Comparing Up-Locking vs. Down-Locking Reel Seats for Rods

Up-Locking vs. Down-Locking Reel Seats

When anglers get into rod building, that is usually a time when they realize how many important features they must consider. And one of those is a reel seat

Casting rods usually have downlocking, but spinning ones can work both ways, and it usually comes down to your personal preference.

Choosing the right one impacts the grip and balance, and decision should be made on your fishing style. There is no right or wrong here, as it is a very individual decision. 

And that is the beauty of a custom rod. Adjusting every single part of it to get a tool completely tailored for you. 

I assume that you have been fishing for quite a while if you are here to decide which seats are for you. Before you get into the details below, think about your custom fishing style

I will do my best to guide you through the process and will share some insights about which seat is suitable for which use. 



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Up-Locking Reel Seats for Rod Building

Although the uplocking reel seat is the one almost always present on casting rods (and many fly rods), it can be a valuable asset on spinning rods too

Uplocking reels are those where locking nuts turn towards the grip. This sets the reel closer to the grip, unlike downlocking, where the reel locking nuts turn towards the butt. 

This reel-locking style has some specific uses and benefits. 


  • placing the reel closer to the grip helps to balance lightweight rods
  • good for trimming the threads and foregrip 
  • better balance of longer rods


  • not the best option for thread holding and those who like to loosen the grip when fishing
  • Not for very short rods 

This lock seat works well for many fishing styles and types of equipment. From fly fishing to casting and spinning, uplocking can balance the rod as you require, as long as you are not using very short rods. 

The reel will be positioned further from the butt and that will allow you to lean the rod against you and still have the ability to comfortably reel in and fight a nice big fish. It will look nice and sleek too.

Up-Locking Reel Seat 

Down-Locking Reel Seats for Rod Building

As mentioned above, downlock will keep the reel closer to the rod butt, away from the grip. Although some fly and casting rods have it, the widest use is for spinning rods


  • works excellent for balancing shorter rods
  • excellent for heavier rods, especially fly rods 
  • Suitable for older rod models which are heavier than modern or for heavier rod materials (wood or fiberglass)
  • good choice for thinner grips 


  • they can loosen up more easily
  • limited balance compatibility with light materials rods like graphite  

Those who prefer downlocking reel seat usually have bit heavier or shorter rods. This type was very popular in the past and somehow got overlooked when modern rod design gained popularity. However, many rod builders still choose them (especially new Fuji VSS models) in specific cases where uplock type can't compete with downlock in terms of rod balance and performance.

Down-Locking Reel Seat 

Comparison of Up-Locking vs. Down-Locking Reel Seats

When comparing uplocking vs downlocking real seat there is no better or worse option.

In custom rod building, it is all about creating a perfectly tailored rod for your use, where you can do whatever feels right for your fishing style. 

Differences in the design of these two seats affect the reel position when locked. This position will also affect your grip and how the rod lies in your hand. 

When it comes to performance, especially in fly rods, uplock seat provides you with more fighting butt. On the other hand, on spey rod, where you have a longer rear, you don't need a fighting butt and downlock comes in handy to balance the rod better with the lighter reel. 

An additional problem you may encounter if you decide to use downlock is that some less-equipped sellers may not have them available for purchase

You want to have a balanced fishing rod and use seats on rods that will allow that, to maximize fishing performance. 

Some other specific use cases you should consider are line thickness, your hands, and rod holding preference, as well as the conditions and surroundings you are fishing in. Downlock is easier to scratch and damage when you leave your rod on the ground. It also gives you more room for your hands while holding the rod. In addition to that, they can be paired with lighter line rods. 

Uplock is better for hard-fighting fish and rough use as it is less likely to loosen up.

Up-Locking vs. Down-Locking Reel Seats


Hopefully, everything above clarifies any doubts you may had about up-locking and down-locking seats. Remember, there is no right or wrong choice, it is a matter of your preference. 

Choose the downlocking seat for short, heavy, or very old rods. Use uplocking for lightweight or long rods, and hard fighting purposes. 

You can even try out both options, especially on spinning reels, where you can change the position easily. That is the only way to be sure that you are using the right one for you. 

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I am Siniša Pintar (friends call me Sina), the guy behind 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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