Finding a baitcasting reel that suits your needs is crucial in order for you to enjoy your fishing trips. There are few things to look out for when picking out a reel specifically made for saltwater use. I’ve therefore made a guide that will teach you what to look for, according to your skill level and needs. Further below I have compiled a list of the best saltwater baitcasting reels, ranging very affordable beginner’s reels to high-end tournament reels.
Look below to find the comprehensive list of the best baitcasting reels for saltwater fishing.
Why should you use a baitcasting reel in saltwater?
Well, there are a couple of reasons why using a baitcasting reel when fishing in saltwater is a good idea. There are however also cases where using a spinning reel is the superior choice. I will list the biggest pros of using a baitcasting reel below.
Getting distance in your casts is often really important when fishing in saltwater because there is a lot of open waters you need to cover. A baitcasting reel will always blow the spinning reel out of the water when it comes to getting some distance between you and your bait. The design of the reel makes the line roll directly off the spool in the direction the spool is spinning, whereas the line slides off the non-moving spool when using a spinning reel, ultimately causing more friction. Perfecting the cast with a baitcasting reel takes practice, and setting up the spool tension and brakes is crucial.
Having gear that is both durable and strong is quite important in most saltwater situations. A baitcasting reel is superior to the spinning reel in terms of strength. This is (as with the distance) due to the angle of the spool, making the spool act kind of as a wrench. Often times, you will end up in a situation where you have to lift a fish directly out of the water and into your boat or onto the dock, where it is critical to have both a reel and a line that can withstand a lot of weight. Naturally, some of the fish living in saltwater are a lot bigger than what you can find in freshwater, making it important for the reel to perform well when exposed to a lot of force in the fighting situation (= a reel that is equipped with a high-quality drag).
After getting used to casting with a baitcasting reel, you will ultimately be able to present your bait with greater precision than when using a spinning reel. This is due to to the fact that you can finely adjust the speed and distance of your bait using your thumb mid-cast to slow down the rotation of the spool. This is also in a way doable when using a spinning reel, but you don’t nearly have as much feeling with the bait as you do with a baitcasting reel. How important it is to be able to make precise casts varies a lot. It all depends on whether you are fishing from a boat, a dock inside a harbor, at the shore, etc etc.
Do you need a special type of baitcasting reel when fishing in saltwater?
The answer is yes and no. It all depends on how often you fish in saltwater, how much money you are willing to spend, and for how many years you want your reel to last. The one big reason why you should consider buying a baitcasting reel specifically for saltwater is to avoid corrosion. If you are fine spending time disassembling your reel and thoroughly cleaning every component after each fishing trip, you might not need a reel specifically for saltwater. I however still recommend you to have a look at the list below because these reels aren’t exclusively for use in saltwater. Some of them can easily be used in freshwater as well. They are only on the list because they are built to better withstand the saltwater conditions, but that does not make them bad reels for freshwater fishing.
What you should be looking for in a good saltwater baitcasting reel
Before picking out your baitcasting reel, you should be familiar with the drag, the brake and the spool tension, and what their primary purpose are. If you don’t know what I am talking about, have a look at this guide on how to use and adjust your baitcasting reel. One thing I did not cover in the guide was gear ratio, so here is what you need to know about that:
The gear ratio indicates the speed at which the reel picks up the line. A gear ratio of 6.5:1 means that the spool will rotate 6.5 times for each full turn you make with the reel handle. The gear ratio on baitcasting reels offers a wider range of gear ratios compared to spinning reels. Most baitcasting reels have a gear ratio from 5.0:1 and up to 9.1:1. This makes gear ratio quite important to look for when choosing your baitcasting reel because you can end up with a gear ratio that is far from suited to your needs and skill level:
Here is a quick rule of thumb: If you’re just starting out with a baitcasting reel, you need to look for reels at the lower end of the scale. If you are an experienced at baitcasting, you might want to look for the faster reels. If you are here to find a reel solely for use in saltwater, I would, however, recommend not going too low on the scale, even if you are a beginner. If you stay above 6.0:1, you should be fine.
Quality is important
…especially when buying a baitcasting reel. If you decide to go with a low-quality reel, you will end up wasting precious fishing time dealing with the dreaded bird’s nests. More birds nests ultimately lead to a ruined fishing line. See where I am going? A bad reel will lead to lots of frustration and more money spent on new lines.
The above is especially important if you are just starting out at baitcasting where a proper brake and spool tension is crucial for you to avoid backlashes and learning how to cast properly. I’m not saying you need to go all out and buy a $100+ reel because there are some affordable good quality reels out there, that includes all the features to help you avoid backlashing.
Need a left-handed baitcasting reel?
No problem. Most baitcasting reels also come in a left-handed version. In the list of the best baitcasting reels below, you can follow the link to the specific reel on Amazon, where it is possible to choose between left or right-handed versions of the specific reel.
Top 4 best saltwater baitcasting reels
No. 4: Piscifun Torrent
- Gear Ratio: 7.1:1
- Max Drag: 18 lbs
- Retrieve Per Turn: 30 inches
- Brake System: Magnetic Brake
- Ball Bearings: 5+1 Shield bearing
- Mono Capacity (lbs/yds): 10lb/120yd
- Braid Capacity (lbs/yds): 30lb/120yd
- Weight: 8 ounces
The Piscifun Torrent reel is a phenomenal reel for the money. It is rocking features that you normally only see in a higher price point reel. What makes this reel an excellent beginners saltwater baitcasting reel is the following.
The gears are made from specific corrosion resistant material. Furthermore, the five ball bearings are shielded to keep them away from the salt, making them last much longer. As you can see, this reel is designed to withstand exposure to the elements when saltwater fishing.
Now the number of bearings (5+1 roller) are not exceptionally high, but they still do the job really well for a reel in the sub $100 category.
The magnetic brake is the weapon of choice for beginners
The reel is equipped with a magnetic brake which is the easiest type of brake to use, because it is as simple as turning the small dial on the side, in contrary to the centrifugal brake, where you need to remove the side panel of your reel. Furthermore, the magnetic brake works throughout the whole cast, whereas the centrifugal brake only works in the first part of the cast.
The wide handle gives you power and comfort
The Piscifun is equipped with an ultra-wide handle, that increases the cranking power. This will especially come in handy when fighting bigger fish. The handle sports EVA knobs, which is quite a popular choice for manufacturers to use on baitcasting reels, because of the durability and level of comfort.
This is a perfect reel for the beginner and intermediate baitcasting fisherman (or woman!) living near a coast. It has a premium feel and some really nice features. I will also recommend this reel if you are looking for a backup reel that will easily withstand saltwater fishing.Buy on Amazon
No 3: Daiwa Coastal TWS T-Wing Reel
A good looking powerhouse with extra line capacity.
- Gear Ratio: 7.3:1
- Max Drag: 15.4 lbs
- Retrieve Per Turn: 32.2 inches
- Brake System: Magnetic
- Ball Bearings: 8
- Mono Capacity (lbs/yds): 14/164, 17/125, 20/100
- Braid Capacity (lbs/yds): 40/190, 55/145
- Weight: 8.2 ounces
The Daiwa TWS T-Wing is a bit bigger and more heavy duty than the previously mentioned Piscifun Torrent. It is however not too big to still be defined as an all-rounder, that is built for saltwater fishing but can also be used in freshwater.
Aircraft grade aluminum
The ball bearings are corrosion resistant, and the spool is made from very tough A7075 aluminum, that is also used in aircrafts and m16 rifles because it is strong, light and highly corrosion resistant.
A big spool gives you more line options
The line capacity is what really sets this reel apart from the Piscifun, since it will easily hold 180 yards of 40 lbs test braid line. This will both enable you to use more line and a heavier (thicker) line. Need a line to go with this reel? I’ve made a buyer’s guide for finding the best baitcasting fishing line, based on your needs and baitcasting experience.
Smooth magnetic brake
Daiwa is known for their smooth magnetic brakes, that will make for great casts, reducing the risk of backlashing. You will furthermore be able to maintain the smoothness in your casts when saltwater fishing, because of the corrosion resistant materials used in the ball bearings and the spool.
I personally really like the design of the T-Wing, because of the blue glossy finish. The reel get scratched easily though, and the scratches will be quite visible, so if you like to keep your gear in pristine condition, you might want to invest in a reel cover. Note that the scratches will not affect the performance or durability of the reel.
The only small drawback to this reel is that the spool tension knob does not have a clicker, making it a bit harder to adjust, because of the missing feedback. It is not a huge deal, but it will require some getting used to if you are used to the clicking feedback like I am.
The T-Wing is a great saltwater reel for the money. It is quite obvious that Daiwa (the manufacturer) focused on this reel to be durable and corrosion resistant when looking at the materials and the features. It only has a few smaller drawbacks being the clicker-less spool tension knob, and that the paint is prone to getting scratches. Therefore, I can easily recommend this reel for people with a bit of baitcasting experience, seeking a premium high line-capacity reel made for saltwater fishing.Buy on Amazon
No. 2: KastKing Stealth
Extremely lightweight reel with an advanced braking system.
- Gear Ratio: 7.0:1
- Max Drag: 16.5 lbs
- Retrieve Per Turn: 31.5 inches
- Brake System: Magnetic and centrifugal brakes
- Ball Bearings: 11 anti-corrosion shielded ball bearings
- Line Capacity (lbs/yds): 10/200,12/165,14/120
- Weight: 5.98 ounces
The KastKing Stealth is a great all-round saltwater baitcasting reel that has some tricks up its sleeve!
Extremely lightweight due to the carbon body
The reel is incredibly lightweight compared to its size. The awesome weight to size ratio is archived because carbon is the main material used with the Stealth. The low weight is a great feature if you (like me) experience fatigue during longer fishing sessions. The carbon body does not only make this reel lighter, it also makes it drastically more corrosion resistant, because carbon is one of the few reel-materials that is not a metal.
The ball bearings are furthermore made of corrosion resistant material. The combination of this reel being made from carbon, with corrosion-resistant ball bearing makes the Stealth by far the best lightweight saltwater baitcasting reel you can get.
The lightweight spool makes it easier on the brakes
As with the other parts, the spool is very lightweight. This means, that there is less rotating weight in the casting situation, which ultimately makes it easier for the brakes to do their thing. When first using this reel, you will probably experience that you do not need as much braking power to prevent overspinning (and backlashes) as with your old baitcasting reel. Let us move on to the special braking system of the Stealth.
The versatile braking system takes some practice
The Stealth has a special brake system that consists of both magnetic and centrifugal brakes. This combination will enable you to control the brake throughout the whole cast since the centrifugal brake is only active at the beginning of the cast, and the magnetic brake is active mostly in the last half part of the cast (but also a bit in the beginning). Using this combination of multiple braking systems is not for the complete beginner, and it will take some getting used to, even for the more experienced baitcasting fishermen. After you have learned how to adjust the two systems, the increased customizability will become a huge advantage, allowing you to adapt easier to different situations, such as the wind, the weight of your bait, the length of the casts etc.
Using the combination of multiple braking systems is not for the complete beginner, and it will take some getting used to, even for the more experienced baitcasting fishermen. After you have learned how to adjust the two systems, the increased customizability will become a huge advantage, allowing you to adapt easier to different situations, such as the wind, the weight of your bait, the length of the casts etc.Buy on Amazon
No. 1: Abu Garcia Revo Toro Beast
High-end “beast” with insane specs – it will give you a smooth performance in almost all situations.
- Gear Ratio: 6.2:1
- Max Drag: 25 lbs
- Retrieve Per Turn: 34 inches
- Brake System: Magnetic and centrifugal
- Ball Bearings: 7 HPCR™ bearings + 1 roller bearing (for increased corrosion protection)
- Mono Capacity (lbs/yds): 14/250
- Braid Capacity (lbs/yds): 30/285
- Weight: 13.83 ounces
If you are in doubt about how this reel stands out from the other reels in this guide, have another look at the name! The Abu Garcia Revo Toro “The Beast” is a heavy-duty monster, built like a tank. The reel comes in different variations, but for saltwater fishing, I recommend size 60 with the 6.2:1 gear ratio.
The carbon drag system says it all
The reel is rocking the Power Stack Carbon Matrix 25 lbs max drag system that is able to deliver a very high drag pressure (7 lbs higher than the second strongest drag in this guide). If you don’t already know it, this means that you will be able to fight some very big saltwater fish, with the drag maintaining its smoothness, ultimately preventing your line from snapping. With this drag, you can easily land 60+ pound tarpon, as well as reds and snook without having to worry about your line giving up, given that you have adjusted your reel correctly.
The combined braking system: powerful, but not for beginners
The braking system consists of both magnetic and centrifugal brakes. Combining the two most popular braking systems is a new trend that only a few manufacturers have tried their luck with. Abu Garcia and KastKing are one of the frontrunners. Abu Garcia has had success with their thoroughly tested InfiniMax braking system. I’ve already discussed the pros and cons of this combined braking system in my description of the KastKing Stealth, but in case you jumped straight to this reel, I’ll give you a quick rundown.
Generally speaking, braking systems that combine magnetic and centrifugal brakes are a bit more complex to adjust, because you need to master two brakes instead of just one. Because of this, I do not recommend starting out with this kind of braking system. If you are experienced (or at least not a total beginner), you should be fine using the InfiniMax braking system, given that you give it some extra attention the first couple of fishing trips.
As stated earlier, the big advantage of this type of system is the limitless adjustments you can make. You can furthermore experiment with how the brake is going to work in different parts of the cast, since the centrifugal brake is most active in the first part of the cast, and the magnetic brake is more active in the last part of the cast.
Comes with three handles
The reel comes with three different handles: a regular dual handle, a power cranking handle with three adjustment options and lastly a counterweighted cranking handle. The extra handles give you great versatility and allow you to bring out the best in this reel in a lot of different situations:
- The dual handle is good for walk the dog baits (surface baits) and jerkbaits. It is in my opinion also the most comfortable handle to use (but that is probably only a matter of habit and taste!).
- The power handle gives you more cranking power – it is good for bucktails and other fast moving baits.
- The counterweighted cranking handle is the least specialized handle of the three, but the most versatile, because it handles so well in most situations (pun intended!).
It is heavy
The Beast is by far the heaviest of the reels included this guide. The increased weight will take some getting used to, and if you are not fishing regularly, it can get a bit tiring if you like really long fishing sessions when you do get out. The increased weight is, however, a small cost compared to the power and durability you get in return.
Not only for saltwater
This is also an excellent freshwater baitcasting reel. The guys fishing for musky went nuts when this came out, primarily due to the power of the drag combined with the customizability of both the braking system and the handle(s).
What sets the Abu Garcia Revo Toro Beast apart from almost all other baitcasting reels is its built quality and customizability. I have not dwelled upon how smooth the reel is, both in the cast and in the retrieve, because smoothness is what you can expect with a reel at this level of quality and price. The build quality is phenomenal, and the customizability shines through when focusing on the handle and the brakes. The only obvious downside is the weight of the reel.
For beginners, the customizability with the brakes will also be quite a downside because of the complexity that the combination of two braking systems brings to the table. So if you do not have any experience with using either of the two braking systems, go for one of the other saltwater baitcasting reels mentioned above. However, if this is not your first baitcasting reel, I can highly recommend buying the “The Beast” if you are going for the bigger, more aggressive fish whether they live in freshwater or saltwater.
However, if this is not your first baitcasting reel, I can highly recommend buying the “The Beast” if you are going for the bigger, more aggressive fish whether they live in freshwater or saltwater.Buy on Amazon
Do not forget reel maintenance
Even though the buyer’s guide below consists of reels that are highly corrosion resistant, it is still a good idea to do some basic maintenance after each fishing trip – especially when exposing your reel to saltwater.
Rinse your reel in freshwater
In a perfect world, you’d take apart your reel after each fishing trip and soak every little component in freshwater. But who’s got time for that? The best advice I can give you is to just rinse your reel and spool thoroughly after each fishing trip. If you forget to do it, it is not the end of the world, because most of the below-mentioned reels are made from corrosion resistant material (or at least the most crucial parts of the reels are).
Oil and grease up your reel when needed
Rule of thumb: Oil goes on bearings and grease goes on gears.
Making sure that your reel is properly oiled is important if you want your reel to perform for many years to come. I will not dwell on this because the specifics of how to apply oil and grease to your reel is covered in the instruction manual of your reel. It does not really matter that much which oil and grease you use, AS LONG as it is made specifically for fishing reels (= don’t use WD-40!). This Abu Garcia reel maintenance kit has got all you need, and it can also be used with other types of reels.