Whether you live on the coast of the Carolinas, are planning a vacation to Hawaii, or are finally taking that Alaskan fishing trip, inshore fishing is a great compromise between deep-sea fishing (and all its expensive equipment) and freshwater fishing (with its limited seasons and species).
However, there are some definite gear needs for inshore saltwater anglers and a reliable user-friendly spinning reel should be right up there with a rod that can take a beating, as well as a wide variety of lures.
So, we’ve put together a list of five of what I think are some of the best choices on the market at the moment. Within this selection there is a little something for everyone and, hopefully, you’ll find the best inshore spinning reel for your particular needs here.
While born a certified land dweller, I have had the opportunity to live the past year of my life on the coast of the Indian Ocean. Despite being raised on the rivers and in the mountains, I just might be a permanent convert to coastal living… and fishing.
Little did I know of the myriad of differing tackle and gear available for today’s saltwater fisherman. I suppose I merely assumed that fresh and saltwater were basically the same with a few adjustments for species. To make a long story short, that’s a blind assumption of which I have since been disillusioned, and rightly so.
Choosing the Right Reel for Inshore Fishing Is Crucial
Before we get to the list – compiled after some lengthy research – I would like to give you a few comparisons if you are newer to inshore fishing. However, if you’re old hat and want to skip the basics, head on down to the list and check out the pros and cons of each of our selections.
IF YOU’VE BEEN FISHING FRESHWATER…
Even though both freshwater and saltwater fishing share a lot of similarities, the differences are significant and should affect your reel buying decisions. Also, because a good amount of gear doesn’t effectively translate from one to the other, you will need a new rigging set up if you are looking to get into the ocean side of things.
With that being said, the following are some key points to keep in mind when buying a spinning reel for inshore fishing:
1. Salt is very damaging and hard on gear.
This is one thing I definitely did not anticipate, but however medicinal the salty sea air is for you, it’s not very healthy for anything metal or wood. Rust, dry rot, calcification, and a whole other host of issues are concerns for your tackle.
Cleaning and maintenance of reels, especially, require awareness of the corrosive effects of coastal environments. This could mean that you might want to look into a reel that is easy to disassemble and clean.
2. The variety of species is huge, and your gear selection might need to grow to accommodate it.
This one is a bit of a no-brainer, and maybe I’m just slow on the uptake, but I wasn’t necessarily prepared for it. Ocean-dwelling fish by and large are significantly larger than those in freshwater with few exceptions. Additionally, saltwater fish vary in size and behavior widely based on species. Snapper and tarpon require very different line and lures.
If one wanted to do a bit of pre-planning, checking out the main species dwelling in a particular area over the course of the year is a good approach to deciding what kind of tackle you would need to catch fish. Basically, pick what you will primarily be fishing for, and buy based on that.
IF YOU’VE BEEN FISHING FROM BOATS…
While much less of a drastic shift than that from freshwater to saltwater, fishing off of a boat and fishing from shore can require some big changes in technique. Additionally, it could mean your selection of tackle changes as well.
When fishing from a boat, casting is less of an issue, and things like trolling and baiting are more often viable options. When on the shore, precision casting can be a significant factor for success.
Being able to cast accurately over long distances is both a cultivated skill and a factor in reel quality. So, assume that with inshore fishing, you will want a reel equipped to handle the type of casting you plan on doing.
Now, for our top five reels: Keep in mind these are all very comparable, and you should make your selection based on your needs, not necessarily how impressive their respective specs. However, for this lineup, we focused on a few basic but key features that are must-haves for inshore fishing reels.
These include weight, smoothness of cast, quality of materials, anti-reverse systems, drag systems, and durability. It might be a good idea to choose two or three factors that are most important to you and make a purchase based on those primarily.
The Best Inshore Saltwater Spinning Reels – 5 Picks for Outstanding Value and Performance
Shimano Stradic Ci4+
This Ci4+ reel has been updated by Shimano, comes in four sizes and and comes with a slew of innovative features to help you land more fish. Two important innovations are its 3D cold-forged drive gear and shielded 6+1 SS bearings that provide strength and smoothness throughout.
Bottom line, Shimano has been a reliable brand for a long time now, and always produces solid gear – the Ci4+ is one of their best.
Pros: While there are many, one of the biggest pros for this model is that it features a Magnumlite rotor that is stronger and 25% lighter than previous models for very smooth reeling and less fatigue. The drag is also exceptional on this reel, putting out a maximum drag of 24 lbs (model STCI44000XGFB) to tame hard-fighting fish. Lastly, it is an easy reel to clean and maintain.
Cons: While the cons are relatively few, this model does not include and anti-reverse switch and there have been some reported packaging and shipping issues from the manufacturer.
Daiwa’s BG series represents a family of reels that range in size and model, though all have similar features and capabilities. Durable and with a solid feel, these reels boast ultra-smooth gear function. Also, this model has been on the market long enough to have been tested by a wide pool of users and is still getting very positive feedback.
Pros: If an anti-reverse switch is important to you, this could be the selection for you, as Daiwa makes one of the best anti-reverse systems on the market.
Daiwa Digigear, aluminum body and lightweight but strong graphite rotor are some other exceptional features, not to mention a waterproof drag system that puts out a whopping 33 lbs of drag for the BG6500 and the BG8000 models! These reels are reasonably priced all they offer – perfect for someone looking for a quality reel without a huge investment.
Cons: Size selection is key with this line, as the larger sizes of this reel have the potential to be bulky on some of the shorter, lighter rods out there.
Abu Garcia Revo SX
In the list, this reel possibly boasts the greatest durability, with precision machining and a unique feel for the user. This reel was designed with the precision caster in mind and should be a hard-working member of your tackle arsenal for years to come.
Pros: This reel is perhaps the best on the market for its value as far as precision goes. It feeds line smoothly and has a gear system built so that each cast can be placed precisely. This accuracy is achieved by combining a construction which allows for even line lay and a line management system which gives you better control after your line is out. Essentially, it goes exactly where you put it.
Cons: Line retrieval has a tendency to seem stiff and, for some, that’s not what they’re looking for in a reel. If ease of reeling is important to you or necessary for the type of fishing you do, another model might be a preferable choice for your needs.
Arguably one of Penn’s best models for the inshore fisherman, the Clash (particularly their 4000 model and above) has benefitted from years of improvement and field testing of successive models. This lightweight model is likely the most all-around reel on our list for someone who likes to go for the middle of the road option.
Pros: It is light – weighing in at just under eleven ounces, but still with all the good features and a very solid basic structure. If you are interested in the nitty-gritty of the gears, it has eight ball bearings, compared to the six of most reels of its type and weight. Ideally, this results in a very smooth line lay and easy reeling, even with a fish trying to strip line.
Cons: After extended use, this reel may need disassembly and thorough cleaning to prevent fine grit from clogging gears over time. So, if you tend to be a set-and-forget sort of buyer, you may need to consider the necessity of cleaning once in a blue moon.
Here we have the last, but certainly not least of our top five, and I have to say this is my pick. If you are saltwater fishing and need a reliable reel to handle a variety of species, this is one of the best on the market for a reasonable price.
Pros: It’s one of the lightest models represented here (unless you intentionally purchase one of the heftier types, such as the 8000), meaning a variety of rods will match well with it.
One of the best parts of this reel is its versatile gear systems. The Saltist gives you 3 gear ratios to match your type of fishing – 5.6:1 in the two smallest models (SALTIST2500 and SALTIST3000), 5.7:1 in the SALTIST4000 through SALTIST5000 reels and, finally, maximum cranking power with 5.3:1 gearing in the bigger SALTIST6500 and SALTIST8000.
I also especially love the fact that the drag system is waterproof. There are other reels with waterproofing to some degree, but this selection tops the pack. This greatly cuts down on wear and tear over time and gives the reel longevity.
Cons: It’s possible some maintenance will end up being needed, and disassembly can weaken the waterproofing or require professional help. So, be prepared to have to take your rod to someone who knows what they’re doing at some point in its lifetime.
Some Inshore Spinning Reel Buying Advice and Conclusion
NOTE: Despite all of the selections on this list being produced by reputable manufacturers, if you purchase online, there is always the possibility that something could be remiss. When ordering reels or anything comprised of assembled small parts, a small percentage of buyers have reported that there were parts or accessories missing from the packaging.
The good news is that these manufacturers offer warranties and other safeguards within a reasonable time-frame.
“But what can I do about that?” you may be asking. My advice would be to take the reel out first thing and go try some test casting. If you notice anything not functioning or visibly missing, contact the seller or send it back right away.
Taking care of the issue immediately results in the highest likelihood of repairs and replacements being speedy. Again, this only affects a small percentage of purchasers, but it’s best to be safe rather than sorry.
So, there you have it, some inspiration for your next reel purchase. The only downside they all have in common is that you won’t be able to blame faulty gear for letting the big one get away anymore.
All of these models are top inshore spinning reels and any would be a great addition to your tackle collection. To be quite honest, they are very comparable, and it might just come down to one feature or a preference from a particular manufacturer.
Whatever you decide, let us know how it goes! And as always, if we missed a reel you think should have been listed, let us know in the comments why it deserves a place in our ranking.
We like getting gear recommendations as well as giving them. However, my biggest hope is that you’ll be too busy spending your free time hauling fish out of the water to hang around blog comment sections. Happy fishing!
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