Here’s what charter boat captains are recommending as the best Tuna fishing reels:
- Penn International V or VI
- Shimano Tiagra
- Daiwa Saltiga
- Fin-Nor Santiago Wide.
If you are on a budget, here are the top choices:
- Penn Squall LevelWind
- Penn Fathom Lever Drag
- Shimano TLD
- Avet SXJ 5.3
- Daiwa Seagate LevelWind
Why are these reels the best?
- Large line capacities: 700 – 1000 yards of 50 – 130 lb line
- Heavy Duty Gears – reel in 800 lb tuna without failure
- High Tech Drag System – heavy, stable drag wears out large fish without failure
- Anodized Protection – NO RUST
- Competitively Priced – starting at $400
These reels are the best for bringing in Tuna. Tuna are large and extremely powerful and require a very strong and durable reel and rod setup. If you have less than optimal, you will loose the big ones!
I know several charter boat owners that use Penn International for all of their Bluefin Tuna reels. They have never had a failure in over 20 years. Bluefin tuna are the largest tuna species and can take several hours to bring them to the boat. Penn International reels are recommended.
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Penn International V Tuna Reel
- High-performance 2-speed fishing reel delivers exceptionally smooth and powerful drag
- Full metal body and side plates constructed from die-cast aluminum for durability and rigidity
- Dura-Drag washers, Push-To-Turn preset knob, and ratcheted drag lever maintain icy smooth drag even under extreme loads
- Quick Shift 2-speed system seamlessly shifts into high or low gear
- Fluid cranking with 5 shielded stainless steel ball bearings and double dog ratchet anti-reverse
- HT-100 drag washers provide smooth drag under heavy loads
- Ratcheted lever eliminates “drag-creep” caused by hours of trolling and boat vibrations
- Easy and reliable two-speed mechanism with Quick Shift system
- Push-to-Turn present drag system prevents ‘unknowing anglers’ from accidentally adjusting the drag when backs are turned
- Full metal body and side plates to ensure its precision gear alignment
Shimano Tiagra Tuna Fishing Reel
- A-RB (Anti-Rust Bearings) – Our specially treated stainless steel ball bearings are at least 10 times more corrosion resistant than standard stainless steel ball bearings.
- Forged Aluminum Spool – These spools are made from cold forged aluminum then machined to provide an extremely dense, solid construction that can withstand the heavy drag pressures the reels can apply.
- Chrome Plated Side Plate Screws – The side plate screws are chrome plated to prevent corrosion.
- 2-Speed Gearing – Uses 2 sets of gears that are always engaged for quick, easy gear ratio changes even under load.
- Ratcheting Drag Lever – eliminates the chance of the drag lever backing off due to boat vibration and allows for more precise adjustment.
- Twin Disk Drag System – uses two drag disks and a floating drag plate to effectively double the drag surface which provides a wide range of settings and increased durability.
- Clicker – The clicker increases the tension on free spool and activates a clicking alarm when a fish bites.
- Septon – The handle grip material, Septon, is soft to the touch and does not get slippery even when wet.
- Permalube – This lubrication improves freespool while maintaining protection and durability of moving parts.
- Metal Series – With the Metal Series, metal frames keep moving parts in precise alignment for increased efficiency and durability.
- Machined Aluminum Frame – These frames are machined from solid aluminum pipestock, which makes them incredibly rigid and strong for ultra tight tolerances.
- Offset Ergonomic Power Grip – The power grip is offset on multiple axes to allow natural hand, arm and wrist angles to improve comfort and power (not available on (TI12 & TI16).
- Ergonomic Power Handle – Comfortable, non-slip grip provides maximum comfort and torque (TI12 & TI16).
Daiwa Saltiga Tuna Fishing Reel
- Conventional reel, RH
- 6 Ball Bearings
- 6.3: 1 Ratio
- Aluminum spool
- Line Capacity: Braided 40/840, 50/630, mono 30/350, 40/310.
- Offset power handle with Soft Touch grip
- Massive stainless steel gears – helical cut for optimum power and smooth winding
- Offset power handle with Soft Touch grip
- Machined aluminum frame and left side plate are one solid piece for maximum strength and durability
Fin-Nor Santiago Tuna Fishing Reel
- 4 ceramic/hybrid ball bearings for support and strength
- Fully machined one-piece aluminum frame
- Forged aluminum spool
- Push-button and dial-release two-speed shift system
- Line Capacity: 900yds/50lb mono – 900yds/130lb braid capacity
Penn Squall LevelWind Fishing Reel
The Penn Squall LevelWind reel is most likely the best “Bang for the Buck” in the tuna fishing reel category. It’s “Penn Tough” and cheap. The price ranges from $100 to $150.00 if you shop at Amazon.com. There is No Way you can beat this deal.
The Penn Squall Levelwind reel has a line capacity range, depending on the model, of 900 yards of 65 lb test braid or 775 yards of 80 lb test braid for the 50 LW model which is the largest. The smallest Squall LevelWind (model 15 LW) has a line capacity of 580 yards of 20 lb test or 435 yards of 30 lb test braid.
The Penn Squall LevelWind features a lightweight yet strong graphite frame and side plates. Graphite is very strong and durable. The aerospace industry uses graphite frequently because of it’s high performance properties. The all aluminum spool is forged and then machined in the Penn factory on highly sophisticated machinery. The main and pinion gears are stainless steel for strength and durability plus corrosion resistance. The Squall has the excellent Penn Dura-Drag system which is a super tough and reliable drag system. Few drag systems are better. There are 4 stainless steel bearings which provide smooth and reliable function.
Penn Fathom Lever Drag Fishing Reel
The Penn Fathom Lever Drag reel is another top choice for tuna fishing on a budget. The Fathom retails for about $199 – $250 but you can find online deals at Amazon.com. The Fathom Lever Drag 60 online goes for about $220.00.
The Fathom Lever Drag reel is constructed with a full metal body and side plates. It’s a very robust reel that will bring in the biggest fish and last many years. The main and pinion gars are all stainless steel. The Fathom features the world famous Penn Dura-drag washers for smooth and consistent drag pressure. 5 shielded stainless steel ball bearings give this reel a very smooth operation while resisting corrosion from fresh or saltwater. There are line capacity rings on the inside of the spool. This lets you monitor how much line is out while battling big fish. There is also a double-dog ratchet anti-reverse system. The Penn Fathom is built to battle big fish and it is recommended that you fill the spool with superline. This will allow you to put more line (2-3 times as much) on the reel which will enable you to catch bigger fish.
The Fathom 15LD will hold 355/12, 305/15, 200/20 (yards/lbs) yards of monofilament or 550/20, 415/30, 290/50 yards of Superline braided fishing line.
The Fathom 25NLD will hold 325/20, 295/25, 240/30 (yards/lbs) of monofilament and 680/30, 475/50, 395/65 of Superline braided fishing line.
The Fathom 30LD will hold 435/20, 325/30, 250/40 (yards/lbs) of monofilament and 635/50, 525/65, 455/80 of Superline braided fishing line.
The Fathom 40NLD will hold 410/30, 315/40, 235/50 (yards/lbs) of monofilament and 785/50, 665/65, 565/80 of superline braided fishing line.
The Fathom 60LDHS will hold 480/40, 355/50, 315/60 (yards/lbs) of monofilament and 995/65, 860/80, 735/100 of Superline braided fishing line.
Shimano TLD Offshore Lever Drag Fishing Reel
Shimano makes some really fantastic reels but are not cheap however the TLD (Triton Lever Drag) reel is quite affordable at around $150 – $200. It’s quite the bargain.
Charter boat captains favor this reel because of its reliability and light weight. The TLD frame is made from a super strong graphite that is practically indestructible and light weight. The spool is aluminum which is very resistant to corrosion from salt water and also light weight. The stainless steel ball bearings are treated to increase the corrosion resistance. They are claimed to last 10 times longer than traditional stainless steel bearings. The TLD has 4 A-RB bearings and provide a super smooth action and extreme durability.
The TLD features a ball bearing drag system that is unlike any other. It features a space-age titanium impregnated fabric which runs smoother, last longer and dissipates friction heat very efficiently. The drag tension is also very consistent. Some drag systems will increase the tension when they get hot.
Avet SXJ 5.3 Fishing Reel
- Retail Price $189.99
- The SXJ is precision machined from marine grade 6061 T-6 aluminum and stainless steel components for corrosion resistance and maximum durability.
- Exterior components are anodized for superior corrosion resistance and a beautiful finish. This is part of what makes a great fishing reel, attention to detail.
- The one piece frame provides maximum strength/weight ratio. Strength is super important but you don’t want a heavy reel. It will tire your arms too quickly.
- The lever drag system is powerful, reliable and consistent with an adjustable strike pre-set.
- The precision machined stainless steel gears are strong, durable and corrosion resistant. The Avet gears are also very smooth.
- Avet patented (indestructible) SILENT dog and gear anti-reverse system is the most reliable in the industry.
- The Ave-drag dry carbon fiber drags are designed for reliability, superior stopping power, smoothness, and wear resistance. It doesn’t get any better than this.
- Maximum drag is 14 lbs on Full and 9 lbs. at strike
- The 8 stainless steel ball bearings assure reliable and smooth operation at all times.
- Alarm clicker lets you know when you have a bite on your line.
- The offset machined handle arm reduces the centerline profile and cranking wobble. I always hated reel wobble when cranking a fish in fast.
- The large, comfortable soft touch handle knob is a pleasure to hold even after 2 hours of fighting.
- The light, narrow spool is designed for optimal jig casting efficiency and less line leveling while retrieving.
- Avet reels are made in USA.
Daiwa Seagate Levelwind Fishing Reel
- Retail Price $149.99
- One piece, rugged, corrosion-proof composite frame provides a reliable and rigid reel structure. Composite frames are much lighter than metal and are just as strong. You will appreciate the light weight after 2 hours of fighting a 300 lb Bluefin tuna.
- 4 bearing system:1 Corrosion Resistant Ball Bearing, 2 Ball Bearings and 1 Roller Bearing – very smooth and reliable.
- Dual system Infinite Anti-Reverse
- Ultimate Tournament carbon drag (UTD)
- Oversize line guide aperture for copper wire line or 250 lb mono leaders.
- Loud spool click – may not seem like a big deal but it really is. You want to hear when a fish takes your bait.
- Fast 6.1 to 1 gear ratio – recovers line really fast compared to other reels with a 5:1 gear ratio.
- Maximum drag 20 lbs
- Oversize Soft Touch handle knob – super comfortable even after hours of reeling. This is really important when fighting large fish that take 45 minutes to several hours to bring in. Your hand will appreciate this feature.
- Line Capacity: SGTLW50H – 830 yards of 40 lb test braided/Superline or 650 yards of 50 lb braided /Superline. SGTLW60H – 820 yards of 50 lb braided/Superline or 700 yards of 60 lb braided/Superline
- Available in 50 (SGTLW50H) and 60 (SGTLW60H) sizes