For serious fishermen, the only choice for fishing is a baitcasting reel. Baitcasting fishing reels provide the best control over your line and lure, as well as improved bearings in the assembly, so the reel is much smoother. Some of the benefits gained from fishing with a baitcasting reel are the ability to use heavier test fishing line, high torque gearing, easy lure handling and placement, and improved leverage due to the fishing reel’s placement on the fishing pole.

There are many fishing reel companies out there boasting different features and functionalities. This guide to choosing a baitcasting fishing reel should serve as an overview to understanding the different parts and mechanics of a baitcasting fishing reel.

Diagram of a Baitcasting Fishing Reel

Drag: Drag is the control over the tension on the line spool. To set the drag properly, the spool should allow the line to be released at a tension just before the line snaps. This setting is completely dependent on the type of fishing pole, size and test of fishing line, and the approximate weight of the fish you will be after. The drag control is located in unique places depending on what fishing reel you choose, but the instructions or packaging should be very clear where it is.


Handle: The handle is what most people associate with “reeling in” a fish. When you turn the handle on the side of the fishing reel, the gearing inside the reel housing rotates the line spool and winds the fishing line from the water, through your line guide, and around the line spool. The better the bearings are in the reel housing assembly, the smoother the reeling process will be.

Line Guide: The line guide directs the fishing line to lie evenly and uniformly onto the line spool while reeling in. The line guide is always geared and synced with the handle and line spool so that the line will never cross over itself, thus preventing a line tangle.

Spool: The spool spins within the fishing reel housing, exposed to the elements. Each spool has its own maximum line capacity depending on the size and test of the fishing line.

Spool Release Button: To cast, position the fishing line between the tip of your thumb and the reel housing, just above the spool release button. Next, press down on the spool release button with the face of your thumb to release the line spool gear. Cast your fishing pole as usual, releasing your thumb from the fishing line on your forward lunge. To set the gear again, simply turn the handle until you hear the gears click into place again.

Now that we understand the anatomy of a baitcasting fishing reel a little more, we can proceed to choosing the right baitcasting reel for your purposes.

If you do a lot of fishing, I recommend focusing on quality bearings. The worst thing in the world is having your nice fishing reel turn into a piece of junk after a negligible amount of water enters the reel housing.

Other than that, it really is just personal preference. Try out a friend’s, or try a few at the tackle shop.  Namely your fishing pole, line, and lure are just as crucial as your reel. The fishing pole is your foundation, but your fishing reel is your connection to the water.

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Written by Ripley Hunter

Ripley Hunter enjoys a wide variety of outdoor activities and adventure sports. From kayaking to rock climbing, Hunter’s real love lies in fishing, whether on the water or ice. Among his great adventures is deep sea fishing in New Zealand. He lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

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