Everything You Need To Know About Spinning Reels


Spinning reels are one of the more popular types and the most commonly used fishing reel around. They are the preferred choice for both serious and casual anglers, and even those who are just learning how to fish (whether for sport or hobby) are often recommended to start practicing with these. Just like other types of fishing gear and equipment, there are also different spinning reel sizes available, each of which is suitable for a particular kind of fishing condition. If you’re wondering what size of spinning reel you should use, or just want to learn more about spinning reels including the parts of a spinning reel, the difference between the front and rear drag spinning reels, and other information regarding this type of reel, this guide should help you do just that.

What Is a Spinning Reel?

Spinning reels are basically designed with a fixed, open-faced spool positioned in line with the rod. The spool is stationary and a rotor or line guide revolves around it. This type of reel is designed to be mounted below the rod, with one hand holding the rod and the other turning the reel’s crank. Most spinning reels are designed for right-handed users, although most models come with the ability to reverse the handle.

When it comes to spinning reels vs. baitcasting reels, the former is much easier to use than the latter. Many anglers of varying levels of expertise prefer to use a spinning reel because of its easy casting ability and simplicity of operation.

Parts of a Spinning Reel

Spinning reels have the following parts and components:

  • Spinning reel handles are used to retrieve the line by rotating it. They come in different shapes and sizes and can have a rubber or plastic coat or finish.
  • This is the part that attaches the spinning reel to the rod and secures it in place.
  • The body of the spinning reel is composed of the foot, the gearbox housing, and the support arm and is made from either plastic, graphite, or aluminum.
  • Gear Box. The gearbox is designed to amplify the number of spindle rotations for each rotation of the handle. The common gear ratio is 3:1, meaning that every single rotation of the handle results in three rotations of the spindle.
  • Spools hold the fishing line and are made of anodized aluminum or graphite. The spool is rotated on the spindle by the gears when the line is retrieved and freely rotates during the cast.
  • Drag Adjustment Knob. The drag system refers to a set of washers that hold the spool to the shaft, thus increasing or decreasing the amount of friction, or drag applied. On a front drag spinning reel, the knob is located upfront on top of the spool. In rear drag spinning reels, the knob is located at the back of the reel body.
  • The bail refers to a semi-circular section of wire that is attached to the body on a hinged joint. It is flipped forward to release the line when casting and as the handle is rotated to retrieve the line, the bail is automatically flipped back to the original position.
  • Anti-Reverse Switch. The anti-reverse lever is designed to prevent the reel from rotating backward when engaged. Otherwise, the gearbox can rotate in either direction.

Reading the Spinning Reel Size Ratings

Aside from the brand, make and model of the spinning reel, another thing you need to consider when choosing and buying a spinning reel is the size. This is an important consideration since using the wrong spinning reel size can have devastating effects on the success of your fishing trip.

When it comes to spinning reel sizes, some manufacturers usually label them as 1000, 2000, up to 10500 while others mark them as 10, 20, 25, etc. It may appear confusing at first, but reading these numbers is actually pretty simple. You just need to remember that the lower the number, the smaller the spinning reel will be. So for example, a spinning reel rated as 1000 is much, much smaller than a spinning reel rated as 10000.

So does that mean that a spinning reel marked as a 10 is smaller than one that is marked as 1000? No, it doesn’t. In fact, a size 10 spinning reel and a size 1000 spinning reel is approximately the same. The same is true with a size 20 and a size 2000 spinning reel and so forth. The difference here lies in the personal preference of the manufacturer when it comes to labeling and branding their merchandise. To better understand how small or big a particular spinning reel is, it would be best to have a look at the sizing chart of each manufacturer.

Types of Spinning Reels According to Size


Spinning reels are classified according to their sizes: small, medium, large, and extra-large spinning reels. All these reels are suitable for specific fishing conditions and scenarios, as will be discussed below.

Small Spinning Reels

Spinning reels that fall between the ranges 1000 to 3500 belong to the “Small” category. These reels are usually paired with a regular or telescoping spinning rod that is between six to eight feet long. Besides, a fishing line belonging to the class rating of about one to seven kilograms should be used.

Medium-sized Spinning Reels

Medium-sized spinning reels are those that fall under the 4000 to 5000 category. These spinning reels are used alongside a fishing rod that measures anywhere between six to ten feet in length and a fishing line with a class rating of about three to ten kilograms.

Large Spinning Reels

Large spinning reels can range anywhere from the 6000 to 9500 mark. With these types of spinning reels, you’re going to need a fishing line with a class rating of around 6-20 kilograms. You’re also going to need a fishing rod to match the size of this spinning reel, which should be about eight to ten feet long and above.

Extra-large Spinning Reels

These types of spinning reels are the largest of the lot and range from 10000 to 10500. Here, you’re going to need fishing lines that can take up weights of about 10-20 kilograms at the least. You’ll also need a longer and stronger fishing rod to match the size of this reel. In general, fishing rods can be as long as 8-15 feet, but you may want to err on the higher end of the scale depending on your particular fishing requirements.

Choosing a Spinning Reel Size

Aside from being compatible with your spinning rod and fishing line, there are several other things that you need to consider when it comes to choosing which spinning reel size to use.

Fishing Location

The great thing about fishing is that you will never run out of destinations to visit. You can go fishing for bluegills in neighboring ponds, carps in lakes, or even mahi-mahi’s out in the open sea. Accordingly, when you go and visit different bodies of water, you need to consider using different spinning reel sizes as this can significantly affect your fishing experience.

For instance, when you go fishing in freshwater bodies like rivers and lakes, you’ll find that using a large spinning reel is overkill considering the species and sizes of fish that you’re most likely to catch. That said, a small or medium-sized spinning reel should suffice. A medium-sized spinning reel is also okay for inshore fishing.

On the other hand, if you decide to get on a boat and head out into the open water for some offshore fishing, then you’ll need to bring along a large or an extra-large spinning reel. You’ll also need a spinning reel of the same size when you go rock fishing.

Target Fish

This is closely in line with the first consideration but still deserves its own section in this article. Naturally, the smaller the fish, the smaller the spinning reel should be. So if you’re simply aiming to land a nice trout (by the way, there are spinning reels designed specifically for trout fishing) or other similarly sized fish, then a small spinning reel should do the trick. However, if you’re aiming for one of those giant yellowfin tunas or kingfish then you’ll need a larger spinning reel.

Just keep in mind that the spinning reels belonging in the large and extra-large categories can be quite challenging to cast properly unless you have enough experience and have developed the requisite skills. Thus, you’ll also need to think about your skill levels and ability to properly use super-sized spinning reels before making your final decision.

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Spinning reels are perhaps the most versatile types of fishing reels available nowadays, making them a great choice for anglers of various skill levels and suitable for a variety of fishing conditions. Despite the diversity in terms of spinning reel sizes, you shouldn’t feel at all confused about which one to use as long as you keep the above tips in mind. And whichever size, model, or brand you decide to buy, always try to go for the best spinning reel you can afford. No angler has ever regretted spending money on a quality reel. Whether you’re fishing for tiny sunfish or a humongous marlin, you want to be confident that you’re using a spinning reel that is fit for the job.

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My name is David Hamburg. I am an avid water sports fan who enjoys paddle boarding, surfing, scuba diving, and kite surfing. Anything with a board or chance I can get in the water I love! I am such a big fan I decided to start this website to review all my favorite products and some others. Hope you enjoy!