Hey there! Welcome to my review of the best saltwater spinning reels!
I spent 40 hours researching and testing 12 of the most popular saltwater spinning reels while considering my 20-plus years of experience using most of these reels. Next, I ranked them based on corrosion resistance, smoothness, drag force, weight, line capacity, and affordability.
My top 5 picks were head and shoulders above other saltwater spinning reels I tested.
You don’t have to pay a high-end price for a high-end saltwater spinning reel. With these spinning reels, you get a smooth retrieve, maximum drag, and ample line capacity while remaining lightweight and proven to last for years.
Ready to reel in more fish for less money?
Let’s get started!
5 Best Saltwater Spinning Reels
- Shimano Stella SW Spinning Reel (Best Overall)
- PENN Slammer IV (Best Value)
- Daiwa BG SW Spinning Reel (Best For Inshore Fishing)
- Shimano Saragosa (Best Alternative to Shimano Stella)
- KastKing Sharky (Best Budget Saltwater Spinning Reel)
Best Saltwater Spinning Reels Reviewed
Shimano Stella SW Spinning Reel – The Best Saltwater Spinning Reel
Ball Bearings: 13 + 1
Reel Size: 4000 – 30000
Max Drag Weight: 24 – 62 lbs.
Weight: 12.5 – 34.4 ounces
Why Buy The Shimano Stella SW?
- This is Shimano’s “Top Dog” – The best of the best spinning reel from the world’s best fishing reel manufacturer.
- The smoothest reel I’ve ever fished with – it will put a big grin on your face every time you turn the handle.
- Total peace of mind – know this reel is made from proprietary technology to keep water out and withstand the rigors of saltwater specifically.
- Even More Peace of Mind – This reel comes with Shimano’s Platinum Premier Service Plan.
- They’re beautiful – turn heads on the water and show it off to friends and family.
- This Reel Will Last Forever – Pass the reel down to your grandkids with proper maintenance.
Introducing the world’s most advanced saltwater spinning reel: The Shimano Stella SW.
It’s more than just a spinning reel; it’s a complete work of art with unparalleled strength, reliability, and smoothness built to take your fishing experience to the next level. It comes with more drag force, smoothness, and durability than any other spinning reel on earth.
The reason Stella is so famous among serious anglers is that it flat-out performs. You fish for Amberjack, Sailfish, or Goliath Grouper, all with one spinning reel and the world’s most advanced reel technology.
Imagine trolling for Kings one mile off, deep-dropping 40 miles out for Goliath, and sight-casting to Bluefins beyond the canyon. This can all be done with one reel, backed by one of the best service warranties available.
No other spinning reel offers these capabilities. Period.
The drag force is LAUGHABLE! The X-Drag with the Stella standard offers an insane 24-62 pounds of max drag. Good luck finding that on another spinning reel. Picture yourself fighting a Blue Marlin with a spinning reel. A little goofy, right? Not with a Stella, these reels are engineered for precisely that: Monster Fish.
What You’ll Love About The Shimano Stella SW
- The HAGANE Body Formed by Shimano’s Cold Forging Technology: the most over-engineered fishing reel ever made, built to last you a lifetime. Imagine passing this reel down to your grandkids one day, knowing they will be able to enjoy this reel just as much as you did.
- The Difference Between Sightseeing and Landing the Fish of a Lifetime: Instead of being unprepared for that school of Bluefins in the distance. Cast your Stella, knowing you have the reel that has pushed the limits and set the bar for what a spinning reel can achieve.
- Platinum Premier Service Plan: Fish with peace of mind. Shimano’s reel warranty for the Stella is unmatched in the industry and will keep you on the water, catching more fish more often.
- X-tough Drag: With the x-tough waterproof drag system, the Stella provides enough drag force to reel in Tuna, Shark, Sailfish, Marlin, and the list goes on.
What You Won’t Love About the Shimano Stella SW
- It’s Not Cheap: If you fish less than ten times yearly, then scroll down to my recommendations below. This reel is for you if you are a serious angler who fishes offshore regularly. Whether it fits your budget or not, I can’t say. However, if you plan to fish offshore and want to take your game to the next level, buy the Stella.
Suppose you’re looking for the most durable, smoothest, strongest, and most reliable saltwater spinning reel. The Shimano Stella SW is it. It’s just about the perfect reel and has more features, technology, and benefits than any other spinning reel.
If you want to save a bit of money, keep reading. If you’re going to catch more fish and have a blast while doing it. Get the Stella!
Penn Slammer lV Spinning Reel
Ball Bearings: 8+1
Reel Size: 2500-10500
Max Drag Weight: 30 – 60 lbs.
Reel Weight: 11 – 42.9 ounces
Why buy the Penn Slammer IV?
- The 2nd smoothest reel that we tested behind the Shimano Stella but for a fraction of the cost
- Built to last for many years even with heavy exposure to saltwater
- A workhorse that can give you the ability to fish both inshore and offshore
- More drag force than other models of the same size
- Essentially Corrosion proof means this reel will perform at the highest level, whether it is day 1 or 10 years down the road.
Introducing one of the most revolutionary saltwater spinning reels that are built to survive the apocalypse: The Penn Slammer IV
But it’s not just corrosion-proof with a reasonable price tag. This reel is impressively smooth and provides enough drag force to hook pelagic species while fishing offshore confidently. No other saltwater reel in this price range is sealed more thoroughly to withstand heavy exposure to saltwater while still providing the exceptional smoothness you expect from Penn fishing reels.
The Penn Slammer IV is so smooth because of the 8 + 1 stainless steel ball bearings, which truly sets it apart from the competition and takes your fishing experience to the next level. For you, that means you can fish longer, lose fewer fish, and reel in the unexpected monster fish with a reel that performs above its weight class.
Good luck finding another saltwater spinning reel that offers those benefits at this price point!
I have used the Penn Slammer IV in the surf reeling in Red Drum, offshore reeling in King Mackerel, and in the shallows catching my limit of Flounder. The Slammer is insanely VERSATILE!
I used to switch from an ultralight spinning reel for the flats to a conventional reel offshore and a 6500 in the surf. With a 4500 Penn Slammer IV, there’s no need for three reels. Whether offshore, in the flats or in the surf, the 4500 or even the 3500 Slammer delivers. For example, the 3500 series of Penn Slammer IV provides a whomping 30 pounds of drag, which is unheard of for this size reel, making this saltwater reel a real triple threat.
Imagine having a reel in your arsenal that can do it all; that’s what you get with a Penn Slammer!
What you’ll love about the Penn Slammer IV:
- Insanely Smooth Retrieve: The 8 + 1 stainless steel ball bearings are an upgrade from the Slammer III that make reeling in fish even more thrilling and effortless. The smooth retrieve will allow you to focus more on fishing and not on the reel. That’s what it’s all about, right?
- Built to Last: The Penn Slammer IV has a reliable IPX6-coated metal body to keep the salt out and help this reel last longer than the competition. The durability of this reel will save you time and money, and you won’t have to ask for a new reel every year for Christmas anymore.
- A Triple Threat Saltwater Reel: This reel outperforms most other reels in one category and all three saltwater environments. When you push off early morning to head offshore, the wind picks up in the afternoon, making fishing miserable. Don’t worry about returning to the dock to switch out your offshore reels for your ultralight. The Penn Slammer IV can handle everything without compromising performance and costing you fish.
What You Won’t Love About The Penn Slammer IV
- It’s not cheap: Ever heard the saying “you get what you pay for”? Me too! And it’s true in this case. You are paying a fair price for a reel that is proven to last, performs at the highest level, and can be used for all saltwater applications.
- The Penn Slammer IV is Heavy: With all that protective coating and top-of-the-line materials, the Penn Slammer IV 4500 weighs 15oz which is on the heavier side of the line compared to similar-sized saltwater fishing reels from other fishing reel manufacturers. Meaning if you are sight-casting to reds in the shallows hundreds of times while using the Slammer, you will notice it in your arms at the end of the day compared to using an ultralight.
If you are looking for one of the smoothest, longest-lasting, and most versatile saltwater spinning reels without having to take out a loan, get the Penn Slammer IV. It’s not perfect, but it has more features and durability than any other offshore spinning reel with a comparable price tag.
If you’re looking for more of a budget option, keep reading. If you want to catch more fish with a reel that will last for years, and have fun while doing it, get the Penn Slammer IV.
Daiwa BG Saltwater Spinning Reel
Ball Bearings: 6 + 1
Reel Size: 3000-6500
Max Drag Weight: 15.4 – 33 lbs.
Reel Weight: 9.3 – 29.5 ounces
Why Buy The Daiwa BG Saltwater Spinning Reel?
- Proprietary Technology
- Outlast competitors in the same price range
- Value – No other reel is more smooth in this price range
- More than capable of any inshore species
Next up is the Daiwa BG Saltwater Spinning Reel, a proper inshore reel that outlasts the competition.
The Daiwa BG Spinning Reel is built with sturdy and durable construction, using high-quality materials that you can trust to perform well in any coastal environment.
The reel offers impressive ball bearings for a smooth and effortless retrieve. It also has an impressive max drag weight of up to 33 lbs, making it one of the best saltwater spinning reels for landing bigger inshore fish like reds, snook, and tarpon.
At just 8.5 oz in weight(2000 series), this reel is on the lighter side of the scale compared to other saltwater reels today. And while it may be a little more expensive than other options, you are getting a reel that will give you years of reliable performance without needing replacement.
So if you’re looking for the same inshore reel used by local guides along the east coast, look no further than the Daiwa BG Saltwater Spinning Reel. You won’t be disappointed!
What You’ll Love About The Daiwa BG Spinning Reel
- Durability – This reel has outlasted my Penn Battles with the same kind of use over the last few years. With more durability, this reel will perform at its’ highest level for longer than the competition.
- Line capacity – With up to 275 yards of 20 lb test braided line, you can easily land even the biggest inshore fish. Spend less time spooling your reel and more time fishing.
- Price – This reel is a steal! It is reasonably priced, built to last, and performs well in all conditions, making it an excellent investment for a serious saltwater angler. Know that your investment in a product has been proven to last. The best part? You can feel confident giving this reel to friends or family as a gift, knowing that you can stand and be proud of the standard this reel is engineered with.
- Drag – At up to 33 lbs of max drag pressure, you can easily land even the biggest inshore fish. No need to worry about your line breaking or to reel in a catch that is too heavy for this reel’s capabilities. Head down to your local inshore fishing spots and cast away, knowing this beast will deliver.
What You Won’t Love about the Daiwa BG Spinning Reel
- It needs more Smoothness – Not as smooth as more expensive saltwater reels (The Shimano Stella). At this price point, it’s not going to be perfect. That said, this reel is best in class, but I did notice the reels higher up on my list were more smooth during the retrieve.
- The paint – I’m just being nitpicky here. After a few years of heavy use in the saltwater, I am noticing that the color of the paint (the gold) is starting to fade a bit and losing its flashiness.
The Daiwa BG Saltwater Spinning Reels will be the most reliable inshore companion for years to come at a very reasonable price point. If you want great value, a durable reel, and the drag force to stand up to the biggest inshore species, this is the reel for you. So what are you waiting for? Get out there and reel in your next big catch with one of the best saltwater spinning reels on the market today – the Daiwa BG!
Shimano Saragosa SW A Spinning Reel
I have pushed the Saragosa to its' limits in offshore conditions, and this reel has not wavered. This reel continues to perform at a level that makes me smile every time I spend a day using it.
Ball Bearings: 5 + 1
Reel Size: 5000-25000
Max Drag Weight: 22 – 44 lbs.
Reel Weight: 15.9 – 33.9 ounces
Why Buy The Shimano Saragosa?
- The best affordable alternative to the Shimano Stella
- HAGANE Body that is built to survive the saltwater
- IPX-8 Rated Waterproof Body
- Proprietary Technology
- Super Smooth
Next up is the Shimano Saragosa.
This spinning reel is an excellent alternative to the more expensive Shimano Stella, making it a great choice for anglers who want a Shimano but without the price, it takes to get their top dog.
The Saragossa saltwater spinning reels offer many of the same features that have made the Stella such a popular reel, including its HAGANE Body, which is built to withstand harsh saltwater conditions IPX-8-rated waterproof body, and proprietary technology for super smooth performance.
I have pushed the Saragosa to its’ limits in offshore conditions, and this reel has not wavered. This reel continues to perform at a level that makes me smile every time I spend a day using it.
Whether you are targeting big game fish like tuna, marlin, and mahi-mahi, or smaller inshore species like redfish, snapper, and Flounder, the Shimano Saragosa is an excellent choice for anglers looking to get the best performance out of their reel.
So why wait? Get a Shimano Saragosa knowing you have the best affordable alternative to Shimano Stella – from the best reel manufacturer in the world!
What You’ll Love About The Shimano Saragosa
- Superior performance and durability in harsh saltwater conditions
- IPX-8 Rated waterproof metal body prevents corrosion and keeps your gears running smoothly
- Proprietary technology for maximum smoothness, even when using total drag
- Affordable pricing that won’t break the bank
What You Won’t Love About The Shimano Saragosa
- The only downside is that it is a step down from our top pick: The Stella. But then again, the Stella is about 4x the price, so if you’re looking for a better value, the Saragosa is an excellent alternative.
Whether you are a serious offshore angler looking to reel in some big game, or an inshore fisherman who wants a high-quality saltwater fishing reel that won’t disappoint you, the Shimano Saragosa is sure to exceed your expectations. Get yours today and start reeling in your next big catch!
KastKing Sharky III Spinning Reel
Ball Bearings: 10 + 1
Reel Size: 1000-5000
Max Drag Weight: 33 – 39.5 lbs.
Reel Weight: 7.4 – 10.6 ounces
Why Buy The KastKing Sharky?
- The price – with a price point well under $100, this reel packs serious value and competes in performance compared to saltwater reels that are double the price.
- Versatility – whether flat-lining for Mahi or bottom fishing for snapper, this reel WILL stand up to the test.
- Smoothness – This reel is remarkably smooth with 10 + 1 stainless ball bearings. The best of all the budget spinning reels on the market today.
Last but not least is the KastKing Sharky for once-a-year anglers, beginners, or anyone who wouldn’t be able to sleep at night knowing that they just spent a fifth of their monthly income on fishing reels.
If you are a beginner or the occasional angler, the KastKing Sharky is an excellent choice for saltwater fishing.
With a robust design, high-quality construction, and excellent value for the money, this reel is perfect for anyone looking to get into saltwater fishing without worrying about breaking the bank.
Boasting features like a multi-disc drag system that supports up to 39.5 lbs. of drag pressure. Plus, an aluminum spool can hold up to 440 yards of 12lb. test monofilament line, and 11 shielded stainless steel ball bearings for smooth handling every time you cast, the KastKing Sharky is a must-have saltwater fishing reel for any budget-conscious angler.
So if you are looking for an affordable reel that won’t skimp on quality, look no further than the KastKing Sharky saltwater fishing reel. Get yours today and start reeling in your next big catch!
What You’ll Love About The KastKing Sharky
- Excellent performance at an ultra-affordable price
- Robust and well-built design – for maximum durability
- Multiple features – including an aluminum spool and multi-disc drag system, for smooth handling no matter what type of fishing you’re doing.
What You Won’t Love About The KastKing Sharky
- While there may not be much to dislike about this reel, some anglers might find that it isn’t relatively as smooth and high-performing as some of the more expensive options. But for anyone looking for a quality spinning reel that won’t break the bank, this is an excellent choice.
For beginners, weekend anglers, or even professional guides, The KastKing Sharky is the best-budget saltwater spinning reel on the market today.
What Makes a Good Saltwater Spinning Reel (Buying Guide)
When researching which saltwater reel to choose, there are several factors you will want to consider that I will discuss below.
Saltwater Reels Vs. Freshwater Reels
While many fishing styles translate from freshwater to saltwater or vice versa, there are nuances between the fishing within the two different environments, including which gear to use.
While freshwater reels and their components can withstand a bit of water inside of the reel, saltwater, when penetrating a reel, can cause serious damage if not ruin a reel.
The main difference between fishing reels for saltwater and freshwater reel is that saltwater reels must be sealed and coated with materials built to keep water out and stand up to salt.
Corrosion resistance is one of the primary considerations for manufacturers when designing reels for use in saltwater fishing. Many reels intended for use in saltwater fishing are made with materials that can stand up to the corrosive effects of salt. This includes, but is not limited to:
- Stainless steel components
- Non-corrosive materials and coatings on moving parts
- Sealed bearings and spool shafts to prevent corrosive water from entering
Other considerations for designing a reel for saltwater use include the type of materials used to make the handle, drag, and line roller, as well as the overall weight and design.
Most high-quality reels for saltwater fishing are designed with durability and corrosion resistance in mind to ensure that your gear will last and perform well no matter what conditions you are fishing in.
If you are looking for a high-quality, durable spinning reel that can withstand the harsh conditions of saltwater fishing, be sure to choose one designed specifically for this purpose.
Most manufacturers will denote reels by blatantly naming the reel with saltwater included in the name or SW. If you do not see mentions of SW or saltwater, read the product description to ensure your reel is best suited for salty conditions.
As you can imagine, freshwater fishing reels tend to be less expensive than their saltwater counterparts.
Without having to use specialty components and sealants to withstand saltwater, these reels are more affordable but are not used extensively in saltwater. If you do expose a freshwater reel to salt, it is best to clean the inside of your reel immediately after use.
If you are an angler who fishes in fresh and saltwater, I recommend equipping yourself with mostly saltwater reels. Therefore you can fish in both environments with the same reel.
I live in North Carolina, where some of the best bass and trout fishing are within just a few hours of me, while the Atlantic Ocean and Cape Fear River are in my backyard. I only own two reels that are not saltwater, and both have some significant age to them.
I stopped buying freshwater reels because, for one, I don’t fish in freshwater nearly as often as I do in saltwater, and secondly, the saltwater reels last longer and can be used wherever my wandering feet take me.
I have mentioned corrosion resistance throughout this article for a good reason. This is one of the primary considerations you will want to consider when buying a saltwater spinning reel.
My picks for top spinning reels all have excellent durability and resistance to corrosion. This was one of my main factors in deciding which reel to choose as the best saltwater fishing reel.
To avoid being corroded, these reels need to be adequately sealed and coated with materials that will protect all moving parts from getting rusty or damaged.
For example, Shimano’s HAGANE body and PENN’s IPX-6 coated metal body is the best of the best when it comes to coatings to make a durable reel.
Make sure to look for these types of coatings when purchasing a saltwater spinning reel.
Along with corrosion resistance, you also want to look for a reel that is as smooth as possible.
This will help ensure that every aspect of your saltwater spin reel works well and allows for greater control over your line.
The best spinning reels are often called “smooth” or have a “silky-smooth” drag system. This refers to the resistance when your reel is slowing down a fish or stopping altogether.
You don’t want any jerky movements or sudden speed changes, so you will want to look for reels that have a smooth drag system and are made with high-quality materials that are meticulously machined and assembled.
The bigger the fish, the more drag is required.
A drag system is essential for Stella, Slammer, and Saragosa, which are most suited for offshore fishing.
All three reels have superior drag systems, especially the Shimano Stella. This is one of the few features that sets that reel apart from the competition. It is head and shoulders above the rest regarding its ability to help you reel in monsters.
Typically spinning reels have inferior drag systems compared to conventional reels. Still, in recent years, manufacturers have made significant progress in their technology, making it easier to produce spinning reels with enough drag to handle any fish.
Larger reels in the 8000+ sizes will have drag systems that are more capable than reels of smaller sizes, so it is essential to consider which fish you are targeting and match the reel size to your application.
When fishing in saltwater, you will typically want to go with a lower gear ratio reel. This is because the higher ratios are best suited for freshwater fishing, where it is easier to use lighter lures and lines.
However, more power is required in saltwater, so you will need a lower gear ratio to best handle larger fish in heavier waters.
A reel with a higher gear ratio will also help you pull in fish more quickly, another critical aspect of saltwater fishing that makes it different from freshwater fishing.
Each of the best spinning reels on our list has low gear ratios and is best suited for catching fish in saltwater.
The durability of saltwater reels is directly related to corrosion resistance.
If your reel is not adequately sealed and coated, it will be susceptible to corrosion.
This is why you must look for saltwater spinning reels made with high-quality materials and the best coatings available.
Another factor that will impact a saltwater reel’s durability is whether you perform routine maintenance. Maintaining a saltwater reel is crucial to making it last and achieving its highest level. Keep reading to learn how to clean a fishing reel properly.
Line capacity is vital for offshore fishing.
Larger fish require heavier braided lines, and since you often fish in deeper waters, you will need a reel that can take on more line and perform well under heavy loads.
The best saltwater spinning reels have large line capacities, so you don’t have to worry about that when picking one of my top saltwater reel recommendations above. However, be sure to consider line capacity when making your final decision.
The best saltwater spinning reels are going to be relatively expensive.
We have mentioned all the high-quality components that produce a durable and high-performing spinning reel. With all those specialty components and technology comes a high price.
The best saltwater spinning reels on our list are priced from the low hundreds to over $1000, so there is something for every budget.
However, if you want the best of the best, then be prepared to pay more. Whatever your budget, however, you can find a good spinning reel that you will be happy with, as there have been significant advances in saltwater spinning reels in recent years.
The last factor to consider is whether a reel comes with a warranty.
Almost all reels have a warranty, but you want to check the fine print.
For example, the Shimano Stella’s Platinum warranty is best in class and comes with a service plan to help keep your reel performing its’ best and last forever. The turnaround guarantee is only 48 hours to have your reel back in your hands. This means more fishing and less waiting around.
So, if you are in the market for a new saltwater spinning reel, consider all of these factors before making your final decision. And with our best saltwater spinning reel recommendations above, you can be sure that you are choosing from only the best!
How to Clean a Saltwater Spinning Reel
Cleaning saltwater fishing reels are essential for the reel to perform at its’ highest level and last a long time.
For the best practices when it comes to cleaning a saltwater spinning reel, check out the video below:
Questions Related to Saltwater Spinning Reels
Friends and readers often ask me many questions about saltwater reels and the best way to use them. I have answered some of the most common questions below.
Can freshwater spinning reels be used in saltwater?
While most freshwater spinning reels can be used in saltwater, it is best to avoid this if possible.
In general, freshwater reels are not designed for use in saltwater and may rust or otherwise become damaged when used for prolonged periods.
Which size spinning reel is best for surf fishing?
This will depend on several factors, including the size of your rod, what type of fish you are fishing for, and how much line you want to be able to cast.
In general, the best spinning reel for surf fishing will be in the 8000+ range. This will give you plenty of line capacity and the best performance when casting out into the surf.
What size spinning reel is best for inshore fishing?
For inshore fishing, I recommend a light reel in the 1000-4500 range. This range will work in most inshore applications, but this question depends significantly on the fish you are targeting.
Another great resource for deciding which size reel to choose is to consult your local tackle shop and ask what fish are biting and which reel to use for the best saltwater fishing tackle for those species.
What size spinning reel is best for offshore fishing?
Once again, it depends.
For offshore fishing, you will likely want to choose a spinning reel with an even larger line capacity than you would for inshore fishing.
I recommend choosing a reel in the 10000+ range to best suit your needs when fishing offshore. This size reel is best suited for catching larger fish and provides plenty of line capacity to handle even the biggest catches.
Can you bottom fish with a spinning reel?
Absolutely! I recommend spinning reels for bottom fishing.
Spinning reels have both the line capacity and drag systems to handle even the most significant bottom fish, making them an excellent option for this type of fishing.
Who makes the best fishing reels?
As you can tell from my recommendation above, Shimano is the best reel manufacturer, with PENN and Daiwa coming in second and third place, respectively.
Many manufacturers produce excellent fishing reels, so check out my post on the best fishing reel brands.
Now that you have read about our top 5 best saltwater spinning reels, it is time to decide which one is best for you.
Each of these reels has its own benefits and drawbacks, so consider your specific needs before making a purchase.
=>If you are looking for a reel that can handle any fish in any situation, I recommend the Shimano Stella SW10000 Spinning Reel. This reel is incredibly durable and has enough line capacity to handle even the biggest catches.
=>For those looking for a quality reel at a more affordable price, the PENN Slammer Fishing Reel is an excellent option. This reel is built tough and can handle anything from inshore fishing to offshore fishing without issue.
=>Finally, if you are starting with saltwater spinning reels or need a spare reel for when your primary one breaks, the KastKing Sharky III Fishing Reel is an excellent choice. Affordable and reliable, this reel will get the job done without breaking the bank.
Thanks for reading!