Before You Buy a Saltwater Fishing Reel, There Are Four Important Things To Consider:
1. The Species That You Will Be Targeting
This is the most important aspect of choosing the best saltwater fishing reel. Not only are the strength and dimensions of the reel determined by the species of fish being targeted, but also the type of reel that you choose can play a significant role in the success you will have landing fish. For big tarpon, large spinning reels may need to have stainless steel gears, carbon fiber drags, forged internal components, and tons of line capacity. This is not true for jigging in shallow water over sandy bottom to catch flounder. A low-profile baitcasting reel may be more suitable.
Based on the target species, it is important to consider the gear ratio of your reel. Fishing for Tuna requires that the angler reel very fast to ensure the lure moves across the surface. This is why a high gear ratio (the number times the reel spools or reel bail turns every time the reel handle is turned one revolution) is important. Anglers lifting amberjack from the depths will likely need a slow, low-geared reel in order to propel the fish to the surface.
2. The Environment
It is important to consider where your saltwater fishing reel will be used and how much salt water it will be exposed to. Saltwater-resistant budget reels can quickly become damaged by saltwater splashes, sand and rocks. This is not related to hooking or fighting fish. Anglers who fish or wade from shore need to consider the water resistance of their reels and its durability. This is less important if you fish primarily from a kayak or boat and don’t plan on getting your reel wet.
3. Your Budget
Saltwater-specific reels can be more expensive than freshwater reels. A typical reel costs around $70 and can go up to $1,000+. While a lower-priced reel may not have all the features of a higher-end reel, many anglers do not require top-tier technology in order to fish from the boat or on the beach. Some mid-price reels can be extremely durable and provide years of service for the average angler.
My experience is that reels that are more expensive last longer. Even moderately priced reels are strong enough to handle large fish when subjected to heavy drag pressures. However, if you have a limited budget and fish only occasionally, a lower-priced reel may be a good choice.
4. The Rod That You’ll Use To Attach It To
There are many sizes of saltwater reels. Choosing the right size reel for your rod will improve comfort, casting distance and balance. Some species require a large reel regardless of how long the rod is. Consider the needs of your fish species. Big offshore saltwater fish require a long rod and a large reel. This is because they are more powerful than the smaller reels. Consider the needs of the species first and then the length and weight of your rod.
Best Saltwater Spinning Reels
Saltwater spinning reels have become the most preferred choice for saltwater fishing. No matter if you are shore-based, on a boat, or a kayak fisherman, spinning reels can get the job done. There are many options for spinning reels. You can choose from a wide range of sizes and prices. Before you make a decision, be sure to review all aspects. Here is a list with the top saltwater spinning reels for different species, fishing conditions, budgets, sizes, and types.
Best Saltwater Spinning Reel under $100: Penn FierceIII
There are very few options when it comes to the best saltwater spinning reel under $100. However, the Penn Fierce is a good option. This reel has been around for many decades and is currently in its third iteration. The reel has a solid reputation for being a reliable budget reel that is tough and durable. It can be used from shore, boat, or kayak and outperforms other brand reels. You can use braided lines and it is available in many sizes to meet your needs. Most sizes are under $100.
Runner-up: Shimano Sedona F
Shimano reels are known for their smooth reels and strong drags. The SedonaFI is an excellent runner-up to the Penn Fierce III. The Sedona FI weighs in at half that of the Fierce, across many sizes, and can deliver almost twice as much pressure. It is not as strong against salt and sand as the Fierce.
Best Value Saltwater Spinning Reel: Daiwa BG
The DaiwaBG costs more than $100 but it is still one of the most popular and highest-value saltwater reels on the market today. The Daiwa is known for being smooth, strong and reliable in all types of saltwater applications, including offshore, inshore, and surf. It is also a joy to cast. The Daiwa BG is used all over the globe to hunt a wide variety of species. This new version doesn’t disappoint and lives up to its predecessors. The Daiwa BG is a good choice if you have a limited budget but still want to make a big splash. The BG actually outperforms other reels of comparable price.
Best Premium Saltwater Spinning Reel: Shimano Stella SW
The Stella SW is the best premium saltwater spinning reel for offshore pelagics and large inshore species. The Okuma Makaira and Daiwa Saltiga are solid options, but I prefer the Stella. The Stella is a saltwater reel that has been a part of a long history with many trophy fish caught. It is constructed of the most durable and reliable components and has a reputation for being able to sustain extremely long runs against an almost locked drag without overheating. It is easy to find parts and can be serviced yourself, unlike other reels in this caliber. It is one of the most expensive spinning machines you can purchase, but it will last for many decades.