Best Saltwater spinning reels featured image

Fishing in saltwater is a whole different ball game from fishing in freshwater. Exposure to saltwater can corrode or gunk up a reels internal mechanisms making the reel a better paperweight than a great piece of fishing equipment. Even worse would be to have the reel fail while you’re hooked into the fish of a lifetime.

If you want to avoid situations like the one listed above, it is best to get a reel designed for saltwater. In this article, we’ll discuss a few of the key differences between freshwater and saltwater spinning reels, advise you on what to look for when choosing a reel, and finally offer a few suggestions on what we believe are some of the best saltwater spinning reels you can get for the money.

Saltwater Spinning Reel Comparison 

Fishing Rods Quality Our Rating
Penn Spinfisher V A-
Daiwa BG SW B
Penn Battle II A
Kastking Kodiak B+
Okuma Azores A+

What’s The Difference Between Freshwater and Saltwater Spinning Reels?

One of the main differences between freshwater and saltwater spinning reels is the material the reel is made from. Usually, saltwater spinning reels are made from corrosion resistant materials to provide a long life for the reel and to keep it from wearing down due to the exposure to saltwater.

Another difference between the two types of reel is where freshwater spinning reels may feature sealed components, on saltwater fishing reels it’s pretty much standard issue. When your components like bearings, gearboxes, and drag systems are sealed they are less vulnerable to saltwater corrosion.

What You Need To Know When Buying A Saltwater Spinning Reel

Corrosion Resistance

As mentioned previously, saltwater reels have to be constructed for durability. Primarily due to the saltwater factor. Most spinning reels these days come in either graphite or anodized aluminum. This is what you want. Try to avoid any reels not made from these two materials as they will likely corrode when exposed to saltwater all the time.

Also, you should look for a reel that has sealed stainless steel ball bearings. The number one cause of reel failure comes from corroded or seized ball bearings

Strong Drag

When you are fishing in saltwater you will likely be dealing with larger fish such as blue marlin. A strong drag system is critical to keep the fish from snapping the line. In most saltwater spinning reels you’ll find multi-disc configurations for durability, more stopping power, and performance while under stress.

These multi-disc systems tend to be better than front disc systems because of their ability to be adjusted quickly. Something you’ll want to avoid a large saltwater fish from snapping your line.

Size of the reel

The size of your reel ultimately determines just how much line you can shove on the reel. If you are fishing for sailfish or tuna, typically found in deep water, you will need a larger sized fishing reel to hold the large line capacity you will need.

However, if you’re fishing from shore, a smaller reel will work. If you choose to go with a large reel you can still fish from the shore, but too small a reel and fishing deep water becomes more difficult.

Bearings and Gear Ratio

More bearings in a reel usually relates to a smoother reeling action while a higher gear ratio will result in a faster line retrieval. Depending on how you are fishing and what species of fish you’re targeting a slower or faster gear ratio could be a factor.

Gear ratios are typically written like 5:1. That means for every turn of the handle the reel will rotate 5 times.

When it comes to bearings more usually result in a smoother experience. While number of bearings is important. What they are made out of is even more important. For reasons cited earlier. Make sure the bearings in the reel you buy are made from corrosion resistant materials and are ideally sealed to give them an extra layer of protection.

Anti-Reverse

This is pretty much standard on every spinning reel manufactured today. However, it’s importance should not go unnoticed. The anti-reverse feature of spinning reels prevents the reel from back-reeling.

Back-reeling often results in what is known as backlash. But making sure the reel cannot back feed it allows you to have a stronger hook set and allows you to use the drag to feed line when a fish is hooked. A good saltwater spinning reel should have almost no backward play.

Saltwater Spinning Reels Reviews

Fishing Rods Quality Our Rating
Penn Spinfisher V A-
Daiwa BG SW B
Penn Battle II A
Kastking Kodiak B+
Okuma Azores A+

Penn Spinfisher V Review

When you hear the name Penn in the fishing industry. One things comes to mind. Quality. This reel is a great budget reel for the aspiring saltwater fisherman. The Spinfisher V features a watertight design that ensures you will be able to fish in any water you want.

Due to it’s watertight design you won’t have to worry about spray and water from entering the drag system or gearbox. This will help extend the life of the reel by reducing the corrosive effects of saltwater. The handle also has a mounted waterproof seal as well to keep water from leaking in from the handle as well.

Internally, this reel has 5 shielded stainless steel bearings a drag system that is protected by three HT-100 drag washers to provide smooth performance while also increasing the life of the reel.

A few other features this reel includes are line capacity rings to indicate how much line you can effectively put on the reel and a rubber ring on the spool itself. The rubber ring is there so you don’t need to attach backing like monofilament to your reel before reeling on braided line.

The Penn Spinfisher V is by far one of the best saltwater spinning reels you can pick up for the money.

PROS

  • Sealed Bearings and Drag System
  • Braid-Ready super line spool
  • Full metal body construction

CONS

  • Watertight design but not fully waterproof
  • Some gear wearing after heavy use

Daiwa BG SW Review

The Daiwa Black Gold has been one of the most popular reels since its initial release back in 1981. In 2016 Daiwa Re-released its popular Black Gold model. One of the main reasons for the reels popularity is due to its relatively simplistic design. Honestly, this is one of those reels where you feel like you’re getting way more bang for your buck. It’s always great to feel that way.

The Daiwa BG SW comes in 10 models ranging from a 1500 all the way up through an 8000. This new model also includes some of Daiwa's most popular features, typically found on higher end reels. For instance, you get an anodized aluminum body and side plate that is corrosion resistant. Making it nice for doing inshore fishing.

This reel also features a waterproof drag system made from carbon fiber washers and 6 ball bearings. However, the bearings are not sealed. This isn’t a deal breaker but definitely something to be aware of. In this price range, it’s impossible to have it all. Another feature the Daiwa BG has is the braid ready rubber band. However, it’s not the best and a few yards of monofilament on the reel first isn’t a bad idea.

There’s a reason this reels a classic and remain popular among anglers even today. That reason is that the reel design is simple and the manufacturing quality is excellent.

PROS

  • Strong drag
  • Great price to performance ratio
  • Smooth reeling

CONS

  • No sealed bearings
  • Braid-ready rubber band isn't the best

Penn Battle II Review

The Penn Battle II is the latest iteration of Penn’s battle series spinning reels. This reel is often thought of as the go-to quality starter reel for inshore fishing. Because it’s a Penn product this reel has earned a reputation for being well built, durable, and providing a smooth retrieve. 

This reel comes in 8 sizes ranging from 1000 model all the way up to the 8000 model. This allows you to get a reel for any size fish you’re chasing.

A few features you will find on the Battle II include 5 stainless steel sealed ball bearings. Increased drag pressure with up to 30 lbs of smooth drag on the largest model (8000) and 15 lbs of drag power on the smaller saltwater sizes (3000 - 4000). The drag system itself is the same Ht-100 carbon fiber disk that you’ll find on the Spinfisher V.

Another great feature of this reel is the full metal body, side plate, and rotor. It also includes a more durable body paint that helps to increase the reels corrosion resistance. Like other Penn models, this reel also includes line capacity rings to ensure you don’t under or overload the spool. This reel also features a rubber inlay for attaching braid, but attaching a few yards of mono is still the preferable setup.

Overall this is a great bang for your buck and if you are just getting into saltwater fishing is a great reel to pick up.

PROS

  • HT-100 carbon fiber disk drag system
  • Sealed ball bearings
  • Line capacity rings
  • Affordable

CONS

  • Heavier than reels of similar size
  • Not fully sealed

Kastking Kodiak Review

If you’re a saltwater fisherman looking to land a massive catch you need a reel that will hold up to the pressure. The Kastking Kodiak is a reel that will hold up to that pressure. Named for the largest bear in the world. The Kodiak.

One of the best things about Kastking is that they exclusively sell online. Meaning they don’t have to pay shelving costs. Thus they are able to keep their prices low. A win-win for the business and consumers.

The Kodiak comes in 5 different sizes and is a solidly built aluminum graphite reel that’s made to tackle saltwater fishing. With an anodized aluminum body, rotor, and spool you can be sure that this reel will stand up to whatever you throw at it.

This reel has 10 (plus one anti-reverse bearing) shielded stainless steel ball bearings and a carbon fiber drag system for a super smooth operation. The reel boasts a 39.5 lb drag and it’s definitely no joke. If you pair the Kodiak with a strong rod and line it’s conceivable you could hook into 40-pound fish no problem.

While this reel is from a lesser known company than some of the others on this list. It certainly earns its spot as one of the best saltwater spinning reels you can pick up for under 100 bucks.

PROS

  • 10 shielded stainless steel ball bearings for smooth operation
  • Carbon fiber 39.5 lb drag system
  • All Aluminum body

CONS

  • Bail can be tough to close after casting
  • Bearings are only shielded and not sealed

Okuma Azores Review

Rounding out our list of the top saltwater spinning reels is a reel that was made for hooking into bigger fish. The Okuma Azores. One of the great features of this reel is how rigid it is.

While some may look at this as a bad thing. When you’re fighting a fish that can place a lot of strain on a reel. Having a reel that remains rigid is a must. The rigidity of this reel comes from the all-aluminum body and brass pinion gear.

The Azores comes in 5 sizes. From a 40 all the way to up to an impressive 90. One thing I really like about this reel is how smooth the operation is. This comes from the Azores sever fully sealed ball bearings and the dual force drag system.

Speaking of the drag system. This reel boasts the strongest drag system of any reel on this list at a whopping 44 pounds of maximum drag strength. Along with impressive drag system the Azores also includes a double anti-reverse system as well. A few other features to take note of include the Azorus’ high density corrosion resistant gearing and a hydro-block water tight seal to protect the drag housing from contaminates.

PROS

  • Price
  • Watertight design
  • Dual force drag system and dual anti-reverse system

CONS

  • Heavier than other reels
  • Not fully sealed

Wrapping Up

When it comes to fishing in saltwater, it’s a whole different ball game compared to freshwater. With saltwater, there is a number of things you need to be concerned with. For one saltwater is corrosive and can ruin a reel in no time if the reel is not properly sealed or built for saltwater exposure.

The second thing you need to consider is that the ocean is vast and deep. Fish are much larger than freshwater species. You’ll need a reel that will hold a lot of line while also being able to stand up to the power and strain the fish you hook into will put on the reel.

When it comes to choosing a saltwater spinning reel, a few qualities you want to look for include a watertight design, either aluminum or graphite body, stainless steel bearings, and a strong drag system.

Saltwater fishing reels can be quite expensive. However, thanks to advances in modern technology a number of fishing reel manufacturers have been able to create quality reels at a price most people can actually afford.

If you found this article helpful please share it on social media so that others can learn from it as well.

As always thanks for reading and remember adventure is waiting.

All of my life has been focused on the outdoors. From the days of fishing with my father when I was young, to learning more advanced outdoor skills through the Boy Scouts of America; you could say the outdoors is pretty much my life blood. I enjoy a wide range of activities including camping, survival, fishing, hunting, and bushcraft. I have spent most of my life learning these skills and now I want to pass on my knowledge and hopefully learn even more in return.

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