The Ultimate Guide to Different Types of Fishing Reels

The ever-evolving world of fishing reels is fascinating to monitor, as new technology brings innovative surprises in all different types of fishing reels.

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The ever-evolving world of fishing reels is fascinating to monitor, as new technology brings innovative surprises in all different types of fishing reels.

So, what are all the different types of fishing reels? Before we answer that question, let’s take a quick trip back to the beginning. To fully understand the various types of fishing reels and the area each of them specialize in, it’s helpful to look at the history of how different types of fishing rods and reels evolved.

The various types of old fishing reels depended on the region where they originated. The first types of old fishing reels that history reveals to us are from a Chinese painting dated back to near 1195 AD. The reel was wound by hand and was attached to a bamboo pole using twine.

Jumping forward a few hundred years, we find ourselves in 1651 England, where the etymology of the word reel begins. The word used in the original English literature was “wind” and not reel, as one would wind up the line from their rod. The rig was much different than a modern rod and reel setup but was considered the first of its kind in the western world.

It wasn’t until the 1800s that reels began to look and work anything close to the types of rod and reels used today. In the 1820s a Kentucky man named George Snyder developed the 19th century’s most popular type of fishing reel. It was one of the first of its kind as the oldest ancestor of baitcasting reels.  

What are the Different Types of Fishing Reels?

You may be reading this thinking, enough of the history lesson, show me different types of fishing reels already. Ask, and you shall receive. Below is a guide to all the various types of fishing reels on the market today.

The Three Most Common Types of Fishing Reels

While there are probably hundreds of different types of fishing reels available in the marketplace, it’s easy to initially break reels down into three main categories:

  • Baitcasting Reels
  • Spincast Reels
  • Spinning Reels

Baitcasting Reels

The baitcaster is the traditional style of fishing with a rod and reel that dates back to the early 1800s. Over time, the baitcasting setup has evolved into a much different type of reel when it comes to performance. Once a tricky beast to tame, modern baitcasting reels are much easier to use and maintain advantages over spinning reels for those that have mastered their craft.

With a spool that is inline to the rod, baitcasting reels offer a more effective drag system that can be manually operated using your thumb to increase or lessen pressure on the line. The technique of adjusting your drag with your thumb also means turning the drag knob all the way down until there is no additional drag in the reel, giving you maximum control over the line.

The problem with baitcasting reels had been that misusing this technique would lead to a “backlash” which was a big nasty bird’s nest of a tangle. Modern technology has helped to decrease the frequency of backlashes, and baitcasting reels have closed the gap on many of the advantages spinning reels once held over them.

For your money, you canot go wrong with a KastKing Royale Legend if you’re in the market for a baitcasting reel. This rig comes with an incredible 11+1 shielded ball bearing setup, leading to exceptionally smooth casts and retrieves. The KastKing Royale also features a 7.0:1 gear ratio, allowing for remarkably quick and silent retrieves.

Types of Fishing Reels

Spinning Reels

Spinning reels are the most common reels on the market today, and the reason for that is how easy they are to pick up and use without any prior experience. Spinning reels are as user-friendly as it gets when comparing high-performance setups. You simply flip open the bail which holds the line in place, grab the line with your finger and cast forward, releasing your finger when you want the line released.

If you’re on the ocean going after big game, there is no better reel available for your hard-earned money than the Penn Battle II.

Spinning Reels

Spincast Reels

Spincast reels are what many people grew up fishing with when they were kids. These days, you can still buy a high-quality spincast reel and enjoy the ease of use it has to offer.

What makes a spincast reel unique is that the line is completely hidden inside of the reel. The design of the spincast reel was to keep the mechanisms of a baitcasting reel but to improve on it with gears that keep the line from backlashing. To operate a spincast reel, you click the center button with your thumb which will release the line. Holding the button down as you cast, you then let go to guide the lure. What makes the spincast setup unique is that as soon as you engage the reel to retrieve the line, the spool locks and does not allow any additional line to go out.

If you are in the market for a spincast reel, Zebco is without a doubt the leading brand on the market, and the Zebco Omega Pro Spincast Reel will not leave you disappointed. The Omega Pro features a first of its kind seven-bearings, allowing for smooth and simple operation.

Types of Fly Fishing Reels

There is really just one primary type of fly fishing reel, so while you’ll still find a wide variety of selections, the way each fly reel works is always the same. Fly fishing reels are simple in their construction, as the angler does all the work stripping in the line. A fly fishing reel works the way the original reels of old did, as a place to store all of your extra line.  

However, do not make the mistake of confusing simplicity with a lack of performance. The spectrum of quality in fly reels is wide-ranging, and ensuring you have a high-class piece of equipment is of the utmost importance if you’re a serious angler.

My top recommended fly fishing reel is by Piscifun, and it’s their Sword Fly Fishing Reel which features a CNC-machined aluminum alloy body. The hollow design of the reel makes it lighter than other reels and allows you the angler to set the hook quicker than average. We all know every split second can be the difference between hooking a monster trout or missing the strike. The Piscifun also features an incredibly smooth drag, using a multi-disc cork and steel system with a one-way clutch ball bearing that allows for direct engagement of the drag.

Fly Fishing Reels

Best Type of Fly Fishing Reels for Atlantic Salmon

The best kind of reel for catching salmon on a fly rod, in the humble opinion of this author, is made by Sougayilang. This beautifully manufactured reel features a CNC-machined aluminum alloy body and looks fantastic. When you look good, you feel good, and feeling good breeds confidence in any angler.

This reel also operates just as good as it looks. The precise CNC technology provides for abrasion and weather resistance as the parts are made from high purity 6061-T6 aluminum alloy. The drag knob is also finely machined and features a knurled metal screw cap, allowing you to easily change the retrieve or adjust the drag. The gear ratio on this reel is 1:1 and it features 2+1 ball bearings.

Fly Fishing Reels for Atlantic Salmon

Types of Bass Fishing Reels

So, you may be wondering what types of reels are common for bass fishing. There are two main types of reels for bass fishing: baitcasting reels and spinning reels. The types of reels that are most common for bass fishing can often depend on the region you live in. With that said, these days most people opt for a spinning reel when fishing for bass. Professional bass fishers will use both bait casters and spinning reels, with multiple rigged up at a time depending on the situation. Baitcasters take a bit of practice before they perform at their peak when compared to spinning reels.

Once mastered, baitcasters can be more accurate to cast than a spinning reel. With technology always advancing both types of fishing reels, the differences between the two are continually shrinking. The choice of which to use often comes down to personal preference.

Types of Saltwater Fishing Reels

The types of reels you’d use for saltwater fishing will be much bigger than freshwater reels. There are two main reasons for the bigger, bulkier reels in saltwater: the much larger size of fish you can catch in the ocean, and the longer length of line that is required when fishing in much deeper waters than freshwater fishing.

A good saltwater reel is also not going to come cheap, so if you’re serious about catching big game on the ocean, be prepared for a higher cost of entry. One of our favorite saltwater reels is the GOMEXUS Saltwater Trolling Reel 2 Speed. This reel is designed specifically for Bluefin, Yellowfin, and Tuna, up to 140 pounds. This particular reel is not messing around with its inner mechanisms, which feature 8 ball bearings + 1 roller bearing setup. It can also handle 950 yards of mono line or 740 yards of braided line.

The rest of the reel is manufactured using marine level stainless steel gears, and cold-forged aero-aluminum. In short, this reel has it all and is designed to give you the finest quality saltwater reel that can handle almost any situation on the ocean, or offshore.

Saltwater Fishing Reels

The Best Trolling Reel

For the most versatile trolling reel that can perform in a variety of areas and is the best bang for your buck, it’s hard to beat the Penn Squall Level Wind series. This reel can be your go-to whether you’re trolling, drifting or sharking. With a capacity for 320 yards of line and tested up to 50 pounds, the Penn Squall 50 Level Wind is perfect for going after big game in the deepest waters.

As a reel used by professional anglers across the globe, the Penn Squall Level Wind is a reel that you can place your faith in, and one that will last a lifetime. The main gear is machined into a high-strength marine grade bronze alloy, and the frame of the reel is made from lightweight graphite. A high-quality 2+1 shielded stainless steel ball bearing setup ensures smooth, consistent results.

Trolling Reel

The Best Surf Fishing Reel

No article about fishing reels would be complete without mentioning the Daiwa brand. Daiwa has been manufacturing spinning reels since 1955, and their BG line of spinning reels has every right to claim it’s the best in the business. While a Daiwa BG Spinning Reel can be used on a wide variety of applications, it’s perfect as a surf fishing reel.

The Daiwa BG features a manual return bail, a 6BB+1RB ball bearing setup for maximum smoothness and efficiency, as well as a 5.6:1 gear ratio. The BG line is beautifully crafted from black anodized machined aluminum, along with a dynamic cut aluminum ABS spool.

Surf Fishing Reel

Types of Ice Fishing Reels

There is a surprising amount of variety when it comes to different kinds of ice fishing reels. The look of the reel will be familiar, as ice fishing reels can look like traditional spinning reels, but the mechanics underneath the hood are beefed up specifically for the wintry conditions.

You’ll also notice new types of reels when entering the ice fishing market, such as inline and straight line reels. Additional ball bearings and gear ratios tilted towards power rather than speed are what separate ice fishing reels from traditional reels.

Types of Fishing Reels for Kids

For little ones, kids’ basic types of fishing reels are generally spincasters. Often these rod and reel combos will have the line coming right out of the tip of the rod, preventing nasty tangles, so your quality time is spent fishing and not untangling.


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