4 Dependable Types of Fishing Reels and How to Use Them

Being familiar with the various fishing reel designs and features of purpose-built fishing reels is very critical in angling. Baitcasting, Conventional/Trolling, Spincast, and Spinning are the most popular fishing reels you’ll find on most online marketplaces or in your local outdoor store.

When shopping for a fishing reel, it’s important to think about your budget, favorite fishing location, types of fish you’re targeting, and your angling skill level so you can choose the perfect fishing reel for your next fishing trip. In this guide, I’ll take a closer look at the four common types of fishing reels and share my real-life experiences on how to use them to help you make an informed decision when selecting the right fishing reel suitable for your fishing outings.

1: Spincast Reel

A Spincast fishing reel is a modern device suitable for fishermen and women who are on a budget or just getting started. The reel has a basic design and an easy-to-use construction that even kids can quickly grasp.

Spincast fishing reel
Spincast fishing reel

Features and Design

The most important features of a Spincast reel are purposefully hidden in the unit’s metal nose. The reel has a button on its backside designed to fasten the line between free-spool and locked. The spincast fishing reel has an adjustable drag system that allows you to adjust the amount of resistance your catch feels when it pulls on your line. Besides, the drag is strategically positioned next to the device’s handle.

How to Cast with a Spincast Reel

Casting with this reel is very simple; no wonder it’s the top favorite for every beginner angler. You just press the spool control button, take a perfect swing, and release. Your line will fly out to the rod tip’s target. You can stop the line by pressing the button again. Actually, this is the fishing reel I started with before I graduated to more sophisticated options such as fly fishing reels.


  • Easy to operate
  • Rarely cause line tangling
  • Budget-friendly


  • Has a closed-face design that tends to keep debris and water inside, limiting its optimal performance and ultimately damaging the unit.

When to use a Spincast Reel

Casting with a spincast reel is quite simple. All you have to do is press the spool control button, aim your swing, and release. Once you’ve released the button, your line will fly out to the point where your rod tip is pointing. And to stop the line, simply press the button again, easy-peasy.

A spin-cast reel is perfect for beginners who are new to fishing or those who fish only a few times a year. It’s also a nice choice if you’re teaching your children to fish. Overall, spincast reels work great when targeting smaller fish (less than 10 pounds) in a freshwater environment.

In terms of fish species, a spincast reel is a perfect choice for anglers targeting:

  • Channel catfish
  • Trout
  • Average size bass
  • Small salmon

2: Spinning Reel

This is one of the most popular fishing reels in the world of recreational fishing. Although it’s not as easy to use as the spincast, the reel is more durable and efficient. While some first-time anglers may not like its sophistication, it’s a gem among seasoned anglers.

Spinning Reel
Spinning Reel

Features and Design

The reel features an adjustable drag system located on its top and an open-face design. A spinning reel has a metal bail designed to lock the line and prevent it from unspooling. The metallic bail also guides the line back into the spool. Moreover, your reel will attach to the rod from the bottom to give you more stability when casting and make the entire experience feel natural and almost effortless.

How to Cast with a Spinning Reel 

With a little practice, casting with a spinning fishing reel is pretty easy. All you need to do is disengage the bail and use your index finger to squeeze the line on the rod so you can prevent line unspooling. You can then swing your rod overhead or even from the side and release your index finger squeeze halfway through the motion. 

More importantly, you need to aim the rod’s tip to where you want your lure to land. For best results, you shouldn’t reengage the bail after casting. Your spinning reel is likely to automatically close the bail once you start reeling. If the first spin distracts your line, you’ll miss the spool and perhaps end up with a tangle. Therefore, you should adjust the device’s bail back into its original position with your hand when throwing out the line.


  • Very versatile
  • It can be combined with braided lines to produce immense pulling power
  • Can achieve wide casting distances


  • It’s easy to end up with awful line tangles and twists

When to use a Spinning Reel

Spinning reels are the most popular style of fishing reels many anglers are familiar with. They are an ideal choice for both amateur anglers and pros. A spinning reel features an open-faced design that ensures superior accuracy over spincast reels and is easier to use than baitcasting reels.

Generally, a spinning reel is perfect for wrestling in 20+ pounders using a smaller baitfish. You’ll more easily accomplish a big catch with a spinning reel than with a spincast setup. Although most old spinning models were designed to be super lightweight and mainly for finesse casting and rapid casting, many modern spinning reel designs also target big game fishing.

3: Baitcasting Reel

A majority of experienced anglers prefer using baitcasters, which provide them with unparalleled precision and power. The device’s learning curve is pretty long because it has more moving parts than the other fishing reels on this list. But from my experience, this is one of the most effective reels for catching fish in crowded areas where you must strategically drop your line to avoid tangles.

Baitcasting Reel
Baitcasting Reel

Features and Design

The baitcaster is on the rod handle, and the device has a sturdier body and a semi-closed design. Apart from its drag system, the reel has a braking system and a spool tension knob that works together to enhance its fishing performance. This means you can throw your line as far as you wish. In addition, the reel allows anglers to control how fast the spool turns in relation to the speed at which the line goes out.

How to Cast with a Baitcasting Reel

You simply press the spool with your thumb during the line’s motion so you can get a precise cast. Once your lure hits the desired spot, you quickly clip to lock your line, and you’re done. A baitcaster has a smaller rod guide and thus can release the line even in small spaces as it travels in a straight path.


  • Very powerful
  • Can handle very heavy lines
  • Perfect for fishing in smaller or enclosed spaces
  • Great for going after large fish species
  • Best for precise casting
  • Highly customizable


  • Not easy to operate when using different weights of baits
  • Quite expensive for bagginess to afford

When to use a Baitcaster Reel

Baitcaster reels are designed for pro anglers and are not suitable for beginners. They are more difficult to cast with, and the frequency of backlashes needs a lot of patience and knowledge to maintain and troubleshoot effectively.

Typically, a baitcasting reel is considered a staple of fishing sports for the following reasons:

  • Superior line capacity with the ability to wield a heavier fishing line
  • The drag system is sophisticated and designed to drag bigger fish since the line comes straight off the spool instead of turning like a spinning reel.
  • A higher gear ratio ensures greater power and durability.

Overall, baitcaster reels are a perfect choice for experienced anglers targeting all kinds of species and sizes of freshwater fish such as bass, catfish, and more.

4: Conventional/Trolling Reels

If you love going after the larger fish species of the ocean, then this is your perfect fishing reel. A trolling reel can comfortably handle over 1000 pounds of an underwater monster-fighting back.

Conventional/Trolling Reels
Conventional/Trolling Reels

Features and Design

The sturdy design of a trolling reel makes it great for deep-sea fishing trips. Fishing charters often use these reels when marlin fishing or tuna fishing. However, anglers can try out different customizations and techniques when using conventional reels in freshwater, inshore, or offshore fishing. The device features a large reel for holding big game fish. It has a slow crank but with powerful torque.

How to Cast with a Conventional Trolling Reel

You need to put the reel in a free spooling motion before you cast or drop the lure down. Add some pressure with your thumb to prevent dropping, and then slow it down with the other thumb. Typically, the reel simulates the natural movement of a fish lure in the water.


  • Exceptionally powerful than all the other reels on this list
  • Great for deep-sea fishing expeditions
  • Not very complex to operate when casting
  • Performs optimally even when loaded with very heavy baits


  • Not suitable for beginners
  • Very expensive

When to use a Fly Fishing Reel

There is a common misconception that fly fishing is a narrow and limiting fishing style, which is further from the truth. You can use a fly fishing reel in both saltwater and freshwater to catch different fish species such as trout, bass, pike, salmon, drum, carp, and many more.

The only situation where you can’t use a fly fishing reel is when fishing bottom feeders such as catfish. For such styles of fishing, a spinning reel is often the most practical choice.

Wrapping Up On Types of Fishing Reels

Knowing how to use different types of fishing reels might not seem like a big deal to anyone who is occasionally involved in recreational fishing. However, with the different types of reels on the market designed for different fishing types, it’s good to know the differences between these reels and where they outshine each other. Always research widely and evaluate your specific fishing needs before you buy your next fishing reel. If you have any unique experiences with any of these reels, feel free to share them with us in the comment box below.

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Brian Hopkins

Brian is an outdoor writer and the youngest member of our team, but he is extremely knowledgeable when it comes to fishing and different techniques for catching different species. He shares valuable information that the younger generation can relate to. When he is not fishing, you can find him hanging with his friends and gaming on his computer.

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