Reel Basics for Spinning
WORDS BY PERRY MACK
Know the lingo and what to look for in a reel
The‘open’ design of the reel means it can dry out and is less likely to rust and corrode. It also reduces the friction on the line allowing you to cast further with lighter weights and lengthens the life of your line. It’s often used for crappie, perch and walleye but there are versions out there for big game saltwater fishing as well. Manufacturing and selling fishing gear is a very competitive industry with global players. The good news is you will get what you pay for, and with a little advice, you’ll spend just enough to really enjoy man’s oldest pastime (maybe second oldest).
Let’s go over the reel parts so you that as you read and shop, you’ll have an understanding of what you’re being told and why it’s important.
The housing is referred to as the ‘reel body’ and it is typically made of graphite or aluminum, or a combination. Which is better? Graphite is lighter but aluminum is stronger and has less flex. Less flex can equate to greater durability as all the moving parts inside stay aligned and last longer. But aluminum is also more susceptible to corrosion where graphite is not.
You’ll also see aluminum parts described as either cast, forged or billet. Billet is actually cut from a block of aluminum, forged aluminum is pressed, pounded or squeezed under great pressure, and cast is aluminum heated to liquid and poured into a form. Billet and forged are stronger than cast. In large quantities, cast is cheaper to make, so you often find billet from the smaller manufacturers in the higher end reels.
Pick up the reel and work the parts. There should be no wobble or play, everything should move smoothly and precisely.
As we said earlier, choose the right tool for the job starting with the fish. If walleye and smallmouth bass are your primary targets, you’ll be using around a six to eight pound test so you need a medium sized reel.
Part of the reels specs often display the capacity in type of line, length in yards and line weight in oz, i.e. Monofilament capacity - 110/6, which means the reel will hold 110 yards of 6 lb monofilament line. This is the middle spec, which means you can also safely use a 4 or 8 lb line.
These are easily overlooked given all the other factors you are considering when purchasing your gear. But the spool doesn’t just hold the line; it also has a role in your casting distance. Like the reel body they are typically made from graphite or aluminum and the same guidelines apply – graphite is lighter but aluminum is stronger and more durable.
Long cast spools are shallower and more elongated than the traditional
dimension of spools. The theory is that with less friction on the line you can cast farther.
Deep, V-shaped or skirted spools can take longer or heavier line, while shallow spools are easier to cast because the line comes off more easily.
The spool on a spinning reel is fixed and the bail rotates around the spool, winding your line on to the reel. When we talk about spinning reels the gear ratio refers to the number of times the bail spins around the spool with a single turn of the handle. A 6:1 ratio or higher is considered fast, 4:1 slow. How fast a gear ratio you’ll need depends on the fish you are after, and the bait you will be presenting.
Line Retrieval Rate
Also called the Recovery Rate, this is typically given in inches and is the measurement of how much line is wound on to the spool with each turn of the handle. It differs from gear ratio in that the size of the spool (and size of the handle) will change the retrieval rate between two reels that have the same gear ratio.
In everyday life outside fishing, drag is a bad thing, ‘it’s a drag’. But in fishing it helps keep your hook set, and helps tire your fish. A poor quality drag means lost fish and broken lines.
You’ll see two types of drag pres ent on spinning reels – front and rear. A rear drag means you’ll be able to adjust it while you have a fish on the line, however front drag systems are more reliable. Regardless of the type of drag, you should be able to pull out the line smoothly at any tension. As with most parts of the reel, exposure to moisture is inevitable and detrimental. Sealed drag systems keep moisture out, improving durability and reducing line slippage.
Hopefully you already know what ball bearings are. In general, more ball bearings mean a smoother action, which results in a stronger more durable reel. However, ball bearings also come in different qualities, engineered to higher or lower standards. A high quality 4 ball bearing (the minimum you should accept) system will last longer than a cheap 6 to 8 bearing system.
Sometimes you’ll see bearing count listed as 8+1 or 12+1. The ‘+1’ refers to the bearing of the anti- reverse in the bail.
Other reels use bushings instead of bearings. Bushings provide fewer moving parts and are less likely to suffer from the effects of corrosion, but they wear faster and because they are cheaper to produce, end up in cheaper reels.
When shopping for reels based on bearings, look for stainless steel and sealed – anything that resists corrosion. And remember that a well maintained bearing system is the one that will be smooth and reliable the longest.
Find the handle that feels natural and comfortable in your hand and make sure you are getting the right- or left-handed reel to suit you. Knobs should be easy to ‘find’ without looking down and provide you with good grip when your hands are sweaty or wet.
We recommend yours is an anti- reverse handle so that the handle does spin in the opposite direction when your fish takes off, providing you with a good hook set and then allowing the drag to slow your fish down rather than back reeling.
In summary, get the best reel you can afford, for the angling style you’ll use most, matching it to your rod and tackle.