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Knowledge Base

Fishing Reels

Man using a fishing reel

While many new anglers just pick up their first fishing rod and reel and head out to the local pond or lake, the experienced angler knows you need to properly select a rod, reel and other equipment for the best possible fishing experience.

You want a reel that is smooth, with a drag that you can trust for the big fish, but still lightweight enough to make it enjoyable to fish with all day.

Before purchasing a reel, it’s helpful to have a basic understanding of what makes up a fishing reel, the different versions available, and a general since of a quality vs a cheap reel. Let’s go a head and take a look at this info.

The different types of fishing reels

There are three basic types of fishing reels, each with its own unique style and set of pros and cons:

Spinning Reel

A spinning reel is ideal for all types of fishing, from panfish to bass. It’s the most popular reel for anglers fishing for fun, as well as a great starting point for anglers targeting tournament wins. Spinning reels are great for all types of fresh and saltwater species, and you can expect to find spinning reels in any tackle shop or big box store.

Spinning reels are available in many sizes of line and a variety of styles. Some of these reels can be used for surf fishing, and even bigger ones that can handle the biggest fish. Spinning reels are the most versatile type of reel and one of the most popular for bass fishing, with some anglers even choosing spinning over baitcasting for bass fishing.


  • Great all-around reel, with a wide variety of styles to choose from.
  • Ideal for freshwater and saltwater fishing.
  • Great starting point for tournament anglers.
  • Available in many price ranges, including affordable, affordable but high quality and expensive.


  • Typically heavier than baitcasters
  • Not as durable
  • Not ideal for heavy or oversized lures
  • Casting distance is typically shorter

Baitcasting Reel

Baitcasting reels are very popular among tournament anglers and are often used in combination with a baitcaster rod, which is designed to work best with a baitcaster reel. The baitcasting reel is a great option for anglers targeting both freshwater and saltwater fish, and is a popular choice for anglers targeting both small and big fish.

Baitcasting reels are available in a wide variety of sizes and line weights. With a baitcaster reel, you can expect to get the longest casts of the three types of reels and the smoothest retrieves.


  • Considered the most durable of the three reel types.
  • Excellent option for anglers targeting big fish.
  • Great reel for tournament anglers.
  • Great casting distance, even in big winds.
  • Very smooth retrieves.


  • Can be difficult for beginners to learn.
  • Casts are a little more difficult to control
  • A little more expensive than other types of reels.

Spincast Reel

A spincast reel is traditionally used for catfishing, but anglers do catch bass on them as well. This reel is lightweight and inexpensive, but you sacrifice both the durability and ease of use for those benefits.

Spincast reels are available for both freshwater and saltwater use. Due to the weight of this reel, the casting distance is typically shorter than with baitcasters and spinners.


  • Inexpensive
  • Great for beginners or child anglers
  • Lightweight
  • Suitable for both freshwater and saltwater use
  • Available in variety of price ranges


  • Not ideal for tournament anglers
  • Less durable than other type of reels
  • Less casting distance
  • Not ideal for big fish or big lures
  • Can be difficult to maintain

Basic fishing reel layout

Let’s go a head and take a look at the different parts of a fishing reel. Most people are familiar with what a fishing rod looks like, but not as many are familiar with the reel. Here’s some info on the reel.

  • Shaft: The shaft of the reel is the main body of the reel. It’s the part that stays in your hand.
  • Handle: The handle of the reel is what you hold onto as you reel your line in.
  • Line Guide(s): The line guide is what the line passes through. The bait will go through the line guides.
  • Spool: The spool is where your line is stored.
  • Drag: The drag is what governs the amount of resistance while reeling in a fish.
  • Knob: The knob is often a plastic knob that you push in with your thumb to cast the reel.
  • Foot: The foot is the part of the reel that sits on the bottom of your pole.
  • Foot Peg: The foot peg is what your line is attached to.
  • Bail: The bail is the part that opens and closes to allow the line to come off the spool.
  • Counterbalance: This can take many forms, but most of the time this is some type of weight added to allow for smoother casting.
  • Handle Knob: The handle knob is what you hold on to.
  • Line Weight: The line weight is the thickness or diameter of the line.
  • Line Capacity: The line capacity is the maximum amount of line that the reel can hold.
  • Retrieve Ratio: The retrieve ratio is how fast the reel spools out compared to how fast it reels in.
  • Ratio: The ratio is the speed of the retrieve.
  • Grip: The grip is what you hold onto as you fish.
  • Drag System: The drag system is what governs the amount of resistance while reeling in a fish.
  • Bearing Count: The bearing count refers to the number of bearings in the reel.
  • Shaft Length: This is the length of the shaft.
  • Gear Ratio: The gear ratio refers to the number of gears and the speed of the reel.
  • Line Capacities: The line capacity is how much line the reel can hold.
  • Weight: The weight of the reel can vary widely.
  • Handle Angle: This is the angle of the handle.
  • Retrieve Rate: The retrieve rate is how fast the bail opens and closes.
  • Line Weight Capacity: The weight capacity refers to the weight of the reel.
  • Crank: The crank is the handle, or how you reel in your line.

5 Fishing Reel How To’s

1. How to cast a fishing reel

  • Hold the rod in your dominant hand, with the reel on the bottom.
  • Lift the rod with your other hand.
  • Rotate the reel until the crank is at the top.
  • Hold the reel with both hands and take the handle with your dominant hand.
  • Lift the rod with the other hand.
  • Cast the fishing reel with a straight arm, and then reel in the slack by turning the crank with your dominate hand.
  • Repeat the process to reel in the rest of the line.
  • Hold the rod in your dominant hand again.

2. How to spool a fishing reel

  • Open your spool on the reel by pulling the bail open.
  • Take your spool of line, and tie a knot on the end.
  • Loop the line on the spool. Line up the spool in the reel by matching the line guides.
  • Place the line through each of the line guides until the end of the line comes out the top of the spool.
  • Place the line back through the spool.
  • Close the bail to keep the line from coming off the spool.
  • Pull the drag knob up slightly.
  • Turn the handle of the reel to tighten the line.
  • Firmly push the drag knob in until it is flush with the casing.
  • If you are using a full line, make a loop at the end of the line.
  • Pull one side of the loop through the loop on the other side, forming a double loop.
  • Tie a knot in the two loops.
  • Pull the double loops tight.

3. How to fix a fishing reel

  • Unlock the bail by pulling it out and down.
  • Remove the spool from the bail.
  • Loosen the drag knob to release the pressure from the fishing line.
  • Unhook the line from the knot on the spool.
  • Take the line off the spool by pulling out any remaining line.
  • Pull the spool out from the reel.
  • Take the spool apart.
  • Clean the spool and the inside of the reel with a lint-free towel.
  • Replace the spool back into the reel.
  • Place the line inside the spool.
  • Put the spool on the reel.
  • Reattach the line to the knot.
  • Close the bail and pull the line to check for any tangles.
  • If there is any tangles, pull the line off the spool.
  • Cut the end of the line.
  • Take the line off the spool.
  • Replace the spool on the reel.
  • Pull the drag knob to tighten the line.
  • Unhook the line from the knot on the spool.
  • Place the line through each of the line guides until the end of the line comes out the top of the spool.
  • Place the line back through the spool.
  • If there are no tangles, close the bail to keep the line from coming off the spool.
  • Hold the reel in one hand.
  • Use your other hand to pull the loop and tighten it.
  • Close the bail.
  • Test the reel to make sure the drag works properly.
  • Place the reel back onto your rod.
  • Cast the fishing reel with a straight arm and retrieve the line.
  • Give the reel a few cranks to make sure it works properly.

4. How to Maintain a fishing reel

  • Your fishing reel can be a source of frustration if you don’t take the time to properly maintain it.
  • Your reel should be cleaned after each use.
  • Use freshwater to clean the reel, as saltwater can damage the reel.
  • Keep the reel dry when not in use.
  • Check the line often for wear and tear.
  • Replace the line as soon as you notice wear or damage.
  • Soak the line in a bucket with a few drops of lubricating oil.
  • Remove the line from the bucket and untie the loop.
  • Reel in the line while spooling the excess line back onto the reel.
  • Replace worn or damaged line parts.
  • Using both hands, tighten the drag knob.
  • Remove the cover on the back of the reel.
  • Replace the drag washers.
  • Replace both the cover and the screws.
  • Place the reel back onto your rod.

5. How to store a fishing reel

  • When not in use, your reel should be stored in a dry area to prevent corrosion and other damage.
  • Reel should be stored on its side to prevent the gears from getting damaged.
  • Reels should be stored in a plastic bag to prevent dust and dirt from damaging them.
  • Reels that have been used in saltwater should be rinsed well with freshwater to prevent corrosion.
  • Do not store your reel in a hot area, as the reel could warp.
  • Store the reel in a place away from chemicals, as they can be damaging to the reel.
  • Store the reel in a place where rodents can’t get to it.
  • Keep the reel in a place where it can’t get wet.



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