Choosing a saltwater fishing reel can be a complicated matter depending on many different factors. From a general standpoint you need to select a reel that will not corrode from the heavy saltwater that will inevitably land on your reel. Saltwater is much more destructive to a reel than fresh water so it is imperative that you clean your reels after each use with a cloth. If you will not be fishing again soon you should take the vital pieces apart and make sure they are cleaned and freshly oiled when applicable.
You first decision regarding a reel is matching it to what you are fishing for. You will need a large reel for sure. Unless you are fishing for snappers or only the smallest species available I would recommend a reel that holds at least two hundred yards of line, in some cases much larger. You need to remember that salt water fish fight much harder than their fresh water cousins. For starters they are much larger and even the largest can be caught much more regularly.
The same live shrimp that you can catch ten inch Snapper on all day will also entice a Tarpon weighing more than one hundred pounds to strike. That is often the beauty of salt water fishing; you never know what fish will be on your line next.
There is also a distinct difference in the method of fighting of these fish. A freshwater fish like a Largemouth Bass or a Northern Pike will often give a steady fight throughout. Saltwater fish tend to make huge runs for long distances. Therefore you need at least two to three hundred yards of line and you need a reel that has an excellent drag system. All of the equipment you use is important, but for salt water fishing the reel is without a doubt your most important piece of equipment. A good reel sufficient for catching ninety five percent of the fish you will catch in salt water costs about seventy five to one hundred and fifty dollars.
There are also many specialized situations that will require a special reel.
Surf fishing fits this topic of discussion. Every day in Florida you will see hundreds of fishermen at the local beaches surf fishing. You will notice they are using reels that are huge, often holding as much as five to six hundred yards of line. Often these fishermen are fishing for large species like King Mackerel and many different species of sharks. They need these huge reel because it is often important to be able to cast your line as much as one hundred yards or more from shore. When fishing for sharks anything goes, I have seen Hammerhead Sharks of over eight feet long caught from beaches. You would be surprised at just how many sharks are very close to the very beaches you swim and fish from.
Another aspect of a reel that is important are the number of ball bearings and gear ration that they possess. These factors are important in determining the power of the reel. By power I am referring to how much line is retrieved for each revolution of the handle.