9 Best Saltwater Spinning Reels – 2020 Top Models Reviewed!

Of course your needs in a saltwater spinning reel will vary according to your style of fishing, the target gamefish, and your personal experience and preferences. However, there are a few general characteristics to keep in mind when shopping for a good saltwater spinning reel.


Saltwater reels need to be highly resistant to corrosion. Materials like magnesium that are great for freshwater are not ideal on the ocean. Machined aluminum makes for a strong, light-weight reel that will last for years in a saltwater environment. Graphite may be used on an aluminum reel for components like side plates, or a reel may benefit from hybrid construction where the frame and component parts are graphite while the rotor, spool, and crank handle are aluminum. Aluminum, graphite, and magnesium frames are all sturdy and rigid enough to reduce the torque big fish put on a reel. Your choice of material will come down to cost, weight, and the durability you want out of the reel.

Gear Ratio

The gear ratio of a reel determines how many times the spool revolves with each turn of the crank handle. For example, on a reel with a gear ratio of 7.3:1, the spool turns 7.3 times with each crank. Choose a high gear ratio for fast retrieves when fishing with top-water plugs or spinners, and for pulling in long line lengths when trolling. A low gear ratio will provide more power to pull big fish up out of deep water. Watch this video to get an in-depth look at reel gear ratios

Big saltwater gamefish put a lot of strain on gear, and the drag on your reel is meant to take up some of that strain before the line or rod breaks. Saltwater reels come with multi-disc drag systems that can put the brakes on strong, fast-running fish, and drag weights in the 40-50lb. range are common. Look for a carbon-fiber drag system that adjusts easily and smoothly. The drag on a saltwater reel also needs to have good heat-dissipating qualities, and cut-outs on the reel spool that allow in cooling air flow are a plus. 

The Best Saltwater Spinning Reels on the Market 

We sorted through the big spinning reels offered by some of the best names in fishing to come up with a list of the best saltwater spinning reels across a broad price range. With an eye on quality build details, smoothness of cast and retrieve, and overall user-friendliness, we have put together a list of the 9 best saltwater spinning reels on the market.

Reels from the Accurate TwinSpin line catch the eye immediately with their gleaming polished aluminum build and beefed-up components. The TwinSpin line runs up to the SR-50 that can spool 450 yards of 130lb. braid and put on 40lbs. of drag pressure. We took a look at the mid-heavy SR-30 that offers a slightly faster 6:1 gear ratio and a bit lighter weight while still holding plenty of line – 375 yards of 80lb. braid or 550 yards of 30lb. mono – and featuring a drag that can put 35lbs. of pressure on big tuna, billfish, and trevally.

Despite its strength, the SR-30 runs smooth as silk on five Class 5 ABEC stainless steel ball bearings. The reel features Accurate’s unique lubricated twin drag system that puts large drag friction washers on each side of the spool. The drag has a very smooth feel because the twin system eliminates the startup inertia that causes shock on the line and increases lost fish at high drag settings. Drag setting is easy with drag preset registration lines on the top of the spool, and the bold, high-relief drag handle makes adjustment during the fight easy.

The Accurate TwinSpin is a high-end reel, but it is built to take on marlin, trevally, and other large gamefish that would not normally be considered targets for spin fishing. This reel casts long and smooth like any good spinning reel, but can fight like a conventional round reel. Accurate reels are built in the USA and come with a two-year reel service package. The TwinSpin SR-30 is our top saltwater spinning reel.

The Saltiga 6500H is a proven saltwater performer from Daiwa that has been redesigned with cutting-edge bearing technology to enhance smoothness and extend durability. The 6500H is a top-end reel that features 3 Magsealed ball bearings that run in races filled with magnetized oil that provides superior lubrication while keeping contaminants out. The reel has 14 bearings in all, including Magsealed bearings on each side of the Digigear drive gear system.

The 6500H weighs only 29.5 ounces, very little for a reel that can take 440 yards of 80lb. braid and put on 66lbs. of drag pressure. Daiwa has shaved weight with touches like a Zaion carbon composite rotor, an ABS aluminum spool with a cut-resistant titanium nitride-coated lip, and a tubular stainless steel bail. The rotor is cut out to allow for airflow through the rotor system, preventing moisture build up and allowing for cooling.

The Saltiga 6500H retrieves a fast 51.6 inches of line per crank, and we found the retrieve to be exceptionally smooth for a big reel. The sealed bearing line roller probably helps by reducing friction. With a big lure and the right rod, this reel will cast as far as you want. The bail must be manually closed after the cast, a feature that prevents premature bail closure. A one-piece screw-in crank handle with oversized knob completes the solid appearance of this reel. The Saltiga really is a beauty and beast reel that combines finesse and detail with brute strength. A great reel with a solid reputation, this Daiwa gets our vote for second place.

The Shimano Saragosa SW line of saltwater spinning reels offers Shimano quality in a size range that runs from 22lbs. up to 44lbs. of drag strength. We chose the bruiser of the line, the 25000SW, a 4.4:1 torquer that holds 440 yards of 100lb. test braid and can lay on 44lbs. of drag brake. This is a beefy 6+1 bearing spinning reel that weighs in at 34.2 ounces, and it is built from the ground up to take on tough blue-water sportfishing challenges.

The Saragosa is just as smooth and comfortable as the smaller Shimano freshwater reels. The machined aluminum body with blue highlights looks great on the rod. The reel leg and frame are beefy and completely rigid. The Paladin Gearing and shielded A-RB bearings run silent and free whether on the cast or on a retrieve under heavy load. The X-Ship bearing system that puts bearings on both sides of the spool for extra support lets the reel crank smoothly through 360 degrees even with a big fish on. We found the bail action on this reel to be exceptionally sensitive. It opens with a light touch and closes the same way and in fact may close accidentally with a touch or a bump. But once you get a feel for it, the Saragosa lays out some really long casts for a heavy reel.

The 25000SW is a nice reel that offers the quality, durability, and attention to detail we have come to expect from Shimano. It comes at a high-medium price point, but still represents very good value for the money when you consider overall performance and the extensive network of service and maintenance resources that are available after purchase. You cannot go wrong with a Shimano and we put the Saragosa 25000SW at number three in our reel line up.

Shark fishermen and others looking for a low-geared, high-drag reel will want to consider the Penn Slammer III. We tested the big 9500 model and found that it lived up to its billing as a heavy-duty reel designed to deliver performance while taking abuse. The full-metal construction body is sealed to IP6 standards, and the side plate and rotor are also built of metal. The Penn CNC-cut gears are mounted in a 6 stainless steel ball bearing system that keeps the reel turning smoothly and evenly under all load conditions.

The 9500 has a knurled spool that is ready to wind on 435 yards of 80lb. braid or 240 yards of 50lb. monofilament. A slow 40 inch retrieve rate and low 4.2:1 gearing makes this a good reel for bottom fishing or jigging and gives you the torque needed to deal with heavy, hard-pulling fish. The drag employs Penn’s Slammer sealed drag system with patented Dura-Drag discs. The drag can be dialed up to 60lbs. of braking power, and it fed line smoothly at all settings.

We found the 9500 to be fun to cast on a 9-foot rod with a big top-water bait on it. The bail did flip closed prematurely on a few occasions, and we note that the bail mounts seem to be light in comparison to the build of the bail itself. Still, overall performance was good, and the handle and cranking knob are excellent, all for less than half the price of comparable reels from other companies. For steady performance and a proven record of durability, we give the Penn Slammer III fourth place in our review.

Shimano pushes the technology envelope again with the Thunnus line of saltwater spinning reels. These reels use Carbon 14 in the frame and rotor to add strength and rigidity while dropping up to 7 ounces of weight. The Thunnus is also a Baitrunner live-bait reel that allows for free-lining a swimming bait fish or drifting a floated bait with the current. We checked out the big 12000 model geared at a low 4.4:1 and boasting a maximum drag setting of 25lbs.

The Thunnus 12000 weighs only 27.7 ounces, but it can spool 230 yards of 80lb. Powerpro braid. The reel turns on 6 A-RB stainless steel ball bearings that are treated to last 10 times longer than standard ball bearings in a saltwater environment. Adding to the reel’s already smooth action, the rotor is computer-balanced much the same way that car tires are balanced, creating vibration-free rotation. The sealed waterproof drag uses Dartanium III drag washers and we found the line release to be smooth and steady at every pressure setting.

This reel was amazing to cast. The light weight combined with the specially-shaped Propulsion spool lip to make the line stream off effortlessly. The Varispeed spool oscillation kept the line wound on smoothly and tangles were not an issue at all. The Thunnus comes in a slightly different category than other reels in our test, being a lightweight Baitrunner reel. It is more of an inshore reel than an open-water machine. In a pure test of inshore reels, the Thunnus would undoubtedly come near to number one. It is a great choice for inshore fishermen and still comes in fifth overall in our test.

The CJ-80S is the biggest reel in Okuma’s Cedros saltwater spinning reel lineup, and we chose it as a small-mid size saltwater reel for mounting on lighter rods and targeting inshore species. Although the gearing is 5.7:1, the large spool diameter gives the 80S a fast 50-inch line retrieve rate, making this reel perfect for throwing lures. The reel is built around a die-cast aluminum frame that provides rigidity and strength. Machined and drilled aluminum spool and crank cut weight and aid in heat dissipation. The spool turns on a precision cut brass machine gear supported by 4 corrosion-resistant stainless steel ball bearings.

The CJ-80S is designed with a narrow, blade-like profile that gives the reel a compact form factor. But it can still wind on 180 yards of 30lb. test monofilament and apply 12lbs. of drag pressure with a multi-disc Japanese oiled felt drag system. Although many fishermen will replace the felt with carbon fiber discs, the oiled felt system does give a very smooth feel to the drag on every setting from full to minimum. We like the full-width drag setting handle on this reel as it makes small adjustments easy.

This is a very handsome reel with its blue and gold highlights, and the drilled-out oversized cranking knob looks really cool. Good heat dissipation features and a quick-set anti-reverse are other items that make this reel perform well above its low price point. The Cedros CJ-80S is a good light-duty reel and it gets 6th in our review for overall quality and performance.

The Penn Spinfisher is a sealed reel made for use in any saltwater condition from offshore fishing to spray-covered jetties and damp, sandy surf fishing beaches. We tested one of the heavier models, the 9500, a stout reel that spools on 490 yards of 80lb. braid and can clamp on 40lbs. of drag. The Spinfisher 9500 is an all-metal machined aluminum reel with 5 shielded stainless steel ball bearings, instant anti-reverse, and a braid-ready spool that requires no backing line.

The heavy build of this reel is immediately noticeable from the oversize bail wire to the stout one-piece crank handle. The robust construction and a 4.2:1 gear ratio go together to make the Spinfisher a good choice for hard pulling fish like grouper and shark. The reel is a bit on the heavy side, but when paired with the right rod, it balances well. The Penn HT Slammer Drag is a sealed system with 1 drag washer on the top of the spool and 2 on the bottom for smooth, powerful operation.

The details on the Spinfisher are very good considering the relatively low price point of this reel. A large ergonomic cranking knob, a friction trip ramp that prevents premature bail trip on long casts with heavy weights, ambidextrous crank mounts, and line capacity markings on the spool all add up to a user-friendly piece of fishing tackle. And the reel looks good as well with a black and gold color scheme. The Penn Spinfisher is a decent all-around reel that comes at a price that accommodates the angler who would like to buy more than one. It’s our number seven saltwater spinning reel pick.

The BG “Black Gold” 8000 is the heavy weight in Daiwa’s popular Black Gold spinning reel line up. Designed as a saltwater big game reel, the BG8000 has a range of features that enhance durability and performance, yet the reel comes at such a reasonable price point that it is the choice of many professional charter captains who have to buy dozens of reels at once.

The machined aluminum body and side cover of the BG8000 house a digitally-cut drive gear that is the largest in the history of Daiwa spinning reels. The gear runs on 6 sealed stainless-steel ball bearings to turn a rotor that is engineered to cut weight while distributing stress evenly throughout the rotor. Another unique feature is a reverse-tapered ABS aluminum spool that allows 100% of the line to be used. The spool can be filled to the lip, which reduces friction on casting.

This big reel can spool 440 yards of 80lb. braid, yet it only weighs 30 ounces. The drag turns down to 30lbs. and has a smooth pull at the heaviest setting. We found that the spool design on this reel really does make casting easier. We are getting to like the manual bail flip feature that many manufacturers are putting on their big reels because you don’t have to worry about the force of the cast and weight of line and lure flipping the bail shut too soon. The BG8000 is a sturdy, over-built reel that delivers plenty of performance at a bargain price and it earns 8th place in our rankings.

The Revo Inshore 60 is a 14-ounce saltwater spinning reel especially designed for working inshore waters and smaller gamefish. It is geared at 5.6:1 and can hold 200 yards of 20lb. braid or 205 yards of 14lb. mono. Even though it is a relatively light-duty reel, the Inshore 60 has many features found on the big offshore spinning reels. The body on the 60 is made from aluminum alloy, and the rotor is machined aluminum. The reel has 6 sealed stainless steel bearings and a computer-optimized gear train to run the stainless steel mainshaft.

The front drag system is built heavy for a reel this size and features carbon discs. The spool is braid-ready, and the slow oscillation system lays any type of line on the spool evenly. The line comes off the spool well too, as we found when even small lures seemed to go a mile when casting with a 7-foot medium-action rod. The design of the spool lip is made to reduce friction, and what Abu Garcia calls the Rocket line management system does seem to work as advertised.

This little reel feels great in the hand, and the oversized crank handle and soft EVA knob let you bring the fight to the fish in comfort. A tough, corrosion-resistant build and good looks make the Inshore 60 a good choice for inshore saltwater or heavy freshwater use. It is a top contender in the small reel class, and we put it in ninth place in our saltwater spinning reel lineup.

It is great to see an American-made contender coming in at the top of this list, but the rest of our review of the best saltwater spinning reels shows the usual performers making the grade. You basically can’t go wrong with a Daiwa or Shimano, and a Penn or Okuma will get the job done while keeping your bank account intact. Every reel here is a favorite of dedicated saltwater fishermen from one region or another, so choose in confidence and get ready for a good time out on the water.