Different Types of Fishing Reels: Which One Is Best For You?

types of fishing reels

When it comes to the wide world of fishing – at first glance, it can be extremely daunting when picking out your gear of choice.

From your rods, reels, lures vs. live bait and beyond – the last thing you need to be swamping you down is what type of reel that you need to be using before you hit the local fishing hot spot or just simply a pond at the local park.

Therefore in the guide below, we break it down in an extremely simple manner the core differences of most popular types of fishing reels used by anglers everywhere in just a minute.

But before we dive right into the different types of reels, we will be using a bit of fishing lingo.

While of course this is a beginners article, its important to know the basics as you will see them used widely when deciding on a fishing reel of your choice:

Key Terms You Will Likely See When Selecting a Fishing Reel

catching a fish

Here are a few terms that is widely used by fishing companies to further explain their products:

Drag:  This is an adjustment setting found on reels mentioned that is used to adjust the friction of the fishing line that is coming off the spool.  While there are articles that explain what the appropriate drag is for your reel.

This simple mechanic is used to tire out a fish once its on your line.

Therefore more drag means a tougher fight for the fish, however, your line is more susceptible to breakage.  Too little of drag then the fish can run wild and may get your line snagged in seaweed, rocks, etc.

Line Spool: Much like a spool of yarn, line spool is where your fishing line is actually spooled around the head of the reel.

Bail:  When using a reel, you will have either an open or closed bail setting.  An open bail is primarily used when casting your line or simply that you want to let line escape from your reel.  A closed bail will prevent line from escaping your reel.

So if it’s your first time fishing, or your hundredth – here are a few of the basics:

Of All The Different Types of Reels –

The Spincast Reel Is Best For Beginners

If you see a fishing reel marketed towards childern chances are that this is going to be a spincast reel.

Spincast reels have been around for years and with great reason:

A spincast reel is by and far the simplest fishing reel/rod combo to master and is used widely by novice fishermen from only a few years of age and up.

The mechanics are extremely simple and does an extremely good job at getting the job done.

To use a spincast reel, all you simply need to do is pull the pole back and upon casting forward press down on the button with your thumb and the line will be moving in the direction of your desire.

In addition to being just so incredibly easy to use, spincast reels are also extremely welcoming given their relatively low price point.

When compared to the other reels that can cost over $100 – particularly baitcasting reels which we will cover in just a minute – you can get a quality grade spincast reel for a price tag of under $20.

Another great benefit to a spincast reel that makes it such a perfect fit for youngsters especially given that the cone design over the reel is great to keeping the system contained and prevents tampering.

But of course, spincast reels do have some major limitations when compared to the other reel types.

Most notably, when using a spincast you lose a lot of control over your casting accuracy.

Unlike a quality baitcasting reel or even a spinning reel, spincast reels tend to be a bit more sloppy in nature.  Therefore if you are trying to hit ‘that spot’ which might be under some low hanging branches and is 40 feet away – the probability of you hitting that low hanging branch is incredibly high with a spincast reel.

Therefore spincast reels are best for generally open water pond fishing with little obstructions.

Secondly, spincasts reels are typically used for lower lb (pound) lines that are geared toward smaller fish.  Therefore you typically wouldn’t want to use such a reel for saltwater fishing or anything that may be considered more ‘serious’ in regards to fishing.

Lastly, regarding the line type – spincast reels tend to have more of narrow spool that will limit the amount of line that can be housed on the reel when compared to the other reel types that are available.

All drawbacks aside, spincast reels dominate the world for novice fishermen.  Their simple design along with steady reliability makes it the best reel for any beginner at any age.

Spinning (Open Face) Reel Is Among The Most Popular

 While the spincast might be one of the best reels for beginners, there is no doubt that the spinning reel is by and far the most loved fishing reel of all types.

Serving fishermen in all different types of scenarios, the spinning reel is a terrific compromise between the spincast and baitcasting reels.

With its incredible versatility – here are a few things that make the spinning reel so great:

First and foremost a spinning reel, when compared to a spincast reel, can cover much more ground.  When comparing a cast of a spincast vs a spinning reel its a world of difference in total distance that you can make the end of your line travel – this makes a spinning reel great for all different types of open water or if you are simply fishing from a pier, cliff, bank, surf, etc.

In addition to the incredibly long casts that can be achieved out of a spinning reel, you are also able to get a fairly accurate cast.  Of course the accuracy cannot rival a quality baitcasting reel – you should be able to generally strike a spot that you are aiming for (give or take a few feet in variance)

Beyond casting, spinning reels have an open spool design that allow you to use just about any weight of line.  Therefore if you are planning on trying to catch some salmon as opposed to bass, you can easily swap out the line of any spinning reel to meet your needs.

Therefore you can safely use a spinning reel in all different fishing seasons.

Of course spin reels do have some inherit drawbacks that make this not the right reel for some fishermen – primarily beginners:

Spinning reels can be a bit more complicated of a system to use when compared to a spincast.  Their placement on the bottom of the rod may seem unnatural for beginners along with the reliance on your index finger in order to control the casting motion.

Being that all the parts are exposed in a spinning reel, this reel can be considered somewhat hazardous especially for kids if its their first time ever picking up a fishing pole.  Rotation of the bail around the spool may cause incidental tangles of the line which could lead to an unpleasant fishing experience.

Lastly, sometimes a spinning reel can be purchased without any line already wound on the spool.  This will require additional knowledge about line weights and types before you even make your first cast.

A Baitcasting Reel Is The Best Type Of Reel For The Expert Fishermen

 Now even if you have been using a spinning wheel for years, learning to use a baitcasting reel will still require practice.  Likely even moreso when you may have made the jump from a spincast reel to a spinning reel.But here’s the deal:

Once you learn the proper techniques to getting the perfect cast with a baitcasting reel – the amount of control that you have over your cast is incredible.

herefore if you are going to a heavily wooded creek or a pond that is loaded with lily pads, a baitcasting reel will allow you to “thread the needle” so to speak in order to get to the near exact area (within typically a few inches of the intended target when you become a pro at using this reel).

So what makes a baitcasting reel so unique?

Unlike the spincast reel that completely houses the spool in the cone or the spinning reel that allows little interaction with your index finger, you control much of the line feed that is coming off the spool with your thumb – for better or worse.

Therefore a baitcasting reel is highly dependent upon experience of getting that ‘right’ feeling in order to get pin-point accuracy time and time again.As the saying goes – practice makes perfect – this rings especially true with a baitcasting reel.

Casting aside, baitcasting reels are incredibly efficient in their gear ratio allowing you to spool up your line rather quickly in a lower amount of cranks on the handle.

Also when using a lure, a baitcasting reel will allow for additional creativity when it comes to speed of which you bring in your line.  This allows for additional movement to try and entice a fish to take a bite of your ‘tasty’ lure.

Typically what we recommend is that you only jump to a baitcasting reel after you are extremely comfortable handling a spinning reel.  Never would you want to make the jump straight from a spincast to a baitcast reel as the frustration levels would likely be a deterrent to enjoy the fun sport of fishing.

If there was any caveat to the baitcasting reel, its largely going to be due to its price point.  This reel type should be considered as a careful investment into your fishing game as opposed to just simply buying one off the rack at your local sporting goods store.

The right baitcasting reel can make all the difference in helping to ultimately lower the learning curve.

Fly Reels Are A Whole Other Animal

 While we won’t go into the specifics on the different types of fly fishing reels that exist within the market – there are some great resources that can be found online when researching specifics for this particular sport.

Simply put though, fly fishing does rely a fly reel on both hands in order to operate.  You will use one hand to take the line off the reel to create some slack, and the opposing hand to continuously cast the fly.

Within the reel itself you have a drag mechanism that will help to further tire out the fish once it’s hooked on the line.

What’s The Best Reel For You?

baitcasting is the best reel

Generally speaking it really comes down to your experience level.  If you are first time angler, or perhaps you are picking up a rod and reel for a little one, a spincast is without a doubt a great starter reel.

The simple and nearly fool proof design of a spincast reel just cannot be beat when compared to the more complicated reels out there.

Beyond the spincast, a spinning reel is a terrific next step that should considerably help out your fishing game given its increased accuracy and casting distance ability.

Spinning reels aren’t terribly expensive and therefore should be able to work in to just about any budding anglers budget.

Lastly, if you are finding yourself in the trees or perhaps are finding that your fishing game is limited due to inherit limitations with a spinning reel, a baitcasting reel is by and far the best reel hands down that so many fishermen love to depend on.  It’s overall versatility on line weights and casting abilities is unrivaled.