Best Saltwater Fly Reels for the Money in 2021

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Saltwater fishing has long been viewed as a far more luxurious (and far more expensive!) big brother to freshwater fishing. 

However, that doesn’t always have to be the case. 

If you’re like me, and you enjoy getting out on the open water from time to time, you might be looking for ways to increase your enjoyment without increasing your budget. 

Luckily, there is lots of budget saltwater fishing equipment out there to help you meet your goals.

Not sure what to look for?

In this article, I’ll walk you through all the steps you need to take – and considerations you need to make – when you are buying one of the best saltwater fly reels for the money. 

After all, you shouldn’t have to go into debt to enjoy a day of offshore or inshore fishing.

Best Saltwater Fly Reel for the Money 2021

Okuma SLV- 5/6 Diecast Aluminum Fly Reel, Light Silver
Okuma SLV- 5/6 Diecast Aluminum Fly Reel, Light Silver
Made of highest quality material; Manufacturer: Okuma; Okuma slv Super large arbor fly reel 1 RB 5/6 wt 12/140
Ross Reels Evolution LTX Fly Reel
Ross Reels Evolution LTX Fly Reel
Drag System: disc; Diameter: [3/4] 3.42in, [4/5] 3.48in, [5/6] 3.83in, [7/8] 4.03in; Fly Line Weight: [3/4] 3-4wt, [4/5] 4-5wt, [5/6] 5-6wt, [7/8] 7-8wt
Redington BEHEMOTH Fly Reel
Redington BEHEMOTH Fly Reel
Redington Behemoth Fly Reel
Waterworks-Lamson Guru Series II Fly Reel
Waterworks-Lamson Guru Series II Fly Reel
Material: 6061 aluminum, stainless steel; Drag System: conical disc
Redington RISE Fly Fishing Reel
Redington RISE Fly Fishing Reel
CNC machined, anodized 6061-T6 aluminum design with quick release spool.; Ultra-large arbor design for quick line retrieve.
Hatch Gen 2 Finatic 7 Plus Fly Reel, Clear/Blue, Large Arbor
Hatch Gen 2 Finatic 7 Plus Fly Reel, Clear/Blue, Large Arbor
Significant performance improvements and aesthetic enhancements

Last update on 2021-10-19 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Top Saltwater Fly Reels for the Money

Here are the top 9 fly reels on the market today!

Piscifun Sword Fly Reel

Backed by a generous (and let’s be honest, usually unheard of!) three-year warranty, the Piscifun Sword Fly Fishing Reel is one of the best saltwater fly reels for your money.

Not only is it made out of durable aluminum alloy, but it’s also totally anodized for added corrosion resistance. 

It comes with a smooth multi-disk stainless steel and cork drag system along with a one-way clutch. 

This clutch makes it possible for you to engage your drag immediately – and in an effortless fashion.

The reel also comes with a silent retrieve, equipped in several weights and sizes. You can use it to fish as small as tiny sea trout or as large as the biggest tuna. 

Pros:

  • Backed by a generous three-year warranty
  • Available in several sizes and weights
  • Has a smooth multi-disc cork and stainless steel drag

Cons:

  • Some users report some durability issues when used for large fish species

>>Check Price on Amazon<<

Okuma SLV Fly Reel

Often one of the least expensive saltwater fly reels you will find, the Okuma SLV Diecast Fly Reel is made out of durable die-cast aluminum. 

It’s equipped with high-quality features, including stainless drag washers and a multi-disk cork system.

The reel is made out of durable stainless steel, offering silky smooth performance and phenomenal longevity. It has a large arbor shape that offers exceptional capacity and makes it easier for you to retrieve your line.

It can be purchased in several different line weights. Although its design isn’t anything special, its performance is really to be respected.

Though it’s somewhat on the larger size, coming in at just under 12 ounces, it is nonetheless a durable and high-performing reel for your money.

Pros:

  • Constructed with durable aluminum
  • Made with several different line weights
  • A cost-effective reel that’s great for beginners

Cons:

  • Large reel that isn’t as lightweight as you might expect

>>Check Price on Amazon<<

Ross Reels Evolution LT 

If you’re shopping for a new saltwater fly reel on a budget, you’ll want to consider the Evolution LTX. Made out of machined T6 aluminum alloy, it is not only corrosion-resistant but also incredibly strong as well.

It’s equipped with a high-quality drag system that offers four times the strength of previous models. It is designed for serious anglers who don’t want to waste any time out there on the water. 

It offers clean line retrieval and is perfect for moderately sized fish like redfish and bonefish.

Of course, if you’re going after bigger game, you’ll want to upgrade to one of the larger models – but there are plenty of weights for you to choose from regardless.

A lightweight reel, it comes with a variety of arbor sizes. You’ll be able to select the one that matches best with your favorite rod for excellent line retrieval.

One other feature of this rod that is definitely worth mentioning is the fact that it is easy to disassemble. 

Because of this, you can rinse it clean to prevent any damage – and it’s so quick to do so, you won’t feel like it’s a chore after a long day of fishing.

Pros:

  • Easy to take apart for quick cleaning
  • Has a superior drag system that can handle all kinds of fish 
  • Corrosion-resistant T6 aluminum construction

Cons:

  • Low line capacity 

>>Check Price on Amazon<<

Redington BEHEMOTH Fly Reel

Designed for going after large fish, the Redington Behemoth Fly Reel is one of the best for saltwater anglers. 

It has a patented carbon fiber drag that offers a whopping 30 lbs of drag pressure – that’s much more than you might be used to, and trust me, much more than you will probably ever need.

Nonetheless, this reel has the stopping power necessary to halt the largest fish in its tracks.

It also has plenty of potential in terms of its line capacity. It can hold all the backing you need with its deep V spool design. 

Made out of diecast aluminum, the reel is high-performing and weighs just under 11 ounces. Its drag isn’t sealed, but it’s important to note that the reel is available in several sizes (all the way up to line weights of 11/12). 

Pros:

  • Lightweight and versatile reel
  • Exceptional drag
  • Good line capacity 

Cons:

  • Drag is not sealed

>>Check Price on Amazon<<

Waterworks-Lamson Guru Series II Fly Reel

When you’re looking for a high-quality saltwater fly reel, you’re going to want to choose one that is made out of durable materials by a reliable manufacturer.

The Waterworks-Lamson Guru Series II Fly Reel checks off both boxes. It’s made out of durable machined 6061 aluminum with Type II anodization along with stainless steel. 

As an added bonus, it’s one of the few saltwater fly reels you will find that’s made right here in the United States. 

You can count on this reel’s quality and longevity while you’re out there on the water. Its conical drag is fully sealed, helping to keep both saltwater and debris away from the moving parts of your reel. 

This reel is available in several sizes, starting as small as 3/4/5 weight and going as large as 10/11 weight. It is a reliable reel at an ultra-affordable price. 

Pros:

  • Has increased line drying capacity 
  • Great line retrieval rates
  • Curved cross section arbor improves stability 

Cons:

  • Pricier model

>>Check Price on Amazon<<

Riverruns Z Fly Fishing Reel

Although the name says river, this fishing reel is all about the saltwater. A second-generation product, it has carbon disc and stainless steel features along with a one-way clutch bearing that will make your fishing experience buttery smooth. 

In fact, this reel was designed for budget-conscious saltwater anglers by fly fishing guides and engineers themselves. These professionals know what it takes to produce a top-quality reel. 

It’s built out of aircraft-grade aluminum that has been tempered and cold-forged for added strength. 

The metal is anodized and strengthened by stateless components, giving you all the corrosion resistance you might need.

Not only that, but this reel is stylish, too. It comes in three different colors – green, silver, and black. 

The convenient, ergonomic design of this reel enables you to palm it while also maximizing its line capacity and arbor size. You can cast long and far without having to worry that your line pickup will be slow. 

If you’re ambidextrous, you’ll like this reel, too – you can transition between hand usage as it is suitable for people who are both left and right-handed.

It is semi-sealed, with the ability to keep some water, sand, dirt, and salt out of the internal components of the drag. However, you’ll still want to rinse and clean it after each use. 

Pros:

  • Suitable for ambidextrous or left-handed users
  • Maximized arbor size and line capacity 
  • Budget-friendly option

Cons:

  • Drag is not fully sealed 

>>Check Price on Amazon<<

Redington RISE Fly Fishing Reel

The Redington RISE is a sharp looking reel that is also one of the best saltwater fly reels for the money. 

Its CNC machined from aluminum alloy and has a built-in quick release spool with super speedy line retrieve. 

Not only that, but it has a taller spool design and a huge drag knob that makes it easy for you to adjust your drag and turn your reel.

It has a smooth carbon fiber drag system that is smooth and seamless. It has twin molded ergonomic handles and an effortless retrieve. 

A quiet, efficient reel, it offers all the features you might want regardless of your budget or skill level. 

Just in case anything goes wrong, though, bear in mind that this reel also comes with a lifetime warranty. 

Pros:

  • Ultra-large arbor design for speedy line retrieve
  • Has twin-molded soft-touch ergonomic handles
  • Comes with a nylon reel case

Cons:

  • Some users have issues removing the spool

>>Check Price on Amazon<<

Piscifun Platte Fly Fishing Reel

You might have already figured this out just by looking at the names cited in this roundup, but Piscifun is a manufacturer that knows the ins and outs of the saltwater fishing industry.

This reel is one of the best, particularly if you want one that offers professional-grade features at a budget price. It comes with a lifetime warranty so you don’t have to worry about anything going wrong.

Not only that, but it’s equipped with a fully-sealed carbon and stainless steel drag system. This drag keeps water, grit, and sand out – all you need to do is give it a quick rub when you’re gone fishing. 

As a result, it can be used for both saltwater and freshwater fishing.

It can be used with both left and right-hand retrieve. Made out of strong and lightweight anodized aluminum, this reel has accurate drag settings that allow for easier adjustment when you’re right in the midst of a battle with a fish.

Plus, its large arbor design is better than most. It helps you pick up line quickly so you have the edge over most saltwater and freshwater species alike. 

Pros:

  • Knurled knob designed for easy gripping
  • Has a large arbor design to increase your retrieve rate
  • Fully sealed carbon and stainless drag system

Cons:

  • A little on the heavy side

>>Check Price on Amazon<<

Hatch Gen 2 Finatic 7 Plus Fly Reel

Frequently hailed as a great fly reel for bonefish, this reel has the ability to reach speeds of 40 miles per hour! 

It’s ideal for smaller saltwater fish, like bonefish, but can hold up well to some larger species, too.

It has a reel frame and foot that are machined from a single block of aluminum. What does this mean for you? 

You’ll be rewarded with a reel that remains true and straight even when you’re subjecting it to intense stress and a tough fight.

It has a drag housing that is machined right into the single-piece construction, too. The reel’s drag is fully sealed to reduce the components’ exposure to caustic saltwater.

This reel is offered by a brand you may have never heard of before – but trust me, it’s one of the top choices. 

Its unique and innovative design reduces the number of moving parts and therefore reduces the likelihood of reel failure. 

That’s good news if you’re hoping for a solid day of fishing on the ocean!

Pros:

  • Available in several line weights
  • Lightweight at just 8.6 oz
  • Made out of machined anodized aluminum

Cons:

  • Expensive reel 

>>Check Price on Amazon<<

What to Look for in Your Next Saltwater Fly Reel

Species Size

When you’re figuring out what size saltwater fly reel you need, you’re going to want to spend some time matching it to the size of the fish you intend to go after. 

This can be a bit tricky if you’ve never purchased a fly reel before – let alone one designed for saltwater.

In general, a 6 to 8 weight rod will give you all the backbone you need to go after fish species like snappers, sea trout, redfish, snook, jacks, and bonefish (fish up to 10 lbs or so). 

Once you get into larger bonefish, baby tarpon, barracuda, smaller permit, stripers, and jack crevalle, though, you’re going to want to upgrade to a 9 or 10 weight, which will enable you to go after fish up to 40 lbs in size. 

For even bigger fish – like tuna, marlin, tarpon, roosterfish, and sailfish – an 11 to 14 weight will be required, and for big sharks and large tuna, you’ll want to go with the big boys. 

A 15 or 16-weight will fit the bill – you need a reel that can handle up to 300 lbs if you plan on tackling these giants.

Line Capacity

Measuring and evaluating the line capacity of a saltwater fly reel is essential – arguably more essential than if you were shopping for a freshwater fly reel because the fish on your line will have more room to run when you’re fishing in the ocean.

Most reels can hold at least 200 yards of line, but this varies depending on your line type and weight. 

Usually, 200 yards is plenty, though, unless you wind up hooking a massive bluefin tuna that decides to run. 

Large Arbor

Arbor might be a term you’ve never heard of when discussing saltwater fly reels. It simply refers to the diameter of the spool. 

Ideally, your saltwater fly reel should have a large arbor so that you can enjoy an improved line retrieval rate. 

You’ll have to crank less to retrieve your line – something that is vital when you’re going after tough fighting fish.

Handedness

If you’re right-handed, you probably don’t think a lot about the handedness of your reel, since most are designed for right-handed people.

However, if you’re left-handed (or ambidextrous), you’re going to want to consider the handedness of your reel. 

Some offer both right-and left-hand retrieve, which is essential if you want to enjoy a comfortable day of fishing. 

Frame

You also need to look for a saltwater fly reel that has a strong frame. Pick one that’s more on the flimsy side, and you’ll be gambling when it’s time to start reeling in large fish. 

The ideal saltwater reel will have a frame that is stiff, sturdy, and strong so you can fight large fish without any problems. 

Drag System

In general, all saltwater fly reels are constructed with a similar drag. You just need to try the drag (or at least read customer reviews) to find out whether the model you have chosen has a smooth drag or a choppy hard drag. 

Make sure the drag is sealed, too. Saltwater is the main enemy to watch out for, but dirt and other debris can get stuck inside your reel and damage its components, too. 

A sealed drag will keep the elements out and help your reel hold up to the rough and-tumble life of saltwater fishing.

One more thing to look for in your drag? A disc drag. 

Disc drags offer more power and efficiency when you’re going after large fish. They work in a simple manner.

A series of discs composed of various materials (like cork or Teflon) press against the reel’s gearing. They apply pressure to the spool and slow it down. 

This helps the line peel off smoothly to avoid the risk of a break-off. 

Corrosion Resistance

When you’re shopping for saltwater fly reels – for saltwater fishing equipment of any kind – you’ll hear corrosion resistance mentioned again and again. 

That’s because it’s one of the most important features!

Going after large fish has the potential to put your reel under some serious stress – but nothing stresses a reel more than continuous exposure to corroding saltwater. 

Older reels had to be scrubbed and rinsed clean after each use, and while this is still recommended, there are now specialty reels just for saltwater fishing that eliminate that concern. 

Many now have anti-corrosion measures built into their designs.

For example, many modern saltwater fly reels are constructed from machined aluminum. It is anodized to improve its corrosion resistance. 

This is an essential feature to look for as you are shopping for your new saltwater reel. 

Cleaning and Maintenance

Although most saltwater fly reels are designed to be corrosion-resistant, it’s important that you also invest the time necessary to clean and maintain your saltwater fly reel to prevent damage, too.

This sounds like it could be a daunting task, but really, it’s quite simple. When you’re done fishing, just bring your reel indoors and place it in hot, soapy water. This will help the salt crystals break down. 

The soap will then adhere to the salt and dirt, and you can just rinse it off with some warm water.

Do note that it’s important to use a mild soap instead of dish soap when cleaning your saltwater fly reel to avoid destroying your line and backing.

Why You Need a Fly Reel Just for Saltwater

Saltwater fly reels are just like those built for freshwater, so you might be wondering why you even need one of these reels at all.

The answer is simple. 

Yes, the two are constructed in an almost identical fashion, but fishing in saltwater presents unique challenges that you just won’t get when you are fishing for freshwater species. 

Corrosion is one big issue, which is why you’ll see corrosion resistance mentioned in so many of the product reviews above. 

Another concern is the weight of the fish you are going after. 

Not always – but often – fish species you might be going after in saltwater are going to be much heavier and tougher-fighting than those you will find in freshwater.

Therefore, it’s important to find a fly reel that not only has exceptional durability in the face of caustic saltwater, but also in the face of a tough-fighting fish.

Regardless of the saltwater fly reel you choose, don’t go into this decision willy-nilly. Take the time to research your options and if you can, test out several models before you buy. 

And once you bring your new saltwater fly reel home, make sure you practice. Cast as often as possible in open areas before you get out on the water. 

That way, you’ll be able to hone your technique before you risk losing a fish. 

After all, the best saltwater fly reel for the money is useless if you don’t know how to use it – so familiarize yourself with the basics before you head to the water. 

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