Close up Photo of a Baitcasting Reel in a Boat

7 Best Saltwater Baitcasting Reels (2021 Top Picks)

Lance Wilkins
Lance Wilkins
Editor @ CallOutdoors. Outdoor gear-head and adventure addict. I fish, camp and enjoy to writing about my adventures.

Share

Share on twitter
Share on facebook
Share on email
Share on print

When it comes to finding the right baitcaster for saltwater fishing there are a few things you need to be careful about…

After considering all the options our top picks were…

When fishing in saltwater, your fishing gear is not only going up against a large fish, but also the harshest environments.

Your saltwater baitcasting fishing reel needs to be able to handle everything the ocean can throw at it while being able to land some huge fish.

Picking the best saltwater baitcasting reel for your needs on your saltwater fishing adventure isn’t easy and there’s a huge range to choose from.

Luckily we’ve put together a guide for the best saltwater baitcasting reels out there to make your choice a little easier.

The Top Three

These are our favorite best saltwater baitcasting reels from the review…

Best All-Rounder

KastKing Spartacus Maximus Metal Baitcasting Reel

To start with, this is a pretty baitcast reel and will look darn good at the bottom of any fishing 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.

Our Reels Of Choice

Here are all the top saltwater baitcaster reels we reviewed…

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 of this inshore saltwater baitcasting reel 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 saltwater baitcaster 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 brake system is Abu’s Infinitely Variable Centrifugal Brake (IVCB). This allows you to pinpoint the spool tension you need with absolute precision…

The brake system is Abu’s Infinitely Variable Centrifugal Brake (IVCB).

This allows you to pinpoint the tension on the spool 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, gears made from brass and is overall an excellent reel.

It’s a bit expensive but worth it for the quality.

Specs

  • Mono capacity YD/LB: 225/10, 180/12, 130/15
  • Braid capacity YD/LB: 235/20, 180/30, 125/50
  • Max Drag: 24lb
  • Gear Ratio: 7.3:1
  • Ball bearings: 7
  • Weight: 7.9oz
  • Retrieve rate, per crank: 30”
  • Retrieve Side: Right or Left, choose when you order
  • Full 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 baitcasting reels. 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 stopping 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 coreprotect 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 and accurate casting.

The drag system is smooth and powerful enough.

The max drag 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

  • Mono capacity LB/YD: 12/330, 14/260, 20/160
  • Braid capacity mm/YD: 50/275, 65/170, 80/140
  • Max Drag: 18lb
  • Gear Ratio: 7.6:1
  • Ball bearings: 6
  • Weigh:t 12oz
  • Retrieve rate, per crank: 40”
  • Retrieve Side: Right or Left, choose when you order
  • Full 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 properties 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 large 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 reel’s 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 brake system on this Daiwa reel 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 reel’s 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.

The drag system is 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

  • Mono capacity: LB/YD 16/125, 20/100
  • Braid capacity: LB/YD 20/220, 30/165
  • Max Drag: 11lb
  • Gear Ratio: 8.1:1
  • Ball bearings: 8
  • Weight: 6.9oz
  • Retrieve rate, per crank: 33.9”
  • Retrieve Side: Right or Left, choose when you order
  • Full 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 saltwater fishing 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 system on the reel is smooth, but the max is a little low.

Like the Daiwa, it’ll do fine for inshore fishing, but fishing the surf 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

  • Mono capacity YD/LB: 12/150, 15/125
  • Braid capacity LB/YD: N/A
  • Max Drag: 11lb
  • Gear Ratio: 7.3:1
  • Ball bearings: 11
  • Weight: 6.3oz
  • Retrieve rate, per crank: 34”
  • Retrieve Side: Right or Left, choose when you order
  • Full 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 for a very reasonable price 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 its machined aluminum spool.

The aluminum 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 Spartacus features a dual braking system and when set up it allows for great casts…

The Spartacus features a dual braking system and when set up 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 ratio of the gear.

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

  • Mono capacity: LB/YD 10/210, 13/180, 16/130
  • Braid capacity: mm/m 0.285/210, 0.33/160, 0.37/130
  • Max Drag: 25lbs
  • Gear Ratio: 6.3:1
  • Ball bearings: 11
  • Weight: 9.16oz
  • Retrieve rate, per crank: 27.5 inch
  • Retrieve Side: Right or Left, choose when you order
  • Full Specs

Pros

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

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 baitcaster reels 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, this particular reel does pretty well compared to other low profile baitcasting reels 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.

From the brass gears, aluminum spool, stainless steel ball bearings and to the carbon fibre drag system, 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.

If you need something for the surf take a look at this best surf fishing rod and reel combos review.

Specs

  • Mono capacity YD/LB: 145/12
  • Braid capacity YD/LB: 140/30
  • Max Drag: 18lb
  • Gear Ratio: 7.1:1
  • Ball bearings: 8
  • Weight: 7.30oz
  • Retrieve rate, per crank: 29 inch
  • Retrieve Side: Right or Left, choose when you order
  • Full Specs

Pros

  • Durable and corrosion-resistant
  • Stainless steel bearings
  • 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 fibre 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 fibre 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 composed of a magnetic braking system and centrifugal brake that allows you to adjust your tension accurately on the fly.

The 6-pin internal centrifugal brake allows anglers to easily fine tune and maximize casting distance while 0-10 external magnetic brake system gives you precise adjustment for a wide variety of baits to avoid backlash.

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 system 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

  • Mono capacity LB/YD: 10/120
  • Braid capacity LB/YD: 30/120
  • Max Drag: 17lb
  • Gear Ratio: 7.0:1
  • Ball bearings: 7
  • Weight: 5.7oz
  • Retrieve rate, per crank: 30.3 inch
  • Retrieve Side: Right or Left, choose when you order
  • Full Specs

Pros

  • Good caster
  • Smooth retrieve
  • Dual braking system(centrifugal and magnetic brake system)
  • Quality and durable
  • Feels like a much more expensive reel
  • Good value

Cons

  • Low line capacity
  • Uneven line lay

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? Are you planning for offshore and inshore fishing or are you going to use it for fishing the surf and maybe you might be thinking if you can use these reels for freshwater fishing?

A good inshore or offshore fishing reel may not be as good as a surf reel when 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 on your surf reel to cast far from the beach and land a large 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. You can also read our guide on how to cast farther if you want to know what other factors may affect your casting distance.

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 going for a saltwater fishing trip.

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 system 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 bait caster allow you to adjust the tension on the spool for casting using the spool tension knob.

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 brake system, may it be a magnetic braking system or a centrifugal brake and maybe both.

Some of the best beginner baitcasting reels have a dual brake system so you have a bit of leeway to work with if you’re just starting out.

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 bait caster 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. 

Conclusion

It’s hard to pick the best saltwater baitcaster reel for your saltwater fishing trips and as we have seen, price doesn’t always dictate the best.

If you’re still having a hard time picking a reel, this guide can help you pick a baitcaster setup.

Or have a quick look at our top three best saltwater baitcast reels…

All-Rounder

The all-rounder is the KastKing Spartacus Maximus baitcasting fishing reel and is one of the few that is fit for use on the surf.

It has an excellent drag system and line capacity that make it one of the top reels in the review to target large 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 bait casting reel doesn’t feel like the best quality in the hand due to the graphite frame – the graphite frame 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 saltwater baitcasting reel 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 Best Saltwater Baitcasting Reel review.

I hope you’ve found it helpful and please share this Best Saltwater Baitcasting Reel article around if you think it would be useful to other saltwater anglers you may know.

And also, don’t hesitate to read my other articles from fishing equipment reviews to fishing guides and everything in between. You might learn a thing or two which you can use on your next fishing trip. 

If you’re still in doubt if a baitcaster is for you, or should you go with spinning reels, here’s a Baitcaster vs Spinning Reel comparison. Be sure to check it out.

Until next time.

Share

Share on twitter
Share on facebook
Share on linkedin
Share on email
Share on print
Lance Wilkins
Lance Wilkins
Editor @ CallOutdoors. Outdoor gear-head and adventure addict. I fish, camp and enjoy to writing about my adventures.
New Course: Casting Mastery Blueprint!
Longer, more accurate casting in just 10 days!