If you are in a hurry and just want to find out what the best saltwater spinning reel is, then we recommend the Shimano Stradic HG.
If you’ve spent any time in the salt, you no doubt already know that a quality reel is crucial. Saltwater can corrode and damage reels within a matter of weeks, and choosing the right saltwater reel is crucial if you want to have successful fishing trips for years to come.
What are the most important things to look for in your search for the best saltwater spinning reel? We’ve put together a guide to help you on your quest for a saltwater spinning reel that will hold up against the biggest and toughest of fish, as well as a curated list of our favorites that are currently on the market.
Although we love all 7 of these reels, there were three that stood head and shoulders above the rest. However, make sure to check out all 7 fishing reel reviews below.
In a Hurry? Here’s Our Top 3 Saltwater Spinning Reels…
Buyers Guide: What to Look for in a Saltwater Spinning Reel
How Much Should You Pay
When it comes to saltwater spinning reels, there are a few schools of thought. There are some who prefer to buy cheap reels and replace them every so often as the saltwater slowly destroys them. Others purchase quality reels without any saltwater sealing technology, and simply thoroughly clean the reels after each trip. Finally, and likely the most reasonable standpoint, there is a group of people who buy saltwater sealed reels that are built to last in the salt.
We’d recommend going with one of the latter two options; replacing a cheap real often is not only time intensive, but the bearings and components of cheaper reels could cause you to lose big fish out on the water. When it comes to price, you get what you pay for. Fortunately, the silver lining is that the majority of the reels on this list, save one, are under $200, meaning you won’t have to break the bank to get one of the best saltwater reels on the market.
You can, of course, spend significantly more money on saltwater spinning reels should you wish. Shimano, Daiwa, and a few other big brands do have high-end reels that can run close to a thousand dollars. They may be the best saltwater spinning reels out there, but we didn’t include them here because the vast majority of people out there aren’t looking to spend a thousand dollars on a spinning reel. This list takes into account both value and price point, providing you with the best reels (all things considered) on the market.
Saltwater Sealed vs. Regular Reels
The myth exists that only reels built and sealed for saltwater use should be used in the salt. While having a saltwater-sealed reel helps, it’s not the only piece of the puzzle. Having a saltwater-sealed reel simply means that the bearings and components of your reel are sealed off from the rest of it, blocking off corrosive saltwater from getting into your reel.
However, saltwater is damaging and will eventually start corroding any real, sealed or not, over time if the reel is not well taken care of. Just like with any reel, taking good care of your saltwater reel is a crucial component of making sure that it’s functioning properly.
Are there disadvantages to getting a reel not sealed for saltwater use? Yes, but they can often be avoided by taking good care of your reel. This means soaking the reel in warm water after you use it (sometimes taking it apart is good as well), lubricating it properly, and making sure that it’s clean. Sand and salt can get into the tiny nooks and crannies of reels, eventually causing tremendous damage to your reels down the road.
The bottom line here is this: whether or not your reels hold up depends far more on how you take care of them rather than whether they are built for saltwater use or not. That being said, there are definitely advantages to saltwater-specific reels, and if you’d rather not keep up on reel maintenance as much or want a reel you don’t have to worry about, getting something that’s built for saltwater could potentially save you a lot of headaches in the long run.
Consider Line Capacity
Line capacity is something we haven’t mentioned too much in this article, largely because it all depends on what size reel you get, but line capacity is a very important factor to consider when it comes down to figuring out what reel you should get. Just because a certain size of reel has a maximum drag that’s strong enough to fight the fish you’re targeting doesn’t mean you’ll have enough line capacity.
Why is line capacity important? Mainly to ensure that you don’t lose fish. For example, if you hook an albacore tuna and you’ve only got 40 yards of line left on your reel, you’re going to have a very bad day. You can never go wrong with having a ton of line on your reel (as long as the reel isn’t overfilled), and more is always better than less, no matter what you’re fishing for.
Manufacturers will provide the line capacity of reels on their spec sheets, so there’s no need to worry about not knowing how much line you’ll be able to fit on your reel. If you need a lot of line, we’d recommend putting braid on your reel. You’ll be able to get much more line at a much stronger pound test, combining the best of both worlds.
Most of the reels on this list are fairly uniform when it comes to line capacity, and you won’t find too much variation between brands. However, small changes here and there, particularly within the sizing of specific reels, can be difference makers when you get out on the salt. The bottom line: make sure the reel you’re considering can fit as much line as you’ll need when you get out there, and more is always better than less.
Understanding Gear Ratio
Gear ratio is important no matter where you’re fishing or what you’re fishing for. It is, however, particularly crucial to think about in the salt. Saltwater fishing often entails bigger, stronger fish that can rip a lot of line off of your reel in a very short amount of time.
When it comes to landing fish in the salt, most anglers want something with a fast gear ratio. If you’re unfamiliar with the term, gear ratio is equivalent to how many times the spool rotates with one crank of the reel. So, a reel with a 6.2:1 gear ratio will reel in line at a much faster rate than a 3.1:1 gear ratio. In essence, if you’re fishing saltwater you’ll likely want a reel with a fast gear ratio that will allow you to control and land your fish with ease.
All of the reels on these list are equipped with gear ratios that are most definitely capable of landing the vast majority of saltwater fish, but it’s always an important factor to think about when you start looking for a great saltwater spinning reel.
Know Your Target Fish Species
Particularly with saltwater reels, it’s critical to understand your purpose for the reel before you make the final decision to buy one. Different reel sizes will come with different strengths of drag, so it’s important that you know the size of fish you’ll plan on catching before you purchase a reel.
Additionally, reel size and weight plays a big factor into your success and comfort out on the water. If you’re fishing for surf perch from the shore, you probably won’t want a heavy reel to be casting all day. Conversely, anglers bottom fishing offshore probably won’t have problems fishing a heavy but sturdy reel.
It’s also useful to make sure that the size of reel you’re ordering matches up with the rod you plan to use it with; too big or small of a reel, and it may not fit properly in the reel seat of the rod. Particularly with buying online, make sure you research the dimensions of the reel to make sure it’s a good fit for your rod.
Even though you can’t physically see or touch the reel if you’re making the purchase online, doing things like watching YouTube videos about it or looking at the reel specs can help you visualize the size of the reel and the way it’ll balance on your rod. Additionally, most product listings on Amazon have a fairly lenient return policy, so you should have no problems returning most reels within a few weeks of your purchase if for some reason they don’t fit the rod.
Evaluate Different Brands
In the fishing community, most people have a particular brand they swear by. If you haven’t found that brand yet, it’s a good idea to take some steps to figuring out what brands you like and what brands you don’t. It’s not all a marketing ploy, and different brands do have their advantages and disadvantages.
For example, Penn is known for making sturdy, reliable reels, but they often run heavy and some surf anglers who do a lot of casting don’t like them as much as their lighter alternatives. Daiwa and Shimano are known for making lighter, airier spinning reels, which come with their own set of pros and cons as well.
Different brands also have different issues that come up commonly with their reels, so it’s important that you choose a brand you can trust. All the brands we’ve included in this article are reputable, widely-loved brands in the fishing community, and you can’t go wrong with any of them. Additionally, line capacity for reels will vary slightly between brands. A Shimano reel that’s a size 2500 might have a different line capacity than a Daiwa reel at that same size. These are all things to think about before you make the final decision on a saltwater spinning reel.
However, choosing a brand that makes reels you love is crucial, and each brand will have different complexities and styles to their reels. Some people think Shimano reels are smoother, others will vouch for Daiwa. In the end, it mostly comes down to a matter of personal preference, but you’ll want your saltwater spinning reel to be one that you absolutely love, so choose wisely.
Compare Maximum Drag
This principle could be applied to a buyer’s guide for almost any type of spinning reel, but it’s particularly applicable here. Whether you’re fishing for albacore or marlin, fish in the salt often get much bigger than standard freshwater fish. As fish get bigger, it becomes increasingly important to think about your drag and what size of fish your reel will be able to handle.
The reels on this list all have different maximum drag capacities, and you should evaluate those for your purpose before you decide to pull the trigger on a final purchase. It is also worth noting that maximum drag isn’t everything, and a quality drag will always champion a cheap drag, even if the cheap drag is technically stronger.
In total, choosing a reel with a good drag comes down to selecting a reel that has the perfect storm of both a strong drag and good components, and every single reel on this list has those things.
Reviews: Best Saltwater Spinning Reels
Shimano Stradic HG
- The stradic spinning reel utilizes shimano's latest technology while also drawing on ways...
- X-ship technology provides improved gear durability and eliminates friction between the...
- Incorporates shimano's flagship hagane gearing and hagane body that provides long-lasting;...
- The built-in dyna-balance rotor and fluidrive ii system accompanied by shimano's...
- Max drag: 20 lbs. / gear ratio: 6.0:1. / weight: 8.3 oz. / line retrieve: 35" / bearings:...
In the fishing world, the Shimano Stradic is often hailed as the holy grail of spinning reels. It’s smooth, lightweight, fast, and it’s made by one of the biggest names in the fishing market. The Stradic is another one of our favorite spinning reels for the salt, and it’s a practical reel that can be used in a number of saltwater applications.
Unlike some of the other reels on this list, the Stradic isn’t specifically built for the salt. However, don’t let the fact that it’s not saltwater sealed turn you off from buying the reel. Taking proper care of your spinning reels, saltwater sealed or not, is key to making sure that they last a long time. Letting your Stradic soak in some warm water after the fact to get help get rid of that extra salt is one great way to prevent the bearings from corroding and rendering the reel unusable.
Aside from the fact that it’s not specifically built for saltwater, the Stradic is an excellent reel for the salt. It has a gear ratio of 6.2:1, meaning you’ll have no problem cranking in a lot of line quickly–we all need to at some point or another. Shimano’s legendary X-Ship technology coupled with its Hagane gearing makes the Stradic one of the smoothest reels on the market. As opposed to the Spinfisher, which is a relatively heavy reel, the Stradic is light as a feather.
If you’re a saltwater angler looking for a smooth, lightweight reel, the Stradic is the reel for you. It’s also affordable at under $200, and is perfect for most saltwater anglers. This reel comes in five different sizes, starting at 1000 and going all the way up to 5000. Some saltwater anglers may find they need a bigger reel than the 5000, and in that case, we’d recommend you take a look at a couple of the others in this list. However, the Stradic is a perfect reel for most saltwater anglers, and it’s certainly worth checking out.
Penn Spinfisher VI
- IPX5 sealed body and spool design
- Cnc gear technology
- Ht 100 carbon fiber drag washers
When it comes to finding the best saltwater spinning reels, the Penn Spinfisher is one of the first reels that gets brought up in conversation. Used by guides and beginners alike, the Spinfisher is a king of the salt for a few reasons. First, Penn is extremely well-known (and loved) when it comes to their saltwater reels. To put things simply, they make some of the best saltwater reels on the planet, and most of their reels, the Spinfisher being one of them, are saltwater sealed.
The Spinfisher is built to handle just about anything you’ll find in the salt, and it’s built to last. At a 6.2:1 gear ratio, this reel has the speed and power to fight even the biggest of fish. Though different reels are sometimes needed for different situations, the Spinfisher is an excellent all-around reel for saltwater fishing. The reel is also priced reasonably, and you can pick it up on Amazon for under $200, a steal for what this reel offers.
Penn does have a few more affordable alternatives to the Spinfisher, but we’d recommend sticking with this model because it offers high-end quality at an affordable price. The cheaper you go in price with Penn’s reels, the lower quality of bearings and gears you’ll get, which can end up in you losing fish out on the water. The IPX5-rated saltwater sealing technology on the Spinfisher is best-in-class, and this is a reel that is built specifically for saltwater anglers looking for a sturdy and reliable reel.
People love the Spinfisher, and the reviews both on Amazon and everywhere else online are fantastic. The reel comes in a wide variety of sizes, meaning there is a Spinfisher for almost any type of saltwater fishing. In total, the Spinfisher is one of our favorite saltwater reels because it provides anglers extraordinary value at a reasonable price.
Penn Slammer III
- Full metal body, sideplate, and rotor
- Cnc gear technology
- IPX6 sealed body and spool design
- Retrieve Rate 40 Inches| 102cm
- Sealed Slammer drag system with Dura Drag
Penn is, and has been, the unmistakable king of making sturdy saltwater reels. The Slammer III is no exception to that rule, and being the most expensive reel on this list, offers an impressive level of value, even at its higher price. If you’re looking for a sturdy, battle-tested reel that’ll get you through any situation out on the salt, this is it.
With IP6 sealing technology and a full metal body, the Slammer III can stand up to the most vicious conditions, and it holds up to saltwater like no other reel on the market. Though it’s always good to clean and properly maintain your reels, the Slammer III is perfect for someone who expects their reel to get beat up and heavily used. It’ll perform well even after years of intense saltwater use.
Penn isn’t messing around when it comes to sizing on these reels. Starting at a 3500 and going all the way up to a jaw-dropping 10500, the Slammer III reels are built for serious saltwater anglers. If you find yourself in situations where you’re catching massive fish, there’s a Penn Slammer III for you. The same goes for if you’re just surf perch fishing, as the 3500 is a perfect size for slinging bait into the surf.
The biggest sizes of the Slammer III have a 60 pound drag, a strength of drag that’s virtually unprecedented for a spinning reel. Penn found a way to combine powerful technology with sleek style and durable components with the Slammer III, and if you’re serious about saltwater spinning reels, this is absolutely worth a look.
- Black Anodized Machined Aluminum Housing ("Hard Bodyz" Body & Side Cover), Over-sized...
- Solid Screw-In Handle, Air Rotor, Dynamic Cut Aluminum ABS Spool
- Braided Line Ready Spool, Waterproof Drag System, Carbon ATD, Line Per Handle Turn: 43.1"
- Manual Return Bail (4500 and Larger), 6BB+1RB, Gear Ratio: 5.6:1, Drag Max:22
- Line Capacity (Lb. Test / Yards): 14/350, 17/280, 20/210 J-BRAID: 40/340, 50/270, 65/230
Daiwa is one of the most popular reel manufacturers in the world (and for good reason), and their BG reel is a smooth, affordable entry into the saltwater market. It’s one of the best saltwater spinning reels currently available, and one of the most popular as well. Due to its popularity, the BG comes in a wide variety of sizes and options, offering something for virtually every angler.
A 6 + 1 bearing system and Daiwa’s high-tech Digigear system ensure that the BG will perform under many different circumstances. The biggest sizes of the BG also have a hefty 33 pound drag, which is quite impressive for a spinning reel. Whether you’re bottom fishing for lingcod or casting for surf perch, there is a BG for you.
People can’t stop raving about the BG online, and it’s currently one of the best-selling fishing reels on Amazon. It has a smooth drag system that makes sure you’ll stay in the game even up against the largest of fish, and it is relatively lightweight.
If you bottom fish, you may not have considered the weight of the reel, but surf fishermen should take weight into account as one of the biggest deciding factors when it comes to a saltwater spinning reel; when you’re casting hundreds of times in a day, a couple ounces of weight difference might be the deciding factor in whether you go home with a sore shoulder. Fortunately, the Daiwa BG is a fairly lightweight reel that’s built for just about any type of saltwater fishing.
Remarkably, the Daiwa BG is the most affordable reel on this list, making it a great option if you’re not looking to spend much. That said, the BG doesn’t sacrifice quality for price, and that’s why it’s one of our favorite saltwater spinning reels.
- 7+1 bearings, 5.8:1 gear ratio, 20 lb max drag
- Braid: 15/300, 30/260, 30/230
- Graphite rotor, aluminum bail
- stainless steel drive, pinion gear, and sealed shaft
- EVA paddle knob included 3000/4000
A lesser-known name in the fishing community, Tsunami is a brand that makes some fantastic reels, the Evict one of them. A top-performing reel whether in freshwater or saltwater, the Tsunami Evict is one to consider for those who are comfortable straying away from the mainstream and trying out some smaller brands.
The sealed shaft and aluminum body are a few of the key components that make the Evict a powerhouse reel in saltwater. Though it’s not specifically saltwater sealed like many of the Penn reels, the Evict holds up well, and you’ll be just fine as long as you take proper care of it. The price of the Evict is on par with the other reels on this list, and an Evict will run you between $140 and $180 depending on which model you choose.
The sizes for this reel run between 2000 and 5000, which is a well diversified selection for most anglers. If you’re fishing saltwater, you likely won’t need small sizes at all, however there may be a few people out there who find that the 5000 size isn’t big enough to fit their needs. Generally, though, the sizing on these reels is ideal for saltwater fishing, and the Tsunami Evict is one of our favorites on the market.
Pflueger Supreme XT
- Bearing count: 10
- Gear ratio: 6.2:1
- Max drag: 14lbs
With 10 high-quality bearings and a sealed drag, the Pflueger Supreme XT has no problems making our list of the seven best saltwater spinning reels. With an industry-standard 6.2:1 gear ratio, the Supreme XT is a reel that makes sure you’ll be landing fish with control and ease.
Pflueger offers these reels in sizes from 25 all the way up to 40, which is a wide range of sizes and will get the job done for the majority of saltwater anglers. If you need something bigger, check out one of the Penn reels on this list; however, for many saltwater purposes, the Supreme XT is an excellent fit.
The Supreme XT has a braid-ready spool, meaning that you can tie braid directly to the spool without worrying about slippage when fighting big fish. This is useful, particularly for those who find themselves wishing they could fit more line on their reels. Eliminating the need for backing or electrical tape on the spool to secure the braid gives you a little more line, and up against big fish, that could be all the difference you need.
Pflueger makes most of their spinning reels fairly lightweight, and the Supreme XT is one of them. Due to the size options available and the weight, this is a perfect reel for surf fishermen, combining a powerful drag with a light weight that won’t make your shoulder sore by the end of the day.
- Line Retrieve Per Crank: 39 inch, Gear ratio: 6.2:1
- Mono Line Capacity (lbs/yds): 8/240, 10/200, 12/160
- PowerPro Line Capacity (lbs/yds): 15/230, 20/205, 50/120
- Max. Drag force: 24 lbs, Ballbearings: 5 and 1 Roller Bearing
- Weight: 10.1 ounce
The Shimano Ultegra is a powerhouse reel that performs beautifully in the salt. It isn’t designed specifically for saltwater, meaning you’ll have to take great care of it, but many freshwater vs. saltwater designations are simply branding strategies. Put simply, the Ultegra is certainly a reel to consider bringing on your next saltwater adventure.
Like many of Shimano’s reels, the Ultegra is light and is built with nothing but the very best components. At a maximum drag of 24 pounds, this isn’t the strongest drag on the list, but it’s built with high-end materials and will get the job done on most fish you’ll encounter on the salt. It has a 6.2:1 gear ratio, similar to most of the other reels on this list, and that’s more than enough for most saltwater applications.
The Ultegra is equipped with the Hagane gearing that is the trademark of so many Shimano reels, and it is a reel that will hold up for years when taken care of properly. It’s not quite as expensive as the Stradic, but it has a similar smoothness and feel. If you’re looking for an alternative to the Stradic, the Ultegra may just be the perfect reel for you.
This is a fantastic reel for surf anglers fishing for lingcod or surf perch, or for inshore anglers targeting redfish and speckled trout. The drag and reel sizes are perfect to take on those types and sizes of fish, and that’s what the Ultegra is made for. The price point and quality components on this one make it hard to refuse, and that’s what the Ultegra makes our list.
No matter which reel on this list you choose, know that you’ll be in good hands. Each and every reel here is built to ensure you have a successful day out on the water, and choosing a specific reel will most likely come down to your purpose for the reel. Whichever reel ends up being the best saltwater spinning reel for you, we hope you enjoy it. We hope this list was an informative one, and that your next trip out to the salt is successful!