Fishing is one of the more relaxing hobbies that you can do. All you need is a cooler of your favorite beverage, a few snacks, and your gear.
Take all that to your favorite fishing spots and just relax as you wait for that big catch.
If you’re new to fishing, you may think that any old piece of equipment will do just fine. That isn’t always the case. Sure, we all know that you need a good fishing pole, but you’re also going to want a good fishing reel too.
We like to think that the reel that we purchase with our rod is going to be just fine, but sadly, they aren’t always going to meet your needs, especially if you are interested in fishing for a variety of fish.
In this guide, we are going to talk about the fishing reel, its history, the types of reels, a slew of other useful bits of information about the reel.
The fishing reel is not a modern invention by any means. The earliest depiction of the reel can be found in a 12th century painting by Ma Yuan called Angler on a Wintery Lake.
However, literary records reveals evidence where the reel actually comes from 4th Century AD in a Chinese work called Lives of Famous Immortals. There have been other instances of the reel throughout early Chinese paintings and works.
The first documentation of the reel being used in Western Europe in 1651 in the book called, “The Art of Angling,” and this was when people became more interested in fly fishing, which started to become commercialized in the 18th century. During that time, rods and tackles could be bought at a haberdasher’s shop.
The design for the modern reel began in England near the 19th century and the main model that was used was known as the Nottingham Reel.
This reel had a wide drum that would spool out line easily and it was perfect for letting the angler’s bait drift freely in the water’s current.
Designs began to improve in the 1880s and new wood varieties were being used to create the fly rod that allowed silk lines to be used instead of horse hair, which was perfect for casting even further.
The problem with this new innovation was that the silk line would get tangled up really easily. This problem was the catalyst that spawned the invention of the regulator that would evenly spool out the line and prevent it from becoming a tangled mess.
Holden Illingworth, a textiles magnate, patented the modern version of the fixed-spool spinning reel in the early 1900s. When an angler would cast the new design, the line would be drawn off the edge of the spool, but it was restrained and rewound by a line pickup.
This device orbits around the stationary spool and because the line didn’t have to pull against a spool that rotated, an angler could use a lighter lure to cast with.
In the United States, George Snyder modified gear multiplying reels and created the bait casting reel in 1810. Then in 1874, Charles F. Orvis designed and distributed a reel and fly design that would be considered the “benchmark of American reel design,” which is the reel that our modern reels most resemble.
There are three main types of fishing reels (Spinning Reels, Baitcasting Reels, and Spincasting Reels) that are used by anglers today, but there are several additional types of reels that are available, but not commonly used. In this section, we are going to talk about the different fishing reel types:
The Spinning reel (also known as a fixed spool reel) was created by Holden Illingsworth and they were developed to allow anglers to use artificial flies and other lures to catch trout and salmon.
These reels are usually mounted under the rod because this position conforms to gravity. This is useful for anglers because you don’t need any wrist strength to keep the reel in its position.
This reel was designed to solve the problem of backlash as the reel doesn’t have a rotating spool that will mess up the line.
With that said, the line in a spinning reel can be problematic because it can get trapped under itself on the spool. It can also come away from the reel in loops.
These problems can occur when you overfill the spool while other problems can happen due to how the line is wound on the spool by the pickup or rotating bail.
There have been various oscillating spool mechanisms that have been created over the years to fix this problem. However, these reels still have problems with the line becoming twisted.
The Spincasting reel was created to be that fix for the backlash problem that baitcasting reels tend to have. They also are able to reduce the line twist and snare complaints that people may have with a spinning reel too.
These reels can use lightweight lures like fly reels.
However, the spincast is going to eliminate the large wire bail and line roller and instead uses two pickup pins and a metal cup to wind the line on your spool.
These reels feature a narrow spool that has less line capacity and these limitations put a bunch of restrictions on how deep you can fish, how far you can cast, and how far the fish can run.
While these reels have a lot of restrictions, they are great for beginners because they are so easy to use. Basically all you have to do is push the button on the back of the reel and cast.
This button releases the line and the forward motion sends your lure into the air. Once the lure gets to where you want it to go, you can press the button once more and begin reeling it in.
The baitcasting reel is the most advanced reel among the three prime choices. This is the reel is also known as a conventional reel because the design has been around for quite a while.
This is going to be the reel that experienced anglers are going to prefer because they are more proficient at getting you those larger, stronger fish.
These reels are designed for incredible strength and durability, but also accuracy.
The reel is positioned on top of the fishing rod and when you press the button, you can then release the line, much like a spincasting reel. This is when you’ll be able to throw your bait.
There are two types of knobs on the reel—one controls the spool tension and the other controls the breaking system.
You can adjust the spool tension to tighten or loosen the spool, whereas the braking system allows you to cast without experiencing backlash.
The fly reel is a single-action reel that is usually operated by stripping the line off the reel with one hand while you use the other hand to cast with.
These reels are designed to store line and provide the angler with a smooth and uninterrupted drag when the fish takes a long run.
The reel is going to counterbalance the weight of your fly rod when your casting.
The centerpin reel (also known as a float reel) is one that runs freely enough on the axel.
This will allow the angler to cast further because the line that is drawn off the momentum of the cast from the rotating reel.
The centerpin reel has a spool that has a large diameter and it is usually used on a surf-casting fishing rod that ranges between 12 to 17 feet.
These reels are usually used for coarse fishing and instead of having a mechanical drag like other reels, this one requires the angler to use their thumb to control the fish.
These reels are popular with salt water and fresh water anglers in Australia.
Underspin reels are great for beginners. They are very much like spincast reels because they were designed so that the line doesn’t become twisted while casting or experience backlash.
What makes these different is by the way they are mounted—these are mounted underneath the rod. This position makes it more comfortable to hold and to cast.
The anti-spin reel has a mechanism that allows for the line to unwind while the handle doesn’t move.
You can also set the drag setting so that the line can come out (like if you have a fish on the line that’s running) while you’re reeling it in.
This reel design is also found in saltwater fly reels and even bait casting reels.
The mechanism uses either a ‘dog’ or ‘pawl’ design that activates a cog wheel that has been attached to the shaft of the handle.
In this section, we are go over the how to’s of a fishing reel!
Whether you’re a seasoned angler who is trying to cut down on your choice of bait, or if you haven’t yet mastered the art of using a baitcasting reel, it’s always useful to know how properly set up your reel to avoid the common problems associated with them.
First of all, it’s important that you match the size of the line you want to put on your reel and the size of your reel. Spinning reels aren’t like baitcasting reels because the spinning reel is designed for lighter line.
Lines like monofilament or fluorocarbon lines aren’t going to perform well because the diameter of the line is large enough where the line is going to hop off the reel when casting.
Follow these steps on how to string a spinning fishing reel:
Sometimes stuff happens and you’re going to have to do your own fishing reel repair. Now we aren’t going to say that that putting a reel on a rod is simple, but we will tell you that it isn’t that difficult either.
The entire process only takes between 10 to 30 minutes, depending on your experience.
Gather your fishing reel parts. This includes your reel (of course) and rod, but it also includes the line (if you hadn’t put the line on your reel yet), your bait/hook and scissors.
Know your reel. You are going to want to know the different parts of your reel. The spool is where the line goes, the handle is what you’re going to turn. The bail is that metal arm that prevents the line from coming out of the spool.
The reel foot is what connects the reel to the rod. Your drag knob is going to allow you to control how much line comes out when the bail is closed.
Connecting your reel to your rod. Connecting your reel to the rod is really simple. All you have to do is loosen the reel seat on your rod. You’re going to make sure the reel seat is large enough so the reel foot can fit in it.
Then, place the reel foot in the reel seat. Finally, it’s just a matter of tightening the seat to the foot. Be mindful, if you can fee a wobble in the reel fastener, you’re going to want to do the process over until the reel feels secure.
*If you hadn’t already filled the spool with line, you can do so now.
Threading the line onto your rod. You will want to take the tip of the line in one hand and open the bail arm with your other. Then thread the line through each of the guides starting at the bottom.
You don’t want to let go of the line because it’ll fall back through the guides and you may become frustrated, especially if you don’t have steady hands in the first place.
Tie the knot. Once the line has been fed through the last guide, you will then want to tie the end with your favorite lure or hook. Place the line through the eye and then tie it with either a:
Set the drag knob. You are going to turn the drag knob clockwise to tighten or counterclockwise to loosen it.
You will then manually pull the line from your reel so you can then determine the drag has changed.
Repeat these steps until you find the perfect drag. It’s going to take a bit of practice to determine what you want your drag set to, so always ask someone who has more experience.
If you don’t have someone you can ask, set your drag so that it is relatively loose, because if it is too tight, you could break the line when you’re reeling in a fish.
Fishing can be a fantastic past time. It allows you to break away from the stresses of every day and it can let you get in touch with nature and even clear your mind.
While it is important to have the appropriate fishing rod on hand, you’re also going to want to have the correct fishing reel on hand as well—especially when it comes to the type of fish you’re hoping to catch.
While there are many types of fishing reels available, the main three that you will come across are the baitcasting reels, spinning reels, and spincasting reels.
The spinning and spincast reels are the easiest of the three to use, which is why more seasoned anglers tend to choose baitcasting reels. Why, even they sometimes, they even have troubles!
When you know what type of reel you need something simple to use because you’re a beginner or you’re teaching a child how to fish, you’ll want to go with a spincast, as they are the easiest to use.
Spinning reels are built a bit more solidly than a spincast and you have more options of what kind of line you want to use.
These reels are best suited for open ocean fishing, especially if you’re hoping to catch striped bass, mahi mahi and other medium sized saltwater fish.
Then we have the baitcasting reel. These are more advanced and will require a bit more patience to use. However, once you master how to use these reels, you’ll be able to accurately place your bait wherever you want it.
While using one of these reels is a manual process, it can be rewarding because you can go after those larger fish.
Fishing, whether you are new or experienced, the fishing reel can make all the world of a difference. We have created a buying guide that can help you choose the best reel in each of the three types.