Choosing the Right Fishing Reel

Saltwater Fishing - Helping you catch that fish of a lifetime

Choosing the Right Fishing Reel

by Capt. Terry Rand

When it comes to purchasing fishing reels, the options seem to be endless. Walk into any fishing retail store and you can easily become overwhelmed by the endless reel displays. Between various manufacturers, spinning reels, bait casting reels and multiple variations on reel designs, how does a beginner or novice decide what is right for their fishing needs?

For freshwater applications and light salt water applications, decide if you are going to be choosing a bait casting reel or a spinning reel. Bait casting reels are a very popular choice amongst bass anglers since they accommodate heavy lines and have a lot of cranking power which is extremely helpful when pulling fish out of heavy cover. Bait casting reels are not usually the best choice for fishing with light lines or light lures. You also need to spend some time in the backyard practice casting to learn how to properly cast this type of reel and to help educate your thumb to prevent spool over runs or “birds nests”.

If you are fishing with lighter lines, smaller lures and smaller baits then a spinning reel is most likely the best choice. These reels handle smaller diameter lines like 2 lb. – 10 lb. test with ease. For this reason, they are very popular among the trout fisherman and walleye anglers. Bass anglers are starting to use spinning equipment more and more, especially with the increased popularity of finesse techniques like drop-shotting.

In the saltwater realm, the same basic rules apply but the line diameter is generally larger since most of the fish are larger. The general term for a salt water bait casting reel is a conventional reel. With the advancements in salt water spinning reels, conventional reels are mostly regulated to trolling and bottom fishing techniques, where the bait or lure does not have to be cast any long distances. Again, these reels excel in accommodating large diameter lines and provide excellent cranking power for subduing large fish.

Most all reel manufacturers will make a particular reel model in multiple sizes to accommodate different size rods and lines. Spinning reels are usually sized in a numeric series starting with a size 1000 and going up to a size 6000. The size of the reel increases with the numeric size, a 1000 being the smallest and a 6000 being the largest. A smaller sized reel will have a smaller spool; therefore, a smaller sized line diameter should be used. Labeling on most all reels will have line rating suggestions and will also inform you of how much line the spool can hold.

Bait casting reels for freshwater and light saltwater are usually numbered with a three number series like 100, 200 and 300. Higher numbers are often used but the general naming convention is usually a three digit number. Conventional reels seem to traditionally use a two digit number like 30, 40 and 50. The same rule of increasing the number increases the size still applies. Again, look at the line rating suggestions on the reel or on the reels box to find out the correct size line diameter to use.

This should help guide you to choosing the correct reel. Remember, choosing a fishing reel is much like choosing the right golf club. You wouldn’t want to choose a 5-wood if what you really need is a pitching wedge. So think about what job your reel will have to accomplish and then make the right decision.


We want your input: