The 8 Best Saltwater Spinning Reels Reviewed ( 2019 Hands-on Guide )


Important Choosing Factors

grouper caught with a saltwater spinning reel

Line Capacity

Saltwater can mean deep water and long runs, even smaller species can speed away when provided a wide open escape route.

An essential feature in any quality reel is the ability to hold enough line to face these challenges without seeing your fight come to an end because you get spooled.

In most cases, you will want to look for a minimum capacity of 300 yards. Even if you are using a braided line, capacity will one day become the difference between a trophy and a fish story.


Braided Line Compatibility

A braided line offers many advantages that the saltwater angler wishes to have. So it is important that any reel you consider is capable of using this as well as a monofilament.

While almost any modern reel can be spooled with a braided line ( here is how to do it without line twist ), the best includes special features designed to take full advantage of this accessory such as those that:

  • limit slippage
  • bails without gaps in which the line can become tangled or snagged
  • components robust enough to withstand the cutting power of this line when under pressure



Buying a deep water trolling rig? No problem! Go with the biggest brass model available since it will spend most of the day in a holder anyway.

But if you are buying a spinning reel, chances are, it will devote more time in your hand than anywhere else. Plus, there will come an instance when you want to cast, retrieve, cast and retrieve from the time you leave the dock until you return hours later.

When this happens, every extra ounce you hold or swing will count. A lighter reel will make it much easier to get the most out of your day and gear, just do not sacrifice strength to lose a few ounces.


Corrosion Protection

fisher with saltwater reel

One of the greatest differences between your fresh water and saltwater reels is the ability of the latter to withstand the harsh environment that they encounter.

Hour after hour, day after day, your reel will be exposed to salt which is both corrosive and abrasive. A good reel will be specifically designed to withstand being coated with salt spray and dunked in seawater without missing a beat.

We go in-depth on how to clean your saltwater fishing gear in this article.



This is the mechanical, adjustable friction which determines the amount of resistance needed to pull line from the reel. It is important to select a reel with a maximum drag sufficient enough to tire, turn and eventually land the largest fish you are targeting.

Most experts agree that a drag rating over 30-40 lbs does little regarding accomplishing its intended task as the angler’s arm strength then becomes the weak point. However, a higher drag rating can indicate greater protection from bursts of speed or strength.



Daiwa SALTIGA ball bearings
Daiwa SALTIGA ball bearings

The moving internal parts of your reel require protection against the damage caused by metal on metal rotation. Inexpensive or lighter weight models use bushings but this usually results in lower tolerances and a stop and go action.

Quality reels use ball bearings which provide a smoother action especially when under load. The more bearings available indicate a better action.


Gear Ratio

The gears in your reel act in the same manner as those on a multi-speed bicycle by increasing the power produced with each turn of the handle.

A low gear ratio will be easier to turn but will require far more turns to retrieve the same amount of line as a reel with a higher ratio.

A ratio of 4:1 indicates the spool will turn 4 times for each full rotation of the handle. Likewise, a ratio of 6:1 indicates a faster retrieval with the spool turning 6 times for each rotation of the handle.

  • The lower gear ratio is best suited for jigging or live lining bait.
  • The higher gear ratio is better when you are retrieving lures at faster speeds or trying to cover large areas while searching for fish.

Here is a saltwater rod buyer guide that will help you to put together a perfect rod & reel combo.

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