The 7 Best Saltwater Fishing Reels

The best-rated saltwater spinning reels can cost well over $1000, so if you’re a serious saltwater angler, you’re going to have to spend a pretty penny for the cream of the crop.

The key to finding the best spinning reels for saltwater is two-fold: one, the reel must stand up to salt kicking its ass all day long, and two, it needs to be strong enough to apply up to 50 pounds of drag to be able to pull in fish could swallow you whole. With the spectrum of sizes so broad for the potential fish you can catch in the ocean, they spectrum of prices for the best saltwater spinning reels is equally as wide-ranging. 

The best-rated saltwater spinning reels can cost well over $1000, so if you’re a serious saltwater angler, you’re going to have to spend a pretty penny for the cream of the crop.

Of course, you don’t have to pay an exorbitant amount to get a quality saltwater spinning reel that will work both inshore and offshore. If you’re looking for the best big game saltwater spinning reels then yeah, you’ll have to pony up for a high-quality reel. However, if you’re cool catching 40-pound tuna or red fish, there are plenty of reels that can get the job done.

1. Best High-End Saltwater Spinning Reels

So, who makes the best saltwater spinning reels? You’ll read a lot of strong opinions from people loyal to their favorite brands of reels. To this author though, I simply deal with the facts, and from everything I’ve read and experienced, Daiwa makes the absolute best saltwater spinning reels. 

Part of what makes Daiwa the finest manufacturer is that they are unsurpassed when it comes to sealed saltwater spinning reels. What that means is they are manufactured with a key focus to keep salt out and keep the reel running smoothly. Ultimately, other than size, the seal is what separates saltwater reels from freshwater reels.

When it comes to the best high-end saltwater spinning reels, Daiwa doesn’t disappoint, with their gorgeous Saltiga Dogfight proudly representing.

The first and most important aspect of the Dogfight and most Daiwa saltwater reels is the Mag Sealed construction. This includes 3 Mag Sealed ball bearings and 11 corrosion-resistant ball bearings. Why is Mag Sealing important? Because it keeps salt and water out of your reel. How it works is that magnetic oil is in place between the inner and outer ball bearings, which ultimately keeps everything tight and in place without any of the elements making their way inside.

What is magnetic oil? Great question, it appears that magnetic oil is of a new generation of nano fluids, which has the ability to change shape and density when it comes in contact with a magnetic field. 

Basically, think of the Dogfight as the superhero of reels.

The rest of the manufacturing goodness consists of a 14-bearing system. A sealed, and then Mag Sealed ball bearing line roller. A full-time dual anti-reverse, DigiGear digital gear design, an air rotor of zaion carbon composite, and a rigid aluminum body. No stone has been left unturned for ensuring that the Daiwa Saltiga Dogfight is the ultimate high-end saltwater fishing reel.

Below are the two models available:

Model Weight Gear Ratio Braid Cap Inches/Crank Max Drag
SALTIGA8000DF 30 oz 4.3 600 yd / 80 lb 26” 66 
SALTIGA8000HDF 30 oz 5.7 600 yd / 80 lb 33” 66 

2. Best Saltwater Spinning Reels for Big Game

A lesser known company named Accurate has developed the best saltwater spinning reels for big game with their TwinSpin reels. The key to Accurate’s success is a patented TwinDrag system that applies drag to both sides of the reel. This allows anglers to put more pressure on fish than the competition can with the same size of reel. 

The Accurate TwinSpin reels also feature stainless steel gears, springs, and clips, as well as 14 class-5 ABEC stainless steel ball bearings. At the top end, an Accurate TwinSpin can apply 40 pounds of drag and hold 450 yards of 130-pound braided line, giving you the ability to go after 100+ pound fish such as Tuna, Trevally, and Billfish.

The TwinSpins also features a pre-set drag knob, which allows you to set and retain your drag settings even when switching to alternate spools of line. With the highest quality inner parts and its patented TwinDrag system, the Accurate TwinSpin line of reels cannot be beaten for big game. They are also 100% made in the USA.

Model Weight Gear Ratio Braid Cap Inches/Crank Max Drag
SR-6 10 oz 5.1 200 yd / 20 lb 26” 15 
SR-12 24 oz 5.1 425 yd / 30 lb 33” 28 
SR-20 26 oz 5.1 425 yd / 50 lb 39” 32 
SR-30 40 oz 6.1 375 yd / 80 lb 54” 35 
SR-30L 40 oz 4.1 375 yd / 80 lb 36” 35 
SR-50 47 oz 4.1 450 yd / 130 lb 45” 40 

3. Best Lightweight Saltwater Spinning Reels

Daiwa made a commitment to creating the highest quality, lightweight yet tough spinning reel on the market. The result of that dedication is the newest Daiwa Exist spinning reel, which embodies what Daiwa calls the LT concept, combining the two contradictory descriptors “light” with “tough.”

To conquer the lightweight part of the equation, Daiwa used what they describe as an “amalgamation of multiple subtle technologies and design advancements that allow the weight of the reel to be reduced to its bare minimum, and begins with the MONOCOQUE body.”

Daiwa also redesigned the spool to be “uber thin” and “allows the effortless, functional, synergy between angler and reel to be achieved.”

This is some magical shit, apparently. Now, I have never personally used one of these beauties, but from my research I can conclude that Daiwa was not messing around when they developed this reel. If you want the best lightweight saltwater spinning reel, the Exist is it.

The rest of the reel features all of the advancements that anglers have come to expect from Daiwa, including a new Tough DigiGear technology. The Exist is Mag Sealed throughout, providing definitive protection from outside elements. Finally, Daiwa has even increased the spool size to give the ultimate long cast, while still maintaining an uber-light weight.

The result is by far the best lightweight saltwater spinning reel on the market.

Model  Weight Gear Ratio Braid Cap Inches/Crank Max Drag
EXISTGLT1000D-P 5.5 oz 4.9 200 yd / 8 lb 24.1” 11
EXISTGLT2000D-P 5.5 oz 4.9 180 yd / 15 lb 25.3” 11 
EXISTGLT2500-XH 6.3 oz 6.2 120 yd / 30 lb 34.5” 22 
EXISTGLT3000D-C 6.5 oz 5.2 230 yd / 30 lb 30.6” 22 
EXISTGLT3000-CXH 6.5 oz 6.2 110 yd / 30 lb 36.8” 22 
EXISTGLT4000D-C 7.2 oz 5.2 150 yd / 40 lb 32.5” 22 

Best Saltwater Spinning Reels for the Money

At a bare minimum, a saltwater spinning reel must be sealed. While none of the reels below are special enough (read expensive enough) to be Mag Sealed, the mechanisms working inside of the reels below will still have measures of protection against a buildup of salt. You won’t find any of the best Shimano saltwater spinning reels on this list because I don’t find them to be a good value for the price.

A company I do find plenty of value in is Penn, which makes the best affordable saltwater spinning reels for my money. Penn makes some of the best sealed reels on the market with their Battle, Conflict, and Slammer lines. 

4. Best Saltwater Spinning Reel For the Money: Penn Slammer III

The Penn Slammer III is a legendary saltwater reel, due to it being used across the world by charter boats. As a standard for reliable saltwater spinning reels, the Penn Slammer III is the best saltwater spinning reel for the money. While you do have to spend up to $300 to buy one, you would have to spend close to five times that amount for a high-end reel.

The first feature of note on the Slammer III is that it is sealed to IPX6 certification, which means that it’s
“Protected against heavy seas. Water from heavy seas or water projected in powerful jets shall not enter the enclosure in harmful quantities.”

You can buy the Penn Slammer III up to size 9500, which gives you the versatility to go after big-game fish. It also features CNC gear technology with a full metal body, rotor, and side-plate. An instant anti-reverse is standard. For my money, the Slammer III leads the pack of the best mid-priced saltwater spinning reels.

5. Best Saltwater Spinning Reels Under $200: Penn Conflict II

If you don’t want to spend quite $300 on the Penn Slammer III, you can still come away with a high-quality reliable reel with the Penn Conflict II series of reels. You can buy a 7000-size well-equipped for saltwater fishing for under $200. Or for smaller inshore fishing, you can find one of the best saltwater spinning reels under $150 in the 2500 series of Penn Conflict II reels.

The Conflict II has a 7-bearing system, and has a body machined with CNC technology.

6. Best Saltwater Spinning Reels Under $100: Penn Battle II

If money is tight and reliability is your top priority, one of the best budget saltwater spinning reels is the Penn Battle II. This is one of the best saltwater spinning reels under $80 if you go with the 3000 size, but for a bigger line capacity, you can buy the 8000 for a penny under $100.

7. Best Saltwater Inshore Spinning Reels

We go back to Daiwa for the best spinning reels for inshore saltwater fishing with their new line of Saltist Back Bay reels. The Saltist Back Bay reels share many of the high-end design features that we saw in the Daiwa Saltiga Dogfight, just with a less heft needed for fishing inshore.

Features such as a lightweight Air Rotor, Mag Sealed construction, stainless steel Air Bail, and a DigiGear digital gear design are all here in the Saltist Back Bay. What’s different about this smaller reel is a 7-bearing system rather than 14, and a max drag of 15.4 pounds. 

If you’re looking purely for an inshore options, the Saltist Back Bay is a clear top choice for the best saltwater spinning reels under $200.

The Best Fishing Line for Saltwater Spinning Reels

Braided line is without a doubt the preferred line choice for most applications, and saltwater fishing is no different from my perspective. An argument can be made for the stretchiness of monofilament, which would give an angler more forgiveness before the hook is shed. However, the fact that braided line is much stronger per diameter than mono makes braid an easy choice.

Best Braided Line for Saltwater Spinning Reels

The best braid for saltwater spinning reels is going to be the strongest braid you can find. For my money, the strongest braided line that I’ve found, and one that comes at a very reasonable price, is Reaction Tackle High Performance Braided Fishing Line.

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