Finding the best saltwater reel without spending a fortune can be daunting. We tested 15 budget-friendly saltwater spinning reels using different criteria and identified the 6 best options under $100.
Any time you’re out fishing on the water, improving your skill and efficiency is always important.
After all, it doesn’t matter if you’ve never fished before in your life or if you’ve been casting out your line for years, continuously improving your game is part of the sport.
There’s nothing worse than throwing line after line and catching nothing all day, especially if you’re fighting with your reel in the process.
Whether you’re dealing with wind knots or a sickly, grinding sound inside your reel, frustration can quickly build when trying to use a reel that just doesn’t measure up in terms of performance.
That’s why it’s crucial to know what to look for before purchasing your next spinning reel.
For most anglers, professional-level equipment is the goal when trying to set yourself up for success out on the water.
After all, having a high-quality reel can help you improve your casts, hook-setting, and simply prepare you for fighting with even the hardest hitting fish.
That’s why we’ve created this comprehensive guide for anyone needing a little help finding a quality spinning reel, at an affordable price.
Below, you’ll find everything you need to know about affordable spinning reels!
When you need a high-performing reel, the KastKing Sharky III needs to be in your tackle box.
Featuring a brand-new design, these spinning reels are designed to bring in trophy fish, regardless of water or weather conditions.
You’re going to love how the body and rotor are reinforced with a high percentage carbon fiber, making it the ultimate in comfort thanks to its lightweight design that you need for a long day on the water.
The KastKing Intrusion Shield System brings unique water-resistance for the spool, rotor, and body. In other words, it keeps dirt, grime, and water out of your reel, ensuring it’ll last season after season.
Paired with the stainless-steel, oversized main shaft, and mesh manganese/brass pinion gears, this reel is sure to perform smoothly with every cast.
The PENN Wrath fishing reel begins with the very same durability that has helped the PENN brand become a legend amongst anglers around the world.
With a beautifully crafted graphite body, this reel remains lightweight and easy to handle against even the harshest saltwater environments. Plus, the machined, anodized aluminum spool is sure to give you confidence out on the water, even when facing large, saltwater trophy fish.
The two stainless steel ball bearings are sealed and shielded, making it a safe and reliable choice for saltwater fishing.
It also has an instant anti-reverse bearing, to help you set the hook properly and increase your chances of reeling in the big one! And you’ll no longer need to guess how much line you’ve got left to fight with either, thanks to the multiple line rings on the spool flange.
If you’re looking for a reel that’s both versatile and dependable, the PENN Wrath comes in a variety of sizes, from the lightweight 2500 option to the solid and beastly 8000 version.
Plus, with a price tag well-below many competitors, this reel is the perfect starting point for any angler wanting a quality spinning reel, without breaking the bank.
When premium performance is calling your name, the Shimano Nasci is going to be the answer.
That’s because this reel takes the premium Hagane gear and CoreProtect technology, and packs it all into a powerful spinning reel to deliver the best performance you can ask for.
With 4+1 bearings, and the abovementioned premium features, this spinning reel offers an eternally smooth user experience, every single time.
And with its X SHIP technology, you’ll have increased casting efficiency, helping to increase both distance and accuracy. This also works to reduce friction between the spool shaft. while the GFree body technology brings the reel’s center of gravity closer to your rod, offering even more comfort for those long days out fishing.
If you’re looking for smooth, confident performance, this reel’s 4 shielded stainless-steel bearings and a roller bearing will exceed your expectations. And its CoreProtect water-resistant technology brings durability for use in even the harshest saltwater environments, keeping your reel performing well season after season.
When you mix industry-leading ingenuity with high-quality components, the result is nothing shy of a fish-fighting machine. That’s why the Daiwa Bg Spinning reel is perfect for any angler hoping to improve his saltwater game.
With a “Hard Bodyz” machined aluminum side cover and body, the Daiwa Bg is built for strength and stability.
The Daiwa Bg also has an “air rotor” that weighs about 15% less than most traditional rotors thanks to its unique shape. This helps distribute stress more evenly, offering the ultimate in strength in a lightweight design.
You’ll never have to worry about casting thanks to an ABS spool with a maximized core diameter and reversed taper. This means easier casting and less friction on your line, which means you’ll be able to catch more fish, and change your line less often.
Finally, the Daiwa Bg offers a seven-bearing drive system that holds six ball bearings and a single roller bearing, ensuring that this reel is going to cast smooth time and time again!
High-performance features don’t always have to come with a premium price tag, which is exactly what you get with the Cadence Spinning Reel.
Between the lightweight carbon composite frame, exterior side plates, and carbon fiber drag system, this reel was built to handle the toughest environments you can throw at it.
It holds 8 ball bearings, and features an instant anti-reverse bearing to help keep you in control when wrestling with a fish on your line.
Furthermore, the Cadence spinning reel brings unique torsion control adding to the reel’s stability, while improving the way the drag system functions. Also, the 8+1 stainless steel ball bearings are corrosion resistant and low torque, offering you both better reeling speed and ultra-smooth performance.
Finally, you’re going to love the Cadence’s superior carbon drag system, capable of stopping up to 36lbs of fish dead in its tracks.
It combines a stainless-steel main shaft and zinc alloy main pinion gears, to bring you precision fighting power when you need it most.
Simply put, this reel is designed to help you handle the big fish you’re after, all without the stress.
Used by professionals worldwide, the Okuma Avenger Baitfeeder is known for its durability and dependability.
As a bait feeding spinning reel, your live bait will be able to swim uninhibited by your line, which helps to ensure a solid hook set before starting your fight. Simply disengage your spinning reel spool and allow your bait to run freely. Then, when something chomps down on it, engage the spool and start reeling!
With a secondary micro-adjustable drag system at the rear of the reel, you’ll have precise adjustment capabilities on the fly. Disengaging this drag system is as simple as a quick turn of the handle.
With a 6+1 ball bearing drive system, you’ll never have to fight with reel while trying to bring it the big one.
Finally, the quick-set anti-reverse roller bearing prevents your line from unraveling under the pressure of a good hit. The result of all these features is an amazingly smooth-casting, durable reel that was built to last.
It doesn’t matter if it’s your first purchase or your 100th spinning reel, having a high-quality reel can make a huge difference on your next fishing adventure.
But finding a decent product, without spending a fortune, isn’t always the easiest task.
Of course, there are plenty of dirt-cheap reels on the market, but cheap, low-quality reels often go hand-in-hand with frequent replacements, breaks, and headaches.
So to help you find the best reel for your next fishing adventure, here are a few things to consider before making your purchase.
If you’re fighting a fish, an anti-reverse feature can help improve your chances of bringing him in.
This prevents your spinning reel from turning backward by letting the line out as the fish pulls. So when a fish bites on your hook, instead of stopping in its tracks, the handle locks, and the reel’s drag function kicks in.
Although some anglers might prefer to not have an anti-reverse reel, it’s usually best to look for a spinning reel that has a permanently engaged anti-reverse function, or a switch that can turn the functioning on or off.
Ball bearings are located inside the spinning reel and act as a main component of the reel’s functionality.
However, the number of ball bearings a reel has can vary substantially between brands and models, with some having only 4 or 5, while others might have over 10.
Generally, the more ball bearings your reel has, the better the performance and experience will be when using the reel. Essentially, a spinning reel will function much more smoothly the more ball bearings it has.
Therefore, when purchasing a reel, always try to purchase the highest number of ball bearings you can afford, particularly if you plan on using the reel often.
Whether you enjoy freshwater fishing or saltwater fishing, water damage is an unfortunate reality when it comes to most reels on the market.
When water gets into the reel, it can wreak havoc on the reel’s internal component, in turn, compromising on its performance. Harsh saltwater environments can corrode and eat away at metal reels.
So always look for a reel that offers corrosion-resistance and water-proofing features as well.
Having a sealed gear system inhibits water from getting in the reel in the first place. And corrosion-resistance ensures that your reel’s metal components won’t oxidize over time.
Although spinning reels can vary considerably in terms of price, your own personal budget will always play a factor in any purchase you make.
With so many options and brands, finding a reel that fits your requirements and your budget needs to be a priority.
In general, it’s better to purchase a reel at the higher end of your budget, which will offer higher-quality features, and will likely last longer than a more affordable reel.
When shopping for a new reel, make sure to take a look at all of the varying brands and models that fall within your spending limit. Then narrow down your list by using the other factors that we’ve mentioned here today.
If you’re using a fast retrieve lure, your line needs to move quickly.
This is where your gear ratio comes into play; it controls how fast the bail rotates around the spool in a single handle rotation.
For the average angler, a mid-range gear ratio is typically sufficient for most lures and baits. However, if you’re wanting to use a fast retrieve lure, you’ll need a gear that rotates faster.
Knowing and considering the bait you intend to use at the time of purchase will make things much easier on the water.
After all, needing a fast retrieval and being limited by a slower gear ratio will only result in frustration and irritation, which I’m sure you’re not looking for.
Still got questions about saltwater spinning reels? Below, you’ll find the answers to a few of the most common questions we get asked.
Before you can determine the best spinning reel for your money, you first need to consider the intended purpose of the reel.
There’s going to be a massive difference between someone wanting a lightweight reel for casting on calm waters every couple of months, compared to an angler needing a durable reel to tackle tough gamefish every single day.
As a rule, the best spinning reel for the money is going to be a lightweight reel that has a higher number of ball bearings, an anti-reverse function, offers corrosion-resistance.
Although reels designed for saltwater applications can be used in freshwater, the same cannot be said about using a freshwater reel in saltwater conditions.
There are considerable differences between baitcasting reels and spinning reels.
When it comes to casting, there is a learning curve with baitcasters, especially when compared to the pull and throw cast that a spinning reel offers. There is also a need to adjust the spool tension with a baitcaster whenever you change a lure or bait, which although it is relatively simple to do, can be tiresome and tedious when all you want to do is fish.
Finally, from a weight perspective, spinning reels are known for their lightweight construction.
They’re available in different spool sizes, depending on the line preference and species of fish being targeted.
In the end, when it comes to saltwater fishing, the first consideration should always be your own preference, and secondly, you should consider the type of fishing you’ll be doing.
Both types of reels have unique benefits and drawbacks when it comes to fishing.
If you’re more comfortable with spinning reels, they are a lightweight, durable, and easy-to-control option for fishing. But at the end of the day, it’s a matter of preference and taste as to which is better.
Both saltwater and freshwater reels have similar functionality, especially when it comes to the mechanics and performance of the reel itself.
The major difference between a saltwater and a freshwater spinning reel is the corrosion-resistance offered by saltwater reels.
Saltwater is naturally corrosive, which means that if it gets into your reel, it can eat away at the gears and mechanisms, causing irreversible damage.
Not only is this going to impact your day on the water, but corrosion is also going to impact the longevity and life of your purchase. In other words, you’re going to be replacing your reel much faster and more often, which isn’t an affordable option for the average angler.
Fishing is often thought of as a game of patience, time, and understanding. But those aren’t the only requirements needed to catch fish.
In fact, having a great rod and a good quality spinning reel can improve your chances of landing fish too.
That’s why it’s important to make sure the reel you choose is high-quality and durable.
Although considering the price is important, your decision needs to extend well beyond the financial implications.
Gear ratios, ball bearings, drag, and even corrosion resistance are all necessary features for any angler that’s looking to improve their skills and increase their chances of catching fish.
By making sure you’ve selected a reel based on function rather than price alone, you’ll have a reel that works just as hard as you do to catch fish, even in the harshest saltwater conditions.
In the end, just as every painter needs a good paintbrush, every fisherman needs a good rod and reel.
Hopefully, this guide can help you understand everything you need to get started, making your next purchase of a spinning reel, one that you won’t regret!
If you're budget reaches above $100, you may want to check out our main spinning reel buying guide as well.