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best tuna reel

(Top Pick) 

Penn International V Lever Drag Reel 12V

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The Penn International V is by far the best tuna reel out there. Are there less expensive tuna reels? Sure. But the Penn International V is the gold standard in tuna fishing and other saltwater big game fishing. There’s a reason this reel is on so many tuna fishing charter boats…because it’s durable, built to last, and most importantly, land tuna.

A List of The Best Fishing Reels For Tuna

The first tuna I ever caught was a yellowfin tuna off the coast of Mazatlan, Mexico.  And I’ve been in love with tuna fishing ever since. Even though we were fishing for sailfish, we ran into a bait ball, and before we knew it, we had multiple tuna on our lines at one time.

These tuna gave me the fight of my life! Tuna are literally torpedos made out of muscle. And nothing beats the thrill of fighting a yellowfin or bluefin tuna out on the open water. If you’ve ever battled with one of these fish, then you know exactly what I’m talking about.  If you haven’t…then you must make it a priority to do so.

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If you want to analyze the features and specifics of each tuna reel, then keep reading, because we’re diving deep into each one of these best tuna fishing reels on the market.

Tuna Fishing Reel Reviews

1. Penn International VIS 2 Speed Fishing Reel

The top pick for the best tuna reel goes to the Penn International VIS 2 speed reel. The reel is the gold standard tuna fishing reel and is the flagship reel for the Penn International family. Gold is the only choice of color for the reel and rightfully so because that’s what this reel is, pure gold.

Penn is one of the most recognized brands when it comes to saltwater fishing gear manufacturers.  They’ve been designing and manufacturing fishing rods and reels for over 75 years.

This tuna reel is the preferred choice of charter boat captains due to their dependability and ease of use and reliable fish fighting power under any circumstance.

The Penn International is a workhorse of a reel that sports an ergonomically designed, contoured, one-piece aluminum frame that is both powerful and surprisingly lightweight for its size. It comes equipped with a ratchet lever which wards off “drag creep” typically caused by hours of trolling vibrations and a stainless steel gearing system equipped with four aircraft-grade stainless steel ball bearings for silky smooth performance in salt water.

Finally, its Dura-Drag washers practically eliminate hesitation — even under the harshest of drag settings. The Penn International also comes with an insane line capacity of 525 – 1,425 yards depending on the line you choose. To put that into perspective, a mile is 1,760 yards.

If you want the most advanced tuna fishing reel on the market that will catch anything from dorado shark, wahoo and trophy tuna then look no further than the Penn International VIS.

2. Penn Squall Lever Drag 2-Speed Trolling Fishing Reel

Every list has its underdog, and when you’re on the hunt for the best tuna reel, you can’t leave out the penn squall. The penn squall is an excellent alternative to the high dollar metal frame tuna fishing reels for those of you with smaller budgets.

This tuna reel is a lighter weight trolling reel that has the guts and brawn that you’re looking for in an offshore fishing reel. The Squall is the all-around best tuna reel for charter boats, hauling in trophy fish at saltwater tournaments or simply fighting fish for fun out on the open water on your own boat.

The penn squall is equipped with a two-speed system which provides the ability to toggle between high retrieval speed and low retrieval speed instantly so you can adapt to the movements of your prey efficiently and easily. All you have to to do when you want to shift gears is bump the shift knob button for low speed or twist it for high speed. All that without letting go of the handle. It doesn’t get much simpler than that. It really comes in handy for reeling in long distances and the Dura-drag system practically eliminates hesitation or snags even in the most intense of fights.

One of my favorite features of this deep sea fishing reel for tuna are the line capacity rings marked at ⅓, ⅔, and full capacity.  With these integrated markers, at a glance you can quickly see how much line is remaining when tuna decide to run and peel off a lot of line.

On top of that, the stainless steel ball bearings make the cranking of this reel buttery smooth and practically eliminates any back-play. What you’re left with is a steady reeling experience that is just excellent for hauling in yellowfin tuna.

While the penn squall isn’t the most expensive tuna reel on this list, it’s definitely worth the consideration. This tuna reel packs a boat load of power, it’ll will pass the test of time if you care for it right and for the price it is an absolute steal.

3. Shimano Tiagra Big Game Fishing Reels

This list of the best tuna fishing reels would not be complete without the sleek Shimano Tiagra Reel. Pro anglers and boat captains alike hail the Shimano Tiagra as the ultimate offshore reel because of its superb performance against even the toughest and heaviest fish in the open ocean.

The Shimano Tiagra really is an absolute thing of beauty. This tuna reel sports a seamless 2-speed gear system, incredibly precise drag adjustments and a line capacity that is seemingly endless.  All of these features together give you an unparalleled level of confidence while out on the water.

In addition to superior performance, many tuna fishermen are impressed by the Tiagra’s ruggedness and durability. It’s been described as being “built like a tank” and holds true to its reputation.

This tuna fishing reel is built to last and is perfectly suited for long range fishing. Besides being seemingly unstoppable, the Tiagra is extremely easy to use. You’ll love this reels ability to shift speeds quickly making it an unbeatable reel for trolling and live bait applications.

The Shimano Tiagra is a rock-solid combination of durability, cutting-edge technology and expert craftsmanship that leads the way.  This tuna fishing reel will impress you at every stage of offshore battle.

Shimano Tiagra Lever Drag VIDEO Review

4. Penn International VISX 2 Speed

The Penn International VISX 2 Speed is a two-speed reel that is a serious contender in the hunt for the best tuna spinning reel on the market. The reel itself was ergonomically designed and forged under the direction of countless captains and professional anglers worldwide and quickly earned its spot as the gold standard of the big tuna fishing reel category.

The Penn International VISX 2 Speed sports a full machined and anodized aluminum body and sideplates to give maximum rigidity and durability that will truly last a lifetime.

I’ve been told you could run it over with your truck and it will perform like it did the first day you took it out of the box. While the reel certainly feels that way, I don’t think I’ll be putting that claim to the test anytime soon.  If you do, please contact me and tell me about it!

This tuna fishing reel has an ergonomically designed oversized handle that will fit perfectly into the palm of your hand. One of my favorite features on the Penn International VISX is the quick shift button which controls the 2-speed system that makes the transition from low to high gear seamless.

This reel will easily handle big game battles, land your trophy fish and is extremely versatile. You can confidently use this offshore reel for sharking, trolling, drifting, and chunking.

Arguably, the best feature of this tuna reel is the incredibly smooth and powerful Dura-Drag system that’s designed to not give under a heavy load and allow you to keep steady control and adapt to your prey’s movements.

The integrated ratcheted level eliminates any drag-creep that might typically comes from hours of diesel engine vibration and trolling. All in all, the Penn International VISX performs as advertised and sets a high bar when it comes to reliability, durability, and performance.

5. Shimano Stella SWB Saltwater Fishing Reel (Best Spinning Reel For Tuna)​​

The Shimano Stella SW is the Cadillac of deep sea fishing reels for tuna. There are only a select few tuna fishing reels that even come close to the Shimano Stella SW in terms of performance, endurance and consistency.

What really sets this reel apart from the competition is how relentless this reel is out on the water. Its X-Tough drag enhances smoothness dramatically while also retaining its toughness and control, so you can relax when that giant tuna or bluefin strikes and starts peeling off line. In fact, you could be hooked for hours and the superior drag system on the Shimano Stella SW will keep you in the fight the entire time, ensuring that tuna gets to the boat.

This super spinner fishing reel is designed specifically for big game fishermen. The Shimano Stella SW is a professional grade tuna reel made for one thing only…to fight big fish.

The Shimano Stella first came onto the offshore fishing scene in 1993, and quickly earned the premiere big game saltwater spinning reel. A handful of new versions of the Stella have been released over the years, with the most recent version introduced in 2013.  The Stella SW is now available in 8 different sizes ranging from a 5,000 up to the new 30,000 and comes in one or more of three gearing ratios.

If you’re an avid tuna fisherman who fishes big game fish for a living, or you simply do it for the joy of it, you better have the right tool for the job. And the Shimano Stella is that tool.

The Shimano Stella SW is a serious reel made for serious fishing. The stiffness of the reel body and the added impact resistance practically eliminates any possibility of body flexing which only boosts the angler’s actions, cranking power and efficiency.

While this high caliber reel is suited well for tuna fishing, this tuna reel is also ideal for other the other big game fish like mako sharks, stripers and marlin.

You Might Also Like…

penn squall Level Wind Combo (Best Tuna Fishing Rod And Reel Combo)

The penn squall combo comes with the Squall level wind reel as well as a 6’6  heavy rod.  Other rod options are also available. This tuna fishing rod and reel combo is specifically designed for trolling big game fish in a variety of saltwater conditions.

The penn squall Lever Drag fishing combo is the perfect choice for those of us that enjoy the seek and thrill of trolling or jigging for big game fish, like tuna,  dorado and Kings. This setup is not only lightweight and ergonomic, but is strong enough to handle these massive fish. This setup is designed in a way that ensures your money spent provides you with a rod and reel that’ll last a very long time.


Whether it’s the reliable and saltwater tough Japanese precision of the Shimanos or the rugged highly crafted performance of the Penn brand you simply cannot go wrong with a single reel on this list. Each in its own right is an absolute powerhouse in the tuna fishing reels category and will undoubtedly help you reel in your biggest catch yet.

However, if I were to choose only one as the best tuna reel, I choose the Penn International. It’s by far the offshore angler’s choice for best in class tuna fishing reels and is the most reliable tuna fighting reel you’ll likely come across.

(Top Pick) 

Penn International V Lever Drag Reel 12V

View On Amazon

The Penn International V is by far the best tuna reel out there. Are there less expensive tuna reels? Sure. But the Penn International V is the gold standard in tuna fishing and other saltwater big game fishing. There’s a reason this reel is on so many tuna fishing charter boats…because it’s durable, built to last, and most importantly, land tuna.

Written by Don

When I'm not bass fishing or looking for steelhead in my home state of Oregon I can be found working on house projects dreaming of my next fishing adventure.

I started this website to share just some of the things I've learned along my fishing journey, and the many things I'm still learning. Enjoy!

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