The winter is over and the fish are biting. It’s time to break out your best saltwater spinning reel and go catch a big one! There’s only one problem though…you need a new reel! However, with so many brands and models to choose from, how will you know which one to buy? I’ve got you covered!
The biggest mistake that I see newbies and even some experienced fishermen make is either they pay too much or too little for a reel that they don’t need. Don’t be that guy! Let me help you pick the best fishing reel for the money and for your needs.
So, before you head to your nearest Bass Pro Shop, make sure to check this list of spinning reels that I put together, as well as the most detailed buying guide around.
The Best Saltwater Spinning Reels (Reviews)
Here is the complete list of saltwater spinning reels that I’ve reviewed in this article. Keep reading to learn more about each of these spinning reels.
Shimano Twin Power SW-B (Best All-Around)
The Shimano Twin Power SW-B is an incredible reel complete with everything Shimano could stuff in it at the target price. The reel is made with a full metal construction using incredibly light, materials. In fact, if well taken care of, this reel may outlast you.
All the gears are cold forged and placed with durability and power in mind, meaning smooth, consistent operation while either free spinning or under load. Even the spool was designed to release the line in a way that dramatically reduces wind knots. This means more time fishing and less time untangling “bird’s nests.”
The X-tough drag system uses a spring in the adjustment that allows for consistently smooth drag all the way from minnow level, to 60lb beasts. The drag system is also incredibly durable and will last as long as the reel.
A series of gaskets at water penetration points allows this reel to handle all the splashes you put it in while wading in the surf. While it isn’t precisely watertight, it does manage to keep the insides from being coated in salt during heavy use.
Another cool feature that this reel has is a one-way roller bearing. This cancels all back play in the reel, allowing you to instantly set a hook like a boss. The bearings are shielded to prevent corrosion as well.
For the price, I would expect this reel to be fully sealed, but it’s not. It also comes in limited sizes, so if you want to go big, you better look into another reel. Other than that, this reel is a beast!
Penn Spinshisher VI (Best Inshore Reel)
If you need a reel that can handle pretty much any fish or condition that you throw at it, then the Penn Spinfisher V just may be the reel for you. With full sealing rubber gaskets in every opening, the Penn Spinfisher V is essentially waterproof, allowing you to take it out on your kayak, in your boat, or wading out from the shore without worrying about too much salt getting into the gearbox.
Even if you’re not super religious about carefully cleaning your reels after every use, this reel should last you a long time with only basic cleaning and maintenance. The Spinfisher V is a great reel for anybody that needs either an upgrade or has a padded budget for a starter.
A fully balanced and well protected braid-ready spool ensure smooth and comfortable operation and an even line lay when retrieving your line. This feature gives the same smoothness and functionality of a $500 reel, but for less than half the price.
The only negative thing that I have to say about the Spinfisher is that it’s a little heavier than some of the other reels on our list. While not a huge problem for most, if you plan on casting and retrieving lures all day long, it can take a toll on your wrist.
Overall though, this is an exceptional reel in its price class and my personal favorite. It feels like a high-end reel at a mid-level price because of a long list of fantastic features that make it sturdy, reliable, and smooth. Whether you’re wanting a starter reel that feels like a high dollar option, or an upgrade that won’t make you miss rent, you may want to consider the Penn Spinfisher V series of reels.
Penn Slammer 3 (Best for Money)
In order to be the best, you first have to beat the best and although the Penn Slammer 3 didn’t snag our top spot, it did land our “best reel for the money” slot.
The Slammer comes in a number of different sizes, ranging from a 3500 model all the way up to a 10500 for the really big boys. This is different from some of the other models who sometimes only offer several sizes.
It’s 7+1 stainless steel bearing system and CNC gear design make for an incredibly smooth reel that can anything from in-shore snook and redfish to grouper and snapper offshore!
The Slammer comes with a full-metal body, with a sealed drag system, making it virtually waterproof. There are plenty of videos on YouTube where guys are dunking these reels in the surf and report that they are still going strong.
The one complaint that seems to be consistent is that this reel has too much drag. If you think that this might be a problem, you may want to opt for the Spinfisher V.
The Penn Slammer 3 is as good as any saltwater reel on the market and even better than most reels that are more expensive!
Made to withstand the harsh saltwater environment, the Diawa Saltist (not to be confused with the Daiwa Saltiga) delivers on everything that you want in a saltwater fishing reel.
Daiwa Saltist is made with a machined aluminum body, providing strength and durability. It’s Black Anodized body and body cover also help to prevent corrosion as well as scratches to the reel itself. This means that the reel will not chip or peel like other painted reels eventually will.
These reels feature something that no other reel on this list has and that is Daiwa’s Magsealed technology! In fact, its main shaft, line roller and 8 (CRBB) corrosion resistant ball bearings are all Magsealed to ensure long-lasting smoothness and performance. What is MAGSEALED?
According to Daiwa, “it’s a technology that uses a special liquid material developed by space engineers called “MAGOIL”. “MAGOIL” is used to create a water and dust-resistant barrier. Unlike normal oils MAGOIL can be solidified using a magnetic force, creating a practical solution to permanently seal a device from water.”
Its waterproof carbon fiber drag system has the stopping power to stop most fish dead in their tracks!
The one complaint that I have about this reel is that once you go up in size, it becomes noticeably heavier. While this is expected to a point, to me it seemed more than usual.
Overall, this is an exceptionally smooth, well built fishing reel at a reasonable price!
To start, this reel is just gorgeous! The black and gold colors make for a nice, sharp looking reel that looks as good as it performs. A screw in handle design gives a nice solid feel while operating, and the Digigear system allows for incredibly smooth operation, even under heavy loads, unlike other spinning reels that have a tendency to warp and feel rough when working hard.
Adding to the quality feel is a drag system similar to the HT-100, but that is roughly 20% stronger and smoother throughout the adjustment range with no jumpiness at the higher levels. All of the features together make a beautiful, yet incredibly strong reel that’s well worth its price.
The BG is made a machined anodized aluminum, making it better fitting, better sealing, and much more corrosion resistant than typically painted reels. You can expect the outside of this reel to stay as beautiful as day one for years to come.
The Digigear system has odd-numbered gear ratios that help to reduce wear and helps to balance the load across each gear to reduce wear and tear. Added to this is an oversized gear that allows for insane levels of torque for bigger fish. The fact that each gear is machined also helps to ensure that each component is free of imperfections that cause undue wear to your reel.
A screw in handle provides a solid, stable feel that doesn’t wiggle about with every touch. While it seems to be such a small design feature, it really adds to the overall quality of this reel.
The spool is made to guideline efficiently, be hard and durable, and has a great line lay system. This means no wind knots, reduced memory twists, and an incredibly smooth retrieve that will make you feel like you’re fishing with a $500 reel.
One minor flaw in this reel is that the spool is not made from anodized aluminum like the rest of the body. This might lead to some corrosion over time if not properly taken care of after each use.
The Daiwa BG is one of the best reels in its price class thanks to some seemingly minor engineering designs that all work together to create an insanely smooth, steady, and hardworking reel at a price that any angler could afford.
Penn Pursuit 3 (Best Budget Reel)
Finding a reliable fishing reel for under $50 bucks isn’t an easy thing to do. That is until Penn introduced its Pursuit spinning reel. I have three of the 4000 model, which I use as backup reels or loan out to friends and family who tag along once in a while. For the price, this reel can’t be beaten!
I’ve pulled in snook, redfish, trout and even a 40 lb stingray with this reel.
This reel comes in a number of different sizes from a 2500 for light inshore fishing, all the way up to an 8000 model for offshore fishing or even surf fishing.
The Penn Pursuit 3 built with saltwater fishing in mind! Its made of a an ultra lightweight, corrosion-resistant graphite body and powerful HT-100 drag system. It’s the same drag system as the Spinfisher.
It comes with 4 shielded stainless steel ball bearings that provide smooth retrieves. This reel is not as smooth as my Spinfisher V, but it’s definitely comparable to the Penn Fierce and Penn Battle.
For the price, I really don’t have any complaints about this reel. I know some have said that the 5000 model doesn’t fit rods very well due to the thickness of the foot. I’m really not sure about this because I use the 4000 and they fit my rods just fine.
If you’re on a budget, but don’t want to settle for a piece of junk, the Penn Pursuit is the reel that I recommend!
Tsunami Sheild (Best Reel for Beginners)
A lot of anglers may have never heard of Tsunami or if they have, didn’t realize that they make an awesome saltwater spinning reel for a very reasonable price.
The Tsunami Sheild comes with a lot of the features that you would expect to find on a reel 3-4 times as much!
For one, the Sheild is completely sealed! That’s right! No saltwater or sand is getting into this bad boy. For a fishing reel to be completely sealed and under $100 is unheard of.
Tsunami Shield features 10-13 internal seals (depending on what size you opt for) and is made from a hybrid all-metal construction that consists of machined aircraft aluminum and heavy duty protective anodizing for keeping your reel operating at peak performance year after year.
I originally bought this reel because a guy on YouTube was raving about them. I have to say that although it hasn’t had a chance to prove itself for several years as my beloved Spinfisher has if it continues to hold up, I can see myself switching reels down the road at some point.
Runners Up for Best Saltwater Reel
Because there are so many good fishing reels on the market today, it was really hard narrowing it down to just 7.
These 4 reels are all great reels and should be considered too!
Penn Battle 2
Affordable and durable, the Penn Battle II was created for the discerning angler on a budget. Loaded with great features and a sturdy assembly from quality parts, this reel provides performance level usability at an approachable price.
Penn chose to upgrade their paints, allowing the reel to better handle saltwater corrosion, but honestly who wouldn’t prefer anodized aluminum to paint. At the price point, however, anodized is a little far out of the budget.
Exterior paints aside, the reel is very well sealed off from water penetration, allowing it to reduce saltwater corrosion as long as the user keeps up with maintenance, and a list of features curated from decades of manufacture allows this reel to consistently make it into everybody’s “best of lists.” If you are starting with a budget, then this reel is a great place to start.
The Penn Battle II comes loaded with great features for comfort, usability, and astonishing quality for the price. A lot of reels in this price class use fancy marketing speech to pull in customers, but the quality of the Penn Battle II speaks for itself with its long list of features that are more than just selling points.
Bearings are extremely important in any reel, but especially in a saltwater reel! While the bearings aren’t sealed completely in the Penn Battle, the balls are made of corrosion resistant stainless steel. This means that as long as you keep up with reel maintenance, this reel could last you a long time.
By using keyed carbon fiber washers in the drag system, Penn has increased their drag capacity by 20% with fewer and lighter materials. This means more performance will be at your fingertips in a simpler, lighter reel.
Its new anti-reverse system works instantly, allowing you to set the hook securely with only as much pull needed to tighten the line. This means less bearing wear and longer reel life, as well as less effort on your end.
The one thing that would make me a little hesitant about this reel is that it’s not fully sealed like some of the others on our list. While this most likely will not be a problem, unless you plan on taking it for a swim, it still should be something to think about.
Overall, this is a great starter reel for somebody that wants a quality, yet affordable reel without breaking the bank. The greatest part is that when you’re ready to upgrade, you’ll still have this reel for a backup or a loaner for a friend.
A shining example of the best saltwater reels, the Shimano Stradic FK was designed with Hagane metal that Shimano designed. The name is a call out to the metal that the legendary swordsmiths of feudal Japan used to make katanas, the iconic sword of the samurai. The metal certainly lives up to the namesake.
Since it’s a trademarked alloy the details aren’t available but rest assured this baby is super strong, yet incredibly light. Oh, and it’s also corrosion resistant! What more do you need? Did I mention that the entire reel is made of this fantastic metal?
The term “X-Ship” refers to a combination of technologies and features that give the reel more power, efficiency, and a higher quality feel. These include aligning the pinion gear close to the center of the large drive gear for power and smoothness and supporting the pinion with roller bearings to reduce warp and give a more stable feel.
One of my favorite features on this reel is its unique design in bringing the center of its weight closer to your rod, reducing the amount of ballast felt by the user. While it doesn’t actually reduce the weight, it does make the weight more comfortable to wield for a long day of casting lines.
A well-designed spool made with cold forge technology helps to manage expensive line so you’re not wasting time and money on frustrating wind knots. This is great for the angler that doesn’t want to spend all day untangling line and refilling spools with their expensive braids. It also comes with a braid-ready spool.
Other than the price, there isn’t really anything bad to say about this reel except for the fact that it doesn’t have an anti-reverse system like all of the other reels on our list.
A small step up from the Spinfisher V, you can expect the same functionality and usability out of the Clash, plus an upgraded bearing system and a very eye-catching paint job. The Clash was designed to be smoother, tougher, and stronger in a smaller package.
This reel is meant to handle larger fish in a lighter package. While a lot of the features seem a little strange, they do allow the Clash to handle more weight than what would be expected of such a small and inexpensive reel.
The Penn Clash is known for its incredibly even line lay on the spool during retrieval. This is thanks to the Leveline system that uses a reduction gear to regulate the oscillation gears speed. This keeps your spool moving smoothly and allows for a better lay.
It lays the line beautifully on the spool, and with a sophisticated spool shape and bail, wind knots are all but eliminated. With proper care, this fully sealed reel will not only last you forever, but it also seems to get better with time as some of the strangely placed bearings loosen up.
The Clash comes with a super sophisticated machined gear system that has fewer imperfections than cast or forged gears, meaning less wear on each gear tooth as they travel across each other more smoothly. This means a longer lasting reel.
The one thing that I don’t like about the Penn Clash is its knob. After extended uses, it tends to crumble and fall apart.
With that being said, this without a doubt one of the best saltwater spinning reels for the money and definitely deserves its place on our list of the best saltwater spinning reels.
Accurate TwinDrag SR Reels
The Accurate TwinDrag SR is a strong, truly heavy duty reel. Made with capability in mind, heat dissipation systems and high-quality gears allow even the smaller models to pull in bigger fish than you’d expect in such a light package. Plus, the heat dissipation features give the reel a very cool, industrial look.
Adding to its sleek design are new colors available with the new generation of reels, allowing you to pick one that matches your gear set if that’s something you care about. The spool can be removed very easily, the housing has a rubberless seal, and the design makes it incredibly easy to maintain. At its price point, you’d be hard pressed to beat it in power, appearance, or weight.
Accurate makes great reels with a lot of patented technology that all works together to make beautiful, high-performance reel. My favorite feature is the rubberless seal. Using very tight tolerance on the machined housing, the Accurate TwinDrag SR manages to keep saltwater out without annoying rubber gaskets that always wear out over time. This not only makes the reel lighter but also aids in making maintenance a breeze.
Accurate’s patented TwinDrag system uses friction washers on each side of the spool. This not only allows for a very strong, smooth drag, it also greatly reduces startup inertia and high drag spikes, allowing for smooth, consistent drag that reduces fish loss.
The only thing that I don’t like about this reel is its cost. For the price, you could buy yourself four Penn Spinfishers, including rods.
Overall, this is a great reel for anglers with a lot of money to spend. The maintenance is incredibly easy, allowing people with little experience or time to maintain the reel without a lot of fuss, and the reel outperforms almost any other reel available.
How to Choose a Spinning Reel
You can really get deep in the weeds when it comes to selecting a good quality fishing reel. However, unless you are a fishing guide who fishes every day of the week, most decent quality spinning reels will work just fine for saltwater use.
As long as you clean your reels off with fresh water after each and every use, and grease your bearings once in a while, you should get plenty of years of fishing out of your reel.
With that being said, here are a few things to keep in mind before buying a new reel:
Corrosion Resistance for Reels
In my opinion, the number one thing to consider when searching for a good saltwater reel is whether or not it can stand up to the wear and tear that saltwater can have on fishing gear, and this includes fishing reels.
Even if you rinse your reels off after each use, eventually the salty seas will take their toll on them. This is especially true if you are a surf fisherman! That’s because when surf fishing you stand a greater chance of having your reel dunked under the water. You really need a reel that’s completely sealed! I actually wrote an article covering surf fishing reels, which you can check out through this link.
For this reason, you want to make sure that your saltwater reels incorporate stainless steel bearings, sealed bearings, and anodized aluminum bodies.
However, when there’s saltwater involved, you still need to rinse off your reels after every time you use them!
Your Reels Drag System
A good drag is a must when battling inshore giants such as bull reds, and huge snook!
They provide the necessary resistance needed to tire them out when they make their runs. With that being said, most in-shore species only require 2-3 pounds of drag, which means most light to medium action reels (including the ones on this list) are going to do just fine.
Important qualities to look for in your saltwater spinning reel’s drag system is a wide range of adjustability, the durability of the system, and low startup inertia.
With adjustability, you can go after a couple of different types of fish with one reel, durability will keep big fish from wearing out your drag, and startup inertia is how quickly and easily the drag starts when the fish pulls. This can help prevent broken line and lost leads.
Line Capacity for Fishing Reels
When fishing for saltwater fish, you want to make sure that your reel is up for the challenge and that includes its line capacity. Even, a 5 pound Jack Crevalle can quickly make a run for it that can easily unravel 50-100 yards of line in a matter of seconds. Now just imagine what a 40-inch snook can do!
Different fishing situations call for different measures, but for the most part, you want an inshore reel that can hold at least 200 yards of 12-15 pound braided line. It’s been my experience that if you can’t get a fish to the boat with 200 yards of line, you’re probably not going to catch him anyways. Most inshore runs are short and quick, so 200 yards should be more than enough.
You don’t want to spend a healthy chunk of change on a reel that won’t last. The best saltwater spinning reels are the ones that pass the test of time. To be equipped for that test, your reel needs to be sturdy, well made, well sealed, and repairable. Look for quality parts such as full metal bodies and sealed gears, and remember that machined is always better than die-cast.
Braid Ready Reels
When braided line first hit the scene, you had to improvise in order to use it on your spinning reels. Braid has a tendency to slip around the spool unless you apply some sort of backing like monofilament or even electrical tape.
Times have changed though and most good saltwater spinning reels now come standard with braid-ready spools. Of course, if you want to save a little money on braid, you can still back your spool with the first hundred yards being monofilament and finishing it off with braid.
Bearing Count for Fishing Reels
While not a deal breaker, in my opinion, a reel’s bearing count is something else you may want to consider. The general rule is that a reel with a higher bearing count usually means for a smoother retrieve, which means reeling in that trophy-sized catch just got a little easier. However, a reel that has 5 high-quality bearings will always be a better choice than a reel that has 10 poor quality bearings.
So what’s separates a good quality bearing from a poor quality one? Simple! It’s the type of material that is used to make the bearing. Different alloys make bearings harder, smoother and more rust resistant.
Most quality bearings are either made out of stainless steel or ceramic. Some are made out of stainless steel but have a ceramic coating. If your fishing reel is made out of either of these materials, you should be good.
Each reel on this list is easily the best in its weight and price class, even if a few of them have a couple of quirks.
So, whether you need a reel to start out with that you can rely on for decades to come, or have an unlimited budget for a top of the line, professional level reel, you will find the right saltwater spinning reel here.