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Purchasing a fishing reel is a significant investment, and if you get it right, you’ll find fishing a pleasant and productive sport. The wrong choice will leave opposite negative impression, and you might not get back to it again.

So, when you intend to buy a fishing reel, you would want to ensure you pick one that has every feature you may need to get a good catch rate. To help you pick the best fishing reels, this guide will do the trick.

Styles of Fishing Reels

There’re four styles of fishing reels on the market. Some are versatile and can suit diverse fishing styles; some are specialized and can only be engaged for particular purposes.

The styles are as follows:

  • Fixed Spool
  • Free spool
  • Centrepin
  • Closed face

1.     Fixed Spool

It is available in a great variety of sizes, colors and configurations, i.e., front and rear drags, and single and double handles.

  • It is versatile and can be used for fishing styles such as float, legering, lure, trotting or specimen.
  • It is easy-to-use and can adjust extra spools to hold diverse strengths of fishing line.
  • These fishing reels are highly reliable and durable. Moreover, they need minimal maintenance and servicing.
  • Its mechanism is locked at a flick of a switch, so that it doesn’t turn backwards.

2.     Free Spool

They resemble fixed spool fishing reels, but they have an additional drag system, which allows the spool to turn at a set amount of tension by anglers.

They are bigger and weigh more than the standard fixed spool reels owing to more internal workings.

Since they’re heavy-duty and sturdy, they are ideal to catch bigger fish and can be cast at long distances.

3.     Centrepin

They are ideal to be used in flowing water. Their spool lets the line out at the speed of river current, which helps the lure/bait go downstream with a natural flow. Such a movement by bait entices fish and they get hooked quite easily. This way, you can go fishing in any waters. Its ratchet is very helpful in legering, since it makes fish’s audible bite detection. They are durable and can last for many years.

4.     Closed Face

They are good for river anglers. They are light in weight, so an angler can hold it all day long.

The bale pin can release line with just a forefinger from the enclosed spool. It also makes excellent control on running water.

Drag System

It applies friction to the spool, which helps in casting and baiting fish, especially bigger fish. They tighten or loosen the spool’s movement. They are placed on the front and rear, however their function remains the same. In older models, you will find it as a fixed system.

There are three kinds of drag systems, which are as follows:

Spring and Pawl

Spring and pawl system comes with adjustment and make a distinct clicking sound upon pulling off the line. It is good for light fishing.


It gives a smooth drag. It is usually used in modern fly reels. It lets the angler make adjustment to the level of drag pressure. It is ideal for catching large and strong fish.


It is a combination of disc and spring and pawl drag systems.


The number of bearings in fishing reels determines the smoothness of reel’s function. In addition, they extend the reel’s life, since they undergo the majority of wear-and-tear.

Line Lay

The flatter line lay on the spool helps in performing better and the angler can cast with less effort and more accuracy.

Retrieve Ratio

It shows the speed of line retrieval. The majority of fixed spool reels have 5.2:1 retrieve ratio. It signifies that rotor assembly spins around spool 5.2 times.


On the market, you can find a wide range of shapes and length of handle. There are a few fishing reels with double handles that can provide better balance when retrieving.


Reel’s weight can tire your arms, since it can take sometimes much longer time to hook a fish. So, your arms’ strength plays a vital role in handling the fishing reel, and it matters most when you have hooked a big fish. You must consider this aspect, as you can find a great variety in this regard.

Body Material

Material plays a vital role pertaining to the weight and sturdiness of the fishing reel. The latest materials include plastic, graphite, copolymer and metal.


It is suitable for young and novice anglers. Since it is low in price, it can also suit people with a budget constraint. You can also opt for plastic reel if you are after freshwater fish like bluegill and river trout.

Graphite & Copolymer

They’re flexible and can work well in freshwater and light saltwater fishing.


It is recommended for regular anglers for fishing in either fresh or saltwater.

Do you fish in salt water or fresh water?

Any reel is suitable for freshwater fishing. But when it comes to fishing in salt water, only a high-quality reel can serve the purpose, which ensures protection against salt water’s corrosive effects.

Fish Species

A big fish hooked in a low line capacity reel can easily escape. What’s worse, it can damage the reel. Therefore, determine the type of fish and water depth when you intend to go fishing.

  • You can do with a low line and spool capacity reel if you are after panfish, crappie or rainbow trout.
  • Bigger fish like bass or walleye, that can swim away a few hundred yards after being hooked, call for a high-quality reel.

Usage Orientation

Most of the anglers prefer engaging one hand, usually left, so ensure you can pick a reel that fits your preferred orientation. You can also find models with reversible orientation, so it won’t make a difference if you are right-handed or left-handed.

Fishing is a sport that needs a cautious decision before you start. On the other hand, its gear selection is even more critical. But going through this fishing reels buying guide will help you pick the best one on the market without a doubt.

At Buckwaters, we have the largest collection of the best fishing reels. Visit our product catalog and pick the best fishing reels at reasonable prices.