As any seasoned offshore angler will tell you, the best saltwater spinning reels are worth investing in.
Saltwater fishing is always exciting. You never know what the day has in store for you. And if you happen to land one of the big ones, your fishing reel is what will determine whether you’ll successfully reel it or watch it swim away.
A quality reel that won’t let you down is a must-have whether you’re fishing offshore, inshore or surf fishing. It should have a strong and smooth drag system that can subdue the larger, stronger, faster and harder fighting ocean fish.
And if you’re to get your money’s worth when it comes to durability, the reel should be built tough to withstand the abuse it’s going to take from the highly corrosive and abrasive saltwater environment and aggressive fish species. This is why when it comes to saltwater fishing reels, it’s always advisable to get the best you can afford.
Want to get into the thrilling adventure that’s ocean fishing and looking for a saltwater spinning reel? Need a versatile fishing reel for both saltwater and freshwater use? Looking to upgrade to a more quality saltwater reel? We’ve got you covered. We have done our research and compiled a list of the 10 best saltwater spinning reels. Check them out below.
How To Choose The Best Saltwater Spinning Reel – Buying Guide
Now let’s go over what to look for when buying a saltwater spinning reel. The above are some of the best saltwater fishing reels but how do you know which one to choose? What makes model A of a reel better than model B of the same reel?
To ensure you choose the best spinning reel for your type of fishing and for the money, here’s what to pay attention to when buying a saltwater reel.
A saltwater reel is subjected to a lot of abuse. Saltwater is very corrosive, abrasive and damaging to metal, plastics, and composite materials used in spinning reel construction. Then there are the fast swimming and hard fishing fish it has to fight. The ocean is constantly moving and the water has waves has waves. Your reel will also encounter rocks, sand, seaweed, algae, and bumps in your starter kayak or boat.
This is why quality construction is very important in reels designed for saltwater use. The best saltwater spinning reels are built to last using tough and corrosion resistant materials that can withstand the harsh ocean fishing environment. Here’s what you need to look for to ensure the reel you end up with is saltwater tough, durable and will serve you for a long time.
Ensure the reel body and components are crafted using strong, sturdy, and corrosion resistant materials like heavy duty aluminum, graphite, titanium, high grade stainless steel, ceramic and carbon fiber.
Machined aluminum makes for a strong light-weight and long-lasting reel that can last for years of saltwater use. Graphite is lightweight and at the same time strong and doesn’t flex easily which means it can handle extreme pressure well.
These materials make for a reel that’s strong enough to handle the heavy load and also lightweight and comfortable to use.
Saltwater reels need to be highly resistant to corrosion. Look for non-corrosive construction and corrosion protective features such as aluminum and graphite construction, titanium or high grade stainless steel bearings and carbon fiber drag systems.
As for the internal components, ensure these are protected from the corrosive and abrasive nature of offshore water. Look for quality seals, gaskets, shielded construction and protective coatings that block saltwater and sand from entering and damaging the internal parts such as bearings, gears and drag system.
Non-sealed saltwater reels will require manual cleaning and care and should be easy to take apart and put back together for easy cleaning after exposure to saltwater.
The handle is a very important component of a reel because it’s what you’ll be using to operate it. Ensure the handle is reliably well made and durable.
Large, beefy handles and a strong crank are durable and will allow you to quickly reel in the line. Flimsy knobs and a weak crank won’t hold up to. Beefier rivets on the inside of knobs are durable while lighter/thinner rivets tend to loosen over time and break under pressure.
Quality construction doesn’t mean you can slack when it comes to care and maintenance. Even the best saltwater spinning reels with quality, durable and corrosion resistant construction require routine cleaning and maintenance to keep them in top condition.
High-quality and well made reels can last a very long time if well cared for. It’s important to rinse the reel with fresh water each time it is used in saltwater and lubricate routinely to prevent potential corrosion.
The fish species you’ll be targeting and the type of fishing you’ll be doing will also dictate the most suitable saltwater reel for you. For example, bottom fishing calls for a rock strong reel with a very high line capacity.
Bass like to hang out in hard-to-reach areas and you’ll need a reel that can cast with precision and be capable of accomplishing sophisticated maneuvers, like flipping or pitching. Redfish require a reel that delivers plenty of cranking power to fight them.
Trout are found in different spots like deep down or below rapids, and you need a flexible reel that can access these. Crappie have a sensitive bite and a soft lip, so feel is important. A small reel with the ability to retrieve quickly and maintain a taut line is essential.
If you’re not going for a specific fish, or aren’t sure yet, ensure that the reel you get has a high line capacity to handle different types of fish. The middle line capacity is usually indicated on the spool. A 255/14 capacity indicates the line length and weight the reel can handle. Your reel should hold at least 100 yards of the line size you intend to use.
The larger the fish you’ll be going after, the more line you need. Smallest sizes are sufficient for freshwater and light saltwater use, medium sizes for inshore species like redfish and speckled trout and the largest sizes are required for offshore, deepwater species like tuna and marlin.
The power of a reel is determined by its gear strength and ratio. Metal gears are best able to withstand the high load pressure of saltwater fishing.
The gear ratio of a reel refers to how many times the spool revolves with each turn of the crank handle. A low gear ratio will be easier to turn but will require more turns to retrieve the same amount of line as a reel with a higher ratio.
The gear ratio determines how easily a reel will get your fish out of the water.
A high gear ratio such as 6:1 retrieves line faster and is ideal for quick moving bait, retrieving smaller fish, fishing with top-water plugs or spinners, and for pulling in long line lengths when trolling.
A low gear ratio such as 4:1 retrieves more slowly but offers more power and leverage when pulling large fish out of deep water. It’s also ideal for jigging or live lining bait.
A high gear ratio in a reel is always a great feature. If you’re not sure, go for the happy medium of 5:1.
Ball bearings are stainless steel or ceramic balls that help reduce friction in moving parts.
The number of ball bearings will determine how smooth a reel is. If a reel has a sufficient number of bearings, it will operate smoothly, retrieval will be smooth and it will be possible to cast smaller and lighter baits precisely.
The higher the bearing count, the smoother the reel operates but the higher the price tag. Reels with a lower bearing count have a price advantage but aren’t as smooth and reeling in a big fish will be a jerky experience.
For the smoothest action especially if you want to target larger fish, buy a reel that has the highest ball bearing count within your budget. Go for at least five.
Large, strong, hard fighting and fast swimming ocean game fish put a lot of strain on gear. The drag system on a reel is designed to bear some of that strain before the line or rod breaks.
The best saltwater spinning reels have a strong drag system capable of fighting offshore species including larger game fish like Tuna and Marlin.
Ensure you select a reel with the drag capacity to tire, turn and eventually land the largest fish you are after.
Saltwater fishing experts agree that most adults can handle 15 to 17 pounds comfortably and this is sufficient drag for all but the largest ocean species.
Too much drag and you’ll snap the line or your arm strength will let you down anyway. Too little drag and it’ll be hard to reel in your catch.
Front mounted drag system are considered higher quality and offer the durability needed when fighting larger fish. It’s also important to ensure the drag system adjusts easily and smoothly and it has good heat-dissipating and ventilation features.
A quality reel stays put for a smooth retrieve. It should lock tight without moving backward, allowing you to set the hook, and it should stack line fluidly and evenly onto the spool. Other factors that affect retrieval are the gear ratio and bearing count.
A high gear ratio such as 6:1 retrieves line faster and is ideal for quick moving bait, smaller fish, top-water plugs or spinners, and for pulling in long line lengths when trolling.
A low gear ratio such as 4:1 retrieves more slowly but offers more power and leverage when pulling large fish out of deep water.
The higher the bearing count, the smoother the retrieval. Reels with a lower bearing count aren’t as smooth and reeling in a big fish will be a jerky experience.
Saltwater reels are crafted to be lighter than standard reels. The density of salt-water is higher and a lightweight reel is necessary for quick retrieve and smooth recall. Since saltwater spinning reels are lighter, they are also more accurate making it easier to cast accurately and over long distances.
Another advantage of lightweight reels is the ease and comfort of use. A spinning reel is operated by hand and there will be times when the cast and retrieve sequence will go on for hours. This will be much easier with a lighter reel.
Heavier reels are hard on your joints, hands, and arms and it can be hard to fish longer with them.
It’s better to go for a lightweight reel but ensure it’s sturdy and strong too. It can be tricky to balance this. Graphite construction is lighter but aluminum is stronger and more durable.
Some of the best saltwater fishing reels listed above use both materials in their build to achieve a nice balance between comfortable weight and durability.
There are different types of materials used in the construction of the reel body as follows:
Heavy duty aluminum is the most common body material. It is strong, durable and corrosion resistant. It’s capable of handling large fish and the harsh saltwater environment. It’s also light in weight.
Graphite is extremely lightweight. However, it can be brittle and is not as strong as aluminum. Graphite body construction is best suited to reels for going after small to medium fish.
Heavy duty plastic is also used in the making of reels but plastic is weak and prone to breaking, bending, and failing. This makes it unsuitable for the heavy-duty use that’s saltwater fishing.
A good quality anti-reverse handle is one of the important features to ensure you get in a reel.
Anti-reverse handling prevents the handle from going back, prevents the line from being pulled back out once it is reeled in and ensures the line doesn’t get slack. It also prevents the fish from pulling the line farther out to sea.
Some reels allow the anti-reverse mechanism to be disengaged so as to backwind the handle in case there’s need to give line when the drag is locked.
An ergonomic non-slip handle is essential so it’s comfortable to handle and keep a grip on the reel when you hook a large one. The ability to use the handle with either the right or the left hand is another plus.
The spool is what stores the fishing line you will be using. The size and configuration of the spool dictate the reel’s capacity and castability. When it comes to the spool, here are the factors to pay attention to when choosing a saltwater spinning reel.
Fighting large and fast swimmers in deep and spacious water requires a lot of fishing line. The larger the fish you’ll be going after, the more line you’ll need to pursue it without getting spooled.
Line capacity is determined by the size of the spool and the weight of your line. Line capacity ratings such as 255/14 denote the line length/line weight capacity of a reel.
Ensure the reel you like will hold enough line of the type and size you intend to use – at least a 100 yards. You don’t want to run out of line in the midst of the action. Some spools also have markings that display how much line is remaining.
Spool configuration also affects castability. Deeper spools cast well but still offer enough line capacity to pursue even big fish and cover long distances. A properly distributed oscillating line lay is also essential to prevent line building up unevenly across the spool, which ruins casting range and accuracy.
With their strength, casting distance and sensitivity, braided lines offer many benefits to the offshore angler and it is important that any reel you consider can accommodate braid easily.
The problem is that braided line tends to slip on the spool, which makes it incredibly difficult to reel in without adding a monofilament backing. Many of the best saltwater spinning reels are designed to accommodate braided line directly.
They have a rubber gasket where the line makes contact with the spool. This stops spillage and eliminates the need for backing. Bail rollers on some reels have slight gaps on the ends into which thinner braid can slide and bind.
The bail is a metal arm that controls the coming out of the line out of the spool. When the bail is closed, no line can come out of the spool. When it is open, line can come out of the spool freely.
Anglers cast a lure out by making the bail open and manually close the bail by cranking the handle. The bail should close quickly after casting for avoiding snarling of line.
A roller bearing in the bale arm ensures it rotates freely under load. If it sticks it will rapidly wear the line out and twist it.
Q: Why Choose A Spinning Reel Over A Conventional Reel?
Q: How To Properly use a Saltwater Spinning Reel?
Q: The Difference Between A Saltwater And Freshwater Spinning Reels?
Q: Should I Use a Spinning Reel for Big Fish?
Q: Whenever I Cast, the Line Got Tangled, How to Fix It?
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A saltwater angler’s best friend is a reliable fishing reel equipped to handle the large and more aggressive ocean fish and the harsh saltwater environment. It’s advisable to get the best you can afford and the good news is that there are great saltwater reels at every price range.
The above are some of the best saltwater fishing reels offered by some of the best brands in fishing. They are properly designed and manufactured, have strong and smooth drag systems, high bearing count, line capacity and they’re built tough to withstand the highly corrosive and environment ocean environment.
Now that you’re an informed buyer, you can choose the best saltwater spinning reel for your style of fishing, target species, experience level, and personal preference. Ensure you combine it with the right rod for a smooth casting and reeling experience. Other fishing related articles, fishing backpacks, fishing hats,
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And be sure to rinse your valuable saltwater reel with fresh water and lubricate after use to keep corrosion at bay and keep it working in top condition.
Having a quality saltwater fishing, you can head out knowing that you’re prepared to handle anything that might come your way. Fishing offshore isn’t easy but armed with the right reel, you might just have the time of your life. All the best out there!
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Do you love saltwater fishing? What’s your go-to spinning reel? What was your most impressive catch with it? Share your experience in the comment box below