Understanding Different Types of Fishing Reels; Pros, Cons, and Uses

Ask any experienced angler, and they will tell you the same – knowing the different types of fishing reels is what makes or breaks your day on the water. With the right guide, however, it is less complicated than you might think. Each fishing reel type has its own features and thus is best suited for a different purpose. For example, if you want to catch panfish, you wouldn’t be taking an offshore reel, or if you’re going to go marlin fishing, taking a spincast reel would be a poor decision.

Once you finish reading this blog post, you will know about various types of reels, pros and cons for each type, when a particular reel should be used and much more.  

Basic Types of Fishing Reels

With all this talk about fishing reels, you might be thinking how many types there are. Well, there are mainly four types of fishing reels.

1. Spinning reels

2. Baitcasting reels

3. Spincast reels

4. Fly reels

And there are some other specialized reels as well that are used for particular fishing styles. Every reel performs a different function and, most importantly, is meant for a different skill level. So, choosing the right fishing reel for your fishing rod is of utmost importance

Spinning Reels

Close View of a Spinning Reel
A Spinning Reel

Let’s talk about spinning reels, which are extremely popular with people of all skill levels. Their efficiency and durability make sure that beginners can use them with ease. In fact, many experienced anglers won’t go fishing without their spinning gear.

A spinning fishing reel is typically used with a spinning rod. Using spinning reels with casting rods is not recommended if you want the best performance from them.

The design is open-faced, and on top, you will find the drag system. There is also a metal bail you can use to stop the fishing line from unspooling. It also ensures that the spool is gliding evenly on the line. Spinning reels come with an anti-reverse switch which is used to stop the spool from rotating in the opposite direction. So that when you are reeling your line, it doesn’t go backward.

Their construction is such that you will get a nice balance when you are casting. All of this taken together makes casting with a spinning reel a walk in the park.

Pros of Spinning Reel

  • Easy to use
  • Beginners friendly
  • Don’t need too much reel maintenance
  • No significant backlash
  • Relatively cheap
  • Can be used with various baits and lures
  • Can be used with live bait and as well as with dead bait
  • Get along with all common fishing styles
  • Works best to cast lighter lures

Moreover, no matter what kind of habitat you are fishing in or what species you are trying to catch, the spinning reel would be an excellent choice for both freshwater fishing and saltwater fishing – such is its versatility. These are also ideal for spin fishing and ice fishing.

Cons of Spinning Reels

  • Less casting distances
  • Less casting accuracy
  • Not good when you use heavier lures
  • Beginners sometimes ended up in tangles and line twists.
  • Not a good option for big or more robust fish
  • Sometimes it’s challenging to slow down baits
  • Not as durable as baitcasters.

Everything is not so rosy as there are some disadvantages too. But, if you want to increase the pulling power, all you need to do is get some braided lines, and you have yourself a powerful tool. And If you keep practicing, you can achieve longer casting distances with spinning reels as well.

Uses of Spinning Reels

Spinning reels work best with lighter lures and lines.

  • Recommended for small to medium-sized fish species.
  • Perfect choice for bass fishing.
  • Can be used as a saltwater reel as well as a freshwater reel

Baitcasting Reels

A Baitcasting Reel Attached to a Casting Rod
A Baitcasting Reel

Millions of anglers worldwide proudly mention baitcasting reels as their favorite and for a good reason. Here you will find all the features of this fishing reel explained. A baitcasting reel is typically used with a baitcasting rod.

The design is semi-enclosed. Apart from the reel handle and the drag mechanism, there are two more parts of a baitcasting reel that you should know about – the braking system and the spool tension knob. The correct usage of these will help you to avoid backlash on a baitcaster.

The most common material used for making the baitcasters is graphite. This choice of material is also why these reels are more substantial. Another thing to keep in mind is that you can wind the yarn on these reels directly. As a result, You can catch a variety of fish using this reel.

When it comes to precision and power, the casting reel is often the first choice of professional anglers. But compared to the spinning reel or the spincasting reel, the number of moving parts in the baitcasting reels is significantly more complex.

So If you want to upgrade your fishing game, get to know how a baitcasting reel works. Because you need these reels in your life, even though the learning curve might be a bit steep.

Pros of Baitcasting Reels

  • Very durable
  • Better casting accuracy than spinning reels.
  • Better casting distance than spinning reels.
  • Work great with heavier lures.
  • Perfect choice for big game fish
  • Higher line capacity
  • Usually lightweight
  • Available in a variety of gear ratios
  • Faster than spinning reels
  • Baitcasting reels offer more diversity in their controls

If you are looking for powerful reels, the baitcasting reels are hands down your first option. Their pulling power is incomparable to any other type of fishing reel, which is also why you should use these when you are after big fish.

Another significant advantage is that you can stop the line when you want to and at the correct time because, with the baitcasting reels, you will feel the line as it goes out.

Cons of Baitcasting Reels

Primarily designed with experts in mind. So, it’s not an ideal option for beginner anglers.

  • Casting lighter lures is somewhat tricky with them
  • Backlash is an inherited bug on baitcasters
  • Expensive compared to many other reel types
  • Maintenance is somewhat difficult
  • You will have to continually change the braking system and spool settings every time you use a different type of fishing lure.
  • Baitcasting reels are towards the higher end of the price slab. If you want a quality reel, you will have to give out somewhere between $100 to $500, and so it is definitely not easy on the wallet.

Uses of Baitcasting Reels

Work best with heavier lure and line.

Perfect choice for those who like to use artificial lures.

Recommended for heavier fish species.

An excellent choice for bass fishing.

Spincast Reels

A Spincast Reel
A Spincast Reel

A spincast reel is what most people have as children when they are just getting started. It’s the easiest type of reel to use. For people who are new to fishing, these closed-face reels are a great option.

The design is quite basic. A couple of decades ago, these were very famous. However, you might not see them much now. The crucial parts of the reel are hidden by the nose cone made of metal. If you want to toggle between the locked and free-spool state, you can do so with the button present at the back. They also have a drag adjustment mechanism.

Pros Spincast Reels

Casting is super easy with this t reel

They don’t cost much


Don’t have to worry about backlash

A great option for casting near the shoreline

Line tangles are not common among spin cast reels

Cons of Spincast Reels

Not so durable. Get easily damaged over time due to closed-face design, which does not allow the debris and water to come out. You might probably be able to use them for only a single season.

The casting range of the spincast reels is minimal, and they are not especially precise.

Casting accuracy is not that good

Not suitable to handle heavier fish

Line capacity is limited

They are known for their poor drag systems

Fly Reels

A Fly Reel Reel Attached With a Fly Rod

The fly fishing reel is designed with precision in mind, so they offer a unique casting option. As the name suggests, this type of reel is used for fly fishing. The effortless mechanism is what makes them so popular.

Fly reels can be seen as a throwback to the past, but they’re now enjoying newfound popularity thanks in part to large arbor fly reel innovation. They were invented over 100 years ago and have barely changed since then – that is until recently with the introduction of this new type of fly fishing tool.

The “fly” spool rotates on an open frame making it easy for the line to come off quickly, which allows anglers better control during their catch-and-release efforts!

The end of the fishing rod has the fly reel attached to it and the other end to the rod’s bottom. This is the reason behind the easy winding that is possible with these reels. A fly reel is typically used with a fly rod.

Pros of Fly Reels

Fly reels are durable and long-lasting if you purchase one that is made from high-quality materials.

These types of reels have a smoother feel on your line than other kinds of fishing reels, making them easier to use overall.

The bigger reels are what give them a high rate of retrieval.

For someone who is not new to fly fishing, these reels are pretty good because of their comfort and ease of handling and casting.

Cons of Fly Reels

Fly reels are not a fit for other styles of fishing. They are best suited to fly fishing, so if you’re looking for something more versatile, then a spinning reel or baitcasting reel might work better for you.

Good quality fly reels don’t come cheap.

And you’d have to spend a lot more on fly fishing if you try to buy decent quality leaders, fly rod, line, and so on.

Other Specialized Reels

There are some other specialized reels as well. These reels are used for particular fishing styles.

Trolling reels

Close View of a Trolling Reel
A Trolling Reel

 A trolling reel or conventional reel is a fishing reel that has been designed to be used in offshore trolling. These are generally speaking larger in size than conventional baitcast reel or saltwater spinning reel, and they have large arbors to allow for faster line retrieval under heavy loads.

The primary purpose behind this type of design was so anglers could catch more fish while using less energy since it takes much more physical exertion on the part of the fisherman when trying to quickly retrieve line while casting out into deep water areas like lakes, seas, rivers, etc.

Surf fishing reels

A Surf Fishing Reel and Rod on the Beach
A Surf Reel attached with a rod

A surf fishing reel is a specialized type of reel that has been designed specifically for catching fish in the waves. But they are genetically either a bait casting reel or a spinning reel.

Surf fishermen use these reels to cast straight out into deeper water before reeling their line back with a slow, constant speed as it drifts over shallow water closer to shore where fish like bluefish or mackerel might be lurking under the surface waiting for an easy meal to swim right up and devour.

Their design helps anglers maximize their chances at hooking onto something by giving them more time from when they first start casting until they actually have to pull it back in towards themselves if there’s no bite on the end of the line. They also usually come equipped with larger spool capacities which make longer casts possible and increase the odds of catching something.

The type of reel someone uses might be different from what someone else would use in deep sea fishing for saltwater fish species like tuna or other large fish that are often found farther offshore. However, it’s not far off from their needs in some ways because they’re still dealing with waves crashing around them as well as prolonged periods between casts where there may not be any activity on the line.

Their reels need to have features like quick-set anti-reverse mechanisms, which allow an angler to instantly release all tension on the spool when needed. So they don’t get pulled into deeper waters by mistake while reeling in too hard after noticing movement at the end of their line. In that case, offshore reels would be the reel of choice.

Offshore reels

Offshore reels are basically spinning reels that are designed for offshore fishing. They’re often referred to as big game fishing reels because they can handle the larger line sizes.  These reel types will also have large gears with a high gear ratio that allows you to take up vast amounts of slack in your line without feeling like it’s too hard on your hands.

Offshore Fishing
An Angler is catching fish offshore

Often offshore reels will be equipped with an internal drag system, so you don’t need any external grip adjustment when fighting a fish, unlike many other styles.

Fish species such as tuna, marlin and swordfish are often fished with offshore reels. The size of the fish being caught as well as the distance from shore will typically determine what type of reel is used, but most likely, an offshore reel in combination with a heavy-duty rod and line will be necessary to catch these species.

Electric fishing reels

An electric reel is a type of gear that can be mounted on the back of a boat and uses electricity to power it. The motor spins the spool, which turns the line over automatically as you pull in your catch. While this might sound like an unnecessary luxury, they’re popular because they allow people to fish for more extended periods without having their hands cramping up from reeling all day long.

It makes them more efficient fisherman when compared with those who use traditional reels that take physical effort. In addition, they are suitable for bottom fishing.

Overhead reels

Overhead reels are one of the simplest types of reels out there. When a fish runs with your bait before striking, an overhead reel may help you get it down quickly and without much struggle so that both of you remain hooked up in what could otherwise become a drawn-out battle!

These reels offer a variety of advantages for offshore fishing, from casting distance to line capacity. Whether you are trolling or at anchor, you can use an overhead reel in many situations!

They would also work well when trolling from shore back towards deeper waters after catching smaller species like snapper as they feed nearshore around bommies; alternatively, this type of high line capacity machine might come into play if casting Raider jigs (lures) off rocky points at spots where kingfish have been marked by sonar close to deep water.

Centerpin reels

The Centerpin reel is a fishing gear that differs from traditional fly reels by the fact that it has no drag. This allows for free spinning on its axis and makes way for an extra-long rod to be used in tandem with this piece of equipment.

The only thing dragging within this device is your line when you cast out into the water; otherwise, all other parts move effortlessly and without obstruction making them easy to use.

Which One is Right For You?

Are you confused about the type of reel you need? Well, there are no best fishing reels but only the best reel for your requirements. You have to consider the different factors in play before you choose the reel. Some of these factors are as follows –

You have to consider first whether you are looking for a saltwater reel or a freshwater reel.

Then, you need to take into account your angling experience. Some reels are quite an investment and take time to master, while others are perfect for beginners.

And lastly, you also need to give a thought to the type of fish you want to catch.


Fishing is a great hobby that anyone can enjoy. Whether you are fishing for fun or looking to catch dinner, there are different types of fishing reels out there that will suit your needs.  I discussed all the types and how they differ from one another in this blog post so that you can find the perfect one for your next adventure!

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