Your saltwater fishing tackle will be in perfect harmony when you’re using the right reel for the fish you chase. A good fishing reel provides just the right amount of counterbalance to a fishing rod during casting, while also giving good drag resistance while batting with your next catch.
Our selection ranges from beginner reels to heavy-duty tournament reels and can match any budget. Choose from a variety of fly-fishing reels, spinning reels, baitcasting reels, jigging reels, trolling reels and more for any type of fishing you do. Expert anglers test each reel we sell, and our selection is always expanding.
Each precision-machined reel is constructed from high-quality materials such as aluminum and stainless steel, with features that can include watertight design, anti-corrosion, double and triple drag systems, cast control, brass or stainless-steel gearing and anti-reverse. Saltwater reels with right-hand or left-hand retrieve are available to hit the water with either hand. You can even get electric reels that do the hard work for you and run off batteries or your boat’s power system.
Saltwater Vs Freshwater Fishing Reels: What Is the Big Difference?
Different manufacturers employ different designs and materials in their reels, but most saltwater reels are built with a few key features that help them to withstand saltwater. What is the difference:
What We Consider When Selecting a Reel for Saltwater
Saltwater angling is demanding, and the range of species and conditions means that “saltwater reel” can have many different definitions. For instance, you’re not looking for the same things in a surfcasting reel that you are in a reel for fishing sailfish. And if you’re new to angling, that can be confusing, so let’s break it down a bit.
The species you’ll be targeting
This is probably the most important factor when choosing the best saltwater fishing reel. The strength and size of the reel in particular are determined by the fish you’ll be targeting, but the type of reel can come into play, too. Large spinning reels with stainless steel gears, carbon fiber drags, forged internal parts, and tons of line capacity may be a requirement when targeting big tarpon around bridges. But this is hardly true when jigging in shallow waters over sandy bottom for fluke, where a low-profile baitcasting reel may be preferable.
Further, the gear ratio of your reel can be important based on what you’re targeting. For example, when fishing for false albacore, an angler must reel extremely fast so the lure skips across the surface, which requires a high gear ratio (the number of times the reel spool or the reel bail turns each time you turn the reel handle one complete revolution). Anglers hoisting amberjack up from the depths are likely going to want a slow, low-geared reel to power the fish to the surface.
Where you’ll be using your saltwater fishing reel, and how much salt water it will be directly subjected to, is another extremely important factor. Budget reels that are not designed for saltwater use can be ruined very quickly—sometimes in just a few trips—by being splashed by saltwater, subjected to sand, or dropped on rocks. Even if you take proper care of your reels, they can still succumb to saltwater penetration, corrosion, and broken parts simply through regular use—and this has nothing to do with hooking or fighting fish! Anglers who wade or fish from shore should consider the water resistance and the toughness of a reel. If you’re fishing primarily from a boat or kayak, or never intend on getting your reel wet from shore, this is less of a concern.
Saltwater specific reels are more expensive than most freshwater reels. The typical reel starts at around $70, and many exceed $1,000. A lower priced reel is obviously not going to have the features of a more expensive reel, but many anglers don’t need top-tier technology to successfully fish the beach or from a boat. And, some mid-price reels are astoundingly well built and will provide the average angler with years of service.
However, it is my experience that the more expensive the reel, the longer it will last. Further, even some moderately priced reels do not have the strength to fight large fish under heavy drag pressures. This being said, if you are on a tight budget and only fish occasionally, a less expensive reel will probably be fine.
The rod you’ll put it on
Saltwater reels come in a huge variety of sizes, and choosing the correct size reel for the rod it’ll be on will increase comfort, casting distance, and balance. However, there are some species that necessitate a big reel, regardless of the length of the rod. This is where considering the requirements of your species of fish comes into play. Tuna and blue-water species in particular often require using a large reel with a short rod, because the angler needs the huge line capacity of the larger reel to fight these powerful fish. Always consider the requirements of the species first, and the rod length and weight second.
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.
Our Top Picks
1. Daiwa BG
Durability, power, and speed are what make the Daiwa BG stand out as the best of the best. It has a black anodized machined-aluminum housing that is scratch & corrosion-resistant, which also protects the internal components from damages.
That said, the product is available in multiple sizes that range from a max drag of 4.4 lbs. for small fish to 33 lbs. for catching large fish like tuna. All these options feature a waterproof carbon ATD (Automatic Tournament Drag) system, which is the latest in Daiwa’s fishing reels. This gives you a very smooth drag without pulsing as you fight the fish.
Additionally, the unit has an oversized Digigear system that increases tooth contact points for smooth running, enhanced durability, more power, and torque. This is coupled with 7 bearings (6BB + 1RB) to make the turns smoother.
A solid screw-in machined aluminum handle gives you a firm hold when reeling in the fish and it is connected to quick spinning gears with a ratio of 5.6:1. This gives you a fast retrieval speed to save time between casting.
Though it has a high build quality, high gear ratio, and powerful drag, Okuma’s Azores Z-55s is fairly priced and this gives you a good bargain. It has a premium aluminum construction plus 7 corrosion-resistant stainless-steel bearings (6HPB + 1RB) for smooth casting/reeling.
The unit has a 5.8:1 gear ratio that enables you to pull the line very quickly to save time between casting. If you get a bite, you can use the quick-set anti-reverse roller bearing to help you set the hook, and this has a ratchet system that makes it more effective.
With the hook set on the fish, you can activate the powerful Dual Force Drag (DFD) system to fight. The system contains multiple discs plus carbonite and felt drag washers, which enables it to provide up to 29 lbs. of drag. This is enough to fight big and heavy saltwater fish like yellowtails, tuna, etc.
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.
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.
Offering an enhanced and thicker main shaft with stainless ball bearings, and a strong carbon fiber drag system, SeaKnight Rapid Saltwater Spinning Reel grabs its spot on our list for its perfect blend of strength and smoothness to secure large catches with ease.
The Rapid is built tough to withstand the unforgiving saltwater environment and lasts long. It features an enhanced thicker main shaft, sealed aluminum spool, and rotor structure, stainless steel ball bearings shielded to ensure no contact with saltwater and sand, and an anti-corrosive coating. Further its design includes a thick side to triangular torque for powerful but smooth performance.
Not only is this a well-made saltwater reel that looks sleek, but it is also a fast, powerful, and smooth performing reel equipped with 10 + 1 ball bearings, and a 6.2:1 gear ratio. With that, the included bail features a tight spring that works well and helps in smooth retrieval.
Featuring a new mould technology on graphite frames and rotor, Piscifun Viper X Saltwater Spinning Reel gets featured on our list for its durable construction that is lighter and stylish while ensures overall strength and excellent performance.
With double-shielded 10+1 stainless steel bearings to provide incredible smoothness, this spinning reel comes with a reinforced stainless steel main shaft and includes zinc alloy drive gears that are paired with carbon washers. Further, it features a one-way clutch bushing, stainless steel washers, and shielded stainless steel bearings to prevent water and dirt from entering the house.
The Piscifun Viper X spinning reel features a lightning-fast 6.2:1 gear ratio that offers high-speed retrieval to help you in battling the strong and fast runs of the biggest fishes. With that, its 10+1 Double Shielded Stainless Steel Bearings offer the smoothest operation with every revolution of the handle.
The attractive polished red and black color scheme catches your eye as easily as the Slammer III catches fish. Ten different sizes from 3500 to the monster 10500 reels are proof that this reel is among the best ever produced by the legendary Penn fishing company.
We’ll review the 5500 and 6500 reels to keep in approximate size comparison to many of the other reels we’ve reviewed and will review. The PEN-1522 is a 5500 size reel with a very quick retrieve rate of 39 inches per crank.
Able to hold 380-yards of 30-pound braided line or 330-yards of 12-pound monofilament with a respectable 40-pound drag, this reel is a favorite for professional charter fishermen. It’s easy for inexperienced clients to handle and it’s durable in harsh saltwater conditions.
Daiwa knows that only an all-metal body can provide the stiffness and durability big fish demand, and they’ve made the Saltist from solid aluminum. Offering season after season of durability, this reel is as solid as they come, and I wouldn’t feel under gunned if I’ve tied into a monster tarpon or hard-fighting shark.
These aren’t large reels, even in the biggest sizes, and they’re lighter than you might expect. That’s not really a virtue for a conventional reel, as casting isn’t the order of the day. Moreover, that smaller size does diminish capacity a bit. That said, I think there’s plenty of space on these reels, but the competition offers a bit more.
Expect two drag settings in the Saltist line-up: 15.4 pounds and 24 pounds. That’s more than enough for kingfish, Mahi, and monster stripers, as well as sailfish, tuna, or shark.
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.
10. Van Staal VS X
If you are looking for the best surf fishing reel that will stand up to the harshest surf conditions, this is the reel for you. Van Staals are known for being the most rugged, simple-to-maintain reels available to the saltwater angler. Will your reel be underwater for long periods? The Van Staal is actually designed to be reeled underwater. If you tend to treat your gear harshly and push it to the absolute max, the Van Staal VSX is worth the investment.
This is my go-to reels, and one of the best saltwater reels for striped bass. Yet, it has also landed a myriad of fish from Florida to Maine. It’s been subjected to conditions no reel should ever be expected to endure, and come out the other side relatively unscathed. These reels are genuinely designed to last a lifetime.
Cleaning Tips for Saltwater Reels
Saltwater can take a toll on your fishing tackle if it’s not properly cleaned and maintained. Keeping your reels clean, oiled and greased up is very important ensuring they continue to work at their top efficiency and will also increase the life span of the reels. Here are some quick tips to consider when fishing in/around Saltwater.
What makes a good saltwater reel?
Quality saltwater reels are made with sealed drag systems, sealed ball bearings, and sealed gearboxes. Typically these areas are sealed off with gaskets. This helps prevents salt from getting into the internal components that can not get rinsed well with fresh water. All materials for saltwater reels should be corrosion resistant. Throughout a fishing trip, reels get splashed and the wet line ends up getting the reel full of saltwater. It is very important to rinse the reels with fresh water at the end of each trip.
What size spinning reel do I need?
Spinning reels are typical sized from 1000 to 10500 series. When determining the properly sized fishing reel there are three main factors. First is the amount of line the reel can hold. A 1000 series reel can hold about 100 yards off of 6-pound monofilament line. The largest line capacity of a spinning reel currently available is a Penn Slammer 10500 which can hold 540 yards of 80-pound braided line.
Can you use any reel in saltwater?
Technically yes any reel will work in saltwater. However, a reel not designed for saltwater will likely have the internal components corrode. This will result in the ball bearing, drag or gears breaking much faster than expected. Many freshwater spinning reels are made of graphite which will not corrode. The problem is not the exterior of the reel but the internal components. Saltwater reels use gaskets to seal off critical components that would corrode.
Why do spinning reels have reverse?
There is no good reason for a spinning reel to have reverse. Other than perhaps to untangle a bird nested spool of line. All spinning reels should have an anti-reverse bearing or an anti-reverse clutch that can be set to prevent a spinning reel from going in reverse.