A quality saltwater spinning reel can be the difference between landing a big one and letting that catch escape. That’s why I would always recommend investing in a decent saltwater spinning reel, whether you’re a veteran angler, or just enjoy getting offshore when you can.
Everyone has their personal preferences when it comes to reels, but there are a few things that every good reel should have. Durability is essential, as saltwater can prove highly abrasive and easily damages a cheap reel, not built to withstand it.
For ocean fish especially, strength is also key, as the catches tend to be larger, stronger, and sometimes more aggressive. That’s not to say some reels aren’t versatile for both, and if you plan on variety where you fish, then you should consider that.
Considering myself a veteran, I’ve looked hard to find what I believe are some of the best saltwater spinning reels available out there today. I’ll discuss factors that I think are important but will also address key things like the cost that may help when choosing the best saltwater spinning reel for you.
SeaKnight Rapid Saltwater Spinning Reel
Compared to the other reels featured in this list, the SeaKnight is, in my opinion, the most beginner friendly option. But with its variety of options, it wouldn’t look out of place in the tackle box of even the most seasoned of anglers.
Available in various spool sizes from 2000 – 6000 and several reel lengths. With the larger reels in this line utilizing a 4.7 gear ratio, perfect for pulling in larger species of gamefish, and smaller reels using a much faster 6.2 ratio for quicker retrieval, there is an option available for all anglers.
The construction is durable enough to withstand punishing saltwater environments time and time again. You will notice a much thicker main shaft with sealed aluminum spool + rotor.
The stainless-steel ball bearings are shielded from any contact with saltwater and have also been coated with an anti-corrosive coating boosting the lifespan of this unit.
Not just a well-constructed saltwater reel I can certainly tell a lot of attention to detail has been paid to the aesthetic design with sleek gold accents giving the unit a very appealing look.
Casting from the SeaKnight is quick and smooth as butter, with a tight spring to be found in the bail working exceptionally well. Retrieve is very even and faultless and the anti-reverse works great.
Boasting 10+1 bearings and a drag system with up to 33lbs of drag from a 6.2:1 ratio that feels good under the hand this unit is certainly powerful enough to reel in some larger species of gamefish.
Containing an oscillation system that layers the line into the spool uniformly reducing line friction dramatically is a welcome addition. Unfortunately, one drawback to this unit is that it is not braid ready and will need anchorage to prevent spilling.
The SeaKnight is fantastic for the angler looking for a reel to use in both saltwater and freshwater, working fantastically for inshore, Bass, Walleyes, Catfish, Stripers, and much more. If it’s a reliable and versatile spinning reel you are looking for, I would consider checking this reel out.
Mono Line Capacity (lb/yd): 25/250, 30/225, 35/130
Braided Line Capacity (lb/yd): Not braid ready
Max Drag (lb): 17.5
Gear Ratio: 6.2:1
Ball Bearings: 11
Weight (OZ): 9.8
- Sturdy Aluminum construction
- 10 + 1 Bearing system
- 33lb of drag
- Variety of sizes and heights available
- Soft EVA handle may not be to everyone’s taste
- Not Braid ready
Daiwa BG Spinning Reel
Opening I would like to state that this is my favorite bang for the buck reel to be found on this list.
Crammed full of features this is an exceptional reel that is durable and smooth with plenty of drag to tackle anything from smaller inshore species to much larger species of gamefish off the boat or beach.
Daiwa is well known for manufacturing some of the finest spinning reels available today, having packed a lot of higher-end features into the BG Spinning Reel.
This reel surpasses a lot of reels that can be found in a much higher price bracket and delivers unbelievable value for what can be found inside.
It boasts a solid, well-built metal HardBodyz body, side covers, and rotor providing very robust durability. The lightweight rotor design ensures comfort is maintained throughout extended periods of use.
The drag system is encased in a waterproof housing to protect against the effects of saltwater and safeguard the unit from any corrosion that may ensue.
One of the first things I noticed was how well the screw-in handle operated compared against a through handle design.
The use of this design ensures that there is no play between the handle arm and the main gear which feels sturdy under the hand whilst cranking the handle.
With an Aluminum ABS spool providing an even flow for the line both on and off the spool, Daiwa is able to deliver level smooth line loading right up to the edge of the spool.
All of this leads to an excellent castability, reducing the chance of wind knot.
Centered in the ABS spool is a rubber gasket meaning the unit is braided line ready without having to go through the effort of backing with mono.
The drag system found on this reel is comprised of a series of carbon fiber washers consistently providing a great feeling smooth drag, unlike the fitful motion that can sometimes be found on reels in a lower price range.
The Daiwa BG Saltwater Reel houses 7 stainless steel ball bearings which are all anti-rust bearings. It is worth noting, however, that they are not shielded for water protection like you would find on higher-end reels from Daiwa.
Model sizes 1500 – 4000 all feature and infinite anti-reverse system making setting the hook a breeze without any playback.
The larger (4500 and above) models have a dual anti-reverse system featuring both a roller bearing in the instant anti-reverse and a mechanical anti-reverse utilized as a backup.
The Daiwa BG Saltwater Reel has enough drag and power to handle larger species of gamefish. Good for both saltwater and freshwater applications it is good for fishing tuna, redfish, trout. But works exceptionally well for Bass fishing.
- Model#: BG4500A
- Mono Line Capacity (lb/yd): 14/350, 17/280, 20/210
- Braided Line Capacity (lb/yd): 40/340, 50/270, 65/230
- Max Drag (lb): 17.6
- Gear Ratio: 5.7:1
- Ball Bearings: 6+1
- Weight (OZ): 22
- Line Retrieve: 43.1
- Accommodates braided lines
- Smooth action
- Powerful, strong drag
- Whilst the body is anodized for protection the spool is only painted
Penn Battle II Spinning Fishing Reel
The Penn Battle II Spinning Fishing Reel is easy-to-use and a fantastic option for entry-level fisherman.
However, the Battle II isn’t solely for beginners, its durable metal body, sideplate, and rotor teamed with the robust aluminum bail wire help to conquer hefty saltwater gamefish.
Another great feature is the Superline spool that’s braid ready, requires no backing and has line capacity rings marked at 1/3, 2/3 and full capacity: the Superline spool compliments the stainless steel ball bearings and instant anti-reverse bearing.
The Battle II spinning real is available in series 2000 to 8000, with a weight increase from series 5000 making it perfect for throwing the bait and waiting for those monster hooks.
The larger reels (6000 – 80000) are great for fighting large fish teamed with the added line capacity for fishing in depths of 100-200 inches while leaving you with enough line if a big fish starts stripping as they make their escape. The larger reels have drag systems designed to cope with line stripping.
If your preference is throwing lures, I recommend sticking to series 1000 to 4000.
Regardless of the weight increase after series 5000, this fishing reel is still a lightweight product with an HT-100 carbon fiber drag system that doesn’t sacrifice smoothness for powerful drag.
- Great for beginners
- Suitable for saltwater and freshwater fishing
- Available to buy in different reel sizes
- Fantastic quality at medium price point
- Super smooth reel
- Drag isn't fully sealed - normal for this price point
KastKing Megatron Spinning Reel
With the Kastking Megatron being the most budget option on the list, you could easily be led to believe there is a lack of options available for this model.
Available in a range of spool sizes from 2000 for lighter inshore fishing to 6000 taking care of your offshore, or even surf fishing needs.
Gear ratios range between 4.5:1 and 5:1, with the smaller reel spool sizes sporting a surprisingly impressive 33lbs of drag. They can tackle larger gamefish with a much lower price tag.
The KastKing Megatron is designed with the saltwater fishing enthusiast in mind.
Made from a durable, lightweight aluminum body, stainless steel shaft, and brass gears, this unit will survive the harsh saltwater fishing environments avoiding corrosion over years of serious use. Added to this the Kastking Megatron comes with 7+1 double shielded stainless steel bearings providing further protection against the elements.
Retrieve feels smooth, albeit not as smooth as my Dawai BG Spinning Reel, but at this price point, it works admirably. Drag feels strong with the Megatron providing a triple disk carbon fiber drag system to do all the heavy lifting.
With up to 46lbs of drag available on larger models this reel is home to all the stopping power you could ever require.
Kastking has undoubtedly proven they know how to make high-quality equipment for low budget wallets with the Megatron ready to tackle large gamefish in any conditions.
A perfect starting point for those new to saltwater fishing or on a tight budget. The market for saltwater fishing reels under $100 is fierce, and the Megatron not only competes well in that category but will perform alongside your higher budget reels too.
Mono Line Capacity (lb/yd): 16/370, 20/300
Braided Line Capacity (lb/yd): 70/370, 80/300
Max Drag (lb): 46
Gear Ratio: 4.5:1
Ball Bearings: 7+1
Weight (OZ): 13.4
Line Retrieve per crank (inches): 24.4.”
- 7+1 double shielded stainless steel bearings
- Up to 46lbs of drag available
- Several reel sizes to suit all needs
- Great price tag
- Line retrieve not as smooth as higher-end competitors
KastKing Valiant Eagle Spinning Reel - Emerald Eagle Edition
This is the second budget-friendly entry from Kastking, but unlike its larger brother the Megatron which is built for power, the Valiant Eagle is built for speed.
A range of spool options available between 1000 – 4000 pulling in between 17.3lbs and 22lbs of drag, the valiant eagle is less suited to the demands of angling for the bigger, stronger gamefish species out there.
The 6.2:1 gear ratio makes for a speed line retrieval coming in at up to 38” per crank, easily allowing you to pick up any slack line with haste and throw a second cast during time critical moments.
Having 10+1 shielded stainless steel bearings gives a smooth line retrieval and feels nice to operate the crank under the hand. Once again, similar to the Megatron, this isn’t as smooth as the higher priced models on this list but is solid for the price point.
It’s worth noting that the casting distance was exceedingly good for a spinning reel in the budget category.
Comprised of a solid aircraft grade aluminum that has been anodized for protection from saltwater erosion, reel and a machined spool that is braid ready. You won’t need to worry about the unit failing you due to exposure from the elements or having to back with mono to use a braided line.
Brass gears and a sealed carbon fiber drag system provide further protection from saltwater erosion. With the unit providing 22lbs of drag, notably less than those on the rest of this list.
You may be mistaken for thinking there is no power under the hood of this thing, coupled with an impressive inches per crank of line retrieval the Valiant Eagle has more than enough power for many saltwater and freshwater applications.
It is obvious a lot of time has been put in at the development phase for this reel by KastKing intending it to be the best spinning reel available under $50. I have to say when I look at the competition around vying for that title, in my opinion, it is definitely a contender.
Mono Line Capacity (lb/yd): 6/420, 8/285, 10/240
Braided Line Capacity (lb/yd): 20/300, 30/240, 40/180
Max Drag (lb): 22.0
Gear Ratio: 6.2:1
Ball Bearings: 10+1
Weight (OZ): 10.1
Line Retrieve per crank (inches): 38.”
- Great castability
- Quick line retrieval
- Braid ready spool
- A lower level of drag than comparable models
- Line retrieval not as smooth as higher-end competitors
Requirements for a Quality Saltwater Spinning Reel
Requirements for a quality saltwater spinning reel will be unique for each angler dictated by your style of fishing, the gamefish you intend to pursue, and most importantly, your own personal preferences.
However, there are a few general characteristics to keep in mind when shopping for a good saltwater spinning reel.
All Saltwater reels must be exceedingly resistant to saltwater corrosion. Materials great for freshwater fishing such as magnesium aren’t well suited for use in saltwater situations.
A very strong and lightweight material commonly used is aluminum making for a reel that will see use for years in a saltwater environment. Graphite components such as side plates can also be found on aluminum reels.
Conversely, a reel may be of a hybrid construction with the spool, crank handle, and rotor constructed from aluminum, with the frame and component parts being made from graphite.
Aluminum, magnesium, and graphite frames are all capable of reducing the torque that larger gamefish can put on a reel. Your decision will come down to price, weight, and the endurance you expect from the reel.
The gear ratio of a reel dictates how many revolutions the spool takes each time you turn the crank handle. This is easy to visualize;
For example, on a reel with a gear ratio of 7.3:1, the spool turns 7.3 times with each turn of the crank. A gear ratio of 5.6:1 means the spool will turn 5.6 times with each turn of the crank and so on.
A higher gear ratio is suited for faster retrieves when fishing with spinners, or top-water plugs, and for reeling in longer line lengths when trolling
A lower gear ratio produces more power to pull larger gamefish out from deeper waters.
Larger saltwater gamefish will always put more pressure on gear, and the drag on the reel is there to take the burden of a portion of that strain, reducing the likelihood of a line or rod break.
Most Saltwater reels will come with drag systems that are multi-disc that will pump the brakes on any strong, high energy fish you might encounter with drag weights in the 40-50lb being most common.
Be on the lookout for carbon-fiber drag systems that adjust smoothly and with ease.
Saltwater reels should also have spacings throughout the reel spool allowing for good air flow and cooling within the system. With the drag maintaining heat resistant qualities.
Angling for larger gamefish in deep open water increases the requirement for how much line is needed, usually much more than can be expected during freshwater fishing.
Most of the time reel spools designed for saltwater offshore fishing will be of a greater diameter or feature a deeper spool to house more line than it would otherwise.
You always want to ensure you are using a reel with a deeper spool and larger line capacity, to deal with larger, stronger, more troublesome gamefish. Allowing you enough line to fight over a longer distance is crucial.
You will find that in most offshore fishing situations, you will decide that the use of braided line will be required, for the extra strength, better casting distance, and sensitivity when handling.
Unfortunately, braided line has a habit of slipping around on the spool during reeling, which makes reeling in your catch extremely difficult when you have been spooled out.
To reduce the likelihood of this happening, a lot of saltwater spinning reels will have a rubber gasket on the spool, where the line makes contact.
This means that rather than the line slipping, it will create friction against the rubber gasket catching the line and giving you some much-needed power to reel the line back.
Many components on saltwater spinning reels will be sealed, this is to reduce or eliminate any contact the parts may have with saltwater. The seals generally act like gaskets and are a barrier used as an extra defense against saltwater to protect against erosion.
When it comes to the crunch, for my money, the Daiwa BG Spinning Reel is leaps and bounds ahead of the competition when it comes to selecting the best saltwater spinning reel.
With an obviously high level of quality control during the manufacturing, it delivers performance far beyond its price bracket in comparison to some of the other products featured here today.
Whilst maybe not boasting as many different spool sizes and heights as the Penn Batte II more isn’t necessarily always better; the Daiwa still offers from 2500 for smaller stream spinning to an 8000 for larger open water and bigger game fish.
Having a much better material build quality than the more budget-friendly Kastking options, feeling solid in the hand. An aluminum body housing its Digigear II drive offers a great winding feel when reeling in a catch and providing great castability with line release feeling smooth and unburdened
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