Saltwater spinning reels have advanced mightily in recent years. Today’s models boast super-strong gearing, enhanced corrosion resistance, drags with greater stopping power, and more line capacity than ever, thanks to ultra-thin braided fishing lines. When angling techniques call for ripping off quick, long casts with light lures and baits to hard-fighting fish, today’s spinning reels are the tools of choice for saltwater fishing.
Over the past decade, saltwater spinning reels have also grown larger than ever. Big, top-of-the-line offshore spinning reels such as Shimano Stella SW C STLSW30000C and Okuma Makaira MK30000 prove capable of tackling the most powerful species like sailfish, marlin, Pacific halibut, tarpon and big tuna. At the same time, inshore spinning reels such as the Daiwa BGMQ5000-H and Penn Clash II CLAII4000 have established themselves as great choices for targets such as cobia, redfish, snapper, snook and more.
Here are 12 of the best saltwater spinning reels available today, first in the inshore, mid-price range, followed by the best offshore spinning reels, listed in alphabetical order by brand.
Best Inshore Spinning Reels
The BGMQ5000-H from Daiwa represents one of today’s most versatile inshore saltwater spinning reels. Like all models in the mid-priced BG MQ series, it features a Monocoque body with no sideplate, allowing room for a driving gear that’s 85 percent of the diameter of the body surface. Nine rubber seal points prevent water intrusion, and the Advanced Tournament Drag allows for smooth, high drag pressure. This 15.3-ounce reel also features a 5.7-to-1 retrieve ratio and a lightweight Air Rotor that increases the ease of motion and sensitivity. Holding 230 yards of 30-pound-test braid, the BGMQ5000-H spool arbor has a rubberband coating that prevents line slippage.
Fin-Nor Lethal LTH40
The Lethal LTH40 from Fin-Nor boasts high-performance saltwater durability and versatility at an affordable price point. This medium-size spinning reel features an all-aluminum body and sideplate with a braid-ready, machined aluminum spool. The high-lockdown carbon fiber MegaDrag System offers a maximum of 23 pounds of smooth drag pressure. MegaShield multi-layer corrosion protection keeps the reel and its components protected and fully functional in briny conditions. The 19-ounce LTH40 boasts a 5.2-to-1 gear ratio for quick retrieves, and it holds 270 yards of 30-pound-test braid. If you’re in search of one of the best spinning reels for the money, this is it.
Okuma Cedros CJ-6000H
The Cedros CJ-6000H inshore spinning reel from Okuma features rigid and corrosion resistant magnesium and aluminum alloy construction that helps keep its weight to 14.3 ounces, yet provides this medium-size reel with an ultra-sturdy platform. One of six models in the mid-priced Cedros series, the CJ-6000H incorporates Okuma’s DFD—the Dual Force Drag system that results in 33 pounds of maximum drag pressure. The powerful, precision drag system is housed under a machined aluminum two-tone anodized spool with a matte finish to help grip the line and prevent slippage. Boasting a 5.8-to-1 gear ratio, it holds 320 yards of 40-pound-test braid.
Penn Clash II CLAII4000HS
The Clash II CLAII4000HS from Penn combines power, speed, light weight and versatility in an affordable saltwater spinning reel. Featuring Penn’s CNC Gear Technology and HT-100 carbon drag system, the CLAII4000HS weighs just 11.4 ounces, yet offers 15 pounds of maximum drag pressure. This HS model delivers a 7-to-1 gear ratio for fast retrieves. The Clutch Armor System and Hydrophobic Line Roller Bearing add lightweight weatherproofing to protect internal components, while the Leveline Slow Oscillation System guarantees perfect line lay on every cast. Constructed with a full metal body and sideplate, CLAII400HS holds 210 yards of 30-pound-test braid.
Shimano Saragosa SW-A SRG5000SWAXG
The Saragosa SW-A SRG5000SWAXG from Shimano features Infinity Drive Technology to boost the reel’s winding torque under load. A rigid Hagane body won’t flex under immense loads, and the Hagane gearing is engineered to create super-smooth reeling. With an IPX8-rated waterproof body, this mid-priced reel also features a waterproof Cross Carbon drag capable of generating 22 pounds of maximum drag pressure. The 6.2-to-1 gear ratio retrieves 41 inches of line for every tune of the handle. The SRG5000SWAXG weighs 15.9 ounces and holds 225 yards of 30-pound braid.
Van Staal VR125
The medium-sized VR125 from Van Staal is one among six next-generation saltwater spinning models that feature bails, but it can also be fished bail-less with the included conversion kit. The fully sealed body and spool are machined from 6061 aluminum. The VR125 weighs 15.8 ounces and features a 4.8-to-1 gear ratio that retrieves 31.6 inches of line per turn of the handle. A powerful waterproof drag system and stainless steel spiral-bevel gear system provide durability. The VR125 spool holds 400 yards of 20-pound-test braid. The VR125 is priced about 30 percent less than a comparable premium Van Staal X-series model.
Tarpon put big spinners to the real test. | Chris Woodward / Sport Fishing
Best Offshore Spinning Reels
Daiwa Saltiga G20000H
The Saltiga G20000H is the largest model in the Daiwa top-of-the-line Saltiga saltwater spinning reel series. A single-piece high-strength aluminum Monocoque body houses large internal gearing. Weighing 31.4 ounces and featuring a 5.8-to-1 gear ratio, the G20000H has beefy gear teeth for strength. An aluminum heat-dissipating drag knob results in improved cooling, while the Longcast spool enhances casting distance. It holds 440 yards of 80-pound-test braid. The Advanced Tournament Drag offers 66 pounds of maximum drag pressure. Magsealed technology produces a low-friction seal that keeps water, dust and grit from internal components. The Air Rotor is designed for optimal winding smoothness.
Fin-Nor Offshore OFS10500
The Offshore OFS10500 from Fin-Nor features gears constructed of solid stainless steel for high strength and durability, while an aluminum body and sideplate keep the reel lightweight. The sealed Offshore MegaDrag multi-stacked drag system of this big spinning reel is made up of 10 premium carbon fiber and stainless-steel washers, and produces a maximum drag pressure of 55 pounds. A 4.44-to-1 gear ratio gathers 51.2 inches of line per handle turn. Weighing 39.9 ounces, the OFS10500 holds 770 yards of 80-pound-test braid.
Okuma Makaira MK30000
The Makaira MK30000 from Okuma represents one of the best offshore spinning reels on the market. It is also one of the strongest with the frame, sideplates and Cyclonic Flow rotor constructed from A6061 Cold Forged Aircraft Aluminum. The MK30000 features a watertight drag system with three oil retaining O-rings and gaskets that generate a maximum of 66 pounds of drag pressure. The Micro Adjustable Power Drag operates like a lever drag system with a preset and fine adjustment within the range. A machine cut and ported 304 stainless steel main gear is paired with a 17-4 stainless steel pinion gear. The MK30000 has a 5.8-to-1 gear ratio and holds 700 yards of 80-pound-test braid. It weighs 39 ounces.
Penn Spinfisher VI SSVI10500
The standard Spinfisher VI SSVI10500 from Penn features the legendary HT-100 carbon-fiber-washer drag system housed in a fully sealed Superline spool and capable of producing 50 pounds of maximum stopping power. The SSVI10500 has a full metal body and sideplate to keep the CNC gear system aligned under the heaviest loads. An IPX5 rating adds a layer of waterproof protection to the gearbox. A 4.2-to-1 gear ratio retrieves 43 inches of line with every turn of the handle. Weighing 38.6 ounces and equipped with a manual bail to prevent accidental bail trips, this big spinning reel holds 435 yards of 30-pound-test monofilament.
Shimano Stella SW C STLSW30000C
Among the largest of the best offshore spinning reels, the Stella SW C STLSW30000C from Shimano boasts a Hagane super-rigid metal body for improved impact resistance and less flex. Weighing 34.4 ounces, this reel relies on cold-forged Hagane gears for smoothness, strength and durability. Infinity Drive technology optimizes winding torque of the 4.4-to-1 gear ratio. Silent Drive eliminates worm shaft and drive gear play. A Heatsink Drag improves performance by transferring heat away from the spool, reducing spool surface temperature by up to 100 degrees. It offers a maximum drag pressure of 55 pounds. X-Protect and X-Shield guard against corrosion. The STLSW30000C holds 700 yards of 30-pound-test braid.
Van Staal X-Series VS275XP
The X-Series VS275 XP from Van Staal features a bail-less design for a more secure line-roller mechanism and to eliminate accidental bail trips while casting. This reel is constructed with a fully sealed, aircraft-grade aluminum body, titanium main shaft, and stainless-steel spiral-bevel gear system for strength, durability and smoothness. A 4.25-to-1 gear ratio retrieves 40 inches of line per handle turn. The waterproof, sealed drag system features a clicking adjustment knob and produces maximum drag pressure of 42 pounds. The X-Wrap oscillation system results in even line lay for braid or monofilament. The VS275XP weighs 24 ounces and holds 400 yards of 80-pound-test braid.