The Best Saltwater Spinning Reels of 2020 (Buying Guide)

Kenneth ReavesEdited by: Kenneth Reaves
Michael DarmontReviewed by: Michael Darmont

Last Update:

The Rundown

Best Overall: KastKing Sharky III
“To say that this reel is a powerhouse would be an understatement. It has a top-notch disc drag, a special shield system, and double-shielded ball bearings. Terrific for anglers who are always up for a challenge.”

Runner Up Option: KastKing Megatron
“For any anglers who are a little rough on their tools, this reel is just what you need. It has a beautiful aluminum frame, durable gears and a 30+ pound drag. It can for sure take anything you throw at it.”

Best Budget Option: Sougayilang
“This is a great choice for a high-quality saltwater spinning reel if your budget is tight. Its features are very impressive, with its 11 ball bearings, S-curve oscillation system, and streamlined design. You won’t regret it!”

Whether fishing from a pier, traveling offshore or targeting brackish bays, saltwater angling is demanding on an angler’s equipment, and so any spinning reel used for saltwater fishing must be up to the task at hand and built with enough fortitude to wage war with the monster fish that call the depths of the ocean home.

High-quality saltwater reels are made from corrosion-resistant materials, sealed from environmental ingress, and feature robust internal components that are hand-selected for durability under extreme circumstances — continue on below to find out the best options you can choose from.

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The 10 Best Saltwater Spinning Reels in 2020

KastKing Sharky III

Most Powerful: Has the features of a spinning reel and the power of a winch

KEY FEATURES

  • First-class 39.5 lb. triple disc drag
  • Special Intrusion Shield System that prevents water and dirt ingress
  • Includes 10+1 saltwater rated double-shielded ball bearings

The KastKing Sharky III is a spinning reel designed to tackle the challenge of hauling in the biggest fish on any body of water. It features a first class 39.5 pound triple disc drag system and 10+1 saltwater rated, double-shielded ball bearings that offer unmatched strength and agility. This is the perfect reel for those who regularly fish for catfish, musky, or striped bass, and any kind of hard-fighting saltwater species.

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The drag system of the KastKing Sharky III is engineered for power from every front. The reel’s combination of triple disc carbon fiber clutches, oversized stainless-steel main shaft, and precision mesh manganese brass pinion gears should make the perfect combination for taking on trophy size fishes everywhere.

Another noteworthy characteristic of the KastKing Sharky III is its unique Shark Fin Braid Ready aluminum spool. This spool allows anglers to fit the KastKing Sharky III with braided lines, without the use of backing line, as is a characteristic of many other reels on the market. This is something that many anglers will appreciate, as it saves them the time and trouble of dealing with the intricacies of spooling braid, leaving more time for fishing.

Perhaps most notable about this is the fact that this powerhouse of a reel can be purchased for little more than the cost of a tank of gas.

KastKing Megatron

Runner Up Option: Tough beyond compare, yet fluid in its performance

KEY FEATURES

  • Aerospace aluminum alloy frame that can take a beating and then come back for more
  • Durable gears that resist premature wear
  • 30+ pound drag for true fighting potential

If you’re the type who can be rough on their fishing equipment, and so needs a reel that can stand up to anything that mother nature throws at it, the KastKing Megatron is just the thing you’ve been looking for. This reel features an aerospace aluminum alloy frame, a zinc alloy drive gear, and a sturdy, yet lightweight spool, all culminating in a unit that even the most haphazard of anglers will be unlikely to damage or render inoperable.

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The KastKing Megatron features an astounding 30+ pounds of total drag, further adding to its ruggedness. The reel’s drag system uses a series of carbon fiber discs to provide uniform line control and prevent binding.

The Megatron Spinning Reel also features 7+1 MaxiDur double-shielded stainless-steel ball bearings, which should make for an incredibly smooth operation under a near-infinite number of circumstances. This is perfect when attempting to boat sizable game fish that have no intention of being caught.

Also included is an instant anti-reverse feature, which allows for rapid hooksets. This is a feature that bass fishermen will absolutely love as more often than not, the difference between a successful day of bass fishing and a day spent missing bites ultimately comes down to the speed of one’s hookset.

Sougayilang

Best Budget Option: Satisfactory performance at an equally satisfactory price

KEY FEATURES

  • 11 total ball bearings for a seamless operation
  • S-curve oscillation system for uniform spooling
  • Compact, streamlined design for comfortable use

If you’re on a tight budget, but you still wish to purchase a spinning reel that you will be proud to own, then the Sougayilang series of reels is your best bet. They carry several noteworthy design attributes, such as an 11 ball bearings internal configuration, S-curve oscillation system, and an ultra-compact profile. What makes this even better is the fact that this reel can be purchased for less than most will spend on bait during any given outing.

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The Sougayilang Spinning Reels have a complex and well thought out rotational configuration. With a greater total number of ball bearings than the total of reels on this list, its operation is guaranteed to be silky smooth. This is great for anglers who prefer a cast and wind method of fishing, such as when working a buzzbait or crankbait.

Its S-curve oscillation system slightly slows its spooling in a bid to minimize line twist and kinking. It also features a drag system that is quite similar to those found on many higher-dollar reels. This system uses quality carbon discs, which are sealed from dust and other environmental contaminants, for anglers to maintain a better control over the fight at hand.

Penn Fishing Spinfisher VI

Best High-End: A reel that defies the elements and keeps you fishing indefinitely

KEY FEATURES

  • IPX5-sealed body and spool design that protects against saltwater ingress
  • CNC machined gears for prolonged durability
  • HT-100 drag system for proper metering of line

The Penn Fishing Spinfisher VI is the perfect reel for those that wade sandbars in search of trophy game fish, as it is highly resistant to saltwater ingress and corrosion. This reel also uses Penn’s proprietary HT-100 drag system, which offers sufficient line metering capable of handling even the feistiest of saltwater species. To aid in durability, Penn also includes a robust set of CNC machined gears, which can withstand years of rigorous use.

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Of all the features mentioned above, anglers will most likely find the most favor in the Penn Fishing Spinfisher VI’s sealed design, as it prevents highly corrosive saltwater from invading the reel’s bearings and in turn, extends the unit’s service life indefinitely. In fact, the Penn Fishing Spinfisher VI carries an IPX5 ingress rating, which serves as the industry standard in element resistance.

The Penn Fishing Spinfisher VI also features a set of CNC machined gears, which offers smooth and seamless operation, while also providing next-level durability. CNC machined gears tend to mesh with high accuracy, which prevents premature wear and maximizes longevity. This is ideal for anglers who fish extensively and often put their reels under strenuous circumstances.

Another notable feature of the Penn Fishing Spinfisher VI is the unit’s HT-100 drag system. This drag system uses carbon fiber clutch discs, which provide consistent line metering and even resistance throughout its operational range. This feature is sure to become an instant classic among anglers who pursue larger species of gamefish, such as amberjack, snapper, mackerel, mahi-mahi, and striped bass.

SeaKnight Rapid

Smoothest Operation: Precision engineering, for ultra-smooth operation

KEY FEATURES

  • 10+1 shielded stainless steel ball bearings for a silky smooth operation
  • Robust gear train for enhanced durability
  • Sealed aluminum spool to prevent sand and saltwater ingress

If you’re searching for a reel that performs seamlessly even during periods of prolonged use, then the SeaKnight Rapid should be worthy of your consideration. This reel operates in a smooth, precise manner with a well-engineered 10+1 shielded stainless steel ball bearing system. Other notable features include a rugged 33 pound drag system, a robust gear train, and ample water and sand ingress protection.

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The SeaKnight Rapid is constructed in a manner that allows for smooth, consistent use that’s free of any excess friction, even when subject to a load. This is a feature that should not only make using this reel highly enjoyable, but will also provide enhanced efficiency when winching a sizable game fish from the depths below. When friction is reduced, so is the effort that needs to be expended to boat the fish at the end of your line.

Anglers will also find immense favor in the SeaKnight Rapid’s heavy-duty drag system. This system features a 33 pound operational capacity, which is terrific for landing sizable, hard fighting game fish of nearly any variety. This should be well-received by those who find vast enjoyment in the pursuit of trophy caliber fish.

Also of note is the SeaKnight Rapid’s sealed aluminum spool and rotor structure, which wards off the effects of saltwater and sand ingress. Saltwater is highly corrosive to metal surfaces, while sand is extremely abrasive on bearings and other machined surfaces. The SeaKnight Rapid has been engineered to resist the intrusion of both substances, which should lead to prolonged service life and years of tireless service.

YONGZHI Fishing Reels

Most User Friendly: A hassle-free reel that lets you focus on what matters most: catching fish

KEY FEATURES

  • Anti-twist line roller that reduces tangles
  • Grooved CNC machined spool for enhanced line distribution
  • Precision pinion gear system for superior durability

If you have become frustrated with tangled lines and problematic reel operations in the past, and are now looking for a reliable reel that’s capable of providing years of trouble-free use, then the Yongzhi spinning reel is perfect for you. This reel features an anti-twist roller for better line control, a grooved CNC machined spool for even line distribution, and a precision pinion gear system for effortless functionality.

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The Yongzhi spinning reel also features a highly-durable graphite frame, which should easily withstand the rigors placed on it by years of relentless use. This can be especially helpful when fishing extensively in coastal waters, as saltwater is naturally corrosive and can quickly render subpar reels inoperable after only minimal use.

Another feature that’s of value is the Yongzhi spinning reel’s robust composition, which is comprised of a hardened metal main shaft, precision brass gears, and a triple carbon disc drag system, all of which should provide enhanced durability, even when used extensively in less than hospitable conditions. This attribute would be of significant worth to those who find themselves on the water at every available opportunity.

The Yongzhi spinning reel also features multiple features that are primarily concerned with the angler’s comfort. This includes ergonomic EVA handle knobs, which serve as superior grips when amid a fight. This reel is also compact in design, which will help alleviate hand and arm fatigue.

PLUSINNO Spinning Reel

Most Versatile: A reel that offers superb operation from stream to sea and everywhere in between

KEY FEATURES

  • Precision engineered for both salt and freshwater use
  • Braid-ready spool for ease of use
  • 19.8 lb. drag for ample fighting strength

The Plusinno Spinning Reel is the perfect option for those who live in coastal states, as they are just as likely to fish in freshwater as they are saltwater. This stems from the fact that this reel is actually designed for multi-faceted use and uses a stainless-steel bearing system, which resists the corrosive effects of saltwater. All the while, the Plusinno Spinning Reel remains compact in design for use in smaller inland fisheries.

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Another feature that many anglers will find great value in is the Plusinno Spinning Reel’s Ultra-light CNC aluminum spool that is engineered to allow for the use of braided lines without any form of backing. Instead of having to use a monofilament backing, as is the case with most spinning reels, an angler can simply spool the Plusinno Spinning Reel with their favorite braided line, saving both time and effort.

The Plusinno spinning reel also features a reliable 19.8 pound drag system, which is more than capable when fighting fish of any species, both in fresh and saltwater. This system makes use of a triple-disc carbon fiber configuration that is resistant to wear and excessive heat build-up.

This reel also looks just as good as it should perform, with its beautiful matte-black exterior finish and gold-colored inlay. This composition compliments the Plusinno’s sporty graphite frame and presents a significant level of eye appeal.

Diwa Spinning

Best Sizing Options: A platform that provides options for every angler

KEY FEATURES

  • 5 different sizes for multiple applications
  • 14 stainless steel ball bearings for a smooth operation
  • 55 lb. drag system with first-class fighting potential

If you’re tired of attempting to make the best of a one-size-fits-all reel selection and would like to locate a reel that provides numerous sizing options, then the Diwa Spinning Reel is the answer to your problems. This reel comes in 5 different sizes, which allows anglers to select a model that’s ideally suited for any application. It also features 14 shielded stainless steel ball bearings for an ultra-smooth operation.

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The Diwa Spinning Reel has a unique first-class 55-pound maximum drag capacity. This capacity is double that of many similar reels available on today’s market and is perfect for pursuing large, trophy-size game fish. This is especially helpful if you routinely fish in deeper coastal waters where many sizable fish species are encountered often.

When engineering their saltwater series of spinning reels, Diwa kept the angler’s comfort in mind. That’s why this reel uses an aluminum-alloy body, which is subdued in weight, but not in rigidity. It only weighs 9.87 ounces, which effectively reduces hand and arm fatigue. This keeps you on the water longer and should provide you with greater odds of success.

Anglers are safe to purchase with confidence, as Diwa has a 1-year manufacturer’s warranty against all defects. If you run into any difficulty, you can simply contact Diwa for assistance. This naturally offers peace of mind to prospective consumers, as Diwa’s customer service is renowned as one of the best in the industry.

Joyday Fishing

Most Comfortable: An exceedingly comfortable reel that won’t break the bank

KEY FEATURES

  • Powerful 39.5 lb. drag system for sustained fighting power
  • Lightweight 9.7 ounce design
  • Hardened metal main shaft for next-level durability

The Joyday Spinning Reel is sure to be a favorite of those who are looking for an extremely comfortable and user-friendly reel at a price point that is not excessive in any way. This reel is compact and light, weighing in at only 9.7 ounces. This promotes a high level of angler comfort, even during long days on the water. It’s no surprise if Joyday Spinning Reel becomes a favorite for anglers on all-day offshore excursions.

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Don’t be fooled by the reel’s size, as despite how compact it is, it was built in a manner conducive to longevity and extensive power. The Joyday Spinning Reel features an incredible 39.5 pounds of drag capacity, which is more than enough to tangle with any species of saltwater game fish, no matter their size.

To aid overall durability, the Joyday Spinning Reel is fitted with a hardened metal main shaft, precision machined brass gears, and a CNC machined aluminum spool. It also features a 12+1 stainless steel bearing system that guarantees smooth rotational operation under any load. The culmination of these robust components assists Joyday in providing anglers with years of trouble-free service.

Most anglers will be pleased to discover that the Joyday Spinning Reel is affordable on almost any budget. In fact, this reel can be purchased for less than what most will spend on a tank of gas before striking out for the lake.

KastKing Valiant Eagle II

Best Overall: A reel capable of reaching distant honey holes with a single cast

KEY FEATURES

  • Proprietary spool design for enhanced casting distance
  • 22 lb. carbon fiber drag system for superior fighting power
  • One-piece bail to prevent line snag

The KastKing Valiant Eagle II is the ideal choice for any angler who’s grown tired of fighting an uphill battle with lesser reels when attempting to cast to distant points. This reel features KastKing’s proprietary aluminum spool, which minimizes resistance, and has the potential to allow an angler to cast to distances far over what they previously dreamed possible. Also of note is the Valiant Eagle II’s braid ready spool design, which does not require the use of a monofilament backing.

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KastKing Valiant Eagle II also has a one-piece bail. This bail is built to eliminate any risk of rusting and should circumvent any issues related to line snag. As line snag is reduced, casting distances are then increased. This is good news for those who frequently find themselves in need of additional casting range.

The combination of the KastKing Valiant Eagle II’s 22-pound drag system and 10+1 shielded stainless-steel bearing arrangement supplies you with ample fighting power to pull sizable fish from the depths of the waters. These features also offer the added benefit of a completely smooth, seamless operation, no matter the conditions and circumstances.

The KastKing Valiant Eagle II also features an ultra-fast 6.2:1 gear ratio. This pronounced line speed would be a substantial benefit to anglers looking to achieve a lightning-quick retrieve and in turn, entice a reactionary strike from predatory saltwater species.

Criteria Used For Evaluation

When attempting to locate the best possible spinning reel for saltwater use, there are a few factors that must first be considered. By giving ample thought to each of these factors, you will be better able to select a reel that adheres to your every need.

Criteria #1: Element Resistance

If a saltwater reel is not impervious to the elements, it will be quickly reduced to an inoperable state. Saltwater is naturally corrosive and can do extensive, irreparable harm to the machined surfaces and bearings found within the recesses of a spinning reel. Salt itself also lingers wherever it’s deposited, meaning that even a single exposure can lead to an unstoppable chain of degradation to any affected reel.

This is why it’s immensely important that any spinning reel intended for saltwater use be sealed against water ingress. When sealed properly, saltwater, as well as abrasive sand, is unable to leach into the internal expanses of a reel. A sealed reel will last exponentially longer than reels that do not feature these same protective qualities.

Criteria #2: Drag System

When the fish of a lifetime is at the other end of your line, the drag system of your chosen reel should be capable of efficiently handling the most relentless of fights.

A reel’s drag system uses internal discs to allow a predetermined amount of slip should a fish pull to the point of nearing line breakage. The most efficient drag systems, when properly adjusted, allow anglers to make the most out of their line’s strength by spooling outward before a fish gets loose. This is vital, as poorly built drag systems can hang, causing the line to snap and the fish in question to get away.

The industry’s highest quality drag systems are protected from outside elements, pre-lubricated, and feature a higher weight working capacity. In many cases, drag systems can sustain loads of 30+ pounds, while still metering line dispersal as designated by the chosen adjustment.

Criteria #3: Bearings

The smoothness of a reel’s operation is a crucial factor in maximizing your productivity on the water, and bearings are a key component in this equation.

Every reel on the market today relies on a system of bearings to facilitate the necessary rotational force for spooling lines. As a reel’s handle is turned, a system of gears rotate the reel’s spool. This spool rides over a set of ball bearings that minimize friction. However, not all bearings are created equally. Many premium reels use 7, 8, or even 10 ball bearings, while substandard reels usually use far fewer than that. Beyond the number of ball bearings that a particular reel uses, it is also important that these bearings be of high-quality and true in their uniformity.

Criteria #4: Comfort

If a reel is not comfortable to use, it’s probably going to be spending more time stashed in your garage than being used in your boat.

Many anglers spend countless hours on the water in a single given year. During this time, cumbersome reels can become inconvenient fast. Reels of this nature results in hand and arm fatigue, which then leads to aggravation. As a result, those who fish often end up swapping these bothersome reels out for more comfortable ones. On the other hand, lightweight graphite-bodied reels are typically far less restrictive and can be a real joy to use, even when fishing days grow long. 

Criteria #5: Durability

Durable reels have the potential to last a lifetime, while reels of lesser quality often lead to aggravation and untimely failure.

Saltwater fishing in particular has a way of pushing an angler’s equipment to its breaking point. Reels of poor quality will fail under the rigors of saltwater fishing, while only those of the most durable construction will continue to provide tireless service from one year to the next. Much of a reel’s durability stems from the quality of internal components used in the manufacturing process. The most hearty of reels typically feature hardened main shafts and CNC machined gears. These high-quality components are designed to handle the abuses imparted upon them by relentless use and repeated shock loading.

Questions & Answers

What is the Difference Between Saltwater and Freshwater Spinning Reels?

There are several key differences between saltwater and freshwater spinning reels, with the most significant of which pertains to the type of components used in each reel type’s construction. Saltwater is extremely corrosive, meaning that it quickly damages metal surfaces. To combat this, saltwater reels are primarily made of stainless steel components, which are naturally corrosion resistant.

Saltwater reels are also typically engineered to feature a greater line capacity, as one can reasonably expect to encounter larger fish in coastal waters than would be the case when fishing in a creek, pond, or lake. Additionally, most saltwater reels have a heavier-duty drag system than those found on most freshwater spinning reels. Again, this is primarily a product of natural expectations toward the size of fish that are expected to be encountered when fishing in coastal waters.

Are Spinning Reels Difficult To Use?

While the idea of using a spinning reel might seem intimidating if you are used to fishing with alternative reel types, there is little to worry about. One can become proficient in the use of a spinning reel in a matter of just a couple of afternoons. In fact, most anglers end up asking themselves why they didn’t make the switch to spinning tackle sooner.

The main learning curve pertaining to spinning reel use lies in an angler’s ability to familiarize themselves with the correct casting procedure. For some, manually holding their line with a finger, while flipping the bail, can take a little getting used to. However, doing so becomes second nature for most after no more than a handful of casts.

Are Spinning Reels Well Suited to Long Distance Casting?

Spinning reels are one of the two types of reels that are ideal for long distance casting, with the other type being a baitcaster. The reason for this is that spinning reels generally hold a significant amount of line on their spools. In fact, many spinning reels can accommodate up to 300 yards of line. While it might be physically impossible to cast to that great of a distance, the line is available for use if needed.

Another reason that spinning reels are excellent for long distance casting is that very little resistance is imparted upon the line as it departs from the reel. The line can flow far more freely from a spinning reel than would be the case with other reel types, such as spincasters. Aside from the technical differences between a spinning reel and other types of reels on today’s market, many anglers find that the use of a spinning reel allows them to cast in a more precise manner, even at lengthy distances. This can be quite helpful when making follow-up casts, in the instance that a prior strike is missed.

Are Larger Reels Better For Larger Fish?

While many believe that a larger reel must be used when pursuing fish of substantial size, this is simply not the case. A reel does not have to be of any one particular size, no matter how large a species of commonly pursued fish might be, assuming that the specified reel is constructed with quality internal components. On the contrary, it is of immense importance that a reel feature a quality drag system, complete with a high operational capacity.

A reel’s drag system meters the dispersal of the line from the reel’s spool when the force imparted upon the line grows too great. When properly set, a drag system will allow the line to “slip” just prior to the threshold where line breakage becomes imminent. In theory, a reel is not limited in size, no matter how large of a fish is being fought, as long as the unit’s drag will suffice when metering line dispersal, thereby avoiding any risk of line breakage.