Spinning reels, baitcaster reels, baitrunner reels, overhead reels, centrepin reels, big game reels….with so many options, it is no surprise these days that choosing the right fishing reel for yourself can be an overwhelming experience with so many different types available!
So how should you go about choosing the right fishing reel for your needs? Well, all of the reel types mentioned above are designed for specific styles of fishing, so this is a good place to start. I will go over each of the different styles of fishing reels mentioned above, so you can get a better understanding of what type of fishing they are designed for.
One of the most common, and also one of the most versatile fishing reels you will find is the spinning reel. Their main purpose, as the name suggests, is for using when spinning with lures. But their versatility also allows them t be used for other fishing methods also, including fishing on the bottom with bait and a leger rig, float fishing, live bait, and more.
This is why spinning reels are such a popular choice, as you are not limited to just one style of fishing with them. And of course, when used for their intended purpose of spinning lures, they really excel. They are very easy to use, and provide a really good starting place for a beginner to learn how to fish.
You will find many different fishing brands that will have an extensive range of spinning reels. If you look at the Shimano spinning reel range, you will start to see just how many different types are available, covering a spectrum of price ranges too. This can also be said of Daiwa and Penn’s range of spinning reels too.
The sizes of spinning reels range right from the smallest 1000 sized models, which are meant for very light tackle and lures, all the way up to big 20,000 size models which are designed for fishing from boats for the big pelagic fish.
Baitcaster reels have a very different design to spinning reels. Essentially they look ‘upside down’ when you compare them side by side with a spinning reel. When you hold the rod with a baitcaster reel on it, the reel will be facing upwards above the rod, whereas a spinning reel will underneath the rod.
Baitcasters are also used for spinning and lure fishing, but the provide a much more accurate casting ability. They are not as easy to use as spinning reels, as you need to know how to ‘thumb’ the line, to ensure that you can stop the lure right on the spot you want it when casting.
They are used a lot by anglers that want to cast their lures into really tight spots, and other reels just will not provide them with this casting accuracy. Bass fishermen love to use baitcaster reels, as they can get their lure right into some snags and they can also get a lot of distance with these reels as there is less resistance on the line when casting. Definitely a reel for the more experienced angler!
Baitrunner reels look very similar to spinning reels, and in fact they are almost identical in many areas of their design. They are designed for fishing with live bait, or strips of bait, and the main difference with these versus a spinning reel is that they have a second drag system.
This secondary drag system allows the fish to pick up the bait and run with it, without them realising they are hooked. Then as soon as you realise you have a fish on, you turn the handle on the reel, which will disengage the secondary drag and engage the main drag, so you can set the hook and then start fighting the fish.
As with spinning reels, you can get a wide variety of sizes and they can be used in a wide range of ways. Whether fishing from the beach, or from a boat, a baitrunner reel provides a really solid system to allow the fish to pick up the bait and run with it, without knowing there is a hook and line on the end of the bait!
Fairly similar to the baitcaster reels, the overhead reel is positioned on the upside of the rod, rather than underneath. They are predominantly used for offshore fishing, although you will also see people using them for shore fishing at times too.
Overhead reels will require a bit more experience to ensure they are being used to their optimal levels, so again not the best type of reel for a beginner to use.
Some of the larger overhead reels can hold a lot of heavy-duty line, so they are perfect for deep sea fishing, where you need to drop your bait down to significant depths. They are often used for big game fishing too, as they are extremely strong and robust so can withstand the pressures of a big, hard fighting fish.
Center pin reels
A center pin is a more tradition reel, that is a lot more simplistic in its design when compared to all of the other types of reels mentioned in this article. The reel design has a wheel style shape to it, in which the line winds around, and in the center, at the axis is the pin that gives the reel its name.
Unlike other reels, the center pin has a retrieve ratio of 1:1, meaning that for one rotation of the reel will result on one complete rotation of the reel. This is unlike a spinning reel for example, which will often have up to six rotations of the spool for every one turn of the handle. This means that it is a lot slow to retrieve line with a center pin reel, so they are mostly used for fairly close range fishing.
Center pin reels also do not have a drag system that other reels utilize. To add some resistance to the reel and line when playing a fish, you simply apply some pressure to the side of the reel. This takes some experience to do, and while the design of the center pin reel may look simple enough, actually using the reel properly takes time and practice.
You will see center pin reels being used for fly fishing a lot, as they give the angler the ability to throw the fly out to the area of water they want, and then ‘strip’ the line back to pull the fly in front of the intended target (the fish!). Very much a traditional reel, but still plays a big part in modern day fly fishing.
Big game reels
Not really a specific type of reel, but more of a category of reel that is reserved for the BIG game fish! As mentioned above, very large overhead reels are often used for these big game fish, but you will also see the largest size spinning reels such as the Shimano Stella and Daiwa Saltiga being used for the big game fish too.
Obviously the reels need to be tough to withstand the intense pressure they will be under when fighting a massive game fish. Can you imagine a 1000lb tuna or marlin just pulling with all its might? You can then start to picture just how strong these reels need to be!
But not only do they need to be strong, they also need to be big enough to hold a lot of heavy duty line, and also give the angler enough power in the retrieve to start getting line back quickly onto the reel once the fish has been on a long hard run!
One piece of advice if you are looking for a big game reel to use: Don’t go cheap! When you are fighting massive pelagic game fish, any weakness from a cheaper reel will be exposed instantly, and that potential fish of a life time will quickly have you wishing you spent that few extra hundred bucks on a decent reel when it does brutally expose these weaknesses!
I hope this article gives you a bit of a better understanding of the different types of fishing reels there are available, and help you decide which is best for you and the type of fishing you intend to do.