Selecting your next saltwater spinning reel can be a daunting task.
- How do you tell if model A is better than model B?
- Will the reel you like handle the fish you are targeting?
- Are you getting a good deal?
These are but a fraction of the 100’s of questions I imagine are dancing around in your head. Let us make it a little easier for you by explaining what to look for, which features are a “must have” and how to compare one reel to another.
Finally, we will provide you with our choices for the best option in four of the most popular categories.
The reel is one of the most important aspects of your fishing rig, and the one you select determines whether or not you have a full creel or empty hooks.
Your reel provides more than a place to hold your line – it also assists in casting and retrieving that line and provides the leverage needed to land your next trophy. As you can see, having the right reel for the job is vital.
Regardless of what you are fishing for, you need a reel capable of handling the tackle that you’re going to use and the fish you may hook.
When fishing for saltwater, you also need to make sure your reel is up to the increased stress it will be exposed to – both by the fish and the environment.
Top Saltwater Fishing Reels of 2018: Outdoor Empire Reviews
These are our top recommendations for saltwater spinning reels of 2018:
- Best all around: Get Accurate SR-30
- Best value for the money: Get Penn Spinfisher V
- Best inshore spinning reel: Get Shimano Stradic STC5000XGFK (Read 100+ Amazon reviews)
- Best under $100: Get PENN Battle II 2500 (Read 550+ Amazon reviews)
*Looking for a specific feature? Check out our quick-reference chart below:
|Product|| || || ||
|Weight||40 oz||20.4 oz||11.3 oz||10.3 oz|
|Max Drag||35 lbs||30 lbs||24 lbs||12 lbs|
|Mono Capacity (yds/lb)||550 yds||360/10|
|Braid Capacity (yds/lb)||80/375||425/20|
|Cost||Check Price||Check Price||Check Price||Check Price
Best All Around
This is by far the Cadillac of saltwater reels offering all the features you need and it’s everything you could ask for from ocean or deep sea reel.
Machined from a solid piece of aircraft grade aluminum and fitted with a titanium spool & drag plates, you are getting a nearly indestructible piece of machinery masquerading as art.
The dual drag system applies equal pressure to both sides of the spool, and the 14 stainless steel ball bearing keep everything moving smoother than you thought was possible. As a bonus, spools can be changed almost instantly without resetting the drag.
Probably the only thing you could find wrong with this reel is the price — it is one of the more expensive models on the market today.
Add this beauty to your equipment list and you may be tempted to put it on display, but will not be able to wait for a chance to test it out- again and again. Plus, you will most certainly be the envy of the marina!
Mono Capacity: 550 yds
Braid Capacity (yds/lb): 80/375
Max Drag: 35 lbs
Gear Ratio: 6:1
Ball Bearings: 14
Weight: 40 ounces
Best Value for the Money
Penn Spinfisher V
Penn is a major player in the saltwater fishing world known for producing some of the finest rods and reels available, so it should come as no surprise one of their reels is on a list of the best available.
The Spinfisher V topped the list because it provides quality, durability, and reliability at a price far less than expected.
The full metal body, side plates, and rotor makes it impervious to the elements. Six stainless steel ball bearings keep everything turning smoothly even when your next trophy is pulling with all its might.
The HT-100 Slammer drag system utilizes 3 washers for dependable strength and 6 seals to keep saltwater & dirt out.
Speaking of keeping things out the Spinfisher V is not only being corrosion resistant, but also it is water tight — meaning whether it is getting soaked by spray or awash in the surf, it will not fail you.
With 11 models available including standard, live liner or bail-less designs, there is truly a Spinfisher V for any situation. It is the type of reel that you hand down to your children and even grandchildren.
Mono Capacity (yds/lb): 360/10, 270/12, 240/15
Braid Capacity (yds/lb):425/20, 320/30, 250/40
Max Drag: 30 lbs
Gear Ratio: 5.6:1
Ball Bearings: 6
Weight: 20.4 ounces
This little beauty is the future of saltwater fishing.
The body and spool are constructed entirely from reinforced carbon, zero metal. Not only does this provide superior corrosion resistance, but it also results in an extremely lightweight reel without sacrificing strength & durability.
Add the unique X-ship drivetrain and 7 high-quality ball bearings, and you have one of the smoothest, strongest pieces of fishing equipment available today.
Although its size and somewhat limited spool capacity prevent it from being recommended for offshore adventures, it is perfect for long days of casting for inshore reds or bonefish on the flats.
If you are a kayak angler, this should be on your want list. Its light weight, compact design makes it easy to stow and it will not wear out your arm before it’s time to paddle home.
Mono Capacity (yds/lb): 10/240, 12/195, 14/165
Braid Capacity (yds/lb):20/220, 30/200, 40/160
Max Drag: 24 lbs
Gear Ratio: 6.2:1
Ball Bearings: 7
Weight: 11.3 ounces
Best Under $100
PENN Battle II 2500
The Battle II is a perfect example of price not being an indicator of quality. PENN prides itself in offering a full selection of lower priced models comparable to their more expensive flagship series.
But lower price does not equal cheap. This reel shares many of the same features found in the Spinfisher V at about 2/3rds the cost. The body, side plates, and rotor are an all metal construction.
The HT-100 drag complete with carbon fiber washers is still there. 5 stainless steel ball bearings provide a smooth as glass action from start to finish.
Add a lightweight but still super durable aluminum bail wire, superline ready spool, and instant anti-reverse, and you have the complete package.
The Battle II is perfect for those entering the saltwater arena as well as veterans looking to increase the options without breaking the bank. With a little care, it will easily give your years of faithful service, far more than competitors that cost twice as much.
Mono Capacity (yds/lb): 255/6, 175/8, 140/10
Braid Capacity (yds/lb):240/10, 220/15, 160/20
Drag: 12 lbs
Gear Ratio: 6.2:1
Ball Bearings: 6
Weight: 10.3 ounces
Important Choosing Factors
Saltwater can mean deep water and long runs, even smaller species can speed away when provided a wide open escape route.
An essential feature in any quality reel is the ability to hold enough line to face these challenges without seeing your fight come to an end because you get spooled.
In most cases, you will want to look for a minimum capacity of 300 yards. Even if you are using a braided line, capacity will one day become the difference between a trophy and a fish story.
Braided Line Compatibility
A braided line offers many advantages that the saltwater angler wishes to have. So it is important that any reel you consider is capable of using this as well as a monofilament.
While almost any modern reel can be spooled with a braided line ( here is how to do it without line twist ), the best includes special features designed to take full advantage of this accessory such as those that:
- limit slippage
- bails without gaps in which the line can become tangled or snagged
- components robust enough to withstand the cutting power of this line when under pressure
Buying a deep water trolling rig? No problem! Go with the biggest brass model available since it will spend most of the day in a holder anyway.
But if you are buying a spinning reel, chances are, it will devote more time in your hand than anywhere else. Plus, there will come an instance when you want to cast, retrieve, cast and retrieve from the time you leave the dock until you return hours later.
When this happens, every extra ounce you hold or swing will count. A lighter reel will make it much easier to get the most out of your day and gear, just do not sacrifice strength to lose a few ounces.
One of the greatest differences between your fresh water and saltwater reels is the ability of the latter to withstand the harsh environment that they encounter.
Hour after hour, day after day, your reel will be exposed to salt which is both corrosive and abrasive. A good reel will be specifically designed to withstand being coated with salt spray and dunked in seawater without missing a beat.
We go in-depth on how to clean your saltwater fishing gear in this article.
This is the mechanical, adjustable friction which determines the amount of resistance needed to pull line from the reel. It is important to select a reel with a maximum drag sufficient enough to tire, turn and eventually land the largest fish you are targeting.
Most experts agree that a drag rating over 30-40 lbs does little regarding accomplishing its intended task as the angler’s arm strength then becomes the weak point. However, a higher drag rating can indicate greater protection from bursts of speed or strength.
The moving internal parts of your reel require protection against the damage caused by metal on metal rotation. Inexpensive or lighter weight models use bushings but this usually results in lower tolerances and a stop and go action.
Quality reels use ball bearings which provide a smoother action especially when under load. The more bearings available indicate a better action.
The gears in your reel act in the same manner as those on a multi-speed bicycle by increasing the power produced with each turn of the handle.
A low gear ratio will be easier to turn but will require far more turns to retrieve the same amount of line as a reel with a higher ratio.
A ratio of 4:1 indicates the spool will turn 4 times for each full rotation of the handle. Likewise, a ratio of 6:1 indicates a faster retrieval with the spool turning 6 times for each rotation of the handle.
- The lower gear ratio is best suited for jigging or live lining bait.
- The higher gear ratio is better when you are retrieving lures at faster speeds or trying to cover large areas while searching for fish.
Here is a saltwater rod buyer guide that will help you to put together a perfect rod & reel combo.