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Different Types of Fishing Reels

types of fishing reels
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Fishing reels come in many sizes, and there are as many types of fishing reels as there are types of fishing. That is not to say that there are a hundred types of reels because that is simply not the case. If there is a specialized way to fish for your prey, there is a reel to help you get the job done.

When fishing reels are broken down into categories, there will be 7 different types of reels to use in various fishing situations.

  • Spincasting reel
  • Spinning reels
  • Baitcasting reel
  • Surf fishing reel
  • Trolling reel
  • Fly fishing reel
  • Offshore fishing reel

Some may appear similar to others, but they are designed to maximize the yield in every situation. The best part of having a specific reel for each type of fishing is that it makes it easier to cast, reel the line in, and land the monster fish that would usually get away.

If it was that simple, you would all be master fishermen and fisherwomen, but you can not simply grab the pole with the biggest reel and go out to the nearest pond. 

You need to match the fishing reel with the type of fishing you will be doing. Let’s dig into each of these reels a little more in-depth.

What Are The Different Types of Fishing Reels

1. Spin-casting Reels

Spin-casting reels are the easiest type of reel to learn how to fish with because they allow you to concentrate on learning good fishing techniques rather than trying to figure out how to keep the reel from knotting the line-up. 

These reels are the best option for young anglers, older anglers just learning, and anyone that wants to fish without dealing with reel issues.

The good thing with the spin-casting reels is that the line does not knot up as often as some other reels. 

The bad news is that they are not built to handle any big fish or situations requiring extreme fishing rods. 

This reel is designed for three types of fishing situations; anything else you try at your own risk.

  • Panfish species
  • Small catfish
  • Small saltwater and freshwater fish species

Small fish are no problem for a spin-casting reel, but anything with any weight will stress the reel beyond its maximum operating point, causing it to break or the line to snap. 

Either way, you will have a story to tell about the big fish that got away.

On the other hand, these reels make a great addition to any fishing reel collection because they can work very well on a short pole, such as the telescoping styles designed to take deep into the backcountry to a hidden lake you know about. 

They can also come in handy if you are trying to fish in an area with a ton of brush and low-hanging trees.

2. Spinning Reels

 The spinning reelOpens in a new tab. has become the most popular choice for anglers of all ages and experience levels. It is a multipurpose, multi-use reel that can be used for any fishing situation. 

It is best suited for fishing areas where you need accurate casts or long casts away from the land or boat you are using, but they can be used for all applications you may need.

  • Casting
  • Lure fishing
  • Trolling
  • Jigging

The only type of fishing you cannot do with a spinning reelOpens in a new tab. is in areas where you want to fly fish. Otherwise, they can do it all if you have the appropriate reel size. 

The best part is that they are easy to learn, and as long as you keep the line tight when you reel it in, it is nearly impossible for the line to knot up.

Unfortunately, if you let the line go slack when you start reeling, such as immediately after you set the hook, the line will loop around on itself and cause you to have a knot in the middle of the line. 

Worst case scenario, you will have a ball of line sitting next to you as the fish you have on the line gets free from your hook.

The spinning reelOpens in a new tab. is the most universal type because it can be used on any fishing trip. The unit size may make a difference depending on where you are going.

The great thing is that if you have the spinning reelOpens in a new tab. set up for the type of fish that are common in your area, you will be able to bring in anything that decides to chomp on your bait or spinner.

3. Baitcasting Reels

The baitcasting reel is a step up from the spin-casting reel. You will have much better control when using this reel, giving you much more interaction with the fishing process. Baitcasters are much more complicated to use, though. 

You will need to take the time to tweak the reel and get it ready for the water. You cannot simply buy one on the shelf, throw it onto a pole, and go fishing.

You may now be wondering why you want a reel that you need to read through the manual before using it to catch some fish. 

The answer is simple; once you get it set up for the type of fishing you need it for, you will have numerous benefits over the spinning reel.

  • Better line control which allows you better, more accurate casting.
  • Ability to control the line’s speed to help prevent water slap when casting.
  • You maintain contact with the line and the lure on the end of it, which allows you to feel a strike at all times.
  • High cranking power for heavier weights and lures.
  • You will be able to cast and control much heavier lines.

The baitcasting reelsOpens in a new tab. take a little time to get used to and even longer to master. You will have some knots and line messes that will have you breaking out the scissors and starting over. 

If you have patience, take time to learn how to use it effectively, and have a couple of other reels available if you need to take a break, you will be happy with the baitcasting reel.

Baitcasting reels are only for some. They take a particular type of angler to use them effectively, but it is well worth the effort you would need to put into learning how to use them effectively.

If your favorite reel is the spin casting style, you should take the leap and at least give the baitcaster a try.

4. Surf Fishing Reels

When watching movies, you have more than likely seen some people standing on the shore of the beach and casting a pole far out into the ocean. 

Only some reels are designed for this type of fishing because of the sand, saltwater, rain, or other weather conditionsOpens in a new tab. that may be present.

 A surf fishing reel is designed especially for these conditions but can also be used when fishing from the shore along a large lake. It will help you catch a number of big fish that like to hang out close to the beaches.

  • Striped bass
  • Bluefish
  • Spotted sea trout
  • Flounder
  • Red drum
  • Pompano

When you go shopping for one, it will quickly become apparent that all shapes and sizes of reels are on display. They look and feel like some of the freshwater reels you may have lying around in your garage. 

They are the same thing, just designed for bigger lines, tackle, and fish, and they must be corrosion-resistant to all weather and water conditions.

But one is designed for surf fishing conditionsOpens in a new tab.. Other than that, you can get your favorite style of reel.

5. Trolling Reels

 The trolling reel is another specialized reel similar to other types but different in vitally important ways. The reel is very similar to the average baitcasting reel except for one thing. 

It is designed to hold more lines and can hold up to stronger amounts of drag tension to catch any of the following fish. 

When trolling, you need to have a reel that can hold up to the big fish you are trying to catch and the constant pull created by the moving boat.

  • Trout
  • Tuna
  • Mackarel
  • Mahi-mahi
  • Marlin

You can even find some with a counter attached to them to help you duplicate the perfect amount of time the bait took to go down into the depths. 

They can also come with a lever that allows you to click the drag into a preset amount, making it possible for you to adjust the drag in a split second, to match the type and size of fish you have on the line.

6. Offshore Fishing Reels

The offshore fishing reel is another reel similar to the others but built for a different variety of fish. Fish that can easily be bigger than you are. 

The reel must be able to cope with the weather, sea salt, sand, and dirt, and it must be versatile enough to catch any fish you may want to catch. 

The main thing to know about this type of reel is that it is designed for heavier use.

Now that you know the basic idea behind the offshore fishing reel, you need to understand that there are so many different types of fish in the ocean that it is impossible to pick one reel for your offshore fishing trip. 

One of the most significant factors you will need to consider is the type of fishing you plan to do.

  • Trolling
  • Jigging
  • Stationary

The type of fishing you plan on doing will demand different options from the reel you use. Lever drags the best offshore reel type, but the star drag designs will also work. 

To choose the right reel for the job, you will need to know what kind of fish you are hunting for and how big they get in the area you will be fishing. 

You never want to go with a massive rod and reel that may be hard to handle if you are planning on catching fish that you can put into a cooler.

What are the different types of fishing reels and how do they compare to waterproof and mag-sealed reels?

There are three main types of fishing reels: spinning reels, baitcasting reels, and spincast reels. In terms of waterproof vs. magsealed reelsOpens in a new tab., waterproof reels are designed to prevent water from entering the gearbox and drag system, while magsealed reels use magnetic oil to keep out water and debris, providing smoother operation.

7. Fly Fishing Reels

Fly fishing reels are one of the most simple reels you could ever use. Still, the art of fly fishing makes it one of the most unused types. 

The reel is a drum-based style that allows you to pull the fly fishing line out as you swoop the rod over your head in preparation for launching the fly to the perfect spot on the water. 

You only need to turn the knob on the side to reel it in, and the line will wind back onto the reel, which helps you catch several different fish breeds.

  • Trout
  • Bass
  • Salmon
  • Pike
  • Carp
  • Panfish
  • Snook

The fly fishing reel must be big enough to handle the type of fish you are going after because you will need your hands free to help keep the line from being yanked all the way out by the fish. 

It may sound like the reel is less important than the other types discussed, but that is far from the truth. The reel does not have a drag adjustment or a brake to help stop the line from being pulled out.


Choosing the correct reel for the type of fishing you plan to do is imperative if you want to have a good day on the water. 

The area you are fishing in will have particular reels that you can purchase in the local retail shops, or the specialized fishing shops, that will guide you in the direction you need to go. 

If you grew up in the area, you would already know what you need, but if you are visiting the area on a fishing vacation, you may want to hook up with a local guide. 

They can help you get the reel you need and get you to the best fishing spots.Opens in a new tab.

If you are looking for a rod out of the seven universal types for most applications, you will want to stick with the spinning reel because it is one of the most versatile types and can be purchased in any size. 

Other than that, it is time to grab your pole and get out onto the water.

Zaldy G.

I love feeling the cool ocean spray every time I hit the beach with a rod and a bucket of bait. I love the thrill of feeling bites on my line whenever I hook a big one. And I especially love the pride that comes with cooking a fresh catch and sharing it with my friends and family. Thank you for stopping by. Let's go catch some fish!

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