Investigating the Fishing Reels

By Steven Harrisson, May 7, 2015

Every fisherman that is serious about his fishing knows the importance of fishing reels. A fishing reel is a cylindrical device attached to a fishing rod used in winding and stowing line. Modern fishing reels usually have fittings aiding in casting for distance and accuracy, as well as retrieving line. They are traditionally used in the recreational angling and competitive casting. The four main characteristics of every fishing reel are:

  • they are mechanical devices that hold, release and retrieve the fishing line;
  • have a handle attached to a spool;
  • employ a braking device for slowing a fish from taking all the line from the spool;
  • have a bracket for attaching the reel to a fishing rod.

Depending on the type of fishing you are doing or your personal preference as an angler, you can choose from a wide range of fishing reels.

Bait Casting Reels


These are also known as revolving spool reels, because the line is stored on a bearing-supported revolving spool that is geared so that a single revolution of the crank handle results in multiple revolutions of the spool. The bait casting reel is mounted above the rod, which is why in New Zealand and Australia, it’s also known as the overhead reel.

Bait reels can be conventional surf fishing reels and the big game reels. These reels are large and robust, and are designed for heavy saltwater species such as tuna, marlin, sailfish and sharks. That’s what you see in the fishing shows on National Geographic channel. Generally made out of aluminum and stainless steel, this type of fishing reel features:

  • a level-wind mechanism that guides the line back and forth across the spool as you reel it in;
  • an anti reverse handles for preventing you from cranking the handle the wrong way and unspooling your line;
  • an adjustable drag that allows you to control the ease with which the line can be pulled from the spool.

A common problem with bait casting reels is backlash, which is the tangled mess that can happen if the spool spins faster than the line. This is why bait casting reels have an adjustable spool, which in time, you’ll learn how to control with your thumb.

Fly Reels


These reels don’t really have any special purpose in casting. Here you fight the fish in a direct way. Their advantage is that they store line, provide smooth uninterrupted tension (drag) when a fish makes a long run, and counterbalance the weight of your fly rod when casting. The mechanism of fly reels is not really that complicated: one side of the wheel that holds the line has a small knob that serves as the handle. There is a 1 to 1 relationship between turning the wheel and the amount of line pulled.

Spincast Reels


Great for teaching your kids fishing! The mechanism is very simple; the line is stored in a closed cone and gets released by the push of a button. This closed cone also keeps out dirt and keeps the moving parts away from curious and easily distracted children, meaning they will be more likely to concentrate on fishing rather than playing with their reel. These fishing reels were originally invented to solve the problem of backlash found in bait cast designs, while reducing line twist and snare complaints sometimes encountered with traditional spinning reel designs. Spin cast reels are very easy to use, as they are made for lightweight fishing of small pan fish.

Spinning Reels


Originally developed to allow the use of artificial flies, or other lures for trout or salmon, that were too light in weight to be easily cast by bait casting reels. They are very versatile, and are available in different models for different types of fishing activities and for all kinds of habitats. Spinning reels are easy to master, and casting is really easy with them: open the bail, hold the line with your finger as you prepare, and let go of the line as the cast is underway.┬áThe cast finishes with your line in the water and a simple turn of the reel handle flips the bail back into place – once again while you hold the line.