By Capt. Steve Chaconas
So, you want to reel them in? Which reel is really the best for fishing depends on your skill level and the type of fishing you’re doing.
There are 4 types of reels: spincast, spinning, baitcasting, and fly-fishing.
Most are familiar with the spincast reel. Push the button, aim, whip the rod back and once it moves forward toward your target, release your thumb. This reel is very good for beginners as well as for casting 6-pound test or lower.
Spincast reels are relatively foolproof and easy to skip baits under docks and overhangs. The “free” spool allows baits to fall vertically. However, limitations of this reel include line size and slow retrieve speed.
Spinning reels have an exposed spool of line held in place by a bail wire. Holding the line with your index finger, open the bail and proceed with the casting motion, releasing your finger allowing line to spool off. To stop the line, drop your index finger to the spool.
Baits can also be easily skipped under docks and overhanging brush with spinning reels. Line is free-spooled, so a vertical drop, if desired, can be accomplished. The limitation of this reel is line size (12-pound test). Bigger and heavier reels can accommodate heavier lines but will tire you out after a full day of casting.
A helpful hint is to close the spinning reel bail by hand to eliminate loops, which can really snarl your line. You can fish just about every situation with these reels.
The third reel requires an educated thumb to regulate the speed of the revolving spool, slowing down the revolutions as the bait hits the water. It’s not simple, but the rewards of using this mini-winch are great. The spool release is accomplished with a thumb button.
Casting reels can hold 20-pound test line and still fit into the palm of your hand. They can be used to quietly pitch baits short distances. Reel manufacturers have spent the last several decades making these reels the cream of the crop.
The largest drawback is the backlash. This occurs when baits have either slowed or stopped but the thumb has not slowed or stopped the spool that continues to outpace the output of line, resulting in a tangled mess. However, this doesn’t happen often once you get the hang of these reels. One thing’s for sure, you’ll get better at untangling these “bird nests”.
There’s an application for each reel. In fact, all three are on my boat and used for specific presentations. Whether I’m seeking to have a bait fall vertically or really need to skip a bait way under a dock or overhang, the real key to my reel choice is line size and what I am trying to accomplish. A matched reel, rod and line size (diameter) enables me to achieve a particular depth or speed.
Ambassadeur, Mitchell, Shimano, Penn, Zebco, Quantum, Diawa, Shakespeare and others all have reels from the fifty-dollar range, up to nearly seven hundred dollars.
Spending about $25 for the spincast, $50 for the spinning, and $100 for the baitcasting reel will probably be a good range for decent quality. I use Quantum Smoke spinning and casting reels in the fastest speeds available.
I strongly suggest if you reel a spinning reel with your left hand, that you get baitcasting reels with the cranks on the left side too. Spinning reel handles are reversible, but baitcasting handles are not. Costs vary as the number and quality of ball bearings increase and the reel weight goes down.
Start the youngest kids with a spincast, then move them into spinning and baitcasting at roughly the same time. Patience combined with an understanding of the equipment and what needs to be accomplished will ensure success at any level.
Oh, that fourth reel, the “fly-fishing reel,” let’s chat about that later. That’s a whole other article and type of fishing altogether!