Zebco 808 Vs 888 Reels – What Are The Differences, And Which One Should You Buy?


by Robert Ceran

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When it comes to spincast reels, Zebco is one of the top brands on the market. And if you’re looking for a heavy spincaster, then the most popular big Zebco models are the 808 and the 888.

My team and I tested the Zebco 808 vs 888 reels and evaluated them on their gear ratio, retrieve rate, weight, and overall performance.

In this article we’ll compare the two reels side by side, and discuss their most important differences in detail.

Zebco 808 vs 888 spincast reel – what are the main differences?

Zebco 808Zebco 888
Number of ball bearings0 (uses bushings instead)2 + 1
Front coverPlasticStainless steel
Weight17.1 oz19.5 oz
Drag systemDial adjustable magnum dragDial adjustable magnum drag
Bait alert (bait clicker)YesYes
Gear ratio2.6:12.6:1
Anti reverseQuicksetContinuous
Pre-spooled line20 lb25 lb

The table above compares the most important specifications  and features of both reels that we tested.

As you can see, they are broadly similar in their features, and both pack a lot of power for heavy duty applications.

So what sets them apart?

Let’s dive into the details and take a closer look at their most important differences.

The most important differences between the Zebco 808 and 888

Ball bearings: This is the first category with a big difference between the two series. While the 888 has 3 stainless steel ball bearings, the 808 has none, and instead relies on bushings for the same purpose. 

While bushings provide a very solid and reliable performance, their action is not quite as smooth as that of ball bearings.

On the other hand, bushings are stronger and more durable than ball bearings, especially in a saltwater environment.

Bottom line: Our testing revealed that the 888 has smoother retrieval action compared to the 808, due to its 3 stainless ball bearings, while the bushings of the latter make it more durable for saltwater fishing.

Front cover: While the 808 has a plastic front cover, the 888 has one made of stainless steel, and when we put it to the test, we found that this is stronger and more durable. 

Weight: While both spincasters are definitely on the heavy side, the 888 is 2.4 oz heavier than the 808, due to the metal front cover and the 3 ball bearings.

Drag system: Both series are identical in this category, and have a dial adjustable magnum drag.

This drag system performs very reliably across a wide range of pressures, and is one of the reasons why these spincasters are so great for catching big fish.

Bait alert (bait clicker): Both Zebco reel series are identical in this category, and have a bait clicker.

Essentially a bait clicker is a second drag system that puts almost no pressure on the spool, allowing a fish to pull off line easily, but producing a loud clicking noise when this happens.

During our testing we found that a bait clicker is great when you set up a lot of rods and wait for a fish to take your bait. A great example of this would be fishing for catfish at night, when a bait alert is essential. 

Gear ratio: Both series are identical in this category, and have a powerful 2.6:1 gear ratio. This is a slow speed ratio that gives you lots of torque when fighting big fish, such as catfish or striped bass.

Anti reverse: While both reels have an anti reverse mechanism, that of the 808 is quickset, while that of the 888 is continuous, and when we put it to the test, we found that the latter can be turned on and off in case you want to use backpedaling to release line from your reel. 

Pre-spooled line: Both spincasters are pre-spooled with monofilament line, but each with different pound test. The 808 comes with 20 lb test, while the 888 comes with 25 lb test.

Now let’s look at each of the models in more detail.

Zebco 808 spincast reel

Together with the other model, this is the biggest Zebco spincast reel, and is clearly intended for heavy duty applications.

When we tested it, we found that while its retrieval action isn’t quite as smooth as that of the 888, it’s more durable in saltwater conditions, making it the better choice for sea anglers.

And while testing it we also found that the bait alert clicker system is extremely handy when bait fishing, especially at night, when you can’t see a bite that well. 


  • Strong metal foot
  • Powerful magnum drag
  • Bait alert with on/off switch
  • Changeable left/right handle

Zebco 888 spincast reel

This model is even better for heavy duty applications, and our testing revealed that it is one of the best spincast reels on the market to target trophy sized fish in freshwater and saltwater.

Both reels have a low speed 2.6:1 great ratio, and together with the powerful magnum drag system, this is perfect for winching in big fish that fight hard all the way to the boat.

This model is even heavier than the other model, and comes pre-spooled with 25 lb line.


  • Strong metal foot
  • Continuous anti reverse clutch
  • 3 stainless steel gears
  • Changeable left/right handle
  • Bait alert with on/off switch


In summary: our test results showed that both fishing reels are great for targeting trophy sized fish in either freshwater or saltwater settings.

However, when we put both models to the test, we found that the 888 has smoother action compared the 808, due to its 3 ball bearings, while the latter is more resistant to corrosion due to its use of bushings instead of ball bearings. 

Overall, this makes the 888 the best choice for freshwater applications, while the 808 is ideally suited for saltwater fishing.

Catfish anglers love both of these Zebco reels for two main reasons: first of all the slow speed retrieval combined with the high power drag system makes them perfect for fighting monster cats, and secondly the bait clicker is great for detecting bites, especially when fishing at night. 

In addition to big blue or flathead cats, they are also a great choice for salmon, muskie, and striped bass.

If you’re currently looking for a high quality reel that won’t break the bank, also check out our article on the best spinning reel under $100.

Methods and gear that we used for testing

For consistent testing results, we tested each of these spincast reels under the same conditions and paired them with a 7’6″ medium heavy Abu Garcia Veritas casting rod and used it to target large flathead and blue catfish in Ross Barnett Reservoir in Mississippi.