If you plan to use the reel in saltwater for surf fishing or boat fishing, make sure the reel is equipped with corrosion resistant or shielded bearings. Bearings not designed for saltwater will quickly corrode with ocean use and make reel and drag actions rough.
Furthermore, your purpose of use will depend on the gear ratio and strength of the saltwater baitcasting reel in case your opponent is a shark with up to a 50-pound pull or just a lone redfish.
That’s why a comprehensive review of the 7 best saltwater baitcasting reels is necessary.
7 Best Saltwater Baitcasting Reels (A Complete List)
If you don’t have time or are too busy to choose, consider our quick recommendation:
Shimano Tranx 400 HG
The Shimano Tranx 400 HG is our top pick for the best saltwater baitcasting reel. This reel is designed to handle both inshore and offshore fishing, making it versatile for various fishing conditions.
Anglers who have used the Shimano Tranx 400 HG praise its smooth drag performance and comfortable ergonomic design. It is equipped with a generous line capacity, making it suitable for targeting larger saltwater species.
Daiwa Lexa 400 Hd
The Daiwa Lexa 400 HD baitcasting reel is a high-quality and powerful fishing reel that offers exceptional performance on the water. With its sturdy construction and advanced features, it is a great choice for both beginners and experienced anglers. This reel can withstand heavy use and handle large fish without compromising its performance.
Okuma Komodo SS 463P
The Okuma Komodo SS 463P baitcasting reel is an exceptional fishing equipment that offers unmatched performance and reliability. This reel is designed for heavy-duty use, making it perfect for anglers who target big game species. It boasts a maximum drag of 30 pounds, allowing anglers to confidently battle big fish without worrying about the reel failing under pressure. The drag is smooth and precise, giving anglers full control over their catch.
1. Shimano Tranx 400 (Best For Overall)
The Tranx 400 is known for its strong and robust construction. It can handle heavy loads and withstand the demands of saltwater fishing. The body is made of aluminium, ensuring it can handle intense battles with large fish without compromising its performance.
With a line capacity of 240 yards of 50-pound test braid, the Tranx 400 offers ample space for larger baits or longer casts. This is especially beneficial when targeting big game fish that tend to run long distances.
The reel features Shimano’s renowned Dartanium II drag system, which is popular in high-end fishing reels. What’s striking about this system is the employment of Dartanium, a type of carbon fiber that has been impregnated with for high durability and heat resistance.
In case of high temperature resulted from friction between the reel and fishing line, the drag system can still ensure its performance. The pressure is also well handled with multi-disc design when they multiple discs that are stacked on top of each other to create a larger surface area for the fishing line to contact.
The Tranx 400 is built with a comfortable and ergonomic design, making it easier to handle during long fishing sessions. It features a palmable low-profile design, which aids in reducing fatigue and increasing angler comfort.
The reel comes in two gear ratios, 5.8:1 and 7.6:1, providing anglers with options to adapt to different fishing habitats.
This reel is larger in size compared to other baitcasting reels, making it less suitable for anglers who prefer compact and lightweight equipment. Its bulkiness may pose a challenge when it comes to portability and storage.
Some users have reported issues with the casting control of the Shimano Tranx 400. While it is equipped with a magnetic brake system, some anglers have found it difficult to achieve optimal casting distance and accuracy, especially when using lighter lures.
Despite being built with high-quality materials, some anglers have experienced durability issues with the Shimano Tranx 400. They have reported issues such as handle wobble, drag failure, and premature wear and tear.
In general, what we like about Shimano Tranx 400 is its lightweight (the same weight as Lexa 300) but still being powerful when compared to other models. The striking capacity of this model is also comparable to the Daiwa Lexa 400HD.
2. Daiwa Lexa 400 Hd
This reel is designed for heavy-duty fishing, with a maximum drag of 25 pounds. It has a high line capacity and can handle heavier lines, making it suitable for targeting big game fish.
The Lexa 400 HD features a smooth and precise retrieve, thanks to its six stainless steel ball bearings. Smooth casting and reeling in is guaranteed, enhancing the overall fishing experience.
This reel is versatile and can be used for a wide range of fishing techniques, including freshwater and saltwater fishing. It is suitable for various fishing styles such as baitcasting, trolling, and bottom fishing.
The Lexa 400 HD has an ergonomic design with a comfortable handle grip, allowing for extended fishing sessions without discomfort or fatigue. It also features an adjustable cast control system, providing anglers with more control over their casts.
The Lexa 400 HD is a relatively heavy reel, weighing in at around 16.2 ounces. While some anglers may appreciate the solid construction and durability that comes with the weight, others may find it uncomfortable to use it for extended periods, particularly when casting or retrieving for long hours.
Another drawback is the size of the Lexa 400 HD. This reel is larger and bulkier than many other baitcasting reels available. While this may not be an issue for anglers targeting larger fish species, it can be cumbersome and inconvenient for those looking for a more compact and lightweight option for smaller species or finesse fishing.
The Daiwa Lexa 400 HD only comes with a single gear ratio option, which is 6.3:1. This may not be ideal for anglers who prefer or require a wider range of gear ratios to cater to different fishing techniques or conditions.
In general, the Daiwa Lexa 400 HD can operate smoothly for such a long time without the hassle of pulling it apart to clean and oil it regularly. However, the small minus comes from the plastic side plate in case of big fish with heavy drag encounters.
3. Okuma Komodo 463SS
The Okuma Komodo 463SS is a high-performance baitcasting reel that also comes with several advantages as well as a few drawbacks. Here are some of its pros and cons:
The Okuma Komodo 463SS is versatile and can be used for various fishing techniques such as freshwater and saltwater fishing, casting, trolling, and jigging. It is suitable for both beginners and experienced anglers.
The reel is equipped with Okuma’s ABEC-5 spool bearings, and the 6.3:1 gear ratio allows for fast line retrieval, making it easier to cover more water. What sets Okuma Komodo 463SS spool bearings apart from its counterparts is the satisfaction of ABEC-5 standard.
All bearings are made to very tight tolerances, with very little variation in their size, shape, or surface finish so that they spin smoothly and with very little friction, even at high speeds.
The reel has an ergonomic design with a comfortable handle and a low-profile body, which makes it easy to handle and reduces fatigue during long fishing sessions.
The first disadvantage of the Okuma Komodo 463SS is its weight, at 13.8 ounces, or 391 grams, which makes it belong to the medium and heavy-weight group.
Slightly heavier than Shimano Tranx 400, Okuma Komodo’s reel is still lighter than Daiwa Lexa 400 Hd (15.3 ounces, or 434 grams).
The Okuma Komodo 463SS is a larger-sized reel, which may not be suitable for all fishing applications. Its bulkier design can make it less versatile when it comes to targeting smaller fish species or finesse fishing techniques. Anglers who prefer a more compact and lightweight reel may find the size of the Okuma Komodo 463SS to be a disadvantage.
While the Okuma Komodo 463SS offers a decent line capacity, it may not be sufficient for anglers who require a larger amount of line. This can be a limitation when targeting larger fish species or fishing in deep waters where a longer line may be necessary.
In general, what we like about Okuma Komodo 463SS the most is its toughness. The strong reel frame and its durability enable the reel to withstand heavy fish. Okuma can bring great performance as long as you cast in the suitable distance. The performance might be sacrificed if you aim for far distance.
4. Abu Garcia Ambassadeur C4
The Ambassadeur C4 is built with high-quality materials, namely high-grade aluminium frame and side plates and brass gears, which is to ensure wear and tear resistance and high durability.
This reel features a 4+1 stainless steel ball bearing system, which ensures smooth and consistent casting and retrieving. The bearings also contribute to reducing friction, resulting in excellent line control.
The Ambassadeur C4 is equipped with a centrifugal brake system, allowing anglers to adjust the spool tension and control their casts more effectively. This feature is particularly beneficial for beginners who are still mastering their casting technique.
The Ambassadeur C4 is designed with users’ comfort in mind. It has a compact and lightweight frame, ensuring easy handling and reducing fatigue during long fishing sessions. The reel also has a comfortable grip and a smooth drag adjustment system.
One of the primary disadvantages of the Ambassadeur C4 reel is its relatively high price compared to other baitcasting reels on the market. This can make it less accessible for anglers on a tight budget or those who are just starting out in fishing.
The Ambassadeur C4 reel tends to be heavier than some other baitcasting reels available. This can be a drawback for anglers who prefer lightweight equipment or those who plan on using the reel for extended periods, as it may cause fatigue or discomfort.
Backlash is a common issue associated with baitcasting reels, and unfortunately, the Ambassadeur C4 is not exempt from this problem. Backlash occurs when the spool spins faster than the line can unwind, resulting in a tangled mess. Beginners or those unfamiliar with baitcasters may find it more challenging to avoid backlash with this reel.
Generally, Abu Garcia Ambassadeur C4 is highly valued for its accuracy and outstanding casting ability. The brake pressure is mainly dealt thanks to the centrifugal brake system to reduce backlash.
5. Penn Squall Low Profile Reel
The Penn Squall Low Profile Reel is a popular choice among anglers due to its performance and durability. Let’s take a closer look:
The Squall Low Profile Reel is built to last. It features a strong graphite frame and side plates, which provide excellent rigidity and resistance to corrosion. This ensures that the reel can withstand the rigors of saltwater fishing without compromising its performance.
This reel boasts a powerful drag system that offers smooth and consistent performance. It utilizes a carbon fiber drag washer, which provides excellent stopping power when fighting against large fish.
The Squall Low Profile Reel is versatile and can be used in a variety of fishing scenarios. It features a high line capacity, allowing anglers to target both inshore and offshore species. Additionally, the reel’s gear ratio options offer versatility for different fishing techniques.
This reel is designed with angler comfort in mind. It features an ergonomic handle with comfortable grips, making it easy to handle and control during long fishing sessions. The low profile design also contributes to its overall comfort, reducing wrist fatigue.
Some models of Penn Squall Low Profile reel are heavier than usual. You can consider some of the following options:
Squall Low Profile SQL12: 10.8 ounces (306 grams)
Squall Low Profile SQL15: 11.3 ounces (320 grams)
Squall Low Profile SQL30: 13.9 ounces (394 grams)
Squall Low Profile SQL50: 14.1 ounces (400 grams)
While the Squall Low Profile Reel offers excellent performance and durability, it is priced higher compared to some other reels in its category. This might deter budget-conscious anglers who are looking for a more affordable option.
For anglers who are new to low profile reels, there might be a slight learning curve to familiarize themselves with the operating mechanisms.
Overall, what we like about Penn Squall Low Profile Reel is the variation of reels that enables anglers to deal with different sizes of groupers.
6. Penn Fathom Low Profile Reel
The Penn Fathom Low Profile Reel is known for its robust and long-lasting construction. Stainless steel and aluminium are the two main materials to make it full metal body, gears, and bearings.
Carbon Fiber Drag System is also employed in this reel, which aids anglers in making precise adjustments to the drag pressure, enabling them to handle different types of fish and fishing conditions.
The Penn Fathom Low Profile Reel is versatile and suitable for various fishing techniques. It has a moderate gear ratio, which makes it suitable for both fast and slow retrieves. Additionally, it can handle a wide range of line types and weights, making it versatile for different fishing situations.
The low profile design of this reel provides a comfortable and ergonomic grip, reducing fatigue during long fishing sessions. The reel is also lightweight, making it easy to handle and transport.
The Penn Fathom Low Profile Reel is designed to withstand the harsh conditions of saltwater fishing. It features corrosion-resistant components, including stainless steel bearings and gears, which ensure its longevity even in saltwater environments.
Generally, what we like about Penn Fathom Low Profile Reel is how ergonomic it is along with a double power handle. When it comes to lightweight bait within a good distance, this is a great deal.
7. SHIMANO Curado K Baitcast Reel
At the final of the list, today is the baitcaster reel from SHIMANO Curado, a brand name that goes back for decades. If you enjoy the comfort of using a product that stands the test of time, suffice it to say that this model from SHIMANO will not let you down.
With the incorporation of the MicroModule Gearing, a Curado reel prides itself on the high level of efficiency and smoothness. Even better, the SVS Infinity braking system will spare you the worry of not being able to control the spool.
Feel free to cast, reel in, and adjust the baits and lures whenever necessary with its heavy brake force.
Personally speaking, the feature that catches my attention the most is the X-Ship technology. By applying bearings to the pinion gear on both ends, a Curado reel can remain sturdy even under the heaviest loads, which helps minimize the friction between the gear and the spool shaft.
This way, rest assured that your baitcasting reel can last up to years, balancing out the initial amount of investment.
Still, there have been complaints about the weight of this product. SHIMANO Curado can be a bit hefty to swing around, so you might get worn out after using it after a long fishing day.
MicroModule Gearing and SVS Infinity braking system.
Long-lasting with X-Ship technology.
Every Thing You Need To Know For The Saltwater Baitcasting Reels
To purchase the best saltwater baitcasting reel, you cannot simply walk into a store and make a decision on the spot. It takes research and getting to know the product before realizing what works best for each angler. If you are confused as to what to look for in a reel, the buying guide below might be helpful.
Budget Baitcasting reels
Determining how much you are ready to spend on a reel plays an irreplaceable role in the outcome. There are products that cost around $80, while other more expensive models come at no less than $200.
While the former seems to be more economical, it can charge you more in the long run, as the quality of cheaply made reels is not that impressive, and frequent replacements are bound to happen.
Vice versa, investing in a high-end reel means more money is required upfront, but you are less likely to buy another one anytime soon. If the circumstances allow, you are advised to go for the most expensive reel within your budget.
Strength and durability
In most cases, how strong a reel is will depend on its price tag. Of course, you can still come across a reasonably priced reel that lasts for years, but it is not very common.
A costly reel tends to last longer than a cheap counterpart, given the material used and the build quality.
Therefore, look closely at the reel and make sure it is made from aluminum and/or industry-first stainless steel – the two most popular substances in reel-making. Ask previous buyers and manufacturers for the estimated lifespan of your product so that you know what to expect.
If the product seems flimsy and feeble, opt for another option that speaks of sturdiness.
When you engage in saltwater fishing, your reel will be exposed to a high content of salt, causing rust on the surface.
Hence, make sure to check out if the external layers of your reel are properly coated with corrosion-resistant paint.
While the impact of saline solution is not visible within a few days, it certainly can end up being a disaster if the reel is left untreated for too long. If this is the case, then the reel will soon deteriorate in quality.
Saltwater fish target and fighting characteristics
Understanding the species you set your eyes on will narrow down the types of reels suitable for your fishing trip.
For example, going up against fully-grown catfish or sea bass requires a heavy-duty baitcasting reel that can stand its weight. But if you aim at smaller fish only, there is no need to use a tournament-ready reel.
Anything streamlined and designed for inshore fishing would suffice. Furthermore, fishing species also affect your use of lures and baits.
To trap fast-acting fish, fast lures are the best company for your reel. Getting hold of these lures calls for the use of a gear ratio of 7.1:1 and beyond.
At the same time, should you use typical baits, a mid-range gear ratio of around 5.1:1 to 6.1:2 will do the job.
See also: baitcaster reel ratio chart
Experience and skills
Some reels are more straightforward and easier to use, as they only incorporate the most functional features. Others are on the complicated side, with extra attributes that may confuse people with little experience using a reel.
For beginners, it is best that you stick to standard reels, which allow you to fish comfortably.
Once you have harnessed enough aptitude for fishing, gradually upgrade your fishing gear to the next level with advanced reels. Do not try to look sophisticated by using a professional reel unless you are fully prepared.
Types of best baitcasting reels for saltwater
Saltwater baitcasting reels have two variants: low profile and traditional reels. The former is more flexible and has a compact design, making it a popular choice for those new to the game.
However, low-profile reels are not as capable of handling big fish as their traditional counterparts.
Their small size ends up preventing them from having a bigger drag maximum and line capacity, so low-profile reels are mostly suitable for inshore fishing only. At the same time, traditional baitcasting reels are not proud of their enormous spool and frame.
At first glance, these items are bulky and cumbersome, making them less than ideal. But if you intend on catching serious fish in the sea, nothing beats the good old reels.
With a much more powerful drag, line capacity, and durability, you will be surprised at how efficient these reels are despite their unappealing appearance.
Between these two options, many anglers believe low-profile reels are much better than traditional reels due to their accuracy and ease of usage. They are also beginner-friendly and highly versatile.
However, it is not always the truth. Suppose you want a reel that fits your needs and reflects your fishing intentions. This way, you can go with something that actually works in your favor.
Drag maximum refers to how much stopping power a reel can produce when put into use. Unlike freshwater fishing – which does well with a drag maximum of up to 12 lbs – saltwater fishing needs at least 20 lbs to work properly.
If the drag maximum is too lightweight, you cannot expect to reel in aggressive fish. Sometimes, you even have to rely on a 30lbs drag power for a particularly combative catch.
Line capacity fishing reel
Line capacity means the maximal amount of fishing line that goes into your spool.
The higher the line capacity is, the longer line you have available for casting at great distances.
When looking at the line capacity, it is important to also look at the type of fishing line implied.
For instance, “20lbs monofilament 200 yards” is not the same as “20lbs braided 200 yards.”
Thus, be sure to double-check the type of fishing line you are going to use and how much of them will be spooled.
Generally speaking, anglers recommend a 20-25 lbs braided line for shallow fishing and a 50 lbs braided line if you want to go deeper.
Construction and materials
Saltwater baitcasting reels are mostly made using aluminum. Plastics and graphite are also two common choices, albeit less welcomed among experienced anglers. This is because aluminum provides the highest level of robustness and longevity, ensuring a performance that lasts for years.
That being said, aluminum can be a bit rigid and heavy, so you have to spend quite some time familiarizing yourself with its mechanism. On the other hand, graphite and plastics are much more agile and lightweight. They are less likely to crack and can easily bend without snapping in half.
Nevertheless, they are mostly found in cheaply made products only.
While you can tolerate a graphite reel, it is best to stay away from anything plastic.
If you browse hard enough, you might also spot reels made from stainless steel and brass. Both of them are corrosion-resistant and sturdy but not as reliable as aluminum.
Therefore, most manufacturers prefer using the material for small components, not the entire frame.
Bearings are included in all reels to reduce friction, stabilize each cast, and support the overall performance. Both the crank arms and the spools have a bearing system so that all moving parts can coordinate smoothly.
When it comes to saltwater baitcasting reels, you are sure to come across double-shielded, stainless steel ball bearings. While the form and material are identical, the number of bearings available in each reel varies significantly.
Some have 4 ball bearings, while others include up to 8 ones. Contrary to popular belief, more bearings do not always equal better quality. Instead, you should pay more attention to the material and quality of the bearings.
Whether you’re fishing inshore or offshore, these reels will provide you with the control, accuracy, and power needed to tackle saltwater species.
Remember to consider your specific fishing needs and preferences when selecting the best baitcasting reel for saltwater fishing.
So, gear up with one of these top-rated saltwater baitcasting reels and get ready for a successful and enjoyable fishing experience
Born in Lakeland, Florida, Daniel has started fishing since he was just a tiny little kid. His father was a real good fisherman, as he taught Daniel tricks and tips to catch the fish better. From those childhood memories, Daniel has built up his love for fishing. Until now, he has been participating in several bass tournaments and currently serves as the Chief Editor of fishingonsunday.com to share his precious knowledge and experiences with many more people.