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Spinning Reels -- Educational Portals

spining reels should match the rod.

Spinning Reels Educational Portal

Modern spinning reels are available in many sizes and price ranges. Spinning reels are useful for situations where a high line-capacity and smooth drag is required for finesse fishing, and when chasing long-running fish. The design allows for use of light-weight fishing line for casting lighter lures and baits. The primary recommended use for a spinning reel is casting, rather than straight up-and-down or vertical fishing.


Spinning reels are great for inshore flats and backcountry fishing. The purpose of the spinning reel is to cast to your targeted area, and then retrieve the fishing line back. It also is used to place drag or tension on the fish as he is trying to swim away. The spinning reel should never be used as a winch type tool to apply pressure by turning the reel handle as the fish is pulling or running. This not only will break the handle of the spinning reel but will twist the fishing line coming back onto the spool. It also will put tremendous pressure on the reel gears and they will break if used this way.


This part of the reel holds the line. They vary in size and in the amount of line they can hold. The capacity of line and appropriate pound test are listed on the spool. The smaller the diameter of the fishing line on the spool, the further it will cast and increase the capacity of line you are able to put on the spool. When you cast, the line uncoils off the spool as it is pulled by the weight of the bait or lure. It is very important to match the reel to the spinning rod based on line weight.

Companies such as Pflueger and Daiwa have introduced advanced spool designs using the latest technology. These spools come in several designs such as inverted, oversized, and long / narrow, each built for very specific purposes. The extended long-cast models are designed so line flows more easily off the narrow, shallow spool because the line meets with less friction from the spool lip. However, some critics say that wrapping line in tight coils (especially mono) around a narrow spool can create "line twist" and memory problems for the line.


On the other hand, loading line in larger loops means large-diameter spools cause less line twist and memory, but casting can suffer as the spool gets depleted and the line must overcome a "taller" lip. It is important to keep reels topped off for better distance casting. It's best to do your research on the latest in graphite, aluminum and composite spools prior to investing more than $40.00

Some companies recognized that the reel is only as good as the rod and its guides. For example, guides on a normal rod create considerable resistance when choking line that comes off the spool in wide loops. So the cutting-edge companies have developed systems combining the rod and reel to work in unison. Pflueger created the Large Arbor Guide Concept for rods to match their reels with a large-arbor spool. A large reversed stripper guide reduces line buildup, and the other oversized guides allow unimpeded casts.


The bail is the wire mechanism that either prevents or allows line coming off the spool and has two settings, open or closed. The bail includes a line roller which prevents the line from twisting as a fish pulls line off the spool. When line is being pulled off the spool and through the line roller, the angler should never reel (turn) the handle. Just let the fish run and take line.


The handle is what's used to retrieve the line onto the spool and should never be used to reel back a fish when the fish is pulling line off the spool. The spinning rod is what you use to pull the fish back towards you and fight the fish. The reel handle just picks up the slack line and rotates it around the spool. Don't use the spinning reel-handle as a winch!


Gears are probably the most important part of the spinning reel. Gearing is what makes the reel smooth. The gears are under a lot of pressure when the spinning reel drag is tight and a fish is pulling. The gears control how many times the rotor turns completely around when the reel-handle is cranked one revolution. In the older days a 3:1:1 gear ratio was the normal standard. Today in the year 2014 you would be hard pressed to find a gear ratio that low.


Spinning reels now have ratios from 4:1:1 to gear ratios at 8:0:1. The easiest way to explain the gear ratio is, a 4:1:1 gear ratio means every time you turn the spinning reel handle one revolution the rotor spins around the spool 4:1:1 times. That is slow by today's standards. A gear ratio of 8:0:1 means every time you turn the spinning reel handle one revolution the rotor spins around the spool 8:0:1 times. That brings your fishing line and lure in really, really fast. A quick tip is, you can buy a spinning reel with a gear ratio of 4:1:1 and turn the handle faster to get the line on the spool or bring the lure in faster. This does make you work harder. The opposite works with a fast gear ratio like 8:0:1 which is really fast. You can slow the turning of the reel handle to bring in the line and lure slower.

What is key when buying a reel is what species of fish you are targeting and what lures or live baits you're going to use. For example, if you're fishing for pelagic fish such as Spanish Mackerel or Kingfish -- once hooked they will swim at high speeds back toward your boat. You need a spinning reel with a very fast gear ratio to be able to pick up the slack in the fishing line. These fast swimming fish also like a lure to be moving at high speeds. The best way to move the lure faster is with a high and fast gear ratio.

If you are fishing for a slower moving species like redfish or flounder, you need a spinning reel with a slower gear ratio so you do not pull the lure or bait past them too fast. Lower gear ratio reels produce more torque and higher gear ratios produce less torque. The metal gears and shafts in fishing reels are all made out of different metals. When fishing saltwater, certain metals are much stronger and will hold off corrosion better, allowing the reel to handle the harsh saltwater environment and the bigger fish.

Drag and Drag Washers

The object of drag is to put pressure on the fish by slowing him down. It allows the spool to slip and spin before the fishing line breaking strength or the fishing line snaps. This slipping of the spool allows the fish to take line under some tension. Kind of like a human running on a flat road, then comes to a steep hill. Running up the hill makes the human work harder and puts more pressure/tension on their legs or like breaks on a car, the tighter it is the harder it is to pull line off the spool.

It is very important to know that the drag increases as the diameter of the spool decreases. So the less line on the spool the more drag pressure on the fish. The more line on the spool the less pressure on the fish. The drag also increases as your fishing rod bends when fighting a fish. The drag system is manually set by the angler as needed to permit the fish to "run." It consists of washers and a drag knob which all are part of the spool. The drag knob is turned clockwise on most spinning reel models to put downward force/pressure on the drag washers which are inside the spool. The pressure makes it harder for the spool to spin. The more pressure or clockwise turns of the drag knob the harder it is for the fish to pull line off the spool. The counter-clockwise turns of the drag knob lessens the force/pressure and the easier it is for the fish to pull line off the spool.


When purchasing a spinning reel a smooth drag that is consistent is important. A jumpy drag or one that sticks is no good!
A smooth drag requires the right drag washers made out of the right material to disperse heat over the drag washer surface area. The drag system will have some metal washers and numerous other washers made out of assorted materials. The most common drag washer material is grease-impregnated felt. Today's drag-washer materials are not just felt but carbon fiber, cork, ceramic, teflon, titanium, rulon, dartainium and more. There are wet-drag systems and dry-drag systems. Learning to set the drag will be covered at a later time or ask any experienced angler.

Ball Bearings

The type of ball bearings determines the quality of the reel. A greater amount of ball bearings generally equates to an effortless line retrieval. A good quality bearing creates less friction and makes it easier to reel the handle effortlessly. There is a misconception that the more bearings a spinning reel has the better it is. This is not necessarily the case. Three (3) quality ball bearings placed in the right place in a spinning reel is better then ten (10) low-quality ball bearings placed in un-needed locations in the spinning reel.

Get the picture? Ball bearings are not all created equal. The ones made out of stainless steel are better and the grade of stainless steel is also important. The better the grade the better the bearing. Another important factor is the corrosion-resistance of the bearing, especially if you fish in saltwater. Bearings that use the label of ARB (anti-rust bearing), CRBB (corrosion resistant bearing) and other similar labels are a must in salt water. Bearings can also be shielded or sealed.

Instant Anti-reverse and Anti-reverse Lever

This one-way bearing device prevents the reel from back-winding (handle turning counter-clockwise towards you) when a fish is taking line out. It is also called a one-way clutch (OWC). An instant anti-reverse consists of a one-way bearing where there is no play or zero play-back movement in the spinning reel handle. Many older reels and some reels today still don't have an instant anti-reverse, but a multi-stop anti-reverse. Most anglers prefer an instant anti-reverse stop for hook-sets, because there is no play in the handle and the hook set is instantaneous. A multi-stop anti-reverse uses a ratchet design and will always have a little play in the handle.


This causes a little play-back in the spinning reel handle, which leaves a bit of slack in your fishing line when it is hook-setting time. Fishermen feel that the slight slack can and will cause missed instantaneous hook-sets. The anti-reverse lever is a switch on the spinning reel that will let the angler disengage the anti-reverse, letting the angler back-reel if he wants to. This is not recommended when fighting a fish. Years ago it was common for bass fisherman to back reel when a fish took the bait, so the bass would not feel any drag pressure before the angler set the hook. Pier fisherman would use the anti-reverse lever to back their baits down from the pier to the water and anglers that trolled would back reel a bait to a fish. Many reel companies today are now removing the anti-reverse lever.

How to Rig this Kind of Tackle:

Attach the spinning reel to the reel seat by loosening the twist mechanism to allow the foot of the reel to slide in place. Tighten the mechanism and ensure the reel is securely in place. Adjust the drag to very loose and feed the line through the eyes on the rod, taking care to ensure the line is fed through the line roller on the bail of the reel. Run the line toward the rod tip sequentially. Attach a leader and any tackle, tighten the drag to your desired comfort and go fishing!

Spinning Reel Maintenance

After a day of fishing in saltwater, take care to mist the exposed parts of the reel with fresh water to gently remove salt and or debris. Do not submerge the reel in fresh water or spray the reel with a hard stream of water. This will drive in the water and salt to the internal components. "Just Mist it!" Tighten the drag knob all the way down before misting the spinning reel so no water can drip down the shaft and enter near the rotor. After misting the reel, let it dry and then loosen the drag knob so there is no pressure on the drag washers. Keeping the drag knob tight and pressure on the drag washers after a long period of time will ruin the drag washers.

Every so often put some oil on the reel. Remove the spool by loosening the drag knob completely – you will then be able to remove the spool. Place a drop or two of reel oil along the shaft at the base of the pinion gear and rotor nut (where rotor is attached). Use a reel-specific oil which is made by the reel companies or one that is for a marine use. You can also put a drop of oil or two around the bails roller bearing and the area where the spinning reel handle spins.

Never spray a fishing reel with WD-40. WD-40 is a water displacement spray, so it removes the water and only leaves the salt which will corrode your spinning reel. WD-40 also has harsh chemicals in it that will eat the gear lube inside your spinning reel.


There are sprays that will protect your spinning reel. These are Corrosion Block, Corrosion X and Reel Magic. They will keep your reel in top shape. If you decide that you would like to do a yearly maintenance on your spinning reel, which is highly recommended for the avid angler, there are certain precautions to know.

    • Use the schematic that came with the reel or find one online at the manufacturers website.
    • Never put oil on your instant anti-reverse clutch and bearing.
    • Use a special marine-grade lube or grease, many are lithium based.
    • There is a special drag grease to put on wet drag washers.

The best thing to do is take it or mail it to a professional reel repair service shop like Dave's Parts and Service -- 1500 US 19, Holiday FL, 34691. Phone: (727) 942-8944. They can lube and clean it for around $25.00 They are the best in the business!

10 Quality Reel Manufacturers

    • Abu Garcia
    • Alvey Reels
    • Daiwa
    • Seiko
    • Okuma
    • Penn Reels
    • Shimano
    • Shakespeare
    • Pflueger
    • Mitchell

Watch this in-depth video by a Shimano factory expert on how to take apart a spinning reel and clean it properly.

The Online Fisherman Staff

The Online Fisherman

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