Are you all set for your next fishing trip? Have you gathered all the necessary angling gear? Fishing rod, leader, fishing lines…. Wait, wait! There’s one thing missing! A fishing reel. I know you may think that you could do well without it, too, but what if today’s the day when you hook a giant salmon and want to pull it out of the water before it runs away forever. That’s why you need to be informed about all the different types of fishing reels so that you can choose better.
With an experience of more than a decade in fly fishing, today, I will be imparting my angling wisdom on what is a fishing reel, eleven different reel types, including different types of fly reels as well; the best options available in the market, and how to pick one for yourself.
So stay hooked!
Disclosure: The Wading Kit is a reader-supported website and takes part in the Amazon Associates Program. We may earn a small commission if you shop through links on this page. At thewadingkit.com we test products and recommend them based on unbiased research. For info see disclosure here.
All Types Of Fishing Reels Explained
There are hundreds of different types of fishing reels, depending upon how you classify them. To keep things easy to understand, I’ll be briefly categorizing them using the following criteria:
- What do they do?
- How are they constructed?
- What size is their arbor?
- What kind of drag do they use?
So let’s cut to the chase and start our lesson on the types of fishing reels.
Style Of Angling
There are several kinds and types of fishing reels to cater to the various styles and techniques for angling. But 4 most common types of fishing reels. Here I am explaining the difference in fishing reels’ few basic types for you to get an idea:
1. Spinning Reels
A spinning reel mounts on the bottom of a fishing rod, and its spool is immovable. You wind the line onto it by spinning a metal arm on the side. The drag adjustment knob is on the top of the reel.
Spinning reels are the most used and famous fishing reels type because of the numerous advantages they provide. They are affordable, easy-to-use, well-balanced on most rods, and practical in almost all kinds of fishing conditions. However, line twisting as you cast them is a problem with these reels, which you’ll have to overcome with some practice.
An open-face spinning reel is a type of spinning reel that is essentially the same thing. Initial spinning reels had a closed face, but the modern ones all have an open front, so there is no difference between the two.
- Good for freshwater use (lakes, small rivers, ponds)
- Spinning reels are very easy to use
- They are relatively cheaper
- They do not need a lot of maintenance
2. Baitcasting Reels
More experienced anglers prefer baitcasting reels because of how well they avoid twisting the line while casting. But these types of fishing reels aren’t that simple to use and require a lot of practice for perfection. These are in no way fishing reels for beginners.
- Tough enough for sea and big rivers
- They can cast at a long distance
- Generally lighter in weight
- Efficient with heavier lures
- More accurate in terms of casting
2. Spin Casting Reels
A spin casting reel or a spincaster reel has a covered spool and a button to switch between free-wheeling and locked spool. Spincast reels are very easy to use and widely used for practice and learning how to use a fishing reel. Flyandspincasting.com have provided very detailed guides on spincast and baitcasting reels.
There is a downside, however. Spin casting reels are beginner reels only. Their small size won’t help you catch bigger fish and are a sucker for seawater fishing.
Example: Zebco Bullet Spincast Fishing Reel
- Good for small freshwater bodies
- Great for beginners
- No risk of backlash
- Needs only one hand for operation
4. Fly Fishing Reels
As their name implies, fly reels use weightless fly lures or bait for catching fish, and the fly lines are heavier and thicker than ordinary fishing lines to balance. The fly fishing reels have a spool that rotates on its axis while the fly line wraps around it.
Modern fly reels have a drag system to stop fish and are better adapted to saltwater fishing than before.
Example: Ross Evolution R Salt Fly Reel
- They are versatile. Some models are suitable for seawater as well while others are only good for freshwater
- You can cast extremely lightweight flies
- Casting the fly quietly without scaring the fish is possible
- Flies are cheaper than lures
- Casting requires more practice to perfect
- Fly fishing gear is more expensive
How To Choose?
Choosing the right kind of reel depends on your preference and how you plan to catch fish with them. Some reels are more beginner-friendly, while other professional fishing reels require more expertise to master. Similarly, some are types of saltwater fishing reels, and some are for freshwater. It is a good idea to plan after determining how you plan to use them. As there are different types of fly fishing reels, they are explained below in much more detail.
Types of Fly Fishing Reels
There are multiple types of fly fishing reels we have classified them into 4 main categories:
- Construction & Materials
- Arbor Size
- Drag Mechanism
1. Construction & Materials
Next, there are two different types of fly reels according to how manufacturers produce them. You may find a few plastic reels on the market too, but in reality, they are suitable for nothing and can break upon impact or bend under stress. So I will only be discussing the metallic ones.
For a die-cast reel, molten metal is poured into a mold (or die). This process is cheaper but produces fragile reels. Also, this type of reels cannot be anodized; instead, they are painted or coated with powder. Even though die-cast reels are generally not very strong, modern techniques and technology have made them a lot better than before.
Example: Redington Behemoth Fly Reel
CNC machined reels are cut from a bar of metal (usually aluminum) using computerized machines. The reels so produced are more robust, more durable, and the design is very accurate. The only downside is the cost. All the fancy computers and machines are expensive and add up to the total cost of the fly reel.
Example: Sage Spectrum C Fly Reel
How To Choose?
It all comes down to your budget. If your pocket allows it and you can buy top-tier stuff, you should go for a machined reel. But in case your budget is little tight, modern die-cast reels are a great option.
2. Arbor Size
What’s an arbor? It is the center part of a spool and is the distance from the central portion to the spool’s edge. The fly reels are available in three arbor sizes:
A traditional standard arbor is the smallest of the three sizes. It usually has enough line storage capacity, but the lines are coiled tightly, leading to line memory since its diameter is smaller. Now what is line memory, you may ask? When your lines “remember” the shape they were stored in and try to curl back into it when you want to cast them. In short, it is something you don’t want to be happening.
Example: Abel 3N Fly Reel
This reel size makes up for the disadvantages of a standard arbor reel without resulting in a diameter that is too big to handle. Most fly reels nowadays come in with a mid-range arbor. They are easier to store, transport, and balance on a rod without producing memory in fly lines.
Example: Orvis Battenkill Fly Reel
With bigger size comes more advantages. First, you get the tiniest lines memory, and then the rate at which the reel picks up lines is faster than the previous two sizes. Next, the capacity for storage of backing can be greater too if the reel is also huge to make up for the giant arbor diameter.
But understandably, giant reels are a pain to store and take them with you on the go. You may also think that they’d weigh more, but larger types of fishing reels usually have more porting to lessen the weight.
Example: Orvis Clearwater Fly Reel
How To Choose?
Your desired arbor size depends more upon where you are fishing. If you are hitting a sea or an ocean, you should splurge on a large arbor reel you can get your hands on. But if you are targeting smaller lakes or ponds, a standard arbor will do.
4. Drag Mechanism
The drag system in your fly reel helps you stop the fish from running away once you’ve hooked it. It is the brakes of your reel. The kind of drag you use is paramount if you want to catch a mightier and faster fish, say steelhead.
There are two basic types of drag mechanisms in most fly reels:
This drag system has a “pawl,” a small tooth that “clicks” when it comes against a small gear present at the center of your reel. The drag tension is provided by a small spring at the back of the pawl.
Since this kind of drag has minimal components, it is effortless to use and maintain. Most anglers prefer it for its simplicity and the fact that it is considerably lighter in weight. The downside? There is little to no option for adjusting the drag force.
Example: Ross Colorado Fly Reel
Disc-drags are more complicated and better at adjusting the torque force they provide. They use multiple small washers that rub against each other to create friction that helps stop a fish. These drag systems are generally smoother, firmer, and have minimum resistance when you start reeling. Also, there is more range for adjusting them to find your sweet spot.
Example: Waterworks-Lamson Liquid Fly Reel
How To Choose?
If you are targeting trout or similar species in smaller water bodies, you don’t need to worry about drag at all because, honestly, you won’t be needing it. But if you are going after more vigorous species in fast rivers or seawater, you can choose the drag-style types of fishing reels according to your preference.
Furthermore, you need to look into open vs. closed reels. The drag system can be exposed or sealed from external elements. Open drag is better for freshwater fishing and closed, or sealed drag serves seawater anglers better.
Check out some of the best fly reels made in the USA
So, there you have it. I have explained many different types of fishing reels. It will be easier to understand how to choose a fishing reel by having all of them explained. Keep in mind how and where you intend to use them, and you’ll have no difficulty in determining the right one for you.
Do let me know which one you use or will be using.
Also, Check our Guides On: