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I’ve chosen this analogy because when we hook-up on sample of these speedsters, you’re nothing but a passenger, at least for the first third of the battle (should you last that long)
While there are numerous considerations for selecting an outfit and rig, the most important, arguably, is the reel.
If you’ve got your heart set landing or tagging a mega Tuna, you’re going to approach the hunt by equipping yourself with the best kit you can afford.
So, what are the top choices?
The following review of the 5 best tuna fishing reels for offshore fishing is unashamedly subjective, it’s indeed my humble opinion.
Fortunately, for Tuna applications, there are a few options in an ocean of competitors, that really stand up above their peers.
For experienced anglers, my selections will come as no surprise.
There’s a string of independent commentators who have also drawn the same or similar conclusions to mine.
Best Tuna Fishing Reels 2023
Last update on 2023-12-02 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API
How To Choose The Top Tuna Fishing Reel?
When choosing an offshore Tuna reel, we don’t just rock up to the tackle shop to select the prettiest, biggest, and most expensive reel we find on the shelf.
There are a number of considerations before we put irreparable damage on our credit cards.
Let’s address the core considerations first.
What Tuna Where?
When I say offshore, I really mean anywhere outside the heads.
From trolling the blue water on the edge of the shelf to casting poppers back toward the wash of the ocean rocks, and everywhere in between and beyond.
The options I have selected cover nearly all Tuna applications on the offshore playground.
There are quite a few members of the Tuna family. The likelihood is that you will be targeting (stumble across) one of these:
- Bluefin: OMG…they grow that big?
- Yellowfin: I’ve just landed $1,000,000
- Dogtooth: I’m not really a Tuna but most people don’t know that
- Bigeye: Wow…You I thought it was a Yellowfin, didn’t you.
Fishing techniques can have subtle to radical variations e.g. trolling is nothing like jigging. Indeed there are techniques within techniques.
Most often, technique or style will be determined by location, species sought, season and weather.
Of course, personal preference also plays a significant part. Nearly all techniques are covered in this selection of products.
How Much Does a Tuna Fishing Reel Cost?
Budget isn’t a strong consideration here. For whopping big fish, I’m thinking you’ll re-mortgage the house, if needs be, to get the best option available.
Agreed, it is possible to land Tuna with something purchased on a tight budget. There are brands from the lower mid-price point that are capable.
Agreed, you don’t NEED, the biggest and the best the MOST powerful etc., and there are quite a number of products that could be deemed adequate.
Remember, however, we’re looking at the best, NOT merely adequate or ‘it’s possible’ or doable.
Everybody likes to support their team. With fishing brands, however, brand loyalty can become a false economy.
Here’s a tip: Looking outside your beloved brand can see you being rewarded with better for less.
Having said that, when you are narrowing your choices to the best Tuna fishing reels on the market, brand competitiveness at the top end is super-tight.
The big three, Daiwa, Shimano and Penn are really competitive here.
If you’re selecting big reels from their top-shelf, i.e., the flagship brands, you really can’t go wrong.
Essential Offshore Tuna Fishing Reel Features
Regardless of the type and price, there are three essential features for a decent reel.
Gear size/strength, enormous spool capacity and a robust, super-powerful top of the line drag systems.
The inclusion of these three features is not negotiable.
What Size Reel for Tuna Fishing?
A Bluefin Tuna will grow well in excess of 1000 pounds, Yellowfin over 400 pounds.
If you’re fishing with a mounted winch, these guys are likely to rip the transom clean off the stern of you modest cruiser. Their power is unimaginable.
How do we select an appropriate product when the target we seek can be anything from 20 pounds to stupidly enormous?
Of course, hooking into the top weight of any species is pretty rare, but even a fish of 200 to 300 pounds is going to test the metal of the best angler with the best equipment.
Local knowledge of a location can also be a guide to potential fish sizes.
However, the best tip, indeed rule of thumb, is this: If your hunting for the biggest, prepare for the biggest.
If I was on a hunt for the biggest of Tuna, I would certainly be using the top fishing reels that I have listed here with appropriately sized baits.
Can Any Reel Be Used For Fishing Tuna?
It’s assumed you will be trolling, casting, or jigging. The spinning reels I have chosen cover all 3 techniques.
There is one casting overhead and one non-casting overhead. The game reel is for trolling big lures or flesh baits or setting huge live or dead baits.
It is very important to note that when you choose an overhead with excellent casting manners you will sacrifice max drag power and line capacity.
Essentially, the monster spinning reels cast better than overheads particularly if you’re not so experienced.
However, there are many anglers that simply love fishing overheads and love the sport of tackling heavier fish with
Here are some options for lightweight reels.
For that reason, I have included a lighter rated overhead that will cast, jig and troll, albeit with a fraction less power.
The last consideration, but certainly not the least, is the ease of use.
Every angler, regardless of skill level, should feel the adrenalin of hooking into a Tuna, it’s truly awesome.
The last thing
anyinexperienced angler needs is to be grappling with a technically demanding product, while your Tuna is particularly upset and about to go supernova.
Penn International Reel 50 Visx
Penn International needs little introduction. The International holds and has held countless angling records and is an angling household name.
The Penn VI series has had a makeover since the VS series and now they’re lighter and drop-dead gorgeous.
I have chosen the Penn 50 VISX because I have to include a product that is built to wrestle fish beyond the 350-pound mark.
The 50 VISX is a masterpiece in anybody’s language. This is a proven weapon against all game species including the biggest of Tuna.
- The main and pinion gears are stainless steel, delivering ruthless power. The frame is machined aircraft grade aluminum, as are the side plates. Frame rigidity is a feature and the internals
aresafely housed to work at peak even under monstrous loads. Again, 2-speed gearing is a feature. You can easily switch down from 3.5:1 to1.3:1 for serious cranking when the loads are stupid heavy.
- The carbon fiber Dura-Drag system is Penn’s smoothest ever. Moreover, Dura-Drag washers can handle the tremendous heat generated by a 500-pound fish running off with 60 pounds of drag pressure, as if it’s nothing. Drag pressure is easily managed via the ergonomic drag lever.
- The Penn 50 VISX spool is huge and will hold 1505 yards of 130 pound. So, if you are lucky enough to hook-up on a 500 pound (or more) Bluefin, you have all the time in the world. You have nearly 1 mile of line to play with. If you can’t turn it in nigh on 1 mile towing 60 pounds, nothing will.
- Great ergonomic features include the palm-fit (banana) handle. It’s made for comfortable cranking. Of course, harness lugs are included to redistribute the load and strap into a chair. In a two-hour Tuna battle, fatigue is assured. The 50 VISX ergonomic features mitigate against early onset exhaustion.
its robust internals and exceptional corrosion resistance, your Penn 50 VISX, if well cared for, will outlast you, having notched up a lifetime of catches. The Penn International is an iconic optionand legend of game fishing. No “best of” list is complete without a Penn option.
Daiwa Saltiga Dogfight Reel
The Daiwa Saltiga Dogfight is an awesome choice that is designed and constructed for
You will often find that if a Tuna charter is not using Shimano Stella 30000 as their spin option, they are using Dogfights.
Checking out what the top-notch charters use, is a very good indication of credentials.
Hyper Digigear (the gear system) is incredibly strong and powerful but also profoundly smooth.
Importantly, the ABS II spool holds 600 yards of 80lb braid. Coupled with 66 pounds of Automatic Tournament Drag, this is a spin reel to be reckoned with.
The core three areas of gears, spool capacity and drag are covered in droves, but there are a few more benefits that make the dogfight a standout.
- ATD or Automatic Tournament Drag (without going into technical jargon) has a slippage system at start-up making it incredibly smooth. It mitigates against bust-ups from savage strikes and powerful bursts of speed during the fight. Ideal for the angler not so skilled at making fine adjustments on their drag.
- There are two options for the Dogfight, highspeed gearing (5.7:1) and
a lowerspeed (4.3:1) gearing. My preference is for the higher speed as you will likely be wanting a little more speed for retrieving lures. It’s great to have the option.
- The Dogfight is sealed to within an inch of its life. Magseal is brilliant. The working life of your reel will be determined in large part by keeping the elements out of the internal moving parts.
- I’ve witnessed an 8000 go swimming in wet sand the consistency of
slurry. My fishing buddy Marty blames the shark for dragging his gear into the surf, which in all fairness, it did. After a 35 minute battle the shark was landed (it wasn’t big), the reel performed to spec. We opened the reel when we got home and it was completely clean on the inside. I was convinced… Magseal works. As do mag sealed bearings. Magseal protects your investment.
- Casting manners are superb. Twistbuster II, ABS II, technology work in concert for a consistent, uniform line lay so each new cast is as long and accurate as the previous cast.
Shimano Stella Swb 30000
In every way, the Stella 30000 is a spin reel that is also a heavy game reel.
Whether trolling, casting or jigging the performance is faultless. The strength of the Stella comes from the Hagane gears and Hagane frame (aircraft grade alloy).
If ever there was a product designed for a larger class of fish the Stella is it. It’s certainly a preferred model of many a game fish charter.
44 pounds of X Tough Drag works perfectly with a spool that packs on 650 yards of 80 pound braid.
Fine adjustments to the drag settings are easy, even under heavy loads during the fight. Heat is dispersed beautifully.
Your drag won’t fail on fast, heavy, determined runs during an extended fight, but a bottle of cool water is handy for applying to the spool as things really heat up.
Moreover, it’s reliably is consistent which
- The Stella frame is incredibly rigid. Gears are protected and can operate at peak even under the most extreme loads.
- The crank is buttery smooth, again, even under the toughest loads, thanks to S-ARB bearings integrated with a larger drive gear.
- Like the Daiwa, the Stella is beautifully sealed against the elements. Keeping the salt out is critical for a long working life.
- The feel of a brand is more or less subjective, indeed personal, and difficult to qualify. However, any serious angler will tell you that the ‘feel’ is an x-factor that will instill confidence, which you need by the bucket load when you’re tackling a beast. I love the feel of
the Stella. The crank feels so light and smooth, yet weaponized.
Daiwa Saltiga Lever Drag Model Ld50 – 2 Speed
The casting overhead category, I will have to admit, is pretty hotly contested.
The Saltiga LD50 2 speed has a list of inclusions that make it perfect for casting big lures for big Tuna.
Firstly, the centrifugal braking system is relatively easy to master. With a balanced rig and a few practices, the inexperienced overhead angler will be casting the LD50 a country mile, and accurately to boot.
I can’t overstate the benefits of easy overhead casting, it really makes all the difference.
You can spool up with 630 yards of 50 pound braid. That’s plenty to wrestle a 200 pound monster back to the boat.
- There’s max 40 pounds of Ultimate Tournament Drag. The low inertia on start-up, prevents early bust-ups from aggressive strikes. The lever drag system has an ergonomic feel and enhances the ease of operation, especially when the pressure is on as the fish is getting close to the boat.
- The gears are precision, helical cut stainless steel. They’re powerful, robust and also very smooth. The two speed gear system is an excellent inclusion. With the flick of a button, you can change from a speedy 6.3:1, to a hard cranking ratio 3.1:1, when the weight is really on.
- Again, corrosion mitigation is a feature. The CRBB (bearings) last up to 12 times longer than standard stainless steel ball bearings. Corrosion resistance is an important feature to look out for. You’re spending big on these products, so you want them to last.
- Most importantly, this is a versatile option that is relatively simple to use. Cast it, troll it or jig it (if your back can handle it), and you’ll be well placed to catch a monster. The LD50 is a brilliant overhead that with skill and patience, will punch well above its weight.
Shimano Tiagra Fishing Reel 30 Wlrsa – 2 Speed
For all intent and purpose, the Shimano Tiagra 30 WLRSA 2 speed is a game reel.
However, weighing in at a touch over 55 ounces, we can certainly fit this monster on a jigging rod.
It’s a big, beautiful workhorse of
- The Tiagra 30 will take 1180 yards of 80-pound braid. This is a huge capacity and makes up for the slightly reduced drag power of only 34 pounds (still enough). The twin carbon disk, hydrothermal lever drag system is, however, incredibly powerful with the capacity for fine-tuning. Ideal for when the fish is getting close to the boat.
- The frame is a single piece of machine-cut aluminum, strong as an ox with excellent rigidity. There is no flex at all which means all torque and power is transmitted to the business end of the fight.
- The heavy duty stainless, two-speed gear system cranks at 3.9:1 or 1.7:1 for the extra heavy cranking. Changing the gear
settingis easy via fingertip control. You really can feel the smooth cranking power of the Tiagra, but at 1.7:1, expect a lengthy battle.
- I love the harness clips on the Tiagra. Fatigue is a killer when you’re battling a large fish. The harness clips allow you to redistribute the weight and balance the load of the battle.
- The Tiagra is
legendfor trolling, setting live baits, or setting large dead baits. At 55 ounces, you can even jig with this guy. There are very few products that measure up to the refined power and rugged durability of the Tiagra. With its superb corrosion resistance, you’ll have it for countless Tuna fishing adventures.
So what choice would I take out with me to hunt massive monster on the blue water? Well, in the perfect world, (that, by the way, is a world of the bottomless wallet), I’d take this with me…..
The Penn International 50 VISX would be the option that I would keep in my kit.
If it looked like the Tuna might be punching through the 350-pound mark, only the capacious powerhouse of the Penn 50 VISX would give me the confidence to feel I was in with a chance of landing such a monster.
If there’s one thing you can take from my ramblings above is that the Tuna commands respect. Even at 50 to 70
Once Tuna head over the
The gears are big, strong, and very powerful. The high power drag systems are state of the art, the smoothest on the market, and can endure the sustained heat of long runs.
All of the brands mentioned above have outstanding corrosion resistance and/or sealing. They have tough, rigid housing and frames to ensure all moving parts are protected.
Spool capacities are more than generous and can hold large quantities of heavy class braids.
Further to these three critical features, you will also have learned that sealing and corrosion resistance also play a critical role.
A reel whose internals are exposed to saltwater, dirt,
Allow saltwater or dust ingress, and your reel will fail. Every option listed above has outstanding corrosion resistance and/or sealing. They have tough, rigid housing and frames to ensure all moving parts are protected.
Catching and landing a huge Tuna creates an indelible fishing memory. Give yourself every chance to turn the dream into a reality and kit up with something that’s worthy of a big Tuna. Look to the list above and you can’t go wrong.
Now it’s your turn to choose which of the 5 best offshore Tuna fishing reels you’ll add to your reel arsenal.