Fishing Gear

The 6 Types of Fishing Reels – Which is best for you?

fishing reels

When it comes to fishing reels, it’s not enough to simply buy the one that looks the coolest. As with rods, there are many other things to consider before choosing the best reel for you.First, you’ll want to think about the type of fishing you’ll be doing. Then, you’ll want to consider more practical things like how durable it is, how difficult it is to handle and how much money you’re willing to shell out.

There are three main types of reels to choose from: spincast, spinning and baitcast. Although the general idea is the same, they all have specific features that can make them more effective depending on the fishing situation and your experience level. In this guide, we’ll explain each type in detail to help you better understand their pros and cons. Armed with this information, you can feel confident that you’re choosing a reel that will suit you well.

Spincast Reel

Spincast reels are perfect for beginners due to their simplicity. There’s nothing complicated about them, which also makes them a good choice for more experienced fishermen who don’t want the hassle of dealing with complex gear. And if you don’t want to spend a lot of money, baitcast reels are your best option because they’re the least expensive.

Spincast Reel

With a spincast rod, the spool of line is enclosed in an oval-shaped casing. The fishing line feeds out of a small hole in the back portion of the cover. Spincast reels feature a button on the back of the casing that you push in when you cast. You simply hold the button down as you cast out your line, then release it when you want the line to stop.

Additionally, spincast reels give you the ability to adjust the drag – this is the amount of resistance the fish will encounter when it tries to swim away after it’s hooked. The drag adjustment is usually a knob or switch on the side or back of the casing.


The spincast reel is popular with beginners because it offers many advantages:

  • Less Tangles: Spincast reels rarely tangle.
  • Easy to Cast: Just push the button, wind back and pitch forward – it’s as simple as that.
  • Inexpensive: You can pick one of these reels up for about $20.


The spincast reel may be the easiest to use, but it has several disadvantages:

  • Not Very Durable: Since they’re inexpensive, they’re also cheaply made.
  • Limited Casting Ability: They can’t cast as far and aren’t as precise as the other options.
  • Hard to Keep Clean: Dirt can easily get inside the hole in the casing and damage the line.

Spinning Reel

Although spinning reels can be very frustrating for beginners, they’re still very popular – especially among more advanced fishermen. These reels don’t have an enclosed casing, so the spool of line is visible. This allows the line to move without interference, creating a smoother casting experience. Spinning reels attach underneath the rod and feature a metal bar, called a bail, instead of a button. This bail has two jobs. First, it locks the line after you cast it out. Second, it acts as a guide for the line as it re-enters the spool.

Spinning Reel

When you’re just starting out with a spinning reel, it can be a bit tricky to handle. You have to be very careful, otherwise you’ll end up with the dreaded “bird’s nest” – a terrible tangle that is nearly impossible to undo. To properly cast with a spinning reel, you unlock the metal bail and use your index finger to hold the line tight to the rod, so it doesn’t unspool. Then, wind back as you normally would, either overhead or to the side. You’ll want to move your index finger to release the line right when you are at about the halfway point of your cast. Then simply aim your rod where you want the bait to land.

But wait, don’t relax after the cast – this is where a lot of people get tripped up. While spinning reels are usually made so that the bail automatically returns to a locked position after the cast, this doesn’t always go smoothly. Sometimes, the line can miss the spool after the first turn of the reel. This is where a lot of tangles happen. So, to avoid a “bird’s nest,” make sure you lock the metal bail with your own hand right after you cast.


The spinning reel is popular with more advanced fishermen for several reasons:

  • Line Capacity: These reels can hold a lot of line.
  • Accuracy: They allow for a quicker, more precise cast.
  • Versatility: You can use them for many different types of fishing.
  • Casting Light Lures: The open line can flow more freely, which works well with lighter lures.


While spinning reels are great, they do have several disadvantages to consider:

  • Cost: They are more expensive than spincast reels.
  • Tangles Easily: These reels are notorious for causing nasty tangles if you aren’t careful or don’t know what you’re doing.
  • Not Equipped for Heavy Gear: They may be great for casting normal lures and lines, but once you start to venture into heavier options, their performance declines.

Baitcast Reel

When it comes to professional fishermen, the baitcast reel is the preferred option. Known for its power and precise casting ability, the baitcast reel is a great choice when you want to up your fishing game. Just be aware that you may need to practice with it before you’re able to use it effectively.

baitcasting reel

A baitcast reel looks like a hybrid between a spincast reel and a spinning reel. The spool of line is only partially enclosed and sits on the top of the rod. Like a spinning reel, the baitcast reel has the ability to adjust the drag. However, it has two additional features: a brake and a spool adjustment knob. By using all three of the baitcast reel’s features, you can customize your casting. This allows you to be extremely precise in your bait placement.

Another important difference with the baitcast reel is how you stop the line after you cast it out. Unlike the spincast and spinning reels that have mechanisms that help you stop the line, with the baitcast reel, you have to stop it on your own. To do this, you simply cast out the line, then midway through your cast, press your thumb against the spool. After your bait lands in the correct spot, you simply press the clip to lock the line in place.


Professionals like to use the baitcast reel for its many advantages:

  • Control: These reels offer the most control due to the many different features. By adjusting the drag and speed of the line, you can get your bait to fall in the exact spot you had in mind.
  • Versatility: Because baitcast reels can handle almost anything, this is the reel to choose if you like to fish in different locations for a large variety of fish.
  • Power: These reels were made to handle the heaviest, strongest lines. This makes them perfect for those looking to catch large, powerful fish.
  • Feel: With baitcast reels, you can really feel the line as it casts, allowing you to adjust the speed, as needed.


While the baitcast reel is the most versatile, it still comes with disadvantages:

  • Continuous Adjustments: Even though these reels can be used in many different situations, they require you to adjust the brake and spool to match the weight of your lure. This can be a pain if you’re someone who likes to change out your lures often.
  • Learning Curve: Due to their complexity, these reels take some getting used to and have a steeper learning curve than the others.
  • High Cost: When you add more features, you also add to the expense. You may get more versatility, but you’re going to pay a good bit of money for it.
  • Tangles Easily: Similar to the spinning reel, the baitcast reel is prone to tangles. You have to get really good at controlling the line, otherwise you’ll end up with the dreaded “bird’s nest.”

Surf Casting Reels

If you enjoy surf fishing, you’ll want to invest in either a baitcasting or spinning reel. Both of these are good options, with the ultimate choice coming down to personal preference. Spinning surf reels are great if you want something lightweight and versatile with high retrieval rates. However, when choosing surf fishing equipment, the primary consideration should always be durability. You’ll want something that can hold up well when exposed to the harsh combination of sun, sand and saltwater.

surf casting reel

When choosing a surf fishing reel, look for something made with graphite, anodized aluminum, or a combination of both. You’ll also want to make sure the drags and stainless steel ball bearings on the reel are sealed – this helps keep them from corroding.

The next thing to consider is the amount of fishing line the reel can hold. Since you’ll be fishing in a vast expanse of deep water, make sure your reel can hold a lot of fishing line and cast out really far. It should also pair well with a good-quality surf rod.

As your final consideration, you’ll want to find a reel that you can use to catch a wide variety of fish in different locations. You’ll want to choose something versatile that can support many different types of lures and cut baits. It also needs to be strong enough to handle the power of larger ocean-dwelling fish, like the striped bass.

Trolling Reels

Trolling reels, also known as casting reels, work great for fishing in the deep ocean or when pursuing larger game fish offshore. These reels come in handy whether you’re trolling way out in the ocean, or in a large, deep lake.

Trolling Reel

When choosing a trolling reel, look for something made of machined aluminum or heavy-duty graphite. You’ll also want to make sure the reel has a multi-disc drag system and can handle a lot of line – this will help you during those deep-water battles with large, powerful fish. Since bigger fish tend to be very strong, the reel also needs to be able to handle heavy test lines.

When shopping for trolling reels, you’ll note that they come in either lever or star drag systems. Since you’ll be using them to battle big fish, look for a dual-speed reel. This will give you the versatility to pull a large fish from the depths of the ocean, then quickly switch over so you can fight a powerful fish like a tuna or marlin. And if you want to make sure you always know when you have a fish on the line, you may also want to find a reel that includes a loud clicker that you can hear over the engine.

Fly Fishing Reels

When it comes to fly fishing, precision is incredibly important. For this reason, fly fishing reels are some of the most accurate reels on the market. They’re meant to help anglers cast out and hit the exact spot where the fish are waiting.

fly fishing reel

You’ll notice fly fishing reels come in many different varieties. Some are designed to be used when fishing for salmon, while others are specifically made for catching trout. They’re also made for quick retrieval, so they tend to have large arbors on the reel.

Reels made for fly fishing are very reliable, simple and above all, durable. In fact, their durability is so good, that you can find people fishing with reels that are more than 40 years old. So, if it’s a long-lasting reel you’re after, fly fishing reels are your best bet.

Which Type of Reel Should You Purchase?

After reading about the three different types of reels, you should have a better idea of which one would work best for you. If you’re still unsure, consider your experience level – this should help you decide.

If you’re new to fishing, your best bet is to start with a spincast reel. It’s extremely easy to use – in fact, this is the reel you’ll find on most of the fishing rods made for kids. They are also less prone to tangles, which can ruin a fun fishing experience. When you’re just learning to fish, the last thing you want to do is worry about messing with your reel.

If you’re a bit more advanced and ready to move on to something more complicated, you should try a spinning reel. They’re a bit more difficult to handle, but once you get used to it, you’ll be able to cast further and with more accuracy. Don’t be intimidated – with a little practice, you’ll be casting like a pro in no time.

Now, if you’ve mastered both the spincast and spinning reels and want to get into some serious fishing, you may want to spring for the baitcast reel. This is the reel to choose if you’re starting to go for the really big sport fish. It’s more powerful and can handle the heavier line you’ll need to bag a trophy fish. Just be aware that all this power and precision doesn’t come easy – it’s going to take some time to get really good at casting with these reels. But if you put in the time and effort, you’ll be able to reap some exciting rewards.

The great thing about fishing gear is that it doesn’t matter how experienced or inexperienced you are – you can always find something to suit your needs. Make sure you choose something that you can handle and that works well with your rod. By making a smart decision, you’ll improve your chances of having an enjoyable fishing experience.

Brian Walters is an avid angler that has been fishing since he was old enough to pick up a rod. With over 40 years of experience fishing all over the country for.... read more
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