In the buying guide below, I explain the main factors to consider when buying a spinning reel for saltwater. Not every reel on the market worth your money. To get maximum performance, you need to look a little bit deeper into the tech specs.
Every ounce of the reel’s weight matters. If your spinning reel is heavy, after several hours of casting and retrieving you will feel the noticeable fatigue in the neck and back. The next day, you will probably beg someone to fetch an ointment to relieve the pain. To avoid such unpleasant adventures, pick the most lightweight reel possible. The optimal spinning reel weight is about 15-35 ounces.
Material and Corrosion Protection
Saltwater causes the metal to corrode faster than fresh water. That’s why high-quality saltwater reels are made of corrode-resistant, lightweight, and hard metals. The construction should be sturdy and rigid enough to reduce the torque that running fish puts on it. The best metals for saltwater are stainless steel and machined aluminum. Magnesium and graphite are an option for components like side plates, but not for the whole construction.
Even if your reel is made from corrosion-resistant metal, you should rinse it with fresh water after each fishing trip. From time to time add a drop of oil to the mechanical parts. This will prolong the life of the reel.
Gear Ratio and Ball Bearings
In the tech specs, you probably noticed numbers of gear ratio like 6:1. Gears in a reel multiply your movement. For example, if your reel has gear ratio 6:1 this means that when you rotate a handle once, the spoon spins six times.
Let’s compare different gear ratios.
|Aspect||Low gear ratio||Medium||High gear ratio
|Example||Below 5:1||Between 5:1 and 7:1||Above 7:1
|How hard is to rotate the handle||Easier||Normal||Harder
|Speed of retrieving the same amount of line||Slow||Average||Fast
|Recommended fishing type and baits||Bottom fishing, deep crankbaits, deep water spinner baits, swimming jigs||Shallow spinnerbaits, squarebill crankbaits, shallow castable umbrella rigs||Topwaters, jerkbaits, live lining baits, Carolina rigs, shaky heads, lipless crankbaits
Choose the gear ratio according to your fishing preferences. For example, the best saltwater jigging reel is Penn 9500 Slammer III with its gear ratio 4,2:1.
In the saltwater reel, all gears and ball bearings should be metal, no plastic parts. Great materials are stainless steel and duralumin (aluminum plus copper, manganese, and magnesium). It is better to choose a reel with shielded ball bearings, which are protected from water invasion.
Saltwater species, even small ones, can go quite deep and make long races. A good saltwater reel can hold enough line to follow the fish. The optimal line capacity is above 300 yards.
Braid and Mono Line
There are two most commonly used lines in fishing – braided and monofilament. Some anglers try to choose between them, some use both types. In the table below, I summarize the difference between the line types.
|Angler level||Learning how to make special knots is time-consuming. Better for accomplish anglers.||Beginner-friendly, it is easy to cut and tie.
|Visibility||Some fish may notice the line||Almost invisible in the clear water
|Durability||Extremely durable||Not for long-term use. Requires frequent replacement
|Strength||Strong enough to pull fish quickly. Not stretchy. Knots are weaker than with mono.||Knots are strong and shock-resistant.
|Casting distance||CD is longer because the line has a smaller diameter.||CD is shorter. Due to the thicker diameter, you can’t hold many lines on the spoon.
Compared to braid, mono is more popular. However, many anglers choose a braided line for long casting distance, which is great for inshore fishing. Almost every modern reel can be spooled with braided line. Some models offer special accessories like bails with no gaps in which the line tangles, limit slippage. They are not necessary, but pleasant addition to the whole reel performance.
Saltwater spinning reels come with multi-disc drag system. It is located on the top of the spoon, right under the drag adjustment knob. When a big and furious fish on the run almost breaks the reel and stretch the line to its max, the drag lets a fish pull line from the reel. This protection is required in the big game fishing. In other fishing types, drag also will be helpful, because you never know how strong will be your trophy.
The recommended drag range is 30-50 lb.; the optimal material is carbon fiber. On the high quality reels for saltwater, the drag should have cutouts on the reel spoon for cooling the air while the spoon is spinning.
It is hard to choose only one recommended model from the list of top picks. So, I want to highlight three reels:
- Accurate SR-30 Spinning Reel has incredible performance. If you have a budget, go for this one without hesitations.
- Penn 9500 Slammer III is the go-to option if you like different types of fishing.
- Penn Battle II is the best saltwater reel under 100$ that offers excellent quality for the price.
Feel free to share this useful article with your friends and fishing buddies. I wish you good luck on your next fishing trip!