Best Saltwater Reels: Top Spinning and Baitcasting Options 2024

The top saltwater spinning, baitcasting and trolling reels revealed. The best saltwater reels for surf and boat fishing reviewed and rated.

While most fishing reels on the market can be used for either saltwater or freshwater, there are some reels that stand apart and are a better choice for saltwater fishing.

These reels are built with corrosion-resistant parts and components. They will give the saltwater angler a long-lasting and reliable reel that can weather the harsh elements of saltwater fishing.

Let’s take a look at which reels we considered in formulating our choices as the best saltwater reels of 2020 in our three categories: spinning reels, conventional reels, and baitcasting reels.

Best Saltwater Spinning Reel
Penn Battle Series II Spinning Reel

Penn has a globally strong reputation for saltwater and this reel is no exception. A great drag, quality gearing and the braid-ready spool make this an easy first choice.

Best Saltwater Conventional Reel
Shimano Calcutta Conventional Reel

The Calcutta is a top quality conventional reel with level wind. A staple in the Japanese market for years, it’s rapidly winning admirers in the rest of the world for its performance.

Best Saltwater Baitcasting Reel
Daiwa Saltist Saltwater Reel

I have had the same Saltists in my boat for close to 8 years now, and if they can withstand my torture tests and lack of maintenance, they will survive anything.

Best Saltwater Spinning Reels:

Penn Battle II Series Spinning Reel
Penn Battle II Series Spinning Reel
Penn Battle II Series Spinning Reel
Our Score

Penn is a company that is no stranger to many saltwater anglers and has been one of the best companies to cater to saltwater fishing for a very long time.

The Battle II series of reals have multiple sizes to choose from so you can decide what’s best for you depending on species. This reel looks really cool, the gold and black will get some looks while you’re on the water, but reels don’t work well because they look cool, this reel is packed with features that give it a pick on this list.

Drag is incredibly important for saltwater fishing where you never know what you might hook into

The Penn Battle II has the HT-100 Drag system that provides silky smooth drag along with a full metal body that allows for a precision gear alignment system to work flawlessly with no worries about flex like other reels made from other materials.

Penns superline spool which doesn’t require any backing due to the rubber gasket to prevent superline braids from slipping, instant anti-reverse bearing, 5 sealed stainless steel ball bearings, and line capacity marker rings.

Daiwa Crossfire
Daiwa Crossfire
Daiwa Crossfire
Our Score

Daiwa is no stranger to fishermen around the globe, and this is for good reason, they have consistently produced quality products for anglers of all species for years, with some of the best rods and reels on the market today.

The Daiwa Crossfire is no exception, coming it is extremely affordable for its features and works great for smaller to mid-sized fish applications. The Crossfire uses state-of-the-art composites to create a lighter reel but it also stays incredibly tough as well.

Compared to older Daiwa designs the Crossfire has a 20% reduction in total weight thanks to other designs thanks to a solid ABS reel construction.

The Crossfire uses a high-quality aluminum spool to give the spool a major reduction in the amount of flexing and distortion and is deep enough to carry an ample amount of line.

The components of the reel’s interior are cold forged and feature precision-milled digi gears. The Crossfire also features one of the smoothest drag systems on the market, this is in part due to the use of Daiwa’s innovative proprietary grease and ATD or Advanced Tournament Drag system.

The crossfire comes in multiple size models from the 1000 to 5000 series to cover all sizes of fish and angling needs. The gear ratio comes in at 5.2:1 and features 2 ball bearings.

Penn Rival Level Wind
Penn Rival Level Wind
Penn Rival Level Wind
Our Score

Another Penn reel on the list. Call me biased but Penn is extremely popular in the saltwater world for a reason and in our opinion deserves multiple spots on the list.

The Rival was Designed for large fish and is great for live bait presentations, trolling, or jigging and has shown to be a great all-around and versatile angling reel at an incredibly affordable price as well, the Rival features aluminum side plates and an incredibly lightweight and durable graphite frame this construction means that corrosion is not an issue.

Penn even includes aluminum frame rings for improved rigidity, preventing flexing in the frame when under immense loads. The famous angler-trusted HT-100 drag system, the same as the Battle II spinning reel on this list above is also featured, providing ultra-smooth drag while under immense loads and smooth operation.

Another very smart feature added is line counter rings, again similar to their other reels, so you always know how much line is on the spoon at any given time while a large fish starts going on a run.

The Rival comes in two gear ratios, 3.9:1 and 5.1:1, as well as 2 ball bearings on the list.

Daiwa Saltist
Daiwa Saltist
Daiwa Saltist
Our Score

Another offering from Daiwa that really shines in the saltwater world is the Saltist, they even conveniently put where it shines in the name!

Now there are 2 different styles of the Saltist:

  • One is a conventional reel with level wind,
  • The other is a conventional saltwater baitcaster without a level wind setup.

This section will focus on the conventional baitcaster style. For one, this reel has an excellent drag system that when fully applied gives the reel 25 pounds of drag pressure at the spool, which translates to a ton of power when fighting large fish.

Constructed from machined aluminum, anodized for maximum corrosion resistance against the harsh salty water that reels are subjected to while giving it an incredibly sturdy and reliable reel housing.

The free drag and spool system also gives this reel incredible casting distance while the spool payout due to the free spool technique allows anglers superb control while using live bait.

The reel also has a gear ratio of 6.4:1 giving it great speed while jigging, and giving the reel plenty of power. The reel when compared to its competition at the same quality level is also very competitive in terms of price.

I am hard on my gear and I have had the same Saltists in my boat for close to 8 years now, and if they can withstand my torture tests and lack of maintenance, they will survive anything. One of the best saltwater reels available.

Shimano Calcutta
Shimano Calcutta
Shimano Calcutta
Our Score

This reel is all bling, but it’s also one of the best reels on the market period, the price is a bit expensive, but this reel is reserved for the absolute diehard angler looking for the pinnacle in reel technology and quality on the market today.

The Calcutta has been a staple in the Japanese Market for years and its popularity has surged over years in the rest of the world as well as anglers consider it one of the best saltwater reels available in this category.

Known for its amazing durability, this thing also has:

  • 13 bearings
  • 1 reverse bearing
  • A cutting-edge MicroModule Gearing system to ensure frictionless gyration
  • Break system with variable adjustment
  • A Hagane body for strong performance in preventing tilting and warping despite an incredibly lightweight body for its size
  • And a seriously impressive drag system that features the SVS infinity braking system couple with X-ship technologies, for increased durability and smooth drag operation and spool control

What Makes the Best Saltwater Fishing Reel?

Before we end this article, let’s take a look at some of the features that make some of these reels the best reels at this price range and why those features are so important to saltwater fishermen so you can choose the best reel for your needs.

Spinning or Casting

In most cases spinning reels or casting reels are just preferences by anglers, but one style of reel might be better in some cases.

Baitcasting reels are great for live bait presentations, and you can leave your reel disengaged in some cases if you want fish to not feel any resistance.

Spinning reels are great for surf fishing, or anytime you want to make extremely long casts.

best saltwater spinning reels

Ball Bearings

Ball bearings are what give you the smooth retrieval of your lures and also help in creating a smooth drag when fighting a fish, to a certain extent.

Some reels feature more bearings than others, and some reels don’t need many bearings, depending on what that reel was designed to do.

Bearing being corrosion resistant is very important in saltwater fishing; corroded ball bearings will lead to rough retrieval and, ultimately, failure; be sure to keep them well-greased and free of sand or other debris.


Drag is the most important part of fighting large fish, and ensuring your drag is up to the task is paramount.

Some reels have higher drag power capabilities over others, and this again goes back to what the reel was originally designed to do.

A good idea for drag care is to leave your drag as low as it can go when the reel is sitting at home in between fishing trips.

This prevents your drag from being under constant clamping pressure reduces the chance of it seizing up, and also helps with reliability.

best saltwater reels


The spool is important, obviously, because it holds your line. Most spools are made to have a high capacity, ensuring you have plenty of line.

Most spools will also come with a chart telling you how much of what pound line it can hold and take.

On Spinning reels, the drag is normally also featured on top of the spool, putting it in an easy location to adjust while fighting fish.

Size and Weight

Reels come in many different shapes and sizes, and usually, weight is indicative of size.

Most modern reels come with some sort of weight-saving attribute to keep the overall weight as low as possible.

From small spinning reels to the large line counter and level wind reels.

best saltwater trolling reels

Corrosion Resistance

Corrosion resistance for saltwater reels is incredibly important. Saltwater is incredibly corrosive over time and will eat up the components in your reels.

Most reels dedicated to saltwater feature some sort of corrosion resistance, usually by making components out of aluminum, or stainless steel or by sealing areas so they remain dry.

Make sure your reel is also well-maintained and greased.

RELATED POSTS: Best Fluorocarbon LineBest Baitcasting ReelBest Hobie Kayak


In this article, I mixed up price points and features to include a selection of the best saltwater reels for all budgets and angling needs from beginner to seasoned and salty pro.

Be sure to take into consideration your local waters, species, and tactics to pick the best reel to suit your needs, and I’m confident you will surely find the best saltwater reel to suit your needs on this list.

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Shawn Chapin is an experienced fishing writer and guide based in Wisconsin, where he loves targeting muskie and a range of other species. Shawn's fished extensively for pike, largemouth bass, smallmouth and panfish species. He's developing a passion for chasing trout on the fly rod.
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