Best Saltwater Spinning Reels for The Money 2021

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The modern spin reel angler is blessed. Never before has the spin reel fan had so many brilliant spin reels from which to choose.

Thanks to phenomenal competition between market savvy manufacturers, every price point presents a litany of options to satisfy every spin angler.

Today we’re going to identify a list of some of the best saltwater spin reels available across the key price points. 

We’ll look at a list of 5 groups – absolute top shelf, best mid-price point, best in 200 dollars range, and best in the 100 dollars range.

We’ll list 4 great reels in each category, then do a focused review of one from each category.

All reels listed here are white-hot, either generally speaking or in their respective price point categories.

There are definitely deserving reels that don’t appear here. Including all of them would require pages and pages of text.

The one thing all of these reels have in common is that they’re a sure thing. Every reel listed performs as advertised and better. Any reel chosen from this list is sure to impress.

Before we hit the list, let’s have a brief look at what constitutes a saltwater designation.

Why is a Reel Designated a Saltwater Reel?

In short, a saltwater spin reel is a reel that is better placed to manage the rigors of a corrosive saltwater environment.

Modern reel construction materials such as graphite and lightweight alloys have made huge improvements to reel corrosion mitigation. So too have paints and chemical metal treatments.

The inclusion of seals has been a revelation. Many mid to high-end reels now have significant levels of sealing. A great example is Daiwa’s now-famous Magseal. 

But there are several manufacturers with their own proprietary designs that are tackling water ingress.

Surface corrosion is one thing; however, the most destructive corrosion occurs internally as a result of water ingress, particularly saltwater. 

Sealing keeps water out of critical corrodible moving parts, ensuring your reel has a much longer working life.

Few if any fishing reels can withstand constant exposure to saltwater without a considered maintenance routine.

Even the best sealed most protected reel on the market will need to be handled with care including washing, cleaning, and maintenance to ensure corrosion isn’t given a chance to take hold.

Since sealing and corrosion-resistant materials have taken hold in reel construction, the saltwater designation has become increasingly popular. I’m not a huge fan of its growing prominence. 

The term can be misleading to the uninitiated. Any spin reel is going to be fine in saltwater so long as it is well cared for. 

If your fishing budget does not cover the bells and whistles of sealing technologies and alloy construction, that does not mean you must stick to the fresh stuff for fear of condemning your modest unsealed steel-bodied reel.

I have several of my grandfather’s Mitchell spin reels. I’ve been fishing for over 40 years, and the reels were old when I got them as a kid. 

There are zero sealing and fancy protections on a 1960’s Mitchell eggbeater. Today, they still work beautifully. Keeping a reel in tip-top condition is more about care than built-in corrosion protection.

Also Read: Best Inshore Spinning Reel

Even though considered care is the best protection for any reel used in the salty stuff, modern reel sealing is brilliant. As are alloy construction materials. Graphite is also cool, as it permits corrosion resistance features at a much lower price point.

Just be aware. Even if a spin reel doesn’t have a saltwater designation, it can still be deployed for saltwater applications.

Think of the saltwater designation as referring to a higher level of corrosion resistance, which is better suited for salty conditions. In actual fact, any spin reel can be deployed in saltwater or freshwater.

Note: The reels below that are highlighted in bold are the reels that are reviewed in detail.

4 Best Expensive Saltwater Spinning Reels

WHEN MONEY DOESN’T MATTER

4 Best Mid-Price Point Saltwater Spin Reels

OUTSTANDING REEL THAT DON’T REQUIRE A SECOND MORTGAGE

4 Best Reasonable Priced Saltwater Spin Reels

AWESOME PERFORMANCE AT AN ACCESSIBLE PRICE-POINT

4 Best Budget Saltwater Spinning Reels 

Entry Level Excellence

Detailed Review Of One Reel from Each Price Point

All of the saltwater spin reels above are excellent reels. Are they the best? That’s probably up to you to decide. I’ve selected my favorites from the list.

I have selected them based on compiling myself a saltwater spin reel arsenal from the possibilities above.

I’ve fished for over 40 years. I’m an ocean rock and surf specialist. However, I spend a lot of time targeting fish of all species and sizes, from all areas, using all techniques with fresh baits.

The arsenal below reflects my fishing habits.

1. Daiwa 20 Saltiga. Top Shelf Selection

Monster-Fish Weapon

My Choice is the Daiwa 20 Saltiga. I would use it primarily as a big fish weapon from the ocean rocks using big live baits, casting big stickbaits and poppers. 

Targets would include GT’s as big as they grow, sailfish and marlin. Any sort of land-based game angling requires superlative gear. 

Only the best of the best saltwater spinning reels are up to the astonishing punishment such fish will inflict. The new 20 Saltiga is such a reel.

This reel would also be my choice for my blue water expeditions, rare as they are. I think I’d go for the 14000XH for its fast 6.2 ratio.

The Saltiga is Daiwa’s Flagship spin reel. It’s jammed full of their best technology and loaded with great features.

Its saltwater credentials are unsurpassed. It has Mag-Sealed bearings, line roller, and body. It’s sealed within an inch of its life. 

Its all-alloy construction keeps the reel light as well as protected from corrosion. The 2020 model also has new paint which is just as much about corrosion mitigation as it is cosmetics.

Of course, the monocoque body naturally reduces opportunities for water ingress, but it’s the absence of porting that has completely removed a typical water access point.

While its corrosion reduction is impressive, it’s the phenomenal strength that seals the deal. The Saltiga has always been strong, but the gear drive in the 2020 is now twice as strong as its predecessor. 

The all-alloy air rotor is also twice as strong as the 2015 model. It’s the monocoque body, however, that holds everything together.

Strength is incredible, sure. However, it’s the rigidity that is so noticeable when you’re tackling the likes of massive GT’s.

This all-new strength and rigidity have been achieved without compromising on the lightweight imperative. While well over half a kilo, it’s still very light and compact for a reel of such enormous power.

Such is the power of the 20 Saltiga, one can go with the 14000, over the 20000 to save a little on fatigue and enjoy the convenience of a little less bulk.

Some will prefer the biggest model. My preference is to go as compact as I can get away with.

At 25kg of ATD, (Automatic Tournament Drag) and spool that will hold 365 yards of 65-pound braid, you’re well set to battle angry missiles. Interestingly, there’s only 5 kilos more drag in the 20000.

The drag washer upgrade in the 20 Saltiga has improved on an already brilliant drag design. Durability is the biggest gain, and it is as smooth as ever, particularly at the moment the fish strikes and takes off.

The round metal knob inspires a hard crank and is a great feature. However, Daiwa provides an alternative for those looking for a softer feel and ergonomic alternative.

The Daiwa 20Saltiga is born of the highest pedigree and is a legend in its own time. Awesome reel.

Pros

  • Phenomenal strength and rigidity
  • Corrosion protection
  • Astonishingly smooth
  • Unmatched power
  • Drag capacity
  • Spool capacity

Cons

  • Very expensive…like, off the charts
  • Big fish only

Features and Specifications

  • Bearings: 12 (6xCRBB & 2x MSBB)
  • ABS Long Cast Spool
  • Aluminum Air Rotor
  • Air Bale
  • Monocoque (MQ) Body
  • G1 Duralumin Drive Gear
  • Automatic Tournament Drag (ATD)
  • Mag-Sealed Bearings, Line Roller, and Body
  • Twist Buster II
  • Silent Oscillation
  • Metal Ball Knob
  • Infinite Anti-Reverse

>>Check Price on Amazon<<

2. PENN Clash II. Best Mid-Price Saltwater Spin Reel

Versatility at the mid-price point

While I’ve been critical of PENN at times, I will always have PENN reels in my arsenal. The PENN Clash II would be my choice for a go-to every session reel, and my first-choice surf reel.

Brass, stainless, and alloy internals are big features of the Clash. The Hydrophobic line roller system’snew Clutch armor system completes the corrosion resistance package.

In a turn from tradition, the focus of PENN has been to keep the weight out of the Clash. It manages to do this while maintaining all the strength and power PENN is famous for.

The new Clash has a stealth look about it which is also new for the famous American. Porting and cut-outs add to the aesthetic appeal, as does the reduced body bulk. It’s certainly great to look at, but the benefits are in weight reduction.

The heavily ported spool does provide an entry point for water and sand, but I don’t see this as an issue. As with any reel you take on the beach, a serious post-session cleaning routine will ensure the internals remain healthy.

The big round knob at the end of the stealthy looking handle inspires the sort of cranking the PENN is capable of.

The 5000 size would be my choice for the surf and at a weight of only 462 grams. This takes the fatigue out of a long session with a long rod.

The 5000 has 20 pounds of carbon washer drag. Supported by a spool loaded with 420 yards of 20 lb braid, you have access to some monster fish. Drop down your line class and you have a very cool reel for surf dwelling panfish.

It’s the versatility of the PENN that stands out above all other features. The weight and refined dimensions ensure it’s ideal for casting moderately lightweight lures all day long. A spool change-up, and your chasing monsters.

8 Stainless bearings deliver a silky-smooth crank. The anti-reverse bearing feels really solid without the slightest bit of back-play.

I have broken the anti-reverse on 3 of my PENNS. Admittedly not this model. But the Spinfisher and Slammer anti-reverse have failed on me. I’m hopeful that the upgrade in the Clash will negate anti-reverse issues.

I should add that the anti-reverse issues I had were all based on impacts. But they weren’t severe impacts, and it happened 3 times. Curious. Having said that, anti-reverse on the Clash feels really solid.

The Leveline Oscillation System appears to work nicely. A uniform line-lay is critical on a reel used for frequent extra-long casts. 

Line twist is a problem when fishing a rumbling surf. Any system that helps the line back onto the spool evenly is a great feature.

The PENN Clash II is a big winner in the versatility ranks and, if cared for properly, will last countless surf-side sessions in the salt and sand.

Pros

  • Value for money
  • Good anti-corrosion features
  • Lightweight construction
  • Powerful
  • Silky crank
  • Versatility

Cons

  • Porting allows for water ingress
  • Drag not as smooth as its Asian competitors

Features and Specifications

  • Reel body is full metal
  • CNC GEAR construction technology
  • HT-100 drag system
  • 8 +1 stainless bearings
  • Heavy-duty construction bail arm wire
  • A rubber gasket for braid spooling without mono backing
  • Line capacity rings
  • Leveline Oscillation System
  • Hydrophobic water-repelling line roller system
  • Clutch Armor System

>>Check Price on Amazon<<

3. Shimano Vanford F. Best Reasonable Prices Saltwater Reel

“Outstanding and affordable inshore performance”

For those of you not current, the Shimano Vanford is the new incarnation of the famous Stradic Ci4. 

Depending on where you purchase your Vanford you may pay a slightly different price.

The 1000 Vanford would be my inshore go-to sports finesse weapon. From bass to trout to pompano and flounder, the Vanford does it in a lightweight style, with plenty of power.

Micromodule Gear II and Silent Drive have featured upgrades from the Stradic days. The Hagane Gear has been upgraded for added strength. 

The added strength is the reason I’d go for the 1000 over the 2500 as I’ll nearly always go smaller when practical. While I’ll use this for fishing saltwater river banks, I’d still like it for casting soft plastics at bass.

The Ci4 body is already placed to deal with corrosion. However, IPX8 water-resistant line roller and roller clutch, X-protect, have delivered some pretty serious salt creds.

The Long Stroke Spool design has improved casting manners overall. Casting is longer, but the close quarter stuff feels a little more accurate. The ergonomics of casting are not superb, but the G Free body always provided a great feel.

I’ve always liked the look of the Stradic, but I have to admit, the subtle changes on the Vanford are an overall improvement. It’s a good looking reel.

The Crank is noticeably lighter. As it should be, Shimano set out to achieve a lighter crank. According to Shimano, the new MGL rotor is 48% lighter to turn. I’m not sure it’s possible to feel that level of difference, but it is lighter.

Under load in the heat of battle, the Vanford performance is as you would expect. Perfectly refined, with great manners from hook-up to release. 

7 stainless bearings deliver a very smooth crank. The bearings are sealed too, for added protection.

There’s 3 kg of drag, which has remained the same since the Stradic, but it seems ample for such a tiny finesse spin reel.

The Ci4 body provides the rigidity that allows it to punch well above its very light 160 grams. Combined with X ship there’s a stability about the new Vanford that delivers confidence.

The addition of Silent Drive will impress many Vanford customers. It’s smooth to the feel and to the ear, this combines to deliver a tight refined performance that’s backed up by the senses.

There is a Vanford model that will cover all inshore applications, salt and fresh, with the larger models suitable for surf and rock.

Pros

  • Refined feel
  • Corrosion protection
  • Power to weight ratio
  • Huge list of tech feature
  • Great looking spin reel
  • Value for money

Cons

  • Effectively none

>>Check Price on Amazon<<

4. Quantum Throttle II. Best Saltwater on a Budget

“Brilliant. Features and Performance We All Can Afford”

Every diverse spin reel arsenal needs the flexibility of an ever-versatile 3000. The Quantum Throttle II offers versatility and performance at a highly accessible price point. 

If you were a highly budget-driven angler, with a one-reel arsenal, the Throttle would be an outstanding option.

I’ve always been a big fan of quality, performance-driven, entry-level spin reels. Historically, this has been a strength of Shimano and remains so.

KastKing, Pflueger, Zebco, and Piscifun, however, have released such competition in the entry-level price point, that it’s now hard to pick a leading manufacturer in this category.

Quantum, pushed by market competition, is doing everything it can to punch its pinion ahead of the rest. 

It’s the battle for entry-level supremacy ensuring budget-driven anglers are getting a huge selection of fantastic affordable reels from which to choose.

The Quantum Throttle II should be on everybody’s radar. Priced reasonably, the feature list is impressive, as is the performance.

It’s difficult to attest to durability, Such a critique requires rigorous testing over time. But the construction of the Throttle would appear, at least outwardly, to have the backbone to stand up to the tough salt environment for quite a few seasons.

With 10 + 1 bearings, the crank is unbelievably smooth for this price point. The 3000 has a handy 10 pounds of drag pressure, which is by no means earth-shattering, but certainly enough.

It will hold 220 yards of 20-pound braid, which should be more than enough for the close quarters fishing. Should you hook up big, there’s enough length there to allow the modest 10 pounds of drag pressure to turn a fish.

At nearly 10 ounces, it’s a little heavy, but certainly on par for this price point. A ratio of 5.2 might be considered slow, but crank anglers will love it. 

Upping your crank rating is not a problem. The crank is so smooth, it will tolerate a fast wind without losing its composure.

In terms of saltwater credentials, the Throttle is well equipped. The full alloy Uni-body, alloy double anodized spool, and the anodized Alloy bail wire deliver plenty of saltwater credentials.

There’s a 5-year warranty on the Throttle which is a testament to its quality. Reliability is often a salient question at this low price point.

While the performance is excellent, it’s the design and cosmetic appeal that sells the Throttle. Its catwalk model good looks ensure it doesn’t look out of place next to reels of a more refined pedigree.

Pros

  • Super smooth crank
  • A good level of corrosion protection
  • Inshore versatility
  • Awesome looking reel
  • Value for money
  • Highly affordable performance

Cons

  • A little light on in drag capacity
  • A little heavier than its competitors

Features and Specifications

  • 10+1 Stainless bearings
  • Alloy Uni-body
  • Graphite Rotor
  • Stainless main shaft
  • Classy cosmetic appeal
  • Rubber ring for a full spool of braid
  • Left and right retrieve
  • Alloy anodized Bail Wire
  • Forged and machined double anodized spool

>>Check Price on Amazon<<

Final Notes on the Top Saltwater Spin Reels

I’d happily use any of the reels contained in the lists above. They all offer something special in their price categories.

Choosing one from each category required plenty of thought. It wasn’t an easy task at all as I was trying not to compromise while covering my key angling applications.

Selecting the “best” is often a very subjective process – as anglers, we have our individual preferences and peculiarities.

I’m very curious to hear about your selections from this list. Yes, I’m aware there are plenty of other brands and models that should be listed here too. But I have to draw the line somewhere.

From the selection above, which reels would you select to build your best saltwater spinning reel arsenal? 

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