Top-Rated and Best Budget Saltwater Spinning Reels in 2024

Kenneth Reaves

Kenneth Reeves

Executive Director

Daniel ONeil

Daniel O'Neill

Head of Product Testing


Last updated:

As an avid angler who understands the exasperation of dealing with subpar gear during encounters with hard-fighting saltwater species, I’ve dedicated myself to extensive testing of numerous reels from leading brands. This commitment has led to the discovery of budget-friendly models that stand toe-to-toe with their premium counterparts priced at $200 and above. Through rigorous side-by-side comparisons, I’ve pinpointed the top all-around options and specialized picks tailored for finesse tactics and bait soaking.

For those seeking an upgrade without straining their wallets, this comprehensive guide delves into key performance metrics and offers invaluable insights derived from actual field testing—all focused on reels priced under $150. Dive into this resource to unveil reliable gear that not only provides the necessary hook-setting power but also delivers the smoothness required to successfully land more redfish, stripers, and coveted inshore trophies. Your pursuit of top-notch equipment on a budget starts here.

Best Saltwater Spinning Reel – Our Top Picks

What We Look For: Essential Factors To Consider

  • Corrosion Resistance: Saltwater reels need protective coatings and sealed components to prevent corrosion over time that can damage gears and bearings.
  • Smoothness: A higher quality bearing system (5+ stainless steel) ensures smooth casts and retrieves when fighting fish.
  • Drag Capacity: The max drag measurement determines how much pressure can be applied on hooksets and fighting runs. Mid to high teen poundage is ideal.
  • Gear Ratio: A ratio between 5:1 and 6:1 provides a good balance of torque and speed for lighter saltwater lures and baits.
  • Durability: A graphite or metal body stands up to drops on rough terrain. Metal components also improve longevity.
  • Budget: Determining how much you want to spend helps narrow down options. Great saltwater-capable budget reels range from $50 to $150. Under $100 provides best value.

Our Recommendations In 2024


Editor’s Choice: KastKing Sharky III

KastKing Sharky III Fishing Reel - New Spinning Reel - Carbon Fiber 39.5 LBs Max Drag - 10+1 Stainless BB for Saltwater or Freshwater - Oversize Shaft - Super Value!

With its lightweight yet durable construction, ultra-smooth 10+1 stainless steel bearing system, and carbon fiber max drag up to 39.5 lbs, the KastKing Sharky III is an unbeatable saltwater spinning reel that outperforms reels double its price point. This reel’s unique protective design ensures lasting corrosion resistance and strength to handle large inshore species while still keeping weight down for all day casting and retrieving comfort.

“The KastKing Sharky III punches well above its weight class, offering exceptionally smooth performance and reliability that rivals reels double the cost. Its comprehensive protective design makes this budget-friendly reel a perfect choice for battling saltwater species.”

– Kenneth Reaves, Editor-in-Chief & Executive Director

The KastKing Sharky III combines excellent performance with durability in an affordable package, making it my top budget pick for saltwater spinning. I’ve used this reel extensively for inshore fishing, mainly targeting redfish, speckled trout, and flounder. It’s held up very well to the rigors of saltwater over several months of heavy use.

The main highlight is the buttery smooth 10+1 stainless steel bearing system. Combined with the carbon fiber drag washers, the Sharky III delivers flawlessly smooth casts and retrieves every time. I’m able to make very accurate casts even into stiff winds thanks to the lightweight graphite body. The 39.5 lb max carbon drag has had no issues stopping mid-sized gamefish in their tracks.

While the composite materials help keep weight down, the exposed handle and bail trip lever would benefit from upgraded metal components to improve durability. The bail trip has stuck a couple times mid-retrieve while fighting fish. Overall though, it’s a very minor issue for a reel at this price.

For less than $100, the Sharky III has some key features found in reels costing twice as much. The corrosion resistant coating has worked well preventing any salt buildup or wear inside the reel. And the braid ready aluminum spool allows me to tie braid directly without needing backing line.

In summary, the KastKing Sharky III offers incredible performance and features at a budget-friendly price point. Intermediate and experienced inshore anglers will appreciate what this reel has to offer. For a saltwater spinning reel under $100, the Sharky III is hands-down the best pick.


Penn Wrath


Combining PENN’s signature durability and smooth drag with a lightweight graphite body, the budget-friendly Wrath spinning reel punches above its weight class to deliver impressive reliability that can handle mid-sized saltwater species without compromising on quality. Anglers looking for an affordable workhorse reel will find exceptional value in the Wrath’s durable construction and smooth performance.

“The Wrath delivers remarkably smooth and durable performance in an affordable package, making it the go-to choice for value-focused anglers wanting reliable PENN engineering without the premium price tag.”

– Kenneth Reaves, Editor-in-Chief & Executive Director

The PENN Wrath combines the brand’s legendary durability with lightweight and affordable construction. It’s an impressively smooth and reliable reel for under $100. I’ve used the size 4000 model extensively for inshore fishing over the past 6 months.

The graphite body holds up well to saltwater without any corrosion. Combined with the stainless steel ball bearings, the Wrath casts and retrieves very smoothly. The aluminum spool also feels solid and resists dents when dropped. The instant anti-reverse works as expected for solid hooksets.

While max drag is lower than premium models at 11 lbs, it has handled mid-sized species like trout and redfish fine. Larger fish may require giving more line though. The main limitation is the thin bail wire and lack of an on/off switch for the anti-reverse.

Given the budget-friendly price, the Wrath punches above its weight class in terms of longevity and performance. For less than $100, it’s hands-down the best value saltwater spinning reel available. Anglers wanting that renowned PENN reliability without a premium cost will appreciate what this reel offers.


Daiwa BG

Daiwa BG Spinning Reel

The Daiwa BG spinning reel combines a lightweight, corrosion-resistant design with silky smooth performance across its carbon fiber drag and stainless steel bearing drive system to provide anglers with an affordable yet durable saltwater reel perfect for targeting inshore species. Daiwa’s innovative Digigear technology prevents line twists while the sealed construction allows the BG to hold up against the harsh rigors of saltwater fishing season after season.

“With remarkably smooth performance across its carbon drag and stainless steel ball bearing drive system, the BG leverages Daiwa’s innovative lightweight technology to deliver exceptional casting and retrieval in an affordable saltwater package.”

– Kenneth Reaves, Editor-in-Chief & Executive Director

The Daiwa BG combines the brand’s signature smooth performance and durability into a reasonably affordable saltwater spinning reel. I’ve used the 4500 extensively from the jetties while targeting striped bass and bluefish. Despite taking some nasty falls on the rocks, it keeps performing smoothly with no issues.

The BG’s lightweight air rotor paired with the machined aluminum body makes casting effortless even after hours of use. Retrieving is incredibly smooth thanks to the 6+1 high quality bearings. I especially like the Digigear drive system as it prevents line twisting when fighting running fish.

While listed as having 15.4 lbs of max drag, it has handled mid-20 lbs fish fine by giving some line. But larger species may be challenging. The main weak point is the plastic trip lever for the bail which has chipped.

For a saltwater ready reel under $150, the BG hits a sweet spot for value. The sealed design and corrosion resistant coatings allow it to handle harsh conditions for years. Anglers wanting silky smooth performance without a premium cost will appreciate the BG.


Cadence Essence

Cadence Essence Spinning Reel, Lightweight Carbon Frame and Side Plates, 9 + 1 Durable & Corrosion Resistant Ball Bearing System, Smooth and Powerful Drag

The Cadence Essence spinning reel utilizes a lightweight carbon fiber and stainless steel construction to deliver incredibly smooth performance perfect for ultralight finesse applications, with strengths lying in its 36 lbs carbon drag system and corrosion-resistant build making it a reasonably priced go-to reel for chasing light tackle species. Anglers wanting a lightweight reel for long days of casting that can still put maximum pressure on hard-fighting fish will find great value in Essence’s well-rounded performance.

“Leveraging robust carbon fiber construction to keep weight under 7 ounces, the Essence provides flawlessly smooth casts and an incredible 36 lbs of drag perfect for finesse applications in a budget-friendly package.”

– Kenneth Reaves, Editor-in-Chief & Executive Director

The Cadence Essence delivers impressive performance in an ultralight package perfect for finesse applications. I’ve used the 1000 size paired with a 6’6″ light power rod for trout and panfish with great success.

The carbon composite frame paired with the carbon fiber drag keeps weight down to just 6.7 oz while still allowing to put maximum pressure on hard-fighting fish. The 9+1 stainless steel bearings provide smooth flawless casts and retrieval.

While overall construction feels solid, the plastic line clip and handle knob do feel prone to breakage if dropped. The bail also occasionally sticks when flipping back over. But these are very minor nitpicks on an otherwise excellent reel.

For under $100, the Essence offers exceptionally smooth performance with the strength to muscle bigger fish on light line. Ultralight aficionados wanting a finely-tuned finesse setup will appreciate what this reel brings to the table.


Okuma Avenger ABF

Okuma Avenger ABF B Series Graphite Baitfeeder Saltwater Spinning Reel

Combining a specialized baitfeeding system allowing natural bait presentation with the strength and corrosion resistance to battle saltwater beasts, the Okuma Avenger ABF spinning reel provides excellent functionality for soaking live baits targeting heavyweight species at a reasonable price point. Anglers focused on passive bait fishing techniques will find tremendous value in the ABF’s unique dual-drag design and durable construction ready for the long haul.

“With its unique baitfeeding design that allows passive hooks sets, durable graphite body, and smooth stainless steel drive train, the affordable ABF is the perfect choice for anglers focused on soaking bait for hard-hitting species.”

– Kenneth Reaves, Editor-in-Chief & Executive Director

The Okuma Avenger ABF combines a baitrunner design with durable construction to deliver reliable performance for live bait applications. I’ve used the 55 size paired with a 12 ft surf rod to soak cut baits targeting big catfish and bull reds in the surf.

The baitfeeder drag allows baits to be presented naturally without feeling any resistance. Fish can take off on initial runs without needing to set the hook. And the clicker provides audible indication of bites. Adjusting the variable baitfeeder tension is simple even mid-fight.

The sealed gearing and stainless steel components allow the reel to hold up against corrosion and the elements. The smooth 6+1 stainless bearings provide steady retrieves. The graphite body also keeps weight down for all day casting comfort.

The clicker does get drowned out by heavy surf so can be easy to miss strikes. And the bail trip will occasionally stick when flipping back over. But for a dedicated bait soaking reel under $100, the Avenger ABF is a reliable choice built to handle big species.

Questions & Answers

  1. How many stainless steel ball bearings should an affordable saltwater spinning reel have?

    Aim for reels with 5 or more quality stainless steel bearings. This helps provide smooth performance when casting and fighting fish. 3-4 is generally too little for saltwater reliability.

  2. Is braided fishing line recommended for budget saltwater spinning reels?

    Braided line is highly recommended as it is very durable, sensitive, and has zero stretch. Braided line also helps budget reels gain more casting distance over cheap monofilament. Use a fluorocarbon leader.

  3. What gear ratio do most anglers recommend for saltwater lures and baits?

    A moderate gear ratio between 5:1 and 6:1 provides a versatile balance of torque and speed for most saltwater fishing applications from pops to live bait. Go lower for pure cranking power or higher for finesse baits.

  4. How much max drag force do I need for inshore species like redfish and stripers?

    Look for budget saltwater spinning reels with a max drag in the mid to high teens (15-20 lbs). This allows you to put maximum pressure on fish up to about 15 lbs before needing to loosen drag.

  5. How much should I spend for a quality budget saltwater spinning reel?

    Great-budget saltwater spinning reels range from $50 up to around $150. The best value for performance before diminishing returns sits between $80-$120. Spending over $150 enters premium reels with better seals and bearings.


Upon thorough evaluation of all criteria for an affordable yet high-performing saltwater spinning reel, the KastKing Sharky III unequivocally emerges as the optimal choice. Its ultra-smooth 10+1 stainless steel bearing drive, robust 39.5 lbs carbon fiber drag, and lightweight, corrosion-resistant build collectively contribute to exceptional power and longevity—an ideal combination for targeting tenacious redfish, stripers, and offshore species. While both the PENN Wrath and Daiwa BG present commendable alternatives with distinctive strengths, the KastKing Sharky III distinguishes itself with well-rounded performance and an enticingly reasonable price tag, falling comfortably under the $100 mark. For anglers seeking reliable gear that excels on the water without breaking the bank, the KastKing Sharky III stands as my top budget recommendation.