Best Fishing Reels for Saltwater

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A reel is an essential piece of equipment for fishing and you will not get very far without one! Reels differ in shape and size and your average bait caster and open face freshwater fishing reel looks identical to your average saltwater reels. So, what is the difference between the two? Why is it not advised to use a freshwater reel in saltwater?

In this article, we will be looking at the subtle differences between a salt and freshwater reel as well as discussing what makes a suitable reel for saltwater. We will be going over the design and features of a good saltwater reel and reviewing four of the best on the market for different anglers. By the end of this read, you will be informed enough to make the right decision when you purchase your next reel. Enjoy!

Shimano Alivio 2500 Japanese Fishing Reel
Shimano Twin Power Sw Saltwater Spinning Reels, TP4000SWBXG
SHIMANO Tranx 300A Lowprofile Freshwater Fishing Reel
Shimano Tiagra Conventional Reels, TI50WLRSA
Type Of
Budget open-face Saltwater reel
Best open-face saltwater reel
Best saltwater baitcaster reel
Best conventional saltwater reel for big game
Best Used By
The budget inshore angler that needs a small reliable saltwater reel
The keen inshore angler for heavy inshore and light offshore use
The keen inshore and offshore angler that enjoys spinning with a baitcaster
The expert saltwater angler that wants the best of the best to catch big game
Shimano Alivio 2500 Japanese Fishing Reel
Type Of
Budget open-face Saltwater reel
Best Used By
The budget inshore angler that needs a small reliable saltwater reel
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Shimano Twin Power Sw Saltwater Spinning Reels, TP4000SWBXG
Type Of
Best open-face saltwater reel
Best Used By
The keen inshore angler for heavy inshore and light offshore use
Check Price
SHIMANO Tranx 300A Lowprofile Freshwater Fishing Reel
Type Of
Best saltwater baitcaster reel
Best Used By
The keen inshore and offshore angler that enjoys spinning with a baitcaster
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Shimano Tiagra Conventional Reels, TI50WLRSA
Type Of
Best conventional saltwater reel for big game
Best Used By
The expert saltwater angler that wants the best of the best to catch big game
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What Makes a Fishing Reel Suitable for Use in Saltwater?

Saltwater fishing reels look extremely similar to their freshwater counterparts however there are some differences that set them apart. The saltwater reel is designed to resist corrosion from the saltiness of the sea water, unlike their freshwater cousin. They are made from corrosion-resistant metals like stainless steel and titanium which is why they generally cost a considerable amount more than freshwater reels.

They can have a sealed gearing system that is completely watertight so that nasty corrosive saltwater can’t get in and clog up your silky-smooth action. A sealed saltwater fishing reel prevents water from entering bearings, gears, and inner workings, so longevity is a boasting factor of these reels. They are reliable when you get hold of a high-quality product that is constructed from top-notch materials. The only downside of these reels is the difficulty you will have if something goes wrong inside. Fixing one of these reels is difficult to do by yourself and you will need the help of a specialist to ensure you reel stays water-tight once it’s fixed. Fixing these reels is costly and a pain if something goes wrong on the bank.

Overall, freshwater reels are great but do not expect to take them out into saltwater because they are not designed to cope with the wear and tear that sea fishing brings. Saltwater reels are much more rugged, robust, and are designed to withstand the harsh corrosive qualities of the salty sea. Saltwater reels are a little more expensive, but they are essential if you are serious about sea fishing and want something that will serve you well and last a lifetime.

What are the Features of a Good Saltwater Fishing Reel?

Before you purchase your first saltwater reel it is important that you know exactly what the features of a good one are. Saltwater reels are pretty pricey no matter what, so you want to make sure you put your money in the right place and purchase a reel that is perfectly suited to your sea fishing ventures. In this section, we will go over all the features of a saltwater reel and what you should expect to receive from a reputable, reliable, and high-quality fishing reel.

Capacity is a big factor to consider. A good saltwater fishing reel will have a large pit that can accommodate plenty of line. Even if you are fishing inshore, if your spool doesn’t hold enough line you will quickly realize when you run out of line trying to play a large fish from the depths. Make sure your reel can hold more than enough line for the type of saltwater fishing you practice.

A good saltwater fishing reel should be able to handle being spooled up with monofilament and braided line alike. There are plenty of saltwater reels out there that do not accommodate braid particularly well, causing slips, slides, and binds when the reel is put under strain. Make sure the saltwater fishing reel in question is designed to hold braided as well as monofilament line by checking the manufacturer’s literature.

If you are planning on spinning and jigging for saltwater species primarily, then you will want to make sure your fishing reel is lightweight and ergonomic. It doesn’t matter whether you are fishing inshore or offshore, if you are going to make hundreds of casts per day you want something that isn’t going to ache your wrists and arms off! Check the weight of the saltwater reel in question and compare it to its line capacity to make sure it will work well for you.

Make sure you have excellent drag control. A saltwater fishing reel should be capable of handling 20 to 30-pounds of drag pressure, this allows you to really put your back into it if a fish isn’t playing ball. Much more drag pressure than this is useless as the average large male can only handle 20 – 30-pounds of drag pressure for less than five minutes. Only go for a reel with better capabilities if you are planning on fishing for big game with seats or harnesses!

Best Saltwater Fishing Reel on a Budget: The Shimano Alivio 2500 Saltwater Fishing Reel

Overview

The Shimano Alivio is a salt and freshwater reel that is built to withstand the wear and tear of outdoor life on the coast. It has a gear ratio of 5:2 and a practical drag force of 40-pounds! The spool is adequate and can accommodate around 120 yards of 6-pound breaking strain monofilament, more at a higher breaking strain if low-diameter braided mainline is used. This is plenty of capacity to start out with, but you will quickly outgrow this if you start heading further afield to target larger, more powerful species.

Overall, this is a great reel for the beginner or freshwater angler that wants to start fishing in saltwater. It is a reasonably priced entry-level real from Shimano that has a simple and reliable design. It isn’t going to win any prizes for outstanding performance, but it is smooth, feels nice in the hand, and works perfectly for most inshore fishing tasks.

Pros
  • Great value for money
  • Has everything you would expect from a Shimano reel
  • Robust, simple, and reliable
Cons
  • Not much extra line capacity for progression
  • Not suitable for more experienced anglers

Bottom Line

Overall, the Alivio is an entry-level reel from Shimano that doesn’t boast too many bells and whistles, but it functions as it should and is perfect for the beginner that wants to start fishing inshore.

Best Open-Face Saltwater Fishing Reel: The Shimano Twin Power SW-B Saltwater Fishing Reel

Overview

The Shimano Twin Power SW-B is a high-quality saltwater spinning reel that is made from top-quality materials and constructed using leading techniques in Japan. It features a Hagane gearing that is completely waterproof and corrosion-resistant and a Hagane body that is water-tight, durable, robust, and extremely reliable. It is lightweight and ergonomic, so it feels excellent in the hand even after 100 casts.

The Twin Power comes in a variety of different sizes to choose from so you can select the perfect reel for your situation. Every model comes with a deep pit spool that has a huge line capacity for the size of the reel! This is the perfect reel for inshore anglers that are a bit more serious about fishing as a sport. It is perfect for use in inshore situations and it will cope surprisingly well in offshore situations too, with some people claiming fish of 100-pound plus, landed with this reel!

Pros
  • Incomparable build quality
  • Outstanding performance
  • Lightweight and ergonomic
  • Large line capacity
  • Sensibly priced for such a high-quality saltwater reel
Cons
  • Out of some angler’s budgets

Bottom Line

If you are looking for a saltwater reel that will impress you from day one and continue to put a smile on your face for life, then this is the reel for you. Shimano’s outstanding build quality and design certainly does not disappoint with this reel!

Best Baitcaster Saltwater Fishing Reel: The Shimano Tranx LowProfile Saltwater Baitcaster

Overview

The Shimano Tranx is a low-profile saltwater baitcaster reel that is built with durability and performance in mind. This reel has no problems tackling anything that swims inshore in saltwater and will handle almost anything in freshwater as well. It features Shimano’s coreprotect waterproofing technology that keeps the corrosive saltwater from entering the gearing and bearing in the reel even in the harshest of environments.

The Tranx comes in a range of models that offer differing line capacities and drag pressure capabilities. Every model features a large spool that can accommodate a surprising amount of line for its size, and you can expect at least 18lb of maximum drag pressure potential. This reel is perfect for the angler that loves fishing with a baitcaster in all manner of environments. Bring it to the lake for some musky fishing, the river for some trout fishing, inshore for grouper, or offshore for dorado! The possibilities are endless!

Pros
  • Reliable and completely corrosion-proof
  • Extremely versatile
  • Great capacity for line
  • Powerful enough for most types of salt and freshwater fishing
  • Sensibly priced
Cons
  • No apparent cons

Bottom Line

The Shimano Tranx saltwater reel is a versatile, durable, and reliable reel that can be used in a range of environments no matter how harsh they are. If you are looking for a baitcaster that you can depend on for life, then this is the one for you.

Best Saltwater Fishing Reel for Big Game: The Shimano Tiagra Series Reel

Overview

The Shimano Tiagra Series reel is a saltwater fishing reel that is designed to tame even the largest of game fish. This is a top-quality reel for the offshore angler that wants to target some huge game fish and shark. As you can expect, it has a massive line capacity even at big gauges and breaking strains. This reel is completely sealed and corrosion-resistant so it can stand up to the wear and tear that offshore boat fishing brings.

If you are looking for a high-capacity, extra-smooth, and extremely powerful reel that has been designed to tame the largest fish in the ocean depths, then this is the reel for you. This is a professional reel that is used by big game boats across the world. You will commonly see them on marlin, swordfish, and shark boats on the Atlantic and Pacific.

Pros
  • Extremely powerful
  • Exceptionally reliable and robust
  • Capable of landing some of the world’s largest fish species
Cons
  • Only useful for one purpose, and that is landing huge fish offshore!

Bottom Line

This is the reel for you if you own an offshore boat and want to add a reel to your collection that is capable of taming the largest of fish species. Whether you are targeting sharks, tuna, or marlin, this reel provides all the power, capacity, and strength you need.

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