7 Types of Fishing Reels

Most people involved in recreational fishing know that different fishing reels are suited for angling and competitive casting in different fishing environments.

Understanding the different types, their features, pros and cons, and application areas will help you make the right choice and get you to enjoy your angling trips even more.

There are four main types of fishing reels, but others are also used and are not popular. Here are the different types:

1. Bait Casting Reels

The baitcasting reel is also known as a revolving spool reel or overhead reel. It is a multiplying reel, i.e., one revolution of the crank handle results in multiple spool revolutions. This type of reel is suitable for catching striped bass, barramundi, musky, or smallmouth.


A baitcasting reel attaches above the fishing rod.

It has a level-wind mechanism to prevent the line from trapping itself during rewind.

A baitcasting reel features an anti-reverse handle and drags to slow runs by colossal fish.

Baitcasting reels have high gear ratios to allow you to reel in fish faster.

They have a drag mechanism, usually located near the reel handle, to set and regulate tension on the line while fighting fish.

The adjustable spool tension knob and the braking system allow adjustment of the cast control when the weight of the lure changes. This reduces spool overrun, resulting in backlash during casting. Backlash, birdies, or bird’s nest occurs if the spool is turning faster than the line is going out.

Pros of Baitcasting Reels

  • They allow anglers more control over casting. A flick of the thumb stops the cast while in the air as the angler desires to ensure more accuracy while casting. This makes them popular among pro anglers.
  • They are powerful reels; the revolving spool reel allows fast casting even with heavy lines, thus producing a lot of hauling power suitable for catching big game fish.
  • They are customizable and allow you to pull out bottom fish or drop shots for fish near the surface.

Cons of Baitcasting Reels

  • The most noticeable down sight of baitcasting reels is, they require a lot of expertise and experience, thus not suitable for beginners. They tend to get backlashes if cast inappropriately.
  • They are very expensive; in fact, baitcasting reels are the most costly type of reels.
  • You constantly have to adjust the spool tension and braking system when using different lures. This is quite tedious and time-consuming.

2. Fly Fishing Reel

A fly reel is a single-action reel (One revolution of the handle gives a single revolution of the spool) whose primary purpose is to store line, provide smooth, uninterrupted drag, and counterbalance the weight of your fly rod when casting.

While fly fishing, the line carries a lightweight lure (fly). The lures are usually flies and nymphs. The fly lures the fish to strike at the food near the surface. Fly fishing reels work well in fishing for trout, bass, salmon, pike, carp, mackerel, trevally, drum, and other fish that live near the water’s surface.


Modern fly fishing reels have a sophisticated disc-type drag system. Composite materials make up the system, thus ensuring increased adjustment range, consistency while dragging, and tolerance to high temperatures caused by drag friction.

They have large spool covers to reduce line memory, maintain a consistent drag and allow quick retraction of an already cast slackline in case of an emergency. Saltwater fly reels have larger spool arbores and spindles to increase the line and backing capacity to allow a big retrieve-to-reel ratio. This is necessary for catching huge saltwater fish.

They also have provisions for placing the crank handle of the reel on either side. This optimizes its operation by both left-handed and left-handed anglers; ambidextrous anglers can put the handle on either side.

Saltwater fly reels have waterproof bearing and drive mechanisms, and anodized aluminum, graphite, or stainless steel components to prevent corrosion by the saltwater.

A fly reel has two levels of knobs to control spool release and drag adjustment.

Pros of Fly Reel

  • They allow you to cast lightweight lures over a very long distance causing very little disturbance on the water. This doesn’t spook fish.
  • Fly fishing reels are strong and durable. They allow you to reel in fish with little effort and do not require constant replacement.
  • They are economical. It is a one-time purchase that will serve you for a very long time.
  • Fly reels ensure consistent, smooth, and uninterrupted drag.
  • They allow usage in both freshwater and saline water.
  • They have large arbores to pack more lines, thus allowing long-distance fishing.

Cons of Fly Reels

  • The large arbores and long lines mean you have to have a lot of room to cast out your fly.
  •  Fly reels limit you to fishing near the surface. Casting and retrieving them over and over is quite frustrating too.
  •  Fly reels are expensive, especially saltwater fly reels, as the materials that make them up are expensive.

3. Spincast Reel/ Closed Faced Reel

In this type of fishing reel, the spool and other essential parts of the reel are enclosed with a hole (nose cone guide) for the fishing line to pass through while casting.

The line is cast from a fixed spool and allows the casting of light lures just like spinning and fly reels. They are suitable for catching catfish. These are suitable for fishing in slow-moving water, ponds, and harbors.

The friction of the moving line against the nose cone guide and spool cover considerably limits the casting distance. It has one or two pick-up pins and a metal cup to wind the line on the spool.

A good spin cast reel has friction drags, an anti-reverse mechanism, and an oscillating spool to allow you to adjust how much resistance a fish feels when pulling on the line.

A spin-cast reel has a toggle button that toggles the line between free-spool and locked. Pressing the button disengages the line, allowing it to fly off the spool. To stop the lure, press the button again when the line reaches the desired position.

Pros of Spin-Cast Reel

  • Spin scat reels are pretty small and light, making them comfortable to cast and hold for long periods.
  • They are easy to operate; require only one hand for successful operation.
  •  They are pretty cheap and readily available.

Cons of Spin-Cast Reel

  • The line capacity of the spin-cast reel is quite limited. This makes it unsuitable for deep-water fishing, long-distance fishing, or catching fish that can cause long runs.
  • Their closed-face design makes cleaning the spin-cast reel quite challenging as you have to open the cover. Flushing out the debris and water trapped in the reel is quite tricky and can damage the reel.
  • They are not suitable for saltwater fishing as water accumulates in the spool cover and can easily corrode it.
  • The line easily jams. Fixing backlashes in spin-cast reels is a nightmare as you have to deal with untangling the line in an enclosure.
  • The materials that make up closed-face reels are pretty cheap and easily destroy these reels nondurable. The drag mechanism is not also well established, making them unsuitable for combating big fish.
  • Holding the line on the spool is quite difficult.

4. Spinning Reel/ Open Face Reel

The spinning reel, fixed spool reel, or egg beaters are suitable for fishing with lures considered too light for bait casting reels. They use artificial flies and other lures to catch trout and salmon most of the time.

Spinning reels mount below the fishing rod, conforming to gravity, requiring little or no wrist strength to keep the reel in place. The reel is ambidextrous- if you are right-handed, you cast the reel with your right hand and operate the crank handle with your left hand.

The reel has a stationary spool with a wire bail to lock the line and a line roller for line storage. This ensures the line is not entangled (no backlash). 

If the line is not wound correctly onto the spool or the line overloads the spool, the line can detach from the reel or trap itself. An anti-reverse lever prevents the crank handle from rotating as the fish pulls the line from the spool.

The line release of the line is in coils or loops from the fixed spool and is best suited for pretty limp and flexible lines. To slow down and stop the line, you place your thumb on the line and the leading edge of the spool. The bail lays down the line on the spool while reversing the twist that resulted from casting.  It does this to retrieve the line.

Saltwater spinning reels have stainless steel shafts supporting the drag knobs to prevent corrosion.

Pros of Spinning Reel

  • They allow you to cast lightweight lures without the line tangling up.
  • It allows you a lot of control. You have to move your fingers to stop it, thus ensuring a high degree of accuracy.
  • Due to their open nature, it is easy to flush out residual sand and water.
  • They are versatile and easy to use.
  • They allow both right-hand and left-hand operations.
  • Their open nature allows you to pack more lines.
  • They attach below the rod, making good use of gravity in anchoring, thus giving you good balance.

Cons of Open-Face Reel

  • They have a limited gear ratio resulting in slow reeling-in speeds.
  • Operating an open face is quite challenging, especially if you are not ambidextrous.
  • The line constantly twists and snares, and you continuously have to untangle it.

Other types of fishing reels include:

5. Centre Pin Reel/ Float Reel

This is a type of fishing reel that runs freely about its axle. It is suitable for coarse fishing, usually used to catch carp and other heavy fish with light tackle. The thumb replaces the mechanical drag in conventional fishing reels used for controlling fish.

Float reel is popular for trotting.

6. Side Cast Reel

This type of fishing reel rotates about its axle, just like the center pin reel, but has a bracket to allow the reel to rotate at a right angle to the fishing rod and then retract to its original position to retrieve the line.

While casting, the spool is perpendicular to the fishing rod to allow the line to run off at the side of the spool. They have large spool diameters allowing for long-distance fishing like the beach or off-the-rock fishing.

7. Electric Fishing Reels

These are pretty new in the recreational fishing field. They have improved functionality, making them boom in the angling market.

They can automatically drop baits, and catch and reel fish when on autopilot. They also allow manual operation as improved overhead fishing reels. They are good for deep-sea fishing and enable easy reeling in big game fish.

How To Choose The Right Reel For You

How To Choose The Right Reel For You

Choosing the right reel for yourself as a novice angler is quite overwhelming. Having the right fishing reel on your angling trip can significantly improve your satisfaction levels. For you to choose the right fishing reel, you have to consider the following:

Water Type

If you plan on fishing in both freshwater and saltwater fishing, choose a reel with ionized aluminum, graphite, or stainless steel reel body.

These materials have high corrosion resistance making your fishing reel last long. Also, ensure that the reel has sufficient protection from saltwater intrusion.

If you plan to practice freshwater angling, you can use a reel with an aluminum reel body. Closed-face reels are not suitable for fishing in saline waters.

All reels suitable for use in saltwater will be good for use in freshwater, but not all freshwater reels are suitable for saltwater.

Weight of the Reel

Spinning reels and baitcasting reels are heavier than spin-cast reels, putting a lot of strain on the wrist and forearm. If you have a problem bearing weights for extended periods, go for spin-cast reels.


Baitcasting reels have many parts that take a lot of time and resources to keep in good condition. They use expensive magnetic systems, bearings, and materials to keep them from rusting when used in saline waters.

Keeping a spin casting reel in good condition is quite difficult. Water and debris accumulate in the spool cover. Removing them from the enclosure is not easy.

Fishing Rod and Reel Specifications  

If you already have a rod and are looking for the best reel to pair it up with, be sure to look at the rod specifications. The rod length and recommended line weight are available on the rod. Fishing reels also have specifications like weight classes to help you balance your rod and reel.

A well-balanced fishing ensemble will make angling easy and quite accurate. Time flies when you are enjoying what you are doing, so it is unlikely that you feel tired if you have fun while angling.

We would advise you to balance your money between the reel and the rod. Don’t spend too much money on the reel only to pair it up with a budget rod.

You are likely to experience some problems with the rod, and you may not enjoy your trip that much.

Age and Experience

If you are an experienced angler, a baitcasting reel is a way to go. Most anglers who have used it are quite happy with its performance, especially when using heavy lures for catching large fish. If you are looking to challenge yourself, you can use the open-face reel.

If you are just starting or looking to teach a child how to fish, choose the closed-face reel or electric reel. If you have previous experience as an angler but are not so confident in your skills, go for the spinning reel or fly reel. If you are looking for more practice on inshore fishing, a casting-oriented reel is great.

Fish Size

If you are targeting large game fish, choose a reel with substantial drag to stop running fish. Most spinning reels offer just enough drag pressure for catching fish weighing about 20-40lb, just enough for most freshwater fish. Baitcasting reels offer up to 100lb of drag pressure suitable for colossal game fish.

Choose a reel that matches the weight and capacity of the line you will need to catch the fish species that you want to capture. V-shaped or skirted spools can accommodate long and heavy lines. These are suitable for catching big fish in deep waters.


Spin-casting reels are pretty cheap. You can get one at $15, some of the best cost about $60. Most of the components of the spin casting reel are plastic which is why they are cheap.

Gripping Features

When trying out different handles, pick up a reel and consider how it feels in your hand. It would be best to consider how the reel feels in your hand as you don’t want your reel to slip when battling fish.

A god reel handle has a one-piece shank and feels comfortable when cranking. The material in the handle should offer very little friction against the hand.

These are the types of fishing reels that have made waves at one time in the angling world. All fishing reels will appeal to you but we would advise you to choose one to make you enjoy your trip and leave you feeling satisfied.