The Best Saltwater Reels for Taming the Ocean

The design of the best saltwater reels needs to be stellar to last the harshness of the ocean.

Salt can corrode almost anything it comes in contact with. Hence, you should not use a freshwater reel to fish out on the ocean, from the shore, or from a pier. It might work for a bit, but it’ll be toast without diligent care.

Saltwater reels for ocean fishing. Source: Florida Fish and Wildlife

Saltwater spinning reels are made of robust metals that can withstand erosion and handle big game fish found in the sea. 

There are a ton of reels for saltwater fishing you can find out there. But that does not mean you should grab the first one that ‘looks awesome”.

Before sharing a few of the best reels, you can get, consider these reel criteria to make an informed decision. You don’t want your saltwater reels spinning for dear life to give up before you bag your catch.Let’s look at a few saltwater reels that will work as both surf reels and lighter boat reels.

5 Best Saltwater Reels for 2023

You can use the tips above to shop for saltwater spinning reels on your own, or you can just get the best ones we narrowed down for you:

1. Penn Slammer III

PENN 1403983 Slammer III Spinning
  • Full metal body, sideplate, and rotor
  • CNC Gear technology
  • IPX6 sealed body and spool design

The Penn Slammer III is a spinning reel explicitly designed to combat the rigors of saltwater fishing. It is an excellent addition to your gear, whether you use it as an onshore or offshore spinning reel.

The reel’s drag system is sealed with a Sealed Slammer. So even if you dunk it in saltwater or sand, you can make it pristine again with a rinse in freshwater without disassembling it. 

The reel boasts a full-metal body, rotor, and side plate, ensuring that the gears and pinion are lined up accurately for a smooth retrieve. It also ensures that the reel lasts long.

The Penn Slammer III boasts a complete brass gearing system cut with a C.N.C. machine to ensure precision. This encompasses the whole gearbox, which means that the reel’s cranking potential will last long.

The reel also has an IPX6 sealed rating. This means it can withstand saltwater sprays from all angles without getting water into the gearbox. Multiple seals are located around the shaft, the drag system, and the central pinion that keeps the water out.

This feature comes in handy when you are on a fishing charter and are sprayed continuously.

2. KastKing Sharky III 

KastKing Sharky III Spinning Fishing Reel,Size 2000
  • NEXT-GEN – The brand new design KastKing Sharky III spinning…
  • PURE POWER – You will love Sharky III spinning reel’s…
  • K.I.S.S. – Sharky III spinning reels are sealed with a KISS!…

The design of KastKing Sharky III saltwater reels enables it to handle powerful trophy fish in all kinds of fishing conditions. It is super light even though it has a high percentage of fiber-reinforced graphite body and rotor. Its new shark fin vented aluminum spool can easily accommodate the braided line and eliminate the backing line. 

The stainless steel ball bearings on this saltwater reel streamline effortless fishing. The reel also boasts high-density E.V.A. grips for slip-free control in the wettest conditions. Plus, the anti-twist line roller significantly reduces the chances of tangles and snarls. 

 The high-quality saltwater spinning reel also comes with the brand’s K.I.S.S. (Kastking Intrusion Shield System) protection. This protects the body, rotor, and spool from water damage and dirt, thus ensuring its longevity. The spinning reel is ideal if you are fishing for big fish since it is designed to withstand 39.5 pounds of force easily.


3. Penn Battle II

PENN 1338220 Battle II 5000 Spinning Fishing Reel
  • Durable, high range spinning reel ideal for conquering big…
  • Full metal body, side plate, and rotor and heavy duty…
  • 4+1 stainless steel bearing system

Being one of the best spinning reels for saltwater, the Penn Battle II offers excellent value for money. It boasts an entire metal body, rotor, and side plate. This ensemble makes it a bit heavy. But the weight also ensures the reel does not flex under the pressure of powerful fish and can be used heavily on a charter boat.

The Penn Battle II reels also have HT-100 carbon fiber drag washers rather than the traditional felt ones, which means that the reel can last for a while. The feature also ensures that the reel experiences a non-jerky drag when it is under assault by strong fish such as marlin or swordfish.

The keyed washer ensures access to both sides of the washer to provide a smooth drag, and it also increases drag pressure to about 20%.

The spinning reel has five stainless steel ball bearings. This setup provides additional protection against saltwater corrosion. Plus, the enhanced paint job also protects the reel against saltwater spray, an issue that was prevalent in previous models. All in all, the spinning reel is designed to be corrosion-resistant. 

Check out our full Penn Battle 2 Review. A great alternative is the Daiwa BG.

4. Shimano Socorro 

Shimano Socorro 8000F SW Offshore Spinning Fishing Reel
  • The Socorro saltwater spinning rod offers true durability to…
  • X-Ship technology provides improved gear durability and…
  • Incorporates Shimano’s flagship HAGANE gearing that provides…

Shimano being one of the best saltwater spinning rods producers out there, the Shimano Socorro can be used to tackle almost any kind of fish in the ocean. Perfect as an inshore and offshore reel, it boasts X-Ship technology, ensuring excellent and smooth performance. 

The reel is built using Hagane cold-forged gearing for a smooth system. It employs two bearings – one on each side of the pinion gear to ensure the equipment stays aligned when you are trying to reel in that mighty swordfish. 

Additionally, the reel also uses a Cross Carbon Drag washer, which ensures smooth drag. The one-piece and extremely rigid handle shank allow more cranking power. If you’re a sports angler, consider this reel a good addition to your gear.

5. Piscifun Flame 

Piscifun Flame Spinning Fishing Reels, Lightweight 9+1BB Ultra Smooth Spinning Reels, 19.8Lb Max Drag, 2000 Series, Red
  • 【Exquisite Appearance】The matte black body paired with…
  • 【Lightweight】Thanks to the relatively narrow hollow…
  • 【Incredible Smooth】9 quality ball bearings plus one…

Sometimes you just need a cheap saltwater reel that you can abuse and replace.

The Piscifun Flame saltwater spinning reel has a gorgeous matte black body that goes quite well with the red aluminum spool. The reel feels fantastic in hand due to its graphic body and lightweight design, and it has enough ball bearings to ensure a smooth retrieve each time. 

It has about nine quality ball bearings along with a single roller bearing. The bearing is paired with accurate gear engagement that will ensure a fantastic fishing experience. Choose the 4000 and 5000 options for saltwater fishing.

The drag system of the reel offers incredible drag power (up to 19.8 lb). The high-quality drive fear, metal main shaft, and accurate brass pinion gear are the same as the triple drag washers, which allow sports anglers to reel in saltwater monsters with ease. 

The Piscifun Flame has corrosion-resistant drive gear. This gear ensures consistent performance each time you reel in a powerful fish. The high-quality parts are assembled together with precision, so these reels have a better clicker sound than others.

The balanced rotors and smooth design allow anglers to spool the line over the reel evenly to increase casting distance.  All in all, this saltwater spinning reel is versatile and accommodating enough for both beginners and veterans. 

Reel Criteria for Fishing in Saltwater 

Line Capacity

The line capacity of a saltwater spinning reel is the max amount of fishing line the spool can accommodate without overloading the reel. The line’s diameter is directly proportional to its strength. The thicker the line is, the stronger it will be, and it will also take more space on the spool.

Braided line capacity is higher than monofilament since it is from thicker materials such as Spectra. So when fishing in saltwater, consider the fish’s size and match the line’s capacity accordingly. 

Drag System

All fishing reels are equipped with a drag system consisting of felt or carbon drag washers, metal washers, and an adjustment knob. The former are usually separated by the felt washer to reduce friction. This system aims to help you control the force placed on the line before the spool can let out more line. 

Generally, the drag should be set to 20% or 30% of the line’s total strength to ensure it does not break off when you are reeling in a feisty catch. A spinning saltwater reel has a rear and a front drag system or a combination of both. Rear drags are not difficult to adjust, but the max drag they have is lesser than styles with front drag. 

In saltwater spin reels, the rear drag on a combination drag system works as a secondary system, which allows the bait to swim freely with a closed bail. So when a fish latches onto the bait, the secondary drag provides resistance. Thus, the angler can re-activate the main drag for a solid hook set. 

Handles and Cranks

Most saltwater spinning reels are equipped with single handles, and these are relatively easy to use even if you are a novice angler. However, if you customize it, you can get a lot out of your preferred fishing style.

Since the weight of the handle is light, you can adjust the lure or move it faster. When you feel the fish bite, you can turn it quickly to collect extra line slack for a retrieving hook. Plus, if you love power fighting, you can customize the handle with a larger knob.

Just keep in mind that the handle rotates as per the weight of the knob. Typically, you place stress on the knob when you dip the handle down to reel the line faster and get leverage.

When you turn up the handle, though, reeling speed gets slower. The knob moves like a pendulum, and the handle turns faster. When you turn up the handle, the reeling speed reduces. 

You should consider how your fingers rest on the reel’s grip where it meets the handle. Your aim should ensure your fingers have a smooth surface to ride on to prevent blistering during extending power battles.

A handle that is shaped wrong or has a style your hands cannot accommodate can lead to wrist strain and cracked knuckles. Rubber add-on grip covers can be used to make a slippery handle easier to grasp, especially when your fingers get slimy or wet.

Braided-Line Compatibility 

Braided line is ideal for spinning reels that are used for saltwater fishing. Besides being smaller in diameter than other lines, it is corrosion resistant to salt, has no stretch, and is almost no memory. It can also be easily spooled up to a 20-pound line. 

This fishing line is also more robust per diameter compared to mono varieties. It can be cast further and can cut through the water faster in comparison as well. Plus, the braided line does not corrode under the sun and salt as quickly as mono can. 

The only drawback to the braided line is that it is visible in clear water and may cause line-shy fish to stay clear of the hook. That is nothing that a fluorocarbon line cannot fix. This line is virtually invisible in the water; just tie on a fluoro leader before tying on the lure. Just make sure that you use line sizes that are under the 12-pound test. 

Cleaning Tips for Saltwater Reels

You can compromise your saltwater spinning reels’ drag and overall performance if you fail to clean them properly. Follow these steps to clean it properly:

  1. Line up all of your equipment and spritz it with water. This way, the saltwater will simply run off the reel, and you won’t have to use a harsh spray. 
  2. Wipe down the reel with a dry cotton cloth or paper towel. Do NOT blow on the reel! It will only drive water into the internal mechanism, which can rust. 
  3. Before putting the saltwater spinning reels away after washing and wiping them, loosen the drag. This will relieve some of the strain from the springs, discs, and washers. Just make sure you re-tighten it before you cast next time. 
  4. Add a thin coat of lubricant to the surface of the reel after washing it. It will keep the dust away and ensure the ball bearings and other components run smoothly. Just make sure you don’t add any inside the reel. Some can damage the fishing reel as well as the internal parts of the reel. 

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the best saltwater reel?

While the aforementioned reels are tried and tested to be some of the best out there, the ideal reel is one that meets your fishing requirements. Make sure to choose a reel strong enough to withstand saltwater for years.
Plus, it must have enough ‘power’ to withstand the weight of aggressive and large fish such as swordfish. The ideal reels are ones that match the recommended line weights that are marked out on the rod.

How are saltwater reels classified?

Saltwater reels classify as high speed (with a gear ratio greater than 6:1) and low speed (with a gear ratio of 3:1).

How is drag pressure measured?

It is measured in pounds, and it should be adjusted to 1/3rd the breaking strength of the line.

Which fishing line should be used for a saltwater reel?

Saltwater reel with a braided fishing line is the choice since it is durable enough to withstand saltwater and has no memory. The line is visible in the water, but that is nothing that a fluoro leader line cannot fix. The line capacity will depend on the type of reel you have. 

Jon Stenstrom
Founder & Angler
Jon Stenstrom is a fishing enthusiast. He has over 25 years of fishing experience, and 6 years of spearfishing experience, and is currently learning how to boat. Jon has his Open Water PADI Certification and FII Freediver Level 1 Certification. Jon has traveled the world to fish and dive, most notably in the Great Barrier Reef, Baja Mexico, Thailand, and Malaysia. More Articles
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Articles » Gear Reviews » The Best Saltwater Reels for Taming the Ocean