Rick is a former news reporter who decided that the corporate world wasn't for him and took off to travel the world. He's been to every continent (yes, even Antarctica!) and has tried out a multitude of outdoor gear along the way. From tents to hiking boots, he's probably tested it all. Now, he's one of our full-time product testers and experts.
Bryan is one of our leading experts since he's got a vast expertise in practically everything connected to the outdoors. He's been hiking since he was a young boy, was an organizer of kayaking tours which later led to another passion of his - kayak fishing. Now, he's a part-time expert consultant involved in our multiple product tests and topic research.
Last updated: March 12, 2022
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A good quality spinning reel can make all the difference in your fishing trips. Finding the best saltwater spinning reel is not just a case of picking something that has some good reviews, you need to work out which is most suitable for your own unique needs and the environment you will be fishing within. You also need to make sure that the product has been designed with saltwater in mind as it is important to ensure it is corrosion-resistant to avoid the extra damage and corrosion on metals that saltwater can have.
On top of the suitability for saltwater fishing we’ve also considered all of the key features and functionality of a spinning reel, this includes the number of bearings and their quality, line capacity and many other features. We’ve looked at the maximum drag so you will know if you can tussle with bigger fish, and also the retrieve rate of the reel and how easy to use it is. Based on all of these factors (and more!) we found the Shimano Twin Power SW-B 5000XG to be the best saltwater spinning reel, as it shows unparalleled performance across the board.
As always, our team of researchers has spent a huge amount of time researching this, using first-hand experience as well as other customer reviews, YouTube reviews and information from the manufacturers to review the top reels. The research has been presented as a simple overview in the form of a table, before we provide detailed reviews of the products, and finally a buying guide to help you to better understand the market for top saltwater spinning reels and the features you should consider when making your choice.
Extra features: features Shimano’s X-Ship technology for durability, rigidity and extra power
A Shimano saltwater spinning reel is always going to have a chance of topping any list of best spinning reels. The brand is such a prolific and trusted manufacturer and their features are hard to beat.
The model offers Shimano Twin Power body which means it has a Hagane body which has been made by Shimano to create extra durability within their reels. The Hagane gear is key to the reel and is easy to use as well as being very robust.
The spinning reel has been made using cold forging which is designed to give a high level of resistance, and this is suitable for use in saltwater conditions not only because of the fact it is so well built, but because the interior aspects of this are so well-encased and protected from saltwater getting in and causing faster corrosion of the reel.
12 bearings are included with this and the retrieve rate is pretty high, this means that the use of the reel is smooth and it feels and sounds like a truly professional reel.
With good quality and high drag this is also one of the best light saltwater spinning reels for ocean fishing.
Why did it make our list?
Capable of catching larger fish with a high maximum drag
Exceptionally well made with Hagane technology
Good braid capacity and easy to cast with 12 quality bearings
What is not ideal about it?
This is one of the most expensive models from an expensive brand
Extra features: braided line-ready spool; waterproof carbon ATD drag system; dynamic cut aluminum ABS spool; magsealed line roller and main shaft
The Daiwa Saltist has been made specifically for saltwater fishing, as you may be able to guess from its name! It has a huge amount of features which have been made specifically with saltwater in mind. We’ve named it the best saltwater spinning reel for inshore fishing as it doesn’t have a huge drag rating, so though it will last a long time, it may be better to only catch smaller fish.
The reliability is aided by the waterproof drag system, meaning saltwater isn’t likely to get into the inside of this and impact the gears or other parts of the reel. The fact that this has been made with so many waterproof features you can see why it is suitable for saltwater and unlikely to be damaged by saltwater fishing whether you’re inshore or on the ocean.
The magsealed line roller and main shaft stay protected from moisture and make this product likely to last. This is also a relatively affordable reel, which has been met with some great reviews from fishermen everywhere.
If you need a huge maximum drag you may need to go for a Shimano or other product with a higher rating in this area, if the fish you’re aiming for isn’t huge then it doesn’t matter too much.
Extra features: front drag; features a Magnumlite rotor for a light feel when turning the handle
As you may know if you regularly read our articles about fishing products and reels specifically, Shimano is a brand we think you can trust implicitly. Our editor’s choice is a Shimano, but it is a little more expensive, the best lightweight saltwater spinning reel, the Shimano Stradic Ci4+ Spinning Fishing Reel STCI44000XGFB, is a little more affordable. This doesn’t mean it is lacking in features or quality though and this is a top option for fishing in saltwater conditions.
The fact that this weighs just 6.7 Oz means if you need an ultra-lightweight setup then this reel might be the perfect option for you.
This has 7 bearings in total, and a very clever Magnumlite rotor means that turning the handle gives a really light feel which avoids any sort of fatigue, even on long fishing sessions.
Like many of the other Shimano products, the durability comes from Hagane gears and X-Ship body technology. The core protect technology is also what keeps this ultralight spinning reel from allowing too much saltwater in and means that it doesn’t corrode quickly.
The drag range is still pretty good in spite of this being such a lightweight reel. There are arguments for using this inshore and out on ocean fishing trips.
What do we love it for?
More affordable than many other Shimano products
Good drag range
Ultralight spinning reel which helps to avoid fatigue
Magnumlite rotor gives a smooth and light feel when turning the handle to crank the reel
What were we disappointed with?
Not as affordable as some of the other options on this list
Extra features: features a sealed magnum CSC drag system and sealed magnum clutch; continuous anti-reverse
Quantum is a growing brand in the world of saltwater reels and this is a wonderful reel if you don’t mind using one with a bit of extra bulk. The Quantum Cabo CSP80 PT Spin Reel has a lot of very favorable reviews and due to the fact that it is really impressive for drag, lots of fishermen use this for ocean fishing or anywhere where larger species are the desired catch.
A lower gear ratio than many of the other products on this list means it isn’t quite as smooth in its operation, but this is a compromise for the immense power that the reel gives.
This reel has PT technology, and a sealed CSC drag system which doesn’t let saltwater in to damage and corrode quickly. The hard PT gears add to the robust nature of this reel which really is something of a beast, designed for catching big fish.
The LMS line management system helps you to cast long distances, and this is one thing a lot of users have reported.
The cost of the CSP80 is decent when you consider the fact that it has such a robust and high-quality build, though there are definitely cheaper options on the market if you are on a low budget and don’t need such a high drag.
What makes it special?
Huge drag capacity, great for ocean fishing and larger fish species
Sealed inside to prevent water from entering and adding to corrosion
What cons did we find?
Not as flexible and easy to cast as a lot of the other reels
Extra features: X-Ship technology; Hagane gear and body; cross carbon drag
You probably won’t be surprised to see another Shimano on this list. They offer such good quality reels, and the Shimano Spheros 5000 SW Heavy Duty Saltwater Fishing Reel is their best budget saltwater spinning reel. In spite of being cheaper than the other options it still has plenty of ‘concept features’ and is one of the more modern reels on the list.
This has an x-shield to provide resistance from water and stop the water from damaging the reel as it touches the metals and other materials.
The cold-forged gear is also very rigid and built to last. The X-Ship gear system included gives some amazing power efficiency. It minimizes the resistance when the reel rotates and stop you from losing power.
The X-shield system also protects gears and bearings by blocking the water which may otherwise enter and start to react with the reel.
This has a decent level of drag, which is probably to do with the fact that it is a bit of a heavier model than the other Shimano reels.
What do we love it for?
Built to last and unlikely to corrode quickly
X-ship gear system for efficiency and stopping resistance
What were we disappointed with?
Some users have reported a more heavy feel when using this for long periods of time
Still very durable, but not as durable as the other Shimano products on this list
Extra features: dual retrieve; instant anti-reverse
Penn is a good brand that operates within a friendlier budget for a lot of fishing fans who don’t have a huge amount of money to spend. This is one of, if not the best saltwater spinning reel under 100 dollars.
The Penn FRCII1000 Fierce II Spinning Fishing Reel has some features you may associate with more expensive reels, too. The instant anti-reverse can help with your line management and prevent issues from occurring during use.
It is a good option for inshore and nearshore fishing, and the drag capacity is decent without being too amazing. As this is one of the best budget saltwater spinning reels, don’t expect the earth! It is a fraction of the price of some of the Shimano options so it is natural that it cannot do quite as much in terms of features.
The durability may not be quite as high, with no specific system for keeping water out of the mechanism, but generally this should last years before you have to consider a replacement.
The Penn FRCII1000 Fierce II Spinning Fishing Reel isn’t overly lightweight or smooth, but it is reliable and has the ability to upgrade from a lot of beginner reels.
What do we love it for?
Great value for money
Built-in anti-reverse functionality
Quite a durable reel
Pretty good drag capacity
What were we disappointed with?
Doesn’t feel smooth and lightweight when casting or using for long periods of time
No specific system for keeping saltwater out of the mechanism
Line capacity (lb/yds): 10/230 (mono); 14/250 (braid)
Line retrieve per crank: 40 inches
Reel weight: 9.4 oz.
Extra features: dual retrieve; Amgearing system for precision; carbon matrix drag system for consistent drag pressure
The Abu Garcia Revo Inshore Spinning Reel counts as an ultralight model of spinning reel. It is under 10 Oz and this makes it perfect for carrying around on long trips and also a good option for long spells on the water as it will reduce fatigue. Abu Garcia is another prolific brand of reels so it is almost inevitable that one of their products is on our list.
As you would expect from a leading brand, this product has some really impressive features and functionality which have been built-in.
It has 7 roller bearings which have been designed to prevent corrosion. The AMgearing system provides machined gears and this means a lot of smoothness to go with the long-lasting durable nature of this reel. The gear design has been computer optimized and allows a huge amount of efficiency, and a carbon drag system gives consistent pressure when tussling with a fish.
The carbon rotor is also lightweight and helps this product come in at under the 10 Oz mark, but is still strong and durable.
This also has exceptionally fast 40 inches per crank line retrieval and is one of the most flexible lightweight reels out there. This is also flexible in terms of its setup as it is one of the few reels to have a handle which can be moved to left or right to suit which hand is your strong hand.
What are its best features?
Great gearing system for smooth casting
Clever drag system providing cleverly consistent pressure when catching a fish
What could be improved?
Not as cheap as some of the other ultralight options
Some users have reported this being a little noisy
Extra features: ergonomic handle; machined and anodized aluminum spool; infinite anti-reverse; oiled felt drag system
This is our budget pick model, the perfect option for those who are looking for something that can be reliable and give a good amount of quality without costing the earth. While it can’t compete with some of the most expensive models, it is just a fraction of the cost.
This has a lightweight graphite body with a metal sideplate. The spools are machined and anodized, and there is an oiled drag system for smooth tussles with fish. The 13 lb drag capacity is reasonable for most inshore fishing pursuits, though may fall short for ocean fishing.
Four steel bearings give this reel some flexibility and smooth casting and retrieves. One great feature which some of the most expensive saltwater reels don’t even have is the infinite anti-reverse system.
The corrosion resistance on offer is pretty good for a reel which doesn’t cost too much, and even the best saltwater spinning reels under $100 don’t tend to have such a lightweight graphite body.
The reel isn’t perfect and could be a little smoother. The low number of bearings could maybe be increased for smoother retrieves.
Generally, for an affordable, lightweight reel, it is hard to argue with this option.
Why did it make our list?
Very affordable option
Infinite anti-reverse system
Ergonomic handle which feels great even after hours of use
Line capacity (lb/yds): 8/120 (mono); 15/150 (braid)
Line retrieve per crank: 30.7 inches
Reel weight: 7.8 oz.
Extra features: braid-ready spool; carbon frame, rotor, and cover; direct screw-in handle
This model is our best saltwater spinning reel under 100 dollars due to its great smoothness and low weight. It is very rare to find such a good quality reel which has such an ultralight design, especially at such a reasonable price. The Piscifun Carbon X 2000 Spinning Reel certainly manages to do so.
The real sacrifice to be made at the price is the fact that this doesn’t hold a huge amount of braid, and the fact that it isn’t as durable as some of the other options. This reel is not likely to last anywhere near as long as the exceptional quality reels made by Shimano, for instance. That said, on a budget, this is a great choice.
You have a braid-ready spool which you can load up really quickly and easily. The drag is another area we were very impressed by, as there is up to 33lbs of drag capacity due to the oversized washers included. It also has rubber rings which stop the drag getting water and dust inside.
The screw-in handle can work on the left or the right of this reel to suit your personal preference. 11 bearings make the casting and retrieving within this reel very smooth and is more than double the amount some of the other reels offer.
Extra features: double anodized knurled machined aluminum spool; adjustable for right or left hand retrieve
Our best saltwater spinning reel under $50 is the Lews Fishing TPI400 TP1 Inshore Speed Spinning Reel. This is only designed for inshore use and doesn’t have some of the more advanced features at the top end of the market, but for a cheap and basic reel that does the job for as low a price as possible, the Lews model could be worth considering.
There are still some decent features on offer with this reel in spite of the price. It has a lightweight body and is under 10 Oz, which is the criteria for an ultra-lightweight spinning reel. It has 7 bearings and a zero reverse bearing which prevents issues coming from line reversal.
The spool is double-anodized for extra robustness. Though this doesn’t have any extra features like protection from saltwater entering the mechanism, it is a pretty reliable and lightweight reel which comes at a very affordable price tag.
The retrieve rate is pretty good and this is a relatively smooth model, too. The spool is adjustable for right or left hand retrieve.
Why did it make our list?
Very lightweight and pretty sturdy for the price
What is not ideal about it?
No extra features to avoid water entering the mechanism
Drag could be higher and smoother for larger fish
Things to Consider
Choosing a brilliant spinning reel is important. This is a big investment and done right you should end up with a reel which is going to last you for years of use. However, as with a lot of fishing equipment, it can be really tough to make the choice regarding which one to buy. There is a lot of jargon and new terminology to learn, and there are also so many choices. Do you need a top model for inshore our ocean fishing? Are you looking for high drag? There is a lot to understand before you take the plunge and buy a spinning reel. For this reason, we’ve put together a detailed buying guide explaining the features and the choices you have to make.
Reasons to get a top-quality saltwater spinning reel
If you’re not very experienced when it comes to fishing, it is very easy to assume that a reel is just a reel and that there can’t be a huge amount of difference between the models. This is quite far from the truth. Besides the price difference (you can get some models for $50, others will cost many hundreds) there are lots of different features to think about. Some are built to prioritize different features and some have more in terms of reliability.
Finding a high-quality spinning reel will make all the difference and ensure that the reel will suit the area you are fishing in. It will also allow you to spend only the amount of money you need to in order to get the features you need, and to find a reel which will last you many years, rather than something you need to replace after a few months. You don’t always have to spend the earth to get a brilliant reel, either. The best saltwater spinning reel for the money can provide both value and quality.
Features to consider when choosing a spinning reel for saltwater
The following features are the most important to think about when buying a spinning reel for use in saltwater conditions. It is key to understand what all of the different features mean and understand how they affect your fishing. This will help you to make the right buying decision.
The bearings help with the spinning of the reel and both the casting and retrieving of the line. Both the number of bearings and the quality need to be considered. More gears often means a smoother operation but if the gears are poor quality and corrode quickly then the chances are that you will be left with a clunky and low-quality reel as the bearings decrease in quality. Steel, treated bearings are often the best quality.
The gear ratio is a number rating such as 6.2:1. The higher the number at the start, the more rotations of the reel will happen per crank of the handle. 6.2:1 means that for every one crank the reel spins 6.2 times in total. This can help with line retrieval and the ease of the handle when reeling a fish in.
Maximum drag force
Drag force refers to the resistance the fish will feel when it has been hooked and is in a tussle. If the drag force cannot stand up to the weight of the fish, then there is every chance that damage could be done to your rod. There are even examples of rods snapping because of using a reel which doesn’t offer enough drag force.
A smaller amount of maximum drag force would be okay for small fish and inshore fishing, but not for larger fish.
This is simply the amount of line that can be held by the reel. Some products have a much higher line capacity than others. For instance, we recommend the Shimano Twin Power SW-B 5000XG for the amount of line it can hold. The capacity varies depending on which type of braid and line you are using.
Line retrieve rate
The line retrieve rate is simply the calculation of how much line retrieval per crank of the handle is possible. The Abu Garcia Revo Inshore Spinning Reel is an example of a saltwater spinning reel with a much higher retrieve rate than some others, with 40 inches per crank possible. This is good for those who need to retrieve their line and reel in their catch as quickly as possible.
Inshore or offshore?
This is another area which people can sometimes think doesn’t make a difference. It really does, though. The heavier fish will be located offshore and this means that if you want to catch those type of fish you will need a product which can handle it. Offshore and ocean fishing saltwater spinning reels allow you to catch bigger creatures with high maximum drag and capacity of the reel. For inshore models, this is less of a priority as the fish you are looking for are likely to be lighter in weight.
Reel handle position
This seems basic, but it is important to get this right. The reel handle position needs to suit whether you are left handed or right handed. It is something that lots of people neglect to consider and it is very frustrating if you order a spinning reel and it gets delivered with a handle on the wrong side. Some reels, like the Piscifun Carbon X 2000 Spinning Reel, allow you to screw the handle into whichever side suits you.
How the frame has been made is an important consideration for this type of product. Saltwater can have more of an impact on the materials than freshwater would which means that durability and build quality are vital.
Some form of corrosion resistance is needed in the construction of the frame to stop it corroding quickly.
This can come in the form of a coating or even a design which can prevent water from entering. In the more expensive products in the market it is reasonable to expect a more impressive frame construction and materials such as graphite.
Think about the weight of the reel if you are traveling around while you are fishing or if you think you might be prone to some fatigue after long spells of fishing. Lightweight products are very convenient for travel setups. The Shimano Stradic Ci4+ STCI44000XGFB Spinning Fishing Reel is a brilliant example of a reel which weighs remarkably little but still has plenty of features. Some people are far more used to heavier reels and if you can handle this then there is no reason to worry too much. The lighter models tend to be more expensive due to the carbon fibers used in their construction.
Anti-Reverse on a reel is a feature which is designed to stop the reel turning backwards. This could potentially cause all sorts of problems when it comes to your line. It also engages your drag when fish are pulling against the reel.
Yes. While you should never use a freshwater reel in saltwater fishing due to the fact it will be more likely to corrode and get saltwater stuck inside, a saltwater reel can be used for either purpose. If you buy a saltwater spinning reel you can use this for either type of fishing, reducing the need for two different reels.
You should look to lubricate your reel regularly to keep it running smoothly and keep the bearings and rotor in good condition. A saltwater reel needs to be lubricated more often than a freshwater reel would.
Our top three products can all offer exceptional quality for saltwater spinning reels. The Shimano Twin Power SW-B 5000XG is our editor’s choice, it has such a high level of durability and also has some brilliant features to stop water from entering and causing corrosion. It is also relatively lightweight and though it is expensive it receives a rating of 9.9/10.
The Daiwa Saltist8000 Gear Spinning Reel is second on our list of the best saltwater spinning reel choices. It is excellent quality and a great inshore option, though it does sacrifice a little drag. It has a waterproof design which stops saltwater from entering and causing corrosion and gets a rating of 9.8.
At 9.6/10, we’ve also rated the Shimano Stradic Ci4+ Spinning Fishing Reel incredibly highly. It has very smooth operation and decent drag level, and is impressively lightweight at under 10lb, great for portable fishing setups. This is another Shimano product but offers a bit more affordability than some of their others, while still having the huge level of durability and quality we have grown to expect from the amazing Japanese brand.