The purpose of a fishing reel is to store large amounts of fishing line on your rod, and to retrieve that line (and hopefully a fish or two) once your bait has been cast. Because there are times when longer casting distances are required or heavier fishing line is needed, manufacturers have produced reels in many sizes and with many different components, all of which will vary depending on the distance, accuracy, and strength you desire.
Fishing equipment manufacturers will include basic information about line capacity on every reel. Line capacity lets you know the line length and weight (thickness) that your reel can handle. Larger reels can hold up to 500 yards of line at a time, where as some smaller spincasting reels might only hold 60-90 yards.
Manufacturers will also list the reel’s gear ratio information, which will tell you the number of rotations your spool will turn with each single rotation of the crank knob (or handle). Gear ratio numbers are listed with the number of rotations first, followed by the number of crank knob rotations (example 5.2:1 means your spool will rotate 5.2 times for every one turn of your crank knob, or 3.2:1 will tell you that your spool will turn 3.2 times for every turn of your crank knob). Anyone who has tried to reel in “the big one” will tell you, the higher the gear, the easier it is to pull in the catch.
Most reels nowadays will come with the option of right or left handle conversion, which will allow the angler to move the crank knob (or handle) from the left side of the reel to the right side of the reel, or vise versa. Other options include; built in line counters that keep track of fishing depth and drag systems, a feature that applies variable resistance to the line spool to reduce line entanglement; and drag systems that allow the angler to control the speed at which the line is pulled off the reel. Drag systems are ideal for controlling the amount of line between the angler and the fish while the fish becomes tired.
Ultimately the type of reel you chose may be a matter of experience and/or preference. However, there are reels that are very specific to certain types of rods, as well as certain types of fishing. Though most rods cross the line between salt water and fresh water fairly easily when paired with the right rod, the right reel, and with the right line weight, there are some exceptions to their versatility. Fly fishing reels for example are very specific to fly fishing, as spincasting reels are specific to spincasting rods. The reasons for this have to do with the location of the guides and the manor in which the line is fed through them. The four basic types of reels include spin casting reels, spinning reels, casting or bait casting reels, and fly fishing reels.
- Spincasting reels can be used in both fresh water and salt water and are the easiest to cast, which makes them the perfect choice for the novice fisherman. Unlike all other fishing reels, the fishing line on a spincasting reel is encased (also called a closed faced reel) which keeps youth from sticking fingers in the middle of the fast moving line, and a trigger at the back end of the reel (at the thumb position) allows the user to loosen the line while casting with a simple push of the button. Although casting takes practice even with this type of reel, the combination of the reel location (on the top of the rod) and the position of the trigger near the thumb makes for a perfect youth and beginner reel.
- Spinning reels which can also be used in both salt water and fresh water fishing are the most commonly used reels, and are made in a variety of sizes from Ultra Lite to Mega Spinning. Unlike the closed faced spincasting reel, the spinning reel sits under the rod, and is open faced. To guide the line on the spool a wire loop, called a bail, directs the line during retrieving. The open face design allows the line to release from the spool easier than the closed face design.
- Baitcasting reels are the choice for those who are more concerned about distance and casting accuracy, and are for the more advanced fisherman (or woman). Wench-like in appearance these reels are stationed on the top side of your pole. Note there are two types of baitcasting reels; low profile and conventional. Low profile reels are preferred for fresh water and bass fishing, where as larger conventional baitcasting reels which can handle heavier line are the choice for ocean fishing.
- Fly fishing reels are the simplest and most traditional of the spool reels but require the most skill. Fly fishing reels rely on the technique of the fisherman to cast the line and the “fly,” which is usually much lighter than a normal lure. This type of reel is usually narrower than other reels and mounts horizontally on the rod. Used mostly for fresh water fishing the fly reel has no gears, and a ratio of 1:1 for line retrieval.
TIP! Any rods and reels used to fish in saltwater should be rinsed with fresh water after every use. Salt Water can be corrosive and will shorten the life of any fishing equipment.