Best Saltwater Fishing Reels: Inshore and Offshore Buying Guide

Saltwater anglers require reels that can take a beating but deliver the goods. A good reel is crucial, no matter if you are fishing inshore for reds and specks or chasing sailfish and sharks out in the blue waters.

We have the right reel for you if you are looking for a high-quality saltwater fishing reel.

Here’s a comprehensive buying guide and in-depth reviews about some of the top saltwater fishing reels.

Reels for Inshore Fishing

  • Penn Battle IISaltwater Spinning Reel for Inshore Fishing
  • Shimano Stradic Ci4+
  • Daiwa Tatula CT Type-R TACT-R100– Inshore Baitcasting reel

Offshore Fishing Reels

  • Daiwa Saltist Levelwind Line Count– Offshore Reel For Precision Trolling
  • Penn Squall LevelWind– The Best Offshore Reel For the Money
  • Avet LX 6.0– Premium Offshore Reel

Reviewed the Best Saltwater Reels

Reels for Inshore Fishing

Penn Battle II – Saltwater Spinning reel for Inshore Fishing

PENN 1338219 Battle II 4000 Spinning Fishing Reel

BTLII2500

Drag: Maximum weight 12 lbs. Maximum 12 lbs

The ratio of gears: 6.2:1 (33″ per turn)

Line capacity:255/6, 175/8 and 140/10

Bearings 5 + 1 roller bearing

Weight: 10.3 oz.

BTLII3000

Drag: Maximum 15 lbs. Maximum 15 lbs

The ratio of gears: 6.2:1 (35″ per turn)

Line capacity:200/8, 165/10 and 120/12

Bearings 5 + 1 roller bearing

Weight: 12.3 oz.

BTLII4000

Drag: Maximum 15 lb. Maximum 15 lbs

The ratio of gears: 6.2:1 (37″ per turn)

Line capacity:270/8, 220/10 and 165/12

Bearings 5 + 1 roller bearing

Weight: 12.8 oz.

BTLII5000

Drag:25 lb. Maximum 25 lbs

The ratio of gears: 5.6.:1 (36″ per turn)

Line capacity:225/12, 200/15, and 135/20

Bearings 5 + 1 roller bearing

Weight: 19.8 oz.

BTLII6000

Drag:25 lbs. Maximum 25 lbs

The ratio of gears: 5.6:1 (41″ per turn)

Line capacity:335/15, 220/20, 210/25

Bearings 5 + 1 roller bearing

Weight: 22.10 oz.

BTLII8000

Drag: Maximum weight: 30 lb. Maximum weight: 30 lbs.

The ratio of gears: 5.3:1 (44″ per turn)

Line capacity:340/20, 311/25, 230/30

Bearings 5 + 1 roller bearing

Weight: 30.2 oz.

Saltwater anglers have made Penn reels a legend. You won’t find a better reel to surfcast or inshore fish with than Penn’s reels. This reel is a great choice for those who intend to cast all day, due to the many advantages of spinning reels in wind.

There are eight reels in this set, but I would not recommend dropping below 2500 for salt. 2500, 3000, and 4000 reels are ideal for species such as flounder and specks. While the 5000 and 6000 size reels can be used to tackle large reds and other inshore species that require strong lines, the 5000 and 6000 reels will work well.

The heart of any reel’s drag system is the Penn Battle II. The carbon fiber discs are excellent and provide resistance that is predictable and smooth. They also have size-appropriate maximum settings that will give you plenty of options if you want to spool heavyweight braid.

The spools for each model can hold a lot of lines even with mono. As you move to larger sizes, it gets even better. The spool will be marked with concentric circles. This allows you to see how much line is left.

This is a nice touch for fish that are going to need a long fight.

Casting distances will decrease if the test diameter exceeds 10 pounds. This is because friction between the line and the retaining clip of the spool causes the line to become clogged. This is not Penn’s fault. It’s simple physics. However, with a strong, straight braid, this shouldn’t be a problem.

Battle II has time-tested metal gears. While they are not as smooth as Shimano’s Stradic, their torque and strength cannot be denied. This reel is tough enough to tackle big and powerful fish.

The Battle II lineup is equipped with an instant anti-reverse bearing that locks up quickly, encouraging strong hooksets too.

The Battle II is an excellent spinning reel for salt. It’s great for casting blues, chasing reds on a flat where the tide moves, and fighting specks offshore.

Pros

  • Excellent drag
  • Excellent capacity
  • An amazing casting with the right diameter lines
  • Silky-smooth operation
  • Amazing anti-reverse

Cons

  • ?? ??

Shimano Stradic Ci4+

SHIMANO Stradic CI4 2500FB HG Freshwater Spinning Reel

2500FB

Drag: Maximum weight: 18 lbs. Maximum weight

The ratio of gears: 5:1 (35″ per turn)

Line capacity:200/6, 140/8 and 120/10

Bearings 6 + 1 roller bearing

Weight: 6.7 oz.

3000FB

Drag: Maximum weight: 18 lbs. Maximum weight

The ratio of gears: 5:1 (35″ per turn)

Line capacity:230/6, 170/8 and 140/10

Bearings 6 + 1 roller bearing

Weight: 6.7 oz.

4000XGFB

Drag:22 lb Maximum weight

The ratio of gears: 6.2:1 (39″ per turn)

Line capacity:240/6, 200/8 and 160/10

Bearings 6 + 1 roller bearing

Weight: 8.11 oz.

Shimano has a great reputation among saltwater anglers, as evidenced by their outstanding Stradic Ci4+. It’s one of the best spinning reels available and a worthy competitor to the Penn at about twice the price!

You can only decide if the Stradic delivers twice as much performance. However, there is no denying that it is an outstanding inshore reel.

The high-end materials used to keep the Stradic Ci4+ featherweight will be appreciated by anglers who find Battle II too heavy for a day of fishing. You’ll be able to notice a significant weight difference in size.

Every model features Shimano’s famous Hagane gearing, which has a 5 to 1 gear ratio. The spool sizes allow for impressive retrieval rates. These gears run at least as fast as the Penn and sometimes faster, but they are not as strong as Penn’s due to Shimano using a lot more plastic.

The Stradic’s drag system is incredibly smooth and allows for extremely heavy braided lines.

The spools are small so capacity is not exceptional. The Stradic has one real drawback.

Pros

  • Superior build quality
  • Hagane gearing may be the most smooth on the market
  • The best market drag
  • The casting is really beautiful
  • Super lightweight

Cons

  • Small spools are used to reduce weight and retrieve data quickly.
  • It’s expensive!

Daiwa Tatula CT Type-R TACT-R100Top Inshore Baitcasting reel

Daiwa Tatula CT Type-R 100HSL 7.3:1 High Speed Left Hand Baitcast - TACT-R100HSL

Maximum drag13.2 lb

Gear ratio:7.3:1 (30.5″ per turn)

Capacity14/120; 16/100

Bearings8

Weight:7.2 oz.

Many inshore anglers prefer to use a baitcasting reel. Bass fanatics will attest that the Daiwa Tatula CT Type R is as good as it gets.

The Type-R is an upgrade to the Tatula CT. It reduces weight and improves performance. This makes it a baitcasting rod that can be used in salt water as well as on local bass ponds.

The Type-R is slim at 7.2 ounces thanks to the use of upgraded materials. It has comfortable curves and a size that makes casting easier. This puts it ahead of all the spinning competitors, and you will see a significant difference in just a few hours.

The capacity of a baitcasting reel is nearly equal to the largest Stradic Ci4+. However, it is a little smaller than the Battle IIs. If you really want to push an inshore reel to its limits I would recommend the Penn.

Daiwa’s “T-wing” design is a great way to reduce friction and minimize overrun. This gives me more confidence when casting long distances and I rate their performance as excellent as the wind blows light.

This reel features a carbon fiber drag system by Daiwa. It delivers smooth performance and a maximum drag of 13.2 pounds. This maximum allows you to spool heavy braid while still having the power for a fierce battle.

Speed is the thing that baitcasting reels can’t match. The Daiwa is no exception. It’s fast enough to catch big bass but slow enough to catch large reds and other larger fish. However, it should not be a problem for specks, flounders, and other small inshore gamefish.

While there are many great baitcasting reels out there, the Daiwa Tatula CT Type R is my favorite. It offers a challenge to Penn’s spinning dominance in the area. This is the reel to get if you are looking for a baitcasting reel.

Pros

  • Amazing casting
  • Excellent drag
  • Lightweight and comfortable
  • Capacity:

Cons

  • A spinning reel is not as effective in the wind as a spinning one.
  • Not as fast as the inshore spinning reels
  • Comparable to larger Battle II models, Capacity suffers

Offshore Fishing Reels

Daiwa Saltist Levelwind Line Count – The Best Offshore Reel For Precision Trolling

Daiwa STTLW20LCHA 6.1:1 Saltist Levelwind Line Counter High Speed Reel

Maximum drag:20 and 30 (15.4 lbs. ); 40 and 50 (15.4 lb.

Gear ratio:(20-30) 6.1:1 (40-50) 6.4:1

RPT:20 and 30 (35″);40 and 50 (47.2″)

Capacity20 — 12/420, 14/350, 20/210

30 — 14/490. 20/295. 25/230.

40 — 25/400 – 30/270 – 40/240

50 — 30/350; 40/310; 50/220

Bearings4 + 1

Weight:20 — 18.5 oz.

30 — 19.4 oz.

40 — 23.1 oz.

50 — 24 oz.

Daiwa is no stranger to offshore fishing, and the Saltist Levelwind reel is an excellent choice. It was originally designed to answer the prayers of anglers looking for a smaller reel that had high-speed gearing, a level wind, and is a great choice when precision trolling is required.

Daiwa understands that an all-metal body is the only way to provide the toughness and durability that big fish require. They’ve made the Saltist out of solid aluminum. This reel has a long history of durability and is solid enough to withstand any kind of fishing.

They aren’t heavy, even at the largest sizes, and they are lighter than you might think. This is not a virtue of a traditional reel as casting isn’t an option. The reel’s smaller size can also reduce its capacity. These reels have plenty of space, but I believe the competition has a little more.

Two drag settings are available in the Saltist lineup: 15.4 and 24 lb. This is enough to feed kingfish and Mahi, monster stripers, sailfish, tuna, sharks, and other species.

The Saltist’s solid brass gearing packs a lot of torque and turns the odds in your favor once the fish begins to fatigue. Even though neither 6.1:1 or 6.4:1 is a shockingly high ratio, the 35 and 47.2 inches ratios are remarkable, especially for a reel of this size.

Speed is a big factor in explaining the popularity of this reel. And when it comes to keeping a straight line during a tough fight, the Saltist will be a great choice.

You must manually engage the spool release; turning the crank won’t engage the spool.

This reel is equipped with a line counter, a level wind, and a clicker. It’s able to cast precision trolling for any size fish, as well as casting applications.

Pros

  • Available in various sizes
  • Compact, small body
  • Durable and very stiff
  • Very fast retrieval rates! You can find out more!
  • Great drag
  • Equipped with a level wind
  • With a line counter

Cons

  • Not as capacious as similarly-sized reels
  • Squall has lighter drag options

Penn Squall LevelWind –  The Best Offshore Reel For the Money

PENN Fishing SQL20LWLC Squall LevelWind , Black Gold, 315yd/20Lb

Maximum drag:15 and 20 (15 lbs. ); 30 and 50 (20 Pounds.

Gear ratio:(15, 20, and 30,) 4.9.1; (50), 4.0:1

RPT:15 and 20 (28″); 30 (35″); 50 (42)

Capacity15 — 15/320 – 17/280 – 20/220

20 — 17/415, 20/315, 25/290

30 — 25/455. 30/370. 40/285

50 — 40/435. 50/320. 60/285

Bearings2 + 1

Weight:15 — 16.2 oz.

20/20LC — 16.9/17.8 oz.

30 — 20.9 oz.

50 — 24.6 oz.

The Penn’s Squall LevelWind series of conventional reels has a lot of admirers. The 20 comes in a variety of sizes and can be ordered with a line counter. This makes it an excellent choice for precision trolling, particularly if you don’t have the budget for the Daiwa.

The body of the Squall is made from graphite. This material cannot deliver the same stiffness as metals such as aluminum and the weight savings for a traditional reel are not justified. The Squall’s ability to win fights in the favor of anglers has been proven over and over again, and its endurance is unquestionable.

I would still give my nod to Daiwa Saltist or the Avet below.

You can expect to find a wide range of spools in all four sizes. This reel is a great choice if you are worried about long runs and tough fights.

Concentric rings are also featured on the spool to allow you to see how much you have left.

The solid brass gears provide a lot of torque and are very smooth. These large spools spin quite a lot with each turn of the crank, which allows them to pick up a considerable amount of line. However, the bigger sizes are less efficient than the Daiwa’s.

As its name implies, the Squall LevelWind comes with one. This helps to distribute lines throughout the spool. This is an important feature for mono-fishing anglers.

You can get the 20 series with a line count, which makes it an excellent choice for precision trolling. This clicker is reliable and loud, making it a great option for bottom fishing.

The drag system of the Squall lineup works just as well as the Daiwa’s. You can expect consistent pressure and maximum capacity that will tire almost any hook.

The Squall LevelWind series is an excellent choice for anglers looking for a low-cost reel with high-end performance.

Pros

  • You can choose from a variety of sizes
  • A light body, but still very stiff
  • Smooth cranking, the excellent gear ratio, and good retrieval rates
  • Great drag
  • Excellent capacity
  • Equipped with a level wind
  • Size 20 has a line counter

Cons

  • A metal body is not as strong or as durable as an all-metal one.
  • The big Daiwa’s have a larger capacity, but smaller sizes.

Avet LX 6.0Premium Offshore Reel

Avet 6.0:1 Lever Drag Conventional Reel, Silver, 280 yd/30 lb

Maximum drag:20 lbs.

Gear ratio:6.0:1

RPT:46

Capacity25/350, 30/300, and 40/220

Bearings6

Weight:22 oz.

An Avet is a must-have for any reel. This reel is also available in a lower ratio of 4.6:1, but that’s too slow for most anglers. The LX 6.0 is the real star of the show, and a single glance will reveal why.

Because it is made from one piece of aluminum, the Avet is likely to be as solid and stiff as any reel your fish. This is the only reel on the market that has this feature, and it’s probably the most expensive.

It’s so good!

Avet uses stainless gears. They are extremely tough and provide unrivaled torque. This is the reel I would use if I was fighting for a real trophy.

Don’t expect massive capacity, however. The Salts are available in one size, which is roughly the same as a Daiwa 40. However, larger Saltists will hold more line. This is the most popular reel among sailfish enthusiasts. Pros rely on the Avet for their livelihood.

This is a testament to the reel’s capabilities.

The thumb lever controls the drag of the Avet, making it easy to adjust. It will be the standard model for all others, with plenty of fish-tiring power for sailfish, sharks, and tarpon.

You don’t have to worry about a large fish creating slack. You can easily manage 46 inches of line per crank.

This is a truly remarkable performance, and it’s easy to see why professionals love the Avet.

This reel is old-fashioned and has no level of wind. This reel is old-school and requires you to smoothen your line using your thumb. However, there are very few things that could go wrong or break.

The Avet is very, very difficult to beat.

Pros

  • Amazing body–probably one of the best in business
  • Smooth cranking, the excellent gear ratio, and high retrieval rates
  • Amazing drag
  • Excellent capacity
  • Outstanding durability

Cons

  • Mono is more efficient with no wind level
  • Precision trolling is difficult because there is no line counter

How to Select a Saltwater Reel

Saltwater fishing is challenging, with a wide range of species and conditions. “Saltwater reel” may have multiple definitions.

You don’t want to look for the same things on a surfcasting reel as you do in a reel for fishing for sailfish.

It can be difficult to understand angling if you are new. Let’s take a look at it.

Inshore

Inshore fishing is done close to the shore, in interior saltmarsh protected with barrier islands, along the coast in shallow waters, or at the beach.

These specks are very common inshore fish.

Experts describe it as “The greatest difference between offshore and inshore fishing is the depth, with 30m of water acting as a border between them.” Inshore fishing is best done within a few miles from shore. You’ll also be casting distance to it at popular spots such as beaches, flats, mangroves, jetties, and other rocky shorelines.

Don’t be fooled by the term “light” saltwater tackle. It is quite heavy for freshwater.

You can use the same baitcasting reels for largemouth bass as you would with surfcasting models on your inshore reels.

Offshore

Offshore trips, on the other hand, will take you between 30 and 130 miles from the coast. These waters require larger sportfishing boats with more technology, such as sonar and radio. These experts explain that the techniques are more hands-on until a marlin tries to steal your entire line. Although you might only catch one or two, hookups can last for hours.”

Offshore fishing offers unique excitement and challenges.

You’ll use conventional reels to fight fish like your life is on the line. It’s basically baitcasting tackle with steroids.

Drag

A great drag system is the first thing you should look for wherever you are in saltwater.

The drag acts as a resistance to your line. This helps to prevent it from breaking under strain and also tires the fish.

Drag systems must provide consistent, smooth pressure without binding or sudden releases.

Inshore reels will require you to set the drag at 30% of your line’s breaking force. You want a smooth release. The drag is essentially a “cushion” that protects your line from sudden runs.

Not only does the drag system do that on traditional reels but it also serves as a fatigue device for hard-fighting fish. It is essential to be able to drag a large tuna, shark, and sailfish down low enough to allow you to bring them in. It is important to monitor the maximum settings.

The star and the lever are two common drag systems found on reels.

Drag controls can be as simple as knobs at the end of spinning reels or star-shaped dials for baitcasters. Some conventional reels have thumb-operated levers that can be actuated by a thumb. Easy-to-use controls are crucial, especially for offshore fishing.

Inshore reels head-to-head are more appealing to the baitcasters than the spinning ones. Although it is not a universal rule, you can usually expect it.

Retrieval rates and gear ratio

The gear ratio is the relationship between the crank and the turns of the spool. A reel that has a higher ratio will pick up more lines per turn.

However, retrieval rates can also be affected by the spool size. Larger spools pick up more lines.

This means that a reel that has a large spool can retrieve more lines than one with a lower gear ratio. Retrieval rates are therefore more important than simple gear ratios, especially in salt.

This is the case for most fish, except when they are strong and fast and make a run at you. Your line will relax as the fish runs, and your hook will become looser.

This is obviously not what you want.

To compensate, you will need to maintain a tight line and not let your reel go slack. Higher retrieval rates are easier to use.

Capacity

Capacity is not critical for freshwater or most inshore fishing. However, it’s nice to have high numbers.

Capacity reels offer two benefits: they allow you to cut as much line as you need and still have plenty to fish with. They also let you run monofilament heavy enough to make long casts.

Capacity is crucial offshore.

This large conventional reel can handle a lot of high-diameter lines.

You’ll be able to see the fish take its line and then take it in turns.

This spool’s inside is marked so you can instantly see how much you have left.
It’s easy to see the point!

Construction

Inshore reels require strong, reliable construction that can withstand saltwater. It’s a good idea to seal your reels with drag systems that resist saltwater intrusion. This will increase service life and durability.

All-metal gearing is better than the cheaper, less durable plastic found in spinning reels. This is not to say that plastic is always a bad choice. However, metal almost always wins.

For offshore angling, you should consider frame strength and gear as well as seals. A good conventional reel will resist saltwater intrusion, and it will have tough metal gearing that provides the best in power and torque.

They should be strong and durable. This usually means that they must have all metal frames, but it is possible to include space-age materials such as graphite. Even graphite can lose some stiffness to save weight.

Line Counter

A line counter is critical for offshore fishing, as precise trolling is often required.

This feature would be a great option for the inshore tackle.

Wind at a level

While spinning and baitcasting reels will spool the line more evenly when you crank them, conventional reels with a lower wind will not. Your thumb will be your guide to guide the line onto your reel.

Garry Brummett explains that level wind reels have a moving guide. This guides the line from the reel to the worm shaft. The pawl runs across the reel and back and forth. The moving line guide distributes the line evenly onto the reel as it is being retrieved. It also ensures that there are no large accumulations of line on any particular spot. The line distribution onto the spool of conventional open-style reels is up to the angler.

Mono is especially prone to bunching and must be avoided. As you retrieve the line, your thumb will direct it with your thumb. This will help to distribute it along the entire length of the spool.

If you do, then bunching can affect casting. Depending on the application, this may not be a problem. However, in extreme cases, it can cause the spool to become stuck by direct contact with its body.

Braid is flat and self-distributing well. If this is your mainline, then a level wind might not be necessary.

Level winds can also be a delicate component that often breaks. Brummett warns that level winds are a fragile component and often break. This does not apply to any manufacturer. Failure is possible for all level winds, regardless of the manufacturer. It is just part of the design. A very small pawl crosses an equally small gear. The line guide system will be under tremendous pressure when fighting large fish with 15-20 pounds of drag. We add salt and sand to the mix, and we may not clean and lubricate our reels as often as we should. These factors all increase the chance of a reel failing. Failures of open-faced conventional reels are rare.

Last Thoughts

We hope this article helped you choose your next saltwater reel. However, these reviews don’t include every option.

Were you omitted from one of your favorite songs?

We would love to hear your comments, so please comment below!

Lewis
Lewis Mark is a vastly experienced fly fisher. His encyclopedic knowledge of fly tying has led to start blog on fishing. He also review Fishing equipment based on his knowledge and experience.