Types Of Fishing Reels Most Used By Anglers

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There are four main types of reels: spincast, spinning, baitcast, and fly fishing reels. But there are four more types of reels worth mentioning: these are surf fishing, offshore fishing, trolling, and centerpin reels. All of these reels are designed for a specific purpose.

If you are an angler, you know how important and indispensable a fishing reel is. However, sometimes even the most experienced anglers aren’t quite sure of how many different types of fishing reels exist and what the difference is between them.

Do you know?

If not, you should learn as soon as possible because each type of fishing reel is designed for a specific purpose. To be the best fisherman you can possibly be, you must always have the right tools for the job – reel included!

You cannot hope to catch a marlin with a spincast reel, nor should you use a hefty offshore reel for a tiny panfish. So, stay tuned to find out what makes each type of reel the best tool for your style of fishing and the fish you are targeting.

8 Different Types of Fishing Reels

Fishing rods with different fishing reels on top of a vehicle

Even though there are four main types of fishing reels, I would like to present you with the eight types of reels anglers use most commonly. These are:

Spincast Reels

A fishing rod with spincast reel held by a teenager

Most of us start our fishing career with a spincast reel. It is affordable and easy to use. Even kids get a hang of it pretty fast.

Hence, if you are a newbie or an occasional recreational fisherman, you can also stick to spincast reels. There is no point in wasting your money on more advanced types of fishing reels and equipment until you are sure fishing is something you feel passionate about and want to pursue more regularly.

How is a spincast reel used?

Spincasting reels are as simple as it gets. All you need to do is push the release button and cast your lure. The casting accuracy is satisfactory- so you won’t have to practice a lot!

There is more good news – spincast reels are the most uncomplicated fishing reels to untangle. Hence, if you get your line tangled, you can resolve the issue in a matter of seconds. Simply open the bail of your reel and pull on the line. It usually gets the job done. 

Nothing is perfect – therefore, even the best spincast reels have disadvantages too. First and foremost, reels of this type are not of the highest quality (the price that can be as low as $20 says it all). Hence, you can not expect a spincast reel to last as long as some other types of fishing reels

Consequently, you should not use spincast heavily, especially because they are closed reels that tend to collect a lot of debris and water. Don’t try to avoid cleaning and maintaining your reel properly!

Limited line capacity is yet another downside of spincasting reels. These reels do not allow for heavy test lines either – they are simply too small. As a result, you might not always be able to cast as far as you want nor target large fish.  


  • Inexpensive
  • Beginner-friendly (suitable for kids, too)
  • Easiest reels to master


  • Not as durable as other types of fishing reels
  • Limited application due to low line capacity 

I suggest the KastKing Brutus Spincast Fishing Reel, an affordable freshwater spincast reel with a few amazing features.

Baitcasting Reels

Metal chrome colored baitcast reel mounted on fishing rod

Baitcast reels are probably the most popular choice among anglers worldwide due to the numerous advantages they bring to the table. 

For one, once you learn how to adjust the drag, spool tension, and braking system on your baitcast reel, you do not have to worry about aggravating line twists. Spinning reels are much more prone to that sort of trouble.

Moreover, baitcasting reels deliver greater power and casting distance in comparison to most other types of fishing reels. Depending on the fish you are targeting at a given moment, you can choose between a light or heavy version of this type of reel. Just make sure to pair your baitcaster with a heavier test line if you want to bring in a big fish.

In general, baitcasts earn praise for their accuracy and the sense of control they provide to the angler. They do not have many faults, but they do have a moderate learning curve. You’ll have to spend time practicing with a baitcaster and getting used to it. 

How long will it take for you to master accuracy when casting a baitcasting fishing reel?

It all depends on your ability to learn new stuff and your fishing experience. It took me a couple of days to get a feel of a baitcaster and start casting accurately. Once I broke the ice, I could not put it down!

If you decide to give baitcasting reels a try, you should know that there are two options for you to choose from:

Round Baitcasting Reels

A round baitcasting reel features a larger spool and thus boasts a higher line capacity as well. It allows you to cast your bait as far as you want. 

Low-Profile Baitcasting Reels

A low-profile baitcasting reel is more compact and lightweight. It is also ergonomic, easy to operate, and less prone to troublesome line twists and bird nests. 


  • Suitable for targeting a variety of fish species in different environments
  • High line capacity
  • Excellent casting distance and accuracy


  • Moderate learning curve 

If you want to try tackling a baitcasting reel, I wholeheartedly suggest starting with the SHIMANO SLX DC. It is one of the best baitcasting reels for beginners and casual anglers as it does not have too many advanced features that would overwhelm or discourage you. To learn how to use a baitcasting reel, check out the video below:

Spinning Reels

Silver with gold accent colored spinning reel close up shot

As far as popularity is concerned, spinning fishing reels are neck to neck with baitcasting reels. Hence, the debate about baitcasters vs. spinning reels seems to be a never-ending story.

Both these types of fishing reels are highly versatile and used for both freshwater and saltwater fishing. However, a spinning reel is somewhat easier to master. Therefore, enthusiastic anglers who want to skip the beginner-friendly spincast reels often choose a spinning reel to start off their angling career.

So, how do you cast a spinning fishing reel?

Start by releasing the bail and letting some line. You need about a 6-18 inch distance between your bait and the tip of your rod for accurate and powerful casting. 

Next, grab the line and press it against your rod. While holding the line, open the bail on your spinning reel and move the top of the rod backward to assume a casting position.  

As you release the line, cast the rod towards your target area. Once your bait is in the water, close the bail on your spinning reel or turn the handle to lock the fishing line in its place.

Your reel will spin while you are retrieving your line, and that’s perfectly normal – it’s how spinning reels got their name in the first place. The most common issue when casting a spinning reel rod is the premature closure of the bail. It usually happens by accident but can be avoided with practice.

The best spinning reels often cost a small fortune, but that does not mean you cannot find a high-quality spinning reel at a reasonable price. The price mostly depends on the brand you choose.

It is important that you can count on versatility, good casting distance, and exceptional accuracy no matter which spinning reel you choose. Spinning reels are an excellent choice for experienced anglers since you can use them with both artificial lures and live baits, as well as for targeting most fish species. 


  • A highly popular and versatile reel suitable for every style of fishing
  • Simple to master – appropriate for newbies
  • Excellent casting distance and accuracy


  • Spinning reels tend to be more pricey than baitcast reels

If you are a first-time user, opt for the Abu Garcia Revo S Spinning Reel. It is a beginner-friendly spinning reel that provides all-day comfort on the water. Pflueger Supreme XTis one of the best spinning reels you can use for freshwater fishing – it is super-light, smooth, and durable.

Fly Fishing Reels

A fisherman casting his fishing rod with fly fishing reels

Accuracy is a priority for any fly fishing enthusiast since fly fishing lures are as light as they come. Luckily, most fly fishing reels boast exceptional precision

The history of popular fly fishing reels is quite long. The first fly reel was a Loomis patented fly fishing reel in 1880. These days, most American anglers have at least one spinning reel in their tackle box. It is a symbol of American fishing.

Unfortunately, choosing a fly reel is not an easy task. There are a plethora of different styles you can choose from depending on the fish species you are targeting. For example, some fly reels are designed only for freshwater trout fishing and won’t work when targeting larger saltwater fish such as salmon.

So, how to choose the best fly fishing reel?

First, you must match the weight of your fly rod and line. You also have to secure sufficient reel space for your backing and fly line. The weight of your rod and fly reel must be in good balance, as well.

If you are a fly-fishing enthusiast on the go, opt for a lighter reel that you can easily carry wherever you go. An ergonomic handle is a serious consideration, especially if you target bigger fish such as bass.

Do you plan to fish in saltwater? 

If yes, you must choose a sealed reel that can resist corrosion. Go for extra power, too.

If you feel a bit overwhelmed with the choice of fly fishing reels at the store, go back home and check out the following video:

The good news is that you cannot go terribly wrong. All fly reels share a bounty of positive features. For starters, they all feature large arbors that secure supreme retrieval speed. Most of them are pretty durable, too. I have seen some fly reels being used over a couple of decades.

On the downside, a good fly fishing reel is never cheap, and neither is a high-quality fly rod. Learning how to properly use a fly fishing reel does not come easy either. There is also an extended learning curve with these that requires patience, persistence, and plenty of practice.


  • Indispensable for accurate, pin-point casting 
  • Extremely durable – some fly reels can last you throughout your fishing career


  • Pricey, especially when you consider the rest of the required fly fishing equipment
  • Limited application and steep learning curve

If you want to try fly fishing, start with a reasonably priced Redington Rise Fly Fishing Reel. It is a high-quality fly reel with a lifetime warranty!

Surf Fishing Reels

Fishing rod with a surf fishing reel mounted on a pvc pipe near the sea shore

Surf reels must withstand harsh conditions of saltwater fishing – first and foremost, the corrosive sea salt. For this reason, they are typically made from materials of the highest quality, such as graphite or anodized aluminum

To maximize the corrosion resistance and protection from debris, sun, and water, surf fishing reels come with sealed stainless steel ball bearings and drags. They need to hold quite a lot of fishing line to enable long casts, too. All these enhanced features cost money – therefore, be prepared to break your bank!

What should you consider when buying a surf reel?

Spend your money wisely! Consider the versatility of the reel so that you can use it for different fishing techniques and fish species, as well as with a variety of baits and lures (both artificial and live). 

Saltwater fish are both speedy and powerful – you’ll need the right equipment to handle them.

There are two types of surf fishing reels:

  • Baitcasting reels for surf fishing 
  • Spinning reels for surf fishing

Experienced surf anglers can easily choose the type they prefer. If you are a newbie, you are better off with the spinning version since it is more versatile, lighter, and delivers higher retrieval rates.


  • Premium built
  • Saltwater resistant
  • Extra fishing line capacity for handling big marine fish


  • Significantly heavier than standard reels due 
  • Hefty price tag

You can start surf fishing with a reliable and budget-friendly Daiwa Sealine SL-X-SHA Series Conventional Reel. Once you make sure you can tackle all the challenges of this fishing style, you can move on to a fishing reel that is more expensive and advanced.

Offshore Reels

Fishing rod with an offshore reel mounted on a boat

Offshore fishing is the most demanding fishing technique, and you thus need the right fishing reel for the job. In short – your offshore reel must be as tough as it comes!

Just like surf reels, offshore fishing reels must handle a heavier line and heavier lures and boast great line capacity. The similarity does not end there. Offshore reels need to be corrosion resistant and able to withstand even the harshest offshore conditions, just like their surf counterparts. 

Sea monsters are quite a catch! Yet, if you want to bring them in, you must come all geared up for the battle. Luckily, offshore reels are built for the most demanding jobs!

Of course, power, strength, and durability all come at a cost. Hence, a top-of-the-line offshore fishing rod and reel combo can cost a couple of thousand dollars.

Offshore reels can be either baitcasting or spinning reels. Baitcasters are a more traditional choice, but there are quite a few great spinning versions of offshore reels too.


  • Maximum corrosion resistance & premium strength
  • Excellent line capacity
  • Designed to handle heavier lures and lines than most other reels
  • Suitable for targeting even the biggest marine fish


  • More expensive than other reel types

You cannot afford to think small when offshore fishing. Therefore you must equip yourself with a beast of a casting reel such as the Shimano Tyronos. It’s the right reel to take your fishing game to the top level!

Centerpin Reels

Black centerpin reel on a fishing rod close up shot

A centerpin reel might look like a large-diameter fly reel, but it has one significant difference. It is a free-spooling type of fishing reel with no drag mechanism and thus runs freely on its axle (i.e. its center pin). 

A centerpin is characterized by a large diameter spool that sits perpendicular to the fishing rod. It enables anglers to cast at long distances. 

To control the fish, anglers must use their thumb and supplement for the lack of mechanical drag. It might take some time to master

On the bright side, having direct control comes in handy when targeting big game fish. Consequently, this fishing technique is an excellent option for carp or bass fishing.

Centerpin reels combine with a centrepin float rod which is usually 11 or 13 feet long. This setup allows the anglers to maintain a perfect drift

The huge advantage of centerpin fishing is the natural presentation. It is most evident in flowing water when a bait drifts drag-free in the rhythm of the current.

Anglers typically use a centerpin reel with either a float or a shot line. As far as baits and lures are concerned, there is a range of available choices. Contrary to what so many anglers believe, you are not restricted to natural bait such as egg sacs or minnows – artificials are an option, too.

Centerpin fishing is highly versatile. It works equally well in fast-moving runs and slow pace water pools. It can also be done in a saltwater environment.


  • A perfect tool for float fishing
  • Reliable and durable


  • Moderate learning curve

Centerpin fishing might not be one of the most popular fishing styles in the USA, but that does not mean you should not give it a go. Since I am not an expert, I have consulted a few professional float fishermen and discovered that the OKUMA Aventa reelis a good starting point in using this type of reel. To find out how to cast it, watch the video below:

Trolling Reels

Six fishing rods mounted in the back of a fast moving speed boat

The trolling reel is often called conventional or casting reel, too. No matter what you call it, you should know its main purpose – heavy offshore fishing for big marine fish. However, the trolling fishing technique is not limited to the sea; you can troll fish in deep lakes, as well. 

Conventional reels have to be heavy-duty and super-powerful. When choosing a casting reel, you should best opt for a machined aluminum construction and a smooth multidisc drag system. Large line capacity is a must for casting reels, too. 

A trolling reel must handle heavier test lines and have enough capacity to battle big and aggressive fish for a long time. The best conventional reels are dual-speed ones. A dual-speed reel enables an angler to switch from combating sea monsters such as marlin, swordfish, tuna, or even a shark, to power-cranking up giant fish from the sea bottom.

I prefer (and recommend) having a loud clicker too. It is a practical addition that enables you to hear when the fish hits your lure regardless of the engine noise. All these extra features cost money. As a result, trolling is quite an expensive sport to take on. 

Not everyone can handle these beast reels either. They are big and bulky and hold a “ton” of fishing line. You need muscles!

If you want to try freshwater trolling, opt for a small size conventional reel. You can use it to target bass, walleye, salmon, musky, and steelhead.


  • The best option for deep sea/lake fishing 
  • Heavy duty construction
  • Mighty oversize sealed multidisc drag systems


  • Pretty costly, especially the ones of the highest quality
  • Big & bulky

The Penn Squall 50 VSWis a lightweight trolling reel that can catch almost any fish in the ocean. Give it a go!

How To Choose The Right Fishing Reel?

Fishing rods leaning on the fence near the sea

As you see, there are quite a few different types of fishing reels. So, how can you pick one?

Most pro anglers have their favorite reel. However, it takes years of fishing and trying out different techniques and equipment before finding the reel that ticks all your boxes. If you are a newbie angler, the vast choice of reels on the market might feel a bit overwhelming.

When starting out, consider the type and size of fish you’d like to catch, as well as the sort of lure or bait you’ll be casting. For example, you should generally use spinning reels with small, light lures and baits. If you favor heavier lures, choose a baitcaster reel instead.

Your level of expertise plays an important role, and so does the environment you plan to fish in. Finally, your reel must match your fishing style and the rest of your fishing equipment

Once you gain more experience and try out different reels, you’ll develop a personal preference. At that point, the only possible obstacle between you and the reel of your dreams is your limited budget. Unfortunately, we all have our limitations, but the good news is that you can always find a good deal if you look hard enough!


The only rock among the pebbles that has a question mark sign written on it

What is the easiest fishing reel to use?

The easiest fishing reel to use is a spincast reel. You simply push the release button and cast your lure. There is no need to practice a lot – even kids can do it! Hence, spincast reels are most suitable for beginners.

What is the most common fishing reel?

The most common fishing reel is the spinning fishing reel (although some baitcasting enthusiasts might argue this). It is ultra popular due to being easy to master, efficient, and durable. Both beginners and pros use it.

What are the 4 types of fishing reels?

The 4 types of fishing reels are spincast, baitcasting, spinning, and fly reels. Depending on the fishing technique and environment, you can also differentiate between an offshore, trolling, surf fishing, and centerpin reel.

The Wrap Up

Fishing rod over a black net with a box of fishing lures

I hope you’ve found my article helpful, and you can now choose between the most commonly used types of reels. As long as you consider the fish species you intend to target and the type of fishing you plan to do, you’ll have the right tool for the job.
As always, feel free to leave me a comment or a question, and I’ll get back to you as soon as possible. Happy fishing!

Photo of author

Louis McCarthy

With over 40 years of fishing experience, I am a true veteran of the sport with a passion for reeling in the big ones. From coast to coast, I have lived in some of the best fishing spots the US has to offer. I enjoy sharing my knowledge and love for the sport, one catch at a time. Join me as I explore the great outdoors and share my expertise in the art of fishing. Follow me on Twitter and Facebook.

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