Selecting a saltwater reel can be confusing, time consuming and even expensive if you make the wrong selection and need to replace it sooner than expected. Comparing reels in the store or online still requires you to have a basic understanding of what to look for. So, let us help you by explaining what features should be on the top of your list and how to tell if your selection is up to the task.
Your reel is more that simple a place to store extra line when it is not being used. It is also an important element in determining how well your rod will cast & retrieve that line and provides the leverage needed to battle the fish you hook. When fishing in saltwater you need a reel built to withstand the dual abuse of not only a wide range of species but also the environment. Anything less will leave your creel empty and experience lacking.
Line Capacity is one of the features that set saltwater reels apart from their smaller freshwater versions. Even smaller saltwater species have the ability to make long runs or deep dives are break neck speeds. If your reel is not spooled with enough line you will easily find yourself staring at an empty spool and creel at the same time. It is recommended that you look for a minimum capacity of 300 yards, although slightly less can be used for inshore adventures.
When it comes to line capacity is only part of the equation, you also need a reel capable of utilizing line strong enough to handle larger saltwater species. The best way to accomplish this without resorting to gigantic oversized spools is to select a reel designed to be used with braided line. Braided line possesses an incredible strength to size ratio and allows you to use heavier weight lines without sacrificing line capacity. Of course there are times when monofilament will still be the answer so it is best to select a reel capable of handling either type of line flawlessly.
The gear ratio is what will provide the power needed to not only work your lures with the necessary life like action but also determines how easy it will be to retrieve what seems like miles of line when trolling. The gear ratio will be listed in terms of the number times the spool will turn per crank of the handle. A ratios of 4:1 for example means the spool will turn 4 times per turn of the handle. In general lower ratios are best suited for live lining bait, jigging or trolling and higher ratios provide the speed needed to achieve the best action when using faster lures or trying to search large areas in a cast & retrieve fashion.
Of course the stress of repeatedly casting, retrieving and catching big fish means the reel and its internal components will be under a lot of stress. The ball bearing are what protect these parts from premature damage and allow you to achieve a smooth, consistent retrieve each time. The first thing you want to do is select a reel with ball bearings rather than cheaper, less tolerant bushings. Although there is a generally accepted theory that more is better when it comes to ball bearing it is equally important you consider the quality of those bearings. A lower number of corrosion resistant stainless steel bearings will outperform a greater number of cheaper bearing every time.
If you are planning on spending the majority of your time trolling then you need not worry about how much your reel weighs, after all it will spend most of its time in a holder waiting for a bite. But is you will be jigging or casting a lure hour after hours you will soon realize every ounce counts. Look for lighter weight reels that will allow you better control and less fatigue, but do not sacrifice quality for the sake of a few ounces. Instead select a reel constructed of lightweight but durable materials to ensure the best of both worlds.
Finally, you need to make sure the reel you have selected will withstand the continued exposure to salt. While a heavy duty freshwater reel may have the back bone to perform well even against larger species it is the lack of corrosion resistance that will make it secondary to even a cheaper saltwater model. A good saltwater reel will be constructed of corrosions resistant materials and sealed to keep salt, water and sand from entering the housing and gear box.