Outdoors Made Easy

Getting Reel: Plain Talk about Fishing Reels

Don’t feel overwhelmed by the broad array of fishing reels at your local tackle shop. Just take a few minutes to acquaint yourself with the styles of reels and their uses before you drop your cash on the counter!

Fishing reels are among the fisherman’s most prized possessions.

We love them for their looks, function, feel and, of course, the fish they help us catch!

A reel is poised to please when we ask it to do a job it was designed to do and match it up with other appropriate tackle components.

If you are relatively inexperienced with fishing reels, that array of reels inside the glass-enclosed counter is likely to confuse. Before you become baffled by the vast variety of reels or frightened by a price tag, take some time to understand the fundamental differences between reels and how to make a smart decision on your next reel purchase.

Spincast reels

Spincast reels are the easiest to learn and simplest to operate of the three primary styles of casting reels. Generally, they are the least expensive.

Spincast (spincasting) reels are identifiable by their "closed face." That is, the spool containing the fishing line is totally enclosed within the reel itself. The line exits the spool through a single hole at the nose of the reel.

Typically, spincast reels mount on the top of the rod handle. But you will find select models that mount on the underside. Shakespeare offers top-mount and underside-mount options in both its Synergy Ti (read "Titanium") and Synergy Steel spincast models.

The angler controls line release on top-mount spincast reels with a push-button feature located at the rear of the reel and controlled by the thumb. The angler prepares the reel for line release by depressing and maintaining pressure on the button. He executes the cast by releasing thumb pressure. The reel engages for line retrieve with the first turn of the reel handle.

Spincast reels that mount on the underside substitute a "trigger" device positioned between the reel mount and the spool enclosure for the push-button mechanism.

Like all reel types, spincast reels come in multiple sizes to match up with rods of varying lengths and powers. Generally speaking, larger reels match up better with longer and more powerful rods and heavier line strengths. They are designed to handle larger lures, heavier terminal tackle and bigger fish. Smaller reels matched with shorter and lighter action rods better handle lighter line strengths and lighter lures and baits.

Shakespeare note: The Ugly Stik line of spincast rod and reel combinations includes elegant Ladyfish combos for female anglers, colorful Ugly Stik GX2 Youth and Ladies combos and durable Catfish combinations.

Spinning reels

On the scale of difficulty, spinning tackle ranks midway between spincast and baitcasting gear. Although spinning tackle is easier to master than baitcasting tackle, it is the best choice by far for presentations of small lures with light line.

Spinning reels with large line capacity also are more favorable options in a fairly wide range of inshore fishing scenarios, particularly those featuring powerful saltwater species.

Spinning reels derive their moniker from the exposed revolving spool that characterizes this reel style. They mount on the underside of spinning rods, which feature a very large first line guide in the butt section to facilitate line passage from the spinning reel’s spool.

The angler engages the spinning reel for a cast by opening a spring-loaded wire called the "bail" and maintaining hold of the line with the index finger of the casting hand until reaching the "release" point (approximate mid-point) of the casting motion. The angler engages the spool for retrieve with either a turn of the reel handle or manual flip of the bail.

Shakespeare note: Shakespeare offers a wide selection of spinning reels ranging from the four-model Crusader and Agility series to the nine-model Alpha series. The Glacier Ice spinning reel, available in 25 size only, is designed for cold weather fishing.

Baitcasting reels

Although the oldest of our three styles of casting reels, baitcasting reels are the sweethearts of serious fishermen. Once mastered, baitcasting tackle enables the angler to deliver long and accurate casts and make artful and subtle bait presentation into small target areas.

Low-profile baitcasting reels dominate the market today. They allow the angler to grip both rod and reel simultaneously for better feel and control during the retrieve. Another style of baitcasting reel that is round in shape and higher in profile still has its following. Such reels generally offer greater line capacity than their low-profile counterparts.

Depressing a button or lever mechanism puts the baitcasting reel in "free spool" mode and prepares it for the cast. At the beginning of the cast, the angler applies thumb pressure to the spool. He releases that thumb pressure at roughly the mid-point of the casting motion. The angler usually applies thumb pressure again just before the lure or bait hits the water and may even apply faint thumb pressure while the bait is in the air to control the cast.

Baitcasting reels require the angler to adjust spool tension to the size of lures. Proper adjustment helps to prevent line overrun – the dreaded "backlash." Most reels have adjustable brake mechanisms serving this function as well.

Shakespeare note: Fear of "backlash" prevents many fishermen from adding baitcasting tackle to their angling arsenal. The Shakespeare E-Z Cast Low Profile Reel features a revolutionary Anti-Backlash System (ABS) to take the fear out of baitcasting use and allow even beginner’s to cast with confidence. Other Shakespeare baitcasting reels include the Alpha and Agility models.

Trolling and Fly reels

The three aforementioned reel styles will satisfy the needs of anglers in most freshwater and saltwater casting situations. But you should be familiar with two other types of reels as well.

Trolling reels appear and function much like baitcasting reels, but they are designed for controlled line release with the lure or bait already in the water. Casting with these reels can be difficult if not impossible.

Fly reels are designed for fly fishing, a style of fishing that merits its own separate discussion.

Whatever the style of tackle you select, be sure to match rod, reel and line to the size of the lure or bait and the size of fish you are likely to encounter.

Get reel, and get in on the fun!

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