There are four main reel types out there. There’s the closed face reel (spincast reel), the spinning reel, the baitcaster, and the fly reel. Each of these is made to be used on their own specific rod and are best used in different scenarios.
For example, a fly reel is used for fly fishing, and a spinning reel is great for casting small lures long distances. Where baitcast reels have a lot of strength and torque so they’re great for targeting big fish when using big lures.
So, below we’re going to go into more detail to help you understand the difference between these four reels. Each has its own pros and cons so take a close look and see which one is going to be the best for you.
A fishing reel will hold the fishing line you will be using to cast out your lure and reel the fish in with. Spincasting reels, spinning, and baitcasting are all pretty much used in the same way in that you will retrieve the line with the reel.
However, a fly reel can be used in two different ways. The first way is just like the above reels, where you tune the handle to retrieve the line. Or, you can retrieve the line with your hand. Pulling in both the game fish and the fly.
This is what makes a fly reel unique to the other three. Also, a fly reel is going to utilize a different line. The reason for this is because in fly fishing you use the fly line to properly fly forward. Wherewith a closed face, spinning, and bait casters you use the fishing rod.
Types Of Fishing Reels
Below, we’re going to go into a little bit more detail about the four main types of reel. Each of them is going to have its own pros and cons so check out which one is going to work best for you and your type of fishing.
Closed Face Reel
This is the reel that most of us first started using. It’s similar to a spinning reel but it has a covering over top and instead of holding the line when you cast you to hold a button on top that controls when the line is released.
These are great for beginners because of how easy it is to use. All they need to learn is the proper timing of when to let go of the button in order for their hook to shoot out into the water and not behind them where onlookers are present.
These are also pretty cheap as well, and we all know kids aren’t the best with treating equipment well. So, that way if something happens and the reel breaks, then you know that you’ve only sunk $15 or so into it.
That’s not to say that you can’t find a quality closed face reel out there, because you can. Many companies make a solid reel that is strong enough and durable enough to hold up to a full season of fishing.
This is the next step after you master a closed face reel. Arguably, they’re just as easy to use as a closed face reel. They just look a little more complicated because you have to flip open the bail arm and hold the line that is wrapped around the bail with your finger while casting. The flipping of the bail is the only real difference between the two when it comes to casting.
Spinning reels come in all different sizes, and price points. Some are made for freshwater fishing for trout and small fish. While some of the larger ones are used to go after big freshwater and saltwater fish. If using a heavy enough reel you could even use it as a trolling reel. Spinning reels are also most often used as surf fishing reels.
However, these are usually best suited for targeting medium to smaller fish. These are ideal for chasing bass, catfish, speckled trout, and redfish. They’re strong enough to reel in some of the big fighters, as well as being able to throw larger lures to them.
In terms of price, most people can purchase a $50 spinning reel and be set for several seasons of good fishing. It could be even longer if you take care of your equipment. If you’re a pro angler then they also make some that are triple digits. Or, if you’re looking for something cheap then they also offer some $30 or cheaper.
These are some of the best reels out there. They are strong, and have a lot of torque so you can really haul in those large fish, and cast those big lures. Ideal for the angler who wants to again, take the next step in their reel quality.
The biggest downfall of the baitcaster is that you cannot throw light lures with it. So, throwing a weightless worm or a small Rooster Tail will be either difficult or not even possible. For those, you’ll need a spinning reel.
On top of not being able to throw small lures, they can also be tough to learn how to cast. They can be very frustrating to learn on. Especially for an angler who may not have much experience fishing. When you purchase your first one you should take some time and practice in the backyard with a bullet weight tied to the end of the line. Be prepared to pick out a lot of bird nests, and be wary of line twists.
Once you’ve practiced enough and cast with your baitcaster you’ll find a whole new world of fishing has opened up to you. Throwing crankbaits and heavy jigs are now easier and the extra power means you can now toss around heavy cover.
This is different from all the other reels on this list. Technically a spinning reel and a baitcasting reel have their own rods that you’re supposed to use them with. However, they are very similar to each other and in a pinch can be used interchangeably. This is not the case with a fly rod. You need a fly rod to match up to the fly reel.
When using a fly reel you won’t be timing the release of the line while casting. Instead, you’ll strip out the amount of line needed and then you’ll proceed with your fly casting. Which is much more different than casting with the other three reels.
If you’re going to get into fly fishing then you should be prepared to either spend some money or to shop around for cheaper deals. Fly fishing reels are notoriously expensive, however, a cheaper way to get started is to buy from garage sales or clearance items from last year’s equipment.
Which Reel Should You Be Using?
This all depends on what you’re looking for as an angler. If you’re giving a child their first pole then a closed face reel will probably be the best option for them. It’s cheap and easy to use. Making it perfect for them.
If you’re older and want to get into fishing then a spinning reel would be ideal. These are also easy to use and can catch many different types of fish. Spinning reels are also great for experienced anglers too.
Baitcasters are great for someone looking to take their fishing gear to the next step. If you’ve found yourself loving the fishing world then a baitcaster is a great reel to advance to after you’ve mastered the spinning reel.
Finally, the fly reel. If you’re new to fishing then you should expect a reasonable learning curve if you want to get started in fly fishing. It’s going to be a totally different experience from using the reels mentioned above. So, when starting this you should be equally as interested in learning to fly fish as you are in learning how to fish.
Fishing Reel Reviews
Below, we’re going to go over five different types of fishing reels. We’ll have one of each reel listed above and two different spinning reels. Check out the list below and see which one you like best. Each is going to have its own pros and cons so think about what type of fishing reels you enjoy and pick accordingly!
One of the most trusted names in fishing, Pflueger once again makes a great reel. The President can be used as both as a beginner reel or for someone who is looking to get into fishing and needs a great first reel.
It comes with line already on the spool and the line that is already on there is just ok. If you want to upgrade then you can strip off the line it comes with and you can replace it with your own line. Make sure to keep it light though, and to check the line capacity. This reel is designed to throw light lures.
This reel has an aluminum frame and core. Meaning it is going to give you great durability, despite it being a closed face reel that has the reputation of breaking down very easily.
This reel comes in two different, and also comes in three different gear ratios. Making it perfect for someone who wants a versatile reel that can go out and catch just about any fish they need to.
It has an aluminum handle and light composite housing. That means it’s going to be light on top of being durable. So this would be great for someone who enjoys fishing a lot. It will stay with you season after season and won’t induce arm fatigue.
This is also a wallet-friendly reel. Coming in at under $50 you’re getting something that is arguably worth much more. Making this a great reel for the economically conscious angler but they still want a great piece of equipment.
This is another great spinning reel. The full metal body and side plate ensure that all of the internal components are aligned and working when they are put under heavy strain. Making this ideal for targeting big fish.
It is a little low on the ball bearings, coming in at a 4+1. However, that should not deter you from this reel. It has a great disc drag system, and is smooth and strong, allowing you to fish all day, and not have to worry about your ball bearings or gears breaking.
Coming in several different sizes, the Penn Fierce can be used for chasing small trout and panfish all the way up to channel cats and steelhead. Perfect for the angler who loves catching all different kinds of fish.
When you’re ready to step up to a baitcaster then this would be a great choice. It’s not super expensive like some of them, but it’s also no slouch. Coming in at under $50, this is a true steal for a baitcasting reel.
It comes in both right and left-handed models. So anyone can use them comfortably and effectively. It is made of one piece graphite, making it both strong and durable. So it can stand up to the abuse that a hardcore angler puts on gear.
You don’t need to spend triple digits on a baitcasting reel. You may hear some people say that, but it is not true. This $40 Abu Garcia is great and can be used by both experts as well as the weekend hobbyist, or a novice.
Now, with fly reels, you could easily get into four digits or the high triple digits without even realizing it. So, don’t feel like you need to spend that much money to get a quality fly ree. For the majority of anglers that price point is just not worth it.
This reel is perfect for someone who is looking to get into fly fishing. It’s cheap enough that you don’t have to feel bad if you wind up using it a lot, but is also nice enough that you can accomplish everything you want to while out on the river.
The models of this reel come in just about any size. So, whether you’re chasing smallmouth bass, or panfish, or trout. You’re going to have a reel size that is going to fit the size of the fish that you’re chasing.