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Bottom fishing is one of the easiest ways to catch big fish. As long as you have access to a boat and the correct setup, it’s not hard to hook into +20lb fish on the regular. Grouper, common carp, catfish, gar, mako sharks, halibut, cubera snapper, sturgeon all live on the bottom and grow to immense sizes. But what kind of reel should you use when going bottom fishing? We’re here to help.
In this guide, we’ll go over the best bottom fishing reels for all budgets. We’ll also cover what makes a great bottom fishing reel, the different species of fish you can catch while bottom fishing, and some of the best rigs to use when bottom fishing. Not only will you know which bottom fishing reel to get, but you’ll also be more prepared for your next bottom fishing adventure. Let’s get to it!
Best Bottom Fishing Reels
The Penn Squall Levelwind is our pick for the best bottom fishing reel, mostly because it has been around for ages and withstands the most intense bottom fishing battles. The Penn Squall Levelwind comes in several different sizes depending on the kind of fish you’re fishing for. It has a lightweight graphite frame that keeps it nimble when casting but strong when reeling in a heavy fish. If you want an all-around awesome bottom fishing reel, get the Penn Squall Levelwind.
The KastKing Rover is our winner for the best bottom fishing reel is you’re on a tight budget. It’s one of the most reviewed fishing reels we’ve recommended; its low price makes it an excellent entry-level bottom fishing reel or a great option for a second back-up reel. The KastKing Rover works well for all fish sizes and is built with quality components that will last a lifetime. If you want to save some money but still get a very capable bottom fishing reel, get the KastKing Rover.
If budget isn’t as big of an issue for you, then we recommend buying the Penn Fathom Star Drag. The Penn Fathom Star Drag is a heavy-duty bottom fishing reel that will stand up to the test of pretty much any type of bottom-feeding fish you throw at it. It also performs well when using it as a trolling reel too. If you aren’t on a tight budget, the Penn Fathom Star Drag comes with extra features that make it worth your money. It’s our favorite for live bait grouper fishing!
The Daiwa Saltist Levelwind is another great choice if you’re willing to spend a bit more on your bottom fishing reel. It’s made from aircraft-grade machined aluminum and dual drag system for even pressure and accurate casting. We’ve used Daiwa products for years, and we’re always amazed by their durability and capability. If the other reels on this list didn’t catch your eye, fo with the Daiwa Saltist Levelwind.
We’d be remiss if we didn’t include a reel from one of the most heralded fishing brands in the industry: Shimano. The Shimano Tekota Levelwind is a great option if you want extra line capacity when bottom fishing. It comes with an extra-large spool size that makes it great for fishing in deep channels or parts of the ocean that require the extra length. We also like its one-piece die-cast aluminum body and unique crossbar forward design. A great choice fishing up north for king salmon and barn door sized halibut.
What Makes a Great Bottom Fishing Reel?
Now that we’ve gone over our favorite bottom fishing reels, let’s talk about what makes a conventional reel great for bottom fishing.
- Line capacity. In order to get your lure or bait down to where the bottom fish like to feed, you’re going to need significantly more line capacity than you would with a baitcasting or spinning reel. The bottom fishing reels we included on this list all have large line capacities and enable you to fish in deep waters for large bottom-feeding fish.
- Reel gearing. Great bottom fishing reels have a high gear ratio. This allows you to reel in line faster than other reel types, which is important if you have hundreds of feet of line out. It’s also important for keeping bottom-feeding fish away from underwater structures they like to hide in. If a hooked fish swims into a reef or a sunken wreck, your line will often snap or get snagged. This is prevented when you have a reel that has a high gear ratio. If you are fishing very large fish, a lower gear ratio will work better for winching the fish to the boat.
- Bait clicking feature. Bottom fishing reels are set up to make a clicking noise when a fish takes your lure or bait. This feature allows the fish to pull line off your reel easily and makes an audible sound to alert you that there’s a fish on the other side of your line. You can then run over and set the hook and apply drag.
What Can You Catch Bottom Fishing?
There are many different species of fish you can catch while bottom fishing. We’re not gonna lie, it would be impossible to list them all! Some common saltwater species include sharks, gag grouper, snapper, tuna, and more. For freshwater, catfish, common carp, alligator gar, Blacktip Sharks, and lake trout all enjoy living close to the bottom. We’ve written many articles on how to catch these species, so if any pique your interest give them a click.
Bottom Fishing Tips and Tricks
Before we part ways, we wanted to go over several bottom fishing tips and tricks that will set you up for success.
- Use a fish finder. A fish finder will help you figure out where the fish are much faster than any other method. If you don’t have a fish finder, invest in a cheap portable one, or borrow a friend’s boat that has one.
- Fish around underwater structure. Bottom fish like to hang out close to where their prey likes to live. Smaller fish like to have places to hide from bigger ones, so it makes sense to fish around underwater structures like rock piles or wreckage. A word of caution, however: it’s very easy to snag your lure on areas with lots of structure, so try to keep your lure just off the bottom.
- Use braided line. Monofilament has too much stretch and is also buoyant which makes it a bad choice for bottom fishing. Braided line has the highest response of any fishing line, and its small diameter will allow you to spool more on your reel. It also is easier to tie than fluorocarbon.
- Try drifting instead of anchoring. Drifting allows you to cover more area than if you anchor your boat. Since oftentimes the difference between catching a fish and not is just finding them, drifting allows you to maximize your chances of finding them. As long as the current isn’t too strong and your lures aren’t down too deep, you should still be able to keep your lures at the desired depth.
Bottom fishing can be as simple or as complicated as you want to make it, and in many cases simply bouncing a jig on or near the bottom is enough for consistent success. Other times, you will want to mix things up and use a jigging cadence or rhythm to entice strikes.
When fishing the bottom, you can use a simple rig with live bait and simply let it sit for an extended period of time. This tactic works great when the fish are in a neutral mood, as they can investigate the bait for a longer period with the bait moving very little or not at all.
The only real concern with bottom fishing is obstacles like wrecks, and when hooking a fish you will want to ensure that you have the right gear to quickly fight the fish away from these hazards, which can snag or cut your line.
Picking out a good bottom fishing reel can be difficult given the number of options on the market today. We hope after reading this article, you now know what the best bottom fishing reels are and are more confident in purchasing one. And if you want to explore more of what can be found on the bottom, check out our magnet fishing supplies article and best magnets for magnet fishing articles.
The jigging that is done when bottom fishing is straightforward and can be very successful, it’s also a great method to use to introduce someone to the sport of fishing.
Author Note: You might be surprised what you can find! Buy one of these reels and hook into a monster bottom-feeding fish? Let us know about it in the comments below!