Man Fishing with a Spinning Reel

7 Best Saltwater Fishing Reels of 2020 (Buyer’s Guide)

A saltwater reel has a tough life. It has to deal with a harsh environment and still be strong enough to put the hurt on a big fish.

After considering all the options our top picks were…

The fish you’re going after are no joke and you want a reel that can handle it.

Finding a reel that’s up to the task isn’t easy, there are so many to choose from and it’s hard to know which one will get the job done.

Here is a review of the best saltwater reels on the market to make your life a little easier. 

The Top Three

Below are the three favorites from the review, categorized into three different options for you, depending on what you’re looking for.

Best All-Rounder

Okuma Cedros High Speed Spinning Reel

This reel is made for the salt and specifically jigging, thanks to its customized aluminum jigging handle. It constructed from quality materials

Okuma Cedros High Speed Spinning Reel

This reel is about getting the job done, lasting a long time and being good value too. It needs to be able to manage any fishing situation, whether you’re chasing a redfish or a tuna, this reel can do it and survive.

The all-rounder is the Okuma Cedros. This reel is super light while being made of excellent materials. The drag is strong and the line capacity is huge. This reel will be great for most fishing situations and last a long time. 

Best on a Budget

Penn Battle II Spinning Reel

This reel will survive a long time thanks to its design. The gear alignment is maintained through the rigid aluminum rotor, body, and side plates.

Penn Battle II Spinning Reel

Best on a budget is pretty self-explanatory. This is the best reel in the line up that won’t break, will last, catch fish and doesn’t cost the earth. Even though it’s on a budget, you can still be confident using it. 

The Penn Battle II is the best on a budget. I know the Kastking reels are much less in terms of cost but they don’t last. This reel is well made with quality materials and you can use it in any situation, just buy the right model for you. Be sure to look after it and it’ll last a long time. 

Editor’s Choice

PENN Slammer III Spinning Reel

Penn has updated this reel to make it even better. The body, side plate, and rotor are the same as the older models, all made of metal for durability in the salt.

PENN Slammer III Spinning Reel

Editor’s Choice

This choice comes from my experience with reels and money isn’t taken into account. It’s about being the best reel for all circumstances that’ll last a lifetime. 

The Penn Slammer 3 is my choice. I have used this reel for a few years catching huge tuna and it’s never failed me. The drag is powerful, it’s really durable and most of all, it’s got your back. I fish with confidence with this reel and only need to do the standard ‘once a season’ maintenance. 

What to Look for

These are the things you need to consider before you buy a saltwater reel. 

What are you fishing for?

Some reels will work in multiple environments and some are made for specific situations. Knowing what you want to fish for with your reel will make a big impact on your choice. Do you want a reel that’s just for monsters or one that’s just for bonefish, or… perhaps both? 

Line Capacity

Line capacity is important, no one wants to get spooled and lose the fish of a lifetime. Think about the fish you want to catch and what they’re capable of, then base your line capacity off the back of that. If you’re catching pelagics, you’ll need a lot of line and if you’re targeting tarpon you won’t need as much.

Using Braid

Most reels come with a braid-ready spool. This makes putting braid on your reel much easier. Without it, you may have to use a mono-backing in order to make sure the braid doesn’t slip or add some electrical tape to the spool before winding on the braid. In any case, having a braid-ready spool is a bonus, and you should get it if you can. 

How Heavy Is The Reel 

Fishing with a lighter reel is far more enjoyable than fishing with a heavy reel. You don’t get tired and can keep on casting all day without discomfort.

If you plan on casting a lot, look for a reel that’s light enough but still has the strength and power you need…

If you plan on casting a lot, look for a reel that’s light enough but still has the strength and power you need. Heavy reels do have their place though and are needed when you’re targeting the biggest fish out there. 

Durability & Corrosion Resistance

Saltwater is mean to reels. It gets anywhere it can and it makes things fall apart pretty quickly if they aren’t protected. Make sure the reel is made from corrosion-resistant materials and is sealed. This’ll slow down or stop any corrosion and save you time in maintaining your reel.

Drag, Strong and Smooth 

You never know what is going to eat your bait in the sea, it’s part of the charm. It could be anything, and it could be gigantic. You’re going to need a drag that can handle big, fast, angry fish. Be sure to buy a reel with a sealed and strong drag, the maximum drag setting needs to match the species you intend to catch.

TIP

Before you buy a reel, turn the drag to the maximum and pull line off it. If it’s hard to take off and smooth, you’re onto a winner. 

Our Reels Of Choice

Penn Spinfisher V

This reel is durable but heavy. Casting it all day will be tiring, but it’ll last a long time in the saltwater thanks to the metal body, rotor, side plates, and heavy-duty aluminum bail wire.

Penn Spinfisher V

This reel is durable but heavy. Casting it all day will be tiring, but it’ll last a long time in the saltwater thanks to the metal body, rotor, side plates, and heavy-duty aluminum bail wire.

The drag is excellent at stopping big fish and it does it quickly…

The reel uses the HT-100 Slammer drag system which is sealed, smooth, durable and powerful. The drag is excellent at stopping big fish and it does it quickly. The retrieve rate is 35” which is what you need out there and it matches the large line capacity of the braid ready spool. The Superline spool comes with capacity markers at 1/3, 2/3, and full. It’s braid ready and easy to fill.

There’s a friction trip ramp that prevents any premature bail trips when casting, 5 shielded stainless steel ball bearings and an instant anti-reverse bearing.

TIP

The reel is sealed but water will get in somehow. You’ll have to take it apart often to keep it going. 

The reel has live liner mode, this lets you set up to 6lbs of drag for live baiting. When a fish eats you can engage your normal drag. It’s very quiet though and you may miss a take or two if you aren’t paying attention. 

Specs

  • Mono capacity YD/LB: 306/10, 270/12, 240/15
  • Braid capacity YD/LB: 425/20, 320/30, 250/40
  • Max Drag: 30lb
  • Gear Ratio: 5.6:1
  • Ball bearings: 6
  • Weight: 13.4oz
  • Retrieve rate, per crank: 35”
  • Retrieve Side: Right/Left
  • See the full specs for the Penn Spinfisher V

Pros

  • Live Liner system makes live baiting much easier, letting you set 6lbs of drag before you engage the main drag.
  • The drag is powerful and smooth.
  • It’s well made and will last a long time.

Cons

  • The Live Liner mode is very quiet when a fish takes.
  • A heavy reel for casting all day.
  • It’s not sealed and will need love and care.

Best on a Budget

Penn Battle II Spinning Reel

This reel will survive a long time thanks to its design. The gear alignment is maintained through the rigid aluminum rotor, body, and side plates.

Penn Battle II Spinning Reel

This reel will survive a long time thanks to its design. The gear alignment is maintained through the rigid aluminum rotor, body, and side plates. It has a great retrieve rate with its excellent gearing and ratio, you’ll really whip the line in smoothly.

It has a huge line capacity, perfect for targeting big fish, you won’t get spooled with this reel. This reel is heavy though, it’ll be tough to cast with all day.

The drag is made out of carbon fiber, and it’s super reliable…

The drag is made out of carbon fiber, and it’s super reliable. The maximum setting is 30lb which is about average. However, the drag isn’t fully sealed and you’ll have to give it a lot of care. The main gear is known to go after a few seasons but is easy to replace. 

The reel has a heavy-duty aluminum bail wire, an instant anti-reverse bearing, 5 sealed stainless steel ball bearings, and the Superline spool. The spool is braid ready, with line capacity rings making it super easy to fill.

Specs

Pros

  • Huge line capacity and good retrieve rate.
  • The drag is very reliable.
  • It’s built with good materials and will last.

Cons

  • It’s heavy and will be tiring to cast all day.
  • You may have to replace the main gear after a season or two.
  • The reel isn’t fully sealed and will need some maintenance.

Editor’s Choice

PENN Slammer III Spinning Reel

Penn has updated this reel to make it even better. The body, side plate, and rotor are the same as the older models, all made of metal for durability in the salt.

PENN Slammer III Spinning Reel

New and Improved

Penn has updated this reel to make it even better. The body, side plate, and rotor are the same as the older models, all made of metal for durability in the salt. The line capacity is huge, especially on the largest model. They have combined this with an excellent retrieve rate, you’ll get your line in quickly.

Drag

Penn has made the drag even better, it’s now made of their own Dura-Drag material, making it even smoother and tougher than it was before, and the max drag is 60lb which is huge. 

The seal is now an IPX6 sealed body and spool design. This protects the gearbox and the drag system, even more, making sure this reel lasts a lifetime of punishment. 

Sizes 3500-5500 have automatic bail trip and the 6500-10500 have manual bail trip. This makes sense as the larger models are heavier and you’re more likely to be casting all day with the smaller ones.

This reel is built to handle any situation…

This reel is built to handle any situation, especially the 10500 model. The combination of the line capacity, retrieve rate, awesome drag, and the sealed system make it a true saltwater reel. It’s heavy, but to be that strong it needs to be.

TIP

If you’re casting all day, go for a model that’s as light as possible for the fish you’re going after. The drag is also a bit too powerful on the lower models, it’s not made for light line. 

Specs

Pros

  • This reel has a huge line capacity.
  • The retrieve is smooth and fast.
  • The drag is powerful and smooth.
  • It’s sealed for durability.

Cons

  • This reel will be heavy to cast with all day.
  • The drag can be too tight at the lowest setting.

Best All-Rounder

Okuma Cedros High-Speed Spinning Reel

This reel is made for the salt and specifically jigging, thanks to its customized aluminum jigging handle. It constructed from quality materials.

Okuma Cedros High-Speed Spinning Reel

constructed from quality materials, mainly brass and aluminum…

This reel is made for the salt and specifically jigging, thanks to its customized aluminum jigging handle. It constructed from quality materials, mainly brass and aluminum, making it very durable.

Gear Ratio

The gear ratio is high for a very quick retrieve, which is great for managing the large line capacity that the spool can handle. The gears have also been coated with a special corrosion-resistant coating, for increased longevity.

Drag System

The dual force drag system on this reel has good stopping power, the max drag is only 33lb, which is good for most situations. The drag is made up of a multi-disc oil felt system for smoothness and is sealed with their watertight hydro-clock technology

The reel is light and will be great to cast with all day…

The reel is light and will be great to cast with all day. It’ll manage most fish but I would worry about hooking a giant offshore with it. It’s hard to get the body open, that’ll make maintenance a bit of a chore.

Specs

Pros

  • Excellent line capacity.
  • Great quality materials, it’ll last and it’s light.
  • Specifically made for saltwater jigging, not many reels are.

Cons

  • The max power is about average, it could be higher.
  • Hard to maintain.

KastKing Sharky III

This reel is very light for the specifications thanks to the graphite body, it’ll be lovely to cast with as well as being durable. The drag is made from a carbon fiber triple-disc system making it smooth and strong.

KastKing Sharky III

Light but Tough

This reel is very light for the specifications thanks to the graphite body, it’ll be lovely to cast with as well as being durable. The drag is made from a carbon fiber triple-disc system making it smooth and strong.

It has a max of 39.5lbs which is very powerful and line capacity matches this, it’ll certainly stop a fish or two.

Retrieve Rate

It has a good retrieve rate, but wind knots and bunching can happen. The reel comes with an aluminum handle, braid-ready spool, and anti-reverse. There’s a sealed system on the reel, it does work but there are cases of the reel failing in saltwater. 

There are also reports of parts falling off, perhaps some quality control has been missed. It does make me think this reel is trying to do too much for too little investment. 

Specs

  • Mono capacity YD/LB: 220/12, 190/14, 160/16
  • Braid capacity YD/LB: 220/50, 190/60, 160/70
  • Max Drag: 39.5lbs
  • Gear Ratio: 5:2:1
  • Ball bearings: 10+1
  • Weight: 10.5oz
  • Retrieve rate, per crank: 33.4 inch
  • Retrieve Side: Right/Left
  • See the full specs for the KastKing Sharky III

Pros

  • There’s a large spool capacity, great for big fish.
  • A high maximum drag.
  • It’s very light for easy casting.

Cons

  • The reel can fail after use in saltwater.
  • Wind knots and bunching can happen on the retrieve.
  • Parts fall off sometimes.

KastKing Rover Round Baitcasting Reel

The KastKing Rover round baitcasting reel is perfect for trolling and bottom fishing. The size 40-60 models come with a 2-pin centrifugal brake that’s good for casting.

KastKing Rover Round Baitcasting Reel

The KastKing Rover round baitcasting reel is perfect for trolling and bottom fishing. The size 40-60 models come with a 2-pin centrifugal brake that’s good for casting. The reel is made of barely any plastic, with most components made from metal.

The body, side plates, and spool are aluminum and the gears are either stainless steel or brass. That is quite a list of materials right there and all of them are going to last in the salt.

Drag

The drag is a star drag and is made up of carbon fiber. It comes with a maximum of 30lbs, which is enough for most fish, but don’t go hooking a marlin with it. The drag isn’t sealed, meaning you’ll have to look after it a lot.

The reel is light, which will make casting all day a pleasure…

The line capacity is great, you can get a lot of line on there but the retrieve rate is about average. The reel is light, which will make casting all day a pleasure. When casting it can release the spool lock on its own making a backlash, but it doesn’t happen often.

Specs

Pros

  • It’s made with great materials for corrosion resistance.
  • Great line capacity
  • The reel is light and will be easy to cast with.

Cons

  • Average maximum drag, it’s not for huge fish.
  • The retrieve rate is a bit sluggish.
  • The spool lock can release on its own when casting, making a backlash.

KastKing Megatron Spinning Reel

This spinning reel has a rigid aluminum-alloy body with a graphite rotor and body panels that protect the insides while bringing the weight down.

KastKing Megatron Spinning Reel

has a rigid aluminum-alloy body with a graphite rotor and body panels…

This spinning reel has a rigid aluminum-alloy body with a graphite rotor and body panels that protect the insides while bringing the weight down. It’s a light reel for what it is, you’ll enjoy casting with it all day long.

Ball Bearings & Line Capacity

There are seven double shielded stainless-steel ball bearings and an instant anti-reverse for a total of eight bearings. These are placed precisely to ensure the retrieve is very smooth.

The retrieve rate is average, but the line capacity is great. You won’t get spooled on this but it might take you a while to wind all the line in. 

NOTE

The drag is made from a triple-disc carbon fiber system. It’s powerful with a max of 46lbs and smooth as silk. However, it’s not sealed so you’ll have to maintain it regularly. 

Specs

Pros

  • The drag is smooth and powerful, you can go up against most species and win.
  • The line capacity is huge, nothing’s going to spool you on this reel.
  • It’s built with quality materials and its light, you can cast all day with this happily.

Cons

  • The reel isn’t sealed and will need regular maintenance.
  • The retrieve rate is a tad small compared to the line capacity.

Summary

After considering all the options our top picks were…

Best All-Rounder

The Okuma Cedros takes the prize for the allrounder. It’ll be perfect for almost any fishing situation, whether inshore or offshore. The reel is light for easy casting and made of quality materials that’ll last. The drag is strong and the line capacity is excellent, you won’t worry about having to stop a fish anytime soon.

Best on a Budget

The Penn Battle II is the best reel for your money. There are other reels in the line up that are less expensive but I don’t think they’ll last as long as this one. This reel is durable, reliable and it comes in sizes for any situation. If you look after it, it’ll catch you a lot of fish and last a long time.

Editor’s Choice

The Penn Slammer 3 is the editor’s choice. This reel is a piece of kit you can rely on. I have fished with it for a few years and can depend on it, no matter what fish eats the bait. The maximum drag is so powerful and the reel stands up to the salt really well. You’ll only need to do yearly maintenance on it.

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