Parts of a Spinning Reel [Guide for Beginners]

Parts of a Spinning Reel

Fishing reels, including the spinning ones, are the most complicated pieces of fishing equipment that anglers use.

Understanding how they work is crucial, in order to be able to recognize a good product and to know how to maintain it.

When buying a spinning reel, you are going to see some descriptions and numbers of certain parts that are telling you about its main features.

All of the parts are important and in order to perform well, and the reel needs to be made from quality materials and all of the parts have to be correctly manufactured.

As a beginner, you will probably use spinning reels for your first fishing experiences, and this is why I decided to write this guide.

Here I am going to list all the important parts of a spinning reel, both external and internal, and tell you the basics about them.



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What are the Parts of a Spinning Reel?

Spinning reels have visible parts that are external, and the invisible ones which are internal, but they are equally important, if not even more important. The latter ones are going to be described in the next chapter.

So, the parts of a spinning reel are the following:


Housing it the first thing you will notice on your reel, and its main purpose is to hold all of the parts together.

It can be made from graphite, aluminum or combination of those or other materials. Aluminum is stronger and more resilient, while graphite is lighter. Lighter reels are more comfortable to hold for long periods of time. Try to avoid reels made of plastic components.

Saltwater reels will have corrosion resistant body, and the better the material is, the price is going to be higher.


Reel foot is the upper part of the reel that connects with a fishing rod. Materials used for this part are the same as the housing material, and the foot can be observed as an extension of the housing.

It has to be strong enough to withstand all the pressure and vibrations during fishing, and it has to sit on a reel firmly. Keep in mind that not every rod and reel are compatible and read the manufacturers instructions about fitting it.


Spool is a spinning reel part that accommodates the line. Depending on a spool diameter and depth, it can hold more or less line length. When checking out a reel, you will find info about line capacity among other important features. Good spools are smooth and they do not create additional friction while retrieving.

Most frequently, spools are also made from graphite or aluminum.


Bail is a wire-like semicircular part next to the spool, which is a feature unique for spinning reels. It is there to enable even line lay. It helps the line unwind and reel in evenly on the spool. Bail also makes casting easier, and this is one of the reasons why spinning reels are suitable for beginners.

The bail is connected to the spool and can easily be flipped up and down for casting and reeling positions.


Line roller is a small, round, part on the bail end. This is a part touched by the line when reeling. It is there to reduce friction and gently guide the line. It enables the line to move freely without getting stuck.


Handle is a part you are going to hold whenever you use a reel. By turning it, you are retrieving the line. It has to be smooth and comfortable for you to use. Depending on a reel, the handle can have a rubber grip, so that it doesn’t slip from your wet hands.

Most of the reels have both left - and right-hand option, so that anyone can use them. Majority of the reel handles are made from the same materials as the housing, and most frequently those are graphite or aluminum. Both can withstand the pressure of turning.


Drag adjustment knob is also one of the spinning reel parts. This knob is usually located near the handle and by turning it the angler can increase or decrease drag (friction) on the line.

This feature is important when fighting a fish that heavily pulls the line into the water while trying to swim away.

Good drag systems are easy to adjust and the line goes out smoothly and evenly, without twitching, under any setting. Drag system also has internal parts.


This is another switch on spinning reels, that prevents spool backward turns. As it is not a part of all reels, I will tell you more about it in the following chapters.

What are the Internal Parts of a Spinning Reel?

So, we covered all the visible parts, but what are internal parts of a spinning reel, that make the whole thing working?


When buying a reel, you will always see a number that states how many ball bearings are in it.

These ball shaped bearings, as the name suggests, are there to reduce friction and ensure smooth reel operation. They are accommodated between a fixed axel within a center, and moving wheel that is on the outside.

Ball bearings have their own parts but I will not go too deep into those technical details. What is important about ball bearings is their quality. The more you have the better it is, is only true for the same quality ball bearings. Sometimes, it is better to have fewer good ones than more bad ones.

Majority of reputable manufacturers will have very good parts, and at least 4 ball bearings. You should avoid cheap, entry-level reels that have really high number of those, because that means that the quality is not the best.


Drag system knob is an external part of an internal drag system. Quality made drag system is important for hook setting and controlling a fighting fish.

Poorly done drag system may cause a line to stuck and brake, or release the line out too easily.

Internal drag system parts are washers or discs that are connected to a spool. They create friction among themselves and slow down the spool. This friction creates a lot of heat and good materials have to be used to divert this heat away from the spool, and not to heat too much. Composite or carbon fiber materials are often used. Carbon fiber is always a better option.


Gears are one of those parts that many anglers ignore, but they are still important. These circular metal parts are most frequently made from brass, aluminum, stainless steel, or even zinc. Manufacturers use different manufacturing techniques to make them, and usually those that are thicker and stronger are suitable for catching larger and stronger fish. One of the best materials for them, and the priciest one, is stainless steel.

Gears have to operate smoothly in order to give you the best user experience.

Parts of a Spinning Reel - Internal

What is the Lever on the Bottom of a Spinning Reel?

I already mentioned this part in the first chapter, but this part, as it is not present on all spinning reels, frequently confuses beginners.

This lever is called anti reverse switch. It can be set in ON and OFF position, where the on position means that the anti-reverse function is engaged. At this time, your spool will not turn in a way that it releases the line.

All this can sometimes help you to not get your line tangled ...

What is the Anti Reverse on a Spinning Reel?

So, what exactly is the anti reverse function that is so frequently mentioned here?

Anti reverse system is there to enable you to back reel, instead of relying on a drag system. It prevents backward reel turning and engages the drag.

Back reeling instead of using the reel drag system can be useful while fighting smaller fish, but not for heavy and strong ones. While fishing for those, you should rely on a drag system.

Some anglers love to use it, while others hate it. If you have a reel with this feature, give it a try.

Some manufacturers abandoned this feature on their reels, especially more expensive ones, because it can be a weak point for water, especially saltwater, and dirt to enter the reel, and it is not useful on large reels for large fish.

How do you Maintain a Spinning Reel? [Lubricate, Clean, etc.]

Maintenance is important to preserve all the parts of a spinning reel, and ensure its longevity.

Some high-end reels can cost a fortune and it would be a shame if they broke down due to improper care.


First of all, it is important to regularly clean your fishing reel. After every use, take a soft cloth a wipe away all the visible impurities or moisture. If you used it in saltwater, use a damp cloth (with freshwater) to remove the salt, and then dry it.

Inner parts can also be cleaned and you may want to disassemble it once in a while to clean it thoroughly. You can remove the spool assembly and use cotton swabs to clean every visible part at that point. This step should be made before lubrication. Make sure you follow manufacturers instructions on how to do this (you can also check my article about WD40).


Line roller assembly, gear bearings, and bail arm are the parts that should be lubricated. Use only the oils recommended by the manufacturers and do it carefully. Some reels have openings for easier lubrication. After that, remove the excess oil. Depending on how often do you use it, you can do this yearly, or more often if necessary.


Always keep your reel in a dry place in some average temperatures. Avoid direct sunlight or extreme temperature changes. Also, never place your reel under another heavy object. If you break it, you can also fix it..


Fishing without a reel is almost unimaginable. They were invented a long time ago, and evolved into modern machines suitable for all kinds of fishing techniques.

There are many parts of a spinning reel, and all of them have to work together to make your fishing experience easier. This is why you should always use reels made by reputable manufacturers and take care of them.

Although some parts are not visible, that doesn’t mean that they are not important. Inform yourself about all the materials and manufacturing process before making a decision about which reel to buy.

About Me

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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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