What’s Your Favorite Saltwater Reel?

Best Saltwater Reel
So many to choose from… Photo: Ric Fogel/Sportfolio

It’s poll time here at the Deneki blog!

There are a bunch of quality reels out there these days that do a great job in the saltwater.

We want to hear about your favorite fly reel for fishing in the saltwater, and why you like it.

  • Any size, any price point.
  • Any saltwater fishery – bonefish, salmon, tuna, tarpon, sea run trout…they all count.
  • Tell us why you like it.

OK?  So what’s your favorite saltwater reel?  Why do you like it?  Leave us a comment and let us know!

More Reader Input


  1. says

    Love the site, guys.

    I haven’t used the Hatch, but they look sweet. I’m a Nautilus guy right now, and have been pretty happy – 8W for snook up to 12W for the big tarpon on the beach.

    Used Orvis, Tibor, Nauti’s, Sage, an Abel (can’t afford more than one!), and even a Martin – loved them all . . .

  2. Gary Davisson says

    I use Ross Canyon Big Game 5’s. Good drag and they are quiet. When fishing with guides, I have fished with Sage, Orvis and Abel, all nice reels with good drags but some produce more noise than I like.

  3. JasonM says

    The Tibor line of reels. Why: they are built like a tank and flawlessly execute every time. Simplicity is key also. Very few moving parts.

  4. Alex K says

    Hatch Finatic #7 – not all reels were made equal. Perfect for bonefish, permit, ‘cudda, and even the smaller poon.

  5. Ren says

    Hatch Finatic 9 plus mid arbor…
    very smooth and easy to adjust drag, ton of backing for sailfish when fishing a 12 weight, light enough to use my 9 weight on permit, bonefish, small GTs, and when i’m chasing steelhead and salmon, all i need to do is reduce the amount of backing and i’m all set! super versatile and stylish reel.

  6. Bob Verde says

    Charlton’s are hard to beat and harder to find. Signature 8550C for tarpon and offshore, 8450C for permit and bones. Ya gotta wind a lot sometimes but that’s half the fun.

  7. Doug Jett says

    Blondes, Redheads, Brunettes, they all are fine! My hair is gray!!!
    Reels – Pure guts – Tibor, Abel.
    Looks – Tibor , Abel, and the Old Sage 5000 series (looks like an Abel)
    I’ve got Tibor From Everglades up to Gulfstream
    Abels in Super 6-through8
    My sleeper – Fin-nor #2 not the prettiest reel but durable and a very, very smooth drag. None of the above have ever let me down.
    trout reels are a different story.
    You ought to see my rod selection.

  8. Andrew Niethe says

    I like Galvan’s Torque series, T-8 for Stripers, Blues and Bonefish, does double duty on my light switch rod.
    T-10 for larger fish/ heavier rods/larger flies. Doubles on 13′ DH rod.
    T-16 Monster reel for Tuna and Makos.
    They are affordable, sturdy, have a smooth drag and great service, also the company is family owned which I appreciate.

  9. Sean Gilligan says

    Hatch 7 Plus, with 9 wt line. It always works, great drag, easy to clean and light.

  10. John Potter says

    The Galvans do everything that I ask and take a lot of abuse with little or no up keep.

  11. Na-ed Nas says

    Danielsson Flyreels L5W. This are Swedish flyreels made by a small company here in Sweden. I have tested them in Los Roques and Mexico. The drag are just magical and the quality is superb.

  12. Richard Franklin says

    I like all the reels mentioned, we are so lucky to have such high quality choices. I always have a cork, draw-bar reel with me, Abel or Islander, but have been fishing for bonefish with Hatch and Nautilus NV plus…the one I am going to go with as no one else has mentioned it; the Hardy Fortuna X. Sealed, stacked super-potent drag, solid as a rock, smooth and infinitely adjustable, its width to depth spool proportions are just right. A first rate contender.

  13. says

    Affordability + Quality (+ sharp looks): Lamson Litespeed

    Quality + awesome old-timey look/feel: Tibor. I have a Tibor Backcountry & love it with all my heart. Someday I’ll own an Everglades or similar…

  14. doug jett says

    I’ve never fished any of the Hardy saltwater reels, but I have fished and loved many of the older English made Hardy trout reels. Some of the readers don’t like noise, but there is a lot to be said for the noise of a pawl drag screaming under a lightning run by a big rainbow trout. It’s also neat if fishing in crowded waters when everyone looks up as they know you have hooked “Old Eli” when that drag screams!! What say Andrew – agree????

  15. NYCflyangler says

    I use a Kamikaze PF8 Fly 9/12

    Australian company. Comes with three extra line inserts. Easy to adjust drag

  16. brian Thielicke says

    Mako 9550
    I have landed tarpon over 125 lbs, bill fish, tuna, you name it.
    This real has the smoothest, beefiest drag I have fished

  17. Steve says

    I have owned and fished many over the years including Abel, Tibor, Ross, Orvis, etc. I still fish some Ross Gunnisons but have got rid of all the others and fish Galvans today. I love them, they have all the features I need: Pop-off spools ( I like to change spools quickly…not lines!, Lightweight, strong, good & durable finish and an ever so smooooooth drag.

  18. John says

    Hatch 7 plus for bones, stripers, and small snook.

    Hatch 9 plus for permit and tarpon.

  19. Thomas64 says

    I’ve tried most of them reels during those 36 years I have fished for Bonfish, Tarpon and Sailfish and now I only use Hatch and Danielsson reels.
    For me it is important that there is a good and reliable brake, light weight and good service from the manufacturer wherever you fish in the world.

  20. Matt says

    Bauer CFX and Rogue. Smoothest drags I’ve used, nice aesthetics, no complaints. The anodizing seems tough as well, its still flawless after a season fishing steelhead and chinook.

  21. Rick Bannerot says

    Bauer M5 & M6 Superlights (bones, albies, redfish); Abel Super 8 (bones, redfish); Van Staal 8/9 (striped bass and albies)

  22. says

    There is only one to consider, and that is simply a “HATCH”! The only other one to consider is a Bauer. Charlton’s, are very nice, but find one that the average fly fisher-person can afford. They are a collector’s item, and mine are not up for sale.
    Mr. Bauer, is abrake man. He learned it from his Father, and his car racing days.
    The finest engineering is with “HATCH””, in every recpect. I have and do, fish mine in both Fresh and the Salt. Tough, Very Reliable, and Dependable with a wonderful little company in San diego that backs their cooment to their customer’s. Get a “HATCH”, and go FISHING.
    Andy R.

  23. Ken says

    I like both the Nautilus NV and the Hatch #7 as they are both great reels for saltwater. Steelhead and salmon.

  24. Adrian says

    Nautilus NV 10/11 Salt and Spey
    Danielsson HD 9/13 Salt and Spey
    Lamson Litespeeds for a very light smooth reel.
    Great drags, smooth, powerful, reliable, and good looking as well.

  25. Joe McCann says

    Just for old time sake, I still love my Van Staal, which like the Ross Canyons, is as solid and smooth as you can find. Weight is the issue though.

  26. Dane S. says

    Ross Momentum 8 on the 14wt and Galvan T14 on the 16wt. Both have what it takes to handle big fish and blistering runs.

  27. Dr. Goethe says

    Current Mako series of saltwater fly reels by Charlton have the best drags and finishes, but they are heavier reels and are expensive. However, the previous Charlton reels have proven their worth, and are still highly prized. The Makos seem even better to me.

  28. Aubrey says

    I have to put in a word for Colton reels. Made in the USA, built like tanks, and incredible value. The Torrent series is the equal of the Abel and Tibor, comparable to the best of the disk drag reels at half the price. The new Terrapin, with sealed drag, is at least the equal of the Nautilis NV, and sells for about $400. Super smooth drags, state of the art engineering, flawless construction, and value. Did I mention tough, tough, tough. I think these reels would be more popular if Bob Filger inflated the prices to accommodate our well-known tendency to define our fly fishing ability by the cost of our equipment.

  29. Robert says

    I’ve been a Tibor fan for years. Rugged and dependable. I’ve used his Billy Pate anti-reverse, just a bit heavy. Now prefer the Gulfstream for large species like Tarpon and the Riptide for Dorado, Permit and as a spey reel on my switch rod. The drag is smooth and the finish excellent.

  30. Jim Smith says

    I used the Abel Super 8 on steelhead and salmon. The retrieve was too difficult for king salmon. This year, I switched to the Nautilus NV 10/11 with G-8 spool. I’ll be taking it to the Salmon River, NY, in a couple weeks.

  31. E. Pishvai says

    I’ve never fished with Any reel, as unbelievably amazing as a Big Game VERY LIMITED Edition, Gold anodized 10-12 Hardy Bros Fly Reel! I was given the true privilege to field test this incredibly FINE FLY REEL. On my very first outing (10 minute drive from home), as my wife was in the middle of praying for me, I hooked and landed a 28 Lb. Summer Steelhead. The battle with this large HATCHERY STEELHEAD, was nearly becoming a chore, as with many other Hatchery Summer Steelhead of the Upper Clackamas river system of Oregon!!! And no, I hadn’t hooked it in the roof of the mouth. You see, this seems to give a great deal of pain/discomfort to both Pacific Salmon & Steelhead

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