Types of Fishing Reels: Pros & Cons

Nov 22, 2023
Joshua Fuld

CEO and Founder

Reading Time: 7 minutes


Welcome to the world of fishing reels – a vital component for every angler’s toolkit. In this guide, we delve into the different types of fishing reels, each with its unique features and specific uses. Whether you’re casting your line in a serene lake, battling a fierce marlin in the ocean, or exploring somewhere in between, the right reel makes all the difference. At J&H Tackle, we understand this importance and offer an extensive range of reels, catering to every fishing style and experience level. From the classic reliability of Shimano to the innovative designs of Van Staal, our selection is unmatched.

Looking for the perfect fishing reel? Check out our selection at J&H Tackle.

Understanding Fishing Reels

What Are The 4 Types of Fishing Reels?

The four most popular types of fishing reels are spinning reels, baitcasting reels, conventional reels and electric reels. Each type of reel has its own use case.

Overview of Fishing Reels

A fishing reel is more than just a line holder; it’s a sophisticated mechanism that allows for casting, retrieving, and battling fish. It serves as the link between the angler and the catch, enabling precision, power, and finesse. Reels come in various types, each tailored to specific styles of fishing, environmental conditions, and target species.

The Evolution of Fishing Reels

Over time, fishing reels have evolved significantly. From the early wooden spools to today’s high-tech models featuring advanced materials and intricate gear systems, the progression mirrors technological advancements and a deepening understanding of angling needs. This evolution has led to specialized reels, improving the fishing experience across different environments and techniques.

Types of Fishing Reels

The fishing world is diverse, and so are its tools. Reels are categorized based on their design, functionality, and the fishing techniques they best support. Understanding these categories is crucial in selecting the right reel for your fishing adventures. Whether you’re aiming for precision casting with a baitcaster, enjoying the versatility of a spinning reel, or venturing into deep waters with a conventional reel, or electric reel, each type offers unique benefits. Let’s explore these categories to help you make an informed decision for your next fishing trip.

Spinning Reels

Description and Characteristics

Spinning reels are distinguished by their fixed, open-faced spool positioned underneath the rod. This design allows the line to flow freely off the spool during a cast, making them user-friendly and less prone to tangles or backlashes. They are equipped with a bail wire that helps in line retrieval and management. Spinning reels are great for anglers who are just beginning because making a mistake with one is a lot less than the other types of reels. They are also terrific for advanced users as the manufacturers have really improved the technology over the past forty years.

Ideal Situations for Use

Spinning reels are incredibly versatile and suitable for a wide range of fishing environments, from freshwater lakes to inshore saltwater fishing to catching 300+ lb tuna in the ocean. They are perfect for light to medium bait and lures, making them a top choice for targeting small, medium and really big fish! Spinning reels can be used for casting on the surface of the water as well as bottom fishing or jigging.

Pros and Cons

  • Pros: Easy to use, versatile, less prone to line twisting, and excellent for lighter lures and baits.
  • Cons: Less accurate than baitcasting reels and may have less cranking power for large fish.

Key Features to Consider

When choosing a spinning reel, the first thing to consider is what you are fishing for, where you will be fishing for it and what style of fishing you will be doing. This will give you a general idea of where to start. In most instances if you can answer these questions there will only be a handful of really good reel choices to choose from. Gear ratio, spool size, drag power, and the reel’s overall build and material are also factors to consider. It’s crucial to match the reel’s size with your target species and fishing technique.

Find your ideal spinning reel at J&H Tackle

Baitcasting Reels

Overview and Distinct Features

Baitcasting reels, positioned on top of the rod, are known for their accuracy and control. They feature a revolving spool and are typically used in freshwater situations as well as for targeting inshore saltwater species. Many anglers who used to fish a conventioanl reel have switched to baitcasters. They are lighter in weight and can handle bigger fish than older similar models. These reels are curved to fit in the palm of your hand and are generally more ergonomic than other reels.

When and Why to Use Baitcasting Reels

Ideal for experienced anglers, baitcasting reels are excellent for precision casting, especially when targeting specific areas or fishing in cover. They are the preferred choice for bass fishing and other scenarios where lure placement is crucial. They also excellent at bottom fishing and jigging inshore and nearshore. Baitcasters have changed a lot over the past ten years.

Advantages and Potential Challenges

  • Advantages: Greater casting accuracy, more power for fighting big fish, and better line control.
  • Challenges: Higher risk of backlashes, steeper learning curve, and generally more expensive.

Selection Tips

Look for a baitcasting reel with a comfortable handle (double paddle or power knob), smooth drag system, and a gear ratio that suits your fishing style. The build quality and the braking system are also critical factors.

Explore baitcasting reels at J&H Tackle

Conventional Reels

Explanation of Conventional Reels

Conventional reels, similar in appearance to baitcasting reels, are designed for inshore, nearshore and offshore fishing. These round reels come in all sizes. They have a higher line capacity compared to baitcasting reels and are generally built to handle larger, stronger fish, making them ideal for deep-sea fishing.

Suitable Fishing Scenarios

These reels are best suited for trolling, bottom fishing, and big game fishing. Modern conventional reels are also perfect for inshore fishing. Manufacturers have been able to cut weight out of them making them much more comfortable to fish. They’re the go-to choice for targeting large species like tuna, marlin, and sharks.

Benefits and Limitations

  • Benefits: High line capacity, robust construction, excellent for large fish.
  • Limitations: Can be complex for beginners.

Guide to Choosing the Right Conventional Reel

Consider the line capacity, gear ratio, drag system, and construction material. The reel should align with the type of fishing and the size of fish you’re targeting. Also choose whether you prefer a star drag or a lever drag system. This sounds complicated but its really not. Either system is very easy to learn to use.

Discover the right conventional reel for you at J&H Tackle

Electric Reels

Introduction to Electric Reels and Their Innovation

Electric reels represent the cutting edge of fishing technology. They combine the traditional mechanics of conventional reels with electric motors, automating the retrieval process and reducing the physical strain on anglers.

Best Use Cases

Electric reels are ideal for deep-sea fishing, targeting species like swordfish and deep-water grouper. They are also beneficial for individuals who may need assistance with manual reeling due to physical limitations. So many new anglers have entered the sport because of modern electric reels. So great to see!

Advantages for Specific Types of Fishing

  • Advantages: Automated retrieval, excellent for deep-water fishing, reduces physical exertion.
  • Considerations: Higher cost, requires battery power, typically heavier than manual reels.

Considerations for Purchasing

Key factors include the motor’s power, battery life, line capacity, and the overall durability of the reel. Ensure that the reel can withstand the harsh conditions of deep-sea fishing.

Check out innovative electric reels at J&H Tackle

Choosing the Right Reel

Factors to Consider

Selecting the perfect reel requires considering several factors:

  • Fishing Type: Freshwater or saltwater environments dictate the reel’s material and design.
  • Target Species: Larger species require stronger reels with higher line capacity.
  • Personal Preference: Comfort and ease of use should align with your skill level.
  • Rod Compatibility: Ensure the reel and rod balance well together for optimal performance.
  • Budget: Balance cost with the quality and features you need.

Importance of Matching the Reel to the Fishing Rod

This is super important! You wouldn’t believe how many people try to put spinning reels on casting rods. A well-matched rod and reel combo is crucial for effective fishing. The balance, weight, and action of the rod should complement the reel’s characteristics to enhance casting accuracy and sensitivity.

Budget Considerations

Your budget will influence the type and quality of reel you can purchase. However, investing in a slightly higher-priced reel often means better quality and durability, saving money in the long run.

Maintenance and Care

Basic Maintenance Tips

  • Regularly clean your reel with fresh water, especially after saltwater use.
  • Lubricate moving parts periodically to maintain smooth operation.
  • Check for any signs of wear or damage, and address them promptly.

Cleaning and Storage Advice

  • Thoroughly dry your reel before storage.
  • Store in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight.
  • Use reel covers for extra protection.

Personal Stories and Experiences

Fishing reels are more than just tools; they’re part of our angling stories. From the excitement of a first-time angler using a spinning reel to land their first fish, to the seasoned pro relying on the precision of a baitcaster for that trophy catch, every reel has a tale. At J&H Tackle, we’ve heard countless stories from our customers about the reels they’ve chosen and the unforgettable moments they’ve created.


Choosing the right fishing reel is essential for a successful and enjoyable fishing experience. With the variety of reels available at J&H Tackle, from trusted brands like Shimano, Avet Reels, Van Staal, Penn, to Daiwa, you’re sure to find the perfect match for your fishing adventures. Now there are high quality options that will not only help you catch more fish but also match your personal style. Fish with gear that makes you happy.

Additional Resources

For more information and to explore our extensive range of fishing reels, visit J&H Tackle’s Reel Catalog. Our knowledgeable staff is always ready to provide personalized guidance and advice. Happy fishing, and remember, the right reel can turn a good day on the water into a great one!

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