Can I Use My Freshwater Fishing Rod And Reel in Saltwater? Pros And Cons

freshwater gear for saltwater fishing

Can I use my freshwater fishing rod and reel in saltwater?

It’s a common question among anglers.

The short answer is Yes. The long answer is yes, but it is not recommended. Saltwater fishing requires specialized gear designed to withstand saltwater’s corrosive effects. While a freshwater rod and reel may work for some time, they will eventually corrode due to the harsh environment.

While it is possible to do so, several things should be considered before switching from freshwater to salt water.

Growing up, I used one rod and reel setup because that’s all I could afford.

It held up to the abuse, and I really didn’t have any issues.

As I got into more expensive rods and reels, I now have a separate combo for saltwater and freshwater applications.

I’ll cover topics such as:

  • The differences between saltwater and freshwater rods.
  • How to maintain your gear for successful trips out on the ocean.
  • Safety tips for when you’re out at sea.

Let’s dive in.

fishing at the jetty

Saltwater vs. Freshwater Fishing Rods

When it comes to fishing rods, there are two main types: saltwater and freshwater. The construction and materials of each type of rod differ significantly, as do their durability and cost.

Construction and Materials

Saltwater fishing rods are typically made from graphite or fiberglass, which is more resistant to corrosion than other materials. They also have a thicker wall to strengthen against the powerful ocean currents encountered while fishing in saltwater. Freshwater rods are usually constructed with aluminum or composite material, making them lighter but less durable than their saltwater counterparts.


Saltwater rods are much more durable due to their thicker walls and corrosion-resistant materials used in construction. This makes them ideal for use in harsh conditions, such as strong waves or heavy winds that can occur when out on the open water. On the other hand, freshwater rods may not hold up well over time due to their thinner walls and less resilient material composition.

surf fishing

Pros and Cons of Using a Freshwater Rod and Reel in Saltwater

Cost savings is the main pro of using a freshwater rod and reel in saltwater. A good quality freshwater setup can be much less expensive than its saltwater counterpart.

However, these cost savings comes with drawbacks as well. The materials used to construct most freshwater rods are not designed to stand up against the corrosive effects of salt water over time, so they will inevitably start to break down faster than if you were using dedicated saltwater gear.

And since these rods are not built for use in salty environments, their performance may suffer when compared with specifically designed equipment for such conditions.

Recommended Gear for Saltwater Fishing

Finally, pick line types that won’t easily fray or weaken under pressure from larger gamefish like marlin, tuna, sailfish, etc. Braided lines tend to perform better here due to their superior strength-to-weight ratio.

pier fishing

Maintenance Tips for Saltwater Fishing Gear

Follow these tips to keep your gear in tip-top shape after every saltwater fishing trip. This applies to all your fishing gear, freshwater, and saltwater.

Cleaning and Storage Tips

After each use, rinse your rod, reel, line, lures, and other tackle with fresh water. This will help remove any salt residue that can cause corrosion over time.

Once you’ve rinsed off the equipment, dry it thoroughly before storing it in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight or heat sources.

If possible, store your tackle in an airtight container or bag to protect against moisture buildup, which can also lead to corrosion.

For example, if you have metal components on your rod or reel, such as hooks or swivels, apply a light coating of oil after drying them off for extra protection against rusting. Seems a bit excessive, I know. But good hooks ain’t cheap.

Choosing the Right Line for Saltwater Fishing

When it comes to saltwater fishing, choosing the right line is essential for success. A variety of lines available can be used in different conditions and for different types of fish.

Understanding the differences between these lines is important so you can make an informed decision when selecting your gear.

I tend to use braid these days for my saltwater fishing gear because it lasts longer. UV rays don’t break down the strength of the braid compared to other line types.

Not to say that fluorocarbon or mono is bad, but this debate will always go on between saltwater anglers.

Stick to what you’re comfortable with; there’s no right or wrong here.

Just your preference. Here are the differences:

The most common type of line used in saltwater fishing is monofilament, which is made from nylon or polyethylene fibers and has good abrasion resistance.

Monofilament also has good knot strength and flexibility, making it ideal for casting long distances with heavy lures or bait rigs.

Braided lines are another popular choice as they have excellent knot strength and low stretch properties, allowing anglers to feel even small bites on their lure or bait rig more easily than other line types.

Fluorocarbon lines offer superior invisibility underwater due to their refractive index being close to that of water, making it perfect for stealthy presentations when targeting wary species such as bonefish or permit.

Finally, there are specialty lines designed specifically for fly-fishing applications like sinking tip fly-lines, allowing anglers to target deeper waters without constantly adjusting their leader length throughout the day.

ocean charter fishing

Safety Tips for Saltwater Fishing

Saltwater fishing is a different beast. Follow these tips to make sure you’ll have a good trip:

Weather Conditions

It is important to know the weather conditions, especially if you’re heading out in a boat.

It can be dangerous and even deadly if caught in a storm while on the water.

Always check the forecast before heading out and pay attention to any changes in wind direction or speed and cloud cover.

For example, if there is lightning, thunder, high winds, or large waves, seek shelter immediately and wait for them to pass before continuing your fishing trip.

Proper Clothing and Footwear for Saltwater Fishing

You should always bring along some rain gear, just in case. Wearing clothes made of quick-drying material such as nylon or polyester will help prevent them from getting too heavy if they get wet.

Also, wearing a hat with a brim, a face/neck gaiter, and sunglasses with UV protection lenses can protect your face from sunburns.

Lastly, make sure your shoes have a good grip, so you don’t slip on wet surfaces like boat decks or docks.


What happens when you use a freshwater reel in saltwater?

Using a freshwater reel in saltwater can cause serious damage to the reel and its components.

Saltwater is much more corrosive than freshwater, which means that parts of the reel may start to rust or corrode quickly.

Saltwater can also cause buildup on internal components such as bearings and gears, leading to poor performance or even failure of the reel.

To avoid these issues, it’s best to use a dedicated saltwater fishing reel when fishing in saltwater environments.

Is there a difference between saltwater and freshwater reels?

Yes, there is a difference between saltwater and freshwater reels.

Saltwater reels are designed to be more corrosion-resistant and have heavier-duty components that can handle the tougher conditions of saltwater fishing.

Freshwater reels are lighter in weight and usually have fewer moving parts, making them easier to maintain but less durable than their saltwater counterparts.

Both types of reels will work for either type of fishing. However, choosing the right one for your needs is important as they each offer different benefits depending on the environment you’re fishing in.

Does salt water damage reels?

Yes, salt water can damage reels. Saltwater is highly corrosive and can cause metal parts to rust or corrode over time.

Rinse your reel off with fresh water after each use in saltwater and ensure all the components are completely dry before storing them away.

You should lubricate any moving parts regularly to prevent corrosion from occurring.

Do you need a saltwater reel?

Whether you need a saltwater reel depends on the type of fishing you plan to do.

A standard freshwater reel should suffice if you are fishing in freshwater.

However, suppose you plan to fish in saltwater. In that case, investing in a quality saltwater reel that can handle the corrosive environment and tougher conditions found in these waters is important.

Saltwater reels are designed with stronger materials such as stainless steel or aluminum and feature sealed bearings for better protection against corrosion.

They also have larger spools, so they can hold more line capacity than their freshwater counterparts, making them ideal for deep-sea fishing trips.

Before You Go

Whether you plan on going on a fishing charter or spending a few hours on the pier, I highly suggest you read these guides before heading out:

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