Since I started fishing with soft plastics over 10 years ago I've been through many rod and reel combos.
One of my passions is kayak fishing and as you can imagine - when you fish from a kayak in saltwater, reels get a lot of abuse.
They get dunked in and sprayed with salt water regularly. There is also a good chance you lose them if you tip over and haven't secured them properly. It can get expensive very quickly if you have to frequently replace your high-end reels.
So during my years of kayak fishing, shore-based spin fishing and through a lot of trial and error, I found the best budget-friendly spinning reel for soft plastics, lure fishing, spin fishing from shore, spin fishing for trout in lakes and rivers and even bait fishing on lightweight stray line rigs.
I prefer budget reels because I can easily replace them after a year or two without breaking the bank or going through all the hassle of servicing expensive and complicated reels.
My favourite spinning reel for this purpose is the Shimano FX 4000 FB spinning reel.
A nice kingfish caught with the Shimano FX 4000 FB
This reel is super cheap, very solid, has a great line capacity and drag, it's smooth and I haven't met any fish that this reel can't handle when fishing from a kayak. I even managed to catch kingfish over a meter long over the sandy bottom - but this was definitely pushing it and that's where it was at its limit.
This reel spooled up with 15 lbs braided line and a 15 to 25 lbs fluoro leader has accounted for 90 per cent of all the fish I have caught over the last few years from my kayak and around river mouths. From big snapper, kingfish, huge kahawai, feisty rainbow trout, trevally, rig sharks, barracouta. All these fish are strong fighters and provide great fun on such light gear. For me, that is a 100% more fun way of fishing than just craning them in with heavy gear.
Of course, this is a small reel and it needs to be coupled with a good light spin fishing rod to be effective. I'm using a Berkley drop shot rod and this combination works a treat. It allows me to do long and precise casts with lures up to 1 ounce in weight.
This cheap reel has some pretty good features and even it's got only one bearing it's just as smooth as more expensive reels with more bearings.
The max drag is set at 6 kg or roughly 12 pounds. So a 15-pound braided line is a perfect match for this reel in terms of strength and castability.
If I wanted to have longer casts I would probably even go down to a 10-pound braided line. I found that I can fit about 250 meters of 15-pound braided line on this reel with a bit of mono backing quite easily and I found that's more than enough for soft baiting and lure fishing.
This reel is marketed as an entry-level spinning reel for beginners or kids. In my opinion, that's underrated.
Of course, shops want you to buy more expensive gear and try to convince you that only the most expensive reels with all these fancy ball bearings will do the job properly. But in my experience, that's just not true. So these entry-level statements sometimes need to be taken with a grain of salt.
I recently compared this reel to a much more expensive Penn Spinfisher 3500 VI and find the Shimano FX 4000 FB just as good, if not better for my purposes.
So there you have it - if you need a great little and versatile spinning reel that doesn't bust your budget and that can take quite a bit of abuse give the old Shimano FX 4000 FB a try. I think you won't be disappointed with this little reel. And if you lose it or if it breaks or locks up after a year or two - just buy another one for $20 and boom you got a brand new reel again without any hassle of cleaning, servicing.
Even if you decide to service and clean it - it's super easy to take apart and put back together.
I hope this article helps those who are looking for a budget-friendly spinning reel that can handle the abuse of frequent fishing.