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How to Understand and Use Different Fishing Reels

Updated on October 4, 2017

Fishing reel

If you love fishing, then you probably know that a fishing reel is one of most important piece of your fishing gear. Most seasoned anglers will tell you that while landing your favorite game fish depends a lot on your patience, knowledge and response, a large part of your success depends on your fishing reel. Here are the main types of fishing reels :

Baitcasting Reels
Also known as revolving-spool reels, just like the regular reels, they have a line held in place on a spool that is supported by bearing with gears. This mechanism provides multiple revolutions of the spool when the angler cranks the handle once.
These are probably the most difficult reels to master because the spool turns when cast. The spool has to be kept under control to avoid turning into a messy nest of line. Since they work best with heavier lures and lines, they are considered highly accurate. Unfortunately, they take a while to master and tend to be used only by experienced anglers.

Normally, a baitcasting reel is mounted above the rod; this explains why most people in Australia and New Zealand refer to it as the overhead reel. Baitcasting reels have been used for years but they only became popular during the 1870s due to their wide use by amateur anglers.

To put out a baitcasting reel and rod, the reel has to be turned on its side. The angler engages the spool mechanisms while placing the thumb on the spool to hold the lure in place. The angler cast out the reel by moving the rod back until it attains the 2 o’clock position. The rod is then cast forward in a smooth motion to allow the lure to pull the line from the reel.

Spinning Reels
Spinning or fixed spool reels are highly popular since they are easy to use unlike baitcasting reels. They have an open face and are more accurate and versatile compared to spincast models. They are highly versatile and often have a great line capacity. You can opt to buy a fixed spool reel with an extra spool which makes it easy to change the line while on the water.

Fixed spool reels were commonly used in North America as early as the late 1800s. Initially, they were developed to enable anglers use artificial flies as bait as well as other lures for salmon and trout since these were too light to be put out easily by baitcasting reels.

To put out spinning reels, you open the bail, grasp the line with the forefinger and snap the rod backward. This is followed by casting the line forward and releasing it using the forefinger at the same time.

Since there is a tendency to twist and untwist the line during the casting and retrieving process, most fixed spools are best cast by flexible fishing lines.

Spincast Reels
Spincast resembles a spinning reel but has a closed face.This keeps all the important parts inside under the nose cone. Spincast reels are popular and easy to use. If you have small children with a passion for angling, these are their ideal reels.
These reels are operated by pressing a button at the back of the reel to free the line pickup. The button is released during the forward cast to enable the line to roll off the spool. When the angler wishes to stop the lure at the desired position, he/she presses the button again. When the angler cranks the handle, the pickup pin re-engages the line immediately and spools it onto the reel.

Saltwater Reels
These are meant to be used in salty water such as lakes and oceans. These reels are normally large and have a big diameter spool unlike their freshwater fly reels counterparts. Large arbor reels have an improved retrieve ratio and offer more line and backing capacity. The retrieve ratio and linebacking capacity are critical during long runs associated with powerful ocean game fish.

To guard against corrosion, saltwater fly reels use aerospace aluminum frames and spools as well as stainless or electroplated components. They also have waterproof bearing and sealed drive mechanisms.

Fly Fishing Reel
A fly fishing reel is a single-action model that is normally operated by stripping the line off the reel with one hand while the rod is cast off with the other hand. The main purpose of a fly reel is to provide smooth uninterrupted drag (tension) when a fish goes into a long run, balance the weight of the fly rod when casting and store the line.

Ultimately, choosing the right fishing reel depends on your fishing skills and needs. Currently, the market is full of reels ranging from spinning to baitcasting reels. Now that you understand the basics of various fishing reels and know that this piece of equipment is going to be the most important piece of gear you own, choose your fishing reel wisely.


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    • Coffeequeeen profile image

      Louise Powles 

      12 months ago from Norfolk, England

      That was very interesting to read, and useful for anyone who is interested in fishing. Perhaps I should take this hobby up, I know it's very relaxing.


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