Can You Use Freshwater Reels In Saltwater: Why or Why Not?

There are a lot of things to look into when choosing your fishing equipment. One of the important factors to look into is whether or not you’re fishing in saltwater or freshwater.

Yes, there are different rods and reels made for the two different types of water, which you should be careful in handling. However, some have thought of interchanging the two kinds of reels to save money! It’s why a lot of people have wondered, “can you use freshwater reels in saltwater?”

Read on to see the differences between freshwater and saltwater reels to see if you can interchange them.

Saltwater vs. Freshwater Reels

Before we get into using freshwater reels in saltwater, what is its main difference with saltwater reels? These are the reasons why they shouldn’t be interchanged:

Saltwater reels are usually made with corrosion-resistant material like stainless steel, also having solid body frames. This lessens the chances of major damage to its inner parts. Freshwater reels don’t have this kind of protection since freshwater isn’t as corrosive compared to saltwater.

Saltwater reels also have bigger sizes compared to freshwater ones, made with larger spots to hold more fishing lines. This is meant for saltwater fish species, which would go on longer runs compared to freshwater fish like bass.

Speaking of saltwater fish species, they are larger compared to those you find in freshwater, thus being stronger. Saltwater reels have stronger drag strength while freshwater ones do not, and the latter won’t be able to handle the force of saltwater fish. As a result, freshwater reels wouldn’t be able to withstand saltwater fishing situations.

Lastly, saltwater reels are more expensive since they are made of better-quality materials. Good freshwater reels may cost half of the quality saltwater spinning reels!

That’s why freshwater reels should only be used in freshwater, while its saltwater counterparts are best used in saltwater.

What happens if you do interchange them, though?

Can You Use Freshwater Reels In Saltwater?

Some anglers would use their freshwater reel in saltwater to save on time changing reels, or money having to buy a saltwater one. But is it safe to do this?

The short answer is NO, you should NOT use your freshwater reel in saltwater! It is possible and you can use whatever rod and reel you like in any type of water, but I highly suggest against it.


Freshwater rods and reels should only be used in freshwater if you want it to work properly for a long time. While they are strong reels, they would only last in freshwater because of its construction.

The reels are usually made of simple metals, which corrode slowly over time, but not as quickly if you used it only on freshwater. When using it in salt water, then they would corrode even quicker unless you applied some form of sealant. But even then, they are still more susceptible to damage and will wear out quicker than expected, which will have you in need of a replacement.

Besides this, a freshwater reel usually won’t have the size to handle bigger fish species you usually found in saltwater and oceans. This can negatively affect your chances of success when you fish for specific species that require heavier lines and lures to catch.

That’s a huge waste of money right there because instead of purchasing a separate saltwater reel, you will need to replace your freshwater reel! This is especially for anglers who have paid a ton of money on their freshwater spinning reel.

What about using a saltwater reel in freshwater? Yes, you can use it in freshwater because they have stronger construction to withstand corrosion saltwater causes. Its parts are tough and can prevent salt water from getting into its mechanisms, making them suitable for various fishing situations.

Furthermore, saltwater reels may also have extra special sealants that hold water off metals, extending their lifespan. BUT, because of its heavier-duty construction, it may not be the best for freshwater as you’ll have to handle heavier lines and lures. That’s not what you want or need when fishing in freshwater.

Read More: What Pound Test For Surf Fishing Do You Need: A Comprehensive Guide

What If I Still Plan to Use It?

With this in mind, it is still possible to use the reel in saltwater if it’s just a temporary thing. You can use them when fishing from land-based structures like a dock, fishing pier, or bridge. This is because it won’t be as exposed to saltwater and used for a short while.

But if you plan on going wade fishing, kayak fishing, or surf fishing, chances are that saltwater will get to them, damaging it quickly. The same goes for those who purchased top-of-the-line freshwater reels. It’s better to get a saltwater reel than to risk damage to your expensive freshwater one!

As much as possible, invest in separate reels made for its specific type of water, fish size, and technique. It will save you a lot in the long run.

For those who do plan on going saltwater fishing with freshwater reels, make sure to take proper care of your reels. Do not expose it to saltwater and wash your reels down immediately after use, especially when using it in saltwater regularly. Add sealant, oil, and grease as needed, which can help in its performance and lifespan.

Wrapping It Up

It may seem tempting to interchange saltwater and freshwater reels and use it in any body of water. However, with freshwater reels, I strongly discourage you to use it in salt water, as it may get damaged quickly. Instead, you should invest in both saltwater and freshwater reels to last long and get your money’s worth.

I hope that this article answered your question, “can you use freshwater reels in saltwater?” Now that you know the answer, invest in the correct equipment according to what you need!

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