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Different Types of Fishing Reels – A Helpful Guide

Different types of fishing reels. Baitcasting, fly fishing, spinning and spincast reels.

What are the different types of fishing reels? That is the question. It is also a very good question to ask when you are just getting started in the world of fishing. It’s a good question because the reel is one of the most important pieces of equipment you will want to acquire in your fishing arsenal.

But first, you will want to choose which type of fishing rod you want to use and then choose the reel that is right for the rod. So assuming you have picked a rod I will explain the different types of fishing reels and their uses.

4 Different Types of Fishing Reels

There are four types of fishing reels that you can choose from before going out fishing. The four types of reels are:

  1. Bait-casting Reel
  2. Spinning Reel
  3. Spin-cast Reel
  4. Fly Reel

Bait-casting Reels

Baitcasting spinning reel

There are two main kinds of bait-casting reels. They are round style and low profile.

Round Style

The round style are the more traditional type of bait-casting reels. They hold more line than the low profile reels but your line can get tangled up easily with these reels. This is the style you want if you are fishing for the monsters of the sea because they can put up with the fight of a large fish.

Low Profile Style

Low profile bait-casting reels are lighter and smaller than the round style reels. They produce less backlash and don’t tangle as easily as the round ones do. This style is not quite as accurate as of the round style but still can get your line pretty close to where you want it to be. Low profile reels are best used for large species freshwater fishing like lake trout, musky or catfish.

Bait-casting reels are best for the more experienced angler. It takes quite a bit of practice to learn how to operate a bait-casting reel. You need to control the spool using your thumb which can be tricky to learn.

Once you do get the hang of how they work bait-casting can be one of the best reels to use fishing because they are extremely accurate casting reels. When you cast your line you can stop the line by pushing a button on the reel at the exact spot you want. This makes for excellent pinpoint accuracy that anglers love about the bait-casting reels. 

Most of the bait-casting reels come with an open face. They are best used with heavy test line and big heavy lures. You will be able to fight some monster fish with these reels because there are many gears in these reels. For every revolution of the handle, the spool turns three times giving you extreme power against the fish.

So naturally you probably guessed but baitcasting reels are popular with the saltwater anglers who go after the larger sized fish species like Marlin or swordfish. Saltwater anglers also love these reels because you can cast long distances with them. Which is important when casting into the ocean.

Spinning Reels

Spinning fishing reel.

Spinning reels are the most popular of all the reels. This is because they are easy to use and you can do most types of fishing using these reels. The reel itself hangs below the rod, unlike bait casting and spin casting reels that are located above the rod.

All you have to do with a spinning reel is hold the bail arm open when you are casting and let go when your lure or bait hit the spot on the water that you were aiming for. You also need to keep your fingers on the line before you cast and let go when you cast.

With spinning reels, you want to use light no heavier than 20 pounds test line. Line capacity is excellent on these reels and there's no backlash with spinners.

There are six main components on a spinning reel. They are:


This component is located in the front of the reel on top of the spool. With the drag you can adjust the tension of the fishing line on your reel. By tension I mean how much the fish is going to feel when its yanking on your line.

Bail Arm

The bail arm is the curved piece of metal lever that you flip when casting your line. Doing this lets your line loose so that it can be cast. You let it flip back when casting is complete.

Reel Handle

The handle that you use to retrieve the fishing line.

Line Spool

The spool holds the fishing line.

Line Roller

The line goes from the spool to the line roller to the rod.

Reel Foot

The reel foot holds the reel to the rod. It’s held to the rod by a screw or some type of tightening mechanism.

It can be a daunting challenge trying to decide on the right spinning reel to choose from. There are so many different kinds on the market.

 If you're in the market for a new spinning reel then do yourself a favor and check out my review of the best saltwater spinning reels here. These spinning reels are rated for saltwater fishing but can also be used for freshwater fishing as well.

Spin-casting Reels

Spincast Fishing Reel.

Spin-casting reels are good reels for beginning anglers to use. There’s not a lot that can go wrong with these reels. All the critical components are enclosed with a cover that screws or pops on and off for protection from line tangling and the elements getting in. You won’t have any backlash with this type of reel.

The fishing line comes out a hole in the cover. A button opposite of the cover lets the line release when you push it and it stops when you let go. Very easy to cast. But this type of reel is not as accurate as the spinning and bait-casting reels. And you won't be able to cast as far as you could with  the other reels.

Spin-casting reels are good reels for beginning anglers to use. There’s not a lot that can go wrong with these reels. All the critical components are enclosed with a cover that screws or pops on and off for protection from line tangling and the elements getting in. You won’t have any backlash with this type of reel.

The fishing line comes out a hole in the cover. A button opposite of the cover lets the line release when you push it and it stops when you let go. Very easy to cast. But this type of reel is not as accurate as the spinning and bait-casting reels.

Fly Reels

Fly fishing reel.

The last of the main types of fishing reels is the fly reel. What are the fly reels used for? You guessed it fly fishing. These reels are a lot different than all the other types of fishing reels.

I’m not sure why they even call these reels because you don’t even reel the fish in with them. They are only on the fly rod to hold the fishing line but they provide tension or drag which is important when fighting big fishing at the end of your line.

The main things you want to consider when choosing a fly reel is that you want one that won’t rust. When you are fly fishing your reel is going to get wet. You are probably going to get wet as well because you are usually in the water likely a river or a stream when you are fly fishing. So a rust-resistant fly reel is very important.

The other thing you want to know is the weight of the line you're typically going to be using and choose a fly reel that’s compatible with the weight for the line you are using. There are various sized fly reels and the prices can vary wildly so due your homework before choosing a fly reel for the first time.

If you're interested in getting started fly fishing then you will want to check out the guide I wrote about fly fishing for beginners. The fly fishing beginners' guide will show you what equipment you need to get started and some useful tips to get you catching those delicious trout that a lot of us crave.

Which Fishing Reel is Right For You?

Now that you have an idea of what different types of fishing reels are out there it is your turn. To recap there are four main types of fishing reels to choose from.


There is the bait-casting reel used mainly by experienced anglers. They are the most accurate of all fishing reels. You use them when you are fishing large types of fish and for saltwater fishing. They handle heavier weight lines and large lures.


Then we have the spinning reels. These are the most popular of all the reels. They are easy to cast for long distances. You can catch a variety of fish using spinning reels. They are ideal for intermediate experienced anglers.


Next, we have the spin-casting reels. These are great reels to use as a beginner. They are easy to cast but they don’t cast as far as the other reels. These are the most inexpensive of all the reels but they won’t tangle or give you backlash and all the main components are protected by a cover.


Last, are the fly reels. These reels are used exclusively for fly fishing. There are many varieties and prices vary on these types of reels. You will want to choose a  fly reel that is rust-resistant and is rated for the right weight of line you will be fishing with.

I hope you got some useful information from this article. Thank you for reading and If you have any questions or comments feel free to leave them in the comments section below. As always Happy Fishing!

How to Clean a Spinning Reel – Helpful Guide Shows You How

Person's hand holding a spinning fishing reel.

Knowing how to clean a spinning reel is crucial to the continued performance of your spinning reel. Spinning reels are one of the most important pieces of fishing equipment that you could own. So you will want to clean your reel properly by removing dirt, debris, and saltwater that can accumulate on and in your reel.

These little particles can get in your reel and cause damage and corrosion that could become irreversible. That’s the last thing we want. You have spent your hard-earned money on this equipment and you want to keep it as pristine as possible.

If you adhere to the following guidelines your spinning reel should last for years to come. Without further ado let’s jump right into the dirty little details. 🙂

How to Clean a Spinning Reel Properly

Saltwater Usage

Saltwater is one of the worse things that can happen to your spinning reel. If you are a saltwater angler you will want to clean your reel more often than a freshwater angler would. You will want to clean it after every fishing outing that you go on.

Freshwater Usage

If you are a freshwater angler you will probably want to clean your spinning reel about once or twice a year. I will usually clean my reel once in the middle of the fishing season and then when I’m done fishing for the season. That way you don’t put it away wet so to speak.

Items Needed For Cleaning a Spinning Reel

Items use for cleaning a spinning reel. Spinning fishing reel with spool detached. Toothbrush, phillips head screwdriver, toothpicks q-tips, 3 sticky notes 1,2,3 written on them, lubricant cleaner, towel.

You will need a few every day around the house type of items to clean your reel with.

Here’s what you need:

  • Phillips head screwdriver or screw gun with a Phillips insert.
  • Flat Head Screwdriver
  • Tweezers
  • Q-tips
  • Toothpicks 
  • Toothbrush
  • WD-40 or a similar brand lubricant
  • Reel Grease
  • Ball Bearing Oil
  • Clean towel or rags that you can get dirty and stained

Once you have these items you are ready to clean.

First Clean the Outside of the Spinning Reel

Cleaning the outside of your reel is the easiest and doesn’t take long at all. You can do this after every fishing outing that you go on if you like. You can use a hose with a light mist of water to clean the salt and dirt off the outside of the reel. Next whip it off with a clean, dry towel or rag.

Whatever you do don’t dunk it in a bucket of water even though bearings and components are sealed it is not good practice to put your reel in water if you absolutely can help it.

Next, take the spool off and then you will want to lower the axle of the reel so that it is in a downward position. You can do this by turning the handle. After that, spray the body of the reel with WD-40 making sure to have the rotor and spool axle away from you while you are spraying.

Now take the towel and whip down the body of the reel. This will clean the dirt and grime from the outside of the reel. Pretty easy right?

Cleaning the Internal Components of the Spinning Reel

Now that the outside is nice and clean you will want to start disassembling your spinning reel so that you can clean the internal parts of the reel.

I recommend taking your reel apart piece by piece taking special note of the parts that come off so that you can reassemble them in reverse order from the way you disassembled them. A good way to keep track of the parts is to get a pad of posted notes and put the part on the posted note with a number that corresponds with the part 1, 2, 3, etc. Then you would assemble the parts in reverse order after cleaning.

Take out little parts like springs with the tweezer. This ensures that you won’t lose any parts while you are disassembling them. The tweezers also make it a lot easier putting the small parts back as well.

Grease the Gears and Oil the Bearings

Grease and oil can.

Once you have everything disassembled, check the gears in the reel make sure that grease doesn’t look black or have dirt and grime in it. The only reason the gear grease would be dirty is if you dropped it in mud or dirty water. If the gears have dirt in the grease then you will need to take the gears out and clean them with the Q-tips. Make sure that you align them right when you put them back in. If the gears are misaligned you are going to damage the reel and or it won’t work.

If the grease seems clean then all you have to do is dab a little grease using a toothpick onto the bottom and top of the gear teeth. The block that holds the gears should be greased as well on the top and bottom.

Clean the ball bearings with a biodegradable cleaner and then oil them using only one drop of oil per ball bearing.

Cleaning of Parts

Now you will want to clean all the parts with a biodegradable cleaner. There are special rod and reel cleaners that you can buy but you can also just use Simple Green or WD-40. Clean the parts scrubbing with a toothbrush and toothpicks to get into the small crevasses. This is the most important part of the cleaning process. Make sure all sand, grit, and dirt are out of the component parts before reassembling.

When All is Said and Done

Once you have sufficiently cleaned all the internal parts of the reel, greased and oiled everything that needs it then you can start reassembling all the parts. As long as you numbered the parts as I mentioned earlier you should have no problem reassembling them in reverse order from how you disassembled them.

Once the reel is put back together spin the reel and make sure it works the way it’s supposed to. The good thing is that it’s not that difficult as long as you have everything laid out and individually numbered. You only need to do this once or twice a year if your fishing freshwater but if your saltwater fishing you might want to do this after every fishing excursion.

At the very least for saltwater fishing clean the outside of the reel every time. Now that you know how to clean a spinning reel you will be able to keep your reel corrosion and damage-free for years to come.

I hope I have provided you with useful information on how to take care of your spinning reel. If you have any questions or comments feel free to leave them in the comments section below and I will be happy to answer each and every one of them. As always Happy Fishing!