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3 Best Saltwater Fishing Reels 2024

Top 3 Salt Water Reels That Wont Let You Down.

Fishing is 90% confidence. And when you’re bringing in the meanest blue water fish, you need a dependable reel that won’t wig out on you in a fight. The last thing you want is to feel the jolt of excitement when a big one tugs your line only to slump in defeat moments later when it escapes, middle fins to the sky in fishy insult.

The adrenaline that surges through your blood is all you need to fight 250 pound giants and win. That and a sturdy, durable saltwater fishing reel that goes as hard in the watery paint as you do.

Catching a monster of the deep is an unforgettable roller coaster ride, so you want to make sure that your track doesn’t derail just when you get to the top. A solid, durable saltwater fishing reel won’t feel like equipment. It’ll feel like a smooth extension of your very being and this guide shows you exactly how to shop for one no matter what level of fisherman you are.

The Perfect Reel for Everyone

Saltwater reels are classified as high-speed or low-speed. High-speed saltwater reels use a gear ratio greater than 6:1 to retrieve baits at breakneck speed. Low-speed saltwater reels, with a ratio less than 4:1, offer more power for fighting big fish. Some can even let anglers switch from high speed to low speed just by pushing a button.

There are many types of saltwater fishing reels but the two main categories are: spinning and conventional. The spinning reel, also called an open-face reel, is the most popular since it’s easy enough for beginners to learn on and performs well enough for experienced angler’s to depend on. It’s available in a wide range of sizes from super light to heavy duty so you can go for many different types fish.

The spinning reel mounts parallel to the rod and the body of the real is usually made of graphite or aluminum or sometimes a mix of the two. Aluminum is stronger but graphite is lighter, corrosion-resistant and has a little bit more give —  so deciding which is “better” depends on your personal preferences.

You could easily spend $200 on a fishing reel if you’d like something ultra lightweight or designed for a certain type of fish that you want to catch, but our top pick will get the job done just as well most of the time. Similarly, you could go cheaper, but then you’d give up reliability.

Hard-Working Conventional Reels for Sea-Hardened Anglers

The conventional reel is mounted perpendicular to the rod which makes it easier for the angler to know what the fish is doing based on what the line is communicating. Conventional reels are typically lighter and can cast further when paired with the right lure.

Since they are built with less moving parts, the chances of failure when fighting a big fish are lower and they have a larger line capacity, which again comes in handy for the long battles. Conventional reels also prevent line twist which is a common issue with spinning reels due to low-quality swivels, improper loading or just bad technique (never reel against a running fish!).

Two main conventional fishing reels are the lever drag and the star drag. Drag is a friction device composed of two plates located on your reel that lets you control the “run of a fish” by controlling the amount of pressure applied to the line. You want to set the drag tight enough that it tires out the fish when you are fighting it, but not so tight that the line will break under all of the force. Typically the drag should be set to 25% of the breaking strength of the line you are using, which should be clearly labeled (in lbs) on the package and spool.  

The key difference is that star drags don’t let the angler know how much drag has been applied. The lever drag reel has a “lever” so you can tighten or loosen the pressure, while the star drag is a star-shaped mechanism that requires a bit more finesse, experience and instinct.

Reel Shopping Made Easy

Now that you know some of the key components of saltwater fishing reels, take a look at our top 3 choices based on quality, value and experience. While two can be found on Amazon, the third, as of August 2019, is on backorder for 3 months.

You might see some 3 star ratings in the Amazon review sections. For the most part this is because most customers have no idea how to use the reels properly so keep that in mind when you do decide to pull the trigger on a new saltwater fishing reel.


Shimano TORIUM HGA, Conventional Saltwater Star Drag Fishing Reel

Shimano TORIUM HGA, Conventional Saltwater Star Drag Fishing Reel

Equipped with a High Efficiency Gearing system that delivers exceptional strength and rigidity and greatly increases the leverage and power for years of reliable fishing

Shimano Torium HGA is smooth, powerful and frankly a beast. This is a really high quality reel loaded with features like anti-rust bearings, cross carbon drag, and a super stopper.

It casts like a dream, has great drag and is super smooth on the retrieve. The solid aluminum body is very strong and dependable and a hard a worker; as it pulls in smaller fish like they aren’t even there. It’s good for bottom fishing and pulls in rockfish and lingcod at 300 feet with no sweat. If you want to slay some big baddies, this is the reel to get.

  • Cross Carbon Drag gives anglers long lasting smooth drag so you can withstand fast, powerful runs from large fishes
  • Casts really far and easy to maneuver into hard to reach places
  • Anti-rust bearings prevent corrosion (although you should still rinse it with freshwater after using)
  • Strong aluminum body gives you relentless support
  • Winds the line nice and tight so you can avoid issues like line twists

  • Solid aluminum body was a little heavy
  • Higher cost
  • Not recommended for beginners


Shimano Talica II Reel

Shimano Talica II Reels

Offered in single-speed and 2-speed models of varying drag and retrieval speed to cover a wide range of applications

This is a great choice for those looking to get the best value out of their next fishing reel purchase. Offered in single and 2 speed models with various drag and retrieval speeds for many different types of fishing.

  • Offered in single and 2-speed models
  • Casts & retrieves fairly well
  • Arrives Very fast
  • Good option for beginners

  • Customer service was hard to reach
  • Only retrieves up to 60 lbs
  • Line tangled easily (even braided line)
  • Heavy body for its size


Okuma Makaira Offshore Lever Drag Trolling Reel

Okuma Makaira Special Edition OffShore Lever Drag Trolling Reel

Open spool bearings with TSI-301 oil; Increases free spool 2-1/2 times

As of August 2019, this model is currently backordered but there’s a reason why its manufacturer can’t keep them in stock. The carbonite dual force drag system is perfect for bringing in tuna and the custom designed thrust bearing alleviates side load on the heavier settings.

  • Great for catching tuna
  • Dual force alleviates size load

  • Currently on backorder