5 Best Saltwater Spinning Reels (2021)
To maximize your spinning reel’s life cycle, it is important to know the conditions that lead to premature wear and tear or even damage to the best of them. Many new anglers get disappointed with the seemingly poor quality of their newly acquired reels, oblivious of their own contribution to the problem. A common mistake is using a spinning reel in saltwater that is not equipped for the punitive environment.
Best Saltwater Spinning Reels – Winners
Check out our quick recommendations here, or keep scrolling for detailed reviews:
- Best Overall Saltwater Spinning Reel: Shimano Baitrunner D Spinning Reel
- Best Budget Saltwater Spinning Reel: Daiwa BG Spinning Reel
- Best High-End Spinning Reel for Saltwater: PENN Slammer III Spinning Reel
- Best Saltwater Spinning Reel for Versatility: PENN Battle II & III Spinning Reel
- Best Saltwater Spinning Reel for Lefties: Shimano Stradic Spinning Reel
Best Overall Saltwater Spinning Reel
- Enhanced castability courtesy of Shimano’s Propulsion Line Management system
- Varispeed oscillation on oval oscillation gears for better line management
- One-piece bail system minimizes friction, allowing longer casts
- S A-RB bearings fight corrosion and are not easily compromised by salt and debris
- They are a bit pricey, although you get bang for your buck.
It is a great live bait reel due to the addition of a secondary drag feature to Shimano’s legendary drivetrain, which enables free spooling even with the bail closed. The auto-return baitrunner uses a Dartanium Dual Drag system which allows your bait to move naturally.
Combined with its Super Stopper II instant anti-reverse, the reel’s hauling strength is enhanced. It utilizes a one-way bearing to prevent the reel from having back play when hooking large fish, allowing instant hook setting, which is important when jigging. It has a maximum drag of 20 lbs. sufficient for a majority of the ferocious saltwater fish. It comes with a wider range of baitrunner settings for a smooth retrieval.
A one-piece bail system allows the line to travel unimpeded to the line roller. The seamless design reduces friction, line tangles, and the probability of cuts to the bail arm in the process.
It also features Shimano’s propulsion line management system with the computer-generated propulsion spool lip design, which enables longer casting distances than your conventional reel while preventing the formation of backlashes and wind knots. The spool is cold-forged from aluminum which is durable and an excellent heat conductor.
The oval oscillation gear ensures the spool speed is consistent, which facilitates an even line lay on the spool, so it is easy to manage the line and cast without tangles, wind knots, and backlashes. This consistent speed is further subjected to Varispeed oscillation which splits it into two variable speeds so the line can be laid flat and smoothly on the spool for longer and hassle-free casts.
They use S A-RB ball bearings which are Shimano’s version of anti-rust bearings that have been shielded on both sides to reduce the possibility of salt or sand getting into them and impeding their rotation. This contributes significantly to their durability in saltwater.
A combination of Fluidrive II and Dyna-balance technologies ensures there are no wobbles while retrieving by accurately counterbalancing the rotor using computer-generated schematics. This increases both sensitivity and retrieval smoothness while eliminating reel vibrations. You can concentrate your focus on retrieving the catch.
Their large ergonomic grips allow both left and right-hand retrieval and are directly connected to the drivetrain, meaning power is fully transmitted with a minimal play on the retrieve. The rigid graphite frame also ensures no power is lost.
Best Budget Saltwater Spinning Reel
- Braid-ready frictionless Dynamic cut aluminum ABS spool
- Durable, lightweight Hardbodyz body made of black anodized machined aluminum
- Lightweight Air Rotor for added sensitivity and rotational balance
- Smooth and consistent automatic tournament drag
- Relatively affordable on a tight budget
- There have been reports of noise development after sustained use
The BG series of Daiwa spinning reels range from light freshwater actions to heavy big game saltwater models. Our focus for today is the pocket-friendly BG3500 model with a maximum drag of 17.6 lbs. and a gear ratio of 5.7:1 with a retrieval rate of 38.5 yards per crank. It is adequately equipped to handle saltwater conditions with fierce fighting trophy fish.
Its rigidity is attributed to its industrial-grade Hardbodyz body and side cover, which features a strong black anodized machined aluminum housing and a solid screw-in machined aluminum handle. This maximizes efficiency as all the cranking power is transformed into action.
It can also withstand pressure from strong fighters due to its stable internal parts. The material is corrosion and scratch-resistant, and thanks to anodization, it is not susceptible to chipping and peeling.
Their strong yet lightweight Air Rotor delivers extra reel sensitivity and rotational balance without straining the wrist.
Daiwa’s carbon Automatic Tournament Drag (ATD) ensures the drag is smooth right from the initial hook up through reduced start-up inertia and some structural changes in the drag system. The waterproof drag system utilizes a futuristic drag grease with low viscosity at rest that becomes viscous as soon as the drag is initiated.
They have Daiwa’s first-generation digitally engineered gear design referred to as Digigear, which is a perfect mesh of an oversized ultra-tough drive gear and pinion gears that generates power and speed smoothly and durably.
It has six ball bearings plus one anti-reverse bearing for an infinite anti-reverse system. The larger size offers additional gear-tooth contact points, which makes it smoother and increases torque, consequentially boosting power.
Their dynamic cut aluminum ABS spool is braided line ready; its reversed taper means 100% of the line is usable, it can be filled with line up to the edge of the spool lip, and no line will be buried in deep cores. The ABS reduces friction while casting for longer, more accurate casts. The line flows freely in larger coils with reduced memory thanks to the larger spool diameter.
Best High-End Spinning Reel for Saltwater
- 8-bearing system provides extra smoothness and strength
- Zero-maintenance sealed Slammer drag system with PENN’s proprietary Dura-drag material
- Efficient, reliable, and powerful gear system formed using CNC on brass
- Full metal aluminum body guarantees strength and durability
- The minimum drag is a bit high even with the drag cap removed
These spinning reels come with a 7+1 stainless steel bearing system for extra smoothness. The full brass gear is manufactured using Computer Numerical Control (CNC) machine technology. CNC machining assures efficiency, accuracy, and consistency in design without compromising the tight tolerance of the brass material.
It involves removing unwanted layers from the stock piece based on computer-generated designs that don’t produce weak points and joints. The result is unrelenting strength and reliability for sufficient cranking power.
They are equipped with the updated Slammer front drag system that utilizes oversized discs of PENN’s proprietary Dura-drag washer material for maximum traction.
The material is made of phenolic-coated carbon fiber, which disperses heat and requires minimal maintenance to deliver consistent drag. They are available in 6.2:1, and 5.6:1 gear ratios with impressive maximum drags of 30 and 40 lbs. respectively.
The system, which comprises the body, gearbox, and spool, has been fully sealed to IPX6 specifications to keep water out of the drag and gear box, protecting them from salt and debris interference. Instant anti-reverse prevents the rotors from moving backward, insuring your hook set.
They have both right and left reel handle positions for inclusivity. Their machined aluminum handles come with EVA knobs, and they even included a spare knob as a premium courtesy. The full metal body, side plate rotor, and spool are lightweight aluminum, corrosion-resistant, and strong enough for tough saltwater duties.
Best Saltwater Spinning Reel for Versatility
- The strength, rigidity, and durability of a full metal body, side plate, and rotor
- Enhanced smooth drag pressure due to double-sided HT-100 carbon fiber Versa-Drag washers
- Efficient and durable gear thanks to CNC gear technology
- Superline spool eliminates the need for bulky backing
- They are a bit heavyset in comparison to other reels in similar classes
There is a model for every saltwater angler with over 12 models and reel sizes ranging from 1,000 to 10,000 weighing 7.8 to 38.8 oz. Their maximum drag ranges from 9 to 40 lbs. The recovery rate is 22 to 43 inches per turn.
You will find a suitable reel regardless of the species and size of the fish you are aiming for, diverse fishing methods, and skill sets. Their handling is ambidextrous, so they can be used by a right or left-handed saltwater fisherman. What they have in common is their front drag system with instant anti-reverse and their suitability for freshwater as well as saltwater fishing.
They come with PENN’s full metal body, side plate, and rotor, giving them the guts to maintain precision gear alignment under serious abuse. The proprietary CNC Gear technology has been precision cut.
It is supported by five stainless steel ball bearings and one instant anti-reverse bearing, which are all sealed, barring contact from salt and sand, so they are not compromised.
HT-100 carbon fiber Versa-Drag washers achieve a higher maximum drag pressure with a greater range and a smoother start-up because both sides of each washer are used. They receive PENN’s proprietary grease for a long-lasting silky-smooth drag.
The aluminum Superline spool comes braid-ready; a rubber gasket prevents your braids from slipping. You don’t require backing, meaning the reel can accommodate a more useful line with less bulk. It comes with a heavy-duty aluminum bail wire for sustainable control under pressure.
The considerate line capacity rings eliminate the guesswork from the question of how much line is left as you fight big fish. They let you know what fraction of the spool capacity is left so you know how much slack you can afford.
Best Saltwater Spinning Reel for Lefties
- Extra smooth drag performance from a sealed cross carbon drag system
- Enhanced accurate casting from a host of Shimano technologies working together
- Strong and durable Hagane gear cold-forged to fit an efficient MicroModule II design
- Advanced water-resisting methods that don’t compromise overall weight
- It is a bit heavy on the pocket but makes up in quality
There is added casting efficiency attributed to Aero Wrap II Two-speed oscillation that crisscrosses the line as it is layered on the spool to reduce friction, so your casts can be longer and smoother.
A quick upward and slower downward movement of the line makes it wind in a precise friction-eliminating pattern. The Long Stroke spool design also boosts the casting distance, while the G-Free body design ensures you don’t tire easily in the process.
The reel’s center of gravity has been shifted closer to the spinning rod, where your hand is positioned so you can cast with a natural posture and less effort.
The Hagane Gear’s drive gear has been formed using Shimano’s cold forging technology to the exact calculations of a special 3D MicroModule II design. The accuracy fosters strength and durability.
The pinion gears are supported on both ends with bearings to maintain their alignment with the main gear even under heavy loads in what is referred to as X-Ship technology. This eliminates friction between the spool shaft and gear, allows longer casts, and improves casting performance with lighter lures.
All gaps and wobbles have been eliminated through precision molding from computer-generated designs. The drivetrain is referred to as Silent Drive, and it is meant to have a high tolerance to withstand the punishment from hard-fighting saltwater fish.
They also feature the S A-RB bearings, which are rust and corrosion resistant, shielded on both sides to reduce the probability of salt and sand inhibiting their rotation.
Water-resistance is achieved through Shimano’s X-Protect devices, which feature a water repellent coating and a special labyrinth construction that channels water away. Rubber gaskets seal the drag to prevent interference with the cross carbon drag material from water and related debris.
The high rigidity Hagane body resists impact and does not flex, ensuring all your actions are transformed into cranking power.
Saltwater Spinning Reels vs Freshwater Spinning Reels
There is a marked discrepancy in the prices of freshwater reels versus saltwater reels which might have you concerned, given they serve the same purpose. Saltwater spinning reels have to be reinforced to handle the harsher saltwater conditions, which explains why they cost more. This is, however, not a license to splurge on a reel.
You need to understand what the extra buck is paying for and decide if it is worth it or make do with what you already have.
The average size of ocean fish is generally larger in comparison to freshwater fish; they are also heavier, stronger, and have a wilder temperament than freshwater fish, meaning they will fight back harder. You, therefore, need stronger and more durable gear to cope in saltwater.
Saltwater is also corrosive, and the salt and sand that come with it can lead to the malfunctioning of gear bearings and drag systems. Therefore, the working parts of saltwater reels should be shielded from water, and the material should be corrosion resistant.
The parts are often made of special alloys or alloy hybrids, and some are sealed off completely from the water. These processes make them more expensive.
Saltwater fishing often involves going deeper and requires more robust gear, strategies, tackles, and techniques. The right type of gear goes a long way in averting disaster on a fishing trip.
Things to Consider Before Buying a Saltwater Spinning Reel
What Are You Fishing For?
The fish species determines the amount of firepower you need, the fishing technique, and the type of tackle you will use. This ultimately has a bearing on the appropriate reel.
Saltwater reels require larger line capacities because of the intricacies involved in saltwater angling. You will often need to sink the lures down to the elusive fish or throw long casts with allowances for slack so you can reel in the fish smoothly without spooking them.
Braid is much tougher than mono line and has a thinner disposition which is less likely to be noticed by the fish. This makes it appropriate for large ocean fish. Some reels require backing to use braid, while others are braid-ready.
Backing takes up a lot of precious reel space and makes it bulky so whenever you have the option, go for braid-ready reels
Because of the heavier, more powerful saltwater fish, most saltwater lines are heavy-duty. If you are shopping for an exclusive saltwater fishing reel, look for one that can handle lines with heavier pound tests. You would rather have an 80-pound capable reel and not use it than have a 4-pound that is not adequate.
How Heavy Is the Reel?
The strong reels required to tackle big strong fish require strong materials that tend to become heavyset the stronger you need them to be. The modifications required to make them lightweight may affect the price to an unaffordable level, so you have to strike a balance.
Some fishing methods also default to heavy reels if they require heavy tackles or lines. The bigger the reel, the heavier it is. The rule of thumb for a sustainable fishing expedition is to use the lightest reel that serves your purpose.
Handles and Cranks
These influence your comfort and the efficiency with which you will cast and reel in the fish. They should be easily accessible in a natural position. A non-slip knob is an added advantage as it will offer a stable grip. The orientation of the handle also determines if it is the right reel for you. Most modern spinning reels are ambidextrous to accommodate everyone.
Durability and Corrosion Resistance
Unlike a freshwater environment where simple metals will suffice, saltwater corrodes metal within a short duration. Look for construction materials that can protect their integrity from rust and overall water damage. The construction should also be such that strong tugs from fighting fish will not make them come apart.
Drag, Strong and Smooth
A strong drag keeps you in control of the feisty fish. It should also be smooth to avoid sudden jerks, which may cost you your fishing gear or lead to the loss of a great hookset. Look for one with multiple adjustment options so you can customize it to the exact strength of the fish.
Can You Use a Freshwater Reel for Saltwater?
Yes, you can if you really need to, or you want to experiment. The conditions will, however, lead to deterioration of your reel if you keep it up. Ensure it is at least capable of shouldering the weight of the target fish.
Can You Use a Saltwater Reel for Freshwater?
It is perfectly in order, but you may be hauling more weight than you need when hunting smaller fish, given saltwater reels are usually heavyweight in comparison. Some larger fish like catfish might justify the heavy-duty gear.
Can You Maintain Your Freshwater Reel After Using It in Saltwater by Rinsing It Off?
It is good practice to rinse off any reel you use in saltwater with freshwater before storage to extend their life cycle, whether they are saltwater ready or not. It helps in getting rid of the corrosive saltwater, but it is not foolproof.
Freshwater reels are not reinforced, and it will only extend the time it takes for them to succumb to the elements, which is not necessarily bad.
Check out this video on how to clean your spinning fishing reel after a day out in saltwater in case you are wondering how it’s done by the experts.