When it comes to picking the best saltwater fly reels, having the right reel can make the difference between catching a trophy sailfish or regretting life!
If you are like many other fishermen who enjoy saltwater fishing and you are wanting to fly fish inshore or out around the rocks for aggressive, large saltwater fish, you need something with more meat than what you would typically use for your freshwater trout!
Our Top Picks
Modern fly reels these days are all but indestructible. They are all similar but today we are going to match-up the best of the best and see which crowns over the rest!
10 Best Saltwater Fly Reels Reviewed
Best Overall Saltwater Fly Reel
- Large arbor
- Multi-disc drag system
- Sealed drag system
The Abel SDS (Sealed Drag Salt) is an amazing saltwater fly reel that is strong, reliable, and durable. It is designed with the capability to handle saltwater fish of different sizes.
The multi-disc drag system gives it impressive stopping power that allows you to cast with better accuracy. The sealed drag system protects the reel from the elements, namely salt, debris, and wind.
It also comes with a quick change spool for swift casting.
Best Budget Saltwater Fly Reel
- BEHEMOTH FLY REEL: Combines the most powerful drag in its...
- QUALITY DESIGN: The unique, un-machinable, die-cast...
- HEAVY DUTY DRAG: A super-heavy duty carbon fiber drag...
- Unique die-cast construction
- Large arbor spool design
- Made of carbon fiber
The Redington BEHEMOTH Fly Reel is a great reel that combines aesthetic value and efficiency. The saltwater reel is made of carbon fiber with an un-machinable die-cast construction which gives it the needed sturdiness.
The carbon disc drag provides drag strength which in turn leads to high performance. The carbon fiber plates work with the stainless steel friction plates, providing the needed torque to catch any fish. For proper handling, it comes with twin molded handles.
It also comes with an oversized drag knob made of aluminum, for better control when casting. This reel is versatile being suitable for catching small trout as well as big saltwater fish.
Best Entry Level Saltwater Fly Reel
- Sealed drag surface
- A large arbor
- Durable Spool
The Orvis Hydros Reel is a top choice saltwater fly reel for beginners. The quality of the features of this reel will help you to ease into saltwater fly fishing with no trouble.
One of the best qualities of this reel is its versatility. It can be perfectly capable of handling any size of fish from trout to bigger saltwater species. The large arbor of this reel allows for quick retrieval of the fishing line.
Its carbon and stainless drag system is durable, providing protection from both salt and sand. The reel is extremely lightweight.
Best Mid-range Level Saltwater Fly Reel
- Sprint is the strongest and advanced reel in Maxcatch family...
- Beveled cut with a multi-axis machining technique from T6061...
- Patent-pending Maintenance-Free ,Fully Sealed Stacked Disc...
- Large arbor spool for quick retrieval
- Fully sealed drag system
- Stainless steel drag discs
The Maxcatch Sprint is a sophisticated saltwater fly fishing reel that is designed to function optimally in different fishing conditions. This reel has amazing features and qualities that make it suitable for both freshwater and saltwater.
From sea trout, steelhead to salmon, you can be sure to catch the best saltwater species using this reel. The Maxcatch Sprint is designed with a CNC machined anodized aluminum alloy body, giving it structure and durability.
The sealed drag system ensures that it is not affected by saltwater, sand, and debris. The stainless steel drag disc is effective in fighting big and strong fish. Its large arbor spool allows for quick line retrieval while casting.
The reel comes in three different colors of star blue, diamond black, and pearlite silver.
Best All-Round Saltwater Fly Reel
- SPECTRUM C: Multi-purpose fly reels built to cover the...
- SCS DRAG SYSTEM: Proprietary high-grade US made carbon...
- ONE REVOLUTION DRAG KNOB: Numbered settings, detents, and...
- One revolution drag knob
- SCS drag system
- Large arbor
The Sage Spectrum C Fly Fishing Reel is what you call a proper all-round saltwater fly reel, due to its multi-purpose functionality. You can use the fly reels for saltwater today and for freshwater species the next day with no trouble.
It is designed to cope with different forms of fishing applications. This fly reel is designed with an SCS drag system made with carbon. It is durable and can be configured to fit the fishing application that you need it for at every point.
It is a fully sealed drag system providing corrosion resistance. The one revolution drag knob allows you to set your preferred control level for the day’s fishing by using a simple click. It also comes with a large arbor and vented spool for quick retrieval.
The reel is finished with powder coating for corrosion resistance and surface protection.
Best Unique Saltwater Fly Reel
- Pit stop drag system
- Large arbor spool
- Low line memory
The Echo Bravo Fly Reel is a unique type of saltwater fly reel which is different from everything else on the list. The reel is designed with what is known as a Pit Stop drag system.
This system functions by keeping salt out of the reel, on the rim of a margarita glass. This allows the carbon fiber disc drag system to function optimally.
The reel also comes with low startup inertia and an extra-large arbor, both of which ensure quick retrieval. The premium roller clutch bearing system is in place to enable the arbor to work efficiently.
The low line memory allows for flexibility and proper application during casting.
Best High End Saltwater Fly Reel
- Aluminum main gear
- Delrin handle for better gripping
- Made with solid bar stock aluminum
If you are looking for a saltwater fly reel with high functionality and modern features, then the Tibor Riptide Fly Reel is one to check out. It is made from solid bar stock aluminum giving the reel all the strength and durability needed for saltwater fishing.
The main gear is also made of aluminum and is head coated making it strong and dependable. It also has a perforated and open hubbed spool will allow air to cool the reel during fishing trips.
The delrin handle ensures smooth and comfortable handling.
Best Corrosion Resistant
This is a great reel that’s machined T6 aluminum alloy, which means it’s corrosion-resistant.
It comes with a high-performance drag system and has over 4X the drag strength of the LT. Of course, the arbor size depends on what rod you pair it with, but there are plenty of options for that.
This is a serious saltwater reel for serious saltwater fishing anglers who want a nice large drag knot, a clean line retrieval capabilities. It’s one of the best for catching bonefish, redfish, and more! Just make sure you get something over 5 6 if you plan to go for bigger game.
Best Smooth Drag
- RISE FLY REEL: The RISE is an elegant, lightweight fly...
- LARGE ARBOR: It features a u-shaped large-arbor for quick...
- EASY RETRIEVE: Thoughtful details like the twin molded...
This is another great reel that’s CNC machined from aluminum alloy with a quick release spool. It has a quick line retrieve, due to the taller spool design, a large drag knob for easy turning and carbon drags.
It is also equipped with a smooth compact carbon fiber drag system. As well as twin molded ergonomic handles.
This reel is a large arbor and the retrieval rate is crazy. The drag is smooth and quiet and it’s well built. You won’t regret this one.
Best Line Retrieval
- Format: Large Arbor
- Materials: Machined 6061 Aluminum, stainless steel
- Finish: Type II Anodize
This reel is made out of machined 6061 aluminum (Type II anodization) and stainless steel.
It has a fully sealed conical drag system which is very efficient as well as keeps debris out!
Built-in Idaho, USA. This reel is not cheap, but has a great line retrieval and won’t let you down.
What is a Saltwater Fly Reel?
A saltwater fishing fly reel is similar to the freshwater reels only they are more corrosion resistant.
This means they are either made out of anodized aluminum or are powder-coated steel. The powder-coated steel finish and body is very abrasion-resistant.
When you pick a saltwater fly fishing reel you need to pick a fly reel that is at least an 8 weight.
However, you can go up to a 16 weight given the caliber of fish you are going after. Below I have included a chart to help you decide which size saltwater fly reel to choose.
What Size Fly Reel for Different Fish
|Rod/Line Weight||Size of Fish||Size of Fly||Fish Species Specific|
|6-weight||1 to 5 pounds||#10 – #6||Smaller bonefish, jacks, snappers, sea trout, stripers|
|7-weight||2 to 7 pounds||#10 – #4||Smaller bonefish, jacks, snappers, sea trout, redfish|
|8-weight||2 to 10 pounds||#10 – #2||Average bonefish, redfish. stripers, snook|
|9-weight||3 to 15 pounds||#6 – #1/0||Larger bonefish, stripers, smaller permit, baby tarpon, snook|
|10-weight||5 to 40 pounds||#4 – #3/0||baby tarpon, permit, jack crevalle, barracuda|
|11-weight||15 to 100 pounds||#2 – #3/0||tarpon, dorado, roosterfish|
|12-weight||20 to 150 pounds||#2 – #4/0||tarpon, dorado, roosterfish, sailfish, GT|
|13-weight||50 to 200 pounds||#1/0 – #4/0||tarpon, dorado, roosterfish, sailfish, marlin, GT, tuna|
|14-weight||100 to 200 pounds||#2/0 – #5/0||sailfish, marlin, big sharks, tuna|
|15-weight||100 to 300 pounds||#4/0 – #8/0||billfish, big sharks, tuna|
|16-weight||100 to 300 pounds||#4/0 – #8/0||billfish, big sharks, tuna|
But remember when choosing a fly reel, make sure it matches your fly rod in weight or it is one weight size higher.
When doing so you create a good balance in your setup and it will make casting a whole lot easier.
Most manufacturers build their fly reels with similar drag. However, one reel model might have either a choppy hard drag or a smooth drag.
When fishing for larger trout and salmon on rivers, if you have a harder choppy drag the fish will always go downstream.
This is because it is the path of least resistance as they are fighting your rod instead of your line.
On the other side if you have a softer smoother drag they will head upstream. This is because they are fighting your line being pulled by the current are trying to get away from the pressure.
How to Use a Fly Fishing Reel
When saltwater fly fishing you will want to use a sinking line, 325-350 grain. The line sinks fast and it is not too heavy for a long day of casting.
Where backing is concerned, 20 lb test braided Dacron line works wonders, it is inexpensive and works great.
Most reels hold a least 200 yards so unless you hook a bluefin tuna you will be ok! Do not use 30 lb test Dacron or gel-spun, it is unnecessary and takes up too much space on your reel.
Your leader is much more likely to break than the 20 lb test Dacron. For a leader 15-20 lb fluorocarbon will suffice.
After you have got your setup complete you will have to figure out what to do with them. If you have fly fished in freshwater in the past, it will come quickly to you.
Transitioning to Saltwater
The transition shouldn’t be that difficult. It is just a larger, more weighted rod. If you’re a beginner saltwater fly fisherman then you can try to teach yourself (which can be difficult) or find yourself a teacher.
The fastest way to learn is to befriend a fly fisherman and convince him or her into teaching you.
You can become a competent caster in a day or two with a little practice. It takes a lot of experience to become a truly good fly angler.
However, on a weekend you can develop a technique that will at least allow you to get the fly to the fish, which is what you need.
Practice, Practice, Practice
I would recommend casting into an open area somewhere before getting out on the water. It’s a lot easier to learn when you are not having to worry about a moving platform, water, or sand.
One of the most important components is the fly itself. Fly selection is vastly dependant on where you will be fishing. A wide selection of flies is not necessary to be successful. You only need a few of the basics to get started. Talk to the locals, they will not lead you in the wrong direction.
Things to Consider When Buying Saltwater Fly Reels
You need to consider certain factors before choosing a saltwater fly reel. This will enable you to buy the best reel for your fishing needs.
Below are two things to consider when buying a saltwater fly reel.
Your budget plays a big role in choosing a saltwater fly reel. There are a lot of options on the market, and all you need to do is choose one that matches your budget.
The more expensive reels are usually more effective, so go for those if you can afford it.
Your target species should determine the type of saltwater reel that you purchase. You want to get a reel that is capable of catching your desired fish. This is why it is important to have a target species in mind when choosing.
Regular-sized reels work for species like striped bass and bonefish. However, if you are targeting bigger fish like tarpon and Giant Trevally, you will have to go for a bigger reel.
For large saltwater fish like shark and tuna, you have to go with the most sophisticated reels on the market.
Cleaning Your Saltwater Fly Reel
I recommend cleaning anything you use in saltwater after every time you go out.
Doing so will conduct a little bit of preventive maintenance to ensure you do not have any issues later down the line.
Separate your spool and main housing and soak in some hot tap water for 1-2 hours so that the saltwater crystals in every nook and cranny of the reel.
Use Hot Soapy Water
When the time is up, take your reel and put it in a bucket of hot soapy water, the soap is very important in this process because after the crystals break down.
The soap sticks to the salt and the dirt collected in the reel and when you get all the soap off, the salt and dirt come with it.
Make sure to use a very mild soap like mild detergent. Dish soap is a little too harsh for the fly lines and the backing and will all but destroy your line.
Once you take the reels out of the soapy water make sure to rinse the soap off under your tap and towel dry your reels as much as possible. Once that is done put your reel back together and place back in storage for your next trip!
Frequently Asked Question
Q: What is the best fly reel of 2018?
A: The best fly reel of 2018 is the Ross Reels Animas Series Fly Fishing Reel.
Q: How to set up a fly reel?
A: In order to set up a fly reel you need to put 200 yards or so of braided line for backing, that you need to put on your fly line, 30 yards should do. From there you need to put on your Leader line, Fluorocarbon line is essential and 3 foot or so of it will do perfectly with a fly on the end and you are ready to go!
Q: What is the best 5 weight fly reel?
A: The best 5 weight fly reel is the Ross Reels Animas Series Fly Fishing Reel.
Q: What is the best 8 weight fly reel?
A: The best 8 weight fly reel is the Ross Reels Animas Series Fly Fishing Reel.
Whether you are just starting out fly fishing or are an experienced angler trying new things. These saltwater fly fishing reels will get the job done no matter what.
These fly reels will land your prized redfish you spotted on the flats, as well as get those blues that are swarming a bait ball.
So go out and get some fly gear and try it out! I promise you will love it! Fly fishing is a great way to add a little spice to your fishing experience.
It is important to always look out for the requirement for your target species, as well as the price range when choosing a saltwater fly reel.
It is also important to consider factors like breaking power and the drag system when choosing your reel.
Our list above does not cover all the best saltwater fly reels on the market, however, it can serve as a starting point when looking to get a reliable saltwater fly reel.
It is essential that you use your reel with an efficient fly rod, suitable fly line, and all the necessary accessories to have the best fishing experience.
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