The 5 Best Saltwater Fly Reels for Catching Big Fish

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!

Best Saltwater Fly Reels
If you’re flying for large fish in the ocean, you need a fly reel that can keep up!

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!

Top Saltwater Fly Reels

sample-table__imageBest Saltwater ReelRoss Reels Evolution LTX
  • Disc Drag System
  • 6061-T6 Aluminum
  • Saltwater Ready
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sample-table__imageRedington RISE III
  • Large Arbor Design
  • 6061-T6 Aluminum
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sample-table__imageOrvis Hydros SL
  • Fully-Sealed Carbon on SS Disc
  • Aluminum
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sample-table__imageBest Budget ReelPiscifun Sword
  • Low-Cost
  • Light
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sample-table__imageWaterworks-Lamson Guru Series II
  • Conical Disc Drag
  • Aluminum + Stainless
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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!

5 Best Saltwater Fly Reels Reviewed for 2021

1. Ross Reels Evolution LTX

Best Saltwater Fly Reel

Ross Reels Evolution LTX 3-4 - Black
  • Ross Evolution LTX Fly Reel - 3/4WT Black - Made in USA

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.

2. Redington RISE Fly Fishing Reel

Redington Reels Rise III 5/6 Reel, Black
  • CNC Machined, anodized 6061-T6 aluminum design with quick...
  • Ultra-large arbor design for quick line retrieve, twin...
  • Smooth, compact carbon fiber drag System

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.

3. Orvis Hydros SL Fly Reel

Orvis Hydros SL Fly Reel | 3-5WT | Black Nickel
  • 12% increase in line retrieval thanks to our super large...
  • Fully sealed drag-clutch bearing
  • Narrow spool for less line stacking and increased backing...

This reel is made out of aluminum alloy, for corrosion resistance.

The drag system is a fully sealed carbon on a stainless disk for a little bit stronger drag for wearing down the unrelenting fish.

This reel is extremely lightweight at 10 oz, it comes in sizes 1-3, 3-5, 5-7, 7-9, 9-11 weight.

These reels are very good for anything you can throw at them!

4. Piscifun Sword Fly Fishing Reel 

Best Budget Saltwater Fly Reel

Piscifun Sword Fly Fishing Reel with CNC-machined Aluminum Alloy Body 3/4 Gunmetal
  • THREE-YEAR WARRANTY - Your reel has been set at the factory...
  • SILKY SMOOTH DRAG - Multi-disc cork and stainless steel drag...
  • SOLID and LIGHT WEIGHT - Precision CNC-machined 6061-T6...

This reel is made of CNC machined aluminum alloy, as well as completely anodized for increased corrosion resistance.

This reel has a silky smooth multi-disk cork and stainless steel drag system.
With a one-way clutch bearing for smooth and immediate drag engagement.

As well as an accurate click drag and silent retrieve. This reel comes in 3-4, 5-6, 7-8, and 9-10 weight.

I’d be careful using this for trophy fish since the low price means it has a possibility of underperforming when you need it most.

5. Waterworks-Lamson Guru Series II Fly Reel

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 WeightSize of FishSize of FlyFish Species Specific
6-weight1 to 5 pounds#10 – #6Smaller bonefish, jacks, snappers, sea trout, stripers
7-weight2 to 7 pounds#10 – #4Smaller bonefish, jacks, snappers, sea trout, redfish
8-weight2 to 10 pounds#10 – #2Average bonefish, redfish. stripers, snook
9-weight3 to 15 pounds#6 – #1/0Larger bonefish, stripers, smaller permit, baby tarpon, snook
10-weight5 to 40 pounds#4 – #3/0baby tarpon, permit, jack crevalle, barracuda
11-weight15 to 100 pounds#2 – #3/0tarpon, dorado, roosterfish
12-weight20 to 150 pounds#2 – #4/0tarpon, dorado, roosterfish, sailfish, GT
13-weight50 to 200 pounds#1/0 – #4/0tarpon, dorado, roosterfish, sailfish, marlin, GT, tuna
14-weight100 to 200 pounds#2/0 – #5/0sailfish, marlin, big sharks, tuna
15-weight100 to 300 pounds#4/0 – #8/0billfish, big sharks, tuna
16-weight100 to 300 pounds#4/0 – #8/0billfish, 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.

Drag Systems

Most manufacturers build their fly reels with similar drag. However, one reel model might have either a choppy hard drag or a smooth drag.

Best Saltwater Fly Reels Boat
There’s no better feeling than pulling in a monster from the boat.

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.

Line Capacity

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.

Best Saltwater Fly Reels Ocean
Pick a reel that will stand up to the harshness of the ocean.

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.

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.

Insider Advice

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.

The Anglers Behind This Article:

Johnny Harvill

Johanes Godoy

Sushmita Lo

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Articles » Gear Reviews » Fishing Reels » The 5 Best Saltwater Fly Reels for Catching Big Fish