The Best Saltwater Baitcasting Reels
If you’re thinking of using your freshwater baitcasting reel for saltwater fishing, you may want to think twice, especially if you paid a lot of money for it! Saltwater fish are much more powerful than their freshwater counterparts and if you’re not careful, they can strip the drag on your reel. And lets not forget about the corrosive damage that saltwater can have on a reel that’s not made for saltwater use!
Picking out the right baitcasting reel is essential if you want to have a success day out on the water. This is especially true if you plan on doing some serious saltwater fishing! Of course, there are many who will just purchase a simple combo rod/reel without putting much thought into it.
This article will discuss what you should look for in a great baitcasting reel for any saltwater situation. We’ve also included a few reviews and recommendations of some of our favorite saltwater baitcasters, which will help with your buying decision.
Read on to find out exactly what to look for in your search for the best baitcasting reels for saltwater.
Quick List: Best Saltwater Baitcasting Reels
The Best Saltwater Baitcasting Reels (Reviews)
1. Shimano Calcutta, Round Baitcaster Reel
The Shimano Calcutta is an amazing round baitcasting reel for those who are looking to do saltwater fishing. This reel is built from the bottom up using high-quality material so it will last an extremely long time.
The frame, side plates, and spool are made from non-corrosive cold-forged aluminum. The three ball-bearings on this reel are also non-corrosive.
This reel uses a centrifugal braking system which aids in preventing backlashes from occurring. Once you unlock the brakes, the centrifugal brakes will use friction to reduce the speed at the start of your cast and lessen the pressure automatically as the spool starts to slow down, which in turn will speed it back up.
Even though the reel has a round frame, the design allows this reel to keep up with faster fishing styles that would require a low-profile frame, making this reel extremely versatile and usable for fishing in both saltwater and freshwater.
Another cool feature of this reel is the Super Stopper. The Super Stopper is an anti-reverse which uses a stainless steel roller bearing that stops the handle from going in the reverse direction after a fish bites your bait and tries going the opposite direction. This gives you instantaneous hook setting power.
Cross Carbon Drag
With a built-in Cross Carbon Drag, rest assured your line and rod will be protected from heavy fish pulling in the opposite direction as the drag mechanism prevents any extreme movement. This simply adds to the smooth casting and overall quality of your saltwater fishing experience.
Extremely Attractive Reel
Aesthetically, this is one of the sharpest looking reels on the market. With a clean combination of gold, silver, and black, this reel will stand out with any rod it gets paired up with.
While slightly on the more expensive side, anyone interested in a high-quality reel that is dependable, versatile, and will provide years of trouble-free saltwater fishing should definitely consider this reel to be a worthy investment.
2. Daiwa Coastal TWS T-Wing Reel
The Daiwa Coastal TWS T-Wing Reel is a super strong reel made up of quality parts and advanced technology.
Aircraft Grade Aluminum
This spool on this reel is made of heavy-duty A7075 Aircraft Grade Aluminum. This is a unique grade of aluminum which creates a lightweight yet extremely durable and rust-proof spool for your reel. Since the spool is lighter, they are able to make it deeper which means the spool can spin longer which is better for your bearings.
Ultimate Tournament Drag
The gears on this real are considered High Strength, as they are built to withstand the force (up to 15.4 lbs) provided by the tournament drag. This ensures that the integrity of the reel itself will remain strong for years to come.
The Ultimate Tournament Drag is able to provide up to 15.4 lbs of force due to special oil on the drag washers that work to reduce friction.
Magforce Cast Control
Something that makes this reel stand out against the rest is the Magforce Cast Control. This is Daiwa Coastal’s take on the magnetic braking system. Depending on how fast you will be throwing your cast (the weight of the line), simply adjust the control knob accordingly to help with avoiding birds-nesting/backlashing.
Also, the built-in T-Wing System (TWS) design allows for better line control and longer distance casting by reducing line friction coming off the reel. This, with a durable yet comfortable steel 100mm handle with aluminum EVA handle knobs, are two key pieces of this reel that work to make your fishing experience as enjoyable as possible for long periods of time.
Corrosion-Resistant Stainless Steel Bearings
Regarding the bearing system, this reel comes with seven corrosion-resistant stainless steel bearings and one roller bearing all built to last and create a smooth casting experience.
When you consider just how many features are packed into this baitcasting reel along with the overall quality and cool blue/black style, this is a must-have for anyone looking for the best baitcasting reel for saltwater fishing.
3. Abu Garcia Ambassadeur C3
Abu Garcia is known for producing high-quality fishing products, and the Ambassadeur C3 is no exception. Another overall great choice for someone looking for a baitcasting reel for saltwater fishing, this reel is engineered with several key features to ensure smooth operation, precision, strength, and durability.
With a sleek, simplistic silver/black design, this baitcasting reel comes with a round frame with three stainless steel ball bearings and one roller bearing.
Carbon Matrix Drag System
A key feature of this baitcasting reel is the Carbon Matrix Drag System. This drag system allows up to 15 lbs of force. Working in tandem with the stainless steel ball bearings, you should have no issues with hauling in larger fish.
Centrifugal Braking System
This reel also uses a centrifugal braking system, with six pins that you can unlock and unlock that serve as brakes. Using this centrifugal braking system will allow you to avoid backlashing when casting, a common problem that arises when baitcasting.
Excellent For Long Distance Casting
If you are looking to cast longer distances, this reel has you covered as it provides excellent balance all the way up to 310 yards.
Since the body and rotor of the reel are made of carbon, this reel is considered to be extremely lightweight. This lightweight build allows the reel to be used for extensive periods of time without ever tiring you out.
Not only does this reel have an anti-reverse function, but it also has extra built-in slippage protection to help prevent any slippage from occurring when a large fish is being dragged. Your angling experience will be much smoother, as the roller bearing automatically stops the reversing function when needed.
For handling those heavier fish, this reel provides additional torque by including extended bent cranking handles along with a power knob.
Overall, this is a great reel for someone looking for something lightweight and not too fancy that is reliable and will get the job done.
Buyer’s Guide: What to Look For in a Good Baitcasting Reel for Saltwater
Buying Separately from Rod vs. Buying a Combo
If you are considering purchasing a baitcasting reel for saltwater use, a question you might have come up with is whether you should purchase the reel and rod separately, or just purchase a combo rod/reel that has both.
Generally, purchasing the rod/reel separately is going to be more expensive. The main reason combos are less expensive is because combos are mass-produced with lower-quality parts for people who are looking to fish once in a while for fun and do not necessarily care for the intricacies of rods designed with specific power/action.
For the beginner or average weekend warrior this setup may do just fine. However, if you are a serious fisherman and looking to get the most out of your saltwater fishing gear, it might be worth it to consider going the more expensive route and purchasing a rod/reel separately. The reason for this is, by purchasing these pieces separately, you can pair a high-quality reel with the rod that is built specifically with your needs in mind.
Features to Look For
A saltwater reels’ speed is categorized as either low-speed or high-speed. High-speed reels are best for reeling in your bait and/or catch at an extremely fast speed. These kinds of reels have a gear ratio that is greater than 6:1.
Low-speed reels are best for fighting against bigger fish. In this case, the extra power that comes with lower speed reels comes in handy. These kinds of reels have a gear ratio lower than 4:1.
If you are a beginner and do not know exactly which kind of speed would be better suited for you, aim for something with a gear ratio between 6:1 and 4:1.
Line Capacity / Drag
The line capacity of a baitcasting saltwater reel is another important thing to consider when deciding which one to purchase. Usually, the line capacity is listed on the body of the reel and the value is displayed in either feet or yards per pound of line.
A quality reel will also have a built-in drag system to assist in fighting larger fish. Aim for a drag capacity of around 15 lbs.
A good guideline to follow is to adjust the drag pressure, which is measured in pounds, to be one-third of the line capacity of the reel.
Multiplier vs. Fixed-Spool
There are two main types of baitcasting fishing reels to consider: multiplier and fixed-spool. While there are pros and cons to each, a general guideline to follow is that the fixed-spool style is better for beginners, while the multiplier style is better for more advanced fishermen.
Multiplier reels are better for casting at longer distances, rough ground fishing, winning fights with bigger fish, and handling a heavier line. These kinds of reels are not well-suited for handling casting errors since there is a risk of the line “birds-nesting”. Also, they are not easy to use in the dark.
On the other hand, a fixed spool reel is more suited for when you are using lighter lines, and is better at handling casting errors. This would be the reel to use if you are fishing at night, doing sandy-bottom fishing, or doing floats, spinning, and feathering. This kind of reel is not well-suited for difficult grounds, casting heavier lines and further distances, and catching larger fish.
The material of your saltwater baitcasting reel is also very important and will play a major role in how expensive the reel is. Material is crucial, as depending on the material of your reel, the salt present in saltwater creates a risk of corrosion occurring.
For your reel, you want the frame to be made of either aluminum or graphite Both of these materials are extremely durable and, non-corrosive when reacted with the salt in saltwater.
While graphite frame reels are good quality and can be found on some middle to high-end reel brands, they are generally going to be less expensive than aluminum. While graphite is lighter than aluminum, the increased strength and durability of aluminum in addition to its protection against corrosion due to its passivation layer makes it the better choice for your baitcasting reel.
For the frame type of your saltwater baitcasting reel, you have two options: round and low-profile.
To choose which frame type you want, although it ultimately comes down to personal preference, there are a couple of differences worth noting.
Generally, the low-profile frame is better for providing all-day comfort when casting as you can palm your hand over the entirety of it. Round frame reels are usually heavier/bulkier and harder to cast, however, they are better if you decide you want to do some trolling and also are better for untangling after getting a bird’s nest.
If you are purchasing a baitcasting reel online and do not have the chance to compare the feel of the round frame to the low-profile frame, a good guideline to follow is based on the size of your hands.
If you consider yourself to have hands that are on the larger side, go with a round frame for your reel. Otherwise, if you consider yourself to have small hands, go with a low-profile. If you aren’t sure, it is always a safe bet to purchase a small, round frame reel.
While there is no magic number for the number of bearings that would be best for a baitcasting reel, a general guideline to follow is to go with a reel that has a minimum of three ball bearings. Usually, the more ball bearings a reel has, the better.
For the material of the bearings themselves, most will be either stainless steel or ceramic. Stainless steel is most often preferred, due to it being more durable and reliable than ceramic.
Most quality baitcasting reels will come with some sort of braking system that helps you avoid backlashing. There are three components to every braking system to consider:
- Centrifugal brakes
- Magnetic brakes
- Spool tension adjustment
- The thumb
Centrifugal brakes only play a role at the beginning of the cast. To help avoid backlashing, where the spool spins faster than the lure is traveling and your line gets backed up and tangled, the centrifugal brake control works to ensure that the line leaves the spool at the same speed as your cast.
This is accomplished by gravity extending the centrifugal brakes from the center of the spool to a little shelf inside your reel’s side panel. Inside this side panel, most reels have about six brakes that you can turn on or off by sliding a lever. The more brakes you unlock, the more the spool will slow down.
A simple way to think about it is if you are throwing fast casts, unlock more brakes, but if you are throwing long, slow casts, lock more brakes.
Magnetic brakes are an alternative to the centrifugal braking system and are generally a lot simpler to use. Instead of having to open your reels’ side panel and lock or unlock brakes, with magnetic brakes there is simply a small dial that you turn left or right.
Depending on which way you turn the dial, you will either be increasing or decreasing the distance between the magnetic brakes and the spool. The closer the magnets are to the spool, the faster the spool will slow down after casting, and if the magnets are further from the spool, the spool will not slow down as much.
Spool tension adjustment
On most reels, there is a small knob on the same side as the handle which is the spool tension adjustment. Unlike the centrifugal or magnetic brakes which work for the beginning part of your cast, the adjustment is meant to be used only at the end of the cast when the lure has landed. By turning the knob, the tension adjustment will stop the spool from spinning.
While the brake system is awesome, keep in mind that you might still have to use your thumb at times. If your cast manages to get away from you or your lure gets blown back towards you by wind, you might have to press against the spool with your thumb to avoid a backlash.
Anti-Reverse is a cool feature that you will find on newer technology baitcasting reels. The purpose of this feature is to prevent your handle (and thus the spool) from traveling in the reverse direction and creating a backlash.
Newer baitcasting reels have instant anti-reverse (IAR) which is an improvement on the older models which did not have instant anti-reverse. So while you could still control backlashing on older baitcasting reels, it was not an automatic/instantaneous feature built into the reel like it is today.
As backlashing is one of the most frustrating things a baitcaster who is saltwater fishing can experience, getting a reel with an anti-reverse is definitely worth it.
Now that you know what to look for in the best baitcaster reels for saltwater and have seen reviews of a few amazing options, you are ready to pick out the perfect reel for you, combine it with the right rod, and enjoy the relaxation of a saltwater fishing session.
When you’re ready, be sure to take a look at what I’ve found to be the best saltwater baitcaster reel, the Shimano Calcutta below!