If you’re in a hurry and just want to find out what the best saltwater baitcasting reel is, then we recommend the Shimano Calcutta baitcasting reel.
Baitcasting reels are not just for catching bass on the lakes and streams! There are some that prefer them for inshore saltwater fishing as well. However, your regular bass setup may not be enough to handle harder fighting fish such as snook and redfish. In this case, you need a baitcasting reel that’s made with saltwater fishing in mind.
Don’t know what they are or where to find them? You’re in luck! We thought that people might be looking for a little help in finding a few. This is why we have compiled a list of some of the best saltwater baitcasting reels for you to look over.
By the way, as an Amazon Associate, I earn when buying qualified products through links on my site.
With that being said, are you sure a baitcaster is for you? If not, make sure to check out our section on “what to look for in a saltwater baitcaster.”
In a Hurry? Here’s Our Top 3 Picks…
Why Choose A Baitcaster For Saltwater Fishing
There are several advantages to using a baitcasting reel for saltwater fishing!
For example, you’ll have much better line control than that of a spinning reel. This will, in turn, give you more accurate casts. This includes you being able to maintain contact with the lure. This is especially helpful when casting lures in tight spots, such as docks and mangroves.
They will also allow you to slow down the lure, which will actually soften its fall into the water thereby not scaring any fish away that might be near the drop spot. This can be quite important when sending bait into covered areas to catch fish by surprise.
If that was not enough, they will also give you better cranking power for high-drag baits, such as your heavy top water plugs, crankbaits, etc. Finally, they are also better equipped overall to cast a much heavier line than traditional versions of their freshwater counterparts.
Round Vs Low-Profile Baitcaster
When it comes to the differences between round and low-profile baitcasters, there are several things one should keep in mind. For example, the traditional round baitcaster typically handles larger fish better!
Essentially, they offer heavier drags that apply more pressure and are traditionally stronger. This makes them ideal for the bigger fish because power-wise, you’re able to match up or beat what the fish brings to the table. When it comes to saltwater fishing, you’ll see many fishermen mention that they prefer round options due to the line capacity they typically have.
Your low-profile baitcasters will often be the type that you see when you think about a bass fishing reel. They are an upgraded version of the more traditional round baitcasting reel. Therefore, they will be powerful in their own way but they’re more for your smaller fish, such as sea trout, flounder, jacks, etc.
However, in the end, it’s really a matter of preference! Some fishermen prefer round baitcasters simply because they are able to “palm it”, while others feel more comfortable with the low-profile versions. Either version will do as long as it’s geared towards saltwater fishing.
What Size of Baitcaster is Best For Saltwater
This can be difficult to answer as it likely depends on the type of fish you’re going after. The best thing to think about regarding this is the weight, line capacity, drag strength, as well as the bearing count. With that being said, I prefer a 3 or 4000 model for most saltwater applications.
Let’s dive into this based on all four.
To be fair, all saltwater baitcasters are going to be stronger and therefore be pretty sturdy and beefy compared to those used in freshwater. The reason for this is simply due to what those casters are going to be dealing with. This comes at a slight price, however.
Most reels will range between 8 to 12 oz, with the largest weighing in at 20 oz. You’d ideally want to be somewhere in-between. This will give you the weight you’d need along with still having more control in the cast.
If we were discussing freshwater, then line capacity would not be as big of an issue. Unless you’re bringing up predatory fish. Salmon is a good example of this. However, saltwater is filled with fish of crazy sizes, strength, and ability. Therefore, you need something pretty good here.
Fishing reels have different line capacities based on what type of line that you are using. For instance, a reel may be able to hold 275 yards of 50# braid, but that same reel will only be able to hold 260 yards of 14# mono.
For most saltwater applications, you’ll want a reel that can hold at least 250 yards of 20-30 pound braid.
As mentioned, you want something that can handle the weight of a small or large fish. Passing the 30lbs is important, although some saltwater baitcasters that people love can do a little over 20lbs too.
However, we’d recommend you find something in the range of 17 to 22 lbs in drag strength. Again, this is all dependent on the type of fishing you’re doing. Bigger fish need higher drag strength.
This often depends on the reel but it tends to break down between balls and rollers in this area. For example, you might see some with 6 ball bearings and 1 roller bearing. Sometimes you’ll see specific types like anti-rust bearings.
Everyone is different. However, we’d recommend at least 4 ball bearings in saltwater. Ideally, you want as many as you can afford. This will help reduce the stress you put in when reeling in a fish. Trust us, this stuff matters heavily.
Are Baitcasters Better Than Spinning Reels
Truly, when we tell you this is subjective, we mean it. Every fisherman will tell you their opinion and that can differ wildly between yes, no, and a version of both. That said, this question is a bit weird to ask but we’re mentioning in relation to specifically saltwater fishing. In which case, the answer is likely no for most people.
The truth is that most saltwater fishermen prefer spinning reels over baitcasters, mainly due to the fact that spinning reels are much easier to learn how to use.
With that being said, if you are up for the learning curve of a baitcasting reel, then a baitcaster is just as good as a spinning reel!
Baitcasters are great for catching large fish but they are by no means unable to catch smaller ones too.
Reviews: Best Saltwater Baitcasting Reels
- The Calcutta series of reels represents the core of Shimano’s quality, versatility, dependability, and long-term value
- This classic round reel will keep up with the fastest low profile reels for today’s fishing styles and is suitable for almost any application whether in fresh or saltwater
- Built with super-strong, ultralight forged aluminum frames and side plates ensures that all parts will remain in perfect alignment for lifelong smooth power and solid rigidity
- All sizes feature the ultra-smooth Dartanium Drags and the popular Speton Handles along with Anti-Rust Bearings
- Max Drag: 17.5 lbs. / Gear Ratio: 5.0:1. / Weight: 11.7 oz. / Line Retrieve: 24" / Bearings: 3BB + 1RB – PowerPro Line Cap: 50/305,65/180,80/160 – Mono Line Cap: 12/330,14/260,20/160 / Retrieve: Right
The Shimano brand is well-known by both the freshwater and saltwater communities, as they dominate the baitcasting industry. They have some of the best saltwater baitcasting reels one could find. In fact, one of those baitcasters is the very dependable Shimano Calcutta.
Many absolutely love the Calcutta reel due to what it brings to the table. First and foremost, it is incredibly strong and built to last. It has a cold-forged aluminum frame, along with the same for side plates and spool.
We love the addition of the proper bearings. This includes 1 roller bearing with 3 anti-rust ball bearings. The roller bearing is a super stopping goliath, forcing things to go one-way, yours. On top of this, it has a great variable brake system.
The drag strength is pretty good, as it’s a Dartainium drag system that allows many different setting types. The issue is that it maxes out at 17.5lbs, so you’re likely not going to be catching the biggest fish with it. However, it can still catch some pretty big fish in spite of that.
The good news is that you’ll have a lot of control. This means you can hunt down the fish that will be a bit bigger than most fish you’ll see in freshwater. However, the limitation while a disadvantage gives you the advantage of control. Therefore, you have more choice, which in the end, allows for some interesting options.
- A powerful; low profile; bait casting reel built to tackle anything that swims in freshwater or saltwater
- Offering shimano's new coreprotect water resistant technology which provides long-lasting performance and durability in the harshest environments
- The hagane construction provides a metal reel body that delivers bulletproof performance; stiffness; and impact resistance
- X-ship and heg technologies combine to provide massive cranking power with a smooth; effortless retrieve; perfect for throwing big baits and catching big fish
- Max drag: 18 lbs. / gear ratio: 7.6:1. / weight: 12 oz. / line retrieve: 40" / bearings: 5bb + 1rb – powerpro line cap: 50/275; 65/170; 80/140 – mono line cap: 12/330; 14/260; 20/160 – retrieve: right / handle: power
Yet again, Shimano comes to the table with one of the best baitcasters for saltwater fishing. This time with the Shimano TRANX. This is an interesting option being Low Profile, as it is not the normal type of saltwater baitcaster you’d consider.
However, it’s actually stronger than the last as it’s able to handle 22lbs max in drag strength. It is also just as strong in its frame as the last, using Shimano’s newest coreprotect water-resistant technology. This was put in place to bring a long-lasting overall frame that will deliver a great performance due to its incredible durability.
It is made to have literal bulletproof resistance, stiffness, and impact resistance. When it comes to cranking technology, they have added X-Ship & Heg Technologies in a combo used to give a smooth, effortless retrieval. It is perfect as well for throwing bigger bait to catch a bigger fish.
There is an incredible 5 ball bearings on this thing with one terrific roller bearing. Combined with a double handle perfect for both right and left-handed people, the overall feel of this low-profile reel is tremendous.
Daiwa Coastal TWS
- Solid aluminum frame and side plate on the gear side
- 5 bearing System
- 22 pounds of drag
- 100mm swept handle
Daiwa is another in the world of bigger brands behind some of the best reels. They also make one of the best saltwater baitcasting reels too. They call it the Daiwa Coastal TWS. However, we should say that this is not for deep-sea fishing compared to others.
This is a reel that one might use closer to shore or closer to the coast, often referred to as an inshore reel. They did not call it the “Coastal TWS” just for laughs. It is made to handle quite a lot though. In fact, the TWS uses A7075 aircraft-grade aluminum for its frame and spool.
The typical drag strength is at around 16lbs, but you could easily add a braided line for extra strength and then use the bearing strength to help. In fact, this reel uses 8 ball bearings. That is overkill to some, but ask any fishing enthusiast and they will tell you how 8 of these things only make it more ideal.
It is perfect for catching redfish or trout for instance, which can get pretty big depending on where you’re at. The deep 150 size spool in a 200 size reel body makes it durable and dependable. The reel itself is also small, compact, and palmable. Often considered to be a right-handed reel, you can also put it easily into a boat’s reel holder, or rod holder.
Included is a tremendous T-Wing System, which allows a line to pass freely without any friction. In fact, it’ll cut through the wind perfectly on a long cast. While the drag is not as strong as others, they use the innovative Zaion Star Drag system, which is made with high-density carbon strain material. It’s said to be 20% stronger and 50% lighter than traditional nylon and aluminum.
The 100mm Swept Handle is made wonderfully as it makes hard cranking comfortable and natural for you to do. Overall, you’ll see why people call it one of the best saltwater baitcasting reels once you try it out.
Lew’s Fishing Custom Inshore SLP
- Lew's custom inshore speed spool: Baitcast reel features a 1-piece aluminum frame with C45 gear side plate and graphite palming side plate, and a strong, lightweight carbon handles side plate and graphite palm side plate
- Zero reverses: Premium 10-bearing system with sealed corrosion resistant stainless steel ball bearings and zero reverse 1-way clutch bearing; Double shielded stainless steel bearing
- Baitcasting reel: Features a machined, double anodized aluminum deep U style 32 millimeter spool and a high strength solid brass gearing
- Multi-setting brake (MSB): Externally adjustable dual cast control system utilizes both an external click-dial for setting the magnetic brake, plus 4 individually disengaging, disc-mounted internal brake shoes that operate centrifugal
- Fishing reel: The Baitcast reel includes a double-anodized aluminum spool tension adjustment with an audible click and a carbon fiber drag system which provides up to 20 pounds of drag power
Lew’s certainly knows how to get it done in the baitcasting field. They make one of the best saltwater baitcasting reels available today. They call it their Custom Inshore Speed Spool or the Custom Inshore SLP.
It is made with sturdy one-piece aluminum with a C45 great side plate. If that did not impress you enough, they also come with a graphite palming side plate along with a carbon handle side plate.
There’s an incredible 10 bearing system here. To be more specific, 9 ball bearings and 1 roller bearing. All of which are sealed with corrosion-resistant stainless steel, with Zero Reverse One-Way Clutch. Not to mention, double-shielded stainless steel bearing.
The reel itself is a machined, double-anodized aluminum deep U style 32mm spool. The brake is multi-setting, adjustable for dual-cast control with an external click-dial for the magnetic brake. This includes 4 individually disengaged, disc-mounted internal brake shoes.
The drag power goes up to 20lbs, which is not bad for inshore and some deeper sea fishing.
The aluminum reel is bowed and lightweight with a Winn Dri-Tac handle and double anodized bowed aluminum drag star, with audible click adjustment.
The infamous Lew’s Combat Grip pad and thumb bar will be included, along with a zirconia line guide. A Speed Dial line indicator and patented Speed Keep hook keeper along with an external lube port will be included as well. Overall, Lew’s outdid themselves here.
Abu Garcia C4 Ambassadeur
- 4 stainless steel ball bearings plus 1 roller bearing provides smooth operation
- Carbon Matrix drag system gives smooth drag performance
- Compact bent handle and star provide a more ergonomic design
- 6 pin centrifugal brake gives consistent brake pressure throughout the cast
- Synchronized level wind system improves line lay and castability
The Abu Garcia C4 Ambassadeur is certainly an interesting reel. In our opinion, it could be one of the best saltwater baitcasting reels for inshore action. We love the compact bent handle and star, which provide a more ergonomic design.
A 6-pin centrifugal brake is included, which gives you consistent brake pressure while it’s cast. Along with this, you’ll find they included 4 stainless steel ball bearings with 1 roller bearing, which provides smooth overall operation.
Their Carbon Matrix drag system will also offer a tremendous drag performance, which can handle up to 15lbs max strength-wise. On top of this is a Duragear 2-gear system, which increases gear strength for all fishing purposes.
If that was not enough for you, our favorite part is its synchronized level wind system, which improves the line lay and castability.
Finally, a compact handle will give you a tremendous, ergonomic design that is hard to beat.
If you’re in the market for a good saltwater baitcasting reel, then once again we recommend the Shimano Calcutta! However, you really can’t go wrong with any of these reels. After all, we selected them as the best saltwater baitcasting reels on the market today.