The Different Types Of Fishing Reels For Beginners And Advanced

by Thavius | Last Updated:   October 8th, 2022
The Different Types Of Fishing Reels For Beginners And Advanced

With fishing, when it comes to choosing your gear, it just doesn’t end with selecting a fishing rod. Another major thing that has the potential to influence your success while fishing is the type of fishing reel that is used.

This is a huge dilemma for many people; both new and experienced as there are quite a number of fishing reels to select from. The type of reel and the advantages and disadvantages associated with each one can grossly affect the result of your fishing.

There are so many things to consider when choosing a fishing reel and, in this guide, we would be considering the different types of fishing reels, how to use different types of fishing reels, which fishing reel to use in different situations, and better still, how to select a fishing reel.

So, are you getting ready to explore your love for fishing? Whether you’re after a huge steelhead or even a tiny fish, by the end of the guide, we are sure that you would be able to navigate this aspect of fishing whether you are a newbie or even experienced.

What Are The 4 Types Of Fishing Reels?

4 Different Types Of Fishing Reels

We will be addressing all four types of fishing reels pointing out key features with each one. This will hopefully help you make an informed decision as to what type of fishing reel to get.

Spincast Reel

Different Types Of Fishing Reels: Spincast reel

Spincasting reels have a metal-like cone that covers all the other parts of the reel and on the back. There is also a control that can be used to open or close the line between free-spool and locked.

Another good feature of spincasting reels is that they have a drag system which is usually situated either on the side or close to the reel handle. This feature gives you control regarding the amount of resistance in the line that the fish feels.

If you are a beginner looking for a fishing reel that is easy to use, then spincasting reels are your best bet. Although it is not as popular as the other fishing reels, it is effective in its own way.

Casting with the Spincast reel

With this reel, casting is very easy because you can easily cast by pressing the spool control button, swing, and then release. When it is released, the line would come out in the direction that the rod tip is facing and if you want to stop the line, all you need to do is to click the control again.

Advantages of Spincast reels

One major highlight in terms of advantages for the spincast reel is it is very easy to use, so as a beginner, it is perfect for use.

Another is that it doesn’t cause line knots, so when you release the line, you don’t have to worry about it tangling. Price-wise, they are also the cheapest types of fishing reels on the market. So, it is perfect if you are on a budget.

Disadvantages of Spincast Reels

Even though Spincast reels are affordable, it comes with its own set of disadvantages, one of them being that they are not durable.

As a result, they would rarely last more than one fishing season. So, in the long run, although spincasting reels are cheap, it might not be a good buy when you are looking for a long-term purchase.

Another disadvantage is that the closed face design that the spincast reels are well known for tend to retain water inside the reel which causes damage when not properly drained over time.

The last disadvantage on the list is that spincast reels do not have much range in terms of casting, and the precision level is low.

Spinning Reel

Different Components of a Spinning Reel

The spinning reel is built differently from the spincast reel as it has an open-face design. The drag adjustment is on top and the reel comes with a metal security that functions to latch the line and stop it from unspooling. This metal security is also necessary because it guides the line onto the reel.

They are also attached to the rod from the bottom and not only does this make holding it comfortable, but it also makes balancing much easier when casting.

While spincasting reel is known as one of the oldest types of fishing reel on the market, the spinning reel is known as the most widespread reel and although it is more difficult to use, it is more competent and would last for a longer period compared to the spincast reel.

Spinning reels can perform more than one purpose, for instance, they can be used for ultralight freshwater fishing and even heavy saltwater fishing.

They can even carry out the same function as baitcaster reels and spincasters and their unique set of advantages are what makes it a popular choice among anglers. Just like the spincast reel also, beginners would have no issues using this reel.

Casting with the spinning reel

With the spinning reel, when you want to cast, all you need to do is to unlock the metal security, press the line on the rod, and swing it. As this is done, you release the hold on your finger and direct the tip of the rod to your preferred bait location.

While using this reel, you have to be careful to make sure that you don’t let the line tangle, and that the metal bail is put in its initial place by hand.

Advantages of Spinning Reels

Spinning reels work fine with lures and baits and their pulling power is commendable. The casting range of the spinning reel is also impressive.

Spinning reels are very versatile in the sense that they can be used for different types of fishing activities like bobber fishing, live fishing, ice fishing and even fishing with live bait or lures.

Spinning reels come in different sizes to accommodate the different purposes it can suit.  

Disadvantages of Spinning Reels

With spinning reels, care has to be taken with the bail because if it is not handled properly, you might have to deal with complicated tangles and line twists.

Another disadvantage with the spinning reel is that you can only use it with light fishing rods or baits. When the reel is loaded with heavy lures, there is a noticeable decrease in the performance of the reel. Going for a light bait would help to solve this problem.

Baitcasting Reel

Anatomy of a baitcasting reel

The baitcasting reel unlike the others sits directly on the top of the rod handle, and apart from a much securer and effective drag system compared to the other two, the baitcaster reel has two extra features which go a long way in improving your success rate on the water.

These features are the fixed spool tension knob and the braking system and both additional components on the reel helps to control the speed with which the lines go out of the reel thereby improving considerably the reel performance.

These features come in handy as you can determine how far you want the line to go when you throw it and also stop the spool from rotating quicker than the line is going out, and prevent the line from tangling.

The baitcaster reel is the most complex out of all of the fishing reels, so if you are a beginner, you should steer clear of this reel. It has high accuracy levels in terms of its precision and it is a very powerful reel.

This is probably due to the fact that baitcasting reels possess more moveable parts than the other two types of reels. While learning how to use this reel can be a tad bit difficult, it is worth it in every sense as it would exponentially elevate your fishing.

Casting with the baitcaster reel

With baitcasting reels, you can prevent the line from spooling by just pressing your thumb against the fixed spool. You can even stop the line as it is mid-flight for a more accurate cast.

One thing to note about baitcasting reels is that their guides are small compared to the ones on spinning reels, because for the baitcaster, the line is released in a straight trail while for the spinning reel, it is released in a rotary trail and that needs more space.

One of the biggest challenges that come with casting a baitcasting reel is avoiding the line from tangling up. This happens when your spool ends up moving faster than your casting line causing a bird’s nest or backlash. It’s only by practice that you can learn how to avoid this from happening.

Hopefully, the following video will help you get a hang of it faster than the most average person:

Advantages Of Baitcasting Reels

Baitcasting reels are very powerful as they can handle weighty lines which makes them perfect for when you want to catch big fishes. Apart from that, the baitcaster reels give you a lot of control over the line as you know exactly when the line is going out and when to stop the spool.

The reels can also be modified to suit your needs; whether you are catching big or small fishes.

Disadvantages Of Baitcasting Reels

One downside with using baitcasting reels is that there are different settings for different lure weights, i.e., anytime you want to change the type of lure you are using, you have to change the settings on the spool tension and braking system which is a lot of work. For this reason, it is not suitable for beginners as changing the settings needs some getting used to.

Another downside with this reel is that it is expensive. You can get a baitcaster reel for as high as $500 which can afford you a reasonable fishing rod on the market. Imagine spending the amount you would normally spend on a fishing rod on just the reel.

Fly Fishing Reels

Different Types Of Fishing Reels: Anatomy of a fly reel

source: anchorfly

Fly fishing is different from other fishing styles in the sense that it uses a completely different method which is referred to as false casting. The technique involves using a weighted line and a leader to take the fly from one point to the other.

Although they are considerably older than the other types of reels, fly fishing reels provide the highest level of accuracy. As an angler, when looking out for a fly fishing reel to get, it is important to consider one that is weather resistant because your fly reel would definitely get wet. When selecting a reel, you want to make sure that the reel you pick is made with rust proof materials.

When picking fly reels, as insignificant as it might seem, one feature to take note of is the reel color. Bright colors easily scare fishes, so you should pick a black reel or a reel with a matt finish.

The reel balance should also be considered as it would go a long way in making sure that the reel is light and comfortable while you are using it. Other features are the drag mechanism, the backing capacity, and the spool.

Casting with the fly fishing reel

The way it works is that the weight of the fishing line carries the lure out, unlike with the spinning reel and the baitcaster reel where those parts carry the lure out.

With the fly-fishing reel, a very light lure is used and it is placed delicately on top of the water. The purpose of this is to deceive the fish and make it think that an insect has landed on the surface of the water.

Advantages Of Fly Fishing Reels

Fly reels are perfect for light rods and in addition to this, they are very durable and can last for a very long time with proper maintenance.

Disadvantages Of Fly Fishing Reels

It is difficult to use, so learning how to use it would take a lot of time and practice as casting can be quite difficult to handle especially for beginners. So if you are just getting into fishing, you might want to steer clear of fly reels.

Another disadvantage of using this reel is that it is expensive, compared to the other reel types, and you would have to shell out a considerable amount to get fly reels.

Comparison between the reels

All four types of reels operate in different ways, with different mechanisms and as such, they all have their strong points and weak points.

The fly-fishing reel for instance is better suited for a relaxed type of fishing. It is a very competent reel but when it comes to catching big fishes, it might not be a good match, and this is where baitcasting reels come in. They are powerful and can easily be used to catch big fishes.

For the spinning reel, you can count on how powerful it is and how precise it is when you are fishing, this is a feature that spincasting reels do not have.

With fishing reel types, you have to have a clear picture of what you are expecting when it comes to the functionality of the reel before a final decision is made.

Factors To Consider When Selecting A Fishing Reel

Different Types Of Fishing Reels

Saltwater or freshwater fishing?

This plays a part in the type of reel that you would pick in the long run as reels react in separate ways to each water body.

For obvious reasons, reels that are designed to function in saltwater will feature materials that are resistant to corrosion. If this is not in place, then the reel would start to rust and in no time would no longer be suitable for fishing.

Another thing to note is that saltwater reels are more expensive than freshwater ones and this is because making a reel corrosion-proof is difficult as top-of-the-line materials with magnetic oil systems are utilized.  So, although saltwater reels are expensive, they are also durable.

Freshwater reels on the other hand are less expensive as no special material was utilized when making them. For a better idea of the type of reels that can be used in freshwater, you can check out this fishing reel guide.

To clean saltwater reels, washing with detergent and spraying with corrosion-resisting lubricant is advised. For more tips and tricks on maintaining your fishing reel, have a look at the following video:

Experience level

Now that the different types of fishing reels have been explained alongside their advantages and disadvantages, you have an idea of what to look out for. However, another factor that should be considered when selecting the types of fishing reels for fishing is your experience level as a fisherman.

If you are just starting out fishing and need to choose a fishing reel, then your best bet is the spincaster reel. This is because, with this type of reel, there is little to no chance of the line tangling while in use. This can be very difficult to deal with if you are a newbie, so to save yourself the stress, stick to the spincaster reel.

For people with an intermediate level of experience when it comes to fishing, the spinning reel is a good option. This is because, with this type of fishing reel, you get better accuracy and you would be able to cover much distance when casting.

Why they are not suitable for beginners is that they are quite difficult to get to, unlike the spincaster reel. For experienced anglers, one reel that comes highly recommended is the baitcaster reel. The main reason for this is that it allows you to catch heavier fish and gain more in terms of accuracy and power.

Fly fishing reels can be used by both intermediate and experts. As such, it is not the perfect fit for beginners as it takes a lot of time to get used to.

In summary, whether you are a beginner, intermediate or experienced angler, there’s a fishing reel that is catered to your fishing level. Therefore, make sure to get a reel that is adequate for your level of experience and that you are comfortable handling.

The size of the Fishing reel

Different sizes of spinning reels

Fishing reels span in size from about 500 to 6000. Reels which are around 500 in size are perfect for light angling tasks like ice fishing and would easily fit in your hand.

Reels of 1000-2000 come in handy when it comes to catching fish like catfish, trout, crappie, and even bass.

The 3000 reels are perfect for fishes that weigh around 20 pounds. Even as a beginner, the 3000 mark is a good start as it is not too heavy.

Reel sizes of more than 4000 all the way through to 6000 are in another category of their own. Fishing reels of this size can handle big fish and more lines.

If you are a beginner, this reel size can be overwhelming to handle and if care is not taken, the line can break while using it.

Does it utilize bearings or bushings?

The cheaper and smaller reels utilize bushings on any part that rotates on a reel because this option is cheaper and convenient to manufacture. Quality and more expensive reels on the other hand make use of ball bearings which are ball-like objects that allow for easy rotation and smooth casting while fishing.

Even more, the more the ball bearings used on a reel, the higher the quality of that reel. As such, consider investing in a fishing reel with ball bearings as they will last much longer.

The Drag Mechanism

Spinning Reel drag mechanism

The drag is an important part of the reel as it allows you to adjust the force required to pull the line from the reel. Adjusting the drag mechanism means that you would be able to control the line weight when fishing.

The drag can either be operated using a dial or a knob at the front or back of a reel. It is important to have a functional drag mechanism as it heavily influences success on the water. This is because the fish has to be able to take the line from the reel without it tangling or even breaking the line.

The type of drag mechanism you go for depends on the type/size of fish you would want to catch. For example, if your target is to catch a big fish, you would need a reel that can offer a reasonable amount of drag pressure so that the line would not lock up.

The drag resistance of a reel is measured in pounds and some types of spinning reels offer about 1-10 pounds of drag resistance and others offer about 20 pounds and above.

Some large reels even offer as much as 1000 pounds of drag pressure which is more than sufficient to handle large fishes like sharks and tuna. This is where an electric reel would come in as it is the only reel powerful enough to take on large fishes like this.

The material used to make the reel

The material used to make the reel should also be considered as it directly influences both the weight of that reel and its durability.

Materials like graphite, aluminum, or even plastic fall on the cheaper side of the spectrum while materials like magnesium and high-tech alloys are on the more expensive side. Your budget also comes into play here as it determines what you can afford, however, the expensive materials are usually very durable and worth the cost.

Spool Capacity

Mag Spool for A Fishing Reel

Mag Spool

Long Cast Spool for A Fishing Reel

Long Cast Spool

When choosing between the different types of fishing reels, you also have to take into account the weight and the amount of load that the line can carry and this is also influenced by the type of fishing you want to engage in.

Deep, V-shaped, or skirted spools can handle much longer or heavier lines while shallow spools are better suited to handle lighter lines.

The rod and the reel work hand in hand to form a well-balanced and functional system, so if one is lacking or does not fit the specification, it would tell on the result. Therefore, apart from taking into consideration some features of the reel you want, you also have to consider the fishing rod you would be using with the reel.

Light reels work well with light action rods and heavier reels work better with heavy rods like graphite rods for instance.

Your budget

Irrespective of what you want, your budget is what would determine the fishing rod and reel you get in the end. Your style of fishing also influences the reel you pick. The good news is that nowadays there are manufacturers that produce affordable fishing reels without giving in on the quality.

Key Insights & Takeaways

Different Types Of Fishing Reels:

In this fishing reel guide, we have highlighted the different types of fishing reels along with their pros and cons. You just have to determine beforehand your skill level, what kind of fishing you want to engage in, your budget, the amount of functionality in terms of accuracy and precision you are aiming for. Based on that, you can find the right fishing reel for you.

We hope that this fishing reel guide has proven to be very useful and has answered your “What fishing reel to buy” question, making the process of finding the right fishing reel considerably easier for you.

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I've been a fisherman for over 35 years. From catching small bullheads with my grandfather at his pond to catching strippers on the backwaters of the Chattahoochee, I love to get out in the wild and have a marvelous day on the water.