Best Tuna Reels of 2019 – Complete Round-up

Tuna, although delicious and fun to hunt for, are an incredibly tough catch to land. Thanks to their powerful fins and swimming power, the fight between an angler and a tuna requires a delicate balance of power and skill. To ensure you have the best chance at scoring tuna, the right gear is essential. This article will walk you through our best reel picks for fishing tuna. 

Comparison Chart of the Best Tuna Reels

Product

Our Rating

Price

​Penn Squall Lever Drag 2-Speed Trolling Fishing Reel

Penn 1292938 Squall Lever Drag 2-Speed Trolling Fishing Reel, 890/50

Best Overall

​Shimano Tekota 300 Conventional Trolling Reel​

Shimano Tekota 800 Conventional Reel, 30 Pounds/450 Yards

Runner-up

​Penn Squall Lever Drag Conventional Fishing Reel & Rod Combo

Penn SQL50LD3050C66 Squall Lever Drag (6-Feet 6-Inches)

Best for the Money

​SHIMANO Talica II Reels

Shimano Talica 12 II Speed Lever drag Big Game Offshore Seafishing Multiplier Trolling Fishing Reel

Best Spinning Reel

​Penn Battle II Spinning Fishing Reel

Penn 1338218 Battle II Spinning Reel, 3000

Best Jigging Reel

​Penn Squall Lever Drag Reel

PENN Squall Lever Drag Reel

Best Penn Tuna Reel

Can Any Reel Be Used For Fishing Tuna?

While it may be tempting to choose any old reel you may have lying around for fishing tuna, there are some specifications your reel of choice should have. Firstly, they must be saltwater-resistant. Because tuna is a saltwater fish species, it’s essential to have a reel that can withstand contact with saltwater. Saltwater is a naturally corrosive substance, so it’s important that the reel you purchase is listed as corrosion-resistant and also has sealed elements to protect it from stray salt and sand particles. 

What Makes a Great Tuna Reel?

When you’re in the midst of a search for a tuna reel, be careful to consider your options fully. While there are many reels on the market that would be good for tuna reels, some stand out more than others. Consider the following before buying:

Power

Because tuna are a fish that will put up a pretty heated fight, finding a powerful reel is vital. Ensure that your reel can withstand a beating by going for one that is made with high-quality, durable materials. While this may cause it to be a little more pricey in the end, it will be totally worth it in the long run. 

Gear Ratio

Tuna are very powerful swimmers, so it’s important to have a reel that offers fast and smooth retrieval. The potential of losing a great catch should encourage you to purchase a reel with a fairly high gear ratio. This will lessen the chances of going home empty-handed. 

Drag System 

A great drag system can be incredibly helpful when it comes to battling tuna. An advanced drag system will offer much-needed control and stopping power. While opinions do differ on the amount of drag that is perfect for fighting tuna, a range between 15-40 pounds of power should do the trick. 

Review of the Best Tuna Reels

There’s no shortage of great reels on the market, but finding the perfect tuna reel can be a little tough. Here’s a list of our favorite picks:

Penn 1292938 Squall Lever Drag 2-Speed Trolling Fishing Reel, 890/50

Pros

  • Heavy-Duty
  • High-Tech Drag System
  • High-Quality Drag Washers
  • Comes With Line-Capacity Rings
  • Great for Pulling in Heavy Saltwater Fish

Cons

  • Heavy
  • A Little Clunky
  • Scratches and Dings Easily

What Recent Buyers Report

Those who purchased the Squall Reel from Penn were impressed with the strength and power that is incorporated into the product. Mainly, reviewers were excited about its durability and powerful drag. There were some complaints that the heavy-duty design was too bulky for some tastes. 

Why it Stands Out to Us

This rod earned the top spot on our list because it packs a major punch in a fight with a large fish, which is needed for targeting tuna. It has a high-tech, powerful drag system that provides great control, and to top it all off, it’s made with quality-made materials that will last season after season. 

Who Will Use This Most

This Penn reel is a suitable choice for saltwater anglers who need a heavy-duty reel to pull in large fish. This is a trolling reel, so it is made for anglers who typically fish from a watercraft rather than the surf. We wouldn’t recommend this reel to beginners, as it takes a little bit of practice to get the best performance. 

What Could Be Improved and Why

The main complaint among buyers is that although the design is super strong and durable, it translates into clunkiness. It is pretty heavy in weight, which can cause hand and wrist fatigue throughout a fishing trip. If Penn could shed a few ounces of the design, it would be much more comfortable to use. 

Bottom Line

Although it may be a little too bulky for some angler’s tastes, overall, we think the Squall Trolling Reel from Penn is a great option for tuna fishermen. It packs the power needed to defeat the feistiest of tuna and it is made with materials that will last for years to come. 

Shimano Tekota 800 Conventional Reel, 30 Pounds/450 Yards

Pros

  • Fast Retrieval
  • Nice Special Features
  • High-Quality Construction
  • Comes With a Line Counter
  • Created With Durable Materials

Cons

  • Clicks a Little
  • Drag Adjustment is Touchy
  • Line Retrieval Could Be Smoother

What Recent Buyers Report

The response from buyers about the Shimano Tekota 300 was extremely positive for a couple of different reasons. Mainly, users were excited about the obvious care that went into the construction of the reel. They also enjoyed the special features that are included. The main issue that was reported was the line retrieval, which is fast but can be a little jerky.

Why it Stands Out to Us

We love the quality of the construction that went into creating the Shimano Tekota reels, which is why they show up on our favorites. Just from holding the reel, it is evident that it is made with solid materials. We’re also big fans of the level-wind and powerful drag system, which make fishing for tuna that much easier. 

Who Will Use This Most

This is another great trolling reel for saltwater anglers who prefer boat fishing. It stands out among trolling reels because it has a super easy-to-read line counter from which you can easily read how deep your bait has been placed. 

What Could Be Improved and Why

One issue that surfaced among some buyers was with the retrieval. Although the line retrieval is quick, some say that it was a little jerky at times and could be improved by being a bit smoother. The drag adjustment lever could also be improved usability-wise, as it can be a little bit touchy.

Bottom Line

In conclusion, the Shimano Tekota reel is an easy recommendation from us. Besides the minor issue with the line retrieval and drag adjustment lever, this is a very solidly constructed reel with little improvements to be made. This is a great option for saltwater anglers looking for a heavy-duty, reliable reel. 

Penn SQL50LD3050C66 Squall Lever Drag (6-Feet 6-Inches)

Pros

  • Stylish Design
  • Great Value for the Price
  • Smooth Casting and Retrieval
  • A Fair Amount of Special Features
  • Lightweight Graphite Construction

Cons

  • Rod Could Be Stronger
  • Reel is Prone to Scratches
  • Line Guides Could Be Improved

What Recent Buyers Report

Buyers who have recently purchased the Penn Squall Rod and Reel Combo were thrilled by its value. Although this is a very high-quality combo, it comes at a discount price, which is great for anglers in need of both a rod and a reel on a budget. Some users say the reel outshines the rod on this combo. 

Why it Stands Out to Us

If you notice, the reel in this combo is from the same line as the reel on the first spot on our favorites list. We chose this combo for the list because it is an incredible value for its quality construction. Both the rod and reel offer great power and sturdy performance, a combination that is essential for pulling in tuna. 

Who Will Use This Most

This combo is an incredible option for anglers on a budget. Although it comes at a budget price, it has all the quality and consistency of luxury rods and reels. This would also be a good choice for beginning anglers who want something all-in-one rather than trying to find the perfect balance between a separate rod and reel. 

What Could Be Improved and Why

Although this is a pretty solid combo, the rod could do with some minor structural improvements. Most buyers said that while the reel felt extremely high-quality, the rod was just so-so. If Penn could incorporate a better backbone into the reel, this would be a near-perfect product.

Bottom Line

We’re pretty fond of the Penn Squall Rod and Reel Combination. Overall, the sturdy construction and special features come together to create a super-effective fishing combo, great for pulling in tuna and other saltwater fish. 

Best Spinning Reel:
SHIMANO Talica II Reels

Shimano Talica 12 II Speed Lever drag Big Game Offshore Seafishing Multiplier Trolling Fishing Reel

Pros

  • Great Line Capacity
  • Super Smooth Casting
  • Quick Line-Retrieval Speed
  • Very Powerful 60-Pound Drag
  • High-Efficiency Gearing Technology

Cons

  • Heavy
  • Could Benefit From Lower Gears
  • The Handle Could Use Improvements

What Recent Buyers Report

Honestly, it’s tough to find a bad review of this Shimano reel. Responses from buyers of the Talica reels are overwhelmingly positive, mainly because of its super powerful drag system, consistent performance, and ease of use. The only complaint that was common was that the drag system could benefit from lower gears. 

Why it Stands Out to Us 

The Talica II line gets a well-earned spot on our list because of its overall effective design. The reel is excellent in many ways, especially the powerful drag system, which offers a whopping 60 pounds of pressure power. We’re also impressed by the casting ability, which is butter smooth. 

Who Will Use This Most

This is a great choice for anglers with a need for a lifetime saltwater reel. This line is a favorite among many fishermen and it could be the same for you! It’s reliable, consistent, and has special features that make it the perfect choice for tuna fishing. 

What Could Be Improved and Why

Although there aren’t many aspects of this reel that we have qualms with, one aspect where there were some complaints and could easily be improved is the handle size. It’s a little small for some angler’s tastes and that can result in wrist and hand fatigue throughout a day of fishing.

Bottom Line

Overall, the Shimano Talica II is an extremely easy recommendation for us. With rave reviews and proven performance, these reels really take the cake in terms of usability and style. It’s hard to deny their powerful drag systems and incredible casting ability. 

Penn 1338218 Battle II Spinning Reel, 3000

Pros

  • Super Durable
  • Cool Color Design
  • Great Casting Abilities
  • Great Quality Construction
  • Smooth and Steady Drag System

Cons

  • Hard on the Wrists
  • Line Capacity is Not as Advertised
  • Full Metal Construction Adds a Lot of Weight

What Recent Buyers Report

Those who purchased the Penn Battle II Reel were very satisfied with the majority of its features. People noticed the quality construction that went into creating the reel and admired its smooth and reliable drag system. The main complaint among users is the weight, which is pretty heavy for a saltwater reel.

Why it Stands Out to Us

This reel from Penn made it on our favorites list for a couple of reasons, but mainly because of its solid construction. We liked how durable the full metal materials were and the design definitely stood out, as well. 

Who Will Use This Most

This is a great entry-level reel for anglers new to the saltwater aspect of the fishing world. It’s reliable, not too expensive, and performs well against big and small fish alike. This is also a great jigging reel, which is a fairly easy technique to master— another reason it would be a good choice for a beginner.

What Could Be Improved and Why

The most obvious aspect of the Penn Battle II Reel that could use improvement is the weight. It is much too heavy to be comfortable through a full day of fishing, which really isolates the customer-base. If they could use graphite in part of the construction, it would probably result in a more comfortable feel.

Bottom Line

Despite the too-heavy weight of this reel, we still think it’s a great choice for anglers who can handle it. The durable construction and reliable performance should not be overlooked. Again, this is a great choice for beginners and experts alike. 

Best Penn Tuna Reel:
Penn Squall Lever Drag Reel

PENN Squall Lever Drag Reel

Pros

  • Easy to Use
  • Large Line Capacity
  • Powerful Drag System
  • Great Special Features
  • Super Durable Construction

Cons

  • Bait Clicker is Too Loud
  • Drag Lever is Made With Plastic
  • Casting Ability Could Be Improved

What Recent Buyers Report

For the most part, purchasers of the Squall Lever Drag line from Penn were pretty happy with the results. Buyers praised the durable construction, were satisfied with the large line capacity, and were impressed by the powerful drag system. Some commented that casting could be better. 

Why it Stands Out to Us

As the third Penn Squall reel on our list, you can probably tell that we’re pretty big fans of this line. This reel earned a spot because of its reliable performance and powerful drag system, a great combination for pulling in tuna. We like the power this reel provides, which is an essential quality for fighting these large fish. 

Who Will Use This Most

This reel is a great choice for anglers who spend a lot of time on the ocean. This is a really good option for tuna fishing, but is also suitable for all types of saltwater angling. We’d recommend this reel to those in need of a powerful reel at a reasonable price. 

What Could Be Improved and Why

Some buyers were not satisfied with this reel’s casting ability and retrieval rate. Some commented that the casting could be smoother, which could be improved by a higher amount of ball bearings. The bait clicker is a little loud, too, which can be an annoyance to some. 

Bottom Line

Overall, this is another reliable reel choice from Penn that can get you one step closer to a giant tuna fish in your boat. Our favorite parts of this reel are its quality construction, drag system, and special features.

How to Clean Tuna Reels

Because you’ll be using your tuna reel in saltwater, it’s very important to clean your reel regularly to avoid corrosion from salt and sand. Although there are several ways to go about the cleaning process, the following steps are a good place to start:

  1. Sponge the reel with a mixture of warm water and a gentle soap. Be sure to never submerge the reel completely in water, as it can have a negative effect on the inner-workings. 
  2. Rinse the reel with fresh water, being sure to remove all leftover salt and sand particles fully to avoid damage. 
  3. Remove the spool of line and rinse with fresh water. Cleaning the line is a good way to extend its lifespan. 
  4. Allow the reel to air dry in a cool, dry space. When it’s fully dry, it’s a good idea to spray the moving parts with a lubricant to keep them in smooth working order for the next trip.

The video below demonstrates one of the best ways to clean a reel thoroughly:

Conclusion

Now that you’re prepared with the knowledge of the qualities a great tuna reel should have and some good choices to pick from, there’s nothing stopping you from making that first catch. Though the process might seem daunting, there’s nothing better than the reward of a big ole’ tuna in your boat after a long day of fishing. Happy fishing! 

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.