Different Types of Fishing Reels [List + Pictures]

Different Types of Fishing Reels

Fishing reel, together with the rod, is the most important part of fishing equipment.

Various kinds of fishing reels exist for a reason and they are all meant to be used in specific situations.

Complete fishing beginners sometimes can’t distinguish their basic differences, and end up having a reel that is not suitable for a certain fishing technique.

This is the reason why I decided to write this fishing reel guide, and explain the basic working principles, together with descriptions of each type of reel, in the following chapters:



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Understanding the Different Types of Fishing Reels

Understanding the several categories of fishing reels is key to finding the perfect fit for your fishing needs.

Whether you're a beginner or a seasoned angler, I will help you navigate the four main types of fishing reels – baitcasting, spinning, spincasting, and fly reels – and discover which one suits you best.

Different Types of Fishing Reels

1. Baitcast Reels

Bait-casting reels are mostly used by more experienced anglers, and popular reels for catching larger fish.

These reels are mounted on top of the rod, instead of hanging under it. This is the reason why baitcasting rods have line guides mounted on the upper rod side.

Their spool is in line with the rod. When you cast, the line goes out in line with the rod. Additionally, the spool is free and it is turning too. Because of this, beginners often end up with knots and tangled line, especially if casting lighter lures or into the wind.

Baitcasters have two types; low profile and rounded. Rounded ones are mostly used by very experienced anglers, with heavy lines. Low-profile are easier to control.

Baitcasting fishing reels have a braking system that can be centrifugal, magnetic or dual, which is a combination of both.

It lowers the possibility of backlashes. If there was none, when you cast and the lure falls into the water, the spool would just keep on turning.

In general, baitcasters can hold more line, they are lighter, enable really precise cast and more control for the angler, and can be used for heavier fish and lures.

Different Types of Fishing Reels - Baitcast

2. Spinning Reels

Spinning reels are very different than the baitcasters - this you can see if you check the main parts of a spinning reel.

First of all, they are mounted on the bottom of the rod and they are hanging under. For this reason, rods used with these reels have line guides underneath the rod.

Their spool is fixed, positioned perpendicular to the rod, and when you cast, the line unwraps from it. There is the bail and a small metal roller, and before casting, you have to move the bail up, to allow the line to unwrap.

This reel is very forgiving to beginner’s mistakes, and while learning, you will not have to deal with numerous tangles. This is the main reason why it is an excellent first choice.

Spinning fishing reels are cheaper than baitcasting. They can be used with light lines and lures, and they are easier to use. But, some models and brands can be also very strong, so ...

Different Types of Fishing Reels - Spinning Reel

3. Spincast Reels

Spincast reels are in a way similar to the spinning ones, when it comes to the fixed spool. However, these reels are completely closed.

There is no bail and the roller, and instead of that, spincast fishing reels have pickup pins and a metal cap to wind the line on the spool.

Because of the line guide that allows the line to “exit” this reel, casting distance is much shorter than with a spinning reel. This is because of the friction between the line and the guide.

These reels are mounted on top of the rod, similar to baitcasting reels. Their spools are narrow because of their shape, and these reels can’t accommodate as much line as the same size spinning reels can.

They are excellent for very light lures and lines or for children and for saltwater fishing too.

Spincast reels are mostly used with monofilament lines, for very basic fishing techniques. They can also often be found on fishing rod and reel combos for beginners.

Different Types of Fishing Reels - Spincast

4. Fly Fishing Reels

And the last among the main reel types is the fly fishing reel.

These reels are completely different than previously mentioned types, and are used for one purpose only, and that is fly fishing.

Many of fly fishing reels are single action which means that with one handle turn the spool rotates once.

There are multi-action ones too, but that feature is mostly unnecessary, and it just adds weight and complicated parts into it.

Fly fishing reels have interchangeable spools, which means that you can take it out, and put another in.

The majority of these reels are a direct drive, which mean that when the line goes out, spool and handle are turning together.

Unlike reels mentioned before, fly reel has no purpose while fly casting. When casting, angler use one hand to hold the rod, and the other one to strip the line.

Fly fishing reels have less parts are more simple devices when it comes to their construction, but fly fishing, especially casting, is one of the hardest fishing techniques to learn.

Different Types of Fishing Reels - Fly Reels

What About the Other Types of Fishing Reels?

So, I covered the main 4 fishing reel types, but as already mentioned, that are not the only ones.

Here are the three more, which are also frequently used by numerous anglers.

5. Baitrunner Reels

Beginners sometimes confuse baitcasers and baitrunners, because of a similar name.

Baitrunner reels, also known as free spin reels, looks similar to spinning reel, but with some differences.

These have an additional clutch feature, that lets the line unwind freely from the spool with an engaged bail. With a handle turn or a switch these can instantly be returned to the drag tension again.

It is called a baitrunner because anglers mostly use it with live bait, and this additional drag setting enables the fish to bite the bait and run away.

Different Types of Fishing Reels - Baitrunner

6. Surf Reels

Surf fishing is a fishing technique used mostly on saltwater, where anglers cast into the surf from the beach.

This technique sometimes needs to be done with very long rods, and anglers have to achieve extremely long casting distance. Surf reel is there to enable that.

These reels also have larger line capacity and are made from materials than enable relatively low weight. Their drag system is also more powerful because it can be hard to get the large fish into the shallow water.

Surf reels are very similar to regular spinning reels when it comes to their operation and look. Among small differences, there is a lip construction.

In surf reels, the lip is made in a way so that the line can peel off the spool easier, to enable longer casting distance.

Those who use monofilament lines will see a huge difference between casting with a regular spinning reel and with a surf reel.

Different Types of Fishing Reels - Surf

7. Trolling Reels

Trolling is a fishing technique where anglers fish in deeper water, and the lure used is drawn through the water.

This may be done by simply reeling it on, or you can be in a moving boat and drag it behind. If you are practicing the second option and catching large fish, you are going to need a trolling reel.

Reels used for this technique are similar to bait cast reels. They are divided into two types; star drag and lever drag.

Star drag are almost the same as baitcaster, and have a knob that applies drag, and a lever that puts them in free spool.

Lever type has a drag lever that is used to perform both tasks; applies drag and puts the reel into free spool.

Smaller ones can be used similar to bait-casting reels, and you can cast your lure.

Larger ones are made to be used for very big fish, frequently offshore.

These are not constructed in a way for you to be able to cast them efficiently. Instead of casting, you simply drop the line behind a boat. They are designed to be able to pull the large fish in, and are big and heavy.

Different Types of Fishing Reels - Trolling

8. Conventional Reel

A conventional reel is a popular choice for anglers who prefer the traditional fishing style.

Its versatility allows anglers to target a variety of species in both open water and inshore environments.

With a variety of sizes available, anglers can find the right reel for their specific fishing needs. The conventional reel is known for its durability and strength, making it suitable for targeting larger fish species.

Whether you are trolling offshore for big game fish or bottom fishing in coastal waters, the conventional reel is a reliable choice for any angler looking for a sturdy and dependable fishing reel.

Different Types of Fishing Reels - Trolling Reels


Knowing the different types of fishing reels enables you to make a right decision when choosing the one that suits your needs the best.

There is a lot of manufacturers on the market, and make sure to choose models from the reputable ones.

There are numerous articles you can find that compare different products, and those can help you to see the differences between items that seem the same.

But the best way to really get to know your equipment is to head out to the nearest water and start fishing!

About Me

Slo-fishing - About Us


I am Siniša Pintar (friends call me Sina), the guy behind Slo-fishing.si and eBook writer. This site is base camp for fishing enthusiasts from all over the world. I love fishing and want to share all my stories, knowledge and my experience with any and all potential anglers. Read more ...

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