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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.
Shimano Stradic C3000HG
Penn Spinfisher V SSV4500
Shimano Sienna SN4000FD
Okuma Trio 55 Standard Speed
Quantum Smoke PT Inshore
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Loves everything to do with fishing and gear.
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