9 Best Saltwater Spinning Reels: Reviewed, Rated & Compared

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Offshore fishing will bring anglers into contact with fish that are stronger on the whole than freshwater fish. In addition to strength and power, offshore fishing gear should withstand corrosive elements like saltwater. That’s what makes spinning reels optimal for ocean fishing. If you’re looking for the right saltwater spinning reel, then this guide is for you.

Preview

Product

Gear Ratio

Max Drag

Check Price

Penn 1403985 Slammer III Spinning

Penn Slammer III

5.6:1

40 lbs.

Okuma Cedros High Speed Spinning Reel...

Okuma Cedros

6.2:1

20 lbs

Shimano Baitrunner 8000D, Saltwater Spinning...

Shimano Baitrunner D BTR8000D

4.8:1

20 lbs.

Daiwa Saltist 6500 5.3:1 Saltwater Spinning...

Daiwa Saltist 6500

5.3:1

33 lbs.

Penn, Spinfisher VI Saltwater Spinning Reel,...

Penn Spinfisher VI 9500

4.2:1

45 lbs.

KastKing Sharky III Spinning Fishing...

KastKing Sharky III 1000

5.2:1

33 lbs.

Piscifun Flame Spinning Reels Light Weight...

Piscifun Flame

5.2:1

19.8 lbs.

Shimano Socorro 8000F SW Offshore Spinning...

Shimano Socorro

4.6:1

22 lbs.

Abu Garcia Black Max Spinning Combo

Abu Garcia Black Max

5.1:1

14 lbs.


Advantages of a Saltwater-Resistant Spinning Reel

Saltwater spinning reels allow anglers to cast in any direction and any wind condition; if you're offshore fishing on a boat, the first cast might be downwind, and the next one can be 90° or even into the wind.

Saltwater-resistant pinning reels are infinitely easier to clean after saltwater fishing. You can do more with a lighter line on a spinning reel than a baitcaster because the hands can be used to add more drag on the spool. This depends on the angler’s own strength, of course.


Choosing Saltwater Spinning Reels

Type of Fish & Fishing Style

The size of the target fish will have a greater effect on reel choice than the species. Huge bluefin or dolphin will take a higher line capacity and a bit more drag. Fishing style, whether it involves lightweight live bait like shrimp or larger trolling lures, may also require spinning reels with more stopping power.

Reel Features

A reel should be lightweight when casting lightweight rigs. The reel should be durable enough to handle saltwater sprays and being dropped on the deck any number of times. It should be comfortable in the palm of the hand for long periods, especially when surf fishing. The handle should be easy to grip in all conditions, even when wet.

Drag System

Because of the shape of most spinning reels, the front drag is usually built of larger washers and, therefore, more smooth than rear drag. That being said, the best saltwater spinning reels have both front and rear drag dials and the chance to quickly switch between the two to surprise the fish with additional drag.

Ball Bearings & Gears

Ball bearings aren't the only indicator of smooth reeling action, but they can help if they're well-built and placed well. Similarly, indestructible gears assembled in an ineffective way won't be as good as cheap ones in a better gear train. In either case, quality materials and assembly are equally important.

Spool Style

Spinning reels from before the early 1980s had spools nestled inside rotating cups. The more modern variety is a skirted spool, which has a lip going over the line. Skirted spools reduce line tangle. But the old internal spools were often larger and therefore had a greater casting distance. Larger spools also help reduce line memory problems.

Anti-Reverse Handles

Handles are prevented from spinning backward by the anti-reverse. Some handles screw into their position while others are riveted or threaded into the body of the reel. The best handles are threaded directly to the spool, but some others run through the reel body to a screw and washer on the other side, which can allow some play.

Line Speed

There can be strong winds offshore or on the beach, so the right saltwater spinning reel should be able to send out a strong cast. This depends on how the line feeds off the spool. Remember that accuracy and control from the angler is much more energy-efficient and can correct for shortcomings on the reel.

Bail

The strongest bails are one single piece and strongly connected to the rest of the reel body. They can flip automatically or require the angler to flip them before they start reeling in. The jury is out on which is best, but it really just depends on what the particular angler is used to fishing with.

Design & Appearance

Many spinning reels are designed to hold more line, a fish braided line without backing, or engage multiple drag systems from cast to catch. They can also be sealed to be completely waterproof. Narrower reels are thought to cast better, but they often trade some line capacity to do so.

Price & Warranty – Value for Money

There are some saltwater fishing reels for tens, some for hundreds, and a marked few for thousands. There’s no need to get the most expensive one to have a successful fishing trip. Many reels also have a limited warranty that protects the original purchaser against manufacturing defects for one or two years.


9 Best Saltwater Spinning Reels Reviewed

1. Penn Slammer III

Best Offshore Spinning Reel

Reel Weight

1.5 lbs.

Gear Ratio

5.6:1

Ball Bearings

7 + 1

Max Drag

40 lbs.

Warranty

1-year Limited

The Slammer III is a fantastic update on one of the longest-lasting Penn saltwater spinning reels available. The whole body of the reel is made of metal, and that includes the lip, which is difficult to knick or damage deep enough to catch the line when it's coming off the spool.

The body of the reel is also built to keep water out of the gears and drag, likely adding years to the lifespan of these reels. Inside the reel, Penn has created an amazingly smooth gear train out of high-quality metals that are machined by CNC to fit together better.

Between these gears and the eight total ball bearings, the Slammer III gives anglers one of the smoothest reel operations you can find in a spinning reel. The drag system is a proprietary kind of carbon fiber that’s lubed with a bonding agent and pre-treated with additional waterproof treatment. It's super strong, perhaps too much so for smaller fish.

One of the only drawbacks to this reel is that amateur tinkering inside it will likely break the waterproof seal, but that's also a massive advantage for those who don’t do much of their own maintenance on their reels.

This reel also holds tons of line, 390 yards of 12-pound mono test, or 485 yards of 30-pound braid. The gear ratio may seem a bit slow for skipping topwater lures, but rest assured that the 42-inch retrieve rate is plenty fast for moving bait and lures quickly through the water.

Pros
  • Large line capacity
  • Durable inside and out
  • Smooth reeling
  • Fast retrieval rate
  • Strong drag system
Cons
  • Opening may destroy waterproofing

2. Okuma Cedros

Best Saltwater Spinning Reel for the Money

Reel Weight

¾ lbs.

Gear Ratio

6.2:1

Ball Bearings

4 + 1

Max Drag

20 lbs

Warranty

1-year Limited

Lightweight and packing a serious punch, the Okuma Cedros performs as well as other top-of-the-line saltwater spinning fishing reels do at a smaller cost. It’s easier to balance on a spinning rod with lighter lures and has a narrow profile to improve casting. The body and the handle are built out of machined aluminum and coated with a corrosion-resistant material. The pinion gear is made of durable brass. All the gears and other moving parts are placed very precisely inside to give this reel a slim profile.

To wind line at a more consistent rate, Okuma has built the Cedros to regulate the speed of its spindle gear. This also creates a more level line lay when the line is respooled and evenness in the drag system. Even though this reel is not sealed for waterproofing and therefore might not last as many years as some of the competition, the Cedros is easily the best saltwater spinning reel under $200 because of its reliability and performance.

The front drag dial is designed to give anglers the ability to make minute adjustments and will stand up just fine to big tuna, dolphins, or whatever you’re hunting offshore. Don't let its lightness fool you; this reel is tough and strong.

Pros
  • Unique handle & color design
  • Fluid gear construction
  • Fast gear ratio
  • Lightweight
  • Corrosion-resistant coating
Cons
  • Not sealed

3. Shimano Baitrunner D BTR8000D

Best Shimano Offshore Spinning Reel

Reel Weight

1.35 lbs.

Gear Ratio

4.8:1

Ball Bearings

3 + 1

Max Drag

20 lbs

Warranty

2-year Limited

It’s hard to say which of Shimano’s many high-quality reels is the best overall, but none of them beat the Baitrunner D for offshore angling. It may be a little heavier than other spinning reels, but it has just as much drag power, and with its 36-inch retrieval rate, it isn't much slower than the fastest reels.

The slower gear ratio indicates that the spool is relatively large, allowing it to hold 295 yards of either 14-pound mono or 40-pound braid. The spool lip has been designed to prevent catching and backlash while helping give anglers a larger cast. A maintenance port near the handle allows oil to be added to make the reel work more smoothly.

In addition to the specialized spool lip, the bail also helps reduce friction via a one-piece construction that doesn’t get in the way of the line on the way to the roller. One of the nicest features of this reel is the automatic baitrunner switch that allows the angler to engage either of the two drag systems with the flip of a switch.

Anglers can set the front drag, which has a loud line clicker, to a low setting to let the bait drop to the bottom or to allow fish to take the bait without noticing anything. The rear drag can be set to a more powerful setting and engaged by reeling in, which will flip the baitrunner switch automatically.

Pros
  • Great lip build
  • Easy maintenance
  • Good retrieval rate
  • Auto-switch dual drag system
  • Durable one-piece bail
Cons
  • Heavier weight

4. Daiwa Saltist 6500

Best Daiwa Saltwater Spinning Reel

Reel Weight

1.85 lbs.

Gear Ratio

 5.3:1

Ball Bearings

8 + 1

Max Drag

33 lbs.

Warranty

1-year Limited

The Saltist is far and away the strongest of the Daiwa saltwater spinning reels. Its 33 pounds of drag is more than most anglers will be able to handle for more than a few minutes at a time, but just what larger targets call for in terms of stopping power.

The drag system is also completely waterproof, which should keep it in working order for a long time. In addition to the super-strong drag, this reel holds a ton of line, up to 440 yards of 65-pound braid, which you can fill right up to the lip without worrying about tangles or snags.

The overall reeling on the Saltist 6500 is really smooth, in part due to the 9 total corrosion-resistant ball bearings but also partly thanks to a lightweight rotor design that distributes stress across the reel more evenly. This is a fantastic reel for trolling or going after healthy fish that swim off as soon as they feel resistance on the line.

It has a manual bail that fans of classic saltwater spinning reels will love and a simple method for converting into a left-handed reel if need be. It’s versatile enough to chase huge bluefin or rip smaller fish right out of the ocean.

Pros
  • Tons of stopping power
  • Holds lots of line
  • Waterproof drag system
  • Smooth reeling action
  • Manual bail
Cons
  • Weighs more
  • More drag than you may need

5. Penn Spinfisher VI 9500

Highly-Rated Saltwater Spinning Reel

Reel Weight

2.32 lbs.

Gear Ratio

4.2:1

Ball Bearings

6

Max Drag

45 lbs.

Warranty

1-year Limited

The Spinfisher VI is just as robust a reel as you'd expect from Penn. Built with the same durable full-metal body and outfitted with some improved designs unique to this reel that make it easy to use strategically against all kinds of sport fishing targets.

The drag system is watertight, and while it may be technically rated as being less watertight than the Penn Slammer III, it can still handle just as much ocean spray and water contact without letting any through to damage the interior of the reel. The 9500 has a manual bail, but smaller sizes like the 5500 have an automatic one, so anglers can suit their preference depending on the size reel they need.

One of the areas where the Spinfisher shows some individuality is the rear drag system. Using a supplied tool, the rear drag can be set at one of 4 drag levels and automatically disengaged in favor of the front drag system with a turn of the handle. For a slow reel, this is definitely one of the strongest. Launching huge pieces of live bait and pulling in giant fish is going to be much easier and more likely to succeed with this reel.

Pros
  • Watertight drag system
  • Manual/auto bail options
  • 4 rear drag levels
  • Tough metal body
  • Well-balanced reel
Cons
  • Not ideal for fast lures

6. KastKing Sharky III 1000

Best Saltwater Spinning Reel Under $100

Reel Weight

0.5 lbs.

Gear Ratio

 5.2:1

Ball Bearings

10 + 1

Max Drag

33 lbs.

Warranty

1-year Limited

More lightweight and less expensive than much of the competition, this KastKing spinning reel surprises with some of its features, such as the whopping 11 total ball bearings, much more than would be expected in a reel at this price point.

The whole operation of this reel works very smoothly, and it has a highly effective performance as well. With a maximum drag of 33 pounds, it can handle big targets better than some other reels that cost three times as much. The aluminum spool is built to hold a braided line straight away, meaning you won't need any backing and can hold more usable line on the reel.

For a reel this size, the gear ratio is pretty fast. The IPT (inch per turn) is 27.8, a few inches less than some other reels in this guide, but will pull in bait and lures fast enough. There's no baitclicker, but if you put a high-visibility floater or bobber on the line, then this reel should work fine. It also works great as a primary reel if you intend to fish in the surf and keep the rod in your hand the whole time, especially because of its much lighter weight.

Pros
  • Very lightweight
  • Holds enough line
  • No backing required
  • Smooth operation
  • Left- or right-handed reel
Cons
  • No baitclicker

7. Piscifun Flame

Best Cheap Saltwater Spinning Reel

Reel Weight

0.83 lbs.

Gear Ratio

 5.2:1

Ball Bearings

9 + 1

Max Drag

19.8 lbs.

Warranty

1-year Limited

Here’s the perfect saltwater spinning reel for beginners who want to get their feet wet. It may not have all the fish-stopping drag of a more sophisticated reel, but it functions in much the same way, which will help newcomers learn.

Thanks to its graphite body, the Flame feels very much like more professional-grade reels do. It has a narrow frame that will help with casting but might not prepare anglers for the larger tackle that's necessary for larger targets. Nonetheless, the 5000 and the smaller 4000 are ideal for saltwater fishing with minimal upfront investment.

The interior gears and pinion shaft feel very soundly built when the reel is in use. A few elements built into the spool design help the line lay evenly and cast better. It’s very balanced and easy to use, most likely the best saltwater spinning reel under $50 because it doesn’t have lots of bells and whistles like many inexpensive reels do to try and cover up shortcomings.

It has necessities like a bait clicker and line keeper and more than enough drag for amateur ocean anglers. The one thing that could be improved is the design of the handle, which is nothing special but will get the job done.

Pros
  • Graphite body
  • Easy casting
  • Great for beginners
  • Balanced weight
  • Inexpensive
Cons
  • Uncomfortable handle

8. Shimano Socorro

Best Lightweight Saltwater Spinning Reel

Reel Weight

1 lb.

Gear Ratio

4.6:1

Ball Bearings

4 + 1

Max Drag

22 lbs.

Warranty

2-year Limited

Shimano builds these reels out of cold-forged metal rather than cutting out the gears to give them even more structural integrity. That power can really be felt when the drag system kicks in. While it may not have the highest max drag, this reel has plenty of power and likely just about as much as most anglers can handle for a longer length of time.

This reel is also comfortable to hold for that long because of its light weight and the comfortable handle, which is easy to grip and has enough torque for fighting the target. It can retrieve 31 inches of line per turn of the handle, which like the max drag is not any record but is a perfectly acceptable rate.

Even though it has one of the slower gear ratios on the market, this reel can still be used for regular swimbaits or flys inshore. Slow trolling is more likely to get anglers what they’re after with a reel this size and speed.

This reel is easy to maintain and could even be a good model to learn how to tool around on a reel. Surf fishing with lighter tackle is simple with the Socorro. Pair it with a lightweight rod, and you'll have a winning saltwater spinning rod and reel combo for surf fishing perch and just about anything else.

Pros
  • Strong metal construction
  • Easy to maintain
  • Comfortable to hold
  • Great for large lures & slow trolling
Cons
  • Lackluster drag & IPT

9. Abu Garcia Black Max

Best Saltwater Spinning Combo

Reel Weight

0.58 lbs.

Gear Ratio

 5.1:1

Ball Bearings

3 + 1

Max Drag

14 lbs.

Warranty

1-year Limited

Abu Garcia has crafted a dependable offshore spinning reel with the Black Max spinning combo. It's lightweight, and the rod and reel are well-paired for catching fish. The medium-power graphite blank has enough strength to wrench powerful targets out of the water, and it comes in two pieces to make it more portable.

The line rating on the rod and the max drag on the reel line up pretty exactly. This combo is best for getting 10-pounders, but it can probably handle a fair bit more than that from time to time. It doesn’t hold quite as much line as some competing spinning reels, so trolling is probably out of the picture with this reel. It’s narrow enough to cast well, though.

The bail on the reel feels solid enough and flips easily, but the rest of the reel doesn’t feel as solidly built as other reels do. That being said, this combo is one of the least expensive ways to get almost everything you need to go out fishing in the ocean. It’s great to have around for friends or kids to borrow and learn on. It reels smoothly enough, and the rod handles are comfortable to hold onto for long periods at a stretch.

Pros
  • Great deal for a rod & reel
  • Good for medium-sized fish
  • Casts well
  • Bail flips easily
  • Portable & balanced
Cons
  • Feels less sturdy
  • Not great for huge targets

Choosing the Right Gear Ratio for Offshore Fishing

  • Low Gear Ratio/Slow (5.1:1 thru 5.4:1)
    Most saltwater spinning reels have these slower ratios. These are best for slow-rolling techniques and casting big lures or big cuts of live bait. For larger tackle setups, low gear ratios are best.
  • Medium Gear Ratio/Medium (6.1:1 thru 6.4:1)
    Saltwater spinning reels that can be used to either cast large lures and slow-roll or try to move lighter baits through the water faster are in this middle part of the spectrum. This is the best gear ratio for beginners who want to learn how to do a bit of everything.
  • High Gear Ratio/Fast (7.1:1 thru 8.1:1)
    Moving baits and lures through the water column or across the top of the water fast is easy with a high gear ratio. Many pros use these high ratios because it’s easier to just let a fast-moving lure slow than it is to pump the handle on a reel with a slow ratio to get the lure moving more quickly.

Saltwater Spinning Reel Sizing Guide

Manufacturers rate the sizes of their saltwater spinning reels differently from one another. There's usually a comparable relative size - 2000 vs. 1000 from one brand is likely a similar difference as 100 vs. 200 in another.

Match the reel size with the type of fishing you'll do. Smaller reels are better for lighter lures and finesse fishing; large lures are better for techniques like trolling that require plenty of extra line. Saltwater rods also have line ratings to make it easy to pair them with the right reel.


How to Set Up & Use a Spinning Reel

  1. 1
    Attach the reel to the rod’s reel seat by sliding it in and screwing the reel holders into the closed position.
  2. 2
    Put line on the reel yourself by tying test to the reel with a knot and reeling backward until the spool is ¾ full or more, depending on how much the reel can handle.
  3. 3
    If you aren’t sure how to cast a saltwater spinning reel, familiarize yourself with the working parts and give it some practice casts before you head out.

Frequently Asked Questions

What types of lures and baits should I use with my saltwater spinning reel for offshore fishing?

Many of the same lure styles you’d use in freshwater sources work in saltwater, too. Just make sure to update them for the new, stronger targets. Ultralight lures still work, but in Florida, for example, they cast a lot more live baits like shrimp. Topwater fishing can net anglers some really huge fish in the ocean.

Are there any special care and maintenance steps for saltwater spinning reels?

Spinning reels are much easier to clean than baitcasting reels. The best saltwater spinning reels don’t require much more than removal from the rod and a wipedown with a rag dampened with fresh water after each use. Many anglers also treat them with additional oil and a water repellant. Make sure the reel is dry and anchor the line before storage in a dry, level place.

Where can I buy these saltwater spinning reels?

While all the big name brand reel manufacturers have their own websites and frequently sell their reels there, they, for some reason, seem to update those sites less frequently than Amazon stores do, even when they both lead directly to the manufacturer. There are other big stores like Cabelas that have eStores and the occasional sale on these spinning reels.


Conclusion

Saltwater fishing can be much more challenging but also much more rewarding. With the right saltwater spinning reel, any angler can haul in trophy-size fish, even on small ultralight lures.

For its line capacity, smooth operation, and waterproof sealing, there’s no spinning reel better than the Penn Slammer III for saltwater angling.