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Best Inshore Spinning Reels – Reviews and Buyers Guide
Among the activities you can indulge yourself in to make the most out of your weekends, fishing is perhaps the most invigorating and rewarding. But let’s face it – few of us have the resources and frankly, the energy, to brave the deep sea and go looking for big catch. Fortunately, inshore fishing presents an opportunity to experience the thrill of fishing without having to expend money and/or exhaust yourself physically.
By staying in the shallows, you can make do with lighter watercraft and fishing equipment such as rods and reels. I had already spent some serious cash on an overkill reel before realizing that a much more affordable product would have done just fine for my inshore angling needs!
Experience was my teacher – but I’d rather you are spared the expense, so I’ve put together this guide to help you choose the best inshore spinning reel for saltwater fishing.
Best Inshore Spinning Reel Comparisons
Shimano Stradic C3000HG
Penn Spinfisher V SSV4500
Shimano Sienna SN4000FD
Okuma Trio 55 Standard Speed
Quantum Smoke PT Inshore
A little background on inshore fishing
In a nutshell, inshore fishing is an umbrella term for angling that happens within three miles of the beach. Naturally, this means calmer waters, which in turn lets you get away with simpler (read: cheaper) gear, as mentioned before.
In particular, spinning reels used for inshore fishing don’t need to be the behemoths normally favored by offshore deep-water anglers. This is because the catch you find in the shallows is considerably less massive, so the reels can be made from relatively lighter materials, have smaller spool diameters and so on.
Features of a decent in inshore spinning reels
As stated above, the fish you find in shallow saltwater isn’t as enormous as deep water catch. Consequently, you can safely use fishing line rated for lower stress values in your reel. Since stress rating is dependent on line diameter, you’ll be fine getting a spinning reel with a smaller spool designed for holding lighter fishing line.
However, keep in mind that you may have to cast for greater distances to reach the parts of the water teeming with fish, so the spool still needs to be able to hold at least 150 yards of 8 lbs. line. Depending on the exact application, you’d have to get a reel with a spool sized between 2500 and 4500.
Aluminum is the material of choice for most manufacturers when it comes to offshore saltwater fishing – this stems from the fact that it is sturdy and can be made rigid through cold forging techniques. In comparison, inshore fishing doesn’t necessitate this tough a frame since the reel won’t be exposed to the same kind of stresses.
This means that materials such as carbon fiber and graphite can be used, which are inherently better at resisting the corrosive effect of saltwater. Furthermore, these materials are lighter than aluminum and will drain less of your stamina with each cast. This is important because you will be casting a lot in the shallows, and sometimes over considerable distances.
Ball bearing count
Ball bearings incorporated into the gear mechanism are essential for fluid reeling and casting. They achieve this by eliminating friction between moving parts – this also makes the transmission system more efficient, so you don’t have to expend as much energy during casting.
For inshore fishing purposes, 3 to 5 is a good bearing count because, again, you won’t be casting heavy line or pulling in heavy fish, both of which lead to considerable friction losses.
With inshore fishing, you need to be able to reel in smaller fish quickly, which means higher gear ratios such as 5:1 and onwards, are preferable. These ratios will of course result in reduced torque – but then again, you don’t need a lot of torque to pull lightweight fish, especially when they aren’t that deep either!
I normally recommend carbon fiber drag washers for fishing applications, and inshore fishing is no exception – these washers are much more durable than normal felt washers and can withstand a lot of punishment before burning out.
Setting the Drag on your Fishing Reel
However, if you are budget bound and cannot buy a pricier product with CF washers, felt washers will also serve your purpose (albeit for a shorter while), because the drag forces experienced in the shallows (20lbs to 25lbs) aren’t as massive as they are in deep water (can exceed 30 lbs. for bulkier fish).
Even if it is inshore fishing, you’re still doing it in saltwater, which is why it is imperative that you get a product that is waterproof, or water-resistant if that is not manageable in your budget.
Water-tightness / water-proofing means that the saltwater simply won’t be able to enter the inside of the reel, even after it has been dipped in saltwater for a prolonged period of time.
Water-resistance means that the reel’s critical components e.g. the drag system, the ball bearings, the gears, have all been given corrosion resistant coatings, so even if they do get soaked by saltwater, they don’t get permanently damaged.
Regardless of whether your reel is watertight or water-resistant, you will have to take it apart and clean its insides on a periodic basis to ensure smooth, jerk-free operation. The only difference is that with watertight reels, this exercise has to be repeated less frequently.
A one-way bearing that ensures rotation of the handle in only one direction is necessary to eliminate all traces of back-play. Back-play can result in jerks when you’re reeling the fish in, and in the worst case scenario, it may even lead to a lost catch.
This applies to fishing reels in general and is not restricted to those meant solely for inshore fishing.
Top Inshore Spinning Reel Reviews
Shimano Stradic C3000HG Spinning Reel Japanese Edition
- Bearing Count: 6 + 1
- Gear Ratio: 6.0:1
- Line Capacity (lbs. / yds.):
6/230, 8/170, 10/140 [mono];
Featuring Shimano’s innovative ‘Hagane’ construction methodology, the Stradic C3000 HG FK takes a stride towards robustness, reliability and maneuverability – all in a single package.
The cold-forged Hagane drive is bolstered by Shimano’s signature X-Ship construction which utilizes two ball bearings to precisely align it with the pinion gear, yielding unprecedented smoothness and durability. The bearings also eliminate friction so you can achieve smooth, long distance casts time and time again.
Line twist – a frequent issue with spinning reels – is mitigated through the use of a grooved roller that ensures that the line is wrapped evenly. Thanks to the worm gear oscillation system, the reel is able to precisely wind the line with minimal friction and optimum smoothness.
The Stradic has a 6.0:1 gear ratio which is able to churn out a decent 31 IPT of line retrieve, and the 20 lbs. of maximum drag force is adequate enough for catching most inshore fish species. The spool has a maximum mono capacity of 10 lbs. / 140 yards and a maximum braided capacity of 40 lbs. / 105 yards – while it isn’t extensive, it will be fine for most applications.
Shimano’s Super Stopper II technology has been used to eliminate all back-play, but the mechanism lacks an anti-reverse switch so you won’t be able to back-reel for species such as walleye.
Apparently, the manufacturer did away with the anti-reverse switch to conserve the weight of the product, and in that context, they have definitely succeeded, creating a sturdy cold-forged aluminum frame that weighs a meager 8.3 ounces. As such, you’ll be able to make repeated casts all day long.
You should also note that the outer body and critical internals have all been given corrosion resistant coatings. However, this product is not watertight, so be prepared for punctual cleaning.
Except for the scattered criticism this reel has received for lacking an anti-reverse switch, anglers have given it glowing appraisals because of its rugged yet lightweight construction, and its ability to cast and retrieve smoothly after repeated excursions. As such, it is a fine product if you are looking to engage in competitive light-to-medium weight inshore fishing.
- Compact and strong cold-forged aluminum frame.
- Consistently smooth performance.
- Fast, powerful and efficient gear system.
- Lacks a dedicated anti-reverse switch.
- Not waterproof.
- Slightly expensive.
Penn Spinfisher V SSV4500 Spinning Reel
- Bearing Count: 5 + 1
- Gear Ratio: 6.2:1
- Line Capacity (lbs. / yds.):
8/300, 10/250,12/185 [mono]; 15/365, 20/280, 30/300 [braid]
The Spinfisher V SSV4500 is Penn’s solution for anglers in need of a thoroughly dependable, high-performance reel for shoreline fishing that can handle being dunked in the water several times in a session.
The full metal body of the reel houses a sealed HT-100 Slammer Drag System which, besides incorporating 3 highly durable carbon fiber drag washers, is also water-tight. This means that you’ll be able to enjoy a smooth and powerful drag, competition after competition without having to spend money on aftermarket replacements.
Mind you – the reel’s drag system has been rated for a maximum 25 lbs. of stress, so you’ll be able to easily fight and catch any species of fish living in the shallows. 5 stainless steel ball bearings ensure an easy, efficient casting experience – they’ve been given special corrosion resistant shielding to be able to withstand extended saltwater exposure.
The spool system deserves praise for using a rubber gasket to make sure that the line lay is uniform – even when you’re using ultra-slippery braided lines. The line capacity is equally impressive: being rated for 185 yards of 12 lbs. mono, and 300 yards of 30 lbs. braid. Coupled with its high speed 6.2:1 gear system and 34 IPT retrieve, this makes the reel perfectly suitable for inshore surf fishing that requires long distance casting.
The Spinfisher has an instant anti-reverse one way bearing to do away with any looseness in the handle as expected from all decent products. It also has a friction trip ramp that eliminates the risk of a premature bail trip that can lead to unsuccessful casts and lost lures – this is indicative of a thoughtful design process on part of the manufacturer.
As far as user feedback goes, most anglers have been quite pleased with the way this reel performs reliably and powerfully in saltwater. There have, however, been complaints about random jams from some consumers which could be a result of faulty waterproofing of the drag system.
Aside from these quality control problems though, the only real qualm I have with this reel is that it is a bit heavy for an inshore reel at 15.4 ounces – this could be a hindrance when you make hundreds of casts a day.
- Balanced price.
- Robust, water-resistant design.
- Formidable drag system and line capacity for an inshore reel.
- Generous line retrieve, combined with speedy gear ratio.
- A few QC complaints.
- Slightly heavy for endurance testing fishing scenarios.
Shimano Sienna SN4000FD Spinning Reel
- Bearing Count: 3 + 1
- Gear Ratio: 5.1:1
- Line Capacity (lbs. / yds.):
8/240, 10/200, 12/160 [mono];
15/265, 30/175, 50/145 [braid]
Whether you’re just getting into inshore fishing and want a low-risk yet dependable spinning reel to learn the ropes, or you’re a seasoned angler in need of a contingency reel to back-up your primary expensive inshore tackle, the ultra-cheap, ultra-light Shimano Sienna SN4000FD is worth a look.
Sporting a lightweight graphite frame, sideplate and rotor, the Sienna is a natural choice for beginners who want maneuverability and ease of use from their reel. Other than this though, the graphite also gives the reel inherent protection against saltwater damage.
Shimano has also installed their in-house Propulsion Line Management system inside the reel – surprising for this cheap a product – so you get to experience the fluid castability normally reserved for much more expensive offerings. Furthermore, the presence of a dedicated anti-reverse bearing completely removes backplay in the handle.
The 3 stainless steel ball bearings positioned inside the surprisingly fast 5.2:1 gear system ensure smooth operation for the most part, as indicated by feedback from anglers who have used this reel. However, the cheap pricing shows when this reel gets dipped in saltwater for a long period of time: it is not water-resistant, so it suffers from jamming and jerky performance until it is taken apart and cleaned thoroughly.
In terms of line capacity, the Sienna 4000FD suffices nicely, both for mono (160 yds. of 12 lbs. line) and braid (145 yds. of 50 lbs. line). Line retrieval, too, is impressive at 32 inches per turn. While the lowly 13 lbs. drag limit restricts you to lighter catch, the drag system as a whole has nonetheless received praise for its silky performance considering the price-point. That being said, it too will require periodic maintenance / upgradation to work smoothly after continuous use.
Besides the technical limitations stemming from a low budget, the product has also gathered a few complaints pertaining to manufacturing defects. All in all though, it serves its purpose as a hands-on trainer / cheap backup quite admirably, and I would not advise you to extend its use beyond that, because you will be disappointed.
- Extremely cheap.
- Lightweight, intrinsically corrosion resistant construction.
- Commendable castability and drag for a budget product.
- Not especially water-resistant.
- Meagre drag limit.
- Potential QC problems.
Okuma Trio 55 Standard Speed
- Bearing Count: 9 + 1
- Gear Ratio: 4.5:1
- Line Capacity (lbs. / yds.):
10/380, 12/340, 15/240 [mono]
The Trio 55 is a somewhat unorthodox solution for inshore anglers, given its 4.5:1 gear ratio that leans more towards torque than speed – however, this makes it uniquely suitable for fighting bigger inshore species that exert serious force on the reel.
Sporting a hybrid graphite / aluminum body, the Trio 55 combines strength and agility in a single package. The body has been coated with a high density corrosion resistant material to ensure lasting performance in saltwater.
The manufacturer has used their Dual Force Drag technology to yield a beefy 24 lbs. drag limit – and while they’ve used felt washers instead of carbon fiber ones, the reel still yields smooth, consistent drag according to consumers.
9 high end ball bearings ensure smooth and efficient casting and reeling, while the Elliptical Oscillation System allows the line to be wrapped in a consistent manner so you don’t have to deal with knots, loops and snaps during casting.
The line capacity of the spool is a generous 240 yards of 15 lbs. mono, and if you’re going for bigger fish, you could always improve the stress limit by using braid instead (the EOS system will ensure that slippage isn’t a problem).
As mentioned before, the gear system foregoes speed in favor of power, so you’ll have to put up with a relatively slow 30 inches-per-turn retrieval rate. This, and the fact that it isn’t watertight, are the only drawbacks to this reel.
- Durability and lightness combined thanks to hybrid construction.
- Can handle heavier fish because of powerful drag system.
- Remarkable bearing count.
- 1 year warranty.
- lightly sluggish retrieve as compared to standard inshore reels.
Quantum Smoke PT Inshore Spinning Reel, Size 30
- Bearing Count: 9 + 1
- Gear Ratio: 5.2:1
- Line Capacity (lbs. / yds.):
With its durable yet lightweight SCR™ base alloy aluminum frame, and carbon fiber rotor, the Quantum Smoke SL30SPT is one of the most easy-to-handle spinning reels for serious in-shore angling.
The first thing worth noticing is this reel’s ability to outperform its competitors in terms of weight-to-drag ratio – this is possible not only due to the high end ceramic and carbon fiber drag washers it employs, but also because of the rigid alloy frame that can support such a huge drag force (18 lbs.) for its body weight (7.9oz).
Furthermore, the drag system has been sealed to minimize saltwater damage to the inner components. The frame itself has been given a multi-layer corrosion resistant coating so you can use the reel in saltwater for extended lengths of time.
The 9 ball bearings that have been incorporated into the MaxCast II spool system ensure smooth and efficient performance for the most part. The spool is also equipped with a braid-ready spool band which lets you use braided line to catch heavier fish without having to deal with traditional braid-related spooling problems.
The 5.1:1 gear system manages to establish a nice balance between power and speed, attaining a maximum retrieval rate of 31 inches per turn. A sealed clutch system utilizing a one-way bearing removes any chance of back-play.
There have been a few complaints about the reel developing a squeaky sound after a while, as well as the drag clicker failing. Since these complaints are in stark contrast with what the majority of anglers are saying about this reel, it indicates that the manufacturer has been sloppy with quality assurance – frankly, this is a bit disappointing given the rather high price point of this product.
- Rigid yet incredibly lightweight frame and rotor design.
- Carbon fiber drag washers for consistently smooth drag.
- Smooth, efficient casting performance.
- Generous bearing count.
- Somewhat pricey.
- Potential quality assurance problems.
Having perused this guide, you will now have some insight into that must be considered in order to single out the best spinning reel for inshore saltwater fishing for yourself. While restricting your search to a single subcategory of angling i.e. inshore narrows the search considerably, we must still remember that in-shore fishing is itself an umbrella term – encompassing several different techniques, species, lures and so on.
Ultimately, then, the best reel for inshore saltwater fishing will not be the same for everyone and will depend on their personal preferences and requirements.
Having said that, my pick for the best inshore spinning reel is the Penn Spinfisher V SSV4500 – it has sturdy, smooth, and watertight drag system; its line retrieval rate is quite swift; it has plenty of ball bearings to ensure efficient casting; and it can hold enough of both mono and braided line to catch any kind of fish dwelling in the shallows.
Of course, its higher drag limit and line capacity mean the frame has to be made heavier than usual to sustain the added stress, but if you’re looking for an all-in-one inshore angling solution, it doesn’t get better than this.