The 10 Best Saltwater Spinning Reels

Updated April 12, 2018 by Sam Kraft

10 Best Saltwater Spinning Reels
Best High-End
Best Mid-Range
Best Inexpensive
We spent 47 hours on research, videography, and editing, to review the top options for this wiki. The conditions for saltwater fishing are often more challenging and dynamic than they are for inshore or freshwater fishing. The species you’re targeting are typically bigger and stronger, and the corrosive air plays havoc with metal components. Choose from these specially designed spinning reels to overcome those challenges and land the big one. When users buy our independently chosen editorial picks, we may earn commissions to support our work. Skip to the best saltwater spinning reel on Amazon.

10. Okuma Avenger

A quality bait feeding system and easy-to-adjust tension makes the Okuma Avenger a smooth option. Six ball bearings allow for an effortless line release, while the tension adjustment knob operates just like a rear drag for fine-tuning line tightness.
  • body is corrosion-resistant
  • comes with spare graphite spool
  • handle may break over time
Brand Okuma
Model AVENGER ABF
Weight 16 ounces
Rating 4.0 / 5.0

9. Penn Battle II

With a name like the Penn Battle II, you can feel confident this one is combat-tested. Equipped with a full metal body, rotor and side plate, it features a heavy-duty aluminum bail wire and drag washers that are greased for efficiency and longevity.
  • suitable for several types of line
  • 8 style options available
  • may be too heavy for some
Brand Penn
Model 1338218
Weight 2.2 pounds
Rating 4.0 / 5.0

8. Penn Spinfisher

With the Penn Spinfisher you can ditch any anxiety about durability, as its watertight design prevents saltwater from getting into the gearbox or affecting the drag system. Under heavy strain or out in the elements, it's tough enough to handle whatever comes.
  • spool with line capacity rings
  • has an extensive drag range
  • not as smooth as some models
Brand Penn
Model 1259869
Weight 2.4 pounds
Rating 4.3 / 5.0

7. Runcl Grim

The ten stainless steel ball bearings in the Runcl Grim are the driving force behind its smooth operation, and the drag knob is easy to access for quick adjustments while you have a fish on the line. This is a high-quality option at a nice value.
  • suitable for lefties and righties
  • internal grooves for lube retention
  • debris can get caught under spool
Brand Runcl
Model pending
Weight pending
Rating 4.4 / 5.0

6. Yongzhi Ultra

With tough brass gears and a hard metal main shaft, the Yongzhi Ultra is one of those you’d want when you’re battling rough weather conditions as well as aggressive fish. It’s ultra-thin body is really easy to work with, no matter what you’re casting for.
  • lightweight and compact
  • max drag rating of 26 pounds
  • handle is not very comfortable
Brand YONGZHI
Model pending
Weight pending
Rating 4.3 / 5.0

5. KastKing Sharky III

The red and black design of the KastKing Sharky III may look flashy, but that shouldn’t take any of the attention away from its old-school, reliable performance. It’s built so that you won’t need to use backing line when you spool it with braid fishing line.
  • reliable grip even in wet conditions
  • not prone to tangles or snarls
  • includes a 1-year warranty
Brand KastKing
Model pending
Weight 8 ounces
Rating 4.7 / 5.0

4. Penn Clash

The Penn Clash features thick aluminum bail wire and a slow oscillation system to ensure your line is balanced and controlled. Despite its light weight, all of the components are high quality, so you won’t have to worry about it breaking down during a feeding frenzy.
  • resistant to wind knots
  • arrives with interior prelubricated
  • simple assembly and maintenance
Brand Penn
Model 641-1366179
Weight 11.2 ounces
Rating 4.4 / 5.0

3. Okuma Azores

From sharks and salmon to freshwater pan fish, the Okuma Azores will handle just about whatever you decide to throw at it. Its anti-reverse roller bearing is super useful when you hook a big one, and it holds up dependably over time.
  • extremely precise drag adjustment
  • ideal for deep jigging
  • provides both finesse and power
Brand Okuma
Model Z-65S
Weight 1.8 pounds
Rating 4.6 / 5.0

2. Shimano Socorro

The Shimano Socorro allows you to retrieve an impressive 33 inches of line per crank, which means you’ll be maximizing the effort you expend while you’re reeling in. Its gears always remain in alignment, which provides both power and fluidity.
  • 1-piece handle is very rigid
  • super smooth cross carbon drag
  • sleek and stylish appearance
Brand Shimano
Model SOC6000SW
Weight 1.4 pounds
Rating 4.9 / 5.0

1. Daiwa BG

A legitimate game-changer for saltwater anglers, the Daiwa BG looks as brilliant as it performs. Its extra-large gear prolongs its longevity significantly while providing additional torque, and it's lightweight enough that hand fatigue shouldn't be an issue.
  • screw-in handle locks in place
  • effective anti-reverse system
  • comes with spare washers
Brand Daiwa
Model pending
Weight pending
Rating 4.9 / 5.0

Some Reels Can Handle Saltwater; Some Can't

Instead of attempting to analyze the explicit differences between freshwater and saltwater fishing, try to keep it simple.

Let’s say you’re an avid biker. If you live somewhere with a mild climate and relatively flat topography, you’ll probably look to invest in a reasonably lightweight, aerodynamic bicycle that requires as little maintenance as possible. On the other hand, someone in a region with more rugged terrain and colder temperatures will want a bike built with tough, durable components, thicker tires, and a heavier frame.

Experienced saltwater fishermen who recognize the connection are nodding their heads in agreement.

Due to the corrosive qualities of saltwater, these reels are — as a rule — constantly subjected to harsher environments than their freshwater counterparts. Therefore, you need to make sure the spinning reel you purchase is designed with strong materials that will help bolster its resistance to corrosion.

Carbon fiber, stainless steel, and aluminum are suitable options for the reel itself, but make sure to check on the construction of other vital elements of the unit, such as the frame and the spool. You’ll often find that these parts are made of graphite because it’s lightweight and inexpensive, but keep in mind that it’s not quite as resilient as the alternatives mentioned above.

Magnesium is a popular material for freshwater spinning reels, but saltwater anglers will want to avoid it. It won't take long before a magnesium reel begins to rust, and it will only to continue to deteriorate as you keep fishing with it in those conditions. Titanium, which is also lightweight, is a more durable option.

While saltwater does wreak havoc on certain items, it sure creates a friendly habitat for a vast array of fish species. If you’re a fisherman who enjoys going after the big boys — such as sharks, marlins, and different types of tuna — you need a reel with a high-performance drag system that’s powerful enough to maintain smooth line and proper tension even as it bears significant weight.

Your Gear Should Match Your Angling Style

Inshore anglers in search of trout, flounder, and redfish lurking in relatively shallow water near land will probably require a slightly different type of real than offshore fishermen interested in landing giant roosterfish and snapper in deep offshore areas.

As offshore fishermen tend to throw heavier baits in an attempt to lure monsters out of the depths, they usually benefit from a little more heft on their reels than typical inshore fishermen.

This is a delicate game, however; even a couple ounces of extra weight can markedly increase the amount of stress your arms, wrists, and shoulders must endure through hours of fishing. As a general rule of thumb, try to put together a list of high-quality options, and go with the lightest-weight model that will meet your requirements.

One aspect people often overlook is gear ratio, which measures how many times the bail rotates through the spool each time you turn the reel handle. For example, a reel with a 4:1 gear ratio (four rotations per handle turn) provides ample torque for reeling in large fish, while a 6:1 ratio allows for a speedier retrieval when you’re fishing for lightweight species.

This is why it’s important to keep your preferred fishing style in mind, and that does not apply exclusively to the type of fish you’re targeting — your fishing method is important to consider, as well.

Jigging, casting, trolling, and bottom fishing all require a significantly different approach, and some reel models are designed specifically for certain techniques. Make sure you think about this as you go over the fine details in the descriptions when you’re researching brands

Saltwater Angling Over The Ages

Artwork suggests that people in ancient civilizations used some form of a fishing pole with a reel, but the exciting spinning reels we enjoy today didn’t appear in North America until the 1870s. They emerged as a lightweight alternative to the bait casting reel, making it much easier to use small lures like flies and artificial baits.

Saltwater fishing, long considered more dangerous than freshwater fishing, gained popularity in the late 19th century, particularly in the United States, Australia, and New Zealand. Early adopters discovered that artificial baits — similar to those used by European trout and salmon fishermen — could successfully hook large ocean fish like tuna.

Saltwater fishing for sport established itself as a mainstream American pursuit during the subsequent decades, and even found its way into pop culture. The famed author Ernest Hemingway, a passionate fisherman himself, regaled readers with his exploits on the high seas, a great example of which is his short novel The Old Man and the Sea.

Even in the early days, saltwater fishermen consumed themselves with seeking out billfish — a category of fish that includes sailfish, swordfish, and different types of marlins.

Because these large species are incredible fighters, anglers relished the challenge of catching a trophy. Marlins proved so difficult to land, in fact, that it wasn’t until 1903 that a fisherman using a rod and reel successfully pulled one into a boat.

Unfortunately, saltwater fishing hasn't been all fun and games. Most species of big game fish — we’re talking both saltwater and freshwater — are in decline across the world, and have been for some time. Much of this is due to issues like pollution and climate change, but commercial and sport fishing shoulder plenty of the blame, as well.

A variety of conservation organizations in the United States and internationally have spearheaded initiatives to combat this disturbing trend. Similar to the “catch and release” tactic freshwater fishermen often employ, it has become common practice for saltwater anglers to use a “tag and release” method, which helps experts conduct research on species that are in danger and track the movements of different types of fish.


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Last updated on April 12, 2018 by Sam Kraft

Sam is a marketing/communications professional and freelance writer who resides in Chicago, IL and is perpetually celebrating the Cubs’ 2016 World Series victory.


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