Hola! Welcome to my review of the best saltwater spinning reels.
After 20 years of saltwater fishing, I know a good saltwater spinning reel when I see one. The thing is, the harsh saltwater environment will show no mercy to your reel. Aside from the usual smoothness, lightness, and drag, you’ll need to seriously consider the durability of your fishing reel. Using these criteria, I’ve filtered out the 5 best saltwater spinning reels on the market.
If you’re short on time and want to get straight to the point, the best inshore spinning reel is the Daiwa BG, and the best offshore spinning reel is the Penn Slammer III. Both reels are affordable and have everything a fishing reel should have for their respective categories.
In case those 2 reels aren’t what you’re looking for, there’s still an abundance of other affordable reels on this list, so don’t worry.
Let’s get started!
Our Top 5 Picks
- Penn Slammer III (Best Offshore)
- Daiwa BG (Best Inshore)
- Shimano Stradic CI4+ (Best Lightness)
- Penn Spinfisher VI (Best Slammer III Alternative)
- KastKing Sharky III (Best Budget)
The 5 Best Saltwater Spinning Reels
In case you’re wondering why you need different reels for inshore and offshore fishing, the short answer is that offshore fishes are larger. This means that you can use offshore reels for fishing inshore, but you may not be able to use inshore reels for offshore fishing.
- Ball Bearings: 7+1
- Reel Size: 3500-10500
- Gear Ratio: 4.2-6.2:1
- Max Drag Weight: 30-60 pounds
- Weight: 13.9-43.1 ounces
Let’s start with the best offshore saltwater spinning reel – the Penn Slammer III. It has rightfully earned this title by being not just smooth and incredibly durable, but also having the most powerful drag system.
First off, it comes with 7+1 stainless steel ball bearings. 5+1 ball bearings are already more than enough for a smooth fishing reel, so imagine what 7+1 ball bearings can do.
As for durability, a full metal body and an IPX6 sealed body and spool guarantee a long-lasting reel. A full metal body means no part of the body is plastic, resulting in a stronger reel. And with the body and spool IPX6 sealed, even if you sprayed it with a high-pressure hose, no water would get into the reel. In other words, you’ll never see sand or water in your reel. These pretty much bring the chances of corrosion down to zero. This is one fishing reel that won’t ever be affected by corrosion.
Finally, this reel is unbeatable in drag force. When you’re up against monster saltwater fish, you’ll need at least 25 pounds of drag, and ideally 30 pounds. Unfortunately, 30 pounds of drag is hard to come by, and when it does, only in very large reel sizes. Amazingly, at only reel size 3500, this reel already offers 30 pounds of drag. This is the only fishing reel that will allow you to tackle humongous fish with such a small reel size.
Now of course, every reel has its flaws. The Penn Slammer III is no exception. Mainly, I found that it’s slightly heavier than average. The product page is also inaccurate, stating 6+1 ball bearings when there are in fact 7+1.
All things considered, this reel isn’t perfect. But you won’t find a better offshore spinning reel, not even in higher-end reels.
- Ball Bearings: 6+1
- Reel Size: 3000-6500
- Gear Ratio: 5.3-5.6:1
- Max Drag Weight: 15.4-33 pounds
- Weight: 10.8-29.5 ounces
Up next is the best inshore spinning reel – the Daiwa BG. The Daiwa BG Spinning Reel combines smoothness, durability, and a robust drag in a budget-friendly saltwater spinning reel.
Featuring 6+1 ball bearings, the Daiwa BG’s smoothness is definitely more than satisfactory. The waterproof drag system also keeps water out, and together with the corrosion-resistant aluminum body, makes the Daiwa BG more than able to take a beating.
However, the most attractive part of this reel is its drag system. The Daiwa BG boasts a waterproof carbon Automatic Drag (ATD) system. This system delivers a more stable and progressive drag. It minimizes the chances of losing your catch as the ATD adapts to every phase of the fight. In the beginning phase, it works faster and more progressively. Later on in the middle phase, it provides a firmer hold for cranking power. The drag system adjusts itself on autopilot, thus the name Automatic Drag.
Furthermore, its 17.6 pounds of drag at only size 3500 is already sufficient for the biggest inshore fishes.
The only downsides of this reel are weight and maintenance. It’s somewhat heavy compared to other reels of similar size. It also takes more maintenance to stay in tip-top condition since it isn’t sealed.
Other than that, you won’t find anything to criticise about this reel. If you’re looking to go inshore fishing, I recommend getting this modestly priced reel. You can find the full specifications here.
- Ball Bearings: 6+1
- Reel Size: 3000
- Gear Ratio: 6.0:1
- Max Drag Weight: 19.8 pounds
- Weight: 6.7 ounces
This next reel is unbelievably light.
The Shimano Stradic CI4+ Spinning has no equal when it comes to lightness. How light is it? About half of the Daiwa BG’s weight when comparing between the same size. No other fishing reel has ever achieved this legendary feat. This otherworldly lightness makes any kind of fishing a breeze.
Apart from being a light reel beyond belief, it’s also smooth with 6+1 ball bearings and has a good max drag weight of 19.8 pounds.
The one drawback with this reel is its drag. I know this may be confusing since I said its max drag weight was good, but hear me out. A max drag weight of 19.8 pounds is great for size 3000. Nevertheless, 19.8 pounds may be able to take on any inshore fish, but offshore fishes are larger. This means you can land some decent sized offshore fishes, but the larger ones will be off limits to you.
As long as you’re not targeting large offshore fish, or you’re only fishing inshore, this reel is the perfect lightweight reel. If you’re looking for the lightest reel in the world to fish with, look no further.
Best Slammer III Alternative
- Ball Bearings: 5+1
- Reel Size: 2500-10500
- Gear Ratio: 4.2-6.2:1
- Max Drag Weight: 15-50 pounds
- Weight: 10.7-38.6 ounces
For those who fancied the Penn Slammer III but were put off by its price, you’re in for a treat. The Penn Spinfisher VI is in essence, a cheaper Penn Slammer III. Don’t let the word cheaper fool you though. You’re still getting a top-of-the-line fishing reel that’s smooth, durable, and able to handle the largest fish species.
So what exactly makes it a viable alternative to the Penn Slammer III?
For starters, both these reels have a full metal body and both have a sealed body and spool. But here’s where they start to differ. The Penn Slammer III is IPX6 sealed, while the Penn Spinfisher VI is IPX5 sealed. All this means is that the Penn Spinfisher VI can only withstand a low-pressure hose’s spray. Since the force from waves will never even come close to a hose’s low-pressure spray, IPX5 is already adequate to keep all the sand and water out.
The Penn Spinfisher VI is also similar to the Penn Slammer III in smoothness and drag. With 5+1 ball bearings, it’s a bit less smooth, albeit still smooth. And it’s also able to produce 30 pounds of drag force, just at a larger reel of size 6500.
As you can see, the Penn Spinfisher VI is a very suitable second option to the Penn Slammer III. Anyone who wants a reel like the Penn Slammer III but at a lower price should get this reel.
- Ball Bearings: 10+1
- Reel Size: 1000-5000
- Gear Ratio: 5.2:1
- Max Drag Weight: 33.0-39.5 pounds
- Weight: 7.4-10.6 ounces
The final reel on this list is the best budget saltwater spinning reel – the KastKing Sharky III. When I saw the price of this reel, I couldn’t believe my eyes. It wasn’t because of how low the price was, but rather how much value I was getting for the price.
What if I told you that this budget reel is smoother and lighter than the Penn Slammer III and has an even stronger drag?
I’m not kidding. Equipped with 10+1 stainless steel ball bearings, it’s got 3 more than the Penn Slammer III which makes it smoother. The Penn Slammer III weighs 13.9 ounces at size 3500. This reel weighs a mere 10.2 ounces at size 4000. The Penn Slammer III generates 30 pounds of drag at size 3500. This reel does it at size 1000.
At this point, you’re probably wondering how the heck this reel is 3 times cheaper than the Penn Slammer III.
Well, the catch with this reel is that it requires lots of maintenance. Unlike the other reels on this list, the KastKing Sharky III has to be washed much more thoroughly. It’s also more vulnerable to sand and water. You’ll need to spend a lot more time taking care of this reel, which explains its price tag.
Even so, if you’re on a budget, this reel is the obvious choice.
At this point, I bet you’ve already set your mind on one of the amazing reels on this list. But what if you ever come across a reel that no one has ever reviewed before? Can you judge whether it’s a good buy?
This buying guide will teach you how to assess a reel’s worthiness.
This is the first thing you’ll always need to look at. It doesn’t matter if a reel is perfect in every other way, if it can’t hold the amount of line you need, you can’t use it.
Before we go any further, since line capacity directly depends on reel size, and product pages let you choose options by reel size instead of line capacity, I’ll be giving you the right reel sizes rather than line capacity.
For saltwater fishing, how much line you need depends on whether you’re fishing inshore or offshore.
When fishing inshore, waters will be more shallow.
Your line won’t need to be that long to reach the deepest parts of the waters.
In addition, the fishes are smaller and won’t put up that much of a fight, so you’ll also need less line to reel fishes in.
As such, go for reel sizes 3000-5000 for fishing inshore.
When fishing offshore, waters will be deeper and fish will be bigger, so you’ll need more line capacity.
I’d say go with size 5000-8000.
You may be wondering why you can’t go over 8000. The answer is you can, but there’s no reason to use a bigger reel.
No fish will ever outlast a size 8000 reel unless you’ve got zero drag. A bigger reel will only add unnecessary weight to your fishing setup.
The next thing you’ll need to consider is the drag system. Drag is important for preventing your line from snapping and tiring fishes out.
It would take a whole article to explain drag in detail, so I’ll simplify it.
The larger the fish, the stronger the drag you’ll need.
As mentioned earlier, inshore fishes are smaller, and offshore fishes are larger. This means the drag you’ll need for fishing offshore will be stronger. You’ll need a max drag weight of 30 pounds to stand strong against monster fishes.
On the other hand, fishing inshore will require lesser drag force, so a max drag weight of 17.5 pounds will suffice.
The general rule of thumb is to set your drag to 1/3 of your line’s pound test. For example, if you’re using 30-pound line, even if your max drag weight is 25 pounds, you should set it to only 10 pounds.
1/3 may seem small, but there’s a good reason for this. As more line leaves your spool, the drag pressure will increase. If it’s too high right at the start, there is a very real risk of your line snapping.
As such, always keep it to around 1/3 of your line’s pound test.
New anglers sometimes overlook drag because it seems insignificant.
If you do so, you’ll arrive with one line and leave with two lines. Either that, or you’ll let a prize fish get away, so never neglect the drag system.
Gear ratio is the number of times your spool rotates for each turn of the handle.
A gear ratio of 4:1 is considered a slow gear ratio, while 6:1 is considered fast. A faster gear ratio will require less effort to reel in. But it doesn’t mean a faster gear ratio is always better.
Another factor to consider when choosing gear ratio is your lure.
Lures that require faster retrieves will call for higher gear ratios. Vice versa, you should use lower gear ratios for slower retrieve lures. This is why a higher gear ratio isn’t always better.
I personally prefer 5:1, because then you can fish both slow and fast lures. And if you’re wondering whether the rules differ for inshore and offshore fishing, they don’t. Whether you’re fishing inshore or offshore, you’ll always need to consider the lure you’re using.
The final thing to consider is durability.
Saltwater environments are harsh and your saltwater fishing reel will be really put to the test. Lesser reels won’t be up to the challenge. It’s crucial that your reel is not only corrosion-resistant but also tough and able to keep sand out.
Obviously, you’ll want tough corrosion-resistant materials like stainless steel and ceramic for your ball bearings.
Aside from this though, it would be best if your spool body and bearing system are sealed or at least shielded from sand and water.
Luckily, most saltwater spinning reels nowadays have these features. This brings us to our next topic on why you can’t use reels meant for freshwater fishing in saltwater.
Freshwater VS Saltwater Reels
It’s tempting to use your freshwater reel for saltwater. I feel you.
After all, who wants to spend needless money on another reel for saltwater?
Alas, you don’t have a choice. Here’s why.
In the previous section, I mentioned that most saltwater spinning reels have the necessary features to be durable.
Well on the same note, most freshwater reels do not have the essential features to withstand saltwater conditions.
Freshwater spinning reels are often made of materials like stainless steel, graphite, and anodized aluminum. If you’ve noticed, they appear to be not that different from the materials for saltwater spinning reels, at least on the surface.
However, upon closer inspection, you’ll find that saltwater reels’ materials are often specially treated to be more corrosion-resistant.
On top of that, reels meant for freshwater fishing don’t usually have sealing or shielding technology to keep sand and water out.
Even if you do wash your freshwater reel sparkling clean after using it in saltwater, the short amount of time that it’s exposed to saltwater when you’re fishing is already more than sufficient to corrode it.
In the end, it’s better to spend money on a saltwater reel than to spoil your freshwater reel and then have to spend money on a new one.
This isn’t to say saltwater fishing reels require no maintenance though. Even the best saltwater reels will need to be cleaned regularly, which is why the next section is on how to maintain your saltwater reel.
How To Clean Saltwater Spinning Reels
When it comes to cleaning your reel, it’s better to see it in action than for me to describe how to do it to you.
Here’s a great video demonstrating the right way to clean your saltwater reel:
Have unanswered questions? You might find the answers to them here!
Are spinning reels better for saltwater fishing?
It depends. It isn’t just for saltwater fishing but for all forms of fishing. Whether spinning reels or baitcasting reels are better depends on the tackle you’re using and your skill.
Spinning reels produce the best results when paired with lighter lines (below 10-pound test) and lures as you’ll be able to cast further. On the other hand, baitcasting reels allow you to cast with heavier lines and lures further.
Baitcasting reels also allow you to place your lures where you want them with much more accuracy. However, they are harder to use and new anglers will almost definitely have trouble with them. Spinning reels are easier to use, but the trade-off is less casting accuracy.
So to sum it up, spinning reels are easier to use and work better with lighter tackle, but offer less casting accuracy. Baitcasting reels are harder to use, but allow you to work with heavier tackle and come with more casting accuracy.
On a side note, baitcasting reels also tend to be more expensive than spinning reels, so that’s another factor to take into account.
Where can I get the best saltwater Fishing reel?
There aren’t any brands that specialise in saltwater fishing reels, at least that I know of. But as with all trades, there are brands that you can always count on time and again to deliver the best quality. My personal favourites are Okuma, Shimano, Pflueger, Daiwa, and Penn reels.
KastKing is a relatively new brand that mostly manufactures less pricey reels of pretty good quality. It can’t measure to the higher-end reels from brands like Shimano, but it’s a good option to keep in mind for those on a budget.
What if I want to use baitcasting reels instead?
As mentioned above, baitcasting reels work better with heavier tackle and spinning reels work better with lighter tackle. This is a list of spinning reels, which is why you’ll only see spinning reels. You can of course use baitcasting reels, I just didn’t include any in this list of spinning reels. If you’re looking for baitcasting reels rather than spinning reels, here are the best baitcasting reels.
Are saltwater reels more expensive than freshwater reels?
Not really. There is a fair share of expensive reels for both saltwater and freshwater. Both freshwater spinning reels and baitcasting reels tend to have more of a focus on lightness while saltwater reels will prioritise durability and corrosion resistance. As such, freshwater reels will dedicate more technology and materials towards lightness and vice versa for saltwater fishing tackle. This means neither will cost more because you’ll be paying roughly the same prices, just for different advantages.
Once again, baitcasting reels tend to cost more than spinning reels, whether it’s freshwater or saltwater fishing.
Saltwater conditions are harsh and will be demanding on your saltwater fishing reel. However, you won’t need to worry as long as you have the right fishing reel for the job.
To reiterate, the best spinning reel for offshore fishing is the Penn Slammer III, and the best inshore spinning reel is the Daiwa BG. Both reels have everything that you’ll need for their respective waters and are easy on your wallet.
I hope this review was helpful in finding the best saltwater spinning reel for you. Also, you’ll need the best rod to pair with the best saltwater spinning reel, here are the best saltwater fishing rods.
Best of luck in your saltwater endeavours!