Sea Fishing Reels - Fixed Spool or Multiplier?

There are two main types of reel for sea fishing: the Fixed Spool and the Multiplier. The fixed spool reel, as the name suggests, has a spool that does not move. Instead, when the handle is turned, a 'bail-arm' rotates around the spool laying the line onto the spool as it goes. Imagine holding an empty cotton reel in one hand and using the other hand to wind cotton onto it. The cotton reel itself does not rotate. This is exactly how a fixed spool reel works. A multiplier works the other way around. Instead of the winder moving around the spool, the spool itself rotates. This mechanism is a lot simpler and can yield great casting distances but it does have it's disadvantages.

Penn Surf Master Fixed Spool Reel
Penn Surf Master Fixed Spool Reel

Most beginners to sea fishing choose to use a fixed spool reel. They tend to be cheaper to buy and easier to learn. When casting a rig into the sea, the line is simply pulled off the spool and there is little danger of a tangle. Not so with the multiplier! When casting with a multiplier reel, the spool rotates at the speed required to serve the line but once the rig lands in the sea and the demand for line reduces, the spool will keep on spinning. Without intervention from the angler at this stage an overrun will occur resulting in a huge tangled mess known in fishing circles as a 'birds nest'. Modern multiplier reels have advanced braking systems that attempt to slow the spool down automatically to avoid overruns but even the most complex of these still rely on the skill of the angler. There is of course a trade-off between the amount of braking applied and the achievable casting distance. To safeguard against overruns, the angler could apply maximum braking but with maximum braking applied the amount of line that is served will be limited and this will in turn limit the distance of the cast.

Abu Premium Mag Elite Multiplier Reel
Abu Premium Mag Elite Multiplier Reel

So why use a multiplier at all? The short answer is that multiplier reels, once mastered, are more efficient casting machines and the distances achievable by an experienced angler with a good multiplier reel are far better than with a fixed spool reel. The key factors when using a multiplier are smoothness of cast and efficiency of braking. A smooth cast and efficient braking ensures that maximum distance is achieved with minimal risk of a birds nest. Any snatches in the cast will directly influence the speed of rotation of the spool and this is one of the main causes of overruns.

Both types of reel have a requirement for the line to be laid evenly on the spool. With a fixed spool reel this is achieved by a mechanism which causes the spool to move up and down as the handle is turned. All fixed spool reels have this feature as they would not be able to operate correctly without it. Some multiplier reels have a 'level wind' feature and this is recommended for beginners but many experienced anglers prefer to work without it as it can hinder the line slightly during the cast and when distance is key, every little thing helps. In this case the angler is required to manually move the line evenly across the spool as the line is reeled in.

In summary, if you've never fished before then you will ideally need to learn how to cast smoothly before you attempt to use a multiplier. Though it's not impossible to learn with a multiplier reel from scratch, the learning curve will certainly be steeper since you'll have tangles to contend with caused by jerky or irregular casting. Fixed spool reels are a lot more forgiving while you are perfecting your casting technique and will allow you to concentrate on the action of your cast without having to worry about overruns or braking. The last thing you want is to be put off fishing for life because you're spending most of your time sitting on the beach trying to free your multiplier from a horrendous mess of line when those around you are catching fish! The best advice for beginners is to start with a reasonably priced fixed spool reel, learn to cast smoothly, and then progress to a multiplier if you want to. This way, you get the benefit of using both types of reel without losing your enthusiasm for fishing and without losing money and time on lost tackle.

What type of reel do you use?

  • Fixed Spool
  • Multiplier
  • Both
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ThunderKeys profile image

ThunderKeys 5 years ago

Great Hub. This could be the start of something really neat - fishing, and fishing equipment reviews and advice. I'm looking forward to more great reads like this one.

Gratefully,

- Duddy.

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