We tested more than 40 different reels. In this article, we share our 10 favorite spinning reels for saltwater fishing along with an in-depth buying guide that'll lead you in the right direction for your next purchase.
Whether you're a beginner or a pro, one of the most versatile reels to use when hitting the water is a spinning reel.
In fact, over the years, spinning reels have grown in popularity to the point where you'll now find them being used for all sorts of fishing, from freshwater to saltwater.
Even if you already know what type of fishing you plan on doing, choosing the best spinning reel to use for that application can be a bit easier said than done. And if you're reading this, I'm already certain that you're in the market for an awesome, high-performance saltwater spinning reel to help you land your next big catch!
Below, we'll review 10 of the best saltwater spinning reels currently on the market, followed by a quick guide on how to choose the best one for your specific needs.
But, if you still need help finding the right spinning reel, I'd recommend taking a look at some of these options too.
If you're looking for an all-around good option, you're going to love the Shimano Baitrunner D spinning reel. In fact, Shimano reels have always offered great style, performance, and durability at a reasonable price.
With the Baitrunner D, you'll get a drag system that allows free spooling, even with the bail closed, allowing for a more natural bait presentation, as well as an oval oscillation gear, which provides consistent speed.
Overall, this reel also offers a better casting experience thanks to its wind knots or tangle reduction technology, which puts less friction on the line, all while offering a comfortable grip.
As the reel that offers the best bang for your buck, the Penn Battle II is sure to get you excited about your next fishing trip.
The Penn Battle II is a highly durable saltwater reel at an affordable price that offers a full, solid metal body, side plate, and rotor. In other words, you're going to get a solid reel without having to break the bank.
It also comes with a heavy-duty aluminum bail wire for further durability and saltwater resistance.
Finally, the Penn Battle II also has an HT 100 carbon fiber drag system, providing you with versatile drag, all without sacrificing smoothness, which is precisely what you need when fighting with a monster saltwater fish!
Again, with a name as popular as Shimano, you're not going to go wrong when choosing one of their reels. However, while the Baitrunner is better overall, the Stradic FL is a step up, which offers a good range of unique features.
For instance, it offers a HaganeBody, which means the body is made of solid, rigid metal. This stiffness offers improved impact resistance while also eliminating body flex. In other words, the reel's solid body feeds directly into increased cranking power, boosting efficiency and performance.
You'll also get X-Ship technology, which further enhances the durability of the internal gears. For example, this design is made to maintain precise alignment to the drive gears by placing bearings on both ends of the pinion itself.
This translates to the reel being able to handle heavier loads while also reducing friction in the spool shaft and gears. This means that you'll be able to cast further, even when using lighter lures.
The Stradic FL also has SA-RB bearings, which are shielded on both sides to reduce the chances of salt, sand, or debris from getting inside. The reel is then completed with CrossCarbon Drag technology to offer a wider range of drag settings while keeping the same smooth drag performance this brand offers.
Yet another stellar saltwater fishing reel to check out is the Daiwa BG, which boasts a corrosion-resistant aluminum housing to give you a solid, lightweight fishing reel.
It also has a sturdy screw-in handle, durable rotor, and offers a line retrieval of about 28.3" per handle rotation.
On top of that, it has a maximum drag of 4.4lbs and a line capacity of up to 155 yards when using a smaller 4-lbs test.
Finally, with its dynamic cut aluminum ABS spool, a braided line-ready spool, and a waterproof drag system, this reel is sure to be a hit on any saltwater fishing trip!
Penn's Clash 2 reel is yet another solid option if you're looking for good value and top-of-the-line performance.
With the Clash 2, you'll get a full metal body and a solid side plate to prevent interior corrosion. This reel also boasts CNC gear technology and HT-100 carbon fiber drag washers, which means smooth, reliable performance at all times.
Finally, with 8 ball bearings, 1 anti-reverse stainless steel bearing, and a clutch armour system, the Clash 2 is guaranteed to slap a smile on your face, not to mention help you land the big one!
If you are impressed by the Shimano brand and its quality, another solid alternative is the Shimano Socorro spinning reel. This is another ideal saltwater spinning reel that offers durability as well as a world-class performance.
Like most other Shimano reels, you'll get X-Ship technology, which makes the gears very durable while also eliminating friction between the spool shaft and the gear. In turn, this enhances casting performance and allows you to cast further.
It also has a cross carbon drag system, making it withstand fast and powerful runs while still providing smoothness every time.
In terms of specs, this reel offers a maximum drag of 22 lbs, a gear ratio of 4.6:1, it weighs about 15.5 ounces, and has 4 ball bearings and 1 anti-reverse bearing to provide you with awesome performance, no matter where you take it!
Another reliable brand that we still haven't mentioned is the Dr. Fish.
This particular reel is ideal for saltwater surf fishing thanks to its high density and corrosion-resistant body, making it reliable for repeated fights against large fish.
With an unprecedented 48-pound maximum drag for 12000 models and up, the Dr. Fish has a gear ratio of 3.9:1, which adds more torque and gives you an edge when landing those monster catches.
Rust and corrosion-resistant ball bearings make the action smooth when casting and retrieving. And it also has a side plate and rotor, which are sealed and waterproof to ensure you experience this smoothness time and time again!
It has a huge CNC Aluminum spool that makes it easier to put heavier lines on your reel. And to top it all off, the handle is made from aluminum, which offers low weight and the corrosion-resistance that you need.
Still haven't found the right reel for you? Then, make sure to check out the Piscifun Carbon X, which offers a good number of features to help separate it from many other spinning reels in its price range.
First off, it's incredibly lightweight and weighs in at only 5.7 ounces. This is thanks to it being built specifically with an all carbon fibre body, rotor and side plate, making it the lightest in its class.
Secondly, the Piscifun Carbon X features a lightning-fast 6.2:1 gear ratio, as well as buttery smooth line retrieval for cast after cast. These are great gear combinations since the high speed retrieves allow you to battle strong fish, while the reel's strong carbon fibre keeps things intact.
Third, the Carbon X offers extreme smoothness due to its 10+1 shielded stainless steel ball bearings. In turn, this also enhances your retrieval performance and offers the corrosion-resistance you need when saltwater fishing.
Finally, it's got a consistent and powerful drag thanks to the 3 premium oversized carbon washers, which allow a max drag power of 33 pounds.
It also has a sealed rubber ring that protects your drag from being compromised by water and dust. This alone makes it ideal for you to do casual fishing with the kids on a lake or chasing after a tournament kicker.
For even more power from the Shimano brand, you can check out the Saragosa spinning reel.
It specializes in offshore fishing, but it can also tackle some of the toughest species and conditions with great power and elegance, all thanks to its incredible features.
For starters, the Saragosa offers a propulsion line management system that allows for better casting distances while also preventing backlashes and wind knots from forming.
Like other Shimanos, it also boasts X-ship technology, making it quite durable while removing friction between the spool shaft and gear. In turn, this helps boost your casting performance even more than you'd think!
Shielded roller bearings on both sides reduce the amount of salt or sand from obstructing the bearings rotation. It also has a waterproof drag and uses rubber gaskets to protect the intrusion of the elements.
In terms of specs, it has a max drag of 44 pounds, a gear ratio of 4.4:1, a weight of 33.3 ounces, and a total of 6 ball bearings + 1 anti-reverse bearing for ultimate smooth casting, no matter where you go!
To finish off our list of the best saltwater-rated spinning reel, we have the Cadence CS7.
Overall, it features an aluminum frame, a total of 9 ball bearings and 1 instant anti-reverse bearing, a carbon composite rotor and side plate, a braid-ready, machined aluminum spool, an oversized ergonomic EVA handle knob, aluminum handle, stainless steel main shaft and aluminum pinion gear.
Judging from that alone, this spinning reel is built for quality and is sure to offer what you need while out on the water!
If you're still unsure of the best saltwater spinning reel for your next excursion, there are several factors that you'll want to consider when shopping around.
For instance, there are many different brands and types and sizes of spinning reels that are all ideal for their occasions.
The fish you're targeting will always be a consideration because each fish species differs in size, habitat, and season. What this means is you'll need a reel specifically built to handle those things.
In other words, if you're fishing for freshwater species, you can still use a saltwater reel. However, if you're fishing for saltwater species, you're going to need a reel that's rated for saltwater usage.
This, of course, changes yet again when you're going for other types of fish like bass or if you're in a different area.
Additionally, you'll also need to consider different types of rods, which all have their own characteristics that are ideal for certain fishing situations.
The second consideration to keep in mind is how you are fishing.
When you are fishing from a boat, you have the advantage of moving around while fighting with the fish. This will reduce the stress on the rod, reel and line. So with that in mind, you can get away with a good lightweight saltwater spinning reel and rod in the event you're fishing saltwater fish.
On the other hand, if you're fishing inshore or from land, bridge, or pier, you'll need various gear ratios and a reliable drag system to be able to fight the fish properly.
You'll also need more line capacity and an even better drag system when fishing in certain situations. These will help you against longer fights while you remain in a stationary position.
Another factor for consideration is your own personal experience.
This is ambiguous, of course. However, the experience you have determined by how much you already have, as well as how much experience you're looking to gain.
For instance, if you're looking to step up your saltwater fishing skills, getting a saltwater baitcasting reel would be smarter. These are a bit more challenging to use, and they are also ideal for handling a wider variety of species and angling techniques.
Alternatively, you might be better off selecting an inshore spinning reel or a cheaper spinning reel if you're only a beginner and still aren't 100% sure of what you're looking for.
Of course, the cost of your reel is always going to be an important factor to consider. But I wouldn't be mentioning it if there wasn't more to it than the obvious.
Naturally, high-quality reels are more durable and will typically cost a bit more.
That said, you're going to want to think of your next reel as an investment more than anything else.
Still, it's not always worth buying the most expensive, highest quality reel that offers the most durable components, especially if you're only planning to hit the water a few times every year.
Alternatively, buying an expensive, high-quality reel is going to be worth every penny if you have and plan on going out fishing several times per week.
Finally, it's good to note that there are plenty of good saltwater fishing reels below $100 for those who are a bit more budget-conscious.
The reel's weight is yet another important factor to think about, especially for those who plan on fishing often or for extended periods of time.
Fishing, despite it being a relaxing sport, can still be draining when doing it often. And, it becomes even more exhausting if you're using a heavier spinning reel.
Whether you are fishing inshore, offshore, or at a local pond, weight, and therefore, your own personal comfort will be an important factor to keep in mind.
The last thing you want is to have to cut your trip short due to your wrists getting sore. So, with that in mind, here are a few lightweight reel options to consider too.
Otherwise known as the reel's gear ratio, you're going to want to make sure the spinning reel that you choose can offer a decent gear ratio to catch the specific species of fish that you're looking for.
Another way to look at speed and power is a reel's line retrieval and cranking power, respectively. Seeing them in action, it's a good idea to think of your reel's gear ratio just like the gears on a bicycle.
When you have a low gear ratio, you'll have more cranking power, but it'll require you to do more turns. On the other hand, if you're looking for more speed, you'll need a higher gear ratio.
When looking at high-end saltwater spinning reels, these will typically offer optimal speed and power.
They'll often come with two or more speed settings, which allow you to switch between high speed and high power, depending on the specific fishing situations you find yourself in.
Another obvious consideration is the quality of the spinning reel itself.
One way to determine the quality of a reel is by looking at the ball bearings it uses.
Generally, the more ball bearings that a reel has will equate to a better quality reel and overall smoother casting and retrieval performance.
Of course, the more ball bearings, the more smooth it'll be, but if you've got 4 good quality bearings, they can outperform a reel that has 10 low-quality bearings.
Most metals will corrode over time, especially when they're exposed or come into contact with water. However, these will corrode even faster when you're using them around saltwater.
With this in mind, you don't always want to get a run-of-the-mill spinning reel. And, if you plan on fishing in a saltwater environment, you'll want to find a spinning reel that offers a great deal of corrosion-resistance.
This looks like a reel with protective coatings and has the reel's internal components completely sealed.
Even the fishing line can factor into what type of spinning reel you'll need to use for your specific situation.
While a monofilament line is by far the most common type of line you'll see, a braided line is the strongest and most durable line available.
With that said, you can't simply use braided lines on just any type of reel. This is especially true if you're getting a reel with an aluminum body since your line is likely to slip off the spool itself.
Therefore, you'll need to find a braid-ready reel that has a braid-ready spool.
On the other hand, if you only plan on using monofilament, you can use pretty much any spool.
Although it's not always true when it comes to fishing reels, size does matter, and this is especially true when it comes to saltwater fishing.
In fact, in many cases, the size of your reel can mean the difference between catching or losing a fish. Reels come in all shapes and sizes, and it's here where you want to consider what your target fish are. It's hardly necessary for you to go and spend a lot of money on a large reel if all you're planning to catch are some small trouts or bass. However, a larger reel will be crucial, especially if you're going out to target larger species such as marlin, tuna, or kingfish, which are usually found in considerably deeper water.
As you can see, there are a ton of options to choose from when shopping around for the ideal saltwater spinning reel.
However, knowing the type of fish you're targeting, as well as the environment you'll be fishing in and the techniques you'll be using, are all important factors to keep in mind.
And by keeping the above-mentioned factors in mind, you'll be well prepared for your next saltwater fishing excursion!