Reel Ba­sics for Spin­ning


Sport Fishing Gear Guide - - Hot Gifts -

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.

Reel Body

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.

Reel Size

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.

Gear Ra­tio

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.

Drag Sys­tem

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.

Ball Bear­ings

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.

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