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Person hooking their Jerkbait onto their hookeeper with a gold and gunmetal spinning reel shining in the sunlight

Choosing the Right Reel

By Discount Tackle Staff

Fishing is weekend or summer fun for some people, a year-round passion for others, and for some it's even a profession. 

But no matter what the reason you choose to fish or the level of skill you do it with, all anglers need a fishing reel to go fishing. Choosing the right reel may not be easy as it looks. There are many aspects you should look into before opting for the right reel. In this blog post, we cover the basics types of fishing reels and their applications to help you choose the right reel for you.

Reel Types

Spinning Reels

Spinning reels are counted as the most versatile of the lot. These reels come from a bail-guide system that will hold the line and wrapping on the spool at the time you spool it in. Once the bail is over and flipped across, it will fall freely off the spool, making it ideal for casting. You just need to pinch the line to keep it tight on the spool and adjust the time for letting go of the line fly from the highest point. After that, the bail will get back engaging the reel for retrieval works.

The material and quality of the reel with gear features and the ball bearings will make it a good reel to buy. So make a choice that suits you best. These reels may come with numbers, like 2500, 250, or two-digits like 25; these are considered the same size of reel.

Casting Reels

Casting reels or baitcasting reels are angling reels that sit on top of the casting rod. These reels revolve around the spools. These spools will feed the line off and wind it straight back on the rod guides, thus avoiding any line-twisting and further allowing a great casting distance for heavier baits.

Its gears are instrumental for the speed, with which the spool will retrieve the line using a level-wind system for laying the line on the spool in an even manner.

These casting reels come with a braking system, which controls the spool speed. When this system is in motion, it gives the angler great control during cast to avoid a quick-spinning reducing the chance for a tangled or bird’s nest reel. Its drag system is smooth coming off from its bearings.

Conventional Reels

Conventional reels will help you a great deal in catching big fish when other reels may not withstand or hold the strain and stretching pressure. Their level-wind lines, in combination with line storage, make them perfect reels for angling in deep saltwater. Plus, they are good for pulling in large deep water fish.

Conventional reels come with a braking system like casting reel on the side of the reel under its star drag. Its best use is observed where the anglers put the reel into a free spooling mode by merely pushing a button located on top of the reel.

These reels have a low gear ratio and spinning reels, which means their spool will crank slow, but it will have more torque for pulling in the large fish; this is possible due to its dual-speed reels. As deep saltwater reels, they have a special bearing with a high anti-rust coating to keep away corrosion.

Spin-Casting Reel

Spin casting reels are when you cast a fish rod using a spinning reel. Both the spinning and spin-cast reels sit under the rod perpendicular to the rod.

For using a spinning reel, you should move the bail-arm up to free the lines allowing it to unspool, also called opening the bail. You should observe that the spinning reel will not spin during casting, thus keeping the line tight as you get ready for casting. This is its inherent method for controlling its speed.

Therefore, while using this casting method, your power hand will hold the rod, and the other hand will be operating the reel. These reels give ample time and learning to the beginners to become a bait-caster. It covers all basics for standard size fish.

Electric Reel

Electric reels have made life easy at fishing, as this reel can help you catch big fish at deep depths. Hence, you may not need more power you were using during a spin or bait-cast reels.

Electric reels are easy to go, as their electric motor will turn the spool for pulling in the line. These reels are good for deep sea fishing for their ability to lift heavy weight without difficulty.

These electric reels are easy due to their control of the speed with different speed levels. Furthermore, these reels can store data that may benefit you in the future to what depth and area you made a big lure.

Terms to Understand


There are many sizes for each type of reel you may come across. Why the size matter? The right choice will let you make the best fishing or angling you are opting to go for.

Let’s say the reel size maybe a 20, 25, or 30 and can go up to 1000 or 2000 and more. As a thumb rule, the smaller the number, the smaller a reel will be.

You should consider what kind of area you are opting for angling, saltwater or freshwater, or deep area fishing. These different areas, depth, and types of water will help you determine the size of the reel.

Gear Ratios and Line Speed

The gear ratio of the reel indicates how many times a spool will rotate with a single rotation of the reel handle.

For example, reels with a gear ratio reading of 5.2:1 mean the spool rotates 5.2 times to a single circle of the handle. Remember, the slow gear ratio will indeed haul in the spool slowly but, at the same time, will give more torque for pulling out big fish.

Drag Systems

Reel drag comes into play when the fish makes a lot of struggle to get free. In order to avoid the breaking of line, drag comes into action, which wears out the fish to make the pulling in easy later on.

Drag features exerting pressure on fish to wear it down, and it acts as a soft cushion to prevent line tension from reaching a breaking point. At the same time, the drag factor will deal with tackles, such as hooks, swivels, hard-ware on the plugs, etc.

The drag on a reel comes with an adjustment option and metal washer, which are separated by carbon fiber to reduce friction.


Bearings will keep the smoothness of the reel.

You should prefer stainless steel bearing for longevity, great control, and moderate movement of the reel. You may go for a reel with most ball bearings you can afford. It’s a good investment for the best angling experience.

Freshwater vs. Saltwater

Saltwater reels are made from high-standard stainless steel and other non-corroding material. Nonetheless, even these reels will get affected by saltwater, but after a very long period. So be careful; do not use freshwater reels in saltwater, as they will get damaged in a short time.

You should use a freshwater reel and rod in freshwater for enhancing their longevity and best results.

Matching a Reel and a Rod

You should observe the specifications carefully as all rods and reels have some ratings depicting what line size will be best to use with them.

Let’s say a rod rating is 9-14 lb test line; then you should opt for a reel with an 8, 10, or 12lb test line rating. The weight is important for the chosen rod, and this is called balancing. The idea is to match a reel to a rod that is sufficiently heavy to alleviate rod tip weight so that the rod remains parallel to the surface during angling.

How to Choose the Reel You Need

You should consider the gear ratio, as this will cover the reel performance depending on whether it’s a low, medium, or high gear ratio reel.

The low gear ratio stands good for deep and large swimbaits. A medium gear ratio is good for beginners, as it will cover heavier baits and suck up the line rapidly like a high-gear reel. Moreover, high gear ratio reels are quick at taking in the lines fast.

You should consider materials like ball bearings, braking and tension systems, etc.

The frame of the reel will decide the longevity of this equipment. The reels come in different materials, and aluminum is best for its durability and lightweight. In the same context, carbon fiber is the ultimate framing choice.

Taking Care of Your Reel

Whenever you clean your reels, never forget to clean the lines. If you are taking out the lines, rods, and reels, etc., after a long period of stow, it’s better you clean them before using. Re-spooling the line will add more life to them and the spool part. There are reel oils and grease available for cleaning. Put a layer of grease to maximize their corrosion and rust layers. In case of any sharp cut, go for anti-rust spray again to secure the damaged part.

Moreover, you should store the lines in a basement or undercover away from direct sun exposure and moisture. You may have seen the lines getting short after every fishing fun; you should trim the twisted, open-ended twisted, and torn ends.

Rods may need minimal cleaning. Rubbing a moist or wet foam or soft cloth will clean it from end to end. Check reel seats and handles; if any cleaning is necessary, do it.

To Sum It Up

Thus, selecting the right reel depends on where you are going for fishing or angling, the material, its systems, etc. So, make sure you choose the reel that will get you the ultimate pleasure, fun, and best results.
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