For a long time, ultralight fishing reels have gotten a bad rap for being low quality, and falling apart on your first trip to the water. Since they’re not the most expensive reels on the market, it’s easy for knockoffs to land their junk onto the same shelves as the quality reels. If you take a trip to the local big box sporting goods store, you’re going to get presented with dozens of different options, probably left wondering “what is the best ultralight reel for me — or my kids?”
Over the last few years, though, ultralight fishing reel manufacturers have really stepped up their game. That means you don’t have to worry about wasting your money, and you also don’t have to worry about your brand new reel busting down on you and your kids at the worst time.
With that being said, the best ultralight reel of 2016 is debatable — depending on how much you have to spend. While you can get a reel for $10 or $20, your chances of having it around for a long time are fairly slim.
Before you buy one, you need to figure out which type you’re going to use most often, and which type will come naturally for your kids to use. Some are better than others, but we need to address one of the biggest elephants in the room, right now: ultralight baitcasting reels.
Before you start trying to find one, let me explain why it’s going to be so hard for you. Simply put, ultralight baits are exactly that — lightweight. That doesn’t lend well to trying to pull line off the reel, like baitcasters require.
What typically happens when you fling a lightweight lure off the end of a baitcaster is a huge rat’s nest. That’s going to take time out of your day, and give your kids an opportunity to get frustrated and start throwing things into the water. They all do it.
So What’s The Best Ultralight Reel For Kids?
So you’re left with 2 other options for an ultralight reel that won’t leave you frustrated: spinning, and spincasting. Each has their place, depending on how experienced your kids are.
Most kids are going to start out with an ultralight spincast reel. You’ve seen them before, probably in your dad or grandpa’s tackle box. You can see a closed face reel to the right.
Before you rush out and buy one, though, keep this in mind: they, like baitcasters, do not tend to lend themselves very well to flinging lightweight lures. And the lures you’re going to be flinging are anywhere from 1/16 ounce, up to ¼ ounce on the heavier side.
They’ll usually sling the lure about 10-15 feet, or just far enough to irritate you, without being able to get any more distance out of it. You’ll also have to deal with your kids tangling the line up inside of the reel, forcing you to take time out to fix the mess.
It’s in their design — they are typically built to handle 10lb test, and act up with anything lighter. Especially ultralight lines.
In my years of experience, there has been only one ultralight spincasting reel that can keep you from getting irritated 20 minutes into the trip: the Zebco 33 “Micro” Spincasting Reel. It’s made to handle light lines, and doesn’t have a bunch of inner workings that are going to nick the line and cause it to snap on you at the worst time — when you’re fighting a fish.
It will work with lighter lines in the 2lb to 4lb test range, and can fling 1/16 oz lures with a fair bit of distance. Increase the weight to ⅛ ounce, and even ¼ ounce, and you can sling an ultralight lure half a football field. Just make sure you’re using a high quality line that can handle the abuse, and you’re good to go.
The Zebco 33 is the only ultralight reel that hasn’t left me (and my daughter) completely frustrated. While I don’t necessarily recommend it for people who can use a spinning reel without getting it tangled up, it’s perfect for younger folks (read: kids) who just want to cast and reel, cast and reel, rinse and repeat. It will stand up to their abuse, and do what it needs to do. And it’s not that expensive, to boot.
If you know that your kids will have issues with a spinning reel setup, and want to pick up the Zebco 33 “Micro” Spincast reel, click here. In my (humble) opinion, it’s the best ultralight reel on the market for kids these days, hands down.