Fishing reel Information

Characteristic of Fishing Reels

  • Types of Reels
  • Gear Ratios
  • Drag
  • Line Capacity/Weight
  • Ball Bearings



Types of Reels

The three most common types of reels are spinning, baitcasting, and spincasting. 

Baitcasting reels sit on top of the rod and are generally used with medium heavy and heavy powers.  There are several types of baitcasting reels but we will only be discussing the low profile reels (the ones you see bass fisherman on TV use).  Think of the baitcaster as a winch used to pull a fish in.  This power is why they are used when fishing for large fish such as muskie or pike.  Baitcasters however, are not for the inexperienced.  They take practice in order to avoid “bird nests” which are caused when the spool begins to turn faster than the line is going out through the guides.  Most reels come with cast control features which allow you to control the speed the spool can spin in order to help prevent bird nests. 

Spinning reels are seated underneath the rod and are more finesse than power, not to say they cannot handle large fish they just aren’t designed to power fish to the net.  A metal bail opens and closes to release line.  Spinning reels cast light lures with ease and the line comes off a spool that does not turn so there is no danger of bird nests with spinning reels.  Spinning reels have anti-reverse mechanisms so line does not come off the reel when fighting a fish.

Spincast reels can sit on top of the rod and are known for their ease of use.  A great option for kids because you simply push a button and it disengages the line pick up pin swing it forward and it casts out.  The closed face help prevent tangles. 


Gear Ratios

Spinning and baitcasting reels have gear ratios that tell you how many revolutions the spool makes for each complete turn of the handle for baitcasters or how many revolutions the bail makes around the spool for spinning reels.  The higher the gear ratio the faster a reel can pick up line.  A lower number, like 5.3:1, means the reel picks up line at a rate of 5.3 revolutions of the spool or bail per turn of the handle.  Slower reels are preferred when using lures that need to be worked slow such as crankbaits, slow rolling spinnerbaits, or big swimbaits.  A 6.3:1 ratio works well for a variety of situations and is a good all around gear ratio for a multi purpose reel.  Gear ratios on the higher end, like 7.1:1, excel when using techniques that create slack in the line.  Jigs, soft plastics, topwater, jerkbaits, and blade baits are all fished with techniques that create slack in the line, higher gear ratios allow you to pick up the slack quickly for solid hook sets. 



The drag system of a reel applies friction to the spool as it lets out line, like a brake system.  The drag is engaged when a fish pulls hard enough on the line.  On most drag systems you control when the drag will engage.  This is why it is important to check your drag each time before fishing. If you have it set to tight a fish can break the line, have it set to loose and a fish can run with your lure with you being unable to set the hook.  Generally the drag should be set to 25% of the line strength you are using.  If you are using 10 lb test the drag should be set around 2.5 lbs.  If you have a digital scale you can attach your line to the scale and pull to test your drag.  Be sure to have the rod at a 45 degree angle to simulate its position when landing a fish.  If you don’t have a scale, you can pull on the line to test it and set your drag by feel, the idea is to have the drag tight enough for the hook set but loose enough to guard against line breaks.  Don’t be afraid to adjust your drag while fighting a fish, especially if it is a large fish that is easily running with your line. 


Line Capacity/Weight

Each reel will have a guideline of how much fishing line can be spooled onto it.  It is important to know these guidelines are set using monofilament diameters.  For example it is common to see a chart like this; 220/2, 110/4, 90/6.  This means the reel can hold 220 yards of 2lb monofilament.  It is important to follow these guidelines because if you use higher pound test it will stress the drag system of the reel eventually causing it to fail.  Also it is important to keep the line spooled to the correct capacity because when they aren’t they perform poorly.  An over spooled line is susceptible to tangles or can slip off the spool.  An under spooled line will cast poorly and reduce your retrieval speed. 


Ball Bearings

Generally speaking the more ball bearings a reel has the smoother it will operate.  This is especially true when reeling in a big fish, the stress off a large fish can cause bad reels to be unstable and have creaky, jerking resistance when turning the handle.  However you must also keep in mind the quality of the bearing.  Most bearings are made out of stainless steel but some are made from brass.  Stainless steel bearings will always be a better choice than brass.