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There are still spinning reels made in the USA, but you can count the brands on one hand.
There are several spinning reel brands in the US that produce incredible reels. However, their price points ensure that they will always be well out of reach of the average angler’s budget.
For better or worse, the days of the USA being a manufacturing powerhouse have all but vanished.
The vast majority of US manufacturing has been impacted – and fishing products are not exempt from what is a massive paradigm shift for American manufacturing and broader American culture.
Asia, and particularly China, can manufacture spin reels at a fraction of the cost of the US.
Asian products are thus able to specialize in the more affordable segments of the market while the US can only compete in the high-end, niche market.
Let’s have a look at the remaining fishing reel brands made in USA, and how they fit into the global spinning reel market.
We’ll identify the key US players, and the value and quality of their products.
Before we go there, we’ll address the benefits, if any, of buying American-made spinning reels, and identify how the corporatization of the angling market is changing the way we purchase fishing equipment.
Why buy American-Made Spinning Reels? What are The Pros?
There are two reasons most people look to purchase goods made in their own country.
Perception of local made quality and value, and the economic benefits of keeping the money in the country.
There are plenty of US anglers who say they would like to buy American-made spinning reels. They would like to support American industry, encouraging homegrown manufacturing jobs.
There’s a good reason for purchasing homegrown because it keeps the money local, supports local industry, and therefore jobs.
Unfortunately, the sentiment doesn’t reflect reality.
By and large, people purchase what they can afford. And when it comes to spin reels, the most affordable options are manufactured offshore.
But what about quality? What about good ol’ American quality? Relative to the US, Asian manufacturers have exceptionally low labor costs.
For this reason, Asian manufacturers can produce fine quality spin reels, cheaper than the US can manufacture substandard reels.
This leaves the US spin reel manufacturers with a choice; make reels of questionable quality that can’t compete with imports.
Or make awesome state-of-the-art reels, and hang the cost, recognizing their reels will only be accessible to a small portion of the spin reel market anyway.
The best US reels have gone for the latter option.
Even though the consumer’s cost is important, the importance of cutting-edge design, innovation, customer service, and bespoke materials and assembly far outweighs it.
The benefit for the customer is two-fold. Firstly, supporting these manufacturers, niche as it might be, encourages stability and perhaps even growth in the market segment.
Hopefully, over time, more Americans with a bright idea and a passion for fishing will enter the market inviting greater competition into the market segment – better prices and greater variety.
Secondly, value, quality, and customer satisfaction are so critical to the survival of these brands, it’s nearly a guarantee that they’ll deliver on their promises.
They ask big money for their products. If they fail to deliver, the discerning market to which they cater will ‘discern’ them out of business.
For American spinning reel manufacturers, it’s become a case of let’s not compete with the oceans of spin reel products that fill the shelves of tackle shops, Walmart, and Amazon.
Let’s stand-alone and compete on our own terms.
Let’s be niche and proud, and let’s not be beholden to the shareholders of faceless multinational corporations.
Faceless Multinational Fishing Manufacturers
Globalization has had a direct impact on the fishing gear we purchase. The US manufacturing sector was a very different creature when Mitchel rolled out their first spin reel back in 1948.
Once an independent all-American spin reel manufacturer, it is now under the control of corporate fishing giant, Pure Fishing Inc. The famous Mitchel brand is not alone either.
Most of you will be familiar with brands such as PENN, Shakespeare, Pflueger, and even Van Staal, just to name a few, that like Mitchel, is owned and controlled by Pure Fishing Inc.
While every business is born to make money, and rightly so, the focus of a huge corporation is profoundly different from a private or family-owned business,
Usually, if not exclusively, most fishing reel manufacturers got into the fishing reel game more because of their passion for fishing than the drive for profits. In other words, the fishing came first.
While Pure Fishing is an American company, employing Americans, its business is business. It’s not about the joy and passion of recreational fishing, it’s about profits for shareholders.
This is not a bad thing and I’m not being judgmental here.
However, their priority is that their fishing brands must perform efficiently enough to return dividends to shareholders.
And that means ensuring streamlined, cost-efficient manufacturing, at the lowest possible cost to the company.
Invariably, this means outsourcing manufacturing offshore.
Labor costs and government regulations compliance are by far the biggest costs to manufacturing. In China, and other Asian nations, these costs are a fraction of those in the US.
Manufacturing offshore is not just good bottom-line business, it’s nigh on imperative.
PENN is probably the best-known fishing reel manufacturer to sell to corporate interest.
While they do have a few reel lines that are manufactured in the US, the majority of their fishing equipment is outsourced to China.
This is a great disappointment to many Penn fans.
What was once the epitome of the all-American manufacturing tradition, is the new American/global paradigm, where profits trump traditional culture.
While corporatization has been a bad thing for US manufacturing, it’s been a boon for American anglers.
The variety, availability, and affordability of spinning reels have never been better.
The quality, and more importantly, fishing enjoyment we can now get for a very modest outlay is a modern revelation.
Further to this half glass full assessment, is that the spin reel manufacturing that remains in the US, offers something different.
While it’s niche, owing to its higher price point, it’s also built on the traditions that gave us such names as PENN and Mitchel in the first place.
Old school values have been married with modern materials and techniques, to produce valuable spin reel products that, while short on variety, are very high in performance, quality, innovation, and great customer service and product backup.
Let’s check out a few spinning reels made in USA that are worthy of your consideration.
Top Fishing Reels Made In USA
I think it’s prudent I remind you that we are discussing SPIN REELS ONLY. A quick google search will find that the US still manufactures quite a variety of fly, centrepin, overhead, and game reels.
Again, mostly niche, high-end gear, targeted at a more discerning market with deeper pockets.
The list of US-manufactured spin reels is so small as to be disheartening.
On the bright side, however, you will find innovation, customization, high-end performance, creative aesthetics, meticulous craftsmanship, and attention to detail.
The PENN series of spin reels made in America remain reasonably affordable, but the rest of the American-made spin reels are not so friendly on the hip pocket.
While outlay will be painful for most, it’s important to note that these reels are built to last, meaning there is genuine value for money available.
The bottom line, however, is there are no American-made spinning reels that come remotely close to the affordable price points.
They’re expensive – it’s just how it is.
But remember. Your decision to purchase an American-made spin reel is one of the most patriotic contributions you can make to your country.
Here are the top 4 US-made spin reels:
- IRT Reels
- Accurate Reels
- PENN (Only a couple of spin reel models are still manufactured in the USA)
1. ZeeBaas Fishing Reels
Most dedicated anglers will recognize the ZeeBaas design as remarkably similar to that of Van Staal spin reels.
There are some features that are quite similar, such as body shape, porting, all-metal construction, tank-like design, and knobs and handles designed for heavy cranking.
In many ways, The ZeeBaas looks like a seal team issue weapon. I’m sure there are no concealed guns or explosives, but it looks military-grade, nonetheless.
What we love about the ZeeBaas, though, is that it wears its heart on its sleeve. It performs every bit as solid as it looks.
While PENN is now at the mercy of corporate and shareholder interest, ZeeBaas reserves its primary focus for satisfying its reel customers.
Indeed, the ZeeBaas approach to customer service is straight out of an old-school playbook few of us still recognize.
For example, when you call ZeeBaas, you speak to ZeeBaas, not a call center.
You phone them directly speaking to personnel that have the skills, and technical knowhow to answer your questions. Service is personal, not faceless.
In fact, ZeeBaas takes personal service to the next level. You can actually customize your reel so it suits your application perfectly. As they say at ZeeBaas, “If you are looking for just another fishing reel, you came to the wrong place.”
A ZeeBaas reel is constructed by technicians who know every part of the reel ensemble. It’s not made on an assembly line where unskilled labor assembles a small component, passing it through to the next laborer on a large assembly line.
Precision engineering, customization, and high-end performance with construction components and techniques don’t come cheap. These reels are built to last, and they’re priced accordingly.
A ZeeBaas reel can cost you well over the $900 mark. This lofty price point ensures it remains well off the radar of your average weekend dangler. While the desire is no doubt there, such an outlay is too much for some.
ZeeBaas looks at things differently, however. They stand by the value of their products, and in so much the product offers value for money, the reels are affordable.
Their statement of value for money is a very strong argument. If the reel lasts a lifetime, a ZeeBaas purchase makes good money sense.
However, value for money has little connection to affordability. Few have 900 bucks to outlay on a fishing reel.
The Key features of a ZeeBaas are strength, rigidity, construction quality, durability under tough conditions, max drag power, retrieve efficiency, and they’re fully waterproof.
- ZX20: Ideal for kayak work
- ZX-22: Ideal allrounder
- ZX-25: Surf and Ocean Rock weapon with near and offshore applications
- ZX-27: The biggest ZeeBaas for huge surf, rock, and offshore targets
- Full Specs
2. IRT Spinning Reels
The heavy-duty theme seems to be a through-line with American manufactured spinning reels.
The American approach seems to be to reject the Asian never-ending quest to manufacture the lightest reels on the market. IRT and ZeeBaas seem anti-finesse.
There’s a very strong connection to the way spin reels have been traditionally made in the US. Strong, rigid, tough, and able to handle all you can throw at them.
The IRT series starts at 200 (2000) size, and it’s a pretty heavy reel, relatively speaking.
The 200 weighs in at 12.7 ounces, holds 250 yards of 20-pound braid, and delivers outstanding fighting power with 30 pounds drag resistance.
While the smallest in the range, this reel could handle surf, near, or offshore applications. Considering its specs and capacities, it will perform well against pretty big fish.
The 200 is the smallest in the range and has no variants. The 300, 400, 500, 6, 7 & 800 each have a variant.
The 300 has the UL variant, which is the 200 body with 300 capacities. The aim is to provide a lighter reel option that has all the power to battle surf species in tough conditions.
The 400 sizes and upwards offers the DD or Dual Drag variant.
The DD system is an IRT proprietary drag system that makes IRT unique. It works by adding 2 Kevlar washers to the top of the spool, therefore increasing drag power.
The 800 is the biggest of the IRT range. It’s perfect for chasing wahoo and GT’s offshore, sharks in the surf, or record tuna from the ocean rocks.
The IRT series covers a huge range of spin reel applications. From babbling fresh brooks to the blue water. There’s plenty of versatility in the IRT.
The IRT is (sort of) the equivalent of the American muscle car. Plenty of grunt, durability, staying power, and handling.
The IRT is only available from a few distributors. The ZeeBaas, it’s not the sort of reel you buy on impulse and pick off the shelf.
There is very cool customization available, but they’re more cosmetic, and pretty limited relative to the ZeeBaas.
While the paint and color options are nothing more than cosmetic, I still believe this is a fantastic option that anglers appreciate.
The IRT team has American-made in their soul. IRT reels are made by fishermen for fishermen, as the tagline goes. This is the opposite approach to the big corporate fishing barons.
The IRT story mirrors that of many fishing brands such as PENN, Mepps Spinners, and Mitchel reels.
The company promotes traditional American core values. The company mission statement is, “To lead the industry in producing the longest-lasting, most advanced, highest-performing fishing reels possible.”
The smaller IRT reels poke their bail arms into the affordable price point, but relative to Asian reels, they’re still very expensive, and difficult for the average budget to access.
Without customization, the smallest IRT sits firmly in the mid 500’s, where the huge 800 DD gives very little change out of $1000.
While prices are high, yes, IRT is quick to state that the IRT range is not targeting the average weekend dangler.
The IRT is created for those anglers who appreciate precision equipment, machined to the tightest tolerances, where bespoke performance and durability mean everything, with price no real barrier.
If you want just 1 IRT, the 500 is a great allrounder with outstanding versatility. It’s ideal for inshore, offshore, nearshore, land-based, and afloat.
Should you choose the 500, you’ll be pleased to know a $1000 budget will get you a reel, spare spool, and a rod of equal status on which to mount it.
3. Accurate Fishing Reels
Accurate has an awesome range of conventional saltwater reels that have made them well known in the American market.
Especially popular with blue-water anglers, accurate fans rave about performance, american-made credentials, and appreciate that the company has an affordable range, which complements the company’s product.
While the conventional reel is dominant, Accurate has one spinning reel series, the SR, and it’s a true gem of a reel, however, deep pockets are a must.
The SR is aimed at more wealthy anglers. Prices exceed the 1000 dollar mark, so this equipment is more suitable for serious anglers.
The SR50 is equipped for pitched battles with the ocean’s most aggressive and belligerent species.
Weighing in at 47 ounces, it would put a hole in your boat if you dropped it. It carries 450 yards of 130-pound braid and is armed with marlin busting max drag of 40 pounds.
The SR50 is designed for game anglers who prefer spin. You can chase yellowfin, bigeye bluefin, sharks, and billfish. It’s an awesome offshore reel, but an even better option for land-based game.
Again, we see a common theme with the American-made reels of power, strength, rigidity, and big fish potential.
It’s completely removed from the lightweight Asian pursuit and completely aligned with the American tradition of heavyweight muscle and power.
There are 6 models in the series with a variant available on the SR 30, which has the option of a slower ratio for heavier cranking.
The SR6 is the inshore baby of the bunch yet still has a max drag of 15 pounds of max drag.
This amount of drag delivers plenty of fighting power, covering the majority of inshore targets.
The SR6 holds 200 yards of 20-pound braid, weighs in at 20 ounces, and has the rigidity to handle monster hook-ups you weren’t expecting.
The SR12, 20 and 30, deliver commendable versatility. If there’s any criticism, it’s that it can be hard to select a size owing to the level of application crossover between reels.
Like the reels mentioned above, the Accurate is only available at select locations, yet you will find it online with digital retailers such as Tackle Direct.
Accurate Fishing Products shares a similar history to companies such as Shimano.
The reel manufacturing grew out of an existing business that had synergies with reel manufacture.
Accurate Fishing is a division of Accurate Grinding and Manufacturing Corporation. The family-owned business commenced in 1950 manufacturing jet turbine engine components.
CNC machining was a game-changer for Accurate Grinding back in the 70s. And when fishing passions live alongside precision tooling, you can expect a reel might be the result.
More than a reel, Accurate Grinding went on to launch Accurate Fishing Products in 1990.
The difference between the reels on this list versus the corporate and factory brands is the customer service.
Accurate places a premium on being accessible to their customer base. Again, there are no call centers and endless email threads that may or may not deliver answers.
You speak to somebody who can deal with your inquiry.
Accurate rides on the traditions of American made. They’re built on innovation and precision, and most importantly, the antithesis of modern engineered obsolescence.
For my money, and the big money they ask for their reels, I would expect a warranty much longer than one year.
Specs for the SR50.
- Patented Twin Drag system
- 14 Class-5 ABEC stainless steel bearings sealed with Teflon impregnation
- Unique drag Pre-Set knob on the end of the spool
- Titanium drag plates
- Stainless steel gears
- Stainless steel springs and clips
- TwinSpin reel bag
- AccuCare reel service
- One-year warranty
- Full specs
4. Penn Fishing Reels
PENN is probably the prime example of an American-made legend whose brand has been tarnished by corporate buyout and offshore outsourcing.
One can only assume that their new corporate model is the reason that they only manufacture two of their spinning reels in America.
The first is the famous Z series, which was nearly discontinued by PENN. It has a 50-year history and is very popular with surf anglers because of its bailess configuration.
The Z series is the most accessibly priced reel on this list. It is also the most basic.
- Product Type:FISHING_REEL
- Package Dimension:15.24 centimeters LX 15.24 centimeters WX11.43 centimeters HX
- Package weight:1.85 pounds
- Color:Black Gold
Last update on 2023-12-03 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API
The Torque II is a lesser-known PENN spin reel series and has plenty in common with the reels mentioned above.
It’s very pricey, supremely strong, and powerful, and it’s built to outlast you, while exposed to the harshest of offshore conditions.
The Torque II has only three size options, the 5500, 7500, and the 9500. They’re all heavy reels, more in keeping with the PENN most of us grew up with.
The Torque II is designed for tackling large aggressive pelagic species, with each reel bosting mind-blowing specs.
The 9500 delivers 60 pounds of drag, which is huge for any reel style. The spool will hold 490 yards of 80-pound braid, which in combination with the drag pressure delivers astonishing fighting power.
Anglers targeting GT’s, billfish, and sharks will consider themselves well equipped when strapped to a Torque II.
- Full Metal Body, side plate, and rotor
- CNC Gear technology
- IPX6 Sealed body and spool design
- Sealed Slammer drag system with Dura-Drag
Last update on 2023-12-03 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API
There’s plenty of application crossover between sizes, with all 3 well suited to surf, rock, and blue water fishing.
This is the style of reel that made PENN a household name brand. It’s very PENN, even though aesthetically, there are plenty of similarities to the Van Staal.
It’s heavy, solid, rigid, and constructed to last a lifetime of very rough treatment.
The Torque II will cost you around about $700 for the 7500 size. Given its price point, it’s an enthusiast reel, or a reel for those with deep pockets – unlike the Z series, which is cheap by comparison.
Robust simplicity and affordability are PENN trademarks too. It’s no-frills, yet it’s built to handle the rigors of surf fishing.
15 pounds of max drag delivers more than enough fight to handle drum and stripers from any surf gutter or hole.
While modest by PENN standards, 15 pounds of drag works well with the huge spool capacities, providing surf hunters enough power to wrestle modest sharks, and similar aggressive predators.
The machined brass main gear with stainless pinion adds to the weight but delivers strength and longevity.
With the addition of a few more bearings to the miserly 3 included, the crank and reel longevity would be improved significantly. While nothing to write home about, the Z series will do its job.
The Torque II and the Z series are a strange combination of the old PENN and the new.
We can only speculate as to why they are still manufactured in the US. One can only imagine there are some hangover financial benefits, they may soon wear out.
Penn Torque II Specs
- Full Metal Body, sideplate, and rotor
- CNC Gear™ technology
- IPX6 Sealed body and spool design
- Sealed Slammer® drag system with Dura-Drag™
- 9+1 stainless steel bearing system
- Instant Anti-Reverse bearing with silent backup ratchet
- Superline Spool
- Line Capacity Rings
- Full Specs
Penn Z Series Specs
- Made in the USA of domestic and imported components
- Full Metal Body with Graphite sideplate
- Aluminum rotor
- Machined and anodized aluminum spool
- Machined brass main gear with stainless pinion
- HT-100 drag system
- Full specs
Frequently Asked Questions
What Penn Spinning Reels are Made in the USA?
The Penn Torque II and the Penn Z series.
Are Shimano Reels Made in the USA?
No, Shimano reels are made in Japan.
Are Pflueger reels made in the USA?
Pflueger Reels are manufactured in China.
Are Lews Reels Made in the USA?
Lew’s reels are manufactured in Korea
I guess the bright side is that you can still buy fishing reels made in the USA. Better still, they’re pretty awesome.
On the downside, variety is very limited, indeed, relatively non-existent, and to top it off, you’ll need deep pockets to purchase one of these, with the exception of the Z series.
If you do have the cash, you will be rewarded, particularly if you go with the ZeeBaas or IRT or Accurate.
It’s important to remember that unless you continue to buy these reels, there won’t be any American manufacturers left.
If you support these brands, your kids may have a far greater selection of American-made spin reels from which to choose.