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Fishing for saltwater sportfish with a spinning reel is some of the most intense and fun fishing there is.
Many saltwater fish such as tarpon, snook, bluefish, California halibut, and king salmon love chasing after a spinning lure. The explosiveness of a bite on a spinning reel setup is as good as it gets! You’re ready to buy your own saltwater spinning reel, but which one should you get?
Don’t worry, we’ve got you. Finn’s seasoned fishing reviewers have looked at many different models and brands of saltwater spinning reels and we’ve picked out the best ones for you to look at. We feature options for the amateur saltwater spinning fisherman, the more experienced saltwater enthusiast, and the hardened experts.
If you’re going saltwater fishing it’s always a good idea to have some pliers to help with unhooking. Even smaller saltwater fish like coho salmon have sharp teeth! Check out our saltwater fishing plier buying guide to get a pair of pliers that fit your budget.
Also, if you’re specifically looking for surf fishing reels – check out this guide.
You can check out our choices and reasoning for the best saltwater spinning reels below. Keep scrolling and you’ll find our detailed analysis with pros and cons of each. Enjoy!
In a Hurry? Here’s Our Top Picks…
Overall Best Saltwater Spinning Reel
Penn Battle II Spinning Reel
When it comes to dependability, functionality, and price, the Penn Battle II Spinning Reel has got it all. For the same reasons it won our best bass fishing reel comparison, it also wins best overall saltwater spinning reel. We did a more in-depth review of the reel earlier this year, but here are some of the highlights.
The reel comes in eight different versions with varying drag and line capabilities depending on the type of fish you’re going for. For larger saltwater gamefish, we recommend buying the 6000 or 8000 models as they have a higher line test rating.
The Penn Battle II Spinning Fishing Reel comes with an HT 100 carbon fiber drag system that helps with keeping the reel cool while battling aggressive saltwater fish like tarpon or yellowfin tuna. The drag system also has carbon fiber washers that help with heat build-up
The Penn Battle II Spinning Fishing Reel is built with five shielded stainless steel ball bearings. This is crucial for fishing in saltwater, as the salt will easily corrode anything that isn’t stainless.
The main spool system of the Penn Battle II Spinning Fishing Reel requires no backing and is braided line ready. Most saltwater fishermen use a combination of monofilament (for the leader) and braided (for the backing), so this capability is essential.
The Penn Battle II Spinning Fishing Reel frame is made out of aluminum which keeps the overall weight down. This allows for agility when casting as well as battling smaller fish on a lighter test line.
The metal side plate protects the reel from shock and adds to its durability. The Penn Battle II Spinning Fishing Reel 3000 has six bearings and a gear ratio of 6.2:1.
- Durable, time tested design that won’t fail under intense saltwater fish battles.
- Designed to withstand heavy saltwater use.
- It can handle a lot of different test lines.
- More expensive than other options.
The Penn Battle II Spinning Fishing Reel is a great spinning reel for saltwater fisherman looking to have it all. It’s an excellent reel to buy if you’re just getting into saltwater fishing and want a reel that will last a long time, while still performing at a high level.
Runner Up Best Saltwater Spinning Reel
Penn Spinfisher VI
Coming in a close second for best saltwater spinning reels is the Penn Spinfisher VI. The Penn Spinfisher VI is packed with all the features professional saltwater fishermen need and is built to last many years of heavy use.
If you’re looking for a saltwater spinning reel that has it all and have the cash to spare, we recommend getting the Penn Spinfisher VI.
The Penn Spinfisher VI comes with a completely sealed aluminum body that prevents corrosion and keeps the gears and components safe from rough offshore conditions. It also has an HT 100 carbon fiber drag system that is optimized for large saltwater game fish like mackerel and bluefish.
The Penn Spinfisher VI is built to last with CNC aluminum gearing and an IPX5 sealed body and spool design. The 5+1 sealed stainless steel ball-bearing system ensures smooth winding and retrieval even under the most intense fishing battles.
The Penn Spinfisher VI comes with Penn’s superline spool technology that keeps the fishing line from snagging or spooling incorrectly.
The reel’s body is made completely from metal and has a CNC side plate for extra toughness. The Penn Spinfisher VI was designed with saltwater use in mind and will withstand even the most extreme shocks and bumps.
The four different models of the Penn Spinfisher VI have varying specifications. We’ll cover the 4500 and 6500 since they make the most sense for saltwater spinning. The 4500 can hold up to 320 yards of 10 lb test or 2035 yards of 12 lb test.
The 6500 can hold up to 390 yards of 12 lb test or 345 yards of 15 lb test. The 4500 has a 6.2:1 gear ratio while the 6500 has a 5.6:1 gear ratio. The 4500 has a max drag of 20 lbs while the 6500 has a max drag of 30 lbs. Great for large saltwater fish!
- It’s feature-rich and has a very durable design.
- It comes with Penn’s extended warranty.
The Penn Spinfisher VI is a great choice for saltwater fishermen looking for a reel that will last them years. If you’re willing to spend a bit more than the other reels on our list, the Penn Spinfisher VI will reward you with expert saltwater spinning capabilities.
Best Economical Saltwater Spinning Reel
KastKing Sharky III Spinning Reel
Saltwater spinning reels often cost more than their freshwater counterparts – mostly because their components have to be made with materials that don’t rust as easily. This means the price inevitably goes up as well. But with the KastKing Sharky III Spinning Reel, you get everything you need in a saltwater reel for under $60.
The KastKing Sharky III Spinning Reel is packed with everything you need to start your saltwater fishing hobby, and its price can’t be beaten.
As long as you treat it right and don’t do anything stupid, this under $60 reel will help you land many types of saltwater fish and last many years of heavy use. The KastKing Sharky III Spinning Reel comes in five different versions, but the 4000 and 5000 work perfectly for larger saltwater sportfish.
The KastKing Sharky III Spinning Reel is built with a lightweight aluminum frame that’s been expertly balanced for smooth reel action.
Its superior drag system offers incredible stopping power with up to 39.5 lbs of drag pull. Its hardened steel shaft with mesh gear drive will withstand intense saltwater fishing battles and ensure your equipment won’t fail you when it matters most.
The KastKing Sharky III Spinning Reel has ten ball bearings for smooth spinning, and the bearings are protected by the KastKing KISS water protection sealing that prevents them from being exposed to the elements (and salt).
The five different models of the KastKing Sharky III Spinning Reel have varying specifications. We’ll cover the 4000 and 5000 since they make the most sense for saltwater spinning. The 4000 can hold up to 220 yards of 10 lb test or 200 yards of 12 lb test.
The 5000 can hold up to 220 yards of 12 lb test or 190 yards of 14 lb test. The 4000 weighs 10.2 oz while the 5000 weighs 10.6 oz. Both have a max drag of 39.5 lbs. Perfect for large saltwater fish!
- It cost under $60!
- It has everything you need to start saltwater spinning.
- No extra features.
- Not as durable as other options.
The KastKing Sharky III Spinning Reel has everything you need to start saltwater sportfishing, and it costs less than filling up your truck’s tank with gas! The 4000 and 5000 sizes are the most appropriate for saltwater spinning and come with everything you need to get started.
The KastKing Sharky III Spinning Reel is a great option for saltwater fishermen on a budget.
Best High-End Saltwater Spinning Reel
Shimano Socorro Spinning Reel
The Shimano Socorro Spinning Reel is our high-end saltwater spinning reel of choice. It costs over double what some of the reels in our test are listed for, but comes with many features that expert saltwater fishermen would want.
It’s built for heavy-duty saltwater fishing from both boat and shore, and will take on most saltwater sportfish you throw its way.
The Shimano Socorro Spinning Reel comes in four different versions, but we recommend the 8000 or 10000 for saltwater fishing.
The Shimano Socorro Spinning Reel features Shimano’s X-ship technology. The X-ship technology improved reel gear durability and eliminates friction between the spool shaft and gears which increases casting performance. This allows the spincaster to fling his lure further than other reels.
It also comes with Shimano’s Hagane gearing system. The Hagane gearing system provides long-lasting and strong performance in both offshore and inshore fishing situations. The Hagane gearing system also prevents corrosion by protecting the gears from exposure to salt.
The Shimano Socorro Spinning Reel features a Cross Carbon Drag system that provides long-lasting smoothness. This is especially useful when dealing with fast and powerful runs from larger saltwater fish.
The four different models of the Shimano Socorro Spinning Reel have varying specifications. We’ll cover the 8000 and 10000 since they make the most sense for saltwater fishing. The 8000 can hold up to 345 yards of 12 lb test, while the 10000 can hold up to 320 yards of 16 lb test.
The 8000 weighs 22.6 oz while the 10000 weighs 23.5 oz. Both have a max drag of 27 lbs.
- Packed with features that experts demand.
- Will perform under the most intense circumstances.
If price is not an issue for you, we highly recommend the Shimano Socorro Spinning Reel. It has the features that professional saltwater fishermen require, and will perform at the highest levels under pressure. Perfect for both inshore and offshore saltwater spin casting.
Best Balanced Saltwater Spinning Reel
Daiwa BG Spinning Reel
The Daiwa BG Spinning Reel is our balanced saltwater spinning reel winner for many reasons. It has more features than the most economical reels but doesn’t cost as much as the high-end options like the Shimano Socorro.
The Daiwa BG Spinning Reel comes in six different sizes with varying line capacity and reel size. The 5000 and 6500 are the most suited for saltwater sportfishing.
The Daiwa BG Spinning Reel comes with many custom, high-quality components. The reel features a six-ball bearing system with corrosion-resistant stainless steel bearings. This ensures the reel will stay functional for many years of heavy action in ocean conditions.
The Daiwa BG Spinning Reel’s body is built out of machined and anodized aluminum and has a braided line-ready spool.
The reel’s drag system features sealed washers that stay lubricated for smoothing reeling. The reel has a 47.4-inch line per turn ratio, which is great for reeling in saltwater fish quickly and safely.
The six different models of the Daiwa BG Spinning Reel have varying specifications. We’ll cover the 5000 and 6500 since they make the most sense for saltwater spinning.
The 5000 can hold up to 470 yards of 14 lb test, 380 yards of 17 lb test, and 280 yards of 20 lb test.
The 6500 can hold up to 370 yards of 20 lb test, 310 yards of 25 lb test, and 260 yards of 30 lb test. The 5000 and 6500 both weigh 24.5 oz. Both have a gear ratio of 5.6:1.
- Great price for the quality of components.
- Larger line capacity than other saltwater reels.
- A little pricier than economical options.
The Daiwa BG Spinning Reel is another great option for saltwater fishermen that are just starting out or want to add another reel to their collection. The Daiwa BG Spinning Reel has all the features you look for in a saltwater reel and comes in extra-large sizes for big saltwater fish.
We wanted to highlight a few overarching features we looked for when picking these reels for our top saltwater spinning reels for 2020.
Gear Ratio and Speed of Retrieval
Most saltwater fish are very fast and love making long runs to deeper water when they feel threatened. If your reel has a low gear ratio, it will take hours to pull them up from the deep. This means that reels with at least a 5.5:1 gear ratio are ideal. This ratio and above allow the fishermen to reel the saltwater fish up from the depths faster and doesn’t tire the fisherman out.
Having a faster gear ratio is also important for giving most saltwater lures the correct action while reeling them in. Many topwater lures or jigs need to be reeled in quickly to get the desired action for fast swimming saltwater predators.
Pro tip: An easy way to think about gear ratios, is when comparing low ratios to a winch that is used to pull a car out of a ditch, you have a ton of power, but it will pull objects slowly, and the higher the number a gear ratio is, the faster you can retrieve but the harder it will be to do so when it comes to large lures or large fish
High gear ratios do have a time and place, and using a reel with a higher gear ratio depends on several factors like species size, lure size and type, and the overall fishing tactics desired with those lures.
Sealed Bearings and Anti-Reverse Switch
Sealed bearings are necessary for saltwater spinning due to the highly corrosive nature of saltwater.
If your reel doesn’t have a sealed bearing system, it will quickly rust with use and eventually become unusable. An anti-reverse switch is also important for saltwater spin casting. The anti-reverse switch will help you set the hook effectively and make sure the line doesn’t go slack when reeling in your large spinning lure.
Author Note: The anti-reverse switch is also crucial for fishing for cover-loving fish like grouper or redfish. Without the anti-reverse switch, these species would easily be able to swim back to cover and break your line off against the rocks.
Stronger Drag System
The drag system is responsible for putting pressure on the fish when it tries to run from your boat. A good saltwater spinning reel needs a higher drag pressure than other reels because saltwater fish are often much larger than other species.
A drag pressure of 25 lbs or more is usually a good place to start. This will help keep strong saltwater fish in check and help you tire them out faster. It’s also important for preventing fish from retreating back to underwater cover where your line could snap against rocks or coral.
Drag systems on spinning reels are easy to access quickly and adjust, especially those that are located on the top of the spool, so it is a good idea to keep your drag relatively tight when fishing, and adjust as needed after the fish begins to fight.
Spinning reels today are able to be used with any line type whether it is monofilament, fluorocarbon, or braided lines. Just be sure that you use the correct methods when putting the line on the spool to prevent line slip or spin around the spool itself.