How To Select The Best Fishing Reel

Looking for the Best Fishing Reel as well as fishing rod and line is not a simple task. It will depend on your own fishing skills, experience and preference. There are many types of fishing reels for you to choose from. For examples specifications, purposes, prices, types of water where you go fishing and how big the fish you aim for. You also need to know about the basic terminology of a fishing gear to compare and evaluate the quality of each fishing reel.

In case you are looking for further information about a fishing reel, its important specifications and features as well as some tips on selecting the best fishing reel, read on.

Introduction About Fishing Reels


A fishing reel is a special mechanical device which is near the end of the fishing rod’s handle. It helps to contain lengthy fishing line threading along the line with the fishing rod. All of the fishing line is wound around the fishing reel with one end attached to a hook.

A fishing reel is responsible for helping you to lure fish at a far distance as well as casting your bait.  In addition, it will help you to get your lures back correctly once a fish is caught.

Fishing Reels

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Having a fishing reel will also allow you to go fishing in many different types of water – both fresh and salt water and with various depths – shallow and deep water. Not to mention that you would be able to catch bigger fish much more easily.

There are 3 main fundamental styles of fishing reels, which are casting, spinning and fly reel.

Basic Terminology

Gear Ratio

When you look for a fishing reel’s specification, you will see one string such as 5.1: 1 and 7.1: 1. They represent gear ratio. It is quite a complex technical term to explain. However, you can simply understand it this way. Every time you spin the reel in for a full handle (the second number), the spool will turn 5.1 or 7.1 times (the first number).

In general, gear ratio shows how many the spool can turn in a complete round when you spin the handle of the rear for a full round.

It means that the fishing reel with the ratio of 7.1: 1 will turn be quicker than the fishing reel with the ratio of 5.1:1.

However, the fishing reel with lower ratio is stronger. It can provide more power to bring the fish out from the water.

Inches Per Turn (IPT)

This term tells you how many inches of the fishing line you could be able to retrieve back into the fishing reel when you turn back the handle in a full revolution.

Ball Bearings

Ball Bearings

Image source: Dave’s Reel Service

This term shows you the capability of the fishing reel against gravity as well as other sources of friction. Ball bearings are built inside the reel. In general, the more ball bearing, the smoother the feeling of control you get from handling the fishing reel. It does not only deliver a feeling of smoothness but it truly helps the reel to last longer. However, a fish reel with more ball bearings will be more expensive.

Drag System

When you start to fish for heavier or bigger sized fish, you will start to care more about the drag system along with the sensitivity of the drag. The drag of the fishing reel is measured in pounds. It shows how much resistance it can provide you against the power of the big fish pulling on the line.

Line Capacity

This is one of the most important terms you need to know when selecting a fishing reel.

On the market, you can choose from a reel with line capacity of as little as 15 yards to as much as 1000 yards. It shows how many yards of fishing line a reel can contain.

Choosing this option will all depend on the depth of the water. It’s where you are going to fish as well as the strength of the fish to pull on the string.

You can find the information about line capacity written like 8/(125)12(130). It means there are 8 10 12 test line which can allow the fishing line to stretch well up to 125 to 130 yards without losing on performance.

Anti Reverse

This is a function of the fishing reel. It helps to prevent the handle from turning in opposite direction when you take the line out from the reel.

How  To Select A Fishing Reel

Types Of Fishing Reels

There are 4 main types of fishing reels including spin cast reel, spinning reel, baitcasting reel and trolling reel. They all have their own pros and cons which you need to consider when choosing a suitable fishing reel.  These types of reels are different in the mechanism. They are also different in the capacity of fishing line and the types of fish and water.

Spin cast Reel

Spin cast Reel

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Definition: A spin cast reel includes a drag system, a reel foot, a reel handle and thumb button. This type of reel is located at the top of the fishing rod. When you need to cast your bait into water, all you need to do is pushing the button and swinging your wrist a little. And that is it – your lure is in the water.

When To Use:

  • Spin cast reel is the introductory fishing reel. You should use first when having little experience about fishing and using fishing equipment.
  • It is suitable to fish in shallow water and for small to medium sized fish only. Such as pan fish and bass fish.
  • It is also suitable for small bait and small lures.


  • This is the easiest fishing reel to use. It is very suitable for beginning anglers and children anglers.
  • You don’t have to encounter problems such as line twists and backlash.
  • A spin cast reel is relatively cheap.


  • This type of reel could not be able to hold a huge amount of line in comparison with other types of reel since the spool inside the spin cast reel is quite shallow.
  • It could not cast as far and as accurate as a spinning reel and other types of fishing reels.
  • Most of the spin cast reels are not durable and the cast metal parts of the reels can be broken easily.

Spinning Reel

Spinning Reel

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Definition: A spinning reel is also known as an open faced reel. The main parts of the spinning reel include a reel foot, reel handle, bail, spool and a drag system. Different from other types of fishing reel, this reel is attached to the bottom end of the fishing rod.

To cast with a spinning reel, you need to open to bail. Then rotate the reel handle with one hand and hold the fishing line with another hand to prevent it from falling out.

When To Use:

  • Spinning reel is for you to use when you want to catch small fish and medium sized fishliving in both fresh water and salt water such as bass and medium sized trout.
  • It is suitable for light line and lures.


  • It is the most popular type of reel on the market so you are able to find a huge selection of different brands, models with all ranges of prices. It is not hard for you to pick up a spinning reel no matter what your preferences and skills are.
  • Has a wide variety of uses including pan fishing, ice fishing, fishing in fresh water areas and open oceans.
  • Contain more lines than a spin cast reel.
  • Unlike a bait casting reel which has a free spinning reel, a spinning reel has a fixed one, which can help you to prevent problems such as backlash.
  • There is anti-reverse locking feature which helps you to control the handle better.


  • It will require you to acquire some certain techniques to use. If you are not careful, tangled line issues will happen quite a lot.
  • It is not suitable to use for heavy test line of more than 20 pounds. It is also not compatible with heavy lures.

Bait casting Reel

Bait casting Reel

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Definition: A bait casting reel has been on the market for a long time and it is also the most advanced reel. It has a spool, a drag, a reel foot and a reel handle. There are also 2 knots which you need to control including a spool tension and the braking systems. The reel is situated on top of the fishing rod.

When To Use:

  • You can use this type of fishing reel when you are confident with your fishing skills.
  • In case you want to catch big heavy and tough fish such as salmon or mackerel.
  • Effective to use when you go fishing in deep water areas and offshore fishing.
  • It is used with heavy bait instead of light bait as well as large lures and heavy line.


  • Delivers the best performance among all types of fishing reel. It has the most power, the longest durability and of course the best cast accuracy –provided that you know how to cast the bait casting right.
  • Can handle the strongest forms of line with huge line capacity, suitable for catching big fish.


  • Since the bait casting reel is the most advanced type of fishing reel, you need to have certain advanced skills in order to use it. You will find it hard to use a bait casting reel if you are a beginning angler. The problem you might encounter a lot when using a bait casting reel is backlash due to the operation of the fixed spool.
  • The handle of a bait casting reel is quite heavy which requires you to be physically strong to operate it. It is also hard for you to cast your bait into the strong wind.
  • Everything needs to be done manually. You need to control the release and retrieve of your fishing line with your thumb.

Trolling Reel

Trolling Reel

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Definition:  A trolling reel has the same instruction as a baitcasting reel. It is also known as conventional reel. However, it is not only used for casting but also storing extra room for fishing line. Like any other type of fishing reel, it comes with a spool, a release, a reel handle and a drag.

When To Use:

  • A trolling reel is designed to catch big fish such as large lake trout or sea fish marlin.
  • You can use this type of fishing reel when you go offshore fishing and ocean fishing.


  • You can use this type of reel to catch fish in all types of water including fresh water and salt water as well as offshore fishing and deep sea fishing.
  • It could be able to store up to 500 yards of fishing line, which is quite huge in comparison with other types of fishing reel.


  • It is quite hard to use, especially tough for beginning anglers.
  • It also needs proper care and maintenance to last a longer time.


There are a few keys thing that you need to check when you look for the material of your fishing reel.

  • First of all, you need to avoid magnesium at all cost. This type of material can corrode quickly when it is exposed to salt water. However, if you are not going to fish in the oceans, you can consider buying a fishing reel with magnesium since it is lightweight and durable.
  • One good type of material you can choose for your fishing reel is the aluminum. It is quite popular as well so you would be able to pick up quite a few models of fishing reels with this material. It is lightweight, sturdy and can stand the test of time pretty well. If you often go fishing in the salt water, this is a good material to go with.
  • Finally, you can go for a fishing reel with graphite internal parts. This material is durable and also very lightweight.


You will need to consider this feature when you want to go fishing in salt water and to catch big fish such as salmon and Northern pike.

A motor part will help to increase the strength when you pull the line so that you don’t have to spend much effort.

You would be able to find some fishing reels with the winding power of about 100 pounds and the motor power to retrieve 100 meters of fishing line in a full motion.


Braking system is one of the most important parts of a fishing reel. You will need it to release the fishing line and stop the line when you are running out of it. You have two options when it comes to the braking systems: the front brakes and the rear brakes.

  • Front braking system: This type of system will allow you to have better control over the fishing line. Not to mention that it works extremely fine with the monofilament lines. However, it is not so easy to hold and control in comparison with the rear braking system.
  • Rear braking system: When the brakes are on the rear side of the rod, you will find it much easier to hold them. It is extremely helpful when you go catching for big fish whose movements are hard to guess and follow.
  • Choosing between these types of brake will depend on your preference and how easy it is for you to control.

Drag Systems

The drag system will help you create friction and resistance against the pulling line caused by a big fish. This will further prevent slipping and breaking line and increase your chance of getting this big fish.

In general, there are 3 main types of drag system:

  • Fixed system: This is the oldest system that can only include in old models of fishing reel. This fixed system cannot be changed, which is quite inconvenient for experienced anglers. But beginning anglers might find it easier to use if they don’t know how to set drag system. It is suitable if you only want to catch small fish.
  • Spring and pawl drag system: This system is also called “click and pawl” system as it causes a clicking sound when the line is being pulled away from the reel. To create a form of resistance with this drag, you pull the spring which then push the pawl to the spool. With this system, you would be able to have some minor adjustments. It is suitable for lightweight fish.
  • Disc drag system: This is the most innovative drag system that you can find in the most expensive and highest quality fishing reel. It offers you a lot of control over the drag system when you apply pressure directly onto the baking discs of the system. This is the best drag system you can get if you want to catch big heavy fish.

Types Of Water

Fresh Water: Fresh water fishing reels are used to catch fish in streams, lakes and rivers.

Salt Water: Salt water fishing reels are used to catch fish in bays and oceans

Salt water fishing reels

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In case you want to find a fishing reel to catch salt water fish, you need to find one which is capable of capturing big heavy fish. In addition, it should be able to have material resistant to salt such as aluminum, stainless steel and graphite.

You should not go for a fishing reel made from magnesium as this material will be corroded pretty easily when exposed to salty water. Finally, a fishing reel suitable for fishing in the ocean needs to have a long casting pool.

If you are looking for fresh water fishing reel, you don’t have to worry much about non-corroding material. In addition, you don’t have to buy one with higher line capacity.

In general, since a salt water fishing reel needs to have more durable construction, higher line capacity and stronger material, it is more expensive than a fresh water fishing reel. You can consider buying a reel which can be used in both situations.


  • Bearings: You should consider the amount of ball bearings if you want to use your fishing reel in the smoothest way possible. A fishing reel with about 5 to 6 ball bearings is enough for the smoothness without you having to pay a high price.
  • Gear Ratio: You can choose the gear ratio depending on the type of fish you aim for. If you want to cast the fish, you need to have quick retrieve, you should go for high gear ratio.
  • Reel Handles: A good fishing reel should come with a good anti reverse handle. It will prevent the handle from going into backward motion. In addition, a good handle should be made of soft rubber so that your hands don’t feel tired and uncomfortable after using it for a long time on your fishing trip.
  • Size And Weight: If you cannot hold too much weigh while maintaining a good balance, you should opt for a fishing reel with small size and light weight. However, keep in mind that a smaller fishing reel will not be able to hold up many yards of fishing line.

5 Best Fishing Reel Reviews

You will be overwhelmed with the huge selection of fishing reels you can have on the market that you don’t know which one to choose from. Here is our top 5 picks of the best fishing reels with great versatility and durability for your consideration.

1. 12+1 Stainless Steel Ball Bearings Fishing Spinning Reel Freshwater Saltwater

Features: This spinning fishing reel contains an instant anti reverse clutch and power drive gear. It has the gear ratio of 5.2:1 and the fishing reels line capacity of DSX4000 mm/M 0.2/230,0.35/125, 0.4/120. Its material is stainless steel with 12+1 ball bearings.

Pros: It is suitable for fishing in both fresh water and salt water including lakes, rivers, streams and all types of ocean fishing. The construction is sturdily made from stainless steel. It runs very smoothly both when reeling and when using the anti reverse function.

Cons: The drag clip can be broken after some times of use. In addition, this spinning reel is of smaller size in comparison with other models on the market.

Verdict: If you are a beginning angler looking for a spinning reel to work in shallow and medium deep water, this reel is for you.

2. Penn Battle II Spinning Reel

Features: The material of this spinning reel is full metal with 6 ball bearings, HT-100 carbon fiber drag washers and heavy duty aluminum bail wire. You can choose the reel size from 1000 to 8000. The gear ratio of this spinning reel is 5.2:1 with the line capacity of 2/275, 4/135, 6/105.

Pros: Since they made it with non corrosive material, you can use it in both fresh water and shallow water. With variety of sizes to choose from, you can use it for different kinds of fish, fishing line and rod as well. The operation of this reel is pretty smooth with good drag system and easy startups.

Cons: This reel is a bit heavy in compared with other spinning reels of the same specifications which might not help you to have enough balance with the rod.

Verdict: It is suitable for any angler who is currently looking for a mid class spinning reel.

3. Zebco 33K,10C,CP3 Authentic Spincast Fishing Reel, Silver Metal and Black Graphite

Features: It is a spincast fishing reel with a 3.6:1 ratio. The components of the reel include a quickset anti-reverse clutch, left/right retrieve and ball bearing drive. It is covered in stainless steel with rubber handles.

Pros: This spincast reel is very lightweight. In addition, reversible handles make it easy to switch if you are a left-handed person. The material is of high quality and promises to last a long time.

Cons:  It is not suitable to bring along on an offshore trip and only capable of catching small to medium sized fish only.

Verdict: It is suitable for beginning anglers, especially women thanks to the feminine touch of design and light weight. Also if the anglers intend to fish in fresh water areas only, then it is a very good choice.

4. KastKing Kodiak Saltwater Spinning Reel - 39.5 LB Carbon Fiber Drag

Features: This spinning reel features a carbon fiber drag system, 39.5 lb of fish stopping power. The material of the reel is aluminum in the main body with stainless steel main shaft. In addition, it has 11 ball bearings and a gear ratio of 5.2:1.

Pros: It is lightweight although its material is aluminum which offers great balance on the rod. The drag system is smooth and very easy to handle. Not to mention that the drag knob can turn so easily and soft. This will prevent you from getting tired after a long fishing trip.

Cons: The bail was sometimes difficult to get back over.

Verdict: This product is suitable for any angler who wants to go ocean and offshore fishing to catch big and heavy weighted fish.

5. Piscifun Tuned Magnetic Brake System Low Profile Baitcaster Baitcasting Fishing Reel

Features: This is a baitcaster fishing reel with the ratios of 6.3:1.  There are 13 stainless steel ball bearings and 1 roller bearing. There is also a magnetic brake system, carbon fiber drag system and graphite body. It has the braid line capacity of 12Lbs-100Yds and a max drag of 9 LB.

Pros: You can choose 2 types of models according to your hand orientation. In addition, it has a very smooth casting and retrieving.  The braking system is very innovative and can be easily handles. Finally, with a low profile design, this reel works with almost no noise.

Cons: The material of push button is plastic. It is not so durable and may come off if you press too hard on it.

Verdict: It is suitable for any skillful anglers who can control and handle fishing reel. And it is also suitable for anyone who wants to catch big tough fish.

Understand Parts Of A Reels

Parts Of The Spinning Fishing Reel

+) Spool: This part is responsible for holding the fishing line. The line that a spool can hold affects on different sizes of spool .  The amount of pound of test line that a spool can hold is on the reel. For example, when you can read 12/160, it means that the spool of the spinning fishing reel can withstand 60 yards of 12lbs.

+) Level Wind: A level wind will help to distribute the power when you reel in your fishing line so that all of the line will be spooled evenly.

+) Bail Arm: In general, a bail will help to release and stop the line. In addition, it helps to open and close the spool. You can see this part right outside the spool.

+) Handle: You need to turn the handle into various circular movements to get the line back on to the spool. There are 2 knobs in the handle for you to put in your thumb and index finger.

+) Reel Seat: This part of the spinning fishing reel is located on the back of the reel which helps to attach the reel to the rod.

+) Gear Housing: This part sits down under the spool containing all of the tiny parts that capable of running the spool and the reel in general.

+) Power Roller: This small part lies in between the spool and the bail arm. This part is capable of holding the line in the same place when you spin the line back onto the spool.

+) Front Drag: When you look at the top of the spool, you will be able to find the front drag. As I mention above, the drag will help to create resistance against the pulling line and prevent it from snapping.

+) Anti-reverse: This is a small lever which is located on the bottom of the fishing reel. When you turn it on, it will be able to stop the spool from going backwards.

Parts Of The Baitcaster/ Trolling Reel

Parts Of The Baitcaster

Image source: The Wilderness Review

+) Spool: You can easily see the spool part which is capable of containing all of the fishing line.

+) Level Wind: When you reel in your fishing line, a level wind will distribute the power evenly. And in case you want to retrieve the line after casting, it will automatically guide the line back for you.

+) Handle: The handle of the baitcaster is used manually to bring the fishing line back onto the spool of the fishing reel. The construction of a baitcaster’s handle is the same as in a spinning reel with 2 knobs.

+) Star Drag: You can see the star drag system right next to the handle for easy control and adjustment.

+) Spool Tensioner: You cannot find this part in a spinning reel which lies in between the star drag and the reel in a baitcaster reel. This part of the reel is responsible for reducing the risk of getting back spool.

+) The Line Guide: Like the power roller, it is responsible for keeping the fishing line in track while you spool it in and out. It stays in front of the spool and you can easily see its movement when you turn the handle from side to side.

+) Pawl: This is located on top of the spool which controls the line when it goes back to the spool and helps to prevent line laying in wrong place.

+) Bait clicker: On the left side of the reel, you can easily see the bait clicker. Its function is pretty simple. It will click to single you when there is resistance against the spool- meaning that there is a fish pulling on the line.

+) Spool Release: Sitting opposite the bait clicker is the spool release.

Tips From The Pro’s

No matter what types of fishing line you use, you will always encounter burning of your fingers from too much casting. That is pretty normal and I never see any anglers without a burning and blistering finger. You should never base on this fact to determine the quality of the fishing line as well as rod and reel.

My best advice regarding the spooling capacity and reel is that you should buy a bigger reel. It can hold more lines than you think you need. It will help to reduce the burden that your fishing line has to bear when you only feel about ¾ of its line capacity.

There are a lot of things that you need to consider when buying a fishing reel. No matter what types of fishing reel you choose, you need to look for the balance of the reel. Also, consider how comfortable it is for you when you hold a rod with the reel on. If it is too heavy for you, there would not be enough balance for the rod. In addition, how easy it is for your palm to have a firm grip on the handle is of high importance as well.

Therefore, you should bring the rod with you when you go fishing for a fishing reel. Try any fishing reel you like on the rod so see if you can hold it and control it with ease or not.

A final thing that you need to evaluate is the price of a fishing reel that you are willing to pay for. If you are willing to pay more, you will be able to find a smoother and more durable fishing reel. Provided that you only go fishing for a long time or want to try different reels before you choose the best one for you, you can go for a cheaper fishing reel. But if you are serious about fishing and want to go fishing for a long time, consider it a big investment to make.

As you can see, the information about fishing reels is really huge. Yet, this article can only provide the most basic information about them. There are a lot of things that you will learn and discover after your fishing tips, further readings and researches.

However, I hope that you would be able to find something informative and valuable here. Thus, you can make your decision about what type of fishing reel as well as what features that you need to consider.

Buying a fishing reel, rod and line is only the first step in the process of becoming an expert in angling. There are a lot of techniques and skills that you need to learn. And I wish that you would have a lot of good time while picking up these skills.