Close up Photo of a Baitcasting Reel in a Boat

7 Best Saltwater Baitcasting Reels [2020 Top Picks]

When it comes to finding the right baitcaster for saltwater fishing there are a few things you need to be careful about. When fishing in saltwater you’re not only going up against big fish, but also the harshest environments. Your reel needs to be able to handle everything the ocean can throw at it while being able to land some huge fish.

Picking the right reel for your needs isn’t easy and there’s a huge range to choose from. Luckily we’ve put together a guide to the best saltwater baitcasting reels out there to make your choice a little easier. 

The Top Three

These are our favorite reels from the review.

Best All-Rounder

KastKing Spartacus Maximus Metal Baitcasting Reel

To start with, this is a pretty reel and will look darn good at the bottom of any rod. It’s not just looks that make this reel appealing, it’s been well made and is an excellent affordable candidate for saltwater fishing – even in the surf.

KastKing Spartacus Maximus Metal Baitcasting Reel

The all-rounder is all about being as good as a reel can be for a reasonable price. It should do everything well but not make you wince when you see the price tag. The all-rounder is the KastKing Spartacus Maximus reel. This reel has a huge line capacity and serious max drag. It’s one of the few reels in the line up I would take surf fishing. It’s well made, durable and all of its components are corrosion resistant. 

Best on a Budget

Abu Garcia Pro Max Low Profile Baitcasting Reel

You may be able to tell from the price that this isn’t a Swedish made Abu Garcia, but one of their lower quality models. That being said, it still does pretty well and is perfectly suited as a starter reel if you’ve just decided to give baitcasters a try.

Abu Garcia Pro Max Low Profile Baitcasting Reel

This reel will do the basics well, last and have the lowest price possible. The best on a budget reel is the Abu Garcia Pro Max Low Profile Baitcasting Reel. It’s durable, casts well and the max drag plus the line capacity make it quite versatile for saltwater fishing. 

Editor’s Choice

Piscifun Phantom Carbon Baitcasting Reel

The carbon fiber frame, handle and side plates not only make this reel durable and corrosion-resistant, but really light too. You’ll be able to cast for days with this and not have your heart jump if you drop it.

Piscifun Phantom Carbon Baitcasting Reel

Editor’s Choice

Simply put, this is my favorite reel from the review based on my years of experience. My choice is actually one of the most affordable in the review for once. It’s the Piscifun Phantom Carbon Baitcasting Reel. This reel is made from super high-quality materials, is super light and you can buy 3 of them for the price of one expensive baitcaster.

What to Consider When Buying a Saltwater Reel

What are you fishing for?

This is an important consideration when buying any reel. What kind of saltwater fishing are you planning on? A good inshore reel may not be good for surf fishing and vice versa.

TIP

Bear in mind where you plan to fish and what you’re trying to catch, then make sure the reel you choose can handle it. 

Line Capacity

Line capacity affects how far you can cast and how much line you have to land a fish. If you plan on surf fishing, you’ll need a lot of line to cast far from the beach and land big fish.

If inshore fishing from a boat is your thing, then line capacity is not so much of a worry. Your casts are more likely to be close and accurate, plus if you hook a giant you can always chase it with the boat. 

Using Braid

Braid is the line of choice these days, especially when baitcasting, as it’ll increase your casting distance and accuracy. Not all reels are made with braid-ready spools and if yours isn’t it’ll cause issues when filling your reel.

RECOMMENDATION

Make sure the reel you buy is made for braid – this will be sure to make your life a little easier. Most reels are braid-ready these days, but it’s still worth checking. 

How Heavy Is The Reel 

A heavy reel is going to slow you down no matter how you look at it. Long days of casting are tiring enough, add some extra weight to the equation and it’s just not fun anymore.

RECOMMENDATION

Be sure to pick a lighter reel if you can, this will save your arm muscles and mental state some work on those long summer evenings. 

Corrosion & Durability

Corrosion and durability are the factors that keep reels alive, especially in saltwater. Make sure the reel and its components are made from corrosion-resistant materials such as aluminum, graphite, brass, stainless steel and carbon fiber.

TIP

A good saltwater reel will also be sealed or have some kind of intrusion protection system to stop salt, water, and dirt from getting inside.

Drag – Strong and Smooth 

You’re going to need your drag when fishing in saltwater. Without it, your chances of landing fish are pretty much zero. Make sure the reel has a smooth drag with a high enough maximum for the type of fish you plan to catch.

The max drag on reels can vary a lot and it’s important to check before buying. There is nothing worse than being under-gunned when you hook up to a fish of a lifetime or having your drag stick and slip.

TIP

Try and test the drag if you can, crank it up to near the maximum and pull some line off. If it’s strong and smooth, you’re all good. 

Gear Ratio

A high gear ratio is the key to a quick retrieve, the higher the ratio the more turns of the spool per crank you’ll get. This’ll let you fish lures quickly and reel in fish with maximum efficiency. 

Braking & Backlashes

The brakes on a baitcaster allow you to adjust the spool tension for casting. Being able to set the tension just right will give you long, accurate casts without any backlashes.

If your brake is hard to set or fails, then you’ll spend most of your time untangling…

It’s essential to have a reel with a good braking system. If your brake is hard to set or fails, then you’ll spend most of your time untangling birds nests instead of fishing! 

Right vs Left-handed

You can’t change the side on which you wind with a baitcaster like you can with a spinning reel – it comes pre-set. Be sure to order a reel with the handle on the correct side for you.

TIP

If you’re not sure which side suits you best, try and borrow a reel or go down to a shop and see which side feels most comfortable for you. 

Our Reels Of Choice 

Abu Garcia REVO Inshore Low Profile

This reel has been specifically made with the inshore angler in mind. The frame is made up of X2-Cräftic alloy, which is one of Abu’s own materials. This gives the reel excellent corrosion resistance and rigidity for optimal gear alignment.

Abu Garcia REVO Inshore Low Profile

This reel has been specifically made with the inshore angler in mind. The frame is made up of X2-Cräftic alloy, which is one of Abu’s own materials. This gives the reel excellent corrosion resistance and rigidity for optimal gear alignment. Combine this with the high-performance corrosion resistant bearings and you have a reel that should handle the saltwater well.

However, there are some (admittedly rare) reports of salt getting in and causing the reel to fail.

Retrieve

The retrieve on this reel is exceptionally quick and smooth thanks to the high gear ratio and ball bearings. It does well under pressure thanks to the rigid body keeping the gears in line and there’s no play in the large extended handle.

The braking system is Abu’s Infinitely Variable Centrifugal Brake (IVCB). This allows you to pinpoint the spool tension you need with absolute precision…

The braking system is Abu’s Infinitely Variable Centrifugal Brake (IVCB). This allows you to pinpoint the spool tension you need with absolute precision, but it’s not so easy to do. This will make it hard for newcomers and you may experience a few backlashes at first. Once you do get the tension right, it does cast like a dream and backlashes will be a thing of the past. 

Additional Features

The reel features a carbon matrix drag system that’s smooth, powerful and’ll stand up to the saltwater environment. The max drag and line capacity combine to create a reel that gives a long cast and can handle some big fish. 

It comes with anti-reverse, a braid-ready spool, brass gears and is overall an excellent reel. It’s a bit expensive but worth it for the quality.

Specs

Pros

  • A smooth and fast retrieve
  • Quality gears
  • Very high max drag
  • Excellent caster

Cons

  • Expensive
  • Brake is tricky to set
  • Can corrode in saltwater

Shimano Tranx LowProfile Baitcasting Fishing Reel

This reel is known as one of Shimano’s best saltwater baitcasters. It comes in a range of sizes that’ll work well for most fishing situations.

Shimano Tranx LowProfile Baitcasting Fishing Reel

This reel is known as one of Shimano’s best saltwater baitcasters. It comes in a range of sizes that’ll work well for most fishing situations. The frame is made from machined aluminum making it durable and corrosion-resistant.

It’s been designed to be very rigid for keeping the gears aligned and stoping any flex when winding in against pressure…

It’s been designed to be very rigid for keeping the gears aligned and stoping any flex when winding in against pressure. This makes the retrieve especially efficient when combined with the high gear ratio and ball bearings. The retrieve is super smooth and seriously fast – fish and baits’ll come flying in. The body does make the reel heavy and you’ll get tired casting this all day. 

Shimano has tried to seal the reel using its core protect system. The body, line roller and roller clutch are protected, but water still gets in there.

TIP

If you submerge this reel and don’t take it apart to service it, the bearings will seize – be warned. 

The brake is easy to set, adjust and helps with making long, smooth accurate casts. The drag is smooth and powerful enough. The max isn’t as high as some models, but will manage for most situations. The worm gears seem to stick and you may not get a good line lay, with the reel stacking up line on one side.

Specs

Pros

  • Super-fast retrieve
  • Sealed
  • Durable
  • Smooth and easy to cast
  • Casts far

Cons

  • Not the highest max drag
  • Worm gears can get stuck giving uneven line lay
  • Bearings corrode when submerged
  • Expensive
  • Heavy

Daiwa Coastal TWS T-Wing Reel

Daiwa has managed to make an impressively light reel with all the features of a solid inshore reel. It has been designed for inshore use not the surf and the low max drag will let you down against a big fish.

Daiwa Coastal TWS T-Wing Reel

Daiwa has managed to make an impressively light reel with all the features of a solid inshore reel. It has been designed for inshore use not the surf and the low max drag will let you down against a big fish. 

Daiwa has managed to make an impressively light reel with all the features of a solid inshore reel…

The line capacity is excellent, especially when you consider the reels small compact size. Daiwa has accomplished this by using a deeper spool. It’ll manage any inshore species and is also made for braid.

Brake System

The braking system is on point and easy to adjust. Combine that with the T-wing design that reduces friction on the level wind and you get an incredible caster. You’ll be able to enjoy a long day of casting with this one. 

The frame and side plate are made from aluminum, making this reel fit for the salt. It does tend to scratch easily though – this doesn’t compromise the reels functionality, but it’s a little annoying. 

Drag

The drag is smooth – not as powerful as I’d like, but will do fine for inshore fishing as previously mentioned. It’s made from a high-density carbon strain material that is strong, corrosion-resistant and light. 

NOTE

The one main drawback of this reel is that the line guide can fail on occasion, but this is rare – otherwise, it’s an excellent inshore reel. 

Specs

Pros

  • Excellent brake system
  • Impressive line capacity
  • Durable
  • Good caster
  • Quick retrieve

Cons

  • Drag could be higher
  • Line guide can fail
  • Scratches easily

Ardent Apex Pro Baitcasting Reel

This is one of the most affordable reels in the review and despite the low cost it operates pretty well. There’s often comments that it feels cheap and plasticy, but don’t let that fool you.

Ardent Apex Pro Baitcasting Reel

This is one of the most affordable reels in the review and despite the low cost it operates pretty well. There’s often comments that it feels cheap and plasticy, but don’t let that fool you. The frame, handle and spool are in fact aluminum, making this reel durable and corrosion-resistant.

It’s great for casting thanks to its low weight and excellent braking system…

It’s great for casting thanks to its low weight and excellent braking system. The brake is easily adjustable to micro-increments and it features a 270-degree dial that you adjust from the outside. This makes it easy to change the tension on the fly and quickly find your sweet spot. 

The 11 ball bearing system and high gear ratio make the retrieve smooth and super quick. If you combine this with the rigid aluminum body and strong handle you have a reel that’ll let you crank hard without any play. The drag on the reel is smooth, but the max is a little low. Like the Daiwa, it’ll do fine in for inshore fishing, but surf fishing may be a challenge should you hook up a big shark or ray. 

NOTE

The reel isn’t sealed in any way and I would worry about the saltwater corroding the insides over time – especially the bearings. You’ll need to look after this reel a lot – but for the low price tag, it’s to be expected. 

Specs

Pros

  • Lightweight
  • Good caster
  • Excellent backlash control
  • Smooth, quick retrieve
  • Affordable

Cons

  • Low max drag of 11 lbs
  • Not very corrosion resistant
  • Feels plasticky and cheap

Best All-Rounder

KastKing Spartacus Maximus Metal Baitcasting Reel

To start with, this is a pretty reel and will look darn good at the bottom of any rod. It’s not just looks that make this reel appealing, it’s been well made and is an excellent affordable candidate for saltwater fishing – even in the surf.

KastKing Spartacus Maximus Metal Baitcasting Reel

To start with, this is a pretty reel and will look darn good at the bottom of any rod. It’s not just looks that make this reel appealing, it’s been well made and is an excellent affordable candidate for saltwater fishing – even in the surf. 

…ideal reel for surf fishing as you’ll have the power and the length to manage a big fish from the beach. 

To start off KastKing have done their usual thing of making the max drag high and the line capacity even higher. This makes it an ideal reel for surf fishing as you’ll have the power and the length to manage a big fish from the beach.

Durability

The reel is durable and corrosion-resistant thanks to its aluminum frame and spool. The frame is rigid to keep the brass gears in place for maximum cranking power when you need it. There’s no play in the handle or frame when winding under pressure, something you’ll love when you’re fighting a tank.

The reel features a dual braking system and when setup it allows for great casts…

The reel features a dual braking system and when setup it allows for great casts. The side plate is very hard to remove which makes setting the spool tension difficult, but once set, you should be good to go.

Retrieve

The quick, smooth retrieve is thanks to the 10 ball bearings and reasonable gear ratio. It could be higher, but it’s nothing to worry about. The spool can start to ‘sing’ after a while – it can get so loud it hurts your ears in some cases. This issue doesn’t seem to affect the functionality, but it might drive you crazy given enough time.

Overall this is a versatile reel that is well made and affordable. 

Specs

Pros

  • Casts well
  • High Max drag
  • It’s dang pretty
  • Affordable
  • Durable

Cons

  • Winding can get noisy
  • Hard to remove the side plate and adjust the brake

Best on a Budget

Abu Garcia Pro Max Low Profile Baitcasting Reel

You may be able to tell from the price that this isn’t a Swedish made Abu Garcia, but one of their lower quality models. That being said, it still does pretty well and is perfectly suited as a starter reel if you’ve just decided to give baitcasters a try.

Abu Garcia Pro Max Low Profile Baitcasting Reel

You may be able to tell from the price that this isn’t a Swedish made Abu Garcia, but one of their lower quality models. That being said, it still does pretty well and is perfectly suited as a starter reel if you’ve just decided to give baitcasters a try.

…The graphite is actually very strong, durable and corrosion-resistant, while the lightness of the reel makes it great for casting

The reel does feel a little cheap in the hand due to its lightweight graphite body and side plates. The graphite is actually very strong, durable and corrosion-resistant, while the lightness of the reel makes it great for casting. 

Outside of the graphite body, the internal parts are mostly metal. The gears are brass, the spool is aluminum, the bearings are stainless steel and the drag is carbon fiber. These components make for an excellent saltwater reel – just don’t crack the graphite body. 

Retrieve

The retrieve is smooth and quick while the max drag is about average at 18lbs. It’s a little noisy when you wind and the handle does play when you’re up against some pressure. This is most likely due to the graphite body not being as rigid as aluminum.

The reel casts like a dream. The braking system is easily adjustable…

The reel casts like a dream. The braking system is easily adjustable and won’t just help you cast further, but avoid any backlashes in the process. The line capacity isn’t the largest though and if you’re thinking about throwing a huge line into the surf… think again. 

Specs

Pros

  • Durable and corrosion-resistant.
  • Lightweight
  • Great brake system
  • Casts well
  • Affordable

Cons

  • Feels a little cheap
  • Low line capacity
  • Noisy
  • Play in the handle

Editor’s Choice

Piscifun Phantom Carbon Baitcasting Reel

The carbon fiber frame, handle and side plates not only make this reel durable and corrosion-resistant, but really light too. You’ll be able to cast for days with this and not have your heart jump if you drop it.

Piscifun Phantom Carbon Baitcasting Reel

It’s not very often you’ll find a carbon fiber reel that is this affordable. It’s actually the only carbon fiber reel in the review and it has one of the lowest prices.

It’s not very often you’ll find a carbon fiber reel that is this affordable…

The carbon fiber frame, handle and side plates not only make this reel durable and corrosion-resistant, but really light too. You’ll be able to cast for days with this and not have your heart jump if you drop it, as the carbon will stand up to bumps and scrapes.

Brake System

The dual brake system is made from a magnetic and centrifugal brake that allows you to adjust your tension accurately on the fly. It can take some getting used to, but once you’re up to speed you’ll experience long smooth casts and very little backlashes. 

The reel is built with the sea in mind and all the components will stand up well to corrosion…

The reel is built with the sea in mind and all the components will stand up well to corrosion. From the aluminum gears and carbon fiber drag to the anti-corrosion stainless steel ball bearings, you have very little to worry about.

Retrieve

The retrieve is quick and smooth, but (there had to be a but somewhere) the line lay can be uneven at times, which can be frustrating if you get an overwind. The line capacity is a little low and the max drag is about average. It’ll work perfectly for inshore fishing, but I wouldn’t go any bigger than that.

Specs

Pros

  • Good caster
  • Smooth retrieve
  • Quality and durable
  • Feels like a much more expensive reel
  • Good value

Cons

  • Low line capacity
  • Uneven line lay

All-Rounder

The all-rounder is the KastKing Spartacus Maximus reel and is one of the few that is fit for use on the surf. It has an excellent drag and line capacity that make it one of the top reels in the review to target big fish with. It’s made to last with high-quality corrosion-resistant materials, casts like a dream and will have you putting serious pressure on fish. 

Best on a Budget

The best on a budget reel is the Abu Garcia Pro Max Low Profile Baitcasting Reel. This reel doesn’t feel like the best quality in the hand due to the graphite frame – it does make it light and affordable though. All the other parts are made with quality materials and the reel performs very well while having a good price. If you’re new to baitcasting this is a good reel to consider. 

Editor’s Choice

The editor’s choice is the Piscifun Phantom Carbon Baitcasting Reel. This is one of the lightest and best-priced reels in the review. The reel feels and works like a much higher priced model. It does everything well and is made of some of the best materials out there – what more could you want!

Thanks so much for reading this review. I hope you’ve found it helpful and please share it around if you think it would be useful to any of your friends. It’s hard to pick the right reel and as we have seen, price doesn’t always dictate the best. 

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