Buying a reel is probably one of the first things that you’ll consider when you’re looking to build your own tackle collection. However, even for the experienced angler, the choice can be somewhat intimidating. If you need some help narrowing down what fishing reel best suits you, you are at the right place. We, here at Angling Direct, are proud to stock a huge range of fishing reels for anglers across the disciplines, from fixed spool reels to multiplier reels. We have scoured the market to ensure that we’re only ever bringing you the best quality that money can buy so you never have to part with more than you want in order to get a reel that is perfect for your needs. We have even designed our own range of Advanta reels offering excellent value for money. For those anglers looking to seriously invest in their angling future, Angling Direct can offer its direct finance service, which has interest free finance options on any purchase in excess of £300.
Fishing reels are one of the areas of angling that benefit from the most technological growth. The market is continually striving to create lighter weight and higher strength performance pieces to improve your time on the bank. Such technological advances can be just as overwhelming for an experienced angler as it can be for a novice angler, with terminology changing almost a quickly as carp fishing fashion! You can use this short guide to help you sift through the jargon and find the perfect reel for you.
What to look for in a fishing reel
There are lots of different reels out there, each with their own specific uses, so you might see some of these terms on some reels but not on others. However, there are some terms that run true across the disciplines: the spool, which is the area that the line is wound around, and the frame, or the body of the reel.
Material of the reel frame - Most reels will boast a frame manufactured from a high-performance carbon material. The type of carbon used with change depending on the price and all manufacturers use their own coding systems to define the quality of carbon they use. For example, Shimano’s top-end reels use Ci4 in their framework whereas Daiwa reels will use Air Metal or Zaion – which are magnesium-based. These are just two examples, taken from the fixed spool market, and you’ll see lots of different terms across the disciplines. Most lower-end reels will rely on a carbon composite or graphite material. Fly and centrepin reels will often use aero-grade aluminium rather than a carbon-based material, so it really does depend on what sort of angling you’re doing when you’re looking at the qualities that matter to you.
Reel Weight - Regardless of the material used, the things you want to look for are how much the reel weighs and the reel’s torque resistance (or rigidity). These two factors will go a long way to determining how well it will perform over an extended period of time and is particularly intensive situations. It is important to note that the spool of the reel might well be manufactured from a different material to the body, too.
Gears and Rotor - The frame and spool material are just the beginning when it comes to reel construction, as the real magic happens with the internal mechanisms. Most reels will use some form of rotor and gearing to get their spool turning. With the internal reel mechanisms, it is often just as important to look for a reel that boasts precision and alignment as it is too look for a reel that boasts strength or durability. More often than not, the two will come hand in hand and a reel with perfectly aligned gears and rotor will be stronger and more durable than a poorly aligned reel. This is because the alignment of your gears determines the amount of power you’re able to exert through your handle into your reel, which greatly affects your retrieval power.
Bearings - These play a huge part in reel quality and longevity. You’ll usually see a number of bearing options listed on your reels, including stainless steel bearings, roller bearings (often abbreviated to RB), and corrosion-resistant ball bearings (or CRBB). These all work by reducing the pressure points on the internal reel components, which in turn reduces the fiction. The effects of this are two-fold. Firstly, this ensures that your reel is smooth running, giving a cleaner cast and a more pleasant retrieve. Secondly, this maintains the life of the reel as it reduces the wear and tear on key components. This is especially useful in saltwater reels, which are sensitive to corrosion from sea salt, but is also an important factor in freshwater reels, which can pick up grit and other small particles. These types of ball bearings are most commonly seen on the multiplier and fixed spool reels, with higher quality reels tending to employ a greater number of bearings. You might also see that your reel has an ‘anti-reverse’ ball bearing. This is sometimes known as a one-way bearing or a clutch bearing and it works to prevent rearward back play on the handle.
Line lay - This refers to the way the line sits on the spool. Even line lay is preferable, no matter what style of angling you enjoy, as it has a serious impact on your casting ability. Fishing line and reels come hand in hand, with one impacting on your choice of the other and both being determined by the style of fishing you want to enjoy.
Other features to look out for are the type of drag the reel offers (particularly if its rear drag operated or front drag operated in the case of fixed spool reels), if its freespool or whether it’s a single or double handle, and the gear ratio.
What are the different types of fishing reels?
Fixed Spool Reels
Fixed spool reels are by far the most popular reels and this is reflected in the huge numbers Angling Direct has in stock: from the top end Daiwa Basiair reel range right down to cheaper reels from Lineaeffe. You can expect to part with any figure between £6 and £800 in order to get the piece of equipment that is right for you. We have found that the most popular reels tend to be anything between £40 and £250, so you don’t have to break the bank to get a reel that offers you the kind of performance that you demand. If you’re buying your reel for carp fishing then chances are you’ll want to buy three of the same in order to achieve the kind of consistency of performance that you require, so you might like to factor that in when you’re working out your budget.
Fixed spool reels are sometimes known as spinning reels and they were originally designed to cast artificial flies during salmon and trout fishing. However, over the years these reels have grown in popularity across the disciplines and you can buy saltwater fixed spool, reels for predator fishing, and fixed spool style reels are also incredibly popular for carp fishing. Fixed spool reels hang below the fishing rod and have a handle, used for line retrieval, on one side. The side on which you mount the handle is dependant on your dominant hand – with many anglers using their dominant hand for casting and their weaker hand for cranking. You can get both double and single handles, too, with the choice mainly coming down to personal preference.
There are a huge variety of reels classed under the fixed spool category. Big pit reels were originally popular for sea fishing, as they can hold a lot of line and are therefore able to cast far out beyond the surf. However, in recent years, big pit reels have been claimed by carp anglers as the popularity of distance casting has grown among the carp fishing community. Fixed spool reels are also sometimes referred to as spinning reels, particularly when they are used for predator fishing (whether those are freshwater or saltwater species).
We mentioned drag briefly when talking about reel components and it is an especially important factor when you’re looking at fixed spool reels. There are two types of drag operation: rear drag or front drag. Rear drag is normally considered easier to operate because of its position on the back of the spool. However, it usually can’t withstand the force of a big fish and a reel with front drag is preferable in these conditions. Lots of reels will combine a front drag system with a ‘free-spool’ lever. These sit at the back of the reel and allow you to disengage the drag whilst the reel is at rest on the rod. This means that your fish can take line freely when they are hooked, usually ensuring a more positive hookset, and they allow you to engage the drag as soon as you require it. This is sometimes known as the baitrunner system or as a freespool reel. Most top-end reels will offer a fast action drag, allowing you to crank on your drag quickly to target powerful fish.
All of these reels are size classified, usually with a four-digit number: small reels are anything from 1,000 to 3,500, medium reels between 4,000 and 5,500 (ish), and large reels tend to exceed 6,000. For most British carp fishing a mid to large size reel is normally appropriate, with anglers moving to reels of 10,000 or more when they choose a big pit for distance fishing. If you’re using your reel for predator fishing, particularly light rock fishing, then you’ll be looking at a significantly smaller reel. The size of the rod you have will determine the size of the reel you need (and vice-versa), and both of these will be determined by the style of fishing you want to do.
Multiplier reels are most often used in sea fishing reels – particularly for surf fishing from the shore. These are also known as baitcasters, or even overhead reels, and are popular for their gear line retrieve. This means that one turn of the handle results in multiple turns of the spool, which greatly aids with pulling in large fish over rough ground. It is also the only reel that is mounted on top of the rod, rather than underneath it. Multiplier reels are popular for use in sea fishing because of their ability to cast massive distances, enabling you to get out past the surf to the deeper waters. Their impressive cranking power is also preferable as it enables you to retrieve huge fish with relative ease. The one major drawback with multipliers is the ease with which they can bird nest. It, for this reason, that novice sea anglers tend to use fixed spool reels rather than multipliers, however, for the experienced angler (or the angler who is willing to take the time to learn) the benefits of the multiplier reel are astounding.
The multiplier reel is built on a caged structure, with the spool held completely inside the reel. The reel is operated on the one side by a handle and on the other with a braking system. You’re usually faced with the choice between centrifugal braking and magnetic braking. Centrifugal braking relies on a pin system and you can adjust the power of the brake by adding or removing pins. Magnetic breaking operates via the use of magnets around the spool and you can adjust the power of the brake by moving them closer to or further from your spool. Both of these have their benefits and downfalls, with much of your choice ultimately coming down to personal preference. You might find that your multiplier reel has a hybrid system that uses both centrifugal brake blocks and magnets.
Multiplier reels come in a variety of sizes. These relate to the kind of fishing you’re going to be doing, with a small reel being suited to clean ground fishing and a larger reel the better option for rough ground retrieval. You’ll find that there are plenty of reels that will cope with both scenarios, too. Brands to look out for in this category include the likes of Abu Garcia, which is world-renowned for producing multipliers at the cutting edge of technology, and Penn. As always, Daiwa reels are present throughout the top end of the multiplier category. For cheaper reels, brands like Leeda offer lower budget options that still perform to a high level. You can expect to part with anything from £20 to £400 for a multiplier reel, with most anglers being content with reels around the £100 mark. In general, these reels are classified in the same way as fixed spool reels, but you will find that some brands break the mould.
These two-reel types are the most popular and are generally used across the disciplines. The next two reels are much more specified in their usage and, as such, have a slightly more specific set of terminology to accompany them.
As the name suggests, the centrepin reel rotates around a centre pin or spindle. This reel is very popular for coarse fishing, particularly those anglers looking to target the margins for heavy carp, as it is a lightweight setup that gives incredible feel. Most centrepin reels operate on a zero drag system, meaning that the angler has full control over the speed of their spool. Spool speed is controlled by the angler’s thumb, which leads to a very visceral angling experience. These reels also have the option of releasing line at a 90-degree angle from the spool. Centrepin reels are classified based on the diameter of their spool, which is usually written in terms of inches.
Centrepin fishing isn’t necessarily the most popular form of coarse fishing but it is definitely one of the most exciting. If you’re a fan of trotting then a centrepin can give an exceptionally smooth performance to entice roach and chub. Another of the benefits of fishing with a centrepin is its exceptionally low maintenance. Unlike multipliers and fixed spool reels, which require intensive deconstruction to clean, you simply need to remove the drum, wipe clean, and apply a little oil to keep everything moving smoothly.
If you want to invest in a top-end centrepin that will last you a lifetime then you can’t go wrong with a J W Young reel. At the premier end, one of these reels can set you back almost £500 but the avid centrepin angler will tell you this cost is more than worth it. There’s no need to be parting with this kind of money, though, and you can find reels for as little as £20.
Fly reels are similar in appearance to centrepin reels but they differ in a few key areas. Firstly, fly reels are equipped with a drag system, which not only prevents the spool overrun but also aids the angler when trying to reel in a hard fighting fish. They also release line in the traditional manner, rather than out of the side of the spool. These reels often operate on cassette systems and come supplied with multiple spools in order to allow you to spool up with multiple line types, picking the precise line that you need for the conditions on the bank.
Another word that you’ll frequently see when you’re looking at fly reels is ‘arbour’. This refers to the size of the spool and, more importantly, the amount of line it can hold. A large arbour spool is often seen as an asset as not only can it help you cast further but it is also an asset when retrieving. This is because it can pull in more line with each handle turn, meaning that you retrieve a fish quicker when you need to. Fly reels are graded based on the line they are intended for use with, using the AFTM classification. This same classification is used for line, reels, and rods, making it relatively easy to match products to create your ultimate fly fishing setup. Most of the fly reels we stock are between £30 and £80, which more than do the job for the average fly angler.
Difference between baitcast and spincast reels?
Spincast - a button on the reel is pressed which allows the line to unspool freely. These reels are easy to use with no backlash or line twist. Unfortunately, spincast fishing reels often have a low line capacity, has the tendency to tear up the line and are not as durable as baitcast reels. With a Baitcast fishing reel, the spool sits perpendicularly to the rod helping to handle heavier fishing lines and lures. Baitcast reels boast a strong drag system however, the spool of the baitcaster spins during casts, making it difficult to cast and make backlashes more frequent.
What is the best fishing reel for beginners?
Spinning fishing reels are ideal for beginner anglers as these are easy to cast, can be swapped for left hand or right-hand usages. Spinning reels are used for lighter catches and therefore lighter baits. The conventional fishing reel sports a rotating spool that spins as you cast meaning it can keep up with lots of pressure and help you land a larger fish. The conventional reel is a little harder to get used to and maybe a reel to consider once mastering a spinning reel. Spinning reels have many advantages but are prone to line twist. To avoid this, check out our line twist guide on the AD blog.
What do the numbers on a fishing reel mean?
When it comes to checking out all the different fishing reels available, the labels on its packaging can get a little confusing. The numbers on a reel whether it be 1000, 2500, 3000 or 4000, etc, present the diameter of the spool. If you have a big diameter spool you will be able to hold more fishing line on your reel. The size of your spool can also be indicated through markings such as M for medium, SM for small-medium, S for small, SS for super small or C for compact. A normal-sized spool tends to have no abbreviated size.
How do you know what size reel to buy?
Not only is choosing the right type of reel can play a part in your angling success but the size of the reel can determine your ability to successfully cast too. The three main sizes to consider is 3000, 4000 and 5000. The 3000 sized reels are perfect for fishing on a small commercial or locations where small casts are desirable. A 4000 size is for casting around 40m when using method or groundbait feeders when angling. A reel with a size 4000 has a little more power to retrieve feeders quickly. Lastly, the 5000 sized reel or big pit reel comes to play when hitting the distance with a long rod.
As well as supplying a full range of reels, Angling Direct is also proud to stock a variety of spare spool options, as well as reel accessories to help with reel maintenance. This ensures that your reel, when properly looked after, can last you a lifetime on the bank, beach, or boat.
If you’re still unsure of which reel to buy, why not have a flick through our blog archive? Our Tackle Tuesday and Wednesday Review series both regularly spotlight and review some of the newest reels on the market, as well as highlighting some old favourites. Our beginners’ guides give fantastic advice, not only about which reel to buy but also about how to look after your reel and load your line safely. If you’d rather speak to someone directly, our customer services team are on hand to provide advice and are prepped to help you in any way with your order. As keen anglers with a lifetime’s experience to share, we’re always happy to offer advice and guidance on any matter pertaining to tackle or getting the most out of your angling. This is true of all our team, but especially our shop staff. To find your nearest Angling Direct, use the shop finder tool on our website.