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What You Need To Know When Buying Your First Fishing Reel

What You Need To Know When Buying Your First Fishing Reel

When buying their first car, many young drivers have to start with an economical, easy-to-handle model. Beginning anglers should consider taking the same route when they buy their first fishing reel.

Fishing reels are available in three types: spincast, spinning and baitcasting. A spincast reel is like an economical, easy-to-handle compact car such as a Volkswagen Jetta, while the spinning reel is more like a Toyota Camry, a roomy sedan with more features and storage space than a compact car. The baitcast reel is the sleek, speedy Lamborghini of fishing reels with its high-speed gear ratio and multiple ball bearings for endurance.

Here is a look at each reel type and the advantages and disadvantages of each so beginners can decide which type will be best for their first reel.

Spincast Fishing Reels

Zebco 33 Black Spincast Combo

I started fishing with Zebco 33 reels when I was a kid. I am now a volunteer fishing instructor for the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) and Zebco 33 spincast reels are the models MDC uses in our classes to introduce beginners to fishing.

These push-button reels are the easiest of the three types to cast because all you have to do is push the spool control button to engage the spool while on the back cast and then release the button while moving your rod forward to propel the lure towards your target. The fishing line is contained inside the reel’s nose cone which prevents backlashes and bird’s nests that occur in the open spool spinning and baitcast reels.

Spincast reels are also inexpensive which allows you to buy a couple of reels to fill with different line sizes so you have more options for fishing various lures or fishing for more than one species of fish.

The biggest disadvantage of a spincast reel is a lack of endurance. These inexpensive reels are usually equipped with cheaper parts that wear out after one or two seasons. The reels also lack casting distance and accuracy the because the closed face design of these reels can prevent you from seeing line twisting up on the spool which can cause casting problems.

Spinning Reel

The Mitchell Avocet RZT Spinning Combo

I graduated to spinning reels about when I reached my teen years and wanted a reel I could use with light line for trout fishing. Although a little more complicated and expensive than a spincast reel, a spinning reel offers better efficiency and durability. The reels are highly versatile as well and can be used for multiple types of fishing ranging from ultralight models for panfish to magnum-sized reels for trophy bass or saltwater brutes such as redfish, snook and striped bass. Spinning reels can also handle monofilament, fluorocarbon and braided line, although fluorocarbon’s line memory creates some problems with the line flying off the spool too quickly and creating bird’s nests

The major disadvantage of a spinning reel is line twist as it comes off and goes on the spool. The twisting can lead to line tangles and snarls that can damage the line. The reel’s open spool allows line to freely fly off the spool to make long distance casts, but it also makes it trickier to make accurate casts.

Baitcast Reels

Mach Smash SLP Baitcasting Combo

A baitcaster is the most durable, dependable, accurate and efficient reel you can buy. However it is also the most frustrating to learn how to cast, especially for a beginner.

When I bought my first baitcaster after graduating from college, I learned how to cast it in my backyard rather than taking it out fishing. I was then able to develop the “educated thumb” needed to make long and accurate casts without backlashing the line.

Baitcast reels have powerful drag systems capable of handling the fight of any trophy fish. The reels can be spooled with heavy line and are equipped with plenty of winching power for pulling big fish out of heavy cover.
Today’s baitcasters with advanced spool braking systems make it easier to cast without having to rely on your thumb as much to slow down or stop the line when it is free spooling.

The price of a baitcast reel is its biggest drawback. A quality reel will cost at least $75 and many models range in price from $150 to $300. However, these reels will last a long time and perform better than any spincast or spinning reel.

Updated May 26th, 2021 at 4:08 AM CT