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Choosing the Right Fishing Reel

Choosing the Right Fishing Reel

A fishing reel is one of the most important equipment for fishing. Selecting the proper size and style reel will improve your fishing and aid in landing that big fish.

A fishing reel is a critical component for fishing. Like fishing rods, reels come in a dizzying number of configurations for fish species, style of fishing, or water type. In this article, we will break down the components of a fishing reel and choose the right fishing reel for your needs. Our article is broken down into the significant styles of reels on the market; these include spinning reels, conventional reels, and baitcasting reels.

Parts of a Reel

While we could dive straight into comparisons of different reel styles, we should first review some terms and parts that we will be using to describe reels.

Body: The reel holds all of the gears and mechanisms on the reel. These cases are made from either aluminum or graphite. Graphite is more corrosion resistant making it an ideal choice for saltwater fishing.

Spool: the spool is the reel part that holds your line. Most spools are made of aluminum, while cheaper models use plastic. Having a spool that rotates smoothly is essential for long casts. Spools will have a suggested line size and capacity to select the size needed for the type of fishing you are doing.

Handle: The reel’s handle is where the angler applies the force needed to reel in a fish. Modern fishing reels use a combination of gears to multiply the power of the anglers cranking. Handles on some reels are adjustable to be right or left-hand-friendly; most reels will be right-handed.

Drag Adjustment: Drag on a fishing reel works the same way brakes work on a bicycle. The drag increases tension on the spool, so more resistance is needed to pull the line off of the spool. A drag set too loose will allow a fish to swim nearly unimpeded. A drag set too tight can cause the line to break under tension. Drag adjustments are found in different places depending on the reel type. On the top of the spool in spinning reels and next to the conventional or baitcasting reel’s handle.

Spinning Reels:

Spinning reels sit under the rod and feature an exposed top where the spool sits parallel with the rod. Spinning reels make for versatile setups because they can stand up to many different environments and can be used for very fast retrieves. Because the spool is held in only one end, these reels are not the ideal choice for fighting large fish against a lot of drag, like pulling a largemouth bass from lilypads. Spinning reels require the fisherman to hold the line taught with their index finger while casting. If casting heavy jigs or large cut bait, the thumb brake on a baitcasting reel may be a better option. Spinning reels excel in casting various lures due to the scalable size of the reels. You can purchase tiny reels for crappie to massive spinning reels for tieing into blitzing tuna.

Here Are A Few Of Our Favorites:

Daiwa SALTIST Spinning Reel

High-tech and heavy-duty, the Daiwa SALTIST spinning reel is designed for veteran fishermen who love to catch trophy saltwater species. Its famous Magsealed line roller and main shaft incorporate the power of magnets to keep water and other contaminants out of your reel with zero friction or torque.

Additionally, it is manufactured with an advanced dynamic cut aluminum ABS spool for enhanced line capacity and durability. Besides that, it is equipped with HardBodyz outer shell and side cover for maximum rigidity and impact resistance. There are several strategically placed corrosion-resistant bearings that are perfect for smooth and reliable operation under different circumstances. It also features a waterproof carbon drag system, so you don’t have to worry about your line getting damaged during powerful drags. By combining an exceptionally lightweight Air rotor design and durable performance, Daiwa has created a reel that is simply unstoppable.

MaterialWeightGearbox RatioBearing Material
Synthetic0.85 Pounds5.6Stainless Steel


  • Corrosion-resistant ball bearing for long-lasting performance
  • Extremely lightweight
  • Manufactured with Aluminum spool and HardBodyz outer shell for maximum endurance.
  • Magsealed line roller and shaft to protect the reel from water contamination


  • The setup of this reel is relatively easy; however, it may require some time and patience to get use to.
  • Since this reel has a high price tag and advanced features, it may not recommended for beginners.

PENN Battle II Spinning Reel

The Penn Battle III spinning reel is sure to be a new favorite among the fishermen — so much so that it received the 2020 ICAST Online Best of Category award for Saltwater Reel. This third generation of the Battle has upgraded features like a corrosion-resistant full metal body, HT-100 carbon fiber drag washers for smooth and powerful drags, and the new CNC Gear technology. But don’t be fooled by its lightweight construction. The commitment to strength and durability is evident in every corner of this reel, making it built to last.

Additionally, the upgraded stainless steel super spool allows anglers to tie the line directly to the spool without backing, and its 5+1 sealed stainless steel bearing system delivers smooth operation whether you’re casting or retrieving. With enhanced line capacity, it allows you to take a glance at how many lines you have left when fighting a fish. And the Battle III is not just packed with top-notch features; its details are what set it apart from other reels in its class. With its balanced combination of power, precision, and price, the Battle III delivers impressive performance in all saltwater pursuits.

 Fishing Reel | GearPro Guide

MaterialWeightHandle MaterialBearing MaterialLengthWidthHeight
Aluminum0.25 KgStainless SteelStainless Steel4.1 inches4.35 inches3.1 inches


  • HT-100 drag system to deliver excellent drag performance
  • An ultra-light CNC Gear aluminum spool
  • Durable and corrosion-resistant metal body for long term usage
  • Five stainless steel ball bearings for smooth and reliable fishing reels


  • Might be a little expensive for some people.

KastKing Sharky III Spinning Reel

The KastKing Sharky III, with its new and stylish color, is all about dependability and durability. Guaranteed to be an exceptional fishing reel, the Sharky III will handle any monster fish that swims in freshwater or saltwater. It features a more rigid aluminum main shaft that prevents “flex” when fighting large fish. It has a fiber-reinforced graphite body with a high-performance rotor that delivers smoothness and accurate drags in saltwater. With the water-resistant body and stainless-steel ball bearings, you don’t have to worry about corrosion or rust, and the best thing is it requires minimal upkeep!

Additionally, the enhanced line capacity eliminates the hassle of constantly changing the line. Its triple disc carbon fiber drag system delivers incredible stopping power and smoothness for heavy-duty fishing conditions yet is easy enough for even first-time anglers to use. If you are looking for the best value in a spinning fishing reel, look no further than a KastKing Sharky III; this is the last fishing reel you will ever need.

 Fishing Reel | GearPro Guide

MaterialHandle MaterialGripsWeight
‎Stainless Steel‎Stainless SteelEVA‎0.39 Kg


  • Rigid aluminum shaft with long-lasting durability
  • High-performance rotor for catching prized fish
  • Water-resistant design for corrosion and rust resistance
  • Triple disc carbon drag system for heavy-duty fishing


  • The anti-reverse gear switch can be a little confusing to operate at first.

Conventional Reels

Conventail reels are the oldest and most diverse family of fishing reels available. Unlike spinning reels, conventional reels sit on top of the rod. The spool is perpendicular to the rod, so it is easy to see where the evolution of fishing reels came from. The first conventional reels were little more than handles attached to spools. They had no drag, no locks, and no gear ratios. These antique reels used by fishermen like Ernest Hemingway were often called knuckle busters for their ability to bash fingers when fishermen let go of the handle.

Modern conventional reels feature more gears and brake settings than most bicycles and are fixtures on almost every saltwater fishing boat. Conventional reels are not often used for casting; their biggest strength is giving the mechanical advantage to the fisherman. Conventional reels work best when the line is let out by either dropping a bait down while stationary like jigging or trolling where the lure is pulled behind the boat.

Here Are A Few Of Our Favorites:

PENN Squall II Conventional Offshore Fishing Reel

The PENN Squall II packs a lot of punch into a lightweight, compact package. Its graphite frame and side plates are ultra-light in hand, while its forged and machined aluminum spool provides strength without unnecessary weight. Shielded stainless steel ball bearings work together with the anti-reverse roller bearing to eliminate play on the handle and provide smooth reeling every time. And with an oversized ergonomically designed handle knob plus custom soft-touch grip, anglers will enjoy pain-free cranking for hours.

Additionally, it has a rugged HT-100 drag washer with a rugged spool that won’t give up on you during your fishing excursion. With multiple retrieve ratios, this reel has the ability to be converted from right to left hand retrieve to take your fishing to another level.

The Squall lever drag is available in both 2 speed and single-speed models, and each reel is designed for both inshore and offshore fishing. No doubt, this reel will keep the angler one step ahead of the fish.


 Fishing Reel | GearPro Guide

Drag TypeHandle MaterialBearing MaterialWeightBall Bearings
Star DragAluminumAluminum16.8 OZ3+1 shielded stainless steel


  • Lightweight graphite frame
  • Stainless steel bearings for corrosion and rust resistance
  • Ergonomically designed handle for better grip
  • Left and right-hand reel conversion


  • The drag system can sometimes be difficult to adjust.

SHIMANO Trinidad Offshore Fishing Reel

SHIMANO Trinidad offshore fishing reel is just one of many products in the Shimano line that specializes in providing fishermen with the best equipment possible. It is a beautiful reel that is perfect for any offshore fishing fan. It features a high gear ratio of 6.2:1, which allows you to crank in your line quickly without having to sacrifice anything else.

Moreover, it has a lever drag design with two drag systems, a clicker system, and an ergonomic power handle. The clicker makes the process of setting lines and changing the speed much easier and more efficient. On top of that, the handle is ergonomically designed so that users can have greater control over the reel, which will lead to better performance on the water. While the reel is easy to use, it’s also versatile enough for many different fishing applications. It’s ideal for live bait or deep water jigging and can be used with braid, fluorocarbon, or monofilament lines.

This reel is made from high-quality materials, including aluminum alloy for the spool and frame, as well as brass gears for long-lasting durability and strength. It also has four bearings plus one roller bearing to keep everything running smoothly while you fish. Overall, the Trinidad series of reels offer a great combination of power and precision to help any angler catch big fish with ease!


 Fishing Reel | GearPro Guide

Bearing MaterialHand OrientationWeightGear RatioSize
Stainless SteelRight Hand‎1 Pounds6.2:116 Right


  • High gear ratio to catch big fish
  • Ergonomic power handle
  • Lever drag system for precision and accuracy
  • High-quality aluminum alloy spool and frame for enhanced strength.


  • Higher Price Point

PENN Fathom Offshore Fishing Reel

The PENN Fathom Lever Drag Conventional Reel is a great choice for the saltwater angler. It’s been built with a full metal body and side plates to keep precise gear alignment under heavy loads. It has a Dura-Drag system that is designed to prevent hesitation, even under extreme drag settings, and give off a buttery smooth performance. It is manufactured with stainless steel that has been tested under harsh conditions, and it will stand up to the most demanding fishing situations.

The reel has an ergonomic handle knob that makes it easy on your hands. It also has a pinion bearing and stainless-steel reel stand. The design of this reel is fairly simple yet stylish. It boasts an all-metal construction that’s built to last, so you don’t have to worry about replacing it any time soon.

This model also has several adjustable parts with different gear ratios to ensure that it functions well in different conditions. This reel is great for offshore fishing and is available in several different sizes, so you can find the one that suits your needs best. It’s a great choice whether you’re a beginner or an expert, and it’s not going to break the bank either.


 Fishing Reel | GearPro Guide

BodyBall BearingsSpoolDragSpeed Models


  • Precision gear alignment for better casting
  • Stainless steel manufacturing for durability and corrosion resistance
  • The smooth and efficient drag system
  • Adjustable parts and different gear ratios


  • Not as durable as some other options on the market.

Baitcasting Reels

Baitcasting reels are similar in appearance to conventional reels, mounted on top of the rod with the spool running perpendicular to the eyes of the rod. Baitcasters are designed as the name would imply for casting lures/baits. The angler must hold their thumb on the spool during the cast to prevent the line from running out and possibly creating knots or a backlash. The speed and ability to muscle fish out of cover have made them a gold standard for freshwater fishing. While practice is needed to use a baitcaster to its full potential, the effort will pay off in big fish dragged from heavy cover.

Here Are A Few Of Our Favorites:

Lew’s Classic Pro Freshwater Fishing Reel

Lew’s has been a trusted name in fishing equipment for decades, with each new product they release receiving high reviews from customers. The Lew’s Classic Pro Freshwater Fishing Reel is another one of their best products yet. This fishing reel has some serious fish power. With the 32mm spool and zirconia guideline, this reel is for serious anglers. It has a high quality aluminum frame that’s sturdy and durable enough to withstand some serious reeling. It’s also made with stainless steel guides for smooth and consistent line movement.

The Classic Pro is fitted with a strong double-anodized spool and 4+1 bearing system, which aids in long-distance casting. And when it comes time to catch a trophy fish, the durable Rulon drag system has up to 15 pounds of drag power. The handle has oversized paddle knobs for easy gripping. If you’re looking for a great freshwater fishing reel, this is one of the best in the business!


 Fishing Reel | GearPro Guide

MaterialHandle MaterialBearing MaterialDragWeightGear Ratio
BlendStainless SteelStainless Steel15-Pound77.5:1


  • Double anodized spool
  • Premium quality bearing system
  • Durable Rulon drag system for smooth and efficient performance
  • Drag power up to 15 lbs.


  • Controlling line while casting will require some practice to prevent birds nesting

Lew’s Mach 2 SLP Freshwater Fishing Reel

If you are looking for a high-performance and affordable bait cast reel, the Lew’s Mach 2 SLP might be the perfect fit for you. This top-of-the-line reel is a great choice for both recreational and professional anglers, as it is lightweight, smooth, and powerful. It also can be used in both fresh and saltwater, making it versatile for multiple kinds of fishing. Nine stainless bearings and one zero reverse clutch bearing means that this reel is extremely smooth and weighs less than others of its caliber, so it’s not only smooth sailing but also light on your wrist.

The reel also has a star-shaped carbon fiber drag system that can apply up to 15lbs of drag power. This reel has a lightened skeletal spool design that helps to reduce weight but still maintains strength and sensitivity. The skeletal carbon side plates also allow for quick adjustment on the fly, so if you see that monster bass out there just waiting for you to swoop in… it won’t be long before he’s swimming in your cooler!

The reel has a 95mm bowed handle with Winn Dri-Tac grips for stability and control when fighting big fish. The frame of the reel is constructed with graphite composite material, which makes the reel lightweight but still durable enough to handle large fish.


 Fishing Reel | GearPro Guide

WeightMaterialHandle MaterialBearing MaterialSize
0.62 PoundsBlendStainless Steel, AluminumStainless Steel‎7.5:1


  • 95mm bowed handle with enhanced grip
  • Durable shaft and internal parts
  • Carbon side plates for corrosion resistance


  • Only available in right-hand retrieve

Lew’s Team Custom Pro Freshwater Fishing Reel

It’s hard to imagine a more feature-packed and well-thought-out reel than the Lew’s Custom Pro Speed Spin Spinning Reel, and it shows in its price. But if you can afford the price tag, you’ll be getting a reel that is both powerful and smooth. It has a 12 double-shielded stainless steel ball-bearing system with zero one-way reverse clutch that ensures smooth casting and retrieves.

Additionally, it uses precision-machined gears and a zirconia line guide for durability, reliability, and accuracy. The reel has a high-performance gear system that is made of brass gears. The gear ratio of the reel is 6.2:1, which means that it is capable of retrieving up to 32 inches per turn of the handle.

It has an anodized knurled spool with a clicker that doesn’t make an awful screeching sound some other reels do. Plus, the reel features a lightweight graphite frame and rotor, along with an aluminum handle and aluminum spool. Weighing only 258 grams, it’s easy to take on trips without taking up too much room in your suitcase.


 Fishing Reel | GearPro Guide

MaterialHandle MaterialBearing MaterialWeightLengthWidthHeight
AluminumStainless SteelAluminum‎258 Grams‎6 inches‎6 inches4 inches


  • High-performance gear system
  • 12 double-shielded bearings for rust resistance
  • Precision machined gears for maximum durability


  • Handle grip could be a little larger

Daiwa Tatula LT Freshwater Fishing Reel

The Daiwa Tatula LT Spinning Reel is a serious contender for your next go-to reel. The lightweight, durable design uses the new ATD drag system, which allows the line to flow freely in and out of the reel without digging into the spool lip during casts. This feature provides improved casting distance, better line lay, and a wider range of drag settings.

The aluminum body and side cover offer increased rigidity and eliminate flex while reducing weight. Plus, it has synthetic Zaion housing for added protection against water and debris. It has a smooth, high-speed gear ratio of 6.2:1 and Air Rotor for effortless casting. The body and rotor are now lighter than before but still have the power to handle hard-fighting fish without sacrificing performance or durability.

On top of that, it is available in different line capacities and sizes, so you can easily choose one according to your fishing requirements. For anglers looking for a high-quality spinning reel that won’t weigh them down, the Daiwa Tatula LT Spinning Reel is the ticket.


 Fishing Reel | GearPro Guide

MaterialBearingLightweightBall BearingsAnti-reverse


  • ATD drag system for better casting
  • Better line lay
  • Aluminum body and side plate for increased strength
  • Different line capacities and sizes


  • Higher price point

Daiwa TTU100HS Freshwater Fishing Reel

Are you tired of fishing reels that don’t have the necessary power to handle large, fast-moving fish? With Daiwa TTU100HS Freshwater Fishing Reel, you can cast a line with confidence —knowing that it has the strength to handle anything you catch. It is especially good for catching muskie and northern pike, thanks to its ability to hold 110 yards of the 40-pound test line. These big fish can get feisty when they’re on the line, but this reel has an anti-reverse system that makes them no match for your expertise. It also features an ergonomic handle for comfort and ease of use.

Additionally, it is built for durability as well as strength, so you can relax and enjoy your fishing expedition without worrying about damaging your equipment. It’s sealed against moisture and dust, so it will stand up to any weather conditions you might encounter on the water. The same goes for the bearings: they are double shielded against corrosion, so they will last a long time, even in the most humid environments. And thanks to its 7+1 bearing design, it’s incredibly smooth and sensitive. That means you’ll be able to feel even the subtlest nibble on your line, so you can set the hook without missing the opportunity.

When you’re out on the water and need a quick tune-up, this reel is easy to adjust. There’s no need to take it off of your rod; just unscrew the side cover and make your adjustments right there. It comes in at an affordable price point that won’t break the bank and will last for years if maintained properly.


 Fishing Reel | GearPro Guide

MaterialLightweightHandle MaterialBearing MaterialLengthWidthHeight
BlendYesAluminumAluminum5.39 in4.25 in2.72 in


  • Can handle 40-pound fish
  • Anti-reverse system to eliminate line backflow
  • Ergonomic handle for better grip and ease of use
  • 8 bearings for smooth and better casting


  • Only available in right-hand retrieve

Piscifun Alijoz Freshwater Fishing Reel

If you’re looking for a reasonably priced yet quality fishing reel that’s compact and lightweight, the Piscifun Alijoz Freshwater Fishing Reel is the right choice.

With a machined aluminum spool and handle, it offers all the power and performance of a higher-priced reel but at a fraction of the cost. The reel has a gear ratio of 5.9:1 and 8.1:1, which means it can retrieve a 26.8″ line with each crank. What makes this product truly unique is that it has magnetic brakes that prevent backlash and overruns while catching big fish.

With an ergonomic knob, it easily fits in the palm of your hand and won’t add unnecessary weight to your fishing rod or weigh you down when you need to cast or move around to get to that sweet spot in the water.

It comes in black and red or gray and gold color schemes that are sleek and stylish as well as functional—the colors won’t distract fish, giving you an edge when targeting them. The reel comes with 8 double-shielded stainless steel ball bearings, which are corrosion resistant to make sure they function properly even after being exposed to water and weather conditions. Weighing only 11.3 oz., the Alijoz freshwater fishing reel is one of the lightest reels on the market, making it perfect for any fisherman, beginner, or expert.


 Fishing Reel | GearPro Guide

MaterialBearing MaterialHandle MaterialMax DragBall BearingsWeightLine Type
AluminumStainless SteelStainless Steel33 LB8+111.3 ozBraided


  • Machined aluminum spool and handle
  • Available in different gear ratios
  • Ergonomic handle with a knob for better control
  • Double shielded bearing for corrosion resistance


  • May take some practice for beginners to dial in

Uses of Reels

Now that we have covered the types of reels, it’s crucial to figure out where you will use them.

A spinning reel is the most versatile of the reel types mentioned. Spinning reels excel at casting and retrieving most lures outside of heavy lures and jigs.

If you plan to fish mostly saltwater from shore or cast to fish, a spinning reel is a great choice. Look for a reel designed for saltwater, such as the Penn Spinfisher. The reel is corrosion resistant and features a sealed drag system so that saltwater won’t corrode the internal bearings.

If trolling or dropping baits to the bottom in the style of fishing you are focused on, then opting for a conventional reel is the best choice. Size becomes a determining factor when selecting a conventional reel. Trolling for walleye or lake trout requires a lighter line at shallower depths and thus a much smaller reel than fishing for blue marlin.

Baitcasting reels are the most niche type of reel on our list. Because of the precision components and relatively small size of baitcasters they are most often relegated to lake and nearshore fishing. Most anglers select a baitcasting reel for bass fishing. Largemouth bass particularly like to hide in the densest vegetation and cover they can find. To place a large lure in front of them and then fight them back out of the water plants requires a strong reel with a fast rate of retrieve; both are qualities that baitcasting reels have in spades.

Regardless of what species you are fishing for or where you do it, we hope you have learned there is nothing overly complicated about choosing the right fishing reel. Having the right reel will set you on a path of success so that your “trial and error” in fishing will be all about technique and not equipment.

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