Best Saltwater Spinning Reels – Complete Buyers Guide and Reviews

The Best Saltwater Spinning reels are the Shimano Socorro SW Saltwater Spinning Fishing Reel.

Saltwater fishing is one of our favorite ocean activities. With the right tools, you can land yourself dinner, score a frame-worthy shot, or pull in a tournament prize. When we asked ourselves what we needed to build a winning rod, one thing came to mind: reels.

A quality saltwater spinning reel has the potential to turn a lackluster day at sea into a fierce, fruitful experience. Modern spinning reels boast precision technologies that allow anglers to steer their experience. From powerful gears to ergonomic grips, we left no stone unturned in our search for the best saltwater spinning reels.

When we finally settled on a select group of reels, we put them to the test in the chilly waters of Casco Bay, just east of Portland, Maine. If anything was going to put false marketing claims to rest, it would be the briny, cold Atlantic!

Our fierce skepticism paid off! We were able to score several catches with the following five saltwater spinning reels. It didn’t matter if we were battling the choppy waters from the rocky coast or wrestling with pelagic species from a fishing vessel. These reels pulled us through the thickets without incurring any battle scars. We’re fairly certain they’ll do the same for you!

The Best Saltwater Spinning Reels go as Follows:

  1. Shimano Socorro SW  (Best Saltwater Reels)
  2. Penn Battle II  (Value Pick)
  3. Penn 1481260 Spinfisher VI   (Pro Fisherman Pick)
  4. Daiwa BG5000 BG  (Good for Larger Fish)
  5. KastKing Sharky III  (Best Budget Model)

 

Best Saltwater Spinning Reels Review

The top saltwater fishing reels as rated by customers go as follows.

1. Shimano Socorro SW Saltwater Spinning Fishing Reel (Best Saltwater Reel)

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If saltwater fishing is your game of choice, then the Shimano Socorro is a winning weapon as it’s rated one of the best fishing reels for saltwater. This powerful yet sleek saltwater fishing reel is engineered for inshore and offshore fishing. For one, it is reinforced with Shimano’s flagship X-Ship technology. Shimano’s X-Ship pairs powerful ball bearings with heat-treated pinions. This modern advancement improves the Shimano’s gear ratio without weighing down the reel. There’s less friction between the spool and shaft. Yet, the reel can cast longer with lighter lures. The Socorro reel’s resilience directly improves an angler’s cranking power. According to Shimano, anglers can retrieve about 40 inches of line with every crank.

The Socorro also boasts Shimano’s flagship Hagane-Concept gearing. The Hagane Concept technology utilizes a heavy metal reel body. The Hagane gear is precision cut for long-lasting smoothness. It is made from forged metal. What’s more, it has a gear ratio of 4.9:1.

The Socorro also features a proprietary Cross-Carbon drag. As such, it is durable enough to withstand intense line pressure. You can pull up to 27 pounds without issue. With that said, the Shimano is ideal for both inshore and offshore angling.

Customers can attest to the Socorro’s durable design. This reel was designed to handle repeated dips in saltwater and surf. Better yet, it was engineered to fight back against aggressive saltwater species. The Socorro’s casts are long, smooth, and consistent. On top of that, cranks leave little to be desired. If you want a chance to reel in a trophy-winning fish, the Shimano saltwater fishing reel is the way to go.

Overall, we were impressed with Shimano’s consistency. This respected Japanese manufacturer offers some of the top-selling saltwater fishing reels. It’s one of the few companies that can build a reel that can withstand repeated exposure to large pelagic species. The reel is available in four different models. The models are compatible with a variety of line tests. Shimano definitely makes it easy for customers to find a solid saltwater reel.

Pros

  • X-Ship technology
  • Hagane gearing
  • Suitable for inshore and offshore fishing
  • Carbon drag
  • Steel casing
  • Retrieve 40 inches with one crank
  • Up to 27 pounds of drag
  • 4+1 bearing system

Cons

 

2. Penn Battle II Spinning Fishing Reel (Value Pick)

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The Penn Battle II spinning fishing reel is a heavy-duty piece with a high-performance rating. The reel boasts a metal body, side plate, and rotor. What’s more, it has a substantial aluminum bail wire. On top of that, the drag system is made from HT 100 carbon fiber. This large system creates ample amounts of friction without developing heat. The reel’s retrieval system is powered by a set of five sealed stainless steel ball bearings and one stainless steel anti-reverse ball bearing.

One of the coolest features of the Penn Battle is its braid-ready spool. The reel’s durable rubber lining eliminates the need for backing line. This baby is ready to roll no matter the circumstances. It even features helpful spool capacity markings. You can easily determine if the spool is running low on line.

>>What Customers Think<<

The reel boasts an impressive 27-inch retrieval rate. What’s more, it is has a drag system that can handle repeated abuses and a healthy dose of saltwater. You can send your line out without so much as a single hiccup along the way. When its time to crank it back in, you’ll have speed and grace on your side.

Customers agree that the Penn Battle II is a valuable offshore reel. Its durable components are engineered to withstand a solid oceanic beating. It’s also incredibly lightweight considering its power.

Pros

  • Rubber gasket
  • Capacity markings
  • Five stainless steel ball bearing system
  • Aluminum bail wire
  • Anti-reverse ball bearing
  • HT-100™ carbon fiber drag washers
  • Metal body, side plate, and rotor
  • Eight models

Cons

  • Pricey
  • Locks up occasionally

 

3. Penn 1481260 Spinfisher VI Spinning Saltwater Reel (Pro Fisherman Pick)

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The Spinfisher VI is yet another powerful saltwater spinning reel produced by Penn. Penn is an American fishing supply manufacturer that’s preferred by many saltwater anglers. This particular reel is ideal for inshore and offshore ocean fishing. It’s a sixth-generation reel with an impressive cult following.

This new Spinfisher boasts a durable all-metal body with a Superline spool that’s suitable for both monofilament and braided line. It also has a proprietary CNC gear system with nearly impenetrable carbon fiber drag washers. The CNC gears can take some serious abuse. That comes as no surprise considering each system is individually machined at the Penn factory.

>>What Customers Think<<

With all that said, it is this reel’s six-part ball bearing system that keeps it running so smoothly. One of the five stainless steel ball bearings serves as an automatic anti-reverse feature. Meanwhile, the other five set the groundwork for smooth casts and retrievals.

The Spinfisher IV’s gearbox and drag system are completely closed off. As such, you can wash the reel off with a hose without sending salt and sand into the inner workings.

Customers love the look and feel of this saltwater spinner. It’s ultralight and easy to adjust. There are even capacity markings on the Superline spool. As such, there’s no need to eyeball your installations. It’s worth noting that this Penn reel is also aesthetically pleasing. It has a rich black foundation color with shiny bronze accents. While it doesn’t come cheap, the Spinfisher is worth every penny,

Pros

  • Sealed body and spool
  • CNC Gear™ system
  • HT-100™ carbon fiber drag washers
  • Fully metal body
  • Superline spool
  • Line capacity markings
  • 5+1 sealed stainless steel ball bearings
  • Upgraded saltwater favorite

Cons

  • Pricey
  • Not enough stopping power

 

4. Daiwa BG5000 BG Saltwater Spinning Reel (Ideal for Larger Fish)

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Daiwa’s BG spinning reel is yet another performance-oriented saltwater spinning reel. If you’ve already tested one of Daiwa’s BG reels, you’ll find that the BG5000 features an abundance of new and innovative improvements. For one, the reel features a sleek black anodized machined aluminum housing. This body serves to protect the precious inner workings from intense saltwater abuse. With the BG, you no longer need to fear salt and sand. The ocean is your oyster!

The BG5000 also features a unique over-sized Digigear System. This is Daiwa’s largest gear to date. Its large size means more torque and improved stopping power. Perpetual contact gives anglers more cranking power. As such, this reel enables anglers to battle against some of the ocean’s most aggressive species.

The reel’s aluminum housing features a highly durable black anodized coating. The coating keeps the reel from incurring aesthetic blemishes. The coating is resistant to corrosion and scratches. After repeatedly exposing the reel to saltwater, we can attest to its strength. This black and yellow reel can come home from a multi-day excursion looking as good as new.

The Daiwa has a 5.6-1 gear ratio. What’s more, it has a maximum drag of 27 pounds. The reel also has an infinite dual-action reverse system that prevents nests and knots. With all that said, there’s no question that this reel was built for the ocean.

>>What Customers Think<<

The BG5000 even boasts a reinvented rotor. The new air rotor is 1% lighter than traditional metal rotors. Nevertheless, it is incredibly strong. The reel also boasts an ABS spool with a dynamic reverse taper. The spool’s unique design prevents tangles due to overloading. The upside-down design also improves casting, as it offers smooth, kink-free releases time and time again.

The reel is also equipped with one of our favorite screw-in handles. The handle’s smooth, uninterrupted curves and slip-resistant grip are perfect for saltwater fishing.

Overall, customers agree that the BG5000 is a top saltwater performer. Its oversized gears offer enough torque to overpower strong currents and even stronger fish. What’s more, the reverse tapered spool is easy to load. You also have the option to spool the reel with a braided line or monofilament.

 

Pros

  • Digigear™ System
  • Black anodized machined aluminum housing
  • Air rotor
  • Ready for braided line
  • Carbon ATD drag system
  • Best offshore spinning reels
  • Manual return bail
  • Anti-reverse system
  • ABS spool

Cons

 

5. KastKing Sharky III Saltwater Spinning Reel (Best Saltwater Spinning Reels for the Money)

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Rounding off our list, the KastKing Sharky III overs extreme power and precision. This best lightweight saltwater spinning reel is perfect for rough offshore excursions. The Sharky has a wear-resistant fiber-reinforced graphite body and rotor. The body, spool, and rotor are sealed. As such, you can rinse this spool with a hose and not even think twice about debris entering the inner workings. If you are privy to metal parts, fear not. This piece is as durable as aircraft-grade aluminum. The Sharky’s proprietary waterproof system is called K.I.S.S. (KastKing Intrusion Shield System).

The third-generation Sharky is ultra-powerful too. It’s capable of withstanding whopping 39.5 pounds of drag. What’s more, its oversized brass pinions promise smooth casts and even smoother cranks. If you use braided line, you’ll appreciate the Sharky’s braid-ready aluminum spool. For once, you can skip the backing line and get straight to fishing. Did we mention that this spinning reel has one of the highest line capacities we’ve ever seen?

>>What Customers Think<<

The Sharky features 10 double-shielded stainless steel ball bearings as well as an additional anti-reverse ball bearing. This dynamic system runs like a well-oiled machine. Don’t just take our word for it! Customers are also quick to call the Sharky smooth and reliable.

With the Sharky, we were able to cast our line further than ever before. What’s more, we were able to score fish in dynamic offshore environments. This tremendous fishing tool didn’t even cost more than $60. It’s one of the most impressive saltwater spinning reels under $100.

Pros

  • Generational improvements
  • Water-resistant spool, body, and rotor
  • Braid-ready spool
  • 10+ stainless steel ball bearings
  • Instant anti-reverse
  • Screw-in aluminum handle
  • Stainless steel hardware
  • Impressive line capacity
  • Affordable

Cons

  • Loud
  • Graphite body

 

What to Look for in a Saltwater Fishing Reel

Saltwater spinning reels are essential for inshore and offshore ocean fishing expeditions. Before you set your heart on a saltwater species, consider what you need in a saltwater spinning reel. These simple machines have come a long way in recent years. Today, most reels feature precision parts that are geared toward heightened performances.

Housing

Let’s start by exploring the most obvious element: the housing. The housing, or body, of a spinning reel, is important for many reasons. First and foremost, it protects the precious inner works of a spinning reel. It needs to be durable yet lightweight. Most spinning reel housings are made of aluminum or graphite. These materials are resistant to wear. As such, they prevent a reel’s gears and bearings from falling out of order.

Manufacturers use a variety of techniques to fight back against wear and corrosion. Most housings are covered in protective coatings. These prevent the reels from incurring scratches, rust, and other surface blemishes. Other reels feature interior linings that prevent salt, sand, and water from coming in contact with the gears and bearings. Internal gaskets are also used to fend off the elements. What’s more, some reels even boast sealed bearing systems.

Always opt for a reel that is well protected. Saltwater is extremely corrosive. If possible, spend a little more to ensure that your saltwater spinning reel comes with protective measures.

Gears

The gears are some of the most important elements of a saltwater fishing reel. As such, many manufacturers have developed flagship gear systems. It’s easy to get caught up in marketing. However, the most important elements of gears are their ratios and material makeup. These elements determine how much torque and speed you can achieve with a spinning reel.

A reel’ gear ratio determines how fast an angler can retrieve their line. According to the experts, most fishing reels have a gear ratio that ranges between 6.2-1 and 7.0-1.A gear ratio represents the amount of time the spool revolves with each full crank of the handle.

Anglers may seek out low, medium, and high gear ratios. A gear ratio around 5-1 is ideal for saltwater fishing. More often than not, anglers seek out low gear ratios. These help them better cope with large saltwater fish. However, high gear ratios are often still by anglers who use artificial lures.

It’s also important to pay close attention to the material makeup of the gears. According to Sports Fishing Magazine, gears may be made from a variety of metals. Popular options include aluminum, stainless steel, and brass. Most professional anglers use stainless steel gears with heat-treated pinions. The harder the materials are, the less likely they are to incur damage.

Person casting into the ocean

Drag

The drag is the pair of metal plates or washers that are located inside of a saltwater spinning reel. The plates serve as a braking system for your fishing line. When your line is tugged, the drag plates rub up against each other to create friction. A drag is an essential element of a fishing reel because it slows the fish enough for you to catch them.

Each reel has a maximum drag. Choose a reel with a drag that is well-suited for your target species. Keep in mind that you can adjust your drag depending on your fishing goals. Most reels have a calibration knob on the top of their spools. For example, you need more drag for stationary inshore fishing than you do for turbulent offshore fishing.

Spool

Another reel element worth speculating over is the spool. The spool is the element that holds the line. It’s partially responsible for the speed and distance of a cast.

If you prefer braided line, look for a reel that is braid-ready. Braid-ready spools do not require backing line. That’s because they have a rubber lining that grips the string and keeps it from slipping.

Another important spool consideration is capacity. Some spools have limited capacities, while others can be filled to their lips. Spools with capacity markers make it easier for anglers to keep better track of their spools.

You can determine the capacity of a spool by its circumference. Spools can only hold a limited distance of fishing line. For example, a spool may be equipped to hold 500 yards of 12-pound test monofilament. That same spool may be able to hold 320 yards of 16-pound test monofilament. A spool’s capacity also varies when it comes to braided line.

Most saltwater reel manufacturers offer string capacity guidelines. You can also use your personal fishing goals to hone in on a reel that has an ideal spool capacity. No matter what you’re fishing for, you will want at least 100 feet of fishing line on your spool.

Ball-Bearings

Ball bearings are one of the essential elements inside a standard spinning reel. Ample amounts of stainless steel ball bearings guarantee you smoother cranks. However, there are plenty of five-ball bearing reels that will land you lots of fish.

We recommend opting for a reel that has anywhere from five to 10 ball bearings. If you are targeting large, offshore species, Opt for a reel with several ball bearings. Otherwise, try not to place too much emphasis on the number of bearings in the reel.

Bail Wire

The bail wire is the C-shaped loop that crosses over the top of a spinning reel. The bail guides the line on and off the spool. It is important to choose a reel with a durable bail wire. Rough waters and fierce fish will identify weak spots without hesitation. Opt for an aluminum piece that can be closed by hand.

Anti-Reverse Component

You may have realized that some of the ball bearing systems are split into two parts. One part is a standalone ball bearing. This element functions as an anti-reverse feature. An anti-reverse feature is an essential component of every spinning reel. It prevents the reel from spinning backward. Some spinning reels boast an anti-reverse ball bearing as well as a secondary system.

Budget

High-performance fishing gear often comes at a steep price. You can expect to pay anywhere from $50 to $200 for a quality saltwater fishing reel. Make the most of your investment by taking proper care of your gear. A solid spinning reel could last you years or even a lifetime. Be sure to rinse your reel after each saltwater exposure.

Overall Look and Feel

Most anglers will spend the majority of their fishing time with their hands stretched over their reels. As such, a reel must be comfortable. Your spinning reel should be lightweight and easy to grip. The handle should have a small knob that fits in the palm of your hand.

Final Thoughts

If we had to recommend just one saltwater fishing reel, it’d be the Shimano Socorro SW Saltwater Spinning Fishing Reel. We love that Shimano utilized their flagship Hanager gearing system. This system is incredibly durable, especially when it’s backed by five stainless steel ball bearings and a Cross Carbon drag. You can take this reel inshore and offshore fishing. It will put up with abuse while offering smooth, consistent casts. Of course, the black and gold body of this reel fits well with nearly any saltwater fishing rod. So pair it with your favorite pole and set your eye on a few tournament trophies!

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