Freshwater Fishing Reels

The oldest evidence of fishing reels is from a Chinese painting dating back to the year 1195. Fishing reels first appeared in England around 1650. In America, George Snyder of Paris, Kentucky, is given credit for inventing the first fishing reel around 1820.

In basic terms, a fishing reel is a mechanical device that holds and spools out fishing line. It has a brake to slow running fish, a handle to retrieve line and a bracket to fasten the fishing reel to the rod. For anybody who's ever knotted-up a line, you know that fishing reels can be a little temperamental. For experienced anglers, however, a fishing reel is a beautifully effective and efficient device for catching fish.

Over the years, hundreds of companies have made thousands of models of fishing reels. But basically there are four types of reels. They vary in size from reels as small as a baseball to giant, sea-fishing reels as big as your head.

Bait-Casting Reel

A bait-casting reel is designed to cast larger lures or bait for a longer distance. They typically include a level-wind mechanism to prevent the line from being trapped under itself during rewind and subsequent casts.

Many bait-casting reels are also fitted with anti-reverse handles and drags designed to slow runs by large and powerful game fish.

Standard bait-casting reels are mounted above the fishing rod and have a retrieving crank on the right side of the reel. But they're also made for lefties.

Because the momentum of the forward cast must rotate the spool as well as propel the lure, you should always use heavier lures with a bait-casting reel.

Open-Bail Spinning Reel

With a spin-casting reel, a mechanical pickup is used to retrieve the line and an anti-reverse lever prevents the crank handle from rotating while a fish is pulling line from the spool. And because the line doesn't have to pull against a rotating spool, like it does with a bait-casting reel, you can use much lighter lures with a spin-casting reel.

Fixed-spool reels are cast by opening the bail, grasping the line with the forefinger and then using a backward snap of the fishing rod followed by a forward cast, releasing the line with the forefinger at the same time. On the retrieve, the large rotating wire cage or bail (either manually or trigger-operated) serves as the line pickup, restoring the line to its original position on the spool.

Open-bail reels are traditionally mounted below the rod. And they're really pretty simple to use. Go to the Fishing Techniques section to find out how to cast and retrieve with a spinning reel.

Closed Spin Casting Reel

As with the open-bail spinning reel, the line on this reel is thrown from a fixed spool, so you can use relatively light lures and baits. However, the closed spin-pin cast reel eliminates the large wire bail and line roller in favor of one or two simple pickup pins and a metal cup to wind the line on the spool. Traditionally mounted above the rod, the spin cast reel is also fitted with an external nose cone that encloses and protects the fixed spool.

Go to the Fishing Techniques section to find out how to cast and retrieve with a spinning reel.

Go to the Fly Fishing section for more information on fly fishing reels.