Reel choices: Different fishing reels have different purposes
by Charles Johnson
Jun 29, 2013 | 2721 views |  0 comments | 55 55 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Spinning or bait-casting reels can handle any type of lure. (Photo by Charles Johnson/The Anniston Star)
Spinning or bait-casting reels can handle any type of lure. (Photo by Charles Johnson/The Anniston Star)
Inside a toolbox are tools designed for a specific job or function.

Brake adjuster, socket wrench, screwdriver, box wrench and others function independently to complete a task. They each have a special niche. There is no one tool that can do everything.

Fishing reels are along the same lines. While a certain reels can be used to catch fish, there are different choices to present a lure in the proper manner. Some anglers stand by the old bait-caster also known as a conventional reel. Yet, other anglers may choose the simplicity of the spinning reel. Each has its place in the angler’s arsenal for fishing.

The choice may not be as clear as a spring fed lake. Some anglers may shy away from bait-casting reels with their tendency to spew out fishing line into a bird’s nest. Others avoid the spinning outfits because they don’t think they are strong enough. Recent advances in technology have proven both of these myths wrong.

Simply spinning

Early spinning reels were a little on the light-duty side. But their concept was simple. Small, lightweight lures could be cast a long distance. These were gems in presenting lures with low pound-test lines in clear water.

However, there was a problem of line twist and the drag system was weak at best.

The free-line casting concept made the spinning a great choice for long casts across open water. As the lure is retrieved the bail (wire) rotates around the spool replacing the line back on the spool. The line would pass across a roller on the bail and after a while the line would cut grooves into the roller.

Eventually reel manufacturers began to use high-tech materials for the line rollers. Today some reels have titanium or ceramic rollers that reduce friction on the line and prevent the line from wearing in grooves. Also, precision gears, heavier drag systems and ball bearings have also been incorporated into modern spinning reels.

“Spinning reels make it much easier for finesse fishing,” said B.A.S.S.

Elite pro Aaron Martens of Leeds. “With the lighter line you can feel the action of the lure.”

Some pro anglers were forced into using spinning gear when the tours visited lakes with gin clear waters. Small baits and light lines were the ticket to reach the fish. Some anglers were reluctant to pick up a spinning reel, but to be competitive, they had to make the change.

“Some of the new lines have made spinning reels more versatile,” Martens said. “Certain braided lines have a coating that makes casing them


The advantage to spinning reels is they are simple to learn how to cast.

Flip open the bail while holding the line against the rod with your index finger. On the cast, release your finger when the rod tip is about the 10 o’clock position. Distance can be controlled by the force of the cast.

Another advantage of spinning reels is the handle can be easily swapped from left- to right-hand retrieve. Also, the drag systems have been improved.

While a front-drag control is the most common, some models offer rear drag systems.

Complete casting

Bait-casting reels have been around for over a century. Early models were simple with limited drag systems and rough reeling. Casting control was the angler’s thumb. During the cast, thumb pressure was used to control the distance of the lure and prevent excess line from spewing out into a tangled kaleidoscope.

On bait-casting reels the line spool is horizontal to the rod. The spool spins during the cast to release the line. In cases where the spool spins faster than the line moving out the line would back up on the spool creating what anglers called a bird’s nest. It took practice and patience to get the casting and “thumbing” in sync.

As advances in machining techniques and materials were made, casting reels also began to improve. Stronger drag systems were developed along with the addition of ball bearings. Lower profile reels were introduced with improved level wind systems that kept the line from over lapping after a cast.

One of the most popular bait-casting reels introduced in the early 1970s was the ABU Garcia 5000. This unit had a larger round profile that fit angler’s hands. The reel also sported an internal centrifugal braking system for the line spool.

“Casting reels are much smoother today,” Martens said. “There is less fatigue from hours of casting and reeling during a tournament.”

Some casting models offer 10 or more ball bearings along with higher retrieve speeds and lighter weight chassis. Much improved breaking systems make casting a snap and bird’s nests history. Today’s bait-casters help take the frustrations out of fishing, at least in the casting department.

For heavy cranking, flipping, spinnerbaits and other large lures, bait-casting reels will perform the best. For smaller lures or more of a finesse approach spinning reels are tick toll of choice.

Line it up

Advancements in fishing line have helped in the cast-ability of all types of fishing reels. In the past reels had to have large spool capacity to accept the heavier, larger diameter lines that were required for game fish. The smaller diameter of braided line along with the special coating is a perfect match for spinning reel anglers.

“The thin diameter of braid is strong enough for different fishing situations,” Martens said.

With the special coatings on braided line casting on either type of reel is improved. Fifty-pound test braid is as small as 12-pound test monofilament.

The line is a good match up for fishing piers, brush and vegetation even on spinning tackle. Certain monofilament lines are designed especially for spinning reels to reduce twisting and tangles.

Spooling line onto a reel can be a factor for casting performance. On casting reels the line should be wound on the reel with the line spool vertical to the real. Light tension should be applied to the line for a uniform fit to the reel. Spooling line on spinning reel is a little different.

“For spinning reels the line should spool off counter-clock wise,” Martens said. “This will help keep down the line twists.”

Martens said anglers can check for line twists after about 20 yards has been spooled on the reel. He also suggested keeping some tension on the line while spooling.

Charles Johnson is the Star’s outdoor editor. You can reach Charles at
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