How to Choose a Fishing Reel (2020 Update)

  • Jun 8, 2020
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To choose a fishing reel, fishermen must take several metrics into consideration. Choosing the right reel for your style and experience level can be done.

The best thing you can do when purchasing a new reel is to go to an actual shop so you could sample the product. You can test each reel for its weight, quality, and balance of the rotor/spool, smoothness of the bearings, etc.

Keep in mind that each reel is produced with a specific, unchangeable gear ratio, spool capacity, and maximum drag rating. When shopping for a new fishing reel you will need to take into account the following properties.

Gear Ratio Fly Fishing Reel

Mingyang Baitcasting Fishing Reel
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Gear Ratio

Most manufacturers typically print it on the body of the fishing reel, or sometimes on the spool. Gear ratio can range from 5:1 to 8:1 and indicates how fast the particular reel picks up the line and places it along the spool. A 5:1 gear ratio means that the spooling mechanism rotates five times per crank revolution. As you see, the higher the gear ratio, the faster you will retrieve line.

If you need to cast long distances with swimbaits or spinnerbaits, you will opt for a lower gear ratio, so that your lure gets maximum exposure in the water and can be retrieved in a manner most natural to the fish. Bass anglers had better get a high-speed reel that will enable them to retrieve line fast and make more casts.

Spool Capacity Reel

Amazon Choice
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Spool Capacity

It refers to the maximum amount of line that can be held on the spool. Fishing reel manufacturers typically print the spool capacity on the spool. Your choice of spool capacity will depend on the type of fish you are going to catch. The thicker the line, the less line you will be able to fill your spool with.

Drag Rating Reel

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Daiwa Sweepfire 3000
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Drag Rating

Inexperienced anglers often overlook this property, but it is still a very important one. The drag causes the resistance that the fish feels. The higher the drag, the more resistance the fish will feel, and the faster it will tire out.

It is important to set your drag right. It should be neither too tight nor too loose. The principal rule is: the larger the reel, the higher the drag rating. Among other factors that matter are manufacturing tolerances, drag mechanism, construction material, etc.

Types of Fishing Reels

Spinning Reel

Pflueger President Spinning Fishing Reel
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Spinning Reels

Spinning reels are the most popular and frequently used type of fly fishing reel today. They are quite easy to operate and maintain, however, because of the rather delicate bail mechanism, they can break down easily. As a rule, fishermen use spinning reels for light tackle, but can also be used for heavy tackle. It is easier to cast a light lure with a spinning reel than with a baitcasting reel. Also, most spinning reels feature the crank that can be moved from one side of the reel to the other.

Operation:

When you cast the line, it should be held with your finger when you release the lure. Make sure you the bail, otherwise your lure won’t fly. Once your lure has sunk, you should close the bail with your hand. Avoid turning the crank to close the bail to prevent a tear.

Baitcasting Reel

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KastKing Royale Legend
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Baitcasting Reels

The spool of a baitcasting reel is placed to rotate in the same direction as the cast. Bass fishermen commonly use this type of reel, as their compact and efficient mechanism is perfect for casting.

Unlike spinning reels, baitcasting reels enable the angler to regulate the speed. Just press your thumb to the line as it comes off the spool to help a lure enter the water softer and prevent from spooking the fish.

As the crank is permanently placed on just one side of the reel, it is important to decide whether you want it left or right hand.

Drawbacks:

When it comes to baitcasting reels the heavier the lure, the easier it is to cast. However, the angler may experience backlashes – the situation when the spool is letting off line too fast but can’t stop rotating after the lure has entered the water. Manufacturers now equip their reels with a special braking system. Fishermen must adjust the reel every time they change a lure to eliminate this problem. Still, experienced anglers recommend maintaining control with the thumb all the time. It will take some time to master this reel, plus every baitcasting reel has a different braking mechanism, so make sure you try the reel before you actually make a purchase.

Operation:

Before casting, consider checking whether your brakes are set right to avoid a backlash. You need to push the bail button first. If the lure falls too fast and hits the ground, you are going to get a minor backlash. Adjust your brake making it tighter until you see that the lure falls about one foot per second.

Having adjusted your brake, push the bail button again, but this time you should hold the spool in place with your thumb. Then cast and release your thumb from the spool when the moment is right. Watch your lure as you will have to put your thumb back on the spool the moment the lure hits the water.

Spincasting Reel

Amazon Choice
Pflueger President Spincast Fishing Reel
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Spincasting Reels

Beginner anglers should use spincasting reels, as they are quite easy to operate. They feature the push button bail control of a baitcaster and the line release of a spinning reel. Using this type of reel you can cast practically any lure of any weight without fearing about backlashes. Such reels are popular among the kids as manufacturers often decorate them with cartoon characters.

Reel manufacturers create spincasting reels left or righthanded. However, most manufacturers place the reel handles on the right.

Operation:

Spincasting reels can be used only with baitcasting rods. All you need to do is just push and hold the bail button with your thumb and cast.

Choose a Fishing Reel Conclusion

Picking the right reel can be a challenge, but not impossible. Fishermen can use the above metrics to help them make a better decision.

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