11 Best Saltwater Spinning Reels – 2018 Top Models Reviewed!
Short on time? Here is the list of our recommended top saltwater spinning reels:
Over the last few years there has been a quiet revolution in the technologies and designs of saltwater spinning reels with brands like Okuma, Penn, Shimano, and Abu Garcia leading the pack. These improved reels have gotten more powerful, smoother, and more durable so you can keep casting all day long without having to worry if your gear is up to the task.
For this article, we have explored a wide range of options to assemble an up-to-date list of the best spinning reels across all budget ranges that will make your choice of picking your next saltwater reel easier.
Read our in-depth review of the best saltwater spinning reels below:
Table of Contents
- Best Saltwater Spinning Fishing Reels
- Best Saltwater Spinning Reels - Top Picks
- Things to Consider Before Buying
Best Saltwater Spinning Fishing Reels
The following reels have been chosen as the best saltwater spinning reels on the market based on the quality of their components, the value of their craftsmanship, the versatility of their functions, and overall high standard of their performance.
Best Saltwater Spinning Reels - Top Picks
When you hear the name Penn in the fishing industry, you know you can't go wrong. The highly popular Spinfisher V is a saltwater marvel, with a waterproof design that ensures that you can fish in any water of your choosing.
This reel has a watertight design that efficiently prevents spray and water from entering your drag system and gear box so that the reel parts do not get corroded by the salt water.
The 5 shielded stainless steel bearings found in this model guarantee fluid and effective reeling action in all conditions, while the bearings are supported by three HT-100 drag washers to provide smooth performance and longevity.
Other than its sealed drag system, the Spinfisher V is also known for its convenient line capacity rings so you can always keep track of your line when fighting larger fish. Additionally, the full metal body construction and metal sideplate ensure that you can reel in heavy loads without compromising your reel.
- Full metal body, sideplate, and rotor
- Sealed HT-100 Slammer Drag System
- Braid-ready superline spool with Line Capacity Rings
- Instant anti-reverse
The Ambassadeur C3 is a right-hand retrieve reel that sports a free spool baitcast construction, which works to make your saltwater fishing experience much easier and more enjoyable. This reel comes in two main sizes, the first being the 9.9 ounce C3-5500 and the second being the 11.3 ounce C3-6500.
While the features of these two reels are similar, they differ in their weight and spool capacity.
The C3 series has a stable 5.3:1 gear ratio, which guarantees that you can fish with unparalleled accuracy and cast to long distances without hesitation. It also has 3 ball bearings and 1 roller bearing as part of its carbon matrix drag system, which provides an extremely smooth fishing performance. Since the Ambassadeur C3 comes with anti-reverse via its stainless steel roller bearing and an adjustable 6-pin centrifugal braking system, there is no way you can go wrong with this reel.
What you get when you buy the Abu Garcia Ambassadeur C3 is an easy-to-operate, smooth-to-cast, and powerful baitcasting reel.
- Carbon Matrix Drag system
- Unrelenting power and premium performance
- Six-pin centrifugal brake
The Okuma Trio series features a unique aluminum and graphite hybrid construction.
While its one-piece forged reel stem and rotor arm are made out of sturdy aluminum, the sideplates are made out of lightweight graphite to provide an excellent combination of weight saving and strength.
The spool of the spinning reel houses an accurate Dual Force Drag system (DFD) in its aluminum drag chamber, ensuring that you have optimal stability and maximum smoothness when reeling in your line.
This feature is complemented by 9 stainless steel ball bearings and an anti-reverse roller bearing to guarantee that your reel does not catch when you are hauling in your fish.
- Hybrid spool design with graphite arbor and aluminum lip
- Crossover aluminum and graphite hybrid body and rotor design
- Precision Dual Force Drag System (DFD)
- 9 ball bearings
- Quick-set anti-reverse stainless steel roller bearing
The Stella 5000 SW/B from Shimano is a top grade 8-ounce reel, and is the previous winner at the 2010 ICAST awards.
This Shimano Stella SW-B Spinning Reel is popular for its top of the line features which are guaranteed to provide excellent fishing experiences time and time again.
The high-performing features of this reel include an X-Ship drivetrain that offers supreme cranking power so you can muscle in offshore monsters more easily.
The X-Tough drag provides increased drag performance in terms of toughness, smoothness, and control. High-level water resistance in all key locations is guaranteed by the X-Protect and X-Shield sealing structures.
And if that’s not enough, the Stella 5000 SW/B has an advanced computer-balanced rotor for increased efficiency and a pinion gear supported by bearings for longevity on the water.
- Gear Ratio: 5.7:1
- Line Retrieve: 96.52 cm / 38 inch
- Weight: 435 g - 15.34oz
- 14 S-ARB bearings
The Thunnus CI4 is an extraordinary surf reel that should be on top of your bucket list.
If you are wondering about the name of this reel, Thunnus means tuna in Latin. This saltwater fishing reel is exceptionally smooth, strong, and incredibly durable, and all of these properties are a direct result of its aluminum body and rotor construction as well as its waterproof drag system.
Additionally, the Thunnus has a one of a kind baitrunner system which functions as an additional drag system. With this unique feature, you have the ability to feed out your line from the spool with full control so that you can fish with live bait like never before.
- Lightweight and powerful
- Baitrunner system with unmatched adjustability
- 6 S-SUS bearings
- 1 roller bearing
- Hagane Gear concept
- Dyna-Balance Propulsion Line Management System
If you’re a fisherman looking to land a monster fish, then you’ll need a spinning reel that can handle the pressure.
While many standard reels will bend or break against a larger catch, the KastKing Kodiak will take a beating. In fact, it’s even named after the largest bear in the world, the Kodiak, due to its immense strength.
What’s so great about this reel is that it is both lightweight and extremely durable. Not only that, but it’s smoother than the competition with its 10 ball bearings (plus one anti-reverse). And to help you maintain your pull strength, it has a carbon fiber drag system that won’t snap under pressure.
As the spool is also designed to keep water and sand out to prevent corrosion, you have a high-class spinning reel that can take on all environments, both in salt and freshwater.
- All aluminum construction body
- 10 + 1 stainless steel bearings
- Zero-flex for better stability
- Carbon fiber drag system for strength
- Spool and rotor structure keep sand and water out
- Longer handle for better leverage
- Soft grip for comfort
The Revo MGX is a spectacular and revolutionary low-profile baitcast reel, which combines a compact and lightweight design with an innovative, durable, and high-performing reeling mechanism.
Firstly, this popular reel weighs a mere 5.4 ounces, which is achieved through an X-Mag alloy frame, an aluminum gear, and a carbon C6 sideplate.
All of this weight reduction does not sacrifice the strength of this reel, as the one-piece frame of the reel is exceptionally strong.
The Revo MGX reel also features the innovative Infinitely Variable Centrifugal Brake (IVCB-IV) system, which can be adjusted and fine-tuned to your preference.
It has 9 stainless steel HPCR bearings and an additional roller bearing, which allows for improved protection against corrosion while ensuring a smooth cast.
Comfort, durability, and precision are also guaranteed via its Infini II spool design, Carbon Matrix Drag system, bent carbon handle, and the recessed reel foot.
- Lightweight 5.4-ounce Revo MGX has innovative X-Mag alloy frame
- C6 carbon sideplates for lightweight and durable performance
- The Infinitely Variable Centrifugal Brake (IVCB-IV) system allows you to cast a wide variety of baits
- 28 external adjustment positions, allowing detailed fine-tuning on the water without having to remove the sideplate
- 9 stainless steel HPCR bearings and 1 roller bearing provide increased corrosion protection
- 7.9:1 gear ratio, 28 inches per turn
- Standard retrieve speed
- 12-pound/115-yard spool capacity
- 12-pound drag
When it comes to otherworldly spinning reels, the ever popular Shimano Stradic CI4+ takes the cake.
This reinforced carbon fiber reel is definitely the future of Shimano, with top grade construction that is 250% stronger than the previously used CI4 material, and 20% lighter than XT-7 graphite.
The construction of the Stradic CI4+ contains zero metal, meaning that the frame, sideplate, and rotor of the reel will not rust even when in constant contact with saltwater.
The Stradic CI4+ has a gear ratio of 5.8:1 and a maximum drag power of 20 lbs. Apart from its amazing strength and lightweight properties, the CI4+ also features Shimano’s X-Ship system that provides smoother operation under heavy loads.
The efficiency of this reel is further supported by 7 ball bearings which make handling the reel ultra smooth.
Lastly, this reel is also equipped with Shimano’s unique propulsion line management system which guarantees that you can cast your line without any hassle.
- Ultralight and impervious to rust
- X-Ship for supreme cranking power
- Hagane Gear concept
- Machined thread-in aluminum handle
Manufactured in Japan, the Curado is one of Shimano’s most popular series among anglers, and for good reasons.
For starters, this reel only weighs 11.5 ounces due to its solid aluminum frame construction and lightweight graphite sideplates
When it comes to the smooth features of the reel, you have one S A-RB ball bearing, 5 shielded stainless steel bearings, and one roller clutch bearing.
These seven bearings work seamlessly to ensure that you can reel in your catch without exerting needless effort on your line.
Additionally, the Shimano Curado boasts a high-efficiency 6.2:1 gear ratio, which guarantees lightning-fast retrieval speed.
- Aluminum frame
- 6.2:1 gear ratio
- A7075 Aluminum Magnumlite Spool
- Features 7 bearings: 5 shielded SS Bearings, 1 Roller bearing, plus 1 Anti-Reverse B Roller Clutch bearing
- High Efficiency Gearing
- Super Free Bearing Supported Pinion Gear System
- 12/240, 14/190, or 20/120 line capacity options
- Weight: 10.5 Ounces
Also Read: Best Trolling Reels – Top Models Reviewed
10. Penn Gold Label Series Conquer (Currently unavailable)
The Conquer is a fantastic model from the Gold Label series, and it comes in multiple sizes including the CQR2000, CQR4000, CQR5000, and the CQR7000.
These reels have been constructed with amazing detail and impressive quality, keeping with the tradition of top-notch Penn craftsmanship that has been in effect for over 7 decades.
Whether you are using this reel in-shore or near-shore, the excellent design of the Conquer will ensure reliability, durability, and smooth operation in saltwater.
The gear box has been constructed with one-piece machined aluminum, and the aluminum spool is forged, machined and anodized to give you spectacular casting distance possibilities.
The gear box has a one-piece machined aluminum frame, and the aluminum spool is forged, machined, and anodized to give you spectacular casting distance possibilities. Other remarkable features of this reel include an eternal alloy spool lip that is resistant to scratches, dents, and nicks.
The Conquer spinning reel also has an Easy Access System (EAS) which allows anglers to easily lubricate their gears and bearings for a consistently smooth operation
- Patented one-piece machined aluminum gear box
- Forged, machined, and anodized aluminum spool
- Suitable for use with Superlines—the middle section of the spool is fitted with a rubber gasket to keep the line from slipping
- Eternal Alloy—the spool lip is made from a proprietary metal that resists dents and scratches
- Easy Access System for easy maintenance
This Abu Garcia spinning reel has long been a favorite among anglers, and for good reason.
It’s affordable, powerful, and durable—making it one of the best choices for power finesse fishing techniques.
This reel has a lightning-fast retrieve rate of 36 per turn of the handle courtesy of the 5.8:1 gear ratio, and it is equipped with an aluminum reinforced C6 carbon body to make it both lightweight and exceptionally durable.
The smooth and consistent reeling action is maintained by 8 stainless steel bearings plus one roller bearing which also provides increased corrosion protection. In line with this, a stainless steel main shaft offers improved corrosion resistance, while the Everlast bail system enhances the durability of the reel.
The wide spool design ensures low line memory, making this reel a great choice if you’re using fluorocarbon lines. The drag performance has scaled to the top of its game thanks to the Carbon Matrix hybrid drag system which ensures smooth and consistent performance throughout the drag range.
- The aluminum-reinforced C6 carbon body makes this reel both durable and tough.
- The 5.8:1 gear ratio allows you to retrieve your cast in a matter of seconds.
- Its machined-aluminum spool is braid-ready, meaning that braided lines can now be tied directly to the spool without slipping.
- The rocket line management system is used to keep the fishing line from tangling as well as to provide better control underwater.
Things to Consider Before Buying
There are several factors that will determine the type of saltwater fishing reel you should go for:
- Your target fish
- Your fishing location
- Your fishing method and experience
- Your personal taste and preferences
Type of Material
I’m sure you know by now that not all of the best fishing reels are suitable for saltwater fishing. For saltwater fishing, it is crucial that you choose a specialized watertight reel that will not corrode with salt water that would easily damage general reels designed for freshwater fishing.
These are the materials used to build saltwater reels:
- Magnesium—fishing reels that are made of magnesium will easily corrode. Despite magnesium being lightweight and a common material for making fishing reels, it is not recommended for saltwater fishing because it will deteriorate quickly.
- Aluminum, on the other hand, is a great material for saltwater reels. It is lightweight, sturdy, and will last for an extended period of time.
- Graphite—some other brands that make saltwater reels from graphite because it is a durable, lightweight, and relatively cheap material.
- Hybrid—some fishing reels like the Okuma Trio are designed with a hybrid construction, which is a combination of graphite and aluminum components, making these reels very strong and corrosion-resistant.
Size of the reel
The size of your fishing reel essentially determines the size of the line you can use with it.
If you are fishing for anglerfish and viperfish, which are found in deep water, you will need a larger-sized fishing reel that is sturdy and has a large line capacity. On the other hand, if you are fishing in-shore, a medium-sized reel will serve you better because you do not need that much line capacity.
But how can you determine if a reel is medium-sized or large? While different manufacturers may size their models as 50, 500, or even 5000, all of these refer to the same size.
Generally speaking, reels can be classified according to their size as follows:
- Small- 10/100/1000 – 35/350/35000
- Medium - 40/400/4000 - 55/550/5500
- Large – 60/600/6000 and above
Some of the common materials that are used to make spools are aluminum and graphite. While both of these materials are corrosion-resistant, which makes spools more durable, spools made from graphite are lighter in weight, but aluminum spools are stronger.
Reel frames can be made from magnesium, graphite, or aluminum. The type of frame construction reduces the torque on the spool and reel when you are struggling with big fish.
The gear ratio of reels is determined by how many times the spool revolves with each turn of the handle. For example, in the case of a reel with a gear ratio of 7.3:1, the spool turns 7.3 times with each crank.
Fishing reels with a higher gear ratio will be faster at retrieving the line. Here is a great video explaining the gear ratio of spinning reels you can check:
The drag adjustment system of the reel allows you to control the speed at which the line can be pulled off the spool after the fish takes the bait.
For instance, if you are catching larger fish like a Blue Marlin or Tuna, proper drag settings will help to prevent the fish from snapping your line.
As you can see from this detailed review, Shimano, Okuma, Abu Garcia, and Penn reign supreme when it comes to the world of saltwater fishing. If you are looking for a value for money investment, you can’t go wrong with selecting one of the ten high-performing reels listed above.
Each of them is considered a top choice among serious anglers, and will offer you superior and consistent performance that we expect from the best spinning reels.