At a Glance: Reels
A fishing reel is designed to hold fishing line as it is cast or released into the water and wound back to the angler. Most reels are designed to be attached to a fishing rod and can be made from a combination of graphite, brass, aluminum, stainless steel, rubber or composite materials. While fishing rods have been used for thousands of years, fishing reels only became widely used and manufactured over the last 400 years or so. Wooden spools and winches were the original reels, mounted to rods for line management. Gears were added to speed up the amount of line being wound back onto the reel and metals were introduced for durability. Most modern reels are constructed with rustproof and corrosion resistant materials or coatings to prolong the life and improve the performance of the reels in both freshwater and saltwater conditions.
Just as rods are designed and built with specific tactics and species in mind, fishing reels are also designed for specific uses. Reels come in various sizes and styles, with prices ranging from just a few dollars for plastic ice fishing reels, up into the thousands of dollars for saltwater reels. The different types of reels offered through FishUSA include spinning, baitcasting, spincasting, trolling/conventional, fly, centerpin, mooching and inline ice reels. Some manufacturers offer spare spools for certain models which can make one reel into a multi-purpose tool for several tactics and species. Many reels are also reversible meaning they can be easily modified to work for both left-handed and right-handed anglers.
Spinning reels are mounted to the underside of a rod and are often referred to as open-face reels. These excel at light tackle fishing without complicated settings. Baitcasting reels mount on top of a rod and are widely used by bass anglers and those who target large predator fish because of the strength of the drag systems and casting distances. Spincasting reels can mount to either spinning rods or casting rods (depending on the specific model) and are often referred to as close-face reels. Trolling or conventional reels mount on top of casting or trolling rods and are typically used for open water fishing from boats. These have strong drag systems and large line capacities. Fly reels pair with fly rods and allow the fly angler to manage fly lines which are usually much heavier than other fishing lines. Centerpin reels are very similar to fly reels in shape and style, but are much larger and are designed to hold monofilament line in great quantities for float fishing in flowing water. Mooching reels look much like fly reels, but are used for what is typically a West Coast tactic involving bait for king salmon and other large saltwater fish in a vertical presentation. Inline ice reels are another style inspired by fly reels. Inline reels are specifically designed to feed and retrieve line to the spool without twisting the line for ice fishing.
When purchasing a reel, an angler may also want to purchase a compatible rod, along with line and lures.
The top five brands of reels at FishUSA are Shimano, Okuma, Daiwa, Abu Garcia and Penn.