BlogMarch 2022

A Brief Guide to Fishing Reels

A Brief Guide to Fishing Reels

By Andy Whitcomb

Mar 21, 2022

Fishing reels are an important component of recreation fishing. There are 4 main types of fishing reels. Here’s a brief guide of when to use and why.

Fishing reels are an important component of recreation fishing. At large tackle stores, the different type of fishing reels choices may seem overwhelming. In fact one might ask, how many types of fishing reels are there? Basically, there are only four main designs in this guide to fishing reels with the best types of fishing reels being determined by the intended use, personal preference, and skill of the angler.

1. Spincast

Beginning anglers or parents introducing their kids to fishing often ask, what type of fishing reel should I buy? For most, the spin cast reel is a good starter reel. Easy to learn, versatile, and forgiving with mistakes, this reel has an enclosed spool of line. By mastering thumb control and timing, even tricky casts like skipping under overhanging limbs or docks can be accomplished with a bit of practice.

2. Spinning Reel

Among all of the different types of fishing reels, if I had to select one, the spinning reel is the best type of fishing reel. A medium spinning reel combo is adaptable and can handle a wide range of lure sizes and weights without any reel adjustments. They come in all sizes so if casting tiny lures, micro models could even be considered the best trout fishing reel for efficient small stream presentations; large models with heavier lines and greater capacity are the best types of saltwater reels or type of reel for surf fishing because they can be casted great distances and accuracy is not as important in vast open water.

3. Baitcaster

What is the best reel for bass fishing? For many largemouth bass anglers, bait casting reels are the choice. It functions best with heavier lures and line and although many professionals prefer baitcasters because of “control,” a well practiced thumb is required. When lures types or weights are changed, the magnetic drag control/brakes needs to be adjusted. (However, it should be noted that for smallmouth bass, which have outstanding vision and are more-likely cruising in clearer waters, professional tournament anglers usually select the spinning reel because it is better at handling lighter line and more finesse presentations.)

4. Fly Fishing Reel

In any guide to fishing reels, it will be pointed out that fly fishing reels are unique. All other freshwater fishing reels (or saltwater) use the weight of the lure to pull line off the spool; line comes off fly fishing reels prior to casting when the angler “strips” (pulls off) the approximate length needed to reach the casting destination. It is the well timed action of a matched fly rod that creates aerial loops to “false cast” and eventually propels even seemingly weightless flies forward impressive distances.

Andy Whitcomb
Andy Whitcomb
Andy is an outdoor writer ( and stressed-out Dad has contributed over 380 blogs to since 2011. Born in Florida, but raised on banks of Oklahoma farm ponds, he now chases pike, smallmouth bass, and steelhead in Pennsylvania. After earning a B.S. in Zoology from OSU, he worked in fish hatcheries and as a fisheries research technician at OSU, Iowa State, and Michigan State.