Everything You Need to Know About Fishing Reel Ball Bearings

A fishing reel is one of the most important pieces of equipment to have when you go out on a fishing trip. It’s responsible for all the work that your line does, whether reeling in or letting loose. One thing that can make this process difficult is if there are problems with your ball bearings.

Fishing reel ball bearings are small parts that make a big difference. They can be found on most fishing reels and provide the smooth, fluid motion necessary for every fisherman to get his fish in. When you’re shopping for your next set of reels, make sure you consider the bearing that is best suited for your needs.

In this blog post, I will discuss different things about fishing reel ball bearings that will enrich your knowledge and help you understand the type best suited for your reel.

Table of Contents

What Are Ball Bearings on Fishing Reels and What Do They Do?

As the name suggests, fishing reel ball bearings are sphere-shaped. The word bearing refers to anything that facilitates smooth performance, reducing friction as much as possible, which is why they are known as ‘anti-friction bearings.’

These bearings help in a rotatory or circular motion. You will find a moving wheel on the outer portion and, in the center, a fixed axle. The ball sits, so its outer wheel performs the necessary rotatory movement while the inner part remains in place.

Ball Bearing Technology Isolated in a Spinning Reel
Ball Bearing Technology Isolated in a Spinning Reel

Now, let us talk about the primary function of these bearings. When you are fishing, you want three things – speed, smooth handling, and accuracy. All of this can be achieved with less friction. And for that very reason, you have ball bearings.

In simpler terms, ball bearings increase the effectiveness and speed of your fishing reels. Casting would not be as easy as it is now if bearings were not present. You can achieve maximum casting distance with your spinning reel or any other type of reel only when the line can glide freely on the spool. But when there is friction present, the line will face resistance, and thus, casting distance will reduce drastically.

The same principle applies in the case of line retrieval. If you want to get the catch out of the water quickly, you need to retrieve it without any complications. The presence of reel bearings ensures that you can do that with much less muscle power. This quality becomes even more critical when you are catching a bigger fish.

Types of Fishing Reel Bearings

They come in a wide variety of sizes and types, each suited for particular applications. There are three major types of fishing reel bearings that are used in different types of reels.

Open Bearings

An open bearing with no shields or seals, which makes them less expensive but also more susceptible to dirt and water. They’re not quite as resistant to saltwater as their shielded counterparts, but they come with a much lower price tag.

Shielded Bearings

Shielded bearings are those with a shield covering them on either side, which can be metal or plastic. This will give the bearing more protection from dirt and water, but it’ll also increase their price tag, so this is largely dependent on your preference as well as what you’re using them for.

They are better at resisting saltwater than open-style bearings, though they still have some vulnerabilities to corrosion with prolonged exposure. Make sure your shielded bearing is properly oiled, so it doesn’t dry out over time, decreasing its lifespan significantly.

If you’re using a spinning reel, you’re in luck because spinning reel maintenance is not that complicated. If you notice any signs of wear or rust on your shields like corrosion or pitting, then replace them as soon as possible to avoid any problems down the line.

Sealed Bearings

Sealed bearings are manufactured with a waterproof sealant, most commonly a rubber seal that helps keep them dry. This type of bearing is typically used in the saltwater environment because they’re more resistant to corrosion and can handle higher speeds which means you’ll be able to catch much large fish before changing your bearings!

They will always come lubricated, so make sure you read the product description before purchasing any sealed bearings for your reel. You wouldn’t want an unlubricated bearing because it would quickly wear out, especially if it’s already exposed to salty water.

If these types of seals start leaking or rusting, then replace them immediately as this could lead to other problems down the line like poor performance and even equipment failure.

Parts of Ball Bearings

To understand the functioning of these ball bearings properly, you need to know about their components –


Inside the wheel, you will find rings made from stainless steel. These rings are called races. When the ball is not moving, the interior grooves present on the rings helps them to stay in place. Similarly, when the ball is moving, the races allow it to glide smoothly. There is an outer race and an inner race. When you are using your reel, it is the outer race that moves.


The next important part of bearings is the cages made from stainless steel or plastic. Their primary function is to help maintain even spacing between the balls. They are located between the outer and inner races.


The balls are yet another vital part of the ball bearings. When you are casting the line, the balls will not allow it to unwind and solve your anti-reverse and line twist issues. The balls also help during the retrieval process by ensuring smooth movement.


Shields are not present in all bearings, only those where discs are on one or either side of the ball. The main reason for the presence of shields is to keep the dirt out. In some cases, these shields are removable, while sometimes, they are permanent.

How Many Ball Bearings should be in a Fishing reel?

A good fishing reel should have at least four or five ball bearings in order to maintain optimum performance. The number of bearings needed is dependent on the type and size of the reel being used.

You will find that many people advise you to get a fishing reel with as many ball bearings as possible. This is because the greater the number of ball bearings, the better the reel will function and the smoother your retrieval will be.

So, are more ball bearings better? Well, The number of ball bearings on a fishing reel is not always the most important variable. The type and quality of bearing, along with how well it’s installed into the frame, can make or break your game time experience. That’s why I always prefer quality above quantity.
Even some reels on the market don’t have any ball bearings at all. They use a bushing to serve the purpose. This setup is not great to fight bigger fish, though.

In some cases, you might find reels listed as 5+1 ball bearings. This means that the first number 5 is your actual number of ball bearings, and there is another roller bearing that accounts for the +1. The function of this roller bearing is not associated with any movement. Instead, its role is to give support to the axle in the handle.

Furthermore, bearings are not the only things associated with the reel’s performance. There are drag systems, gear ratio, reel material, and much more to consider before purchasing a reel.

What to Look For in a Quality Ball Bearing?

The number of ball bearings in a reel is not the only thing you should be looking at prior to purchase. There are two essential factors that you cannot ignore –


We already spoke about what shielded ball bearings are. When you buy reels with shielded ball bearings, they last longer because the shields keep the dirt out. When debris gets inside your bearings, it can introduce friction, but the shields prevent that from happening. This becomes far more important if you regularly fish in saltwater.

CRB Label

Some ball bearings are labeled as CRB, but what does CRB mean? It means that the ball bearing has been made with materials that will not succumb to corrosive effects. These can be ceramic reel bearings or even metals that are corrosion-resistant.

What is the ABEC Rating, and How it Works?

Apart from the factors mentioned above, another way to judge the quality of any ball bearing is with the help of the ABEC rating. The rating starts from 1 and goes up to 9. This is a standardized rating procedure that you can trust. The durability of any ball bearing increases with an increase in the rating. When you buy a reel with a higher rating, it will provide much higher performance and smooth functioning.

But it would help if you also kept in mind that even though you can judge the quality of a ball bearing through the ABEC rating, it is not the be-all and end-all of fishing reels. If you choose a reel with an ABEC rating of 7, then the reel will be too expensive. On the other hand, a reel with a lower rating might provide you with sufficient quality and yet not burn a hole in your wallet.

What are the Materials of Ball Bearings?

Reel Ball Bearings are most commonly made from stainless steel and ceramics, depending on what type of application they are going in and how extensive their use will be.

Stainless Steel

Stainless steel is the most common material used to make ball bearings. It’s a very durable and reliable metal, making it perfect for ball-bearing applications that will see heavy use. Stainless steel bearings are common on all levels of reels, but they’re not as popular with saltwater anglers due to their tendency to corrode more easily, especially when they are not shielded. And another downside is their weight. They are heavier than ceramic ones.


Ceramic ball bearings are perfect for fishing reel applications in saltwater because of their resistance to corrosion. Additionally, they are lightweight and don’t require oiling or lubrication. But one downside is that ceramics aren’t as durable and reliable as other materials like stainless steel.

This means the bearing might wear out quicker than hoped if it’s exposed to heavy loads regularly-though, this could mean you need to replace your bearings more often, depending on how much use you put them through.

Ceramic balls provide smoother rotation than metal because they have fewer contact points, creating lower amounts of resistance. Ceramic bearings also retain their properties in extreme temperatures better than others do, so you never need to worry about them heating up or cooling down too much during use – even if environmental conditions change drastically!

A ceramic hybrid bearing is the best of both worlds, with stainless steel inner and outer races for durability, as well as a ceramics ball that provides smooth operation due to its low coefficient of friction when spinning at high speeds. And these bearings are perfect for all of your fishing needs. They’ll work on spinning reels, baitcasting reels, spincast reels, and centrepin reels alike.

Chrome Steel

Chrome steel is another option for manufacturers. It comes cheap compared to stainless steel. And not to mention, It’s not as durable as stainless steel. Furthermore, it’s very vulnerable to corrosion.
Not all reels are created equal.

Wrapping Up

Now that you have a comprehensive idea about the ball bearings of fishing reels. The article has given you a better understanding of what they really are and what do they do, as well as what they’re made from, types, and some advice for selecting them. It is vital to keep in mind that you must always consider how you intend to use your reel before you make any purchase. Always look for the specifications and never make an impulsive purchase. And when it comes time to replace your old or broken bearing, be sure to find one that meets these requirements. You deserve the best possible performance out of your expensive gear!

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