From heavyweight angling to sand and saltwater corrosion, there are plenty of ways for saltwater reels to take a beating. Durable reels are essential when investing in high-quality equipment, but they don’t always have to come at a high price point:
We’ve narrowed down our top five contenders for the best saltwater spinning reel under $100 below!
Okuma Inspira Carbon LSX-30B
Penn Battle II
Sharky III 5000
What To Expect from Saltwater Spinning Reels Under $100
Although cost is expected to equal quality for most high-end saltwater reels, that’s not always the case. While it’s true that more expensive reels can come with ceramic ball bearings, anti-corrosive machined builds, and powerful drag systems, these benefits aren’t always worth the extra cost.
Consider brands that offer multiple stainless steel bearings, anti-corrosive coatings, and heavy-duty drag systems for a fraction of the luxury cost. They may have less costly materials, but many discerning anglers can enjoy similar performance from a $100 reel.
Choosing Quality Saltwater Spinning Reels Under $100
Types of Fish & Fishing Environment
Will you be fishing in saltwater flats, piers, surf, or bays? If you’ll be aboard a boat: How deep will you be angling? The simple question of species plays a significant role in determining your best gear set-up. Be sure to consider your intended environment & species while purchasing your reels.
This is a must-have for any lasting saltwater spinning reel, but not all corrosion resistance is equally effective. Be sure to check: Is the reel’s entire body protected, or will additional cleaning be required before and after use? If so, which parts of the reel will be most susceptible to corrosion? Look for full-coating or anti-corrosion materials whenever possible.
Although extra features can prove distracting while searching for a new reel, it’s important to stick to the basics. How large do you need your reel to be? Most reels come with a number indicative of their intended weight limit and line capacity.
1000 - 3500
Small, 2-10lb mono, 4-15lb braid
4000 - 6000
Medium, 8-18lb mono, 8-30lb braid
7000 - 9000
Large, 14-25 mono, 15-60lb braid
Extra-Large or Deep Sea, 20-60+lb mono, 70-80+lb braid
Check the reel’s markings for a sense of its capacity, and keep line diameter and intended test weights in mind when choosing between reels. Remember where and what you’ll be fishing for to help find the best size reel for you.
For saltwater spinning reels in particular, a strong drag system is crucial. Between surf, waves, and sea wind, there are plenty of forces to keep at bay when trying to land your catch. Although rear drags are easy to use, front drags often come with the perk of added strength when maneuvering. Look for durable, anti-corrosive drag materials such as carbon.
Ball Bearings & Gear Ratio
Ball bearings help keep your spinning casts perfectly balanced and your line running smoothly. The more bearings, the better, and you can often find quality options with 8+ ball bearings per reel. Look for stainless steel or sealed bearings for some much-needed corrosion defense.
As with line weight, ideal gear ratios are primarily determined by your preferred fishing. Slower-paced angling is best suited to ratios 4:1 or lower, offering slower catches but greater torque. Comparatively, fast-paced anglers should seek out ratios 6:1 or higher for quick-moving, high-maneuverability catches.
Spool Style (Internal v. Skirted)
Skirted spools are the newer of the two designs and are known for their improved line-laying and reduced risk of tangling. However, skirted spools often have a smaller diameter than the more traditional internal models, and this can make a difference in the range of your casts. Some anglers still prefer wider-diameter, internal spools for distance casting as a result.
With a bearing in the handle locking onto your line, anti-reverse handles help you maintain drag control and maneuverability. These handles can be screwed or riveted into the reel, but such small parts run the risk of eventual wear or mid-catch malfunctions; Rather, we recommend looking for instant anti-reverse systems with threaded handles.
Line Capacity & Speed
Capacity can vary depending on your reel's size and preferred line. Although mono is undoubtedly a classic, we recommend braided line for its strength, durability, and extra capacity per reel.
And while preferred speeds can vary, we recommend looking for reels with d5.0:1 ratio or higher for the best versatility in presentation speeds.
As with ball bearings, you’ll want bail arms that are protected or corrosion-resistant for long-term usage. Bails help keep your line release smooth, so you don’t want to risk rusted screws: As with threaded anti-reverses, we recommend looking for built-in bail arms, ideally made of aluminum.
When considering spinning reels under $100, finding a suitable model with a decent warranty can be challenging. Look for models with limited warranties or high-quality builds, which risk fewer malfunctions. Even with a warranty, be sure to rinse, clean, and lubricate your saltwater reels before and after each use.
6 Best Saltwater Spinning Reels Under $100
1. Okuma Inspira Carbon LSX-30B
Our Top Pick
8 + 1
4.48 x 4.36 x 3.12 Inches
It’s no secret how much we love Okuma reels, and the Okuma Inspira Carbon LSX-30B is certainly no exception. This 3000 series spinning reel comes fully outfitted with some of the best tech Okuma has to offer; precision-machined aluminum spools with anti-corrosion anodizing, forged aluminum handle, clicking drag system, and much more.
The build's long-strand carbon fiber frame is 25% lighter than traditional graphite reels and 50% stronger besides. The carbon offers less flex and plenty of rigidity, delivering strength where you need it most without the excess bulk. Its skirted spool offers extra airflow throughout the reel, wicking away moisture and preventing the risk of rust.
When it comes to casting, this reel uses a Quick-Set anti-reverse roller bearing for perfectly balanced presentations. It's precisely machined cut brass pinion gear and elliptical gearing systems keeps inner mechanisms smooth as silk. While the Inspira comes in several sizes, the 30B is our top pick for a well-rounded weight category, capable of landing larger bass and saltwater trout with ease.
This lightweight, high-durability aluminum ensures a lasting investment at a price point that won’t break the bank — making the Okuma Inspira Carbon Lsx-30B our top pick as the best saltwater spinning reel for under $100.
2. Penn Battle II 1000
5 + 1
5 x 4 x 3 Inches
While it may be the runner up for first place, the Penn Battle II 1000 is certainly still a winner in our books. With a carbon fiber drag system for effortless control, instant anti-reverse bearing, and 5 sealed stainless steel bearings, you can trust Penn to provide smooth casts without sacrificing quality.
The Battle II's sleek orange and black full metal body attract attention, and its full-metal body, side plate, and rotor ensure durability. The full-metal build can be heavier than lighter carbons or aluminum, so lightweight anglers may wish to look elsewhere.
Unfortunately, the lack of anodized coating runs the risk of corrosion; be sure to rinse after each use to prevent salt damage. However, their 5 + 1 stainless steel ball bearings are sealed for plenty of protection, and a regular drop of super reel oil or additional lubricant can go a long way to keeping this reel in tip-top condition for years to come.
Joe Sova wrote on Penn,
“With the versatility to handle a variety of situations and the durability to last for years to come, the Penn Battle II is truly a necessary investment.”
Most importantly, Penn more than makes up for any risk of corrosion with the reel’s precision gearing and ultra-fast retrieval. Its Superline spool is braid-ready and well marked with capacity rings and paired with effortless cranking, making this a spinning reel ready for any fight.
3. KastKing Sharky III 5000
Best Saltwater Spinning Reel for The Money
10 + 1
4.4 x 4.7 x 3.7 Inches
Not all reels are created equal. For instance, some are KastKing Sharky III 5000s. From its precision mesh manganese brass pinion gears to its whopping 39.5lbs of carbon drag, KastKing ensures quality without compromising affordability. It can be rare to find spinning reels with as many sealed stainless steel ball bearings as the Sharky III — to find 11 of them for under $100 is nearly unheard of.
The Sharky III 5000 is our pick for heavyweight angling at a low cost. This reel can pack a punch thanks to its triple disc carbon fiber drag system and fiber-reinforced body. With a braid-ready aluminum spool and anti-twist line roller, you can cast without a snag. And mid-presentation, the instant lock anti-reverse keeps you in control.
Rick wrote on KastKing,
“Great performance. Smooth as silk, quiet and has a great feel. Looks sharp too!”
The larger than average bail arm is a key feature for anglers’ convenience, as well as the screw-in handle. Better still, the 11 stainless steel ball bearings are sealed for saltwater protection, as well as the spool, body, and rotor — all sealed with a “KISS,” KastKing’s signature protection against water and particulates.
When it comes to getting your money’s worth, it’s hard to find another reel that can deliver the quality, durability, and affordability of the KastKing Sharky III 5000.
4. Shimano Nasci 1000
Best Shimano Saltwater Spinning Reel under $100
4 + 1
6 x 6 x 3.5 Inches
The Shimano Nasci 1000 is the pinnacle of high tech, low cost. Combining the best features of Shimano’s higher-end reels into an attractively compact parcel, the Nasci 1000 comes with an X-ship gear system, cold-forged gears, and Core Protect water protection — just to name a few.
Shimano’s infamous Hagane (HGN) gear system of precisely calculated, cold-forged pieces neatly avoids the eventual wear and stalling of roughly-cut gears. The X-Ship gear system reinforces the pinion with a ball bearing on either end, reducing friction and improving control. Multiple reviewers report the Nasci 1000 cranks as smoothly as a Stradic, at half the cost.
This silk-smooth retrieve makes for easy cranking, especially when paired with a 26” IPT retrieve. Shimano’s upgraded, waterproof front-drag and instant anti-reverse offers easy handling, but the lack of an anti-reverse switch can be a learning curve for some anglers. However, the Super-Stopper anti-reverse stainless steel ball-bearing goes a long way in eliminating back-play.
Speaking of stainless: the Nasci 1000’s Core Protect treatment reinforces water protection where you need it most, preventing any friction in the roller clutch, body, and line roller. And although the reel may have fewer ball bearings than some on our list, their sealed stainless steel casing ensures balance where it counts. For a Shimano saltwater spinning reel under $100, look no further than the Nasci 1000.
5. Cadence CS5 Pro 3000
Best Ultralight Saltwater Spinning Reel under $100
8 + 1
5.3 x 5.3 x 3.5 Inches
Though they may be a smaller brand, Cadence is making waves with their CS5 Pro Series. With a sleek composite carbon frame, machined aluminum spool, and 8 + 1 corrosion resistant ball bearings, the CS5 Pro 3000 offers lightweight angling at a low cost.
This reel looks good and handles well with a sleek black and steel build and ergonomic EVA handle. The carbon fiber drag system can be hard to find at such a price point, and the "clicking" drag knob comes equipped with a greased washer to ensure smooth adjustment control. The handle works for left or right-handed anglers and comes with a 35" IPT retrieve.
For a lightweight build, the CS5 Pro 3000 comes with a carbon composite frame and side, offering effortless durability and extra corrosion resistance besides. The 8 + 1 ball bearings are sealed against the elements, but reviewers note they can still be sensitive to salt exposure: Freshwater rinses and regular maintenance are highly recommended for this model.
After all, a reel only stays smooth so long as the angler preserves it. But with an aluminum pinion gear, machined aluminum spool, and stainless steel main shaft, the CS5 Pro 3000 is certainly here to stay.
6. Dr. Fish LS-10000
Best Rated for Surf Fishing
13 + 1
7.5 x 7 x 5 Inches
Last but certainly not least in our ranking: The Dr. Fish LS-10000. With a low-and-slow 3.9:1 gear ratio for extreme torque, a 40lbs max drag, and a whopping 1.68lb high-density build, this model is the ultimate saltwater spinning reel under $100 for heavyweight surf fishing.
This high-capacity reel comes with an extra-large CNC machined aluminum spool, allowing you to keep extra long, extra heavy line ready for any fight. The high-density, corrosion-resistant build packs a punch without risking rust, as the sealed, waterproof side plate and rotor keep things running smooth. And the staggering 13 + 1 rust-resistant ball bearings ensure equal balance and buttery retrieves no matter the elements.
The multi-disc front drag system offers wide range adjustment and easy handling, in addition to a whopping 40lbs of max drag. And when it comes to managing high line capacity, this spool’s spring-loaded teeth help keep your line under control at all times. Within, compact self-balancing system rotors help your retrieve to remain rock-steady no matter the stress.
For the angler looking to land massive catches without writing a hefty check, the Dr. Fish LS-10000 remains our top choice for heavyweight saltwater spinning reels.
How to Set-Up a Spinning Reel
- 1Locate your reel's "foot," a longer edge of the build that attaches to the rod. Locate and loosen your saltwater rod’s reel "seat," then align the reel foot between the seat and tighten accordingly.
- 2Open the bail, loop line around the reel, and tie two standard overhand knots. Cut most of the remaining tail, close bail, and reel in the live line until suitably spooled. Check for line capacity markers beforehand.
- 3Once spooled, string the rod by grabbing your line tip with one hand and opening the bail arm with another. Thread the line through the rod guides, beginning at the bottom and ending at the top.
- 4Once strung, knot the hook and bait of your choosing.
- 5Next, set your drag knob by tightening with clockwise turns. Check your drag by manually tugging on line; Repeat these steps until reaching your preferred drag.
How to Cast Spinning Bait
- 1Start by allowing 1 foot or so of slack line to hang from the rod.
- 2Using the hand you’ll be reeling with, clutch the rod a few inches above the reel’s base while holding the line parallel to the rod.
- 3Using your free hand, open the bail.
- 4Lean your rod back with your clutching hand before rapidly swinging it towards your intended target. Release your opposite hand at the peak of your cast.
People also Ask (FAQs)
How can I prevent damage to my spinning reel during use?
Between piers, boats, heavyweight catches, and the salt air, all spinning reels run the risk of damage while saltwater fishing. Be mindful of your max drag to help prevent undue stress, and consider depths vs. shallows when selecting your equipment. And while some cosmetic scratches may be inevitable, be sure to rinse rigs down with freshwater ASAP after salt exposure.
Are expensive spinning reels worth it?
Increasingly, no. Many professional anglers agree that the performance of a costly reel depends on the angler’s skill. And, with so many new reels offering high-end features at low-cost prices, even experienced anglers have begun to reconsider the appeal of expensive reels. This may not be the case if you’re an experienced angler with money to spare, but other buyers and beginners would do well to consider cheaper alternatives.
What types of lures and baits should I use with my saltwater spinning reel for offshore fishing?
Depending upon the depth and range of your environment, different types of bait are good to keep on hand. Saltwater fish have greater sensitivity to scent than their freshwater counterparts, so consider live or dead bait rather than lures. Shellfish, shrimp, baitfish, and cut bait are all popular choices. For best results, research the preferred prey of your target species and match bait accordingly.
Are there any special care and maintenance steps for saltwater spinning reels under a $100 budget?
After every use, a quick douse with fresh water is key to keeping saltwater spinning reels in good shape, followed by lubricating with super reel oil or anti-corrosion oil. Heavyweight angling can be rough on rods, so be sure to check your line and spool before and after fishing. Under regular wear conditions, respool every 2-3 months. Loosen tight drag systems to prevent locking in saltwater, and towel off any freshwater or excess oil before storing.
Where can I buy these saltwater spinning reels?
For the best variety of saltwater spinning reels under $100, we recommend shopping online to avoid in-store markups or limited offerings. Amazon consistently offers the widest selection of reels at some of the lowest costs, making it an excellent resource for the undecided shopper. Cabelas also offers a range of options online, and ordering through brand websites such as Okuma, Shimano, and Cadence are excellent options for easy, at-home shopping experiences.
It can be surprising to realize how so many of the best saltwater spinning reels under $100 come equipped with the features of $200+ reels.
When it comes to finding the best pick on the market, we’ve already done the hard work for you. For the cost, quality, and durability combined, there’s nothing better than the Okuma Inspira Carbon LSX-30B.