Best Saltwater Spinning Reels in 2023 – Expert Guide

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As you probably know, you can’t just take any spinning reel for saltwater fishing.

I mean, sure, you can.

But it won’t last long and then you’ll have to buy a whole new one.

So, in this article, we’ll talk about the best saltwater spinning reels money can buy.

We’ll compare important features like drag capacity, durability, corrosion resistance, and more.

Ready? Let’s get started.

4 Best Saltwater Spinning Reels

  1. Penn Slammer III – Best saltwater spinning reel overall
  2. Shimano Saragosa SW – Great for inshore fishing
  3. KastKing Sharky III – Budget alternative for offshore fishing
  4. Penn Pursuit IV – Budget alternative for inshore fishing

1. Best Saltwater Spinning Reel – Penn Slammer III

Penn Slammer 3 spinning reel
  • Powerful 30 lb drag for offshore fishing
  • Full-metal body for durability
  • IPX6-sealed body (no corrosion)
  • 7+1 ball bearings for smoothness

The Penn Slammer III is simply the best saltwater spinning reel overall. It will allow you to do both inshore and offshore fishing, as it has a very powerful 30 lb drag even in the smaller 3500 reel size.

Of course, such a powerful drag means it has to be sturdy. And it is: with a full-metal body, this spinning reel won’t ever break on you even if you catch the big one.

Another good point about durability is that it has an IPX6-sealed body, which means no water can get in even if you spray it with a high-pressure hose. In simpler terms, this means that no water or sand will ever get in, which means no corrosion, which means that it will last for years.

When it comes to smoothness, this saltwater spinning reel is also better than most competitors, with 7+1 ball bearings whereas similarly-priced competitors only have 5+1. To be fair, 5+1 bearings is plenty smooth, but 7+1 is a notch further.

Overall, the Penn Slammer III is an amazing offshore and all-around saltwater spinning reel, especially considering it’s as good as many models that are 2x as expensive.

2. Best Saltwater Spinning Reel for Inshore Fishing – Shimano Saragosa SW

Shimano Saragosa SW spinning reel
  • Very light at 16 ounces
  • Good 22 lb of drag for inshore fishing
  • IPX8 rating to avoid corrosion
  • 5+1 ball bearings for smoothness

The Shimano Saragosa SW is the best saltwater spinning reel for inshore fishing.

If you get the size 5000, you’ll get 22 lb of drag which will be enough for most inshore fish. Of course, the lower drag compared to the Penn Slammer means that it’s also much lighter: at only 16 ounces instead of 3.7 pounds.

When it comes to durability, the Saragosa SW is even better than the Penn Slammer III, with an IPX8 rating that will mean even fewer chances of corrosion.

Smoothness is pretty good too, with 5+1 ball bearings which, as mentioned earlier, is quite good enough. (Cheaper models generally only have 3+1 bearings and you can definitely feel the difference).

Of course, being lightweight means it doesn’t have a full metal body like the Penn Slammer. Still, I’ve never found it flimsy and that’s probably due to the carbon fiber drag and the stainless steel one-piece bail.

Overall, if you plan on doing inshore fishing most of the time, or even a bit of offshore fishing (as long as the fish are light), the Shimano Saragosa SW is a good option.

3. Best Budget Saltwater Spinning Reel for Offshore Fishing – KastKing Sharky III

KastKing Sharky 3 spinning reel
  • 39.6 lb of drag at size 3000
  • Very light at 16 ounces
  • 10+1 ball bearings for smoothness
  • Much cheaper than the Penn Slammer

Here’s the truth – the KastKing Sharky III is actually better than the more expensive Penn Slammer III in almost every aspect. But there’s obviously a downside that we’ll talk about in few minutes.

First off, at size 3000, this real actually provides 39.6 lb of drag instead of 30 like the Penn Slammer.

Second, it’s also much lighter at 16 ounces. But of course, this means it might not be as durable since it doesn’t have a full-metal body. I haven’t had issues so far, but you never know.

Third, it’s also very smooth with 10+1 ball bearings. To be honest, I think that’s overkill as I couldn’t feel the difference with 7+1, but that’s still pretty impressive for the price.

So, what’s the catch?

Well, it doesn’t have any water or sand protection. At all. This makes it a lot more prone to corrosion, and it means you have to spend extra time thoroughly washing it off after each fishing trip.

Basically, if you’re on a budget and you can’t afford a more expensive pick, then you can get the KastKing Sharky and spend more time on maintenance.

4. Best Budget Saltwater Spinning Reel for Inshore Fishing – Penn Pursuit IV

Penn Pursuit 4 spinning reel
  • 20 lb of drag at size 5000
  • Decently light at 20 lb
  • 4+1 ball bearings for smoothness
  • Much cheaper than the Saragosa

If you’re more into inshore fishing but can’t afford the Shimano Saragosa, the Penn Pursuit IV is a good option.

It mainly has the same drawback as the KastKing Sharky: no water or sand resistance. So again, you’ll have to spend lots of time on maintenance to keep it in good shape.

However, you still get a reasonable 20 lb of drag at size 5000, and it’s decently light at 20 lb.

When it comes to smoothness, you get 4+1 ball bearings which isn’t as smooth as I’d like, but for the price, you can’t complain.

So, overall, the Penn Pursuit IV is a decent alternative to the Shimano Saragosa for inshore fishing. Just be prepared to spend more time washing it off after each use, and most of all – make sure never to forget or it can get damaged pretty soon.

How to Choose a Saltwater Spinning Reel – Buying Guide

Drag Capacity

Drag capacity is pretty simple to understand. Simply put, the larger and heavier the fish, the more power you need.

For inshore fishing, any spinning reel with 20 lb of drag is considered good enough.

Whereas for offshore fishing, 30 lb of drag is recommended, while 40 lb is better if you plan to go fishing some monsters.

Also, if you don’t want your line snapping…

Remember to always set your drag to 1/3 of your line’s pound test. This is because the drag pressure increases with the distance. So if you don’t respect this, your line will probably snap right when the fish bites.

Line Capacity

Speaking about your fishing line, what about its size?

Well, for inshore fishing, 3000 to 5000 reel sizes are good enough as you won’t be casting that far away. Also, the fish don’t have much strength to fight anyway.

Whereas for offshore fishing, 5000 to 8000 reel sizes are better and more versatile. You can cast farther away and deeper, and it also gives you more wiggle room to fight the big ones.

Generally, any reel size beyond 8000 isn’t particularly helpful in real life as it just adds more weight without providing any real advantage.

Gear Ratio

When choosing a gear ratio, the main thing you have to consider is the lures you’ll be using.

For fast-retrieve lures, you’ll want a faster gear ratio of 6:1.

For slow-retrieve lures, a 4:1 gear ratio will do the job.

That’s why I personally prefer to stick to a 5:1 gear ratio to have more versatility. That means it’s never perfect for the job but it’s always suitable. I can fish both slow and fast lures without needing two spinning reels.

Good to know: this rule applies to both inshore and offshore fishing.

(By the way, read this article if you’re looking for ultralight spinning reels.)

Durability and Water Resistance

We’ve touched on this many times during our reviews.

But basically, saltwater is very tough on anything.

If your spinning reel has no water protection, a lot of salt will get inside and it will get damaged very quickly.

That’s why a stainless steel body with IPX6 rating or better is recommended, while ceramic ball bearings are the better choice.

It’s also the reason why saltwater spinning reels are more expensive than freshwater spinning reels, because of that added protection.

Can You Use Freshwater Spinning Reels for Saltwater Fishing?

Speaking about freshwater spinning reels…

Yes, they’re much cheaper than saltwater spinning reals.

But can you use them for saltwater fishing?

Well, as mentioned above, you can. Technically. But they will require a lot of maintenance, and they won’t last long.

That’s why getting a proper saltwater spinning reel is the better choice overall – you’ll save lots of time on maintenance and it will cost you 5x less over the years.

Best Saltwater Spinning Reels – FAQ

What Is the Best Saltwater Spinning Reel Ratio?

As mentioned above, the best saltwater spinning reel ratio is 5:1, in my opinion. This allows you to use both slow and fast-retrieve lures.

On the flip side, a 6:1 ratio can only be used for fast-retrieve lures, while a 4:1 ratio can only be used for slow-retrieve lures.

What Size Reel Should I Use for Saltwater Fishing?

You should choose a 5000-8000 reel size for offshore saltwater fishing, or a 3000-5000 reel size for inshore saltwater fishing.

Remember that the reel size also affects your line length, so going with a smaller size means you won’t be able to cast as far and it will also have less drag.

Best Saltwater Spinning Reels – Conclusion

As we’ve seen, the best saltwater spinning reel overall is the Penn Slammer III. It provides 30 lb of drag at size 3500, which is a pretty impressive feat.

Also, its IPX6 rating means you won’t have to worry about corrosion, so you can use it for many years.

That said, if you’re going to do inshore fishing, the Shimano Saragosa SW is a pretty good option.

The choice is yours. Enjoy!

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