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Last updated: April 04, 2021
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When you start out in the world of fishing, you will come across a debate regarding spinning reels and baitcasting reels, and which is likely to be better for you. A good baitcasting reel (or baitcaster, as you may hear it described) is good for extra power and control. It doesn’t mean spinning reels are useless, but there will probably come a time where only the best baitcasting reel for saltwater will do.
Saltwater can corrode and oxidize metal at a faster rate, so some brands have made reels with specific features for saltwater and the ability to last years. Important features you should look out for include the gear ratio, maximum drag, line capacity of the reel, as well as the number (and quality) of the bearings. We’ve taken all of this into account when creating our reviews and discussing the merits of various models. Other features and functionality such as the handle position have been considered, too.
Our team of researchers have spoken with fishermen, gained first-hand experience of using baitcasting reels and spent weeks researching the top options to help saltwater fishers get the top model for their own needs. We’ve also included useful information from the manufacturers to help create a comprehensive guide for you. Our research is presented as a table of the top products, detailed reviews of selected products and lists of their features and also a buying guide to let you choose which is most suitable for you.
Our editor’s choice is a wonderful baitcasting reel for saltwater, the Abu Garcia Revo. It has some great reviews and though this is not a cheap baitcaster it certainly has plenty of features people love.
The manufacturers say that this has been designed with inshore fishing in mind. The X2-Craftic frame has been designed to help it stay resistant to rust and other corrosion even when spending time near saltwater.
An anti-reversing system means that the reel will help you to avoid those annoying situations where you start to lose control.
The IVCB variable centrifugal brake offers a system which is adjustable and does a brilliant job of avoiding birds nesting and keeps the reel in good condition.
Another excellent inclusion is the “Carbon Matrix Drag System” which is designed to give a huge level of drag and help no end when fighting those big fishes in your nearest saltwater fishing spot.
There are six standard steel bearings which is not unusual for this type of reel, but the one extra roller bearing is an interesting addition to help with corrosion and also exceptionally smooth functionality and usability.
What we liked:
7 bearings for smooth use and durability
Exceptional brass gear built to last years
Very high drag making this suitable for use with even big, heavy and powerful fish
Easy to cast
Holds a lot of line, especially braided line which some other baitcasters struggle to hold a lot of
What could be better:
Not a cheap option so better for professionals and serious fishermen
The SHIMANO TRANX TRX400AHG LowProfile Baitcasting Reel is another model from a popular manufacturer. Shimano produce a lot of fishing products and tackle, and this is the best low profile baitcasting reel for saltwater within their range.
This product has dealt with issues around durability by providing a protected inner body using their ‘CoreProtect’ technology. This means that the rigid aluminum used to make it is resistant to any corrosion, especially in the center of the reel. It is a great way to prevent any corrosion issues.
The drag capacity is good, though there are better on the market. It means that relatively big fishes can be kept on the line and tired out, making it easier to catch them.
The six high quality bearings keep things very smooth during operation and a gear ratio of 7.6:1 gives a lot of control over fast reeling in and out. This is aided by X-Ship and HEG tech which are in place to help the cranking power and allow you to throw large bait smoothly.
The TRANX range is pretty large and there are multiple options in terms of sizes, so if this option doesn’t suit you exactly it is worth considering others. They can be used in saltwater and freshwater equally effectively.
What we liked:
Avoids backspin and bird nesting on your line
Extremely durable and well-protected, made out of quality materials
Smooth and easy to cast even large bait
What could be better:
Drag resistance is high, but not as good as some other baitcasting reels
The T-Wing design is quite unusual, but make for a top baitcasting reel in the Daiwa Coastal TWS T-Wing Reel. The EVA knobs give a high level of craking power and many users of this reel speak highly of how easy it is to cast. This is a lightweight and very flexible real.
It has a set of 7 corrosion resistant bearings, which shouldn’t be an issue for corrosion. The ‘tournament drag’ means up to 15.4 lbs of drag, enough for some pretty sizeable fish to be tussled with on the water but not as high as some of the others.
In spite of the small and lightweight size this reel manages to have a very high line capacity.
The brass gear also further adds to the durability of the model. On top of this, many have spoken about the gear ratio, and that between 7 and 8:1 gives a brilliant level of control and feels right for these sort of reels. The 7.3:1 capacity offered here is about right. For small and medium fish, this feels brilliant to use and makes the fish feel even lighter and easier to catch than they are.
For a light, nimble and flexible baitcasting reel, this model is worth considering.
What we liked:
Excellent magnetic casting
Impressive line capacity considering the size of the reel
Designed for both saltwater and freshwater fishing
Not everyone who is into fishing is in a position to spend a fortune on their gear, and value for money is important. The Ardent Apex Pro 7.3:1 Ratio Baitcasting Reel gives a wonderful option for those who don’t have the highest budget. The features are actually pretty impressive considering the fact this is mid-range in terms of price.
11 good quality bearings are one of the features which stands out. It means that cranking and casting is pretty simple and feels good for the user.
The brake system is another big plus point for this reel, it has a huge level of adjustability, and the 270-degree system can be altered externally to the reel itself to suit your own preference and needs.
This is a lightweight reel, and though not as strong as some of the other models on the list, it does have a decent level of strength to ensure it will last the user. It has a quality aluminum frame and although it could perhaps do with a little more corrosion-resistance, this is due to the price point.
The drag of 11 lbs is not great for huge fish, so if you plan to go saltwater fishing somewhere to get some real big fish, this may not be the best call.
What we liked:
Impressive three-year warranty offered by the manufacturer
Lightweight but still relatively durable
11 bearings help with the casting
What could be better:
Could do with more drag resistance as it only has 11 lbs
Are you in the business of catching huge fish? The KastKing Spartacus Maximus has an impressive and intimidating name and it lives up to it with its absolutely huge drag capacity. This is why we recommend it for saltwater fishing in areas where you’re likely to catch something larger.
11 bearings are included for casting and for cranking, and these make your life easier when controlling your reel.
This is made out of some brilliant materials as you would probably expect from something so durable. Brass gears and an aluminum spool help this stay strong and resistant to rust and corrosion over time. The reel is designed to take on even fish which fight back in the water, so it needs to be well-made.
The brakes have 16 different adjustable levels, designed to help you avoid backlash and stop any bird nesting from occurring. The 6.3:1 gear ratio is a little lower than many of the other options which makes reeling a little bit more of a challenge but it certainly isn’t uncomfortably low.
No baitcaster under $50 can compare with this reel. Though it doesn’t feel quite as nimble and flexible as some of the others, it is hard to argue that this baitcasting reel under $100 has such a brilliant level of durability. Perfect for trying to catch something big.
What we liked:
Good quality product with high levels of durability
Great for bigger fish due to the high level of drag
Abu Garcia baitcasting reels have a huge level of variation in terms of price, and some of their baitcasters are far more affordable than others. One of the cheaper options, which still has plenty to offer, is this, the Abu Garcia Pro Max Low Profile Baitcasting Fishing Reel.
Though this reel is affordable, it’s great as a first baitcasting reel for those looking to make an upgrade from spinning reels.
The line capacity is a little lower than many of the products on this list so this could be a negative, but actually, the product is not short of other features.
It has a customizable brake system made by MagTrax and this allows you to choose the brake pressure to best suit your range and how accurate you are.
The drag is actually pretty impressive for such a lightweight reel. It is just 7.4 oz, so great for long sessions of fishing, but it can also prepare you for a battle with some pretty large fish with a bit of power.
The spool is aluminum and as with many other reels the gear is made out of quality brass. The design of the overall reel is one-piece, with a frame made of graphite. This is fine, but if one small area cracks or breaks it could be game over for your reel.
What we liked:
Lightweight and good for long sessions of fishing
Good drag capacity considering the weight
Great brake system
What could be better:
Slightly low capacity for line
If the graphite breaks, there is no option to repair it
On all of the lists of top fishing equipment we create, we try to add budget options for those who are trying not to spend too much money. Fishing can be an expensive hobby. The Piscifun New Phantom Carbon Baitcasting Reel is our budget pick, giving a set of top features without costing a huge amount of money.
The 7.0:1 ratio is good for casting and is pretty standard for this type of reel. There are six steel bearings, and a further clutch bearing, all of which have been reinforced to keep it durable.
The aluminum and pinion gears are good quality, though they don’t offer quite the same as the brass options listed above.
17 lbs of drag is good for many of us, as long as you aren’t going fo any absolutely huge fish then this should be suitable.
The brake allows you to make six different adjustments to suit your own preference and avoid backlash.
Reviews speak of this reel very positively with many people speaking of how the Piscifun New Phantom Carbon Baitcasting Reel feels like a brilliant reel which should have cost far more than the price tag it is at. To be able to get a quality reel under $100 is fantastic.
What we liked:
Great braking system which is adjustable
Quality and durable bearings
Feels like a much more expensive reel
What could be better:
No brass construction in the gears
Low line capacity
Things to Consider
We’ve put together a buying guide to help you make your decision on which baitcasting reel is most suitable for your needs. Even having read the reviews above, there is plenty to consider when it comes to choosing a reel and you need to know which features you should be prioritizing. This will be different depending on where you fish and the type of fish you are aiming to catch. Our buying guide is here to help you to find the best baitcasting reel for saltwater.
Choosing the right fishing reel for you is about working out the specific needs you have, the budget you have, and then finding a suitable option within these criteria. For some, you might want a high drag for big fishes, or you might be looking for the best gears to ensure quiet and smooth operation. Spending some time educating yourself on reels, and what you need from yours, will help you choose the right fishing reel.
Reasons to get a top-quality baitcasting reel for saltwater
Saltwater can be a little more demanding on your gear and certainly means you should be looking for a durable baitcaster. If you don’t get something durable, then you can end up with issues which come from oxidization and very quickly see your reel starting to corrode. This means that using it long term is not going to be an option as it is likely to break.
Also, a low-quality reel can make life really difficult for you, add to the issues and challenges and ultimately sap a lot of the fun out of your fishing. If you’re looking to have as much of a good time as possible, make your life easier and ensure you can actually catch some fish!
Features to consider when choosing a saltwater baitcasting reel
The following features are those we’ve picked out as being the most important when you are choosing your baitcasting reel for saltwater. We’ve provided descriptions of what these mean to help you navigate the product descriptions you will find in the market.
Bearings are important for making your casting feel smooth and keeping it quiet, easy and accurate. Some models on this list have only five or six where some, like the Ardent Apex Pro Baitcasting Reel have up to 11.
Extra bearings can make the casting easier and much smoother but the actual quality of the bearings and materials they’re made out of is even more important.
Steel bearings are pretty standard, and these will last longer.
The gear ratio basically means how many times the spool rotates with each turn of the handle. This closely relates to how fast and easy it is to reel in your line. A 7.0:1 ratio means seven rotations per handle crank. There is some level of personal preference in gear ration, but between 7.0 and 8.0 is pretty standard for a baitcasting reel, and is what a lot of people prefer. A higher gear ratio would be something like 9.3:1, whereas they can go as low as 5.0:1, even on this list, the lowest ratio is 6.0:1, offered by the KastKing Spartacus Maximus.
Drag is to do with the weight the fish you hook will feel from your rod. The higher the maximum drag level listed in the product, the more you will be able to tussle and wrestle with larger creatures. This means you can tire them out, and therefore they will be easier to catch. If you only plan on going to waters where smaller fish reside then you don’t need to worry about this too much.
However, if you plan to catch a real trophy fish you might want to think about a higher drag.
Line capacity is one of the simpler aspects to understand. The higher the line capacity, the more line can be fit into your reel and then cast out. There are a few numbers here which explain how much length you can have dependent on which thickness and variety of reel you opt for.
Reel handle position
Whether you’re left or right handed, and the style you use to fish, should be considered here. Will you be casting left or right-handed? Choose where your handle needs to be. Most have options with both left and right-handed handle positions but the Ardent Apex Pro Baitcasting Reel is an example of one which is only available in right-sided handle position. It may sound incredibly basic, but it is all too easy to order the wrong reel and end up with one which is no use to you whatsoever.
Braking systems can be magnetic, centrifugal or a combination of both. You may also have different options to adjust the feel of your braking system to suit your fishing style. Ultimately, it is worth reading reviews to hear the experience people have with their braking system. The idea is that they stop backlashes, which can cause tangles in the reel and wire getting a ‘birds nest’ effect, which is not desirable and can cost you a lot of time as you try and fix the issue and untangle it before resuming you fishing. During this time, your dream catch might have got away!
A lower reel weight can prepare you for longer days of fishing. This is about your comfort while you are fishing. Most of the reels on this list are pretty lightweight, for instance, the Editor’s Choice, the Abu Garcia REVO, has a weight of 7.9 oz. which is good for long sessions of fishing. Our Budget Pick reel, the Piscifun New Phantom Carbon Baitcasting Reel has one of the lightest baitcasting reel weights out there, at just 5.7 oz.
The retrieve rate is tied to the gear ratio and just refers to how quickly the line can be retrieved when you need to bring it back in. A higher gear ratio will mean a faster retrieve rate, but the speed and ease of the handle also play a part here.
What is the frame made out of? You need something durable to ensure years of use from your baitcasting reel. There are a variety of aluminums used here, as well as newer, more experimental materials. For instance, the Abu Garcia Pro Max Low Profile Baitcasting Fishing Reel is made largely out of graphite.
How to look after your saltwater baitcaster
There are just a couple of simple steps you need to take to properly look after your baitcasting reel. Make sure you clean it thoroughly after each use. This is especially relevant for saltwater, which can corrode your reel quicker. Also, you need to regularly lubricate the gears to keep them working at their top potential and not rubbing against each other and corroding.
There is no simple answer here, for beginners, it may be easier to start with a spinning reel, but over time it is likely that you will want to upgrade to a baitcaster as they can offer a higher level of accuracy, and many people prefer using them for this reason.
Finding the line for you will depend on the capacity you have available as well as which material you opt for. You can get line made of fluorocarbon or monofilament, and other options such as braided or fusion are suitable for using in these sorts of reels, and in saltwater.
The Abu Garcia REVO Inshore Low Profile is our Editor’s Choice and we’ve given this model a rating of 9.8/10. You will struggle to find a better, smoother baitcasting reel for saltwater on the market today, and this provides an excellent level of quality as well as a high drag resistance at 24 lbs, meaning bigger fish can be caught.
Another of the best baitcasting reel for saltwater nominations, the SHIMANO TRANX TRX400AHG is highly recommended as it does a wonderful job of keeping in good condition for years, the CoreProtect technology helps the vital core of this model avoid corrosion. It is rated 9.5.
Another reel with a lot of quality is the Daiwa Coastal TWS T-Wing Reel, rated 9.3/10 on our list. The unusual T-Wing design may be preferable to you, and if so, this is a good value choice which can last many years of use even in saltwater conditions.