth and silent. While other smooth reels sometimes sacrifice casting distance, this bearing design ensures top-notch performance.
Daiwa also incorporated their proprietary “extended counterbalanced handle,” which provides more torque. It’s interesting how a change in the handle design can create such significant strength improvements.
300 vs. 400
Lastly, Daiwa offers a 300 model of the Lexa HD. This reel has a faster, 7.4:1 gear ratio, which is ideal for low-resistance lures such as jerkbaits. While we prefer the 400 models, the 300 can be easier to manage, and smaller reels can be easier to pair with rods.
2. Shimano Tranx 400 HG - Most popular
4.7 Stars | 407 Angler Reviews
The Shimano Tranx 400 HG has gained popularity among musky anglers. It’s a tank of a baitcaster that was designed for fishing big musky lures. This reel has more cranking power than the Lexa HD, but they have similarly smooth retrieves.
There are two gear ratio options for the Tranx 400 HG. We prefer the 7.6:1 gear ratio over the 5.8:1, making the reel more versatile for throwing fast-retrieve jerkbaits and glide baits. While the 5.8:1 has more torque, the Tranx naturally has more power than other similar baitcasters.
This reel has a lightweight aluminum body, an S3D spool, QuickFire II clutch bar, and six ball bearings. The handle comes from the brand’s CI4+ lineup, featuring double oversized rubber paddles.
If you’re looking for a tournament-ready reel, the Tranx has industry-leading technology. It’s slightly more expensive than the Lexa HD, but anglers with a higher budget will enjoy the upgrade.
3. KastKing Kapstan Elite 300 - Best budget casting reel
4.6 Stars | 508 Angler Reviews
You don’t need to spend over $150 to start musky fishing. KastKing’s release of the Kapstan Elite 300 provides a much more affordable option for anglers to get out on the water. The Kapstan Elite is one of the first budget baitcasters we can confidently recommend to beginner anglers.
KastKing is known for its exceptional build quality without charging outrageous prices. This reel was designed for competitions, with improved line capacity and increased torque for casting big lures.
Technology and Performance
The Kapstan Elite features a triple disc carbon fiber drag system usually only found in high-end musky reels. We found the drag is smooth and quickly reacts to adjustments.
A total of 9 stainless-steel ball bearings are featured in the housing. This design makes it just as smooth as other reels that cost twice the price. The spool is braid-ready, and there’s a line indicator attached to the housing.
KastKing also offers some of the industry's best customer service and fishing reel warranties.
4. Abu Garcia Revo Toro Beast - Best High-end baitcaster
4.4 Stars | 119 Angler Reviews
Another exceptional high-end musky reel is the Abu Garcia Revo Toro Beast 60-HS. This reel features a carbon matrix drag system and a powerful handle. The cranking action is just as smooth as one would expect from a $300+ reel, and the build quality is exceptional.
One reason people love Abu Garcia is that they make beautiful reels. The Revo Toro Beast is an aesthetic baitcaster, but it looks better in person as pictures don’t do it justice.
Overall, this is a beast of a musky reel. The Duraclutch drag system engages quickly and is far more durable than typical drag systems. Abu Garcia kept it lightweight with an alloy frame and thin yet strong side plates.
5. 13 Fishing Concept A3 - Coolest low-profile styling
5 Stars | 22 Angler Reviews
If you’re searching for the best-looking reel on the market, the 13 Fishing Concept A3 has an aesthetically pleasing design. This reel features a matte-black housing and cork handle knobs. However, the design team didn’t sacrifice any performance to improve the styling.
The Concept A3 has a carbon bull drag with maximum drag power of 40lbs. It has a seven-bearing system and an instant anti-reverse that prevents backlashes and improves hook-up ratios.
Since the components are corrosion-resistant, this reel can also be used for inshore saltwater fishing. The body isn’t too large, so you can use it when targeting big bass, pike, pickerel, and other freshwater fish species.
6. Shimano Tranx 500 - Best for big baits
4.7 Stars | 73 Angler Reviews
If you’re casting massive musky lures, the Shimano Tranx 500 will get the job done. While most anglers prefer 300 and 400-size reels, some larger baits are easier to fish with 500-size reels. There are many 500-size baitcasters on the market, but none have beat the performance and value offered by Shimano.
500 vs. 400
Larger 500-size reels help you quickly bring fish into the boat and improve casting distance and line capacity. When paired with a longer musky rod, the Tranx 500 throws baits a mile, helping you cover more water in less time.
Many of the same features are used for the Tranx 400 and 500 models. The main differences are the reel’s profile, line capacity, weight, and strength.
We advise that beginners stay away from 500-size reels and start out by fishing something easier to control.
7. Okuma Komodo SS
4.8 Stars | 32 Angler Reviews
One of the highest-rated musky reels is the Okuma Komodo SS. This reel features a multidisc Carbonite drag system and precision Japanese ABEC-5 spool bearings. While this reel has many similar characteristics to other reels on this list, the Carbonite drag system makes it stand out.
This advanced drag system is more sensitive than others. It gives you more control over drag settings and applies the perfect amount of pressure when fighting large fish.
We also found this reel is more comfortable in your hand than many other models. The housing has a low-profile design that doesn’t get in the way of your fingers.
After catching dozens of musky on this exact reel, we’re satisfied with our investment.
8. Penn Squall - Second best budget reel
4.8 Stars | 37 Angler Reviews
The second most affordable musky reel that we recommend is the Penn Squall Baitcaster. This high-strength casting reel model has a magnetic casting brake that improves casting accuracy and distance. Six stainless steel ball bearings are featured inside the housing, and the components are fitted well together.
PENN achieved a very capable drag system without raising the price tag. The HT-100 drag system is one of the best drags on the market, as it’s durable and strong, and the strength can be fine-tuned.
While the Squall was initially designed for saltwater use, it’s a perfect reel for musky fishing. The corrosion-resistant components will only extend the reel’s lifespan, and each part of the reel is designed for battling big fish.
9. Daiwa Fuego LT 4000 - Best value spinning reel
4.6 Stars | 123 Angler Reviews
The Daiwa Fuego LT 4000 is the best value spinning reel for musky fishing. While it might not look like a musky reel, the Fuego LT has tremendous power and features a performance-oriented design.
This reel is lightweight, strong, and has fantastic aesthetics. It’s one of the best-looking spinning reels on the market, with black and red accents and chrome plating.
Daiwa includes an Air Rotor and Air Bail, making the reeling exceptionally smooth. It’s surprisingly lightweight in your hand, especially compared to other 4000-size spinning reels in the same price range.
A machined aluminum handle can be positioned for both right and left-hand retrieves. Whether vertical jigging or casting small musky lures, this reel does it all.
10. Shimano Vanford 4000 - High-end musky spinning reel
4.7 Stars | 276 Angler Reviews
While you don’t need to break the bank on a musky spinning reel, some anglers prefer to invest in top-tier equipment. The Shimano Vanford 4000 is our favorite spinning reel for anglers that don’t have a tight budget.
This reel is insanely strong for its size and weight. As soon as you pick it up, it’s easy to tell that it has plenty of performance for fighting big fish. The handle is comfortable in your hand and has the smoothest cranking we’ve ever seen.
Even though it’s a great musky reel, this model has a ton of versatility. The Vanford’s dynamic strength makes it capable of fighting almost any species of inshore fish, pike, bass, lake trout, and more.
There are so many features packed inside this reel that we can’t discuss most of them in this article. If you’re curious about the Vanford, the button above will show you more details from Shimano.