How Fishing Reels Work

Ever wonder how a fishing reel works? As a beginner in the fishing world, there is a lot to learn about reels and which ones are best for your needs. To help you get started, you should take a look at a comprehensive overview of how fishing reels work. With this guide, you can get a head start on your fishing reel shopping and find the confidence to ask the right questions as you browse.

Check out the different types of reels you can expect to find in-store and learn how each one works for different kinds of fishing.

Spinning Reel

Spinning reels are the ideal choice for any beginner fisherman. They’re easy to use, and you can find them in small and large sizes for catching fish of all types. With a spinning reel, the most important parts are the bail, spool, and handle. To cast your line, you need to flip up the bail and release the line, allowing it to unwrap. Once you cast and you’re ready to bring back your line, you flip the bail down and rotate the handle.

Spincast Reel

There are two types of spincast reels, including push-button and triggerspin reels. With the push-button reel, you simply push down the button as you pull back your rod and prepare to cast. As you swing it forward, you release the button to let the line feed. This type of reel is paired with a baitcasting rod.

For the triggerspin reel, you’ll be working with a spinning rod. Similar to the push-button reel, you put finger pressure on the trigger until it’s time to release during the cast.

Baitcaster Reels

With a baitcaster reel, your spool isn’t fixed, and it will rotate as you cast the line. When you cast, the weight of the lure does all the hard work, pulling the line until it slows down and hits the water. Once the line hits the water, you will need to use the braking mechanism to prevent the spool from continuing to turn and releasing the line. 

Because these types of reels are a little harder to control, they are prone to tangles and are recommended for experienced anglers only.

Where to Place Your Reel

The location of your reel along the rod influences the mechanics of fishing. Some people prefer top-mounted reels, while others like to put them on the bottom. Generally, the type of reel you have will determine its placement along the rod. For example, spincasting and baitcasting reels are usually placed further up the rod because it makes accessing the pushbutton with the thumb easier.

If you have a versatile reel that allows placement, either way, you can test the placement of your reel during your first fishing trip to determine which is most comfortable for you. Test it during both casting and reeling to decide what feels best.

Gear Ratio: What is It?

The gear ratio is the number of times a spool will turn with a single rotation of your reel handle. Some reels are slow – like those with a ratio of 1:1 – meaning a single rotation of the handle spins the reel one time. Other reels are fast, with ratios like 5:1, where a single rotation of the handle spins the reel five times. 

Varying reel speeds are useful for different fishing techniques. Beginners should start out with a medium gear ratio, as it’s the most versatile for many fishing situations.

Fishing Reel Sizes

In addition to the unique gear ratio, fishing reels also come in different sizes. Typically, the higher the number, the larger your reel will be. As reels get larger, their sturdiness, durability, and strength also increase. 

If you plan on catching large fish, like carp, you definitely want a larger spool to accommodate for their length and size. Large reels come in sizes from 6000 to 8500. Medium reels come in sizes that range between 4000 and 5500, and they can be used for inshore saltwater areas and basic river fishing. Small reels are ideal for lakeside fishing, fishing in ponds, fishing with kids, and those who are beginner anglers. These reels may range in size from 500 to 3500.


Dredges are an add-on to your fishing line that can help attract more saltwater fish to your bait. They’re very effective teasers with a high success rate that allows anglers to attract fish within the water column, and not just along the water’s surface.

A dredge has three parts, including a dredge bar, dredge weight, and lure chains. All of these pieces work together to ensure your bait drops below the surface and mimics schooling fish. Any fish that feeds on schooling fish, like yellowfin, albacore, and mako sharks, will be attracted to this lure configuration.

Ready to Get Started

With this overview of fishing reels, you should be ready to start your foray into the world of anglers. Now that you know about a few types of fishing reels, reel sizes, and gear ratios, you can explore various options. Visit your local shops or browse online stores to find the right reel for night fishing, ocean fishing, lake fishing, pond fishing, and more!


Author bio: Jordan Mcdowell is a freelance writer and content strategist. He specializes in manufacturing in workplace safety but he also has a passion for writing about fishing, hunting, and the great outdoors.


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