Choosing a saltwater spinning reel means matching the right size reel to your rod, what type and how much line you will need.
And then finally what's within your budget.
The number one technical issue to get right when buying any saltwater reel is that the reel is capable of extended use in a saltwater environment.
Salt is the enemy.
It corrodes and renders the elements of a spinning reel useless once it gets in and starts to corrode all of the internal components.
Most cheaper priced reels are intended for use in freshwater, for saltwater use, reel manufacturers have to ensure that the internal gears are perfectly sealed from any saltwater entering the reel housing and that all of the external surfaces can handle the corrosive affects of salty water.
The drag system, internal gears and even the bail arm can suffer the effects of corrosion if they are not up to the job and the end result of a jammed reel is almost always a lost fish!
Top Tip: always rinse your reel in freshwater once you are done fishing for the day.
Many big name reel brands have specialist reels purpose built for saltwater use and if you care for them properly and get them serviced regularly you should get many, many seasons of use out of them.
What Size Spinning Reel for Saltwater Use?
For lighter inshore work a size 2500 or 3500 is best, whereas heavier offshore reels can be as big as a size 15000 or even a 25000.
Line capacity and rating is how you should choose the right size reel. Line ratings and the amount required is usually quoted for both braid and monofilament.
Most spinning reels will hold roughly twice the amount of braided line for the same braking strain as monofilament.
Best Saltwater Spinning Reels
1. Daiwa Saltist Spinning Reel
The Daiwa Saltist is a purpose built saltwater spinning reel and is easily one of the most popular.
You'll see them in smaller sizes on pier, jetties and in the larger sizes on plenty of charter boats that hunt larger species.
They also make a great surf casting reel for lighter to medium setups as they have a pretty fast retrieve rate so you can pull in a lot of line quickly when needed.
The range has seven different models ranging from a size 2500 up to an 8000.
The smaller model 2500 has a max drag of 15lbs, weighs 9.5oz, can hold 140 yard of 10lb monofilament or 120 yards of 30lb braid.
At the other end of the scale the largest offering an 8000 has a max drag of 33lbs, weighs 30oz, can hold 370 yards of 30lb monofilament and 440 yards of 80lb braid.
The smaller sizes are a little on the heavy side for all day casting which is due to just how well the Saltist is built.
For surf casting a 5000 or 6500 is the way to go as you get a heck of a lot of line capacity combined with a big jump in retrieve rate when compared to the smaller offerings.
If you are looking to size up to an 8000 or so saltwater spinning reel then the Penn Slammer below is a better bet as you get a much big drag capacity and an incredibly well sealed reel for similar money to the Saltist.
Daiwa have gone to great lengths with the Saltist to pack in a much of their high end technology as possible.
They use a special magnetic oil called "MAGOIL" or Mag Sealed Technology that was originally developed by NASA which creates a dust and water resistant barrier on metal.
It does this by becoming solid when magnetized thus creating a solid oil barrier on the main shaft and line roller of the Saltist.
You won't find this tech from any other reel manufacturer!
On the 4500 and up there is also a Mag Sealed bearing + 7 CRBB corrosion resistant bearings.
The sizes from 4000 down get 8 CRBB corrosion resistant bearings.
The side cover and reel housing are made from a proprietary metal alloy which reduces warping under heavy loads and it has a bullet proof carbon drag system with full anti-reverse.
It also comes with a braid ready ABS spool so no need to add mono backing if you are running braid.
The best saltwater spinning reel for the money hands down!
- Magsealed line roller and main shaft
- Digigear™ digital gear design
- Dynamic Cut Aluminum ABS spool
- Waterproof Carbon ATD Drag System
- Light weight Air Rotor design
2. Penn Slammer III
Penn are one of the most respected saltwater reel brands out there and have been for several decades.
They have a big line up of spinning reels for saltwater and each one of them is built to a very high standard.
The Penn Slammer III is suited for larger offshore work particularly in the larger sizes.
Saying that is you need a beefier spinning reel for shallower water species then these reels are more than capable of handling just about anything you can throw at them.
The sizes range from 3500 to 10500 spread out over eight different models. Aimed predominantly at the heavier end of saltwater spinning setups, they even make a decent surf casting reel too.
The Slammer line is built from an almost all metal construction with an end result being a very rigid reel with little to no warp when the drag is under a lot of pressure.
Penn use very strict CNC processes at manufacturing time and the result is a very smooth running reel.
The body is made from die-cast aluminum while the main gear and pinion is solid brass.
A big chunky over-sized handle makes operation with wet hands a breeze particularly when fighting large fish species.
Who is the Penn Slammer III For?
The Penn Slammer is best suited to those looking for a big solid reel that can take a beating, due to the all metal design they are a little on the heavier side so if you are casting all day long you may want to take that into account.
- Full metal body, rotor, and side-plate
- Fully sealed Slammer drag system
- 7+1 stainless steel ball bearings
3. Daiwa BG Spinning Reel
If you are looking for a more budget friendly option the BG from Daiwa is one of the best choices available.
It comes in at roughly have the price of some of the cheaper options in the list and although it may not have all of the higher end technologies or materials it's still a very solid reel for for the money.
There are ten models in the range starting at a 1500 up to an 8000, the 2500 makes a good reel for targeting smaller species, with the 4500 making a great all round saltwater fishing reel.
Although the BG could be considered as the entry level of Daiwa's saltwater fishing reels it still share some of the technologies found in the higher end reel such as the Saltiga and also the Saltist listed above.
So how do the Daiwa BG and Saltist compare?
They share the same Hardbodyz frame construction technology, the Digigear digital gear design, and air rotor design.
So you get access to some of the best reel technology that Daiwa have to offer but at a more amenable price point.
Who is the Daiwa BG For?
The Daiwa BG is best suited to those who are looking for an affordable reel that can still perform well in a saltwater environment it makes a good choice as a first inshore spinning reel in the smaller sizes.
It offers great value for money especially if you are not out fishing regularly.
If you are just a casual angler then you do not need to buy a high end reel costing $300 or more as the majority of the time it will be sitting in your garage doing nothing.
- Waterproof Drag System
- Black Anodized Machined Aluminum
- Braided Line Ready Spool
4. Shimano Saragosa
If you are looking for a larger offshore spinning reel then the Shimano Saragosa SW is one option that won't break the bank.
High end offshore reels can get extremely expensive with the most popular options being the Shimano Stella and the Daiwa Saltiga.
Both of those models retail at over $1000 so they are out of reach for a lot of anglers.
With the Saraogoas SW you get a lot of the technologies and features found in the higher end Stella but at a fraction of the price.
The Sarogosa's last major release was in 2013 and was a huge hit with saltwater anglers particularly those looking for a workhorse of a reel without the big price tag.
Since that model not much changed on the Saragosa and it was only in 2020 Shimano finally released an updated version.
That update brought in a lot of the features you will find on the flagship Stella.
The major difference between the old Saragosa and the new one is that the newer models are lighter and also more rigid than the earlier offerings.
They are also better sealed and have up-rated internal gears to reduce warp when under pressure.
The Saragosa is not meant for lighter spinning setups as the smallest size starts at a 5000 and tops out at a whopping 25000.
The smallest in the range a 5000 will hold 245 yards of 20lb braid and has a max drag rating of 10kg, compared to the 25000 that holds 630 yards of 65lb braid and has a max drag of 20kg.
The highest drag model is actually found on the 18000 and the 20000 which max's out at 22kg.
They are definitely aimed at anglers who are looking to haul bigger species and one of the things that the Saragosa is known for is it's cranking power especially when large fish are on the line.
- Propulsion Line Management
- Shielded A-RB bearings
- X-Shield Waterproof Drag
5. Penn Spinfisher VI
Penn are so confident in the abilities of the Spinfisher VI to repel salt water that they claim it does not need to be rinsed in fresh water after use.
I don't know about you but I'd still rinse any reel as a matter of precaution.
Penn's build quality is now legendary and they just about wrote the book on how large saltwater fishing reels should be built.
Their classic conventional reel the Penn International is found on just about any large charter sport fishing boat but they also have a great line up of spinning reels which includes the Battle, Conflict, Fierce, Slammer, and the Spinfisher.
The VI model as the name suggests is now the sixth iteration of the Spinfisher and one of the finest spinning reels available.
The difference between the Spinfisher V vs VI is that the VI gets improved CNC gear technology and up-rated IPX5 seals.
The IPX rating is a standard that describes the water proof and water resistance capabilities of a product.
As a comparison the more expensive Penn Slammer III listed above has a higher rating at IPX6.
The range starts at a 2500 and tops out at a massive 10500. The VI is the first time due to demand that a Spinfisher has been available in a 2500, previously the 3500 was the smallest model available.
On the 2500 to 5500 there is an automatic bail trip i.e just crank the handle and the bail flips back into place after casting, on the 6500 and up there is a manual bail close only.
The real appeal of the Spinfisher is it's HT-100 carbon fiber drag which is protected by a completely sealed spool, under pressure even during prolonged use that drag remains silky smooth.
- IPX5 sealed body and spool design
- HT-100 carbon fiber drag washers
- Full metal body
Can You buy a Good Saltwater Spinning Reel Under $100 or even $200?
You can buy some of the best saltwater spinning reels for under $200 at under $100 you might be stretching things and you'll have a very limited choice.
Spinning reels start to get expensive once you go above a size 4000 and with saltwater fishing reels the highest quality reels starts at roughly this price point.