When setting up a fishing pole and reel combo, it’s important to understand how to choose the right fishing reel. There are several types of fishing reels depending on what type of fishing you will be doing. First, we’ll go over the basic types of fishing reels and their uses.

Bait Casting Reel
Also known as overhead reels, bait casting reels are mounted on top of the fishing pole with the spool mounted horizontally (left to right if holding your fishing pole vertically). You cast the bait casting reel by arching your fishing pole over your shoulder, then snapping it forward. The weight of your bait pulls the line out, and then you stop the line with your thumb. Using a bait casting fishing reel requires practice, and is NOT for amateur anglers.

Centre-pin Reel
The centre-pin (or centrepin) fishing reel is almost exclusively used for fly fishing. Since its debut in 1874, the centre-pin fishing reel has changed very little mechanically. Normally, you operate the reel by turning the handle on the side of the reel, causing the spool to rotate and reel in the fishing line.

Spin Cast Reel
Spin cast reels are the easiest fishing reel to operate. Simply swing your fishing pole back, and press and hold the button when snapping the fishing pole forward. Release the button to stop letting out line. Spin casting reels are suitable for most types of fishing.

Spinning Reel
Spinning reels are a great choice if you use very light lures, or if you like the ease of a bail. To cast a spinning reel, place the fishing line between your index finger and the fishing pole. Next, flip open the bail and swing your fishing reel back. Then snap your fishing pole forward, releasing your finger from the fishing line. Either flip your bail back over, or turn the handle on the side of the reel to stop the fishing line from releasing.

Underspin reel
Also known as triggerspin reels, underspin reels are basically bait casting reels mounted underneath a standard spinning fishing pole. This allows for less fatigue while holding the fishing pole, and underspin reels mount to a wider selection of fishing poles. To cast an underspin reel, squeeze the trigger to secure the fishing line. While coming forward during your cast, release the trigger. Underspin reels are suitable for most types of fishing.

Hopefully after reading these comparisons, you understand the different types of reels and how they operate. Now, it’s time to choose your fishing reel.

If you are a beginner, you should choose either a spin cast reel or a spinning reel. If you plan to do a fair amount of fishing, I would go with the spinning reel. It’s much more versatile than the spin cast reel. However, if you plan on doing a very limited amount of fishing, you only fish socially, or just have absolutely no idea how to fish, I would choose the spin cast reel. It operates by simply pushing a button and tossing out the fishing line.

If you like a little bit more control over your fishing line, I recommend the bait casting reel or the underspin reel. For maximum control of your fishing line, I would go with the bait casting reel. On the other hand, a long day on the fishing boat with a cumbersome fishing pole and reel combo can get old real quick. I would seriously consider the versatility, balance, and weight of an underspin reel before opting for a bait casting reel.

Obviously, with the exception of incredibly light flies, centre-pin reels are the best choice for fly fishing. If you are using light flies, another reel option might be the fixed spool spinning reel. However, I would suggest considering using heavier flies or adding some weight over using a less versatile reel. Spinning reels have their place, but it’s not when you’re fly fishing.

I hope this helps you choose your fishing reel. I always say to go on the modest side until you find your feel. There is no sense in spending $150 on a nice bait casting reel just to find out you prefer an underspin reel. Start small, and let the fish show you what fishing pole and  reel combo feels right to you.

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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.

This Review Has 1 Comments

  1. Craig Alan Howlett

    Good advice of starting small before spending big. With the fly reel some people like it set up to wind for right handers. I like it so your dominant right hand holds the rod and you wind with your left hand. Personal choice, but it saves you from swapping hands when playing the fish.

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