Different Types of Fishing Reels – Which Should You Choose?

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As a beginner angler, you probably want to have a fishing reel that fits your specific needs instead of just using the same type of reel anytime that you go fishing. Overall, there are several different reel types that you can use on your rod, but the one that you use the first few times you go fishing is not going to be the same model that you use with years of experience. In this guide, we are going to discuss the different types of fishing reels so that you can find the right option for your needs. We will also review a few reel options so that you have a variety of reels to select from when it’s time to purchase a new one. We also have examples of popular fishing reels that we think are great to get started with below.

Why Do You Need to Use Different Reels?

Fishing can be a very versatile activity, so you are going to want the reel that works best with your needs. An experienced angler is not going to use the same reel that they used when they were first learning to fish. A beginner is likely to use a spin cast reel because it is more budget-friendly and easier for a novice to use. However, a pro will most likely find that a spinning reel or a baitcasting reel may be more up their ally.

The type of fish that you are attempting to catch will also have an impact on the kind of reel that you need to be using. Large fish that have a lot of drag when they are reeled in will only work well with a type of reel that can handle the weight of the fish. Spin cast fishing reels are designed to be used with smaller fish, which is why it is an ideal option for a beginner. When you are fishing out in the ocean, there are a lot of huge fish that you can encounter, so a baitcasting reel is often the best option for when you are fishing in saltwater.

Different Reels for Different Environments

The location that you are fishing can also play an essential role in the type of reel that you will want to use. Let’s take a look at a few of the different types of reels that we will be looking at in this guide, and the various locations where they will work the best.

  • Spin Cast Fishing Reels – This is a type of reel that works great for fishing on the banks of lakes and other freshwater that does not have much of a current.
  • Spinning Fishing Reels – This is a type of reel that will work well in both fresh and saltwater. It can be used to catch any type of fish, as long as it is not too large in size.
  • Baitcast Fishing Reels – This is a type of reel that is commonly used in saltwater by experienced anglers.
  • Fly Fishing Reels – This is a type of fishing reel that is typically used in shallow water. It is ideal for river fishing because it can handle a strong current.

The Most Common Types of Reels

Since we know that there are different types of reels that you will want to use for different instances, it is important to understand what each type of reel can do for your fishing. The below video does an excellent job of explaining the differences between a spin cast reel, a spinning reel, and a baitcasting reel. Let’s take a more detailed look at some of the more common fishing reels that can be purchased and find out the best time to use each option.

Spin Cast Fishing Reels

A spin cast fishing reel is one that is typically very inexpensive to purchase. It is also a reel that is straightforward to use, which is why it’s an excellent option for children and beginners. However, the casting distance on these reels is far less than others, and it is not designed to catch larger fish. In fact, it will work for catching any fish that are small to medium-sized, which includes floating fish and bottom feeders. It does create a fairly accurate cast, so it helps you get the line to more precise locations with ease.

When to Use a Spin Cast Reel

You will want to use a spin cast reel when you are looking to catch smaller fish. It will be an ideal option to use in small bodies of freshwater, which will include lakes, creeks, and other slow-moving bodies of water.

Spinning Fishing Reel

Spinning fishing reels such as Shimano’s are the most common type of reels to be used by anglers today. It is a relatively simple type of reel to use, and it can accommodate the needs of a novice and a seasoned angler. Because of this versatility, the spinning reel is one of the most popular options on the market. They can be a great reel to use for smaller fish as well as larger fish that do not put up a fight. When an angler begins to fish, they often consider this type of reel as the second type that they try. It allows you to use previously learned techniques and opens doors that will give you more experience as well.

When to Use a Spinning Fishing Reel

This is a type of fishing reel that can be used in a number of varied situations. It can be used by someone who is fishing on the beach or by someone who is fishing in a lake.

Baitcasting Fishing Reel

If you are looking for a type of fishing reel that offers advantages above the rent, then the baitcasting reel is worth considering. It will give you quite a bit of accuracy when you cast, and the amount of power that the reel provides is more than adequate. It does require a bit of practice to learn the ins and outs of using a baitcasting reel, but once you get the hang of it, it’s pretty straightforward. Many advanced anglers like the baitcasting reel because it can be held in two different ways, and the ability to use heavier lure and line makes it easier to catch larger fish.

Many beginners will not feel comfortable with this type of reel because there is a learning curve. If the line is not on the reel properly, birds-nests can be the result. Birds-nests can be very annoying for the angler because they are extremely difficult knots to get out of the line. Many anglers have found that light bait will not go as far when using a baitcasting fishing reel, especially on a windy day.

When to Use a Baitcasting Fishing Reel

If you would like to catch relatively large fish that can put up a fight when you are reeling them in, then a baitcasting reel is going to be ideal for your needs. It works well in saltwater, but baitcasting is often associated with bass fishing.

Person Fishing in the Ocean

Surf Fishing Reels

This can be a great option for anglers who like to fish in an area where there is a lot of sun and saltwater. Surf Fishing Reels tend to be more durable, and since it is made out of stainless steel or another high-quality material, you will find that the body of the reel does not rust. They are also very accurate reels that will work well for advanced anglers to fish in the surf. This reel can even work well in harsh conditions, so fishing in saltwater is not an issue. With that being said, the reel will also work well in freshwater. Because of the versatility of this type of reel, the product will likely cost a bit more. Overall, the cost comes from the reel being made out of more durable material, which will help it last longer.

When to Use a Surf Fishing Reel

This is the type of reel that is often used when you travel to the beach for a vacation. This will allow you to use the reel in the ocean directly from the shore as well as from the docks if you would like. This is a type of reel that is slightly heavier than the others that we have talked about, so make sure that you can easily cast with the reel.

Offshore Reels

Offshore reels are durable options that are designed to do well in saltwater. They are built to be extremely durable and corrosion-resistant so that they can be used for a very long period of time. With that being said, these durable materials are likely to cost a bit more, which is why these reels are often sold at a higher price point. This is a reel that is designed with a heavy drag system so that it can accommodate larger fish.

When to Use an Offshore Reel

These reels are often used off of the shore at distances that start at about 10 miles and go up to 100 miles or more. These locations are reached using a boat, and they will give you access to the larger fish that can be found in the ocean. This can include fish that weigh between 20 and 50 pounds, so you will need the additional durability that these reels offer.

how to choose lfy fishing reels

Fly Fishing Reels

Fly fishing reels are commonly used by experienced anglers who would like to partake in fly fishing. These reels are designed with a high amount of durability and reliability. The retrieval speeds on these reels are much quicker, so they are often used to catch trout or salmon. This is a type of reel that works well in saltwater and freshwater, but moving water is always going to give you the best results. Fly fishing reels also allow you to drop the fly into the water silently so that the fish are unaware of your presence. Leaning to use one of these reels can be very difficult, but an experienced angler will be able to master the technique easily in a few months.

When to Use a Fly fishing Reel

Fly fishing reels are typically used in moving bodies of water so that the angler can cast into the current and allow it to float back to you. Rivers are ideal for fly fishing, especially shallow bodies of water that will allow you to walk through them.


Q: Which type of reel is the best to be used for ice fishing?

A: There are ice fishing reels that have a smaller design that many anglers use for this activity. These reels use lines that are lighter and shorter rods , which will help prevent the line from tangling when you are fishing.

Q: Which type of fishing reel is best for trolling?

A: Trolling reels are also called conventional reels. Trolling reels are larger than most, and they are designed to be cast behind a boat. This type of reel has a powerful drag system that will be great for catching larger fish in the sea.

Q: What should you consider when purchasing a new fishing reel?

A: Always choose a fishing reel based on your fishing ability and style. To find the ideal reel for your needs, you should consider:

  • The balance of the rod – The reel will add weight to the rod, which could unbalance it. Make sure that you consider the weight of the reel so that the rod stays balanced.
  • Durable materials – Always look for materials that will last, especially if you are planning on fishing in saltwater.
  • Your skill level – Not all reels are designed the same, so you will not want the same reel as a novice as you would with much more experience. A beginner will do well with a spin cast or a spinning reel, but with more experience, you may want a baitcasting rod and reel that takes a bit of practice to master.

Q: How do you properly clean a fishing reel?

A: Cleaning your fishing reel is imperative if you want it to last. This will also help to keep the parts of the reel from corroding after it is used in saltwater. You can clean the reel with soap and water using a gentle sponge. Make sure to clean the reel thoroughly so that all of the salt is removed. Rinse the reel with clean, freshwater, and allow it to dry at room temperature. Lubrication can be added to the reel after it is dry.

Some Examples of Different Types of Fishing Reels 

Below are a few example sof fishing reels that we particularly liked. Verified customers are also very fond of them as well.

1. Zebco Bullet Spincast Reel – Best Spin Cast Fishing Reel

>>Check Price on Amazon<<


Key Features

  • A 5.1:1 gear ratio
  • All metal construction
  • Scratch-resistant surface
  • Right- and left-hand interchangeable

This is an excellent option if you are looking for a spin cast fishing reel. It is easy to use, which makes it ideal for many beginners. It is also a very durable option that will last for quite a while. The frame of the reel is all metal, and it has a forged aluminum cover that is double anodized for additional protection against the elements and water wear. To help keep your line free from tangles, the reel has ZeroFiction dual bearings and an anti-reverse clutch. It also has an all-weather handle that is comfortable to grip when reeling in the line.

>>What Customers Think<<

Many anglers who have purchased this reel have said that the quality of the reel is above most other spin caster reels. It is comfortable to fish with, and it winds and casts great, but it can get heavy after fishing with it all day.


  • This is a very well-built reel with all metal parts.
  • Changing the line on the reel is very straightforward.
  • The reel comes with a beautiful cover to protect it when it’s not being used.


  • The reel is a bit on the heavy side.
  • The Zebco Bullet has a high price point.


2. Penn Battle II Spinning Fishing Reel – Best Spinning Fishing Reel

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Key Features

  • Instant anti-reverse
  • Stainless steel ball bearings that are corrosion-resistant
  • A full metal body construction
  • A gear ratio of 6.2:1

The Penn Battle II stands out because of its heightened durability; it has a full metal body that will stand up over the years. It also has a tough, carbon fiber drag system that will stand up to even the toughest draws without becoming too rough. It utilizes six stainless steel ball bearings, which reduce the friction as you reel the fish in. The gearing also allows you to retrieve the line when needed quickly.

>>What Customer Think<<

Those that have reviewed the Penn Battle II note that it has a smooth control scheme and build quality that makes it an excellent option for any new angler. Many also consider it to be a great value reel that doesn’t shed durability for a low price. The rubber lining also has several fans thanks to the extra grip this feature delivers.


  • Thanks to the rubber lining, the flourocast line never slips.
  • The anti-reverse feature makes fighting fish a breeze.
  • It is designed with a solid build that will last quite a while.


  • The 5000 to 8000 models are a bit heavy.
  • Wind knots occur from time to time with this reel.


3. Lew’s Speed Spool LFS Baitcasting Reel – Best Baitcasting Fishing Reel

>>Check Price on Amazon<<


Key Features

  • Available in a 5.6:1 right-hand model and a 6.8:1 left-hand gear ratio
  • Durable aluminum frame
  • Solid brass speed gears
  • 34mm spool

This is a great bass fishing reel that works well in salty, briny water thanks to its anodized aluminum frame that won’t corrode as you fish with it. This frame has a single-piece design, so there aren’t many crevices where extra material will cake while you’re out fishing. The internal gears are also made of tough brass, so they will have lastingness, even when you’re fishing for larger catches.

>>What Customers Think<<

The reviews for this baitcasting real are overwhelmingly positive. Many reviewers appreciate the fact that this is a very affordable reel with a great build quality. The casting also seems to be very smooth with this reel, and the gears rotate smoothly, even when dealing with bass and larger fish. There are some mentions of a clicking noise when reeling in some situations, but overall this is a well-regarded product.


  • The reel casts very smoothly.
  • It is available in several different sizes, which are right- and left-hand options.
  • It is sold at a very low price, which makes purchasing this reel a great value.


  • This reel takes a bit to get used to using when you go fishing.
  • The reel makes a bit of noise when it is cast.


4. Dr. Fish Saltwater Spinning Reel for Surf Fishing – Best Surf Fishing Reel

>>Check Price on Amazon<<


Key Features

  • 13+1 stainless steel ball bearings
  • Durable aluminum spool
  • Corrosion-resistant reel
  • 3.9:1 gear ratio

Fish calls this reel “a BIG gun for the BIG game,” and this is a fairly apt description. This reel is very inexpensive, but it packs in a very competitive feature set for those looking for versatility. The exterior is crafted out of aluminum, so you can expect rust and corrosion resistance as you surf fish in saltier waters. The ball bearings inside of the reel are also rust-resistant and provide excellent smoothness when reeling in a large fish. The reel has a 40-pound max drag and has a very durable construction.

>>What Customers Think<<

While the general consensus is that the reel is definitely a bit heavy compared to other reels, most reviewers value this reel for its sturdy design. Many also appreciate the durability of the reel; you’re going to have this reel for years, so the relatively small investment cost is definitely a major selling point.


  • It has a very long cast, which works great for surf fishing in saltwater.
  • The durable structure of this reel is designed to last a long time.
  • There is a very low amount of friction on the reel, which makes it an excellent reel for fighting large fish.


  • The reel is a bit bulkier than most.
  • The instructions that come with the reel are not in English.


5. Shimano Saragosa Offshore Saltwater Spinning Reel – Best Offshore Fishing Reel

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Key Features

  • A gear ratio of 5.7:1
  • A maximum drag of 22 – 44 pounds
  • Uses X-Ship technology to eliminate line friction
  • Six stainless steel ball bearings that are corrosion-resistant

Another reel that’s designed for saltier waters, the Shimano Saragosa, is an exceedingly tough reel that is perfect when you’re battling the more massive monsters of the deep. Thanks to the proprietary propulsion line management system, you can easily make longer casts while not having to worry about tangling and knots. Since you’ll be in briny areas with a lot of salt, it’s useful that Shimano shielded the bearings so that excess material won’t build up while you’re reeling.

>>What Customers Think<<

Reviewers seem to love the fact that the six ball bearings inside the shielded body reel so smoothly, even when something massive is on the line. The maximum drag, which is 44 pounds, also seems to be something that anglers appreciate, especially at the mid-range price point. Still, most agree that it is a bit more of an investment for those that are casual anglers.


  • This reel is ideal for fishing in saltwater, and it easily manages large fish.
  • This reel has a significant amount of drag.
  • This reel is built to last, so it is durable and more reliable than most reels on the market.


  • This reel is a bit on the smaller size when compared to similar reels.
  • The gears beneath the rubber seal are not corrosion-resistant.


6. Piscifun Sword Fly Fishing Reel – Best Fly Fishing Reel

>>Check Price on Amazon<<


Key Features

  • Built with CNC-machined 6061-T6 aluminum alloy
  • A corrosion-resistant body
  • Click drag that has accurate adjustments
  • A hard anodized surface that is scratch-resistant

This fly fishing reel is useful for anglers that want a more accurate cast; it has a zero deviation design that makes it an excellent option for precision. The drag system is built using a multi-disc cork system that also incorporates stainless steel for durability and corrosion resistance. There’s also a one-way clutch bearing that delivers a smooth reel-in when you’re out on the water. This is an aluminum fly fishing reel that is anodized for a higher level of protection against the elements, and the aluminum design makes it surprisingly lightweight.

>>What Customers Think<<

Most agree that this is a fly fishing reel that’s ideal for casual users. It’s not very expensive, and the machined construction makes for a smooth reel in. The build quality is also very solid, and the lightweight feel is excellent for those that want to perfect their fly fishing.


  • The drag is smooth and easy to adjust.
  • This is a very affordable fishing reel that is available in a variety of colors.
  • This product comes with a generous three-year warranty.


  • Changing the spool is a bit difficult, and can take a while to be able to switch the line easily.
  • The drag may need to be readjusted from time to time.


Final Thoughts

Hopefully, this guide has helped you to determine the type of fishing reel that works best for your style of fishing. Since this is a roundup, I will say that the best option on this guide for my needs is the Lew’s Speed Spool LFS Baitcasting Reel. It is a durable option that is available in both right- and left-handed models. It is also easy to cast and adjust when it is required. If you are not as experienced, the Penn Battle II Spinning Fishing Reel is a very versatile option that works in fresh and saltwater. It has a significant level of durability, and it has a design that looks rather attractive on any fishing rod.

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