Can You Use Freshwater Reels In Saltwater?

If you are googling “can you use freshwater reels in saltwater?”, then probably you are one of those experienced freshwater anglers who want to expand their horizon to saltwater fishing now by knowing whether or not they can utilize already existing equipment for the purpose. Your quest for these answers depicts your seriousness to conquer the kingdom of saltwater fishing. If you have found us then you have cast your hook in the right information.

In this article, we will talk about the key differences between fishing in freshwater and saltwater along with the differences between the equipment of the two in such detail that you will be able to figure out “can you use freshwater reels in saltwater?” on your own till the end.

Difference Between Freshwater Fishing and Saltwater Fishing

Freshwater and saltwater are two entirely different fishing environments and both present challenges and experiences of their own. As they are completely different, so are their gear, equipment, and fishing methods. Following are some key factors that separate freshwater fishing from saltwater fishing:

1. Size of the Catch

Usually, the fish found in freshwater bodies like lakes, rivers, ponds, and streams are much smaller in size. On the other hand, the ocean is teamed with much larger fish. Moreover, fish in the ocean tend to go on longer runs and offer more resistance than fish in freshwater. That’s why each fishing environment must be handled with different gear and different fishing techniques.

2. Fishing Gear

To deal with saltwater beasts, saltwater fishing gear is made much bigger, thicker, and heavier as compared to freshwater fishing gear. That’s why saltwater reels are more specialized and freshwater reels are made general purpose.

3. Fishing Lures and Baits

As freshwater contains smaller fish, you have a wide range of lures and baits to choose from. On the other hand, to catch a saltwater breast, you need to have much bigger and robust bait. So, the availability of lures and baits is limited in saltwater fishing.

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Difference Between Freshwater Reels and Saltwater Reels

Now that you know the key differences between fishing in freshwater and saltwater, it’s time to introduce the differences between the fishing gears of the two. Both freshwater and saltwater reels look alike but there is a difference between how both are made. Let’s explore that difference now:

1. Size of the Reel

Ocean saltwater is teamed with big boys and to hold those big boys, saltwater reels are made bigger, thicker, and robust as compared to freshwater reels. Plus ocean is vast and beasts of the ocean tend to go on longer runs than freshwater fish. So, saltwater fishing reels offer bigger spools with more line capacity.

2. Manufacturing Materials of the Reel

Saltwater is corrosive and eats away reels that are not made with corrosion-resistant materials. That’s why saltwater reels are made with materials and components that are corrosion-resistant like stainless steel. The body of the saltwater reel is made solid because the fewer access points are revealed, the less saltwater has chances to seep into. Plus to keep the inner workings of the saltwater reel smooth and to protect inner parts from corrosive water, they are also made with stainless steel.

3. Drag System of the Reel

The drag system of your fishing reel determines how easily your fish can unspool your fishing line. Usually saltwater fish are much larger and stronger as compared to freshwater fish and they also fight much harder. Plus when saltwater beasts are hooked, they tend to go on longer runs. For example, a 10-pound saltwater redfish will fight much harder as compared to 10-pound freshwater bass. So, you must have enough drag in your reel to deal with such great resistance otherwise you will permanently damage your reel.

Saltwater reels have strong drag systems and offer more drag than freshwater reels to deal with inshore beasts. Usually, 10 pounds of max drag is considered enough for the inshore beasts.

4. Cost of the Reel

As we have seen above, freshwater reels are general purpose and can’t withstand the corrosive effects of saltwater because of their build quality. That’s why freshwater reels are cheaper than saltwater reels. On the other hand, saltwater reels are made with corrosion-resistant materials, so, they are expensive.

Can You Use Freshwater Reels in Saltwater & the Other Way Round

Now that you are fully aware of different aspects of fishing in saltwater and freshwater, finally, it’s time to answer “can you use freshwater reels in saltwater”.  And the answer is yes you can but in limited scenarios.

If you are planning to fish in saltwater from a land-based structure like a fishing dock, fishing bridge, or fishing pier then you can use your freshwater reels as you have fewer chances of saltwater touching your reel. But if you are planning to fish in saltwater on daily basis via wade fishing, surf fishing, or kayak fishing, then we recommend that you don’t use your freshwater fishing reel for this purpose because your freshwater reel will rust away in no time. So, it’s time to upgrade your fishing reel.

Now you might ask, what if we have a saltwater fishing reel, can we use it for freshwater fishing? And the answer is yes. Freshwater doesn’t affect your fishing reel as it is not corrosive at all. Saltwater reels are all-rounder, you can use them in both freshwater and saltwater without any hesitation.

Cleaning Your Freshwater Reels after Saltwater Fishing Trip

If you are aware of the repercussions saltwater will have on your reel and still want to use your freshwater reel for saltwater fishing, then you must clean your fishing reel regularly after every fishing trip and there is a specific way of cleaning off your reel.

Novice anglers do this mistake quite often that they use the water hose to drench their reel in the water hoping it will get cleaned. But the truth is they push water and salt residue further into the inner parts of the reel. So, use the following tips to rinse your reel off:

  • Take a rag and wet it with freshwater.
  • Wipe your fishing gear with that rag and then either air dry or dry with a towel.
  • If your fishing reel hasn’t touched saltwater, you still need to clean it because when you are in the ocean or near the ocean, small portions of salt are still present in the air.
  • It doesn’t matter if you have used your reel for 30 minutes or 3 hours, it must be cleaned after usage.
  • Even saltwater reels are corrosion-resistant, they still need to be rinsed off after every trip because they are not made with 100% corrosion-resistant materials.
  • Although cleaning can’t save you reel from the corrosive effects of saltwater, it can still prolong the life span of your fishing reel.

Final Thoughts On Can You use Freshwater Reels in Saltwater

Now that you know the differences between freshwater environment and saltwater environment, it’s time to decide about the choice of your fishing reel. If you are not planning to fish offshore then you can use your freshwater reel otherwise you should consider buying a saltwater fishing reel.

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