Fishing Reels 101 – Part 1

There are four basic types of fishing reels: Spincast, Spinning, Casting, and Fly. All of them are used to achieve the same result, which is to hold enough line for casting and playing a fish. Here is a breakdown of the types:


The spincast reel is completely enclosed with the exception of a small hole in the top where the line comes out. The line wraps around a spindle located inside the upper housing. The spindle sits parallel to the fishing rod so the line comes off in a coil. The line is wound back around the spindle by a collar that catches the line where it comes off of the spindle and rotates as the crank is turned. When the trigger is pushed, the collar moves out of the way and allows line to unspool from the spindle. This type of reel also has a drag that is either controlled by a wheel located on the housing or by a large spoke ring around the base of the crank handle. The drag provides tension on the line for fighting fish and is adjustable to prevent line breakage.

To cast a rod equipped with a spincast reel you start the casting motion and press the trigger on the forward motion of the cast at the point where you want the lure to start flying. When the lure hits the desired location you turn the crank to release the trigger and engage the collar with the line. You can now start retrieving your lure.

Spincast reels usually cast lures less distance than other types, but have fewer line loops or backlashes.


Spinning reels have a visible line spool with a wire loop at the top that moves around the spool as the reel is cranked. The wire loop is called the bail and is designed to capture the line and force it into the groove at the base of loop so it can be wound around the spindle when the reel is cranked. At the top of the spool or the base of the reel is the drag adjustment, the location varies by manufacturer and model. There will also be some type of switch to enable/disable the anti-reverse feature of the reel. Anti-reverse prevents the reel from spinning backwards if you remove your hand from the crank. The reel is designed to be hung below the rod.

To cast a rod equipped with a spinning reel you first grasp the rod so that the reel hangs below the rod, and the mounting base shaft for the reel is between you middle and ring fingers. Now, using the index finger of the hand holding the rod, catch the line where it leaves the reel and hold it to the rod with you finger. Using your other hand flip the bail up so it points toward the rod tip. This will allow the line to come off the spool if you release the line held by your index finger. Start the casting motion and on the forward portion of the motion release the line held by your finger at the point where you want the lure to start flying. When the lure hits the water turn the crank and the bail will close. You can now start retrieving the lure.

Spinning reels cast farther than Spincast reels but can sometimes have problems with line loops if the line develops twists, there is slack in the line when it is reeled, there is a lot of line memory, or if there is too much line on the reel.

Part 2 will cover Casting reels and Fly Reels.

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