5 Best Centerpin Reels for Trout Fishing

Last updated:
Disclosure: Some posts contain affiliate links, which earn us a commission if you make a purchase through them. Positive Fishing © participates in various affiliate networks including the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program.

To many, centerpin fishing seems like an extremely old fashioned fishing method. The long pole and centerpin reel take time to learn, but there are few fishing tactics that create more of a natural drift than “pinning”. If you’re a Steelhead angler, then it’d be in your best interest to learn how to pin. You’ll find yourself landing more fish than you would on quite a few other methods. 

In this article, I will cover: 

  • What Is Centerpin Fishing?
  • How do I Use a Centrepin Reel?
  • When is it Smart to Use a Centerpin?
  • Five Best Centerpin Reels
    • Raven Matrix Centerpin Reel (Our Best Overall Pick!)
    • Channelmay 4” CNC Reel (Our Best Budget-Friendly Pick!)
    • Saion 4″/4.75″ Centre Pin (Our Most Versatile Pick!)
    • Cabela’s Okuma Raw
    • Ber Canada Summit Centerpin Reel

What is Centerpin Reel Fishing? 

Centerpin fishing should be your top option if you’re planning on fishing below a float or indicator of some sort. The reel has absolutely no drag; it is usually around 4 to 5.5 inches in diameter. It sits on a single “pin” in the center of the cork on the rod. 

The rod used with a centerpin is usually around 11 to 13 feet long. The extra length helps anglers accomplish long drifts and not get hung up on anything throughout the water. Since the reel doesn’t have any drag, it can spin both forward and backward. The reel will roll along with what the river or stream provides. 

How Do I Use a Centrepin Reel?

When you’ve attached your centerpin reel to your rod, you’ll notice that it might start spinning right away. Unlike spin fishing or fly fishing, your reel is able to spin without any effort on your part. Therefore, you have to pay close attention to how much movement the reel has.

Once your line is in the water, that’s when the reel work begins. As your line drifts downstream, you’re able to make long mends and let as much line out as you want. To control the pace at which line is stripped, you need to “palm” the reel. Palming the reel is where you put your hand over the back of it and create as much tension as you would like. 

If you feel a bite, put your hand on the reel to stop the fish from taking it and that will “set” the hook. Also, you’re in charge of creating the drag in the midst of the fish with the fish. It takes some getting used to, but eventually, you’ll learn the exact amount of tension you need. 

The most common bait used with a centerpin reel is an egg sac. Tie on a Balsa float, several split shots, a swivel, and attach the egg sac to the hook. Since you have a row of split shots under the float, this makes sure your egg sac is the first thing to pass in front of the fish. 

When is it Best (And Smart) to Use a Centrepin Reel? 

If you’re targeting salmon, large trout, or steelhead in the river, using a centrepin will help you land fish. You can create the exact right drift and tension with one of these reels. Plus, the longer rod is going to make for a more efficient drift. 

Essentially, any sort of moving water would allow for you to use a centrepin reel. 

Raven Matrix Centerpin Reel – Our Best Overall Pick! 

The Raven Matrix Centerpin Reel is a favorite for many fly fishing guides. Raven isn’t necessarily well-known in the general world of fishing, but the centerpin community is quite familiar with the Raven Matrix. 

It has a quality backplate and a low-profile reel foot and backplate. The coin-slot tension screw is also a nice feature in case you run into any instances on the water where you need to make a change. The Matrix model is 4 and 3/4 inches in diameter. Plus, it has twin shielded ball bearings. 

When setting up this reel, you’ll be able to attach up to 50 yards of backing and 200 yards of 8-pound line. Depending on your preference, it’s possible to upgrade the bearings to ensure you’re getting the smoothest retrieval process. 

Many anglers will attach this to a 9 or 10-foot rod! Another option from Raven is the Raven Matrix 4 3/4″ Fully Ported Centerpin Float Reel Titanium reel.

Most anglers love that this reel is almost entirely closed. Since you’re fishing this reel through moving water, you have the potential to get quite a bit of debris in the reel to mess up the flow and feel of things. Raven thought of many things that could go wrong and did their best to make sure that the reel performs well at all times.  

This reel is going to cost you $270 and is available in a 5″ 1/8 size also. Yes, it’s a more expensive option, but the quality is hard to beat. 

Channelmay 4” CNC Reel – Our Best Budget-Friendly Pick!

In the world of fishing, affordability doesn’t always mean quality. Thankfully, Channelmay noticed that there needed to be a more affordable option and they came through. It’s a CNC Machined Aluminum reel with a great balance. A properly balanced centrepin reel is going to make a world of difference. 

You have 2+1 ball bearings and a disc drag system! The four options you have are 3/4, 5/6, 7/8, and 9/10. Depending on the length and weight of your rod, make sure you choose the proper reel that’s going to balance your rod best. 

The best part of this reel is that it’s only going to cost you $30! 

Saion 4″/4.75″ Centerpin – Our Most Versatile Pick!

Saion’s 4.75 inch Centerpin Reel is a great versatile and affordable option for anglers. Again, Saion isn’t one of those brands that anglers are extremely familiar with, but don’t let the unfamiliarity dissuade you. Saion knows how to make a great reel. 

With this option, you’ll have stainless steel ball bearings and an on/off ratchet with a Clicker and double wooden handles. This is an old school looking reel with some high-quality technology. 

Another nice aspect of this reel is that the majority of this reel is closed. You aren’t going to get the unnecessary sand or dirt in this reel that you might find in other more affordable options. It’s a great looking reel and can easily handle salmon, trout, or steelhead! Take it on your next adventure and you’ll be more than happy. 

Thankfully, this reel is only going to cost you around $60. In the same range, Saion also has a 4 inches Fishing Centerpin which is equally good but with a smaller arbor size. This 4″ reel is great for float and trotting for Steelhead Coarse Fishing and is around 20% cheaper than the 4.75″ Saion.

Cabela’s Okuma Raw 

Reputable brands aren’t always easy to find in the world of centerpin reels. However, Cabela’s recently made their own version of a Centerpin reel that works extremely well. The reel is an Okuma Design and is marketed under the full name of Okuma Raw II Mooching & Float Reel and has a fully machined beautiful designed aluminum alloy frame. 

The German stainless steel ball bearings create an extremely smooth performance. The diameter is 4.5 inches and is able to handle about 50 yards of backing and 200 yards of 8-pound line. 

This reel also has a CRC corrosion-resistant coating, two stainless steel ball bearings, and an on/off drag. It’s extremely smooth so you don’t have to worry about anything getting stuck in your reel and ruining your drifts. 

Another aspect of this reel that’s appealing is that Cabela’s offers a 1-year warranty. This allows you to fish this reel with peace of mind. Target those large trout or Steelhead and don’t worry about all of the tension and battles it’s going to be put through. 

It’s hard to not enjoy fishing with this reel! You’ll receive 13 inches in recovery every turn and it weighs 8.25 ounces. It’s going to only cost you around $200! 

BER Retro 4.5 Centerpin Reel 

BER Centerpin reels have a bearing seat that doesn’t need time to “Start-Up”. There’s no initial spool inertia that can cause any fish to shake the hook. These reels are fully made of Canadian materials and you won’t lose out on quality! 

The reel is made of Aircraft Grade Aluminum and the CNC equipment coupled with Cad design software ensures you can work a river with precision fishing. The anodized finishing gives this reel some necessary quality that can be missing in other reels on the market. 

One of the biggest downsides of this reel is $400. Yes, it’s extremely expensive, but the quality of this reel is hard to beat. Ber reels can also be fully customized by the angler! 

Tip: Centerpin reels have a clicker but it is not used whilst fishing, it’s used for transporting the reel.

What is the Difference Between a Centerpin and a Fly Reel?

They are both centrepin reels but true centerpin reels are usually larger in diameter than fly reels. A Centerpin does not use a mechanical drag feature like Fly reels.

The major difference is that a fly reel could not function as a trotting reel very well but a centrepin reel will work fine as a fly reel……..which many trout anglers do in fact use.

Final Thoughts 

The beauty of centerpin fishing is that not many people do it. As a result, fish don’t see these types of natural drifts on a daily basis. Trout and Steelhead are known to be challenging to land. 

Why not give yourself the best chance to land some of these fish? Centerpin fishing is your answer and it’s so “old school”!

Check out my article on Best Fly Rods For Trout Fishing and Best Trout Fishing Lines.

Daniel Mooers