When shopping around for the best saltwater spinning reels, there are many factors that go into making the decision of which one to purchase. With so many different brands, lineups, sizes, and price points, it’s often difficult to come to a decision. Some people are brand loyalists, others just trust in the knowledge of their local tackle shops, and more recently, we all tend to get affected by paralysis-through-analysis – consuming too much information on the internet, whether it be message boards or social media.
There’s one thing that will ultimately guide your purchase decision, and that is your budget. You don’t have to spend hundreds of dollars to get a quality saltwater spinning reel. In this guide, we’ll show you a handful of quality reels that will provide years of reliable service, each for under $150.
What makes a reel one of the best saltwater spinning reels?
Making a great reel starts with solid construction using only quality components. Look for materials such as aluminum, stainless steel, brass, titanium, and carbon. When looking at metal components, a machined part is more desireable than a cast part, as much more strength is preserved in the part machined out of a single block of metal. No matter what you reel you choose, keep in mind that saltwater is extremely corrosive and it can ruin any reel in relatively short order. Proper maintenance is key, no matter how much money you spend.
When fighting big saltwater gamefish, one of the most critical components is the drag. Most reels these days are putting out impressive amounts of drag, but it’s not all about drag ratings. The smoothness of the drag is also important, as a fish can make a final run at the boat and the last thing you want to worry about is the drag not release smoothly. A smooth and properly set drag will go a long way in preventing pulled hooks.
Consider the weight of the reel you purchase, as a spinning reel is something you’ll likely be holding onto for a good portion of your trip. Casting for hours with a heavy reel isn’t fun for anyone. You’ll want to save some energy for when you finally hook up on that “last” cast.
Warranty / Service Center
A good reel is an investment, but spending more money up front doesn’t guarantee trouble free service from your reel. Just as importantly, paying more for a reel does not mean you’ll have to service the reel any less. For this reason, it’s important to research the brands you intend to purchase, and make sure there is a convenient service center near your home where you can quickly get your reel serviced or repaired as necessary. Nothing is worse than missing a good bite because your tackle is out of commission.
Daiwa BG (2016 Model)
Our first choice for one of the best saltwater spinning reels is the 2016 model of the Daiwa BG. The new 2016 Daiwa BG has taken the spinning reel market by storm. There is simply no better reel at this price point. Not to be confused with the legendary “Black Gold” series of Daiwa reels, the new BG line of reels offer the latest in materials and technology. These reels offer a black anodized machined aluminum housing (Hard Bodyz), waterproof carbon ATD (automatic tournament drag), oversized digitally cut gear, aluminum ABS spool, machined aluminum handle, infinite or infinite dual anti reverse (depending on model), and a braid-ready spool. Simply put, Daiwa has crammed hundreds of dollars of value into a reel that can be found for under $100.
Components: Made from premium aluminum parts – beautiful black anodized machined aluminum housing.
Drag: Powerful and smooth drag puts out 4lb to 33lb (depending on model)
Weight: Average weight – 8.5oz to 30oz (depending on model)
Warranty: One year
Shimano Socorro SW
Shimano touts “True durability to tackle anything in the salt” when talking about their lineup of Socorro SW reels, and the vast majority of reviewers tend to agree. The internal forged metal hagane gearing gives anglers the strength and durability to fight both inshore and offshore fish. The Socorro also includes X-Ship technology; a cross supported main pinion gear for reduced friction and the ultimate support under heavy loads. Rounding out the features is a cross carbon drag, which allows for a wider range of drag settings and offers the smoothest drag available from Shimano. If you’re looking for a reel in the 5000-10000 size, take a hard look at the Socorro from Shimano.
Components: Quality machined and cast aluminum parts from Shimano.
Drag: Capable of putting out 22lb to 27lb (depending on model)
Weight: Lower than average weight – 15.5oz to 23.5oz (depending on model)
Warranty: One year
The Okuma Azores was designed to handle big fish without breaking the bank. This feature packed reel comes with a list of high-end specs that would be a mouthful for even the most savvy of reel enthusiasts. The reel is based on a rigid cast aluminum body that provides precise tolerances for precision gear alignment, maximum stability and ultimate durability. An oversized main shaft, dual force drag, high performance bearings, dual anti-reverse, and a mechanical stabilizing system round out some of the more notable features. This is a tough built reel built to withstand long battles with tough fish. We have one in our arsenal of school bluefin tuna jigging setups, and it performs as advertised!
Components: Precision built on a cast aluminum body with tight tolerances
Drag: Extremely strong and smooth drag capable of putting out 28lb to 44lb (depending on model)
Weight: Lower than average weight – 12oz to 23.5oz (depending on model)
Warranty: One year
Penn Battle II
When researching sub-$150 spinning reels, anglers have mentioned the Penn Battle II over and over again. This may just be the most popular spinning reel on this list, and for good reason. Penn built off the extremely popular design of the original Battle incorporating a full metal body, sideplate, and rotor, keyed carbon fiber HT-100 drag system, 5+1 shielded stainless bearings, instant anti-reverse, and a braid-ready spool with line capacity rings. This beauty of a reel offers an extremely attractive design, durability, and a silky smooth drag. What’s not to love?
Components: Made from premium aluminum parts – some die cast and some machined.
Drag: Proven Penn HT-100 drag capable of putting out 9lb to 30lb (depending on model)
Weight: Slightly higher than average weight – 8oz to 30oz (depending on model)
Warranty: One year
Fin Nor Lethal
Rounding out our “Top 5” is the Fin Nor Lethal series of reels, specifically in the 60 to 100 sizes. These reels offer all aluminum body and side plate, MegaDrag with carbon fiber washers, MegaLock anti-reverse, muti-layer corrosion protection, and 6 double-shielded stainless ball bearings. These may be one of the best values in saltwater spinning reels today, as you can typically find them for well under $100. They are a little on the heavier side, but they are tanks when it comes to durability.
Components: Made from premium aluminum parts – heavy and built like a tank.
Drag: Carbon Fiber drag capable of putting out 30lb to 40lb (depending on model)
Weight: Slightly higher than average weight – 20oz to 24oz (depending on model)
Warranty: One year
Making a Choice
Hopefully this article has helped you to narrow down your decision of which of the best saltwater spinning reels you will purchase. It would be hard to go wrong with any of the choices listed above, but the list is not meant to be definitive. There are many other great reels out there, and if you feel strongly that one should be on this list, please let us know. Additionally, If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to reach out to us and we’ll do our best to help you make your next purchase decision.
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