Those who have fished in the salty waters know that when you are out in the sea with your fly rod, you are up against two things: number one, the fish (duh!) Number two, the sea.
The best fly reels for saltwater let you fight the mighty sea and all that is within. But how do you find the best saltwater fly reels for yourself?
Both of these make saltwater fishing so much different AND challenging as compared to that in freshwater. The fish are generally more powerful, have a whole ocean to run in, and the sea itself is destructive to fishing gear.
That is where the best fly reels for saltwater come into play. I’ve been fishing on Florida beaches for quite some time now, and through the years, I’ve gathered enough wisdom to call myself somewhat of an expert in fishing gear suitable for the sea.
Quick Advice: After testing in salt for numerous years, I recommend Redington Grande Fly Reel as the Best Saltwater Fly Reel for the Money. However, If you want to go with a premium option then nothing beats the Ross Evolution R Salt Fly Reel.
Here is my take on the best fly reels for seawater reviews to help you buy one when you plan on taking a “reel” fishing challenge. (The puns never get old!)
Top Picks: Best Saltwater Fly Reels
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After testing fly reels in salt and interviewing my co-anglers who fish regularly, here are the ten best salt water fly reels to help you choose when you hit the ocean for fishing. But first, a quick overlook of the products:
- Redington Grande 7/8/9 Fly Reel – Overall Best Saltwater Fly Reel
- Ross Evolution R Salt Fly Reel– Premium Choice
- Orvis Hydros Reels – Massive Drag
- Redington RISE Fly Fishing Reel – Best Value
- Maxcatch Sparta Fly Reel – Best Saltwater Fly Reel For The Money
- Sage SPECTRUM LT Fly Reel – Best Lightweight
- Hardy SDSL Fly Fishing Reel – Best Budget Saltwater Fly Reel
- Waterworks-Lamson Guru S Series Fly Reel – Minimalistic Design
- Temple Fork Outfitters BVK Sealed Drag Fly Reel – Quick to Retrieve
- Pflueger President Fly Reel – The Underdog
Now the detailed saltwater fly reels reviews:
10 Best Fly Reels For Saltwater in 2023
1. Redington Grande Fly Reel – Overall Best Saltwater Fly Reel
I was a fan of Redington’s Behemoth until I tried their Grande, one of the best fly reels for saltwater. It has the insane drag strength of Behemoth and takes it up a notch by combining it with a much more durable and overall refined CNC machined aluminum body.
The weight may be a wee bit more than most in this saltwater fly reels reviews, but I don’t mind it because it only adds to the solidity of the reel. You may take it to the sea and drop it a thousand times on the shore; this reel won’t complain.
It is perfect for catching the biggest trophy fish such as carp or tarpon out there. The drag is not only enormous but also silky smooth. The drag knob is ergonomic and does not slip even with wet and cold fingers. The backing capacity is a whopping 200 yards for 20 pounds, perfect for catching Bonefish!
The clicking sound of the drag and the reel cranking is a modest, crisp click that gives incredible fishing vibes. I lost the sound, however, after several uses, which was a disappointment since I loved it a lot. Also, this reel is a bit tight for winding in the line fast, so bear this in mind.
- Enormous drag strength
- Good for carp or tarpon
- Durable body with a sharp finish
- The drag knob is ergonomic
- Huge backing capacity
- It gives a pleasant clicking sound
- Reel cranking is modest
Wanna catch a shark? Try the Redington Grande. No fish is big enough for this powerful reel.
2. Ross Evolution R Salt Fly Reel – Premium Choice
Ross is a quality brand when it comes to fly reels. And with their Evolution R Salt fly reel, I can see why. I got this as a birthday present a few years back and have taken it on every saltwater fishing trip since. It is a predecessor of a previous model, the Ross Evolution R.
What improvements does this version bring?
R Salt is more compatible with saltwater because of its highly heavy-duty 16 disc drag system. This drag is powerful enough to tackle mighty marine fish. Plus, the seal protects the internal discs from salt and sand.
The stainless steel and aluminum framework is resistant to corrosion thanks to a special rust-proof coating. This reel is also one of the lightest I have tried for surf fishing. The click sound is sweet and not very loud, and the retrieval rate is quick too. I think Ross has done a fantastic job with this reel.
There is little I don’t like about this reel. But, I don’t find the drag knob as ergonomic as other higher-end brands. It could be chunkier to adjust better in my hand.
- Enormous drag
- Sealed with rust-proof coating
- One of the lightest reels
- Quick retrieval
- The drag knob could be more ergonomic.
Ross is the epitome of elegance and functionality. Their R Salt fly reel is my favorite saltwater fly fishing reel of all time.
3. Orvis Hydros Reels – Massive Drag
Speaking of drag, the Orvis Hydros reels are one of the best fly reels for saltwater if we were only testing the reels based on their strength. The power on this reel is massive! With a whopping 14 pounds maximum output, this drag system is hard to beat.
Another thing that makes this reel one of the best-sellers across the fly fishing gear market is the sensible pricing. Whenever someone asks me for a great affordable reel for seawater, the Orvis Hydros is at the top of my recommendations list.
But how suitable is it for seawater? Very! With the power mentioned above and a sealed drag, this is one of the best fly reels for saltwater. The rust-proof materials and external coating make the Orvis Hydros reel fear nothing.
But we are not judging these reels solely on their performance. The looks and ergonomics matter too. As far as looks go, the Orvis Hydros reel is okay, nothing out of the ordinary. But the drag knob is *not* ergonomic. It is way too tiny and pierces into my thumb. Work on this, Orvis!
- Best drag system
- Pretty lightweight
- Reasonable pricing
- Sealed drag
- Seawater compatible construction
- Drag knob is okayish
Only if Orvis could work on the drag knob, the Hydros fly reel could have been the best fly reel for saltwater, or any water for that matter. It is this perfect otherwise!
4. Redington RISE Fly Fishing Reel – Best Value
Here is another excellent Redington salt water fly reel. Since I am such a fan of the brand, I was pretty excited when I came to know about this new reel. And I am proud to announce that this reel is an excellent value for the price, with only a few glitches here and there.
First things first, Redington RISE Fly Reel looks dope. The appearance is very different from the previous models and speaks of excellent artistry. I observed its surfaces from every angle and could not see any blemishes, usually present on many fly reels. Also, the ported design not only looks good but is very effective at keeping the weight light.
Now, how does it function? The drag is not out of the world but still powerful enough to be suitable for surf fishing. But, since the drag system is not entirely close, sand and salt can get in and make it not-so-smooth, especially at the higher settings. The drag knob is straightforward to hold and use and gives a soft click when you crank up the drag power.
It comes with a handy little nylon pouch to keep the reel safe. There is one serious problem, though. The line holding capacity of this reel is nowhere near enough. It won’t contain all of the backings, and I even had to cut short the floating line.
- Looks very good
- Ports keep the weight light
- Drag is powerful enough for surf fishing
- The drag knob is ergonomic
- Line holding capacity could be more
At a sensible price tag, RISE has so much to offer. It has the looks and the functionality to battle off any high-end reel.
5. M MAXIMUMCATCH Maxcatch Sparta Fly Reel – Best Saltwater Fly Reel For The Money
The next entry in the saltwater fly fishing reel reviews is this not-very-famous Sparta fly reel by Maxcatch. I always try to add some underrated but deserving products in my reviews to give them some recognition.
This salt water fly reel surprised me with its artistic design. Immediately after I took this reel out of the box, I was in awe of how good-looking it is.
After the appearance, I took it to the beach to test its performance. The first thing that I noticed was a drag as smooth as butter. I have fished with the most expensive reels out there and can still vouch for this reel for its smoothness.
The drag knob is straightforward to maneuver. I have struggled with most drag knobs to find the perfect drag adjustment, and with this reel, it took me no time. Furthermore, the conical drag is sealed and protected from external elements.
What’s not-so-good is its weight. This reel is not the lightest, and therefore, it is not easy to balance it on every fly rod.
- Very good-looking
- One of the smoothest drags I’ve experienced
- The drag knob is straightforward to adjust
- The drag remains smooth due to protection from the seal
- A little bulkier
There aren’t enough O’s in smooth to justify the Maxcatch Sparta drag system.
6. Sage SPECTRUM LT Fly Reel – Best Lightweight
Sage is a globally acknowledged brand that has dropped some of the best saltwater fly reels over the years. The new LT series is a step forward in producing lightweight yet functional reels that could perform well in the ocean.
So how was my experience with it?
The first thing that made an impression on me was its weight. It is just the right value to balance beautifully on a modern light rod. The lightweight aluminum and numerous cutouts in the outer skeleton shed many extra ounces.
But immediately after impressing me with its weight, this reel disappointed me with a weak drag. The drag is very adjustable with all the numberings and settings, but it just isn’t enough for sea monsters. With only 3.3 pounds of maximum drag, this fly reel is not the most powerful.
But I guess it’s still a keeper if you are only aiming for the tiniest of species. With a large enough arbor and fast retrieval rates, this reel is easy to handle. Also, the sound it produces is not very loud and pleasant to the ears.
- Very lightweight
- Very adjustable drag
- Large arbor
- Fast retrieval rates
- Good for less bulky fish
For the weight and looks, this sage fly reel is something. But when it comes to drag, it may not be as valuable for saltwater fishing as I’d like.
7. Hardy SDSL Fly Fishing Reel – Best Budget Saltwater Fly Reel
I am yet to meet an angler who doesn’t like a classical fly reel made by the Hardy brothers. My friends have their father’s Hardy reels who are still better at their job than most modern ones. And with the SDSL reel, Hardy is ready to take on saltwater fishing.
This reel came after the former SDS reel, which couldn’t create much buzz in the market. But I guess that was just bad luck and no fault of the reel itself. With the newer SDSL version, Hardy has upped their game.
I’ve been using this reel for two years now and know this for a fact; this thing is not easy to scratch. But it got dented from a few spots where I dropped it, so I guess I’ll have to deduct a few marks here. Also, this reel is not the lightest.
Next comes drag. The sealed drag remains unchanged by the harsh environment at sea. Throw this reel in saltwater, and it’ll be good as new just with a rinse of clean water. Furthermore, the drag can exert a force of 16 pounds. I was amazed by the massive power that can come out of something so tiny. The drag’s adjustability was something I struggled with, though.
- Classic name brand
- Sealed drag suitable to seawater
- Powerful drag
- The reel doesn’t scratch easily
- Reasonably priced
- Not the lightest of reels.
The SDSL reel is where Hardy went a bit crazy with drag. However, the insane amounts of power would have been better with a bit more adjustment. But, this wouldn’t stop a true fan of classics.
8. Waterworks-Lamson Guru S Series Fly Reel – Minimalistic Design
Less is more, and such is the case with the new Waterworks-Lamson Guru S fly reels. These are revamped versions of the Guru series, and the restyling includes shedding extra weight by using the materials only where needed.
When I took this reel in hand, I immediately felt obliged to praise the craftsmanship. There were no untidy edges or uneven surfaces. The reel is smooth all around. Plus, the design is very functional. Large arbor size combines with a concave inner surface to give lots of space for the line.
This reminds me, this reel was not the smoothest while casting out the line. But, the drag is more subtle on our list and is smooth as butter. There was no startup inertia that I could feel. But while cranking, you may find this reel a bit too tight. Not suitable for someone who likes to retrieve lines fast.
The two pieces of the reel come apart with no apparent troubles or tools. Similarly, they are effortless to re-seat. This is not something I find in all reels I have used. So thumbs up to that!
- No extra materials or weight
- Excellent craftsmanship
- Very smooth drag
- The reel comes apart with no tools needed
- Line retrieval is a bit slow
This Lamson Guru S series Fly Reel is not the smoothest, but it is pretty lightweight and ergonomic. A decent finding, in my opinion.
9. Temple Fork Outfitters BVK Sealed Drag Fly Reel – Quick to Retrieve
TFO is famous for making fly rods with maximum quality and minimum price. Who knew they could make such fly reels too! The BVK is their most prestigious fly reel. So, where does it stand in the battle for the best saltwater fly fishing reels? In the middle, I guess. There is quite a lot I like about this reel, but there’s some room for improvement too. Let’s see how:
First, the drag strength isn’t much, but it is not bad either. What troubles me is the drag knob that is very hard to hold. Also, the startup inertia is almost half a pound, giving a tight feeling to the reel.
Next, the reel skeleton is pretty rugged. I deliberately dropped the reel a few times to test its durability, and I was impressed. There was little to no damage, all thanks to the quality materials that go into its making.
And the best part? One of the fastest retrieval rates. This reel gets back 8 inches of line per turn. Plus, the line capacity at 200 yards of backing is straight-up impressive.
- It retrieves lines very fast.
- It can store a lot of backing
- There was minor damage upon dropping it
- Drag strength is decent
- Avg drag knob design
For a brand that excels at making fly rods, this Temple Fork fly reel is satisfactory. It may not be a lot compared to other rivals, but it will still make your fishing trip worthwhile.
10. Pflueger President Fly Reel – The Underdog
This is an underdog of saltwater fly fishing reels. You may not have heard a lot about it, but that does not mean it isn’t good at its job. The CNC machined aluminum body is phenomenal at taking hits and is also reasonably lightweight.
The drag is powerful, even more than what you’ll need. If you are looking for a non-sealed drag system that is still great for saltwater fishing, this is it. My experience with its drag has been smooth. But keep in mind that I am very enthusiastic about cleaning and maintaining my gear.
The arbor is not the biggest in our shootout rather more of a mid-range. If you are a fan of a more oversized arbor, the Patriarch by Pfleuger might be a better pick. But for the money, the President fly reel is unmatched.
The sound produced upon retrieving maybe a little too loud for some. However, after I disassembled it and took out the clicker plastic pin, it was much better. Also, finding spare spools for this reel is not very easy.
- Very durable and lightweight
- Drag is more substantial than needed
- Good value for money
- Drag adjustment is effortless
- Spare spools are not readily available.
Pflueger President is an excellent saltwater fly reel for the money. It is a little unheard of but has so many pleasant surprises for you.
Just like freshwater and seawater fishing are worlds apart, the gears differ in many aspects. The fly reel that has accompanied you on hundreds of fishing trips in a river won’t stand a day at the sea if it is not worth the salt. That is why you need specific equipment for saltwater fishing such as best saltwater wading boots, best waders for surf fishing, and so on.
Now how will you know if you have the best fly reel for saltwater? To have a good fly-in-the-salt experience, there are some parameters that we use to measure our wading gear. Here are a few:
1. Sealed Drag
You don’t want the salt from the sea or the sand from the beach to get in your reel’s drag system and wreak havoc in it. Your drag is precious and needs extra care, particularly for saltwater fly reels. After all, this sport depends on it.
A great way to avoid this snag is by sealing the drag to remain protected from the external environment. Best sealed drag reel means low maintenance since it requires just a rinse with water once you are out of the seawater—no cleaning or scrubbing and greasing.
2. Substantial Drag
Since we’re on the topic, let’s discuss drag strength. It is even more critical for saltwater fly reels in seawater because the marine fish are usually bigger and more challenging. To stop them from swimming away, you need more force.
But more drag also comes with greater chances of your line breaking off. It all comes to your fishing skills which are tested vigorously at sea.
3. Corrosion-Resistant Materials
It is understandable. The high salt content in seawater poses a threat to your gear. Anodized surfaces and rust-proof coatings protect your seawater fly reels from crumbling due to salt. Regardless, always wash and clean your saltwater fly reels with water after your fishing session.
Related Fly Reels Posts:
After extensive testing, I think the Ross Evolution R Salt fly reel is best for saltwater fishing. Its features are perfect for withstanding harsh environments and stronger fish.
Fly reels for freshwater are not fit to stand up against the salt that comes from seawater. Saltwater is very destructive to fishing gear and makes them erode very fast.
The best budget saltwater fly reel options are Maxcatch’s Sparta, Redington Rise, and Pflueger’s President.
So here is my take on the best fly reels for saltwater. They are suitable for the mighty fish and destructive salt you need to fight at sea.
The Redington Grande Fly Reel is one of the best saltwater fly reels I have ever gotten my hands on. It has all the features necessary for making a good reel for seawater fishing. The powerful drag and ergonomic design make this reel my favorite.
So next time you want to conquer the sport of fly fishing at sea, make sure you are ready with the best fly reel for saltwater.
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