Best Saltwater Spinning Reels

If you have been looking around for a new spinning reel, you may have noticed that they can be classified according to freshwater or saltwater fishing. Saltwater spinning reels can be significantly more expensive, yet they often look identical, or at least very similar, to freshwater spinning reels. Furthermore, maybe you have already used your standard freshwater spinning reel in the ocean and noticed it performed fine. So what gives?

Saltwater Spinning Reels vs Freshwater Spinning Reels

The difference between saltwater spinning reels and freshwater spinning reels usually isn't in the performance. Instead, saltwater spinning reels are simply designed to resist the corrosion from the salt more effectively. No matter what type of reel you use, you should always rinse the reel in cold water after use in saltwater, but saltwater reels will still last way longer. If you're someone who enjoys using an ultralight spinning reel, you can get these rated for both saltwater and fresh water, but at this point, it's still a little more common to see them in the fresh water version.

  • Basic
  • Mid-Range
  • High-End
  • Pro

Shimano Thannus CI4 Saltwater Spinning Reel

$$$$

Pros

  • Top-of-the-line product
  • 6+1 bearing count (ARB)
  • Front and rear baitrunner drag
  • Dyna-balance
  • Propulsion line management system
  • 30-37 inches retrieval per crank
  • 12-27oz depending on exact model
  • Unique combination of very lightweight construction and extreme power

Cons

  • Expensive!
  • Baitrunner drag may not be necessary for all anglers

General Consensus

The Shimano Thannus CI4 saltwater spinning reel is a beast! With extensive careful design/manufacturing, this reel combines a lightweight design, incredible performance, and top-notch durability for saltwater environments.

If we start with the materials used during construction, that alone is enough to make this a good reel. The stainless steel bearings are specially treated to last up to 10x longer than standard stainless steel bearings. The "Hagene gear" used in this reel is excellent, as no cutting work is applied to the teeth of the drive gear. With cold-forged metal, you can have confidence in the power and resilience of this reel.

Other "performance enhancers" include the Fluidrive II system which helps maximize the efficiency of the retrieval, the Dyna-balance feature which helps eliminate wobble and vibrations during the retrieval, and the Super-Stopper II anti-reverse which eliminates back-play and allows for substantial and instant hook setting power.

Overall, the Shimano Thannus CI4 saltwater spinning reel is top-of-the-line. It will perform extremely well in many conditions while still standing up to the test of time. The main downside? It's really expensive compared to most other reels on the market. While the price is justified, it's not always necessary to drop that much on a reel. Therefore, we recommend the Shimano Thannus CI4 to avid anglers with lots of experience, or to those who have a lot of room to play with in their budget.

Difference Between Freshwater and Saltwater Spinning Reels

So why can saltwater spinning reels last longer than freshwater spinning reels? Doesn't saltwater degrade the reel? The reason for enhanced durability is usually due to one or two factors (depending on the reel).

First, some saltwater reels come with internal waterproof casings to resist corrosion of the gearing and drag systems. While this doesn't necessarily improve performance, it certainly prevents the decline in performance.

Secondly, the metals used in the manufacturing process are specially designed to resist corrosion. Common metals include stainless steel or anodized aluminum. Similar to anodized pliers, an electrochemical process is applied to the aluminum which allows it to resist corrosion caused by the salt.

Maintaining a Saltwater Spinning Reel

Even though saltwater spinning reels are designed to resist corrosion, like all other pieces of sports equipment, they will gradually wear down over time. How long the reel lasts will be determined by how well you take care of it. Here are some ways you can promote a lengthy life span of your saltwater spinning reel.

  • Rinse the reel in cold fresh water after every use!! This is the very minimal amount of maintenance you should perform on your reel. It's easy and effective. Remember, it's not water that corrodes the reel, it's the salt.

    If you want to go one step further to get the longest lifespan out of your reel as possible, disassemble the reel into parts before washing in fresh water. Some anglers recommend using a spray bottle to gently spray a mist of fresh water over all of the parts. The salt will accumulate in the drops and then you can gently dry off the parts with some paper towel. The reason some people recommend this is because a vigorous wash when the reel is intact may force some of the salt deeper into the internal components. That being said, a vigorous wash of an ictact reel is still way better than not cleaning it at all!

    If you're short on time after you're done fishing, try leaving the reel soaking in fresh water overnight, and then coming back to it the next morning for drying.
  • Over time, you may notice the smoothness of your retrieval degrades the more you use it. It's always a good idea to have some reel lubricant on hand somewhere in your tackle box or at home. You won't go through it very carefully, but investing in a little bit can go a long way.

    If you plan on lubricating the reel yourself, try and keep it to the external mechanical components. Depending on the type of lubricant you use, if you apply it to the internal components, it could actually lead to some break down of the grease, accelerating the degradation process. Therefore, to be safe, just focus on the external components.

    If you do feel the need to lubricate the internal components of the reel, no problem, we would just recommend that you double check at a tackle shop or with the reel manufacturer about which lubricant is ideal for your particular reel.
  • Let your reel relax! If you have it stored away, make sure it's not piled under a bunch of heavy items. Additionally, some anglers recommend loosening the drag when you're done using it, which will alleviate any constant pressure being placed on the internal components.
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