Our editors at Finn’s Fishing Tips independently research, test, and recommend the best products to help you make purchase decisions. You can learn more about our review process here. We sometimes get a commission through purchases made via our links.
Saltwater fly fishing is considered one of the toughest, most exhilarating sports or hobbies you can try. I mean, what’s not to love? You’re out in the water surrounded by blue skies and plenty of fish. Best of all, you’re doing what you love.
The downside is that fly fishing in saltwater takes a heavy toll on your gear, seeing as salt water is corrosive and abrasive. You also need to make sure you’re holding the rod properly so you don’t break it.
Another factor to consider is that saltwater fish are strong. The harsh environment makes them more resilient, robust, and much tougher compared to those found in freshwater. This means each part of your gear should be durable and made-to-last, especially the fly reel.
We know how important fly fishing is to you. So, we went out and gathered the best saltwater fly reels on the market.
You’ll also find a buyer’s guide to help you find the right fly reel for your fishing needs. So, let’s dive right in.
In a Hurry? Here’s Our Top Picks…
Best Saltwater Fly Reels
The best saltwater fly reels range from the high-end to the entry-level, depending on your budget. Another decisive factor is the type of species you’re targeting. From tuna to bonefish, saltwater fly fishing is a vast ocean of possibilities.
Here are just some of the different types of fly reels available. They’re all high-quality, reliable picks tried and tested by our team. Take a look and see which one is the best choice for you.
The Piscifun Sword Fly is famous for its smooth drag and hard-wearing design. It’s made with CNC-machined aluminum alloy. Plus, it features a corrosion-resistant, anodized finish that can endure the harshness of saltwater.
We like the firmness of the mid-sized arbor. It allows for quick line retrieval while reducing the amount of abrasion on the line.
The multi-disc drag system is state-of-the-art. It’s made from stainless steel, which is both hard-wearing and easy to maintain.
One feature that caught our eye is the large Computer Numerical Control (CNC) hollow reel design. This is why the Sword reel is much lighter than other models, which makes it a terrific choice for beginners. It’s also great for experienced anglers who want to enjoy something hassle-free and user-friendly.
- Smooth drag system
- Stainless steel build with anodized finish
- Hollow CNC for better handling
- A mid-sized arbor doesn’t allow much room for a large spool
The Maxcatch Eco has pretty much all the features you’d want in the best saltwater fly reel money buy. The best part is it’s the most affordable reel on our list.
Yet, the low cost doesn’t jeopardize its performance in any way. In fact, the Maxcatch ECO is a fan-favorite among many seasoned anglers.
One terrific feature is its CNC-machined T6 aluminum build. It’s hard-wearing and reliable. We also like the large arbor spool design with a one-way clutch bearing for quick and easy line retrieval.
The Teflon disc drag system is fully sealed for added convenience. At the same, you won’t feel any uneven tigs or pulls. The adjustable drag is always silky smooth for the most effective catch.
- Great value for the money
- Machined aluminum
- Large arbor spool
- One-way clutch bearing
- Some reels may have rough or sharp edges
Orvis has been a high-quality name in the world of fly fishing for many years. Needless to say, the Clearwater reel is yet another of their amazing products.
One of the things that first caught our eye is the large arbor. It’s a definite asset when you’re saltwater fishing. It helps you recover the line quickly while still being able to keep up with the speed of the fish.
We also like the carbon and stainless steel stacked disc drag system on this reel. It’s sturdy and hard-wearing. Yet, it still feels lightweight and easy to manage.
The Gunsmoke gray color adds style to the reel. Its powder-coated surface boosts durability and enhances performance.
- Large-arbor spool design
- Powder-coated matte finish
- The drag system isn’t sealed
The Ross Reels LTX is one of the best saltwater fly reels on the market. This corrosion-resistant reel is ideal for serious anglers who enjoy targeting big, feisty species. It boasts a powerful drag and durable build that can’t be beaten.
For starters, it’s manufactured with machined 6061-T6 aluminum alloy. That means it’s in it for the long haul.
Then, there’s the large arbor spool design. Its line retrieval is smooth and effortless. This makes a nice option for anyone still new to the whole fly fishing experience.
We especially like the high-performance drag system. It features four times the drag strength of previous models for maximum efficiency and power.
- Corrosion-resistant machined T6 aluminum alloy
- Powerful drag system
- Lightweight with a durable feel and performance
- Large arbor
- The highest-priced fly reel on our list
The first thing you’ll notice about the Pflueger Medalist is its durability. It’s made from high-grade machined aluminum, with a user-friendly grip that suits novice and seasoned anglers alike.
The polymer handle felt nice and firm. Its wooden look gives the Medalist a classic look with a lightweight, sturdy feel.
Its standard arbor spool design gives way for basic line retrieval. You won’t recover the line as quickly as some high-end models. Although, it’ll still get the job done without fail. However, the high-grade backing capacity spool offers plenty of latitude.
Another of our favorite features is the drag system. By adjusting the level of pressure on the rim of the reel, you can apply just the right amount of drag you need.
- High-grade machined aluminum
- Durable polymer handle
- High-grade backing capacity
- User-friendly drag mechanism
- The drag range can be inadequate at times
Redington Behemoth is a highly prized fly reel in the world of saltwater fishing. It features a lightweight design, thanks to its carbon fiber material, without compromising heavy-duty performance or durability.
The Behemoth is known for being user-friendly. As soon as we picked it up, we immediately understood why; it’s quick and efficient without showing signs of lagging in any way.
Still, its powerful, drag control system is something to be reckoned with. It’s also known for its massive adjustment knob, which offers comfort and full control over the line.
In addition, we like how deep the v-shaped spool is. It offers both comfort and versatility when you’re out on the water.
- Deep spool for boosting backing capacity
- Huge drag control knob
- Offers effortless, yet powerful drag
- Made from lightweight carbon fiber
- Carbon fiber may not be suitable for rigorous use
The Redington Grande is a perfect choice for beginners and experts alike. We like that it offers several eye-catching design features that add fun and enjoyment to fly fishing.
Made from hard-wearing aluminum, this is one versatile fly reel. It’s ideal for long runners, such as bonefish and trout.
Another impressive feature is its fully-sealed fiber drag system. It offers better control and maneuvering of the line. Anytime you need a bit of extra drag, simply apply pressure to the bottom of the reel with the heel of your palm.
The Grande also comes with a V-spool for increased backing capacities. This comes in handy when you’re aiming for the big ones.
- Variety of sizes
- Fully-sealed carbon fiber drag system
- Great backing capacities
- Pricier than other models on our list
Another terrific reel from Piscifun, the Aoka is colorful, durable, and user-friendly. It features a fully-machined frame and die-cast spool. The Aoka is made from heavy-duty stainless steel and features an oversized, ergonomic handle. This is one heavy-duty reel that can keep up with anything you throw its way.
A great feature of the Aoka is the disc drag system. It’s made with Cork/Teflon composite for added strength. There’s also a one-way clutch bearing, which makes the drag process smoother.
The arbor is mid-sized, as with the Piscifun Sword Fly reel. Yet, that only makes it easier to pick up reel lines faster and with more efficiency. At the same time, you have better control of the reel without tiring yourself out.
A big plus in our book is practicality. That’s why we like how Piscifin decided to include a drawstring bag with the reel for easy storage.
- Fully-machined frame and spool
- Ergonomic oversized handle
- Comes with a drawstring bag for storage
- The drag system can be difficult to adjust
Heavy-duty, lightweight, and affordable; the Redington Crosswater is all of that and more! It’s made from a highly durable polymer that can stand up to the rigors of saltwater.
We noticed, early on, that this reel offers many of the same features on high-end products at a fraction of the cost. For starters, like many high-quality reels, it’s ambidextrous. So, it works equally great whether you’re left or right-handed.
Plus, it has a large arbor spool design. It allows for quick and hassle-free line retrieval. Another advantage is the disc drag system. It’s strong enough to handle big, tough species, like trouts and tuna.
Redington also gets extra points for practicality. The Crosswater comes with a cloth reel bag to keep the reel safe during storage.
- Comes with a cloth reel bag
- Large-arbor spool design
- The smooth and powerful drag system
- A small gap between the reel and spool may result in the line getting tangled
The Ross Reels Animals is a beast out on the water. Made from aluminum, it features a proprietary canvas phenolic handle. It’s super light, yet it still manages to remain highly sturdy.
One of the features we like about the Animas is its composite drag system. It offers just the right amount of braking power you need to maneuver all those feisty saltwater fish.
To get the perfect drag, simply adjust the knob on the side of the reel. There are two settings: a lower profile for easy-going reeling and an increased grip.
Another nice addition is the new hassle-free spool release mechanism. With this feature, the Animas is always ready for anything that comes its way.
- Ross Reels’ proprietary canvas phenolic handle
- Composite drag system
- A no-fuss spool release mechanism
- A bit pricey
What to Look for in a Good Saltwater Fly Reel
The job of a saltwater fly reel is to make catching big fish easy. Yet, you probably already know that saltwater fish are some of the most determined and aggressive creatures around.
This is why we made sure we picked only the best saltwater fly reels on the market. They’re all designed to stand up to these fish and the harsh environment they live in.
Here are some of the main factors to consider when choosing the right reel for you.
Drag systems are usually made of cork or carbon fiber. Both are pretty durable, but they’re more prone to corrosion than stainless steel.
Still, they offer smooth and reliable drag, even with the toughest of fish. Plus, they’re good at offering low startup inertia. That may seem like a bad thing. Although, it actually works in your favor by providing effortless drag right from the beginning.
Stainless steel drag systems are better at resisting corrosion. Though, they can be quite pricey.
Whichever material you choose, make sure it’s a fully sealed system. This prevents moisture, dirt, and grime from getting into the housing and damaging the inner parts. Having a sealed drag system ensures your reel lasts longer.
Large arbor spool designs ensure quick line retrievals. It’s a handy feature that can really speed up your pickup rate when a big fish is heading straight towards you.
That being said, the amount of fly line you need depends mainly on what type of fish you’re targeting. If you’re going after fish that do long runs, you’ll need about 200 to 300 yards of backing.
Bear in mind that extra backing adds weight to the reel. That’s something to think about when you’re throwing back your line.
The best types of reel materials are machined die-cast, CNC, or forged aluminum alloy. The die-cast models are slightly bulky, but more affordable than the other two types. CNC and forged aluminum alloy reels are sturdier, yet more expensive.
The ergonomics of a reel are the drag knob and handle. Both should provide a relaxed grip for extra control and comfort.
Look for long handles, as they tend to offer better support without tiring out your hands. Also, look for a large knob that you can get to quickly.
You’ve seen in our product review that each brand comes with its unique features and details. Whether you’re new to saltwater fishing or a seasoned pro, you’re sure to find some useful information in these questions.
Q: Which reel materials are better for saltwater fly reels?
A: Every one of the reels in our product review is designed to stand up to moisture and humidity. They’re treated to resist corrosion and rust.
Still, different reels offer different levels of protection. It mainly depends on what materials were used to manufacture them.
It’s worth mentioning that every material will corrode sooner or later. It’s worth mentioning that carbon fiber tends to wear out faster than other materials, especially when it goes hand-in-hand with metal.
Q: What’s the importance of drag systems?
A: The secret to getting the hang of fly fishing is to understand how the drag system works. It’s one of the biggest factors that can help you land those big fish.
Most of the reels on our list have adjustment knobs with markings. They indicate the amount of drag you’re using so you can adjust it according to the type of fish you’re going after.
Q: What’s the best way to clean saltwater fly reels?
A: To keep your reels in tiptop condition, make sure you rinse them off with fresh water after each fishing trip. Then, loosen the drag, remove the fly line, and take the entire reel apart.
Wash all the parts with mild dish soap. Next, rinse off with fresh water, and leave to air dry.
Are you planning on going saltwater fly fishing? Then, you better come prepared, and what better way to be prepared than to use the right fly reel. Want to tie your own flies? Check out our guide on the best curved fly tying scissors
Now that you know all the best saltwater fly reels available, it’s much easier to choose the right one for your fishing needs. Our top choice is the Piscifun Sword Fly Fishing Reel. Its anodized matte exterior and multi-disc drag system offer durability and endurance. Plus, they make the entire reel look amazing!
Looking for something a bit more affordable? Then, we recommend the Maxcatch ECO Fly Fishing Reel. It offers all the great features you want in a fly reel, like reliability and comfort, without the hefty price tag.