Let’s face it, there are a huge number of options for saltwater spinning reels out there, and an even greater number of articles that list them, but what actually makes the best saltwater spinning reels? At the end of the day, what’s worth your money?
This post should answer these questions and much more, giving you a clear sense of what kind of reel matches your purposes, style, and budget.
What Makes the Best Saltwater Spinning Reel
Before we dive into the list, let’s talk about some factors worth considering. For beginners out there, or anyone wanting to fill in some gaps in their knowledge, the difference between saltwater and freshwater reels should first be explained.
The key difference is in each tools internal components and resistances. Saltwater spinner reels tend to be larger and more durable. But the main difference is in a saltwater reels corrosion resistance. Saltwater quickly corrodes metals, to combat this, saltwater reels contain corrosion resistant alloys making for a protected internal state.
Now, what questions should you be asking yourself when buying a saltwater spinning reel? Some things to consider come in three categories:
- Line Capacity
- Drag Strength
- Handles and Cranks
1. For Line Capacity
If you don’t know how much line capacity you’ll need, here’s a helpful print: the more overall space you have to fish, the deeper your spool and the longer your line. This is highly important for saltwater fishing, and is one of the first things you should investigate when buying a saltwater spinning reel. The more line you possess the less you have to worry about your game fleeing successfully.
2. For Drag Strength
Just as we did a helpful thought experiment for line capacity, we’ll do the same here. Saltwater fish on the whole tend to be larger than freshwater fish. This obviously affects your game, especially if you don’t have enough strength in your reel. The most effective way to solve this issue is to gauge the drag strength you’ll need for your reel according to the size of fish you anticipate finding.
3. For Handles and Cranks
You’ll notice a trend here, that the key elements of an ideal saltwater spinning reel involve bigger, stronger implements. Handles and Cranks are no exception.
You now have optimal line capacity, so you aren’t worried about range. Your drag strength is solid, so your fish aren’t getting away. But you still need to reel in the fish! For handles and cranks you want to deal with this by looking for large, bulky, and sturdy handles and cranks.
8 Best Saltwater Spinning Reels 2020
Daiwa Ballistic EX
When looking at the Stradic FK you might be impressed by its sturdy build and sleek appearance. As you move forward to physical-feel, the reel comes with strong yet comfortable foam handles and a solid-cast crank, making for a reliable build, proving useful after long days spent pulling fish.
The reel comes with great handling and control, and has the ideal amount of line capacity and drag to be a great shoreline spinning reel. The one issue you will run into is in open ocean fishing.
Though the Shimano is pretty and well made, it falls short in capacity and strength if you’re attempting to fish your larger deep water species.
- Great handles
- Sturdy controls
- Strong shoreline reel
- Limited line capacity
- A more specialized reel
Some of the best aspects of the Thunnus 12000 involve the smooth reeling and retrieval and especially casting distance.
The 12000 can spool 230 yards and carry 80lb, making it a very deep caster with enough support to take in bigger catches. The reels internal components are Carbon 14 and boast a Baitrunner live reel that gives you an increased flexibility against currents and with quick moving game.
Above all else this Shimano is a beautiful reel to cast. There’s a particular smoothness thanks to the reels Varispeed spool oscillation you aren’t going to find a tool that doesn’t untangle, is smooth in its casting, nearly as good as the Shimano Thunnus 12000.
- Terrific feeling to use
- Huge casting distance
- Limiting drag
The Penn Slammer 3 is aptly named for its bulky and durable structure, primarily a big fishing reel, you can expect the Slammer 3 to pull in 100-130 pound fish. On top of that the Penn Slammer gets extra points for having a long casting range (600 yards), and a 40 pound strong drag, suitable for picking up huge catches.
Because of the Slammer’s build, which again is very tough, the reel itself it heavy. On top of that, the best application of this version of the Penn Slammer is for big waters and fish you would brag to your family about.
- Durable, long lasting structure.
- Great casting range
- Reliable drag
- Can be over encumbering
The Canyon Reels Salt 7500 is a well rounded buy, with some beautiful edges to boot. The reel itself is aluminum in all parts except for the gears, which are stainless steel. Now, this isn’t just a sheet of description, the Salt 7500 is well made, and when you use this reel yourself you’ll likely feel the same.
The functional aspects of the Canyon Reel are no less beneficial. With a line capacity between 325-500 yards, depending on your use of mono line or braided line, this reel has the range for large fish in open water, along with a hard stop with 66 pounds of drag.
- Pretty, well designed.
- Light weight
- Great line capacity
- Strong drag
The Dogfight 8000H has been manufactured to avoid mechanical failure. A problem that faces many saltwater reels involves saltwater and debris entering the rotor bearing, and wearing away essential metals. To protect a reel from this Daiwa applies magnetic oil – this also adds to the smoothness of the reel.
On top of the Daiwa’s resilience thanks to a trick of engineering, the Dogfight goes out of its way to prevent trouble while you fish, no matter how long you are on the water. One solution implemented in the reel is the Dogfights rotor break, its manual bail trip, and even more features to keep you on the water all you want.
Then for the specs: the Dogfight 8000H sports 66 pounds of drag, over 500 feet of line capacity, and is very light weight. With all these supporting factors the only real caveat is a price.
- Extremely reliable
- Will last you a long time
- Great drag, weight, and line capacity
The Penn Battle 2 is one of the more cheap and efficient options on our list. Best considered to be a reliable, well rounded reel, this comes with a modest 12-30 pound line strength, and a line capacity of 200-320 yards.
The Penn Battle also comes with corrosion resistant metals, a carbon fiber drag system (which tends to be both a great addition and more efficient), and has been reported by most anglers to be long lasting, durable, and flexible to shore-line fishing.
Don’t view this reel as a deep sea reel made to catch unfathomably large fish – this is your well-rounded, efficient choice, that comes nice and cheap.
- Very affordable
- Well rounded
- Aesthetically pleasing
- A reel limited to specific fish types and fishing areas.
Penn tends to make inexpensive yet effective fishing reels. Like the Penn 2, you’ll be able to afford this without much argument, and still make the catches you want to make.
The body is all metal and withstanding, a worthy addition to the list, and a slight different direction than the rest. As most saltwater reels you’re offered will probably be superfluous, heavy and pricey, the Fierce 2 tends to remain a trustworthy choice.
There is a slight limited range here, between 110-310 yards, yet if you’re not intent on being deep sea, this is still a great buy. The drag is best for small to medium sized fish, and the line strength follows through the same. Still, like the Penn 2, the Penn Fierce 2 Spinning Reel is a simple, yet excellent choice.
- A tough long lasting body
- Really inexpensive
- Can be overspecialized and limited depending on your choice fishing
8. Daiwa Ballistic EX – The Best Buy
The game is simple, find a saltwater reel that is affordable, durable, and complete with the basic elements of effective reels. The Daiwa Ballistic EX meets all these categories. Like the Daiwa Dogfight, the Ballistic EX has magnetic oil to keep the reel from being disrupted by free particles and saltwater. When you include the strong body, the result is a reel that is perfect for the open ocean.
The drag system is unanimously described as smooth and powerful, while strong, the EX is lightweight too. When looking at this Daiwa you begin to expect that manufacturers intended first and foremost to make a reel that would last. Something that you can bring with you and bring back without complaint.
The Daiwa EX has a max drag, depending on model, from 10-20, weight capacity from 5-12, and continues to prove itself as a shoreline consistent model that won’t be worn down over time. Resilience and effort over ‘showing off’.
- Magnetic Oil
- Corrosion Proof
- Limited to small to medium capacities.
Saltwater Spinning Reel FAQs
How do I tell the difference between Saltwater Spinning Reels?
One of the first things you’ll notice is size, and sizes can be tied to usage very easily, a great example being found in shoreline and deep sea reels. A shoreline reel won’t be as bulky or have as deep a spool as a deep sea saltwater reel.
You can answer your question about saltwater spinners very easily by adjusting your intentions. If you’re going to expect large fish, the difference you’ll find will be in line type, such as braided line, or spool size, which will affect the overall size and weight of the reel.
Why not use a Freshwater Spinning Reel instead of a Saltwater Spinning Reel?
The main factors that influence your buying process first mentioned in this post answer one half of the question. But the other half has to do with categorization.
Saltwater spinning reels are meant to withstand the toughness of the ocean. The metals are almost always non-corrosive, the lines are usually stronger, even the style of the reel will look more aggressive. A freshwater reel is different in its use and as result different in it’s look and ability.
How should I buy my Saltwater Spinning Reel?
First by viewing the drag, line capacity, and handle/crank of your reel, and matching that with your desired fishing. If you plan on going into deeper ocean, far from shore, you will need to think about the fish you’re running into. Even more relevant, what kind of weather, water, and temperature am I dealing with?
If you are in tough waters and it’s raining you might want a more rugged saltwater spinning reel with line protection. If you are close to the shoreline and the fish tend to be smaller, go for something that isn’t overbearing, and a line capacity that doesn’t give your catch too much water to roam.
What you should most acknowledge is circumstance. What do you want and what will try to stop you?
At the end of the day having a reliable and powerful saltwater spinning reel makes all the difference. To reiterate the introductory ‘must-know’, if you most want to get on the ocean and make beautiful, heinously strong catches, you want a reel that is capable of adapting to your style.
You want something that has durable internal mechanisms, a deep spool, and good drag. You’ll also probably want something that feels good to use. And maybe that’s a great way to approach buying a new saltwater reel, think about your buy in terms of comfort and style. What is your personal fishing style and can you match that with your gear?
Secondly, will you enjoy using your gear? When all is said and done it’s always to your advantage to educate yourself before you go into your next big outdoor pursuit, and hopefully this post did just that!