Fishing Equipment – How a Fishing Reel Works

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Used by European anglers since at least the 17th century and in China as long ago as 1195 AD, the fishing reel is a piece of fishing reelfishing equipment that has come along way since its early ancestors. Today’s reels are precisely-engineered machines that offer a smooth drag, accurate casting and durable gears that can withstand the strike of a big fish.

Anglers can choose among a huge variety of fishing reels, ranging from the massive trolling reels used for pursuing sailfish and marlin on the open sea to dainty ice fishing reels designed to present tiny perch lures on 2-pound line. But most reels fall into two categories – spinning reels and casting reels. Each piece of fishing equipment has its own particular advantages, and both work in a very different way.

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How Spinning Reels Work

Spinning reels are a fairly recent invention, not coming into widespread use until the 1960s. A spinning reel is mounted on the underside of the fishing rod, and hangs below the rod during use. When using a spinning rod and reel, a right-handed angler typically holds the rod in his right hand, while turning the reel handle with his left.

The line on a spinning reel is held on a stationary spool, and is wound onto the spool by passing through a rotor known as the bail arm. The bail arm rotates while the spool moves up and down, allowing line to be wound evenly around the spool. To cast a spinning reel, the angler lifts the bail arm, holds the line in place using his index finger, and then releases the line while swinging the rod forward. The bail arm then clicks back into place, keeping additional line from being expelled, and the angler can then reel line back in by turning the handle.

How Casting Reels Work

Casting reels have changed little since the 1800s, though many improvements have made them more effective and easier to use. A casting reel is mounted on the top of the fishing rod, and sits facing the angler while in use. Most right-handed fishermen turn the handle of a casting reel with their right hand, while holding the rod with their left.

On a casting reel, it is the line spool itself that rotates, making a bail arm unnecessary. During casting, line is expelled directly from the reel through the guides on the fishing rod. Many casting reels have a button that the angler presses with a thumb, and then releases, to let line out when casting. To retrieve line, the angler turns the handle, which causes the spool to rotate backwards and pull line back in.

Choosing a Fishing Reel

As with any piece of fishing equipment, the choice between casting and spinning rods is largely a matter of preference, and a lot of fishermen simply use the type of reel to which they are most accustomed. That being said, both types of reels have advantages in certain situations.

Many beginners find casting reels easier to use, while spinning reels offer more accurate casting for those who have learned to use them effectively. Spinning reels are widely believed to be better for fishing smaller lures on relatively light fishing line, while casting reels excel at hurling large lures long distances on heavy line. Casting reels often get the call for trolling, deep-sea fishing and pursuing large freshwater species like muskellunge, while spinning reels are more commonly used for freshwater bass and panfish, along with surf fishing and shallower saltwater situations.

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