A lot of people know what fishing is, but only those who care about fishing will know about all the different equipment that you need to be able to do it.
Most people will have heard of a fishing rod, but beyond that, the knowledge of someone who doesn’t actually fish will be slim. This is why entering the world of fishing can be quite intimidating, but there really is no need to be stressed.
As any avid fisherman will tell you, the reel is perhaps the most important part of your fishing equipment.
Of course, the rod is important, but without the reel, you would be totally unable to bring in your catch, rendering the task pointless.
Just like with every other piece of fishing equipment, there are lots of different types of reels available. All of which are better suited for different types of fishing, and fishing in different environments.
In this guide, we’ll be taking a look at all of the different types of fishing reels that are available.
We’ll evaluate the key features of each type as well as looking at their downfalls in order to determine which type of fishing reel is the best.
But first, let’s take a quick look at exactly what a fishing reel is.
What is a Fishing Reel?
So, before we take a look at the different types of fishing reel, let’s quickly establish exactly what a fishing reel is.
As any keen fisherman will know, the reel is an essential part of your fishing kit, and without it, catching fish would be incredibly difficult.
The fishing reel is a piece of equipment that is separate from your fishing rod but is attached to the rod so that it can complete its job properly.
Fishing reels have existed for many years, but they have evolved and now most fishing reels are designed with a focus on casting and accuracy.
Traditionally, fishing reels would have been used for angling, but they are now also used for competitive casting.
They are metal, cylindrical devices that are key if you want to be able to catch a lot of fish in a shorter amount of time.
So now that we know exactly what a fishing reel is, let’s take a quick look at how they work before we go any further.
How does a Fishing Reel work?
As we have established, fishing reels are cylindrical metal devices that are attached to your fishing rod to enable you to fish easier.
They are easy to attach, and easy to use once your fishing rod is set up, but it can be difficult to know which one to buy as there are lots of different types of fishing reels available.
We’ll take a look at these different types shortly, but first, let’s take a quick overview of how fishing reels work.
Fishing reels all operate differently depending on the type that you have attached to your rod.
But in general, they have one job and that is to reel in the fish that have taken a bite to your bait.
When you are deciding what fishing reel to buy, you not only need to think about the type of fishing reel, but also the size of fishing reel that is right for your rod.
No matter the type of fishing reel that you are looking at, the majority of them will come in 3 different size sections: small, medium, and large.
There are no standard measurements for fishing reels and they will differ depending on the type and the company that manufactures them, but in general, they will offer the three sizing categories that we have outlined above.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at the different types of fishing reels that are available.
Are there different types of Fishing Reel?
As you probably already know, there are lots of different types of fishing reels available.
These reels are all designed for different types of fishing and their purposes will differ from design to design.
Before we go any further, it is worth noting that there are A LOT of different types of reels available.
So many that it is impossible to look at them all, instead we will just take a look at the main types of fishing reels in order to determine which is the best.
It can be confusing to know the difference between these reels, but in this guide, we’ll be looking at the baitcasting reel, the spin cast reel, the spinning reel, the fly fishing reel, and also offshore reels.
There are a few different types of offshore reels available so we’ll group those together to get a better understanding of the different types that you can buy.
So with no further ado, let’s take a look at the baitcasting reel.
The Baitcasting Reel
The first type of fishing reel that we will take a look at is the baitcasting reel.
This is one of the more advanced types of reels available, so it seems fitting that we start with one of the more complex reels that is clearly designed for experienced fishermen.
Due to its high-quality design, the baitcasting reel is a popular choice among both professional fishermen and extremely experienced anglers.
As we have already mentioned, the design of the baitcasting reel is quite complex.
Compared to some of the other types of reels that we will look at, the baitcasting reel comes with lots of different moving parts that together operate to reel in the fish that you have caught.
It is due to these multiple moving parts that the baitcasting reel is often viewed as a difficult reel to use.
There’s no question that the baitcasting reel does take a while to master, and a lot of practice and unsuccessful catches will come along the way.
However, once you get the hang of it, the baitcasting reels can be one of the most successful reels for catching fish.
It also has some other great features, so let’s take a look at what they are.
The most noticeable feature of the baitcasting reel is where it sits on your fishing rod.
Unlike some of the other reels that exist, the baitcasting reel holds its position on the top of your rod as this gives you the ability to control the different parts of the design.
Its design is semi-enclosed and sturdy with a drag mechanism, and additional adjustable components that can be customized for better performance depending on your situation.
These components are often not evaluated in any detail, but they are actually composed of a braking system and a tension knob. Both of these features allow you to adjust the speed of the line to better suit the fish that you are trying to catch.
These features not only allow you to control the speed of the line, but it also allows you to control the distance of where you throw the line.
So it is clear that the baitcasting reel is a great choice for controlling speed and distance when you get experience in using it, but what about its casting ability?
Let’s take a look.
How Well Does it Cast?
As you will see when we take a look at some of the other types of fishing reels that exist, the majority have a bail.
The bail stops the line from spooling or getting tangled, however as this reel does not have a bail, you instead have to use your finger to do this job. This is why this reel does take some practice before you can operate it successfully.
To prevent the line from spooling, you must press your thumb upon it. While this is trickier than using a bail, it does give you more freedom when you are casting and actually allows for more precise casts than other reels.
A baitcasting reel is often a popular choice as it allows you to lock your reel quicker when you get a bite. All you need to do is clip a lock to the line when you catch a bite and reeling in your fish will be simple.
So it is clear to see why this is a popular choice among advanced fishermen. But this is not the only reason that they are so popular, baitcasting reels also have the potential to hold heavy lines.
This gives you the ability to effortlessly chase and catch larger fish while also allowing you to know exactly when you need the line to stop.
So with all these great features, it is clear why a baitcasting reel is a popular option for many fishermen. But now let’s take a look at the spincast reel.
The Spincast Reel
Another popular type of fishing reel is the spincast reel, and this reel is pretty much the opposite of the baitcasting reel that we looked at earlier.
While the baitcasting reel is very complex, the spincast reel is actually the most basic type of fishing reel that exists.
It is the perfect choice for beginners and those who still struggle with fishing, and also a great option for those who do not have much of a budget for buying fishing gear.
But despite its basic design, ease of use, and affordability, the spincast reel is a type of reel that has fallen out of favor in recent years.
They used to be incredibly popular, but as new and more advanced types of reels have been invented, the spincast reel has become a rare find.
But despite their lack of popularity, the spincast reel is still an excellent choice if you are new to fishing and want a reel that will help you as you learn.
It is also designed with some key features so let’s take a look at what they are.
As we have already mentioned, the spincast reel has a fairly basic design. It is much smaller in design than the baitcasting reel and requires less interaction with the fisherman than its more complex counterpart.
Their basic design is primarily made of silver metal which constructs the nose cone.
Unlike the baitcasting reel which has a lot of its functions out in the open, the spincast reel instead keeps it undercover and you are unable to see the functions of the line within the reel.
It also has fewer buttons that you can adjust than the baitcasting reel. While the baitcasting reel has buttons that allow you to adjust the speed of the line, the spincast simply has one button.
This button is a toggle and it allows you to switch the line between free-spool and being locked.
This toggle also allows you to adjust the resistance that the fish who has taken the bait will feel to make it easier for you to get a catch.
But what about its casting ability?
How Well Does it Cast?
You may have already guessed this by the simplicity of its design, but if you hadn’t, the spincast reel casts incredibly well.
The ability to cast the reel all lies in the spool control button, which makes casting this reel very easy.
All you need to do is press the button in and take your swing, once you have swung the rod, you can then release the button and the line will run out to where the tip of the rod is pointing.
The line will stay in that position for as long as you want, and when you want to reel it back in, all you need to do is simply press the button again.
There’s no need to hold the button in, just a simple click of the button will send the line flying in, ready for when you want to cast it again.
Based on its casting ability, it is clear to see why this reel would be a good choice if you lack experience in fishing.
It allows you to develop all the other skills that you need to be able to fish successfully without requiring you to master the sometimes difficult task of reeling in immediately.
Spincast reels also very rarely get tangled which also makes them a great choice for those who are new to fishing.
So after looking at the spincast reel, it is clear that this type of fishing reel is pretty much the exact opposite of the baitcasting reel.
Now let’s take a look at the spinning reel.
The Spinning Reel
Next, let’s take a look at the spinning reel. While the spincast reel is a reel that was once incredibly popular but has fallen out of favor with those who fish, the spinning reel is the one that has taken up the position once held by the spincast.
The spinning reel is now, without a doubt, the most popular type of reel that exists, and you will find one in the majority of fishing kits.
While the spinning reel has taken over the position once held by the spincast, it is slightly more complex to use than the spincast was.
That being said, it is still a fishing reel that is easy to use and the majority of beginners will find it no more difficult to use than the spincast reel.
So it is clear that the spinning reel was designed to target the same demographic of avid fishermen as the spincast reel was.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at some of the features which the spinning reel has on offer.
While the spincast reel and the spinning reel are both designed with a similar target audience in mind, their design is actually very different from one another.
The spincast features a closed design while the spinning reel features an open-faced design.
The spincast features a top-loaded design and it is attached to the top of your rod, whereas the spinning reels are unique to most other reels as they attach to the bottom of your rod.
The way that the spinning reel attaches to the rod makes it incredibly easy to use. The reel is located in a natural position so that it puts no strain on your hands during a long day of fishing.
This natural position allows you to focus your energy on other parts of fishing, rather than worrying about your hands becoming uncomfortable during the time that you are out.
But that’s enough about the features of the spinning reel, let’s answer the question that you’ve all been asking, ‘How well does it cast?’.
How Well Does it Cast?
As you would probably expect based on its similarity to the spincast reel, the spinning reel does cast very well.
It is easy to cast this reel, and that is why it is such a popular choice among those who are new to fishing.
This is also why it is a popular choice among experienced fishermen who just want a day out fishing without the stress that more complex reels can cause.
To cast this reel, all you need to do is remove the metal bail which prevents the line from spooling.
However, once you disengage the bail, you do need to replace it with your index finger to prevent the line from spooling before you swing the rod.
When you are in the process of swinging your rod, you should release your finger when you are approximately halfway through the motion and then you are ready to fish.
After you have swung the rod, simply reapply the bail, and then you can enjoy fishing, comfortable in the knowledge that you can easily reel in the line when you get a bite.
So it is clear why the spinning reel is a popular choice among beginners and those who want to be able to enjoy stress-free fishing.
Now let’s take a look at another popular type of fishing reel: the fly fishing reel.
The Fly Fishing Reel
Now it’s time for us to take a look at a reel that is a bit different from the ones that we have looked at so far, and that is the fly fishing reel.
Fly fishing is different from regular fishing, and despite what its name suggests, it is not the act of fishing for flies.
Instead, fly fishing is given its name because it attempts to catch fish using bait that is as light as a feather. Or as light as a fly.
Due to the extremely lightweight of the bait that is being used on the end of the line, you have to have a reel that is specifically designed for fly fishing to be able to fly fish successfully.
Regular reels will be unable to cast bait that is as light as that of the fly fishing bait, which is why you have to use specific equipment.
Fly fishing equipment is designed to be heavier so that it can compensate for the lightness of the bait. This includes a heavier line which is why you need to use a specific reel to be able to fly fish.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at some of the other great features that the fly fishing reel has on offer.
So let’s have a look at some of the great features which make the fly fishing reel a popular choice.
Fly fishing reels have a traditional design that can be compared to some of the early fishing reels.
These early fishing reels have lost their popularity, but the fly fishing reel has remained popular, probably thanks to its unique design and the position that it fills on the market.
A fly fishing reel is built of a single spool. This spool rotates around a central pin and it has this design so that it can accommodate the thickness of the fly fishing line.
In their early days, fly fishing reels did not include a drag function which meant that the fisherman had to complete a lot of work to be able to reel in their catch.
But now the majority of fly fishing reels will include this function which helps with the casting ability of these fishing reels.
Now that we’ve mentioned casting, let’s take a look at how well the fly fishing reel casts.
How Well Does it Cast?
While the majority of the other reels that we have looked at so far, operate similarly to one another, the fly fishing reel operates differently.
This is expected, considering fly fishing is completely different from regular fishing.
In regular fishing, you cast the bait and the line follows, whereas in fly fishing it is the opposite way around.
Instead of casting the bait, fly fishing requires you to cast the line so that the bait can hold the floating position that is required for this type of fishing method.
A fly fishing reel also differs from regular fishing reels as you do not retrieve the line after each cast.
Fly fishing is often referred to as boring fishing, but that is mainly by people who do not have the patience required to fly fish successfully.
In fly fishing, the reel will remain cast for a long time as it will only retrieve the line if you have caught a fish. You can also retrieve the line yourself once you have finished fishing.
The only way to retrieve the line is with your hands, which is why most people who fly fish will simply leave their line out until they catch a fish.
So it is clear that the fly fishing reel is a popular choice, however, is it possible for it to be the best as it is specifically designed for one type of fishing?
We’ll be taking a look a little while later, but first, let’s investigate offshore reels.
The Offshore Reels
Finally, let’s take a look at the offshore reels. As we have already mentioned, this is more so a group of reels rather than one specific type.
All of these offshore reels however can be grouped together because they are specifically designed to survive use in environments where the majority of reels would crumble.
This not only means being used in offshore, saltwater conditions but also means use with larger fish which would wreck any other type of reel, including tuna.
As you can probably guess by the conditions in which they are designed for, offshore reels are built with durability in mind.
Due to this, they often look significantly different from the other types of reels that you may encounter, especially in terms of size.
Offshore reels tend to be very large to achieve the level of power and strength they require to survive tough situations. But what other features do they have?
Let’s take a quick look.
As we have already mentioned, offshore reels are designed to be large, and this is often the most notable thing about their appearance.
Not only are they designed to be large, but they are also designed to be tough which often means that they are constructed with strong metals. Strong metals which can often be very heavy to hold.
Thankfully, offshore reels tend to be attached to fishing rods which are also designed for offshore fishing, and because of this, the weight of the reel does not affect the ability of the rod.
Unfortunately, due to the strength required in their design, offshore fishing gear tends to be the most expensive type to buy.
This is why the majority of people who partake in offshore fishing are very experienced fishermen who have already mastered regular fishing.
The offshore fishing reel tends to attach underneath the rod, similar to how a spinning reel attaches, meaning that it is very comfortable and natural to use.
Something that is definitely required in the harsh conditions where you will often find yourself offshore fishing.
But that’s enough about the design of the reel, let’s take a look at its casting ability.
How Well Does it Cast?
Thankfully, one of the good things about offshore reels is that they cast in a fairly similar way to the other types of reels that you can buy.
While fly fishing requires a completely different casting method, the method used to cast an offshore reel is no different.
But it is often harder than casting a regular reel. That being said, this is mainly due to the conditions that you are fishing in, not due to the reel itself.
The design of an offshore reel can often appear complex, but in most cases, this is due to the aesthetic design and not the operations of the reel.
This complex appearance is also partly attributed to the different materials that have to be used to ensure that it has the strength required.
But despite the offshore reel being more complex, for most people who use it, this is not an issue.
Those who attempt offshore fishing are usually fishermen who have a lot of experience in fishing in regular waters.
Offshore fishing is not a beginner’s sport and so the fact that the equipment is slightly more complex will not pose a problem to most people who use it.
So now that we have looked at the offshore fishing reels, we have investigated all of the main fishing reel types that are available.
With a clear understanding of the purpose and features of each type, it’s time for us to decide which fishing reel type is the best available.
Which Fishing Reel is the Best?
Now that we’ve taken a look at all of the different types of fishing reels that there are available, it’s now time to answer the question ‘which one is the best?’.
Although the answer is likely to be one that leaves you unsatisfied because there really is no fishing reel that can be considered “the best”.
Objectively at least. But obviously, depending on the situation in which you plan to use the fishing reel, different types will be the best for you.
For example, if you want to begin fly fishing, you only really have one option to choose from, and that is of course the fly fishing reel.
On an overall scale, there is absolutely no way that this reel would ever be considered the best out of all the different types available, however for those who want to go fly fishing this is definitely the best.
Likewise, if you want to begin offshore fishing, then an offshore reel will undoubtedly be the best option for you.
Offshore reels are the only type of reel that will be able to survive the harsh weather conditions in which you fish offshore and so they are the only real option available.
These options aside, let’s compare the last three reels that we looked at. These are the spincast, the spinning, and the baitcasting reel.
None of these reels are specifically designed for a certain type of fishing, so it is fair to compare them to one another.
As we have already discussed, the baitcasting reel is the most advanced out of these options, while the other two types are designed with beginners in mind.
Based purely on the complex nature of the baitcasting reel, we cannot rate this as the best option available.
Of course, if you are an experienced fisherman who has already mastered the other skills needed for fishing then this is likely a great option for you.
But if you are newer to fishing then we would not recommend using this type of reel.
That leaves you with two options: the spincast reel and the spinning reel. Both of these reels are designed to be fairly easy to use, and a great introduction option if you are new to fishing.
However, for us, the spinning reel stands out from the spincast reel for a variety of reasons. One of them being how readily available the spinning reel is compared to the spincast reel.
Another reason why we think the spinning reel beats the spincast to the top position is because it is designed to sit below your rod.
This is a more natural position for you when you are fishing and puts less strain on your body, allowing you to enjoy your time fishing without worrying about your hands becoming uncomfortable.
However, all of these fishing reels have their benefits and their flaws, and as we have already mentioned, the best one relies on the type of fishing that you want to complete with the reel.
In short, it is impossible to determine which type of fishing reel is the best as they are all designed for different situations and different types of fishing activities.
In order to determine which is the best for you, you need to consider the type of fishing that you want to complete.
For example, if you want to go fly fishing, you will need a fly fishing reel, or if you want to go fishing for larger fish you will need an offshore reel.
You also need to consider your skill level, as some fishing reels are better designed for those with advanced skill sets rather than those who are new to fishing.
But ultimately, the best fishing reel depends on you.