Experts Guide on How to Choose a Fishing Reel

The fact that you are reading this article makes me believe that you are planning to go fishing sometime soon.

Fishing is more than just an activity. It is not that easy to classify it as either a sport or a hobby or a mere necessity during one of those remote trekking sessions.

For many, it is just an excuse, to run away from the busy life or to get some personal time to retrospect and introspect oneself or to spend peaceful time with family and friends.

Many would say that fishing needs a lot of patience, but psychological research indicates that fishing enhances one’s patience and focus, improves self-confidence and promotes traveling along with the opportunity of family bonding time.

Since your fishing plans are already in place, let us look at what needs to be focused on next for your trip to be a successful one.

Usually, the toughest of these is to select the appropriate rod and reel. You could refer to our article to get an insight into the different types of fishing rods available. As a part of this article, we will attempt to help you with step-by-step advice to choose a fishing reel.

How To Choose Your Fishing Reel?

Fishing Reel

A fishing reel is not the first thing to purchase. If you go into a shop and ask for a fishing reel, the shopkeeper would bombard you with questions like, what type of reel do you want? What reel size do you need? Do you already have a fishing rod?

The type and size of a reel that you plan to purchase depends upon numerous factors such as:

  • Fishing Rod Type
  • Size Of Bait
  • Type Of Fish You Are Targeting
  • Location Of Fishing - Salt Water Or Fresh Water
  • Fishing Experience
  • Speed Of Operation

To get the best-fit reel for your requirement, you will have to select the type of reel first, followed by the size of the reel.

Reel Types

You get to choose from a variety of reels which are mainly classified as:

Spin Cast Reels: Spin cast reels are considered as the easiest reels to handle for beginners in freshwater fishing. These have smaller lines and support smaller baits only.

However, these reels are not durable and are known to cause wear and tear to the line, thereby reducing the lifespan of the line.

Fly Reels: Fly reels are used for freshwater as well as saltwater fishing. Do not forget to check if your fly reel is reversible, i.e., whether both hands can use it or not. Typically, they come in variants that are easy to operate for right-handers.

Spinning Reels: Spinning reels mostly find their prey in salt waters. Usually associated with smaller lines and smaller baits, these reels are preferred by amateur fishing enthusiasts due to the ease of operation and simple design that does not allow the line to be tangled easily.

If you wish to hunt larger fishes and need greater power, opt for spinning reels at low speeds such as 4:1. Spinning reels also give you the added advantage to relax while you allow the rod to rest in a holder and do the fishing for you.

Bait Caster Reels: Bait casters are used for saltwater fishing as well as in freshwaters. Especially, these are famous in areas where you need a longer line to cast farther or when you need bigger, heavier bait.

More experienced fishers usually prefer these due to the level of expertise needed to cast these. These are regarded as one of the toughest reels to handle due to the complex design that tangles the line frequently if the operation is not mastered.

Reel Sizes

Now that you perfectly have zeroed in on the type of reel, let us choose a size.

Small (10-20): If you are looking for light fishing in a river, lake or a nearby stream for smaller fishes and have a fishing rod that is around 6-8 ft long and 1-5kgs in weight, you need not look beyond a small fishing reel.

Medium (40-50): If you have longer (8-10 ft) or a heavier rod (5-10 kgs) but still looking for fishing in lakes, rivers or harbors, medium reel sizes are for you. You may also opt for medium reels if your bait is larger and you are targeting larger fishes.

Large (60 -100): Opt for large reels, for all other fishing needs like  deep sea tuna fishing, boat fishing, fishing in the rocky areas or while looking for longer lines, heavier baits and larger fishes. These reels go well with rods of various lengths and weights depending upon the location of fishing.

Reel Speed

Next criteria to choose your perfect reel would be the reel speed you are aiming at. Reel speed indicates the number of times the spool rotates when you rotate the handle once.

The larger the gear ratio, the faster you can wind the line. You should opt for lower speeds (lower gear ratio of 6.1:1 and lower) for more power needed for larger fishes or in places where you need a farther cast.

Higher speeds (6.4:1 and higher) are apt for the nearer cast and catching swift fishes.

Once you have selected the Reel Type, Reel Size and Reel Speed, do not forget to match the same with the gauge of your fishing rod!


In general, do not go fishing with just one set of rod and reel. You better take a few sets, which will help you get the permutations right based on the need.

If you are going for recreational fishing as we mentioned in the beginning - to search your inner self or spend time with family - none of the above rules apply.

Just go with the fishing rod you have and enjoy!

Glen Jensen

This is Glen Jensen founder of Fisher Picks. I started this blog to provide guide and reviews of best fishing & outdoor products.

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Pam - September 20, 2020

Help my partners new reel won’t reel back in


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