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Complete Guide to Fishing Reels

Types of Fishing Reels

1. Spinning Reel

Spinning reels are the most popular style of fishing reels. They are easy to use, dependable, and very versatile. They are great for anglers that enjoy fishing for a wide range of species.

Spinning reels are open-faced and have a rotating bail that guides the line around a fixed spool. Spinning reels are ideal for lighter lures and finesse fishing techniques.

The biggest issue with spinning reels is they can develop line twists due to being twisted around a fixed spool. This can be eliminated by using a braided line, which has no memory or by taking additional steps when spooling the reel.

  • Pros – Simple to use, very versital, last for years, can cast lighter lures further.
  • Cons – Can develop line twist, less torque for fighting in large fish

2. Baitcasting Reel

Baitcasting reels are the most popular reel for bass fishing. They have a larger learning curve and require more practice to cast but offer greater casting accuracy and can better handle larger lures.

Baitcasting reels feature a spinning spool that takes in and lets line out. This feature allows it to handle heavier lures and eliminates line twisting issues.

The main issue with baitcasting reels is backlash. Backlash is caused by the spool continuing to spin after the line stops being let out. Luckily backlashes can be prevented with practice but it can be frustrating when first learning.

  • Pros – More accurate casting, more torq for fighting in big fish and using heavy lures, very durable.
  • Cons – More difficult to lean, backlash can be very frustrating.

3. Spincasting Reel

Spincasting reels are the easiest reels to use. This makes them a popular choice on rods geared towards kids and beginners. The closed spool design makes it difficult to tangle your line and the push-button spool release is almost foolproof.

The downside to spincast reels is their durability. Even the highest-end spincast tends to break down much quicker than baitcaster and spinning reels. You won’t get much more than a season out of a spincasting reel before it starts having issues.

Spincasting reels are great cheap options for introducing fishing to someone new. If you enjoy fishing and know you will stick with it for more than a year then I recommend you upgrade to a spinning or baitcasting reel.

  • Pros – Easiest to use, cheapest, hard to mess up.
  • Cons – Lack durability, struggle with larger fish, shortest casting length

Baitcaster Vs Spinning Reels

When I was getting into fishing I spent a lot of time trying to decide if I should buy a baitcasting or spinning reel. If you are completely new to fishing a spinning reel is probably the best option. It offers the most variety and allows you to try many different styles of fishing.

Baitcasters are great when you want to start using heavier lures to target bass and other large fish. This is a simplified explanation for new anglers, if you want a more detailed explanation check out our in-depth baitcaster vs spinning comparison.

Best Lures to Use for Each Reel

  • Spinning reels are best for lures under 3/8 oz and finesse style baits like ned rigs, drop shots, and in-line spinners.
  • Baitcasting reels are best for lures 1/2 oz and heavier.

Fishing Reel Gear Ratios Explained

A reel’s gear ratio represents the number of times the spool turns per handle turn. For example, a reel with a gear ratio of 5.1:1 will turn its spool 5.1 times for every handle turn. There are three categories of gear ratios.

  • Low gear reels – Lower gear ratio reels are ideal for large baits such as swimbaits and deep diving crankbaits. These large baits cause a lot of drag that can tire you out quickly. Lower gear reels offer more toque in exchange for less distance per turn.
  • Medium gear reels – Medium gear reels are your do everything reels. If I could only have one reel it would be a medium gear ratio. You can speed up or slow down depending on the needs or the lure you are fishing
  • High gear reels – Higher gear ratio reels are primarily for lures you work with your rod like jigs or soft plastics. High speed reels like a 7.1:1 let you quickly take in slack line that you produce when working the bait with your rod. High speed reels can also help quickly get bass away from cover.

Fishing Reel Sizes

Fishing reels come in a variety of different sizes. Reel sizes determine what strength line it is designed for and the length of line it can hold. Spinning reels range from size 500 – 8,000 for freshwater reels.

Baitcasters come in sizes ranging from 50 to 400.

Fishing Reel by Species

Fish SpeciesFishing Reel
BassBaitcasting, Spinning
CarpBaitcasting, Spinning
CrappieSpinning
GarBaitcasting, Spinning
MuskieBaitcasting, Spinning
PanfishSpinning
PikeBaitcasting, Spinning
WalleyeBaitcasting, Spinning

Both baitcasters and spinning reels have their benefits and uses. A well rounded rod arsenal should include both types of reels.