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Best Inshore Spinning Reels: Ready for Hard Fights and Big Fish

Last Updated: October 23rd, 2020
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While there are tons of spinning reels on the market, very few are designed for the salt, and fewer still are available in sizes that can handle bull reds or small sharks. For that kind of performance, the pickings get pretty slim, and only a handful of companies really offer the goods.

If you’re an inshore angler who prefers the casting of a spinning reel, you may be at a loss for good options. And rather than make do with your freshwater tackle, we’d like to point you in the direction of some salty alternatives.

Below, you’ll find a buying guide, as well as reviews of some of the best spinning reels for inshore fishing:

Related: Best Inshore Spinning Rod, Best Saltwater Fishing Reels

Best Inshore Spinning Reels Reviewed

Daiwa BG

Daiwa BG5000 BG Saltwater Spinning Reel, 5000, 5.7: 1 Gear Ratio, 6+1 Bearings, 47.40' Retrieve Rate, 22 lb Max Drag,Black/Gold

Amazon 

BG2500

Drag: 13.2 lbs. maximum

Gear ratio: 5.6:1 (33.2 inches per turn)

Line capacity: 12/220, 14/190, 16/160

Bearings: 6 + 1 roller bearing

Weight: 9.3 oz.

BG3000

Drag: 15.4 lbs. maximum

Gear ratio: 5.6:1 (37.4 inches per turn)

Line capacity: 12/220, 14/190, 16/160

Bearings: 6 + 1 roller bearing

Weight: 10.8 oz.

BG3500

Drag: 17.6 lbs. maximum

Gear ratio: 5.7:1 (38.5 inches per turn)

Line capacity: 12/220, 14/190, 16/160

Bearings: 6 + 1 roller bearing

Weight: 14.1 oz.

BG4000

Drag: 17.6 lbs. maximum

Gear ratio: 5.7:1 (39.9 inches per turn)

Line capacity: 12/220, 14/190, 16/160

Bearings: 6 + 1 roller bearing

Weight: 14.3 oz.

BG4500

Drag: 22 lbs. maximum

Gear ratio: 5.7:1 (43.1 inches per turn)

Line capacity: 12/220, 14/190, 16/160

Bearings: 6 + 1 roller bearing

Weight: 22 oz.

BG5000

Drag: 22 lbs. maximum

Gear ratio: 5.7:1 (47.4 inches per turn)

Line capacity: 12/220, 14/190, 16/160

Bearings: 6 + 1 roller bearing

Weight: 22.6 oz.

BG6500

Drag: 33 lbs. maximum

Gear ratio: 5.3:1 (48.7 inches per turn)

Line capacity: 12/220, 14/190, 16/160

Bearings: 6 + 1 roller bearing

Weight: 29.5 oz.

BG8000

Drag: 33 lbs. maximum

Gear ratio: 5.3:1 (53.3 inches per turn)

Line capacity: 12/220, 14/190, 16/160

Bearings: 6 + 1 roller bearing

Weight: 30 oz.

Daiwa knows they have a winner on their hands with the accomplished BG, and for inshore angling, it just might be the best inshore reel out there.

The BG is the result of decades of experience in the salt, and from its rotor to its drag, its gearing to its crank, it’s built to fight big fish.

No company I know provides the range of sizes Daiwa offers, allowing you to match your reel to your rod and needs with ease. Be aware, however, that these reels run heavy for size, and nothing about the BG can be called svelte.

All of these reels share an excellent drag system with size-appropriate maximum settings. I’m not sure if Daiwa runs carbon fiber discs in these reels--I’ve never disassembled a BG--but I can tell you that whatever the components, the drag works like a charm. You won’t experience binding or skipping--just smooth, continuous, fight-winning resistance.

The BG’s maximums allow you to run very heavy lines, and the massive spools can accommodate plenty, even if you’re a fan of mono. In fact, the BG offers greater capacity than the estimable Battle II, easily outperforming the competition.

Daiwa knows that fights are won with drag and torque, and they’ve equipped the BG with solid metal gearing with massive teeth. The result is greater surface area, more traction, and torque delivery that makes a HEMI envious.

The teeth on the BG are ferocious!

Excellent gear ratios and big spools combine to provide ridiculous speed, and I don’t think there’s a spinning reel out there that can run with the BG. In the 5000, for instance, the Daiwa is a foot faster per crank than the Penn, and six inches faster than the fastest Shimano.

If you chase hard-swimming species, this is probably the best reel for you.

Durability is excellent, too, and overall performance just might edge the Penn for the title.

If you’re looking for an inshore reel and willing to spend a bit more than you would with the Battle II, the Daiwa BG is well worth the money.

Pros:

  • Excellent drag
  • Awesome capacity
  • Impressive speed
  • Excellent durability
  • Fantastic casting with appropriate diameter lines
  • Silky-smooth operation
  • Awesome anti-reverse

Cons:

  • Heavy

Penn Battle II

Penn 1338219 Battle II 4000 Spinning Fishing Reel

Amazon 

BTLII2500

Drag: 12 lbs. maximum

Gear ratio: 6.2:1 (33” per turn)

Line capacity: 255/6, 175/8, 140/10

Bearings: 5 + 1 roller bearing

Weight: 10.3 oz.

BTLII3000

Drag: 15 lbs. maximum

Gear ratio: 6.2:1 (35” per turn)

Line capacity: 200/8, 165/10, 120/12

Bearings: 5 + 1 roller bearing

Weight: 12.3 oz.

BTLII4000

Drag: 15 lbs. maximum

Gear ratio: 6.2:1 (37” per turn)

Line capacity: 270/8, 220/10, 165/12

Bearings: 5 + 1 roller bearing

Weight: 12.8 oz.

BTLII5000

Drag: 25 lbs. maximum

Gear ratio: 5.6.:1 (36” per turn)

Line capacity: 225/12, 200/15, 135/20

Bearings: 5 + 1 roller bearing

Weight: 19.8 oz.

BTLII6000

Drag: 25 lbs. maximum

Gear ratio: 5.6:1 (41” per turn)

Line capacity: 335/15, 230/20, 210/25

Bearings: 5 + 1 roller bearing

Weight: 22.10 oz.

BTLII8000

Drag: 30 lbs. maximum

Gear ratio: 5.3:1 (44” per turn)

Line capacity: 340/20, 310/25, 230/30

Bearings: 5 + 1 roller bearing

Weight: 30.2 oz.

Penn’s reels are legendary among saltwater anglers, and for inshore fishing, there’s a strong argument to be made that the Battle II is the best of the bunch. 

Penn has purpose-built these reels for the salt. The smaller sizes--the 2500 and 3000--are very good reels for specks, flounder, and blues. The 4000, 5000, and 6000 give saltwater enthusiasts a chance to tackle larger species that demand heavy drags and stout lines.

Speaking of drag, there’s no question that it’s at the heart of this reel. As you’d expect from a reel of this quality, Penn equips it with carbon fiber discs that provide tiring resistance and plenty of protection for your line. The maximum settings are high enough to allow seriously heavy lines, and at all tensions, you can expect smooth, consistent, predicable drag.

Penn’s spools are pretty big, and they provide plenty of space for your line. You’ll find that they’re marked with concentric circles, letting you know at a glance how much you have left, something I appreciate over the course of a long day’s fishing.

But as big as these spools are, especially in comparison to the offerings by Shimano, the Daiwa BG simply dwarfs them. If capacity or speed are a must for you, give the nod to the BG and don’t look back. That said, the Battle II is no slouch in either department, offering lightning-fast retrieves as you step up in spool size.

Above 10-pound test diameters, expect casting distance to suffer as the line creates friction with the retaining lip on the spool. That’s not Penn’s fault: blame simply physics. But with strong, slender braid, that shouldn’t be an issue.

Power and durability are hallmarks of the Battle II, and in its guts, you’ll find torque-delivering metal gears. Especially as you step up in size, you’ll find the power you need to fight mean fish as well as toughness that promises years of hard use. 

The Battle II runs metal gears with big teeth.

Equipped with an instant anti-reverse bearing, the Battle II lineup locks up fast, encouraging strong hooksets, too.

Overall, the Battle II is a very hard spinning reel to beat for the salt, and whether you’re casting for blues from the beach, chasing reds over a muddy flat as the tide moves, or fighting specks just offshore, you won’t be disappointed by its performance.

Pros:

  • Excellent drag
  • Excellent capacity
  • Superb durability
  • Fantastic casting with appropriate diameter lines
  • Silky-smooth operation
  • Awesome anti-reverse

Cons:

  • Not as capacious or fast as the Daiwa BG

Shimano Stradic Ci4+

Shimano Stradic CI4 2500FB HG Freshwater Spinning Reel

Amazon 

2500FB

Drag: 18 lbs. maximum

Gear ratio: 5:1 (35” per turn)

Line capacity: 200/6, 140/8, 120/10

Bearings: 6 + 1 roller bearing

Weight: 6.7 oz.

3000FB

Drag: 18 lbs. maximum

Gear ratio: 5:1 (35” per turn)

Line capacity: 230/6, 170/8, 140/10

Bearings: 6 + 1 roller bearing

Weight: 6.7 oz.

4000XGFB

Drag: 22 lbs. maximum

Gear ratio: 6.2:1 (39” per turn)

Line capacity: 240/6, 200/8, 160/10

Bearings: 6 + 1 roller bearing

Weight: 8.11 oz.

Shimano reels are the standard of excellence in the business, and even when a company like Penn or Daiwa builds a superior product, the bar they’re compared to is inevitably Shimano. 

And the awesome Stradic Ci4+ shows why. 

I’m not sure that it’s a better overall inshore reel than the Daiwa or Penn, but it certainly has some advantages that are worth considering.

The Daiwa BG is a beast, no doubt, but that speed and power come at the price of startling weight. And while the Penn is lighter than the BG, the Stradic Ci4+ is a true featherweight by comparison, somewhere in the neighborhood of 30- to 40% lighter than the competition!

That’s simply amazing, and if you find your hands and arms weary as the fishing day wears on, you should take a hard look at the Stradic Ci4+.

Each size runs Shimano’s legendary Hagane gearing at a 5:1 gear ratio, with spool sizes allowing impressive retrieval rates. At least as fast as the Penn, and sometimes quicker, these gears are as smooth as they come. Small spool sizes keep them slower than the Daiwa BG, but I wouldn’t feel sluggish with the Stradic Ci4+ in hand.

But to keep weight down, Shimano incorporates a fair bit of plastic in the innards of this reel. Whether that’s a deal breaker for you should come down to your sensitivity to weight.

The Stradic Ci4+ runs more plastic than Daiwa or Penn.

These are the guts of the Daiwa BG for comparison.

As you’d expect, the drag systems on the Stradic lineup are ridiculously smooth, offering maximum settings that allow for very heavy braided lines when necessary. You may find that it’s quite possibly the most smooth drag system you’ve ever used.

Capacity is good, but not great, as the spools are relatively small. If there’s a true drawback to the Stradic, it’s here. 

Pros:

  • Unrivaled build quality 
  • Hagane gearing is probably the smoothest on the market
  • Probably the best drag on the market
  • Really nice casting
  • Super lightweight

Cons:

  • To keep weight down, capacity and retrieval speed suffer (small spools)
  • Plastic innards
  • Expensive! 

Abu Garcia Revo Inshore

Abu Garcia Revo Inshore Spinning,Blue,Black,40

Amazon 

3500

Drag: 11 lbs. maximum

Gear ratio: 6.2:1 (39 inches per turn)

Line capacity: 10/190

Bearings: 6 + 1 roller bearing

Weight: 8.1 oz.

4000

Drag: 17 lbs. maximum

Gear ratio: 6.2:1 (40 inches per turn)

Line capacity: 10/230

Bearings: 6 + 1 roller bearing

Weight: 9.4 oz.

6000

Drag: 24 lbs. maximum

Gear ratio: 5.6:1 (35 inches per turn)

Line capacity: 14/205

Bearings: 6 + 1 roller bearing

Weight: 14 oz.

No one doubts the performance of Abu Garcia’s baitcasting reels, and along the Gulf Coast, they’ve earned a cult-like following of hardcore believers. But how does their spinning lineup compare?

Pretty well!

From the 3500-size up, the Revo Inshore is a delight to cast and fish. Below that size, I think the drag and capacity suffer, and there are better options in the 2500 and 2000 range--think Daiwa and Penn.

That said, the Revo Inshore is a thoughtfully-designed, superbly-constructed fishing machine. Employing a carbon fiber drag, you can count on smooth, consistent resistance, as well as size-appropriate maximums that allow you to tie on heavy braid. In this regard, I think the Abu Garcia might even give the Shimano a run for its money!

Spool capacity is roughly on par with the Battle II, and that’s saying something. Of course, the Daiwa still leads the pack, but the Revo Inshore is more than respectable. And that’s really saying something, given that the Abu Garcia is light, light, light.

At just 9.4 ounces for a 4000-size reel that can pack on a mile of line, you’re getting a lot of performance for each ounce and dollar.

And thanks to high gear ratios, the Revo Inshore is blisteringly fast, keeping up with the bigger, heavier Daiwa pretty much crank for crank. That’s significant given its weight, and it’s clear that the all-aluminum body of the 4000 and 6000 helps this reel to cut weight like a boxer the day before weigh-in.

I’ve never disassembled a Revo Inshore, so I’m not sure whether some of that weight savings is won through the use of plastic. I think so, and though Abu Garcia uses a machined aluminum main gear, I’d bet that many of the other gears are plastic.

That said, like the Stradic, you can still depend on reliable torque to win hard fights.

Overall, I like the Abu Garcia Revo Inshore, but for the money, I’d recommend the Daiwa or Penn.

Pros:

  • Excellent drag
  • Excellent capacity
  • Awesome speed
  • Silky-smooth operation
  • Super light

Cons:

  • Plastic innards make me question long-term durability

KastKing Sharky III

KastKing Sharky III Spinning Fishing Reel,Size 3000

Amazon 

3000

Drag: 33 lbs. maximum

Gear ratio: 5.2:1 (29.4 inches per turn)

Line capacity: 8/220, 10/175, 12/130

Bearings: 10 + 1 roller bearing

Weight: 9.4 oz.

4000

Drag: 39.5 lbs. maximum

Gear ratio: 5.2:1 (31.5 inches per turn)

Line capacity: 10/220, 12/200, 14/170

Bearings:10 + 1 roller bearing

Weight: 10.5 oz.

5000

Drag: 39.5 lbs. maximum

Gear ratio: 5.2:1 (33.4 inches per turn)

Line capacity: 12/220, 14/190, 16/160

Bearings: 10 + 1 roller bearing

Weight: 10.5 oz.

KastKing’s Sharky III is a well-engineered inshore reel that demonstrates that price doesn’t always track performance. An awesome option for anglers on a tight budget, there’s an appropriate Sharky III for anything you plan to do in the salt.

Roughly half the price of the Penn or Daiwa, you get plenty for your money, and you won’t feel seriously outgunned by these big names.

The Sharky III runs a carbon fiber disc drag, and it’s plenty smooth. While not the equal of the Shimano in terms of feel, there’s not a touch of hitch or lockup, and you can be confident that it’ll do its job. In each size, the maximum settings are ridiculously high, allowing you to run very heavy braid for really nasty fish, but small spools hamper both capacity and speed.

These small spools are there for weight reduction, and the Sharky III lineup rivals the Shimano in this department. If you need a light spinning reel for inshore angling, and can’t afford a Stradic, the KastKing might be the best option for you.

The Sharky III isn’t a particularly fast reel, and though the gear ratio is a respectable 5.2:1 across the line up, smaller diameter spools result in speeds that are nothing to write home about. That’s not necessarily a problem, and if specks and reds are your primary game, you should be able to keep up just fine.

Tie into a shark, however, and the Sharky III may let you down.

It won’t be the enviable all-metal gearing that fails, though. It provides plenty of power, loads of torque, and durability in spades. An oversized stainless-steel main shaft paired with mesh manganese brass pinion gears provide more than enough oomph for big fish.

KastKing’s Sharky III runs serious metal gears.

Is the Sharky III the equal of the awesome Daiwa BG or incredible Penn Battle II? No. But as a reasonably-priced alternative to these high-dollar performers, you won’t be disappointed by what KastKing has to offer.

Pros:

  • Great price
  • Excellent drag
  • Good capacity and speed
  • All metal gearing provides plenty of torque and durability
  • Very light
  • Plenty smooth

Cons

  • Can’t rival Daiwa or Penn in terms of capacity or speed

What We Look for in the Best Inshore Spinning Reels

Drag

A good inshore reel will offer a reliable, powerful drag. Not only should near-maximum settings allow you to run heavy line, at any setting it should release smoothly without hitching, stopping, or binding.

Drags should be easy to adjust on the fly, dialing up their strength or easing off quickly.

You can find the drag knob on the end of the spool on this Daiwa BG.

Quality spinning reels will typically wear their drag setting knobs on the end of the spool where direct pressure can apply force without the need for complex mechanisms. And while excellent drag systems come in many varieties, carbon fiber discs are among the best available choices.

These are carbon fiber drag discs.

These discs apply direct pressure to the spool as it releases line, and they serve two purposes.

First, they cushion your line, allowing a big fish to take it without placing undue stress on it. That is, by allowing line to leave your spool under pressure, they protect it from breakage. That’s why you typically set your drag to roughly ⅓ the test strength of your line; that provides plenty of margin to prevent a sudden break.

Second, they help tire big fish. Really big fish can’t simply be fought into your net or gaff. Instead, you need to let them run, fight them back, and gradually wear them down. A heavy drag setting and strong line force the fish to do more work and fight harder, tiring it more quickly.

Capacity

Capacity matters and big spools are the kings of inshore angling.

Why?

A big spool has three advantages:

A big spool holds plenty of line for long casts and cutting and retying.

Whether you’re fishing a salt marsh south of Cocodrie or casting from your boat into the shallows in Florida, long distances are routine for inshore angling. You’ll need capacity for those long casts, and you’ll need plenty of line to discard damage and re-tie.

A big spool helps in a hard fight.

Not only does a big spool magnify your reel’s gear ratio, increasing the retrieval rate of each crank, but it also holds enough line that if you tie into a real monster--think shark, tarpon, or tuna--you have the line to let it run and fight your drag.

A big spool lets you run very heavy line.

While the numbers we provide are measures for mono-weight diameters, you can obviously run much heavier braided lines on these reels, giving you more line with greater tensile strength. And while braided line has some disadvantages (lower knot strength and low shock strength), these can both be overcome by stepping up to truly heavy-weight braid. A big spool can let you run 50-pound+ braided line, letting your spinning reel really punch above its weight.

Gearing and speed

A reel’s speed is measured in part by it’s gear ratio, a numerical ratio of rotations of the spool for each turn of the crank. For instance, a gear ratio of 5.2:1 means that the spool will rotate 5.2 times for every full turn of the handle. Higher ratios obviously signal faster reels.

Speed matters, especially when a fast fish turns and runs straight at you. As it does, your line will tend to go slack, releasing pressure on the hook and giving the fish a chance to throw it.

To combat this, you need to retrieve line faster than the fish slackens it, and that demands a fast reel.

But speed--measured in inches per turn of the handle--is also affected directly by spool size. Think about it this way: a 5.2:1 gear ratio turning a big spool picks up more line than the same gearing pushing a small spool.

Don’t just look at gear ratios: consider retrieval rates carefully!

Power

When you’re fighting small sharks and big reds, you’ll need plenty of torque with each crank, and that typically demands long arms, big knobs, and strong gearing.

I like reels with oversized metal gears. They provide tougher teeth and offer greater contact and surface area, both of which translate into more felt power.

Durability

Closely related to this, metal gears last longer than plastic alternatives. That’s a simple fact.

And though plastic can cut down on costs, I typically dodge it for my saltwater reels as it just can’t take the beating of big fish.

I also look for strong bodies and sealed drag systems that help prevent saltwater intrusion.

Final Thoughts

We didn’t cover every option for inshore, especially the really high end. And that might leave you wondering, “But what about reels like Penn’s top-of-the-line Clash II?”

Let’s think carefully about this for a moment.

The Clash II is excellent--no question. But check out the capacity and speed--you’ll notice that they’re not even close to the Battle II or Daiwa’s BG. And while the Clash promises all the bells and whistles, it doesn’t matter if the drag is slightly smoother, or the body slightly stiffer if it can’t hold enough line or wind it in quickly enough.

And that’s the central problem with some of the pricier options out there: they offer features that try to justify their higher price, but that really don’t offer a lot of bang for the buck.

That’s why we’ve made the recommendations we do: we’re trying to offer the best, not the most expensive options for you.

As always, we hope we’ve helped you make the right choice for your needs and budget, and we’d love to hear from you.

Please leave a comment below.

About The Author
Pete D
Born and raised in Cleveland, Ohio, Pete grew up fishing on the Great Lakes. When he’s not out on the water, you can find him reading his favorite books, and spending time with his family.
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