The 7 Best Spinning Reels For Saltwater Reviewed – [2018]

Trying to decide exactly which saltwater spinning reel is the right one for you can be a challenging task. There are so many brands, so much to know, and the options seem endless.

I know how hard it can be to sort through the noise and find the ones that really work and that fit your needs.

My goal today is to help you sort out what’s important from what’s not. I’m going to walk you through everything you need to know in order to pick out the best saltwater spinning reel that will fit your fishing kit.

Not only will I help you learn what to look for, we are also going to take a look at some of top saltwater spinning reels on the market.

For more of my fishing gear recommendations, have a look through these popular Outside Pursuits guide links: Spinning Rods, Tackle Boxes, Fishing Kayaks.

Quick Answer: The 7 Top Rated Saltwater Spinning Reels

  1. Penn Battle II Spinning Fishing Reel
  2. KastKing Kodiak Saltwater Spinning Reel
  3. RUNCL Spinning Reel GRIM I
  4. Piscifun Spinning Reel Lightweight
  5. Penn Pursuit II Spinning Fishing Reel
  6. KastKing Sharky III Fishing Reel
  7. SeaKnight Rapid Saltwater Spinning Reel

By the end of this article you’ll know exactly what to look for. Let’s get started!

Best Saltwater Spinning Reels

 Penn Battle II Spinning Fishing ReelKastKing Kodiak Saltwater Spinning ReelRUNCL Spinning Reel GRIM I
editors choice
Bearings:5 + 1 stainless steel bearings10 + 1 shielded stainless steel bearings10 + 1 shielded stainless steel bearings
Gear Ratio(s):6:2:1
Weight:8.1 oz10.1 oz12.8 oz
Rating:4.6 / 5.04.4 / 5.04.8 / 5.0

Saltwater Spinning Reel Reviews

#1 Penn Battle II Spinning Fishing Reel

Penn Battle II Spinning Fishing Reel at a Glance:

  • 5 stainless steel bearings
  • Carbon fiber drag system
  • 6:2:1, 5:6:1, 5:3:1 gear ratios available

The Penn Battle earned the top slot as the best spinning reel for saltwater due to the quality, looks, and name of the Penn brand.

Anglers absolutely rave about this reel and it is specifically designed to tackle big saltwater fish and landing them without a problem.

I’m a fan of the sealed ball bearings myself. Even though they’re stainless steel, saltwater is harsh on parts. That plus the metal aluminum body is ideal for tackling the harshness of the seas wherever you may be.

Aluminum, of course, does not rust so it’s a perfect lightweight body choice.

One of the features of this reel that would be easy to overlook is the spool capacity markers. There are lines on the spool that indicate when the spool is 66% full and 33% full so you won’t be taken by surprise! Not a bad idea, really.

If you’re looking for larger or smaller reels, you can find them here. Everything this reel has to offer is available in 6 different sizes with capacities from 240 yards of line up to 475 yards of line.

Best For: Anglers who want the perfect size and capacity for their needs in a single great reel design.

#2 KastKing Kodiak Saltwater Spinning Reel

KastKing Kodiak Saltwater Spinning Reel at a Glance:

  • Saltwater approved by KastKing
  • 10+1 stainless steel ball bearings
  • Nearly 40 lbs of drag capacity

If you’re looking for a great brand name with a reel that’s approved to stand up to saltwater abuse, look no further! KastKing knows how to make great equipment and this spinning reel is ready to tackle big gamefish in any conditions.

This reel is large and in charge, no questions. It’s available in 5 sizes, all of which are ready to land huge fish.


Because of the 40 pound drag system it’s capable of fighting some massive fish without letting them run.

Of course, reeling against a big gamefish isn’t easy for anyone. That’s why the 10+1 bearing system gets my stamp of approval. The smoother the reel, the better the fight will go for you.

Thus, the extra bearings are a welcomed addition to smooth out any fight.

With a stainless steel shaft, brass gears, and aluminum body there’s nothing in this reel that can be damaged by the corrosion of salt water. It’s going to be ready to go for years to come!

Best For: Anglers looking for the best saltwater spinning reel under $100 with robust internals and corrosion resistance.

#3 RUNCL Spinning Reel GRIM I

RUNCL Spinning Reel GRIM I at a Glance:

  • 10+1 stainless steel bearings
  • Extremely affordable price
  • Aluminum alloy spool

Another saltwater reel that’s ready to take on the fish in one of 5 different sizes. Each size has a different capacity and ideal situation, so consider carefully which is best for you before you make the order!

I had to make a spot on our list for a reel that has a more affordable tilt. This reel comes in at a price that’s just hard to ignore. Of course, cheap isn’t the best in all situations.

Fortunately, it also has most of what we look for in a great saltwater reel.

The machined aluminum spool is pretty standard but ideal due to the corrosion resistance inherent in aluminum. This reel houses the drag knob at the front of the reel like most spinning reels and doesn’t seek to revolutionize anything about the design.

However, there is a swappable handle which can accomodate left hands or right hands. This is actually a pretty good feature on a reel at this price range.

Overall this reel is the best saltwater spinning reel for the money that can get you fishing without breaking the bank or as a gift to a new saltwater fisher.

#4 Piscifun Spinning Reel Lightweight

Piscifun Spinning Reel Lightweight at a Glance:

  • Carbon fiber drag washers
  • Double main shaft bearing 10+1
  • Graphite body

Okay, so let’s take it up a step from budget reel to value reel. If you’re looking for a reel that has everything you need, nothing you don’t, and sits at a price that just makes everything more attractive, then this one is for you!

If you’re not aware, graphite is another corrosion resistant material. It also happens to be insanely lightweight and makes for an amazing reel body.

In fact I like it even more than aluminum, mostly thanks to the slightly lighter weight.

The double main shaft bearing rocks a total of 10 bearings plus a roller bearing. This is more and more common on reels these days, but the high bearing count is never a bad thing. Plus, the sealed stainless steel bearings are perfect for saltwater.

I will admit, I’m a bit of a sucker for the advanced modern design and aesthetic. The colors are awesome and I would not hesitate to add this to my gear!

Best For: Anglers looking for the best saltwater spinning reel under $50 with some really top end features!

#5 Penn Pursuit II Spinning Fishing Reel

Penn Pursuit II Spinning Fishing Reel at a Glance:

  • Graphite body and rotor
  • Oiled felt drag system
  • 4 ball bearings

Penn makes it back on to our list yet again. This time the reel is similar to the Battle II that we reviewed earlier, but with a few changes that make it a bit more affordable.

That doesn’t mean it’s a poorer reel, though!

Let’s figure out why this reel is more affordable than the Battle II reel we looked at before. First off, the oiled felt drag system is a little lower performance.

These drag systems have been popular for years and once were the standard. They’re still great drag systems and they work just fine but lack a bit of the high end performance of carbon.

While the 4+1 bearing system is on the low end, many quality reels use this setup. When executed correctly, like the Pursuit II, they’re just as smooth as any other.

Of course, this reel has some of the same features as the Battle II. One of them that I love is the spool capacity markers. These markers let you know how low the spool is so that you don’t have a fish run with the entire spool.

Best For: A solid platform with reliability that’s dialed in for a budget angler.

#6 KastKing Sharky III Fishing Reel

KastKing Sharky III Fishing Reel at a Glance:

  • Updated for 2018
  • 10+1 bearing system
  • Triple disc carbon drag

KastKing is one of my favorite brands for the money, quite honestly. They always seem to do it right. This reel is no different.

I have to mention that, like many of the high end reels on our list, this one is available in 4 sizes. Each size is larger and can handle more line.

Remember, if you’re using braided line read the specs because it will be different in capacity than mono line.

Like a true workhorse, this reel can crank out up to 40 pounds of drag on fish. Most of the time I think you’ll find that’s more than overkill.

However, if you’re aiming at big gamefish especially for saltwater fishing then you’ll be glad you have the power.

As it should, the reel is made mostly from aluminum and stainless steel to keep everything in top shape when exposed to that corrosive saltwater.

Best For: Anglers looking for the best saltwater spinning reel that’s loaded with top features!

#7 SeaKnight Rapid Saltwater Spinning Reel

SeaKnight Rapid Saltwater Spinning Reel at a Glance:

  • Available in multiple sizes and heights
  • 10+1 bearing system
  • Aluminum construction

Of all the reels on our list today this one has, by far, the most options. There are 4 total models of this reel but they each have some unique features and customizability to suit your needs.

Overall this reel is ultimately a beginner friendly reel at a great price. However, because of the great options, I’d say it makes a solid contestant for any angler.

Under the hood are a wide variety of options from spool sizes to reel length. The larger reels in this series us the lower 4.7 gear ratio which is ideal for hauling in some big fish. The smaller reels are quicker at the 6.2 ratio for fast moving bait and quick retrieval.

I have to say, I’m not a fan of the large round handle knob, but it’s a minor setback on an otherwise good saltwater reel.

Best For: Beginners looking to really tailor their reel to the type of fishing at hand.

Saltwater Spinning Reel Comparison Table

Saltwater Spinning Reel BearingsWeightGear Ratio(s)Rating
Penn Battle II Spinning Fishing Reel5 + 1 stainless steel bearings8.1 oz6:2:1
4.6 / 5.0
KastKing Kodiak Saltwater Spinning Reel10 + 1 shielded stainless steel bearings10.1 oz5.2:14.4 / 5.0
RUNCL Spinning Reel GRIM I10 + 1 shielded stainless steel bearings12.8 oz5.5:14.8 / 5.0
Piscifun Spinning Reel Lightweight10+1 stainless steel bearings8.8 oz5.1:14.5 / 5.0
Penn Pursuit II Spinning Fishing Reel4+1 shielded stainless steel bearings11.9 oz5.2:14.6 / 5.0
KastKing Sharky III Fishing Reel10+1 stainless steel bearings8 oz5.2:14.7 / 5.0
SeaKnight Rapid Saltwater Spinning Reel10+1 stainless steel bearings9.3 oz6.2:14.7 / 5.0

How to Choose a Saltwater Spinning Reel – Buyers Guide

Now since every angler has different needs and preferences, we’ll now take a look at the most important considerations for choosing your next saltwater spinning reel.

Best Spinning Reel For Saltwater
Spinning Reel Design Considerations

Ball Bearings

Bearings are the steel or ceramic balls that help reduce friction around moving parts. Inside your spinning reel you’ll have a set of bearings that help aid in the motion of the reel itself as you turn the handle.

Without them your reel would perform very poorly!

So, what type of bearing is best? In the case of saltwater use we need to be very careful of corrosion. Saltwater is notorious for causing rapid corrosion of metals.

Therefore ceramic bearings are ideal. They’re immune to rust because they’re not metal. Plus, because of how absurdly hard ceramic is, they are extremely effective in reducing friction. They’re one of the most expensive bearing options, however and can be hard to find.

Stainless steel is by far the most common option. These bearings are nearly rust proof and feature 99% of the tangible performance of ceramic. Because stainless steel is made specifically not to rust, it’s very likely to last a lifetime of use in saltwater environments.

Of course there is a difference in performance, but it just depends on how much you’re willing to pay for the increase in performance. What’s it worth to you?

When choosing a reel, look for a higher number of bearings. Some reels go as low as 4 bearings, other reels may go up to 9+ bearings. Generally, as a rule, the more bearings there are the smoother your retrieval will be.

Saltwater Spinning Reel Bearings

Gear Ratios

Gear ratios are an incredibly important but overlooked aspect of choosing the right reel for the job.

Reels with higher gear ratios retrieve line faster and are ideal for quick moving bait. Reels with lower gear ratios retrieve more slowly but offer greater leverage when fighting large fish.

When you see gear ratios written out they will be like this (7.2 : 1). To read them properly think of the first number as the revolutions of the spool.

The second number (usually 1) is the number of turns of the handle. In this instance, every 1 handle turn will produce 7.2 spool turns.

Obviously, the higher the first number the faster the reel. As I mentioned above, fast reels aren’t always the best choices. Slower bait or more leverage may be ideal in many situations where you would want a lower gear ratio.

Anatomy of a Saltwater Spinning Reel
Anatomy of a Saltwater Spinning Reel

Body and Housing Construction

Construction of saltwater spinning reel
Full metal body of the Penn Battle II Spinning Reel

When you start looking at spinning reel construction, you’ll find several different materials being used to create the reel body.

This is the entire housing that the reel sits inside of and provides the structure of the reel components – including the reel stem which connects to the rod.

Metal body construction – is commonly done with aluminum. Many anglers feel that aluminum or metal body reels are stronger and the most capable of handling large fish. I would agree that if you are seeking huge gamefish, a metal body is a smart choice.

Graphite body construction – is extremely lightweight. They make good choices for lightweight rod and reel combos when fishing small to medium fish. Some users complain of brittleness with these reels.

Plastic body construction  is sometimes found in reels, particularly in budget models. When done right, plastic can stand up to the needs of spinning reels. However, it’s often faulted for breaking, bending, and failing due to lack of strength especially compared to aluminum body construction.

Reel Drag Systems

Saltwater Spinning Reel Drag System

Too much drag and you’ll snap the line. Too little drag and you’ll be fighting your catch all day long! That’s why drag systems are always improving and today’s spinning reels have two main types:

Front drag systems are generally considered higher quality due to their improved construction. Why they are made better than rear drag systems eludes me, frankly. However, they do come with one major drawback; they are harder to access while fighting a fish.

Rear drag systems tend to be a little less robust. For saltwater fishing you will probably be targeting larger fish and, therefore, may wish to stay with a front drag system for ultimate durability.

The one major advantage of rear drag systems is that they are much easier to adjust during a fight.

It’s up to you which system you go with. For higher quality brands I really wouldn’t worry about durability issues and instead I would go with a rear drag knob.

However, if you’re specifically targeting particularly large species, err on the side of durability.

Choosing a Saltwater Specific Reel

Saltwater Spinning Reel

While I did mention several components of a good spinning reel which can be saltwater specific, there is another way to choose!

Most manufacturers of spinning reels will carry one or more dedicated saltwater fishing lines of equipment. These reels are made from the right stuff and will be engineered specifically for saltwater use.

If all else fails, just go with a trustworthy manufacturer and look for their saltwater line of products!

Triggerspin Reels

Triggerspin reels combine some of the best features of spinning reels with the simplicity and ease of use that users love from spincast reels.

Triggerspin reels were invented by Zebco (inventor of the spincast reel). They have the same balanced look and feel of a spinning reel, but feature the click button release of a spincast reel.

The reel sits upside down on the rod and hangs naturally in the hand, allowing for easy casting. This also puts the crank on the same side as your off-hand. It’s sort of a hybrid between the worlds of spinning reels and spincasting.

They’re worth considering here because many of you may prefer the ease of use if you’ve been reluctant to pick up a spinning reel due to complication of use.


I tried to make sure that our list of saltwater spinning reels features an array of options. Of course, there are always more reels to consider and tons of manufacturers out there.

If our list doesn’t have something that makes sense for you, then it’s time to revisit the “how to choose” section. Then head to your local trusted outfitter and search for that perfect reel.

For most anglers there’s no need to seek out the absolute most expensive reels on the market. The tangible gains are often negligible and the money spent can feel wasted.

That’s why it’s important to understand what to look for in the perfect saltwater spinning reel and then choose the one that works best for you!

Of course we all have different needs and preferences so consider where you’ll fish, what type of fish and bait you’ll use, and what you like in a reel.

There’s no perfect answer for everyone and most anglers go through many reels during their life, always in search of that perfect one!

Just remember to enjoy your afternoons on the water, no matter what comes your way.

I hope this guide was helpful for finding the best saltwater spinning reel to fit your needs. If you want to comment or recommend a reel I didn’t include, please use my contact form to get in touch.

Have fun and good luck!

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Casey Fielder

I am an avid outdoorsman with experience in naturalist education, outside adventure education, ski instruction, and writing. In addition to my outdoor hobbies, I’m a huge fan of punk rock. I have launched several start-ups. (or business ventures) When exploring the backcountry, I usually carry less than 10 pounds of gear. Years of experience have taught me to pack light. I enjoy sharing my experiences of backcountry education teaching and guiding through writing.

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