Fishing Reel Buying Tips
There are many choices available when you decide to purchase a new reel. Here are some tips to get you started.
Freshwater or Saltwater?
Reels come in a range of styles, from basic to high-end models costing hundreds of dollars. One of the first things you should ask yourself when choosing a reel is whether you will be using it for freshwater or saltwater fishing. Many reels can be used for both. Saltwater reels tend to be larger because you will typically be targeting bigger fish with heavier tackle. The material the reel is made from is also important to think about when deciding on a saltwater reel because some reels will rust in a saltwater environment.
There are several popular reel types available. Choose one that best fits your goals and requirements:
- Spinning reels – Spinning reels attach to the bottom of a fishing rod and hang below the rod while in use. During a cast, the spool does not rotate, and line unravels off the spool. Spinning reels will cast light lures the best and can be used with very light line. If you plan on using 8 lb. test or less, you probably want a spinning reel. Large spinning reels are the most common type of reel used for surf fishing. Spinning reels are also the easiest to use, making them the best choice for beginners.
- Fly reels – A distinct reel type for fly fishing.
- Baitcasting reels – This is a type of reel that comes with a rotating spool and sits on top of the rod. Unlike a spinning reel, the spool of a baitcasting reel is parallel to the rod. During a cast, the spool rotates at a high speed to essentially ‘unwind’ the line off the spool so that it leaves the reel directly in line with the rod. Ball bearings are found within baitcasting reels to allow for extremely smooth rotation of the spool and long-distance casting. Baitcasting reels create less line twist than spinning reels. These reels are designed to be especially lightweight and fit nicely within the hands of fishermen so that they are comfortable to use even when casting all day long. Baitcasting reels have a steeper learning curve than spinning reels, but once you get the hang of it, you can cast even the heaviest of lures with extreme accuracy and minimal line twist.
- Conventional reels (aka trolling reels)– These reels also feature a rotating spool that sits on top of the rod, but unlike baitcasting reels, they are often not used for casting. Conventional reels are typically larger and rounder in shape and are usually for saltwater fishing and trolling applications. Some feature a line counter to keep track of how deep you are fishing. Conventional reels will have either a star or lever drag adjustment mechanism, which is a matter of preference. Click to find out more about Conventional vs Baicasting Reels
The gear ratio is a measurement of how many times the spool spins from one full rotation of the reel’s handle. In other words, gear ratios determine how quickly you can retrieve your line. If a reel has a 6.4:1 gear ratio, the spool with rotate 6.4 times with one full turn of the reel’s handle.
- Keep in mind that slower gear ratios have more torque, so just because you are using a faster gear ratio does not always mean you will be able to reel in big fish more quickly. Choose a gear ratio that matches the style of fishing you plan to do, and the type of lures you plan to fish.
- For baitcasting reels intended for bass fishing, a gear ratio around 6:1 is a versatile all-around gear ratio that you can use with almost any technique.
- ~5:1 is popular for crankbaits
- 7:1 or above is best for frogs, jig, flipping, etc. because a faster reel will help you pick up slack before a hookset
Line retrieve is a measure of how much line comes back with one full crank of the handle. It is closely related to the Gear Ratio but factors in the size of the spool. The specified measurement always assumes a full reel.
The line capacity of a reel is generally related to the size of the reel. However, there are small reels that have deep spools, and large reels with shallow spools, so it is important to read the line capacity specifications of a reel provided by the manufacturer before making your decision.
The drag on a fishing reel is a mechanism that allows line to be let out of the reel when a certain amount of resistance pulling on the fishing line is met.
- Drag strength: manufacturers provide this measurement in pounds, and it is the amount of resistance the drag can withstand when the drag is set to its highest setting.
- A drag is important because it allows for good hooksets, and it can be used to control the amount of tension on the line while fighting a fish so that the fish can be landed without the line breaking.
- Baitcasting reels almost always have a star drag, but conventional reels may feature either a star or lever drag, which is a matter of preference.
Tips for Getting Started with a Baitcasting Reel
Baitcasting reels take a bit of practice before one can use them effectively due to the tendency for them to backlash or “bird’s nest”. Frequent backlashes are the most common obstacle encountered by anglers when learning how to use a baitcasting reel. A backlash is when the spool overruns because the spool is spinning faster that it should be relative to the amount of line that is leaving the reel due to the lure that has been casted.
Two factors determine whether a cast results in a backlash or a good cast:
- The first factor is the appropriate amount of pressure the angler applies with their thumb throughout the cast, which simply takes practice.
- The second factor is the adjustment of the reel’s settings. All baitcasting reels have a spool tension knob, and most reels have a braking system for cast control as well. The two types of braking systems featured in reels are magnetic and centrifugal braking systems. Most baitcasting reels have only one type, but some have both. Proper adjustment of the spool tension knob and the reel’s brakes are critical when using baitcasting reels in order to avoid backlashes and to maximize casting distance and accuracy.
Magnetic and centrifugal braking systems are both very effective cast control systems, and whether to choose one type or the other is largely a matter of preference.
The types of cast control a reel has is another factor to pay attention to when deciding on a reel. Even the pro’s backlash their baitcasting reels from time to time but having the cast control systems set properly on your reel will ensure that it happens as little as possible.
Many braking systems can be adjusted with a dial on the outside of the reel’s side plate, while some require removal of the side plate to access the reel’s brakes and make an adjustment.
Fishing Reel FAQ
Here are some of the most common questions we get on fishing reels.
- What is a fishing reel?
- What types of reels are available?
- What is the difference between spinning reels and baitcasting reels?
- What is a spincast reel?
- What is a fly reel?
- What is the gear ratio of a fishing reel?
- What type of fishing line should I use with my reel?
- How do I maintain my reel?
- How do I choose the right reel for me?
What is a fishing reel?
A fishing reel is a mechanical device that is attached to a fishing rod and is used to wind and store fishing line.
What types of reels are available
There are several types of fishing reels, including spinning reels, baitcasting reels, spincast reels, and fly reels.
What is the difference between spinning reels and baitcasting reels?
Spinning reels are easier to use and are ideal for beginners, while baitcasting reels are more advanced and offer more control and accuracy.
What is a spincast reel?
A spincast reel is a type of fishing reel that is similar to a spinning reel but is easier to use and has a closed face, which helps prevent tangles.
What is a fly reel?
A fly reel is a type of fishing reel that is specifically designed for fly fishing. It has a large arbor and is typically used with a lightweight fly rod.
What is the gear ratio of a fishing reel?
The gear ratio of a fishing reel refers to the number of times the spool rotates with each turn of the handle. A higher gear ratio means that the spool will rotate more quickly.
What type of fishing line should I use with my reel?
The type of fishing line you should use depends on the type of fishing you are doing and the type of reel you have. Consult the manufacturer's guidelines or consult with an experienced angler to determine the best line for your specific needs.
How do I maintain my reel?
Proper maintenance of your reel is important to ensure it lasts a long time. This includes cleaning and lubricating the reel after each use, storing it properly, and checking for any signs of wear or damage before each use.
How do I choose the right reel for me?
To choose the right fishing reel, consider the type of fishing you will be doing, the size of fish you will be targeting, and your level of experience. Consult with a knowledgeable salesperson or an experienced angler for advice.