Top 5 Best Saltwater Spinning Reels Reviewed

Best Saltwater Spinning Reels

Drawing from my 21 years of experience in saltwater fishing, I have identified the key factors that make a good saltwater spinning reel. In addition to the usual qualities of smoothness, lightness, and drag, durability is of utmost importance when it comes to withstanding the harsh saltwater environment. With these criteria in mind, I have carefully curated a list of the top five saltwater spinning reels currently available on the market.

For those seeking a quick and direct recommendation, the best inshore spinning reel is the Daiwa BG, while the best offshore spinning reel is the Penn Slammer III. Both of these reels offer exceptional performance, durability, and affordability, making them ideal choices for their respective fishing categories.

However, if these particular reels do not align with your preferences or requirements, rest assured that there are plenty of other affordable options included in the list. You can explore these alternatives to find a saltwater spinning reel that suits your specific needs.

I hope this information helps you make an informed decision, and I wish you successful and enjoyable saltwater fishing experiences with your chosen reel.



Top 5 Best Saltwater Spinning Reels

  • Ball Bearings: 7+1
  • Reel Size: 3500-10500
  • Gear Ratio: 4.2-6.2:1
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  • Ball Bearings: 6+1
  • Reel Size: 3000-6500
  • Gear Ratio: 5.3-5.6:1
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  • Ball Bearings: 6+1
  • Reel Size: 3000
  • Gear Ratio: 6.0:1
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  • Ball Bearings: 5+1
  • Reel Size: 2500-10500
  • Gear Ratio: 4.2-6.2:1
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  • Ball Bearings: 10+1
  • Reel Size: 1000-5000
  • Gear Ratio: 5.2:1
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Penn Slammer III

Best Saltwater Spinning Reels


Penn Slammer III
  • Ball Bearings: 7+1
  • Reel Size: 3500-10500
  • Gear Ratio: 4.2-6.2:1

1. Penn Slammer III

Penn Slammer III
  • Ball Bearings: 7+1
  • Reel Size: 3500-10500
  • Gear Ratio: 4.2-6.2:1
  • Max Drag Weight: 30-60 pounds
  • Weight: 13.9-43.1 ounces

The Penn Slammer III is undoubtedly the top choice for an offshore saltwater spinning reel, thanks to its exceptional smoothness, outstanding durability, and unparalleled drag system.

To begin with, it boasts an impressive 7+1 stainless steel ball bearing system. While 5+1 bearings are already sufficient for a smooth fishing experience, the addition of 7+1 ball bearings elevates the performance to a whole new level.

In terms of durability, the Penn Slammer III features a full metal body, ensuring strength and resilience. Additionally, its IPX6 sealed body and spool provide excellent protection against water intrusion. This means that even if you were to spray the reel with a high-pressure hose, no water or sand would find its way inside. With virtually zero chance of corrosion, this reel is built to withstand harsh saltwater environments.

The standout feature of the Penn Slammer III is its unbeatable drag force. When facing massive saltwater fish, a drag capacity of at least 25 pounds, ideally 30 pounds, is necessary. Unfortunately, finding a reel with 30 pounds of drag is challenging, especially in smaller reel sizes. However, the Penn Slammer III breaks this limitation by offering an impressive 30 pounds of drag in its compact 3500 reel size. This makes it the ultimate choice for taking on colossal fish with a smaller reel.

It’s important to mention that no reel is without its flaws. The Penn Slammer III is slightly heavier than average, which may be a consideration for some anglers. Additionally, the product page inaccurately states 6+1 ball bearings when it actually boasts a 7+1 configuration.

Taking everything into account, while the Penn Slammer III may not be perfect, it remains unrivaled as the best offshore spinning reel available, even when compared to higher-end models. Its combination of smoothness, durability, and drag power make it a formidable choice for saltwater fishing adventures.

2. Daiwa BG

Daiwa BG
  • Ball Bearings: 6+1
  • Reel Size: 3000-6500
  • Gear Ratio: 5.3-5.6:1
  • Max Drag Weight: 15.4-33 pounds
  • Weight: 10.8-29.5 ounces

The Daiwa BG takes the crown as the best inshore spinning reel, combining smoothness, durability, and a robust drag system, all at an affordable price point.

With its 6+1 ball bearing system, the Daiwa BG ensures a smooth and satisfying fishing experience. The reel’s waterproof drag system, coupled with its corrosion-resistant aluminum body, provides excellent protection against water intrusion and ensures durability even in challenging saltwater conditions.

However, the most impressive aspect of the Daiwa BG is its drag system. It features a waterproof carbon Automatic Drag (ATD) system, which delivers a stable and progressive drag performance. The ATD system adapts to every phase of the fight, offering faster and more progressive drag in the initial phase and a firmer hold during the middle phase, enhancing cranking power. This automatic adjustment feature makes the drag system reliable and efficient.

Furthermore, the Daiwa BG offers a considerable 17.6 pounds of drag power in its compact 3500 size, making it more than capable of handling the largest inshore fish species.

The only downsides of this reel are its weight and maintenance requirements. It is slightly heavier compared to similar-sized reels, and as it is not fully sealed, it requires regular maintenance to keep it in optimal condition.

Overall, the Daiwa BG is an outstanding reel with few criticisms. If you’re planning on going inshore fishing, I highly recommend this reel, as it offers exceptional performance at a modest price point. You can find the full specifications of the Daiwa BG reel for further details.

3. Shimano Stradic CI4+

Shimano Stradic CI4+
  • Ball Bearings: 6+1
  • Reel Size: 3000
  • Gear Ratio: 6.0:1
  • Max Drag Weight: 19.8 pounds
  • Weight: 6.7 ounces

The following reel is incredibly lightweight.

When it comes to being light, there is no match for the Shimano Stradic CI4+ Spinning. Just how light is it? It weighs approximately half as much as the Daiwa BG of the same size. This remarkable achievement has never been attained by any other fishing reel. This extraordinary lightweight nature makes any type of fishing effortless.

In addition to its unparalleled lightness, the Shimano Stradic CI4+ Spinning reel offers smooth performance with 6+1 ball bearings and an impressive maximum drag weight of 19.8 pounds.

However, there is one drawback associated with its drag system. Although a maximum drag weight of 19.8 pounds is excellent for a size 3000 reel, it may not be sufficient for tackling larger offshore fish. While you can successfully land decent-sized offshore fish, the reel’s capabilities will be limited when it comes to larger ones.

Nevertheless, if your fishing targets do not include large offshore fish or if you primarily fish inshore, this reel is the ideal lightweight option for you. It provides exceptional performance and, in terms of weight, there is no better reel available for fishing.

4. Penn Spinfisher VI

Penn Spinfisher VI
  • Ball Bearings: 5+1
  • Reel Size: 2500-10500
  • Gear Ratio: 4.2-6.2:1
  • Max Drag Weight: 15-50 pounds
  • Weight: 10.7-38.6 ounces

If you were interested in the Penn Slammer III but found its price discouraging, there’s good news for you. The Penn Spinfisher VI is essentially a more affordable version of the Penn Slammer III. However, don’t let the lower price deceive you. The Penn Spinfisher VI still offers top-notch quality as a fishing reel, known for its smooth performance, durability, and capability to handle even the largest fish species.

So, what makes the Penn Spinfisher VI a viable alternative to the Penn Slammer III?

To begin with, both reels share some key features. They both have a sturdy full metal body and are equipped with sealed bodies and spools. However, there is a slight difference between them. The Penn Slammer III boasts an IPX6 seal, whereas the Penn Spinfisher VI has an IPX5 seal. Essentially, this means that the Penn Spinfisher VI can withstand the spray from a low-pressure hose. Considering that the force generated by waves is significantly lower than that of a low-pressure hose, the IPX5 seal is more than sufficient to keep sand and water out.

The Penn Spinfisher VI matches the Penn Slammer III in terms of smoothness and drag performance. With 5+1 ball bearings, it may be slightly less smooth, but it still provides a satisfyingly smooth operation. Additionally, it offers a drag force of 30 pounds, albeit in a larger reel size of 6500.

As you can see, the Penn Spinfisher VI is a highly suitable alternative to the Penn Slammer III. Anyone seeking a reel similar to the Penn Slammer III but at a more affordable price should consider getting the Penn Spinfisher VI.

5. KastKing Sharky III

KastKing Sharky III
  • Ball Bearings: 10+1
  • Reel Size: 1000-5000
  • Gear Ratio: 5.2:1
  • Max Drag Weight: 33.0-39.5 pounds
  • Weight: 7.4-10.6 ounces

The final reel featured on this list is the KastKing Sharky III, which is hailed as the best budget saltwater spinning reel. When I first saw the price of this reel, I couldn’t believe my eyes. It wasn’t due to its low price, but rather the exceptional value it offers at that price point.

Now, brace yourself for some astonishing news. This budget reel not only surpasses the Penn Slammer III in terms of smoothness but also in weight and drag strength.

No, I’m not joking. With its 10+1 stainless steel ball bearings, it outperforms the Penn Slammer III, which has three fewer bearings. Additionally, the Penn Slammer III weighs 13.9 ounces in size 3500, whereas this reel weighs an astonishingly light 10.2 ounces in size 4000. Furthermore, while the Penn Slammer III generates 30 pounds of drag in size 3500, this reel accomplishes the same feat in size 1000.

At this point, you may be wondering how on earth this reel is three times cheaper than the Penn Slammer III.

Well, the trade-off with this reel is that it requires more maintenance. Unlike the other reels on this list, the KastKing Sharky III needs to be washed more meticulously and is more susceptible to sand and water damage. Therefore, you’ll need to dedicate more time to its care, which explains its price tag.

Nevertheless, if you’re on a budget, the KastKing Sharky III is the clear choice for you.

Buying Guide

By now, you may have likely made up your mind about one of the fantastic reels mentioned in this list. However, what if you encounter a reel that hasn’t been reviewed by anyone yet? How can you determine if it’s a worthwhile purchase?

This buying guide will provide you with the knowledge to assess the value of a reel.

Line Capacity

The first aspect you should always consider is line capacity. Regardless of how exceptional a reel may be in other aspects, if it cannot hold the required amount of line, it won’t be suitable for your needs.

Before delving deeper, it’s important to note that line capacity is directly related to reel size. Product pages typically allow you to choose reel options based on size rather than line capacity. Therefore, I will provide you with the appropriate reel sizes rather than specific line capacity.

In saltwater fishing, the amount of line you need depends on whether you are fishing inshore or offshore.

When fishing inshore, the waters tend to be shallower. You won’t require an extensive length of line to reach the deeper areas. Additionally, the fish are generally smaller and don’t offer as much resistance, so you won’t need as much line to reel them in. As a result, reel sizes ranging from 3000 to 5000 are suitable for inshore fishing.

On the other hand, when fishing offshore, the waters are deeper, and the fish are larger. Consequently, you will require a greater line capacity. In this case, I recommend opting for reel sizes between 5000 and 8000.

You may be wondering why you shouldn’t exceed size 8000. The reason is simple: there is no need for a larger reel. Unless you have zero drag, no fish will ever outlast a reel larger than size 8000. Using a bigger reel would only add unnecessary weight to your fishing setup.

Drag System

The next crucial factor to consider is the drag system. The drag plays a vital role in preventing your fishing line from breaking and in wearing out the fish during the fight.

To simplify the concept of drag, remember that the larger the fish, the stronger the drag you’ll require.

As previously mentioned, inshore fish tend to be smaller, while offshore fish are larger. Consequently, fishing offshore will necessitate a stronger drag. You should aim for a reel with a maximum drag weight of 30 pounds to effectively handle big game fish.

On the other hand, fishing inshore requires a relatively lower drag force. A reel with a maximum drag weight of 17.5 pounds should be sufficient for most inshore species.

A general rule of thumb is to set your drag to approximately one-third of your fishing line’s pound test. For instance, if you are using 30-pound test line, even if your reel’s maximum drag weight is 25 pounds, it is advisable to set it to around 10 pounds.

Although setting the drag at one-third of the line’s pound test may seem low, there is a valid reason for this. As more line is released from the spool during a fight, the drag pressure naturally increases. If the drag is initially set too high, there is a real risk of the line snapping under the sudden tension.

Hence, it is crucial to maintain the drag at approximately one-third of your fishing line’s pound test.

New anglers sometimes underestimate the importance of the drag system, as it may appear insignificant. However, neglecting the drag can result in losing your fishing line or allowing a prized catch to escape. Therefore, never overlook the significance of a reliable drag system.

Gear Ratio 

The gear ratio refers to the number of times the spool rotates for each turn of the handle.

A gear ratio of 4:1 is considered slow, while 6:1 is considered fast. A higher gear ratio means less effort is required to reel in the line. However, it is important to note that a faster gear ratio is not always better.

One crucial factor to consider when selecting a gear ratio is the type of lure you will be using.

Lures that require faster retrieves, such as those designed for quick movements, will benefit from higher gear ratios. Conversely, lures that require slower retrieves, such as those imitating injured baitfish, are better suited for lower gear ratios. This is why a higher gear ratio does not always guarantee superior performance.

In my personal experience, a gear ratio of 5:1 strikes a good balance. It allows for versatility in fishing both slow and fast lures. It’s worth mentioning that these considerations apply to both inshore and offshore fishing. Regardless of whether you’re fishing inshore or offshore, it is always important to take into account the specific lure you are using when deciding on the appropriate gear ratio.


The final aspect to consider is the durability of the reel.

Saltwater environments are known for their harsh conditions, and your saltwater fishing reel will face significant challenges. Ordinary reels may not withstand the demands of saltwater fishing. It is crucial to choose a reel that is not only corrosion-resistant but also tough enough to handle the environment and prevent sand from entering.

For durability, it is advisable to opt for materials such as stainless steel and ceramic for the ball bearings, as these offer excellent corrosion resistance.

Additionally, it is important to ensure that the spool body and bearing system of the reel are sealed or at least shielded from sand and water.

Fortunately, most saltwater spinning reels available today are designed with these features in mind. This brings us to the next point: why you should not use reels designed for freshwater fishing in saltwater environments.

Using reels intended for freshwater fishing in saltwater conditions can lead to significant damage and decreased performance. The materials and construction of freshwater reels are generally not equipped to handle the corrosive effects of saltwater. It is crucial to choose a reel specifically designed and built for saltwater fishing to ensure its durability and longevity in the challenging saltwater environment.

Freshwater VS Saltwater Reels

It can be tempting to use your freshwater reel for saltwater fishing, and I understand the desire to avoid spending unnecessary money on an additional reel. However, unfortunately, you don’t have a choice but to use a reel specifically designed for saltwater. Here’s why:

As mentioned earlier, most saltwater spinning reels are built with the necessary features for durability in harsh saltwater conditions. On the other hand, freshwater reels generally lack these essential features.

Freshwater spinning reels are typically constructed using materials like stainless steel, graphite, and anodized aluminum. At first glance, these materials may not appear significantly different from those used in saltwater spinning reels.

However, upon closer inspection, you’ll notice that saltwater reels often undergo special treatments to enhance their corrosion resistance. Furthermore, freshwater reels usually lack sealing or shielding technology to prevent the entry of sand and water.

Even if you diligently wash your freshwater reel after using it in saltwater, the short exposure to saltwater during your fishing session is enough to cause corrosion.

In the end, it is more prudent to invest in a saltwater-specific reel rather than risking damage to your freshwater reel and having to purchase a replacement.

However, it’s important to note that saltwater fishing reels still require regular maintenance. Even the best saltwater reels will need to be cleaned and cared for properly. The next section will cover tips on maintaining your saltwater reel.

How To Clean Saltwater Spinning Reels

When it comes to cleaning your reel, it’s better to see it in action than for me to describe how to do it to you.

Here’s a great video demonstrating the right way to clean your saltwater reel:

Final Verdict

Saltwater conditions can be demanding on your fishing reel, but you can put your worries aside if you have the right reel for the job.

To recap, the Penn Slammer III is the top choice for offshore fishing, while the Daiwa BG stands out as the best option for inshore fishing. Both reels are well-equipped to handle the challenges of their respective environments and offer great value for your money.

I hope this review has been helpful in your search for the best saltwater spinning reel. Additionally, don’t forget to pair your chosen reel with a high-quality saltwater fishing rod. You can find the best options in our selection of best saltwater fishing rods.

Wishing you the best of luck in your saltwater fishing adventures!