Topic of the Day 2

Part 2, Reel choices

Shore fishing

When anglers are shore fishing, they are more limited to where they can fish. One of the ways to improve your chances is to purchase reels that will give you some additional casting distance. Most factory combinations of rod and reel will have size 40 reels. This is far too heavy and bulky for the average angler and is line wasteful. Your reel will or should be matched to your rod. Even with a 7’-6 casting rod, the best all around reel will be a size 30.  This will usually give you 130 yard line capacity with an eight pound test monofilament line.  Line capacity increases substantially when an angler decides to spool with FireLine or SpiderWire.

The larger reels, 40 – 60 size are designed more for heavy strength monofilament line due to the line diameter, bulk and memory.

Many consumers do not look at line capacity when they purchase a product and then over estimate how much line is actually required to make a good cast and have ample reserve for fighting a fish.

As an example, a common house frontage is 50′-0.  A #30 reel will hold almost eight lot widths on a full spool.  Keeping that in mind, try and cast across the face of a fifty foot lot and see where your furthest cast lands. Step it out and I am sure you cannot double that distance consistently.  That tells you how much line remains on your spool to fight a fish.

Now try and imagine the longest run a fish made after being hooked.  This is where excited anglers think a fish is going to spool the reel and snap the line.  Anglers hear and feel the reel releasing line and their imagination goes into overdrive.  That fish may have removed another 30 – 40 feet of line but not much more.  You still have a half a spool to fight this monster.

Larger reels are not the answer.  Fit for purpose reels makes the fishing experience fun and leaves the angler with plenty of line to fight big fish.

There are keys to better your reel performance.  Knowing how much line to put on a reel to maximize casting distances critical.  Many reels are totally under spooled so the added friction of the line across the lip of the spool reels causes shortened casts. Over spooled reels create tangles and eventually a hatchet job to reduce the amount of line so the line will remain on the spool properly.

The correct spooling of monofilament line on a reel will allow for some line stretch.  If you have a thumbnail thickness remaining on a spool, you have filled the reel to the optimum depth.

In a size 30 reel with monofilament line, an angler will not use the last 2/3 of the spool a majority of the time. Spinning reels should be filled to within 1/8” of the spool lip. Some spools come with a line or indent that tells the angler where they need to be.

A size 40 reel filled with the same line will leave enough untouched line to fill a size 30 reel.  Just a waste of line and money.

Spinning reels and level wind reels are quite different in purpose.  Do not purchase a level wind reel if you want to ever cast light-weight lures.  This is not their design or purpose, so stick with a spinning reel for multi purpose use.

Understanding Drag

Whether you use a spinning reel or a bait cast reel, it is important that you understand drag. Unfortunately in many cases, you will not be able to test the drag because there is no line on the spool to test against. The best I can offer is this. Cheap reels have cheap drag systems and are most likely to fail.  An inexpensive drag will not have the range of tension that will work in conjunction with your rod and line choices.

Spinning reels with front drags are superior to any other drag system because front drags have a greater drag surface allowing for better drag resistance and heat dissipation. Bait cast reels with star drags work the same way. A reel with little adjustment or jerky release of line is a reel that needs to be put away.

When you store reels with line, it will always be in a dark place. All reel drags should be released at the end of the fishing season or between trips to keep the drag washers flexible. The flattening of these washers creates the jerky release of line of total failure of the drag system.


When I touched on jigging rods earlier, I mentioned that this is a day – long effort to hold the rod and reel. Many angler set -ups are too heavy to be comfortable all day long.

In the case of a serious angler, we try to maintain focus on that light bite or the tiniest difference in weight when jigging.

Jigging cadence that was practiced in the morning becomes a real distraction at three in the afternoon should your arm tire. Your arm, wrist and shoulders take the brunt of the strain trying to manage a cumbersome outfit and your focus is no longer on your jig.

A good reel for jigging is a size 20, 25 or 30. Jig fishing uses less line and it done close to the angler. There is no need for lots of line or cumbersome weight.  Choosing a reel with a good drag system is most important as well as the weight and balance of your outfit.  You can read more about this in the Topic of the Day, rod choices.  And lets be fair.  We are not jigging halibut at 300 feet or deep lake trout.  We are trying to focus on Northern Pike, Walleye, Trout and Perch.


Trolling is influenced by a number of conditions. It can become the predominant method of angling or something that becomes a Hail Mary event. Trolling methods can keep your lure or bait close to the boat or way back. Depending on what you do most will determine your reel size. If you are using specialty line like leadcore, you will probably start with size 50 round reels.

The best type of reel for trolling is a level wind or bait cast reel. The reason for this is found in the way each reel works. The spinning reel picks up line with a wire bail and turns the line 90 degrees to wrap on the spool. A level wind reel spools the line directly on to the reel arbor.

The bail wire on a spinning reel has a tiny spring that holds the bail closed. A trolled lure will cause your rod tip to move constantly. This action is transmitted to the bail spring by the line, creating a continuous use situation. In time the spring will fail due to over work.

When you catch a fish and the bail spring does not close, your reel is done and you will have to hand line your catch in.  It will never work again until the spring has been replaced no matter how small the fish.

Level wind and bait cast reels are treated the same as a spinning reel.  The reels are stored with the drags relaxed and set up every time there is an outing. All reels are designed for purpose and many anglers make the mistake of shortening the life of their reels by taking them to a salt air / water environment.  Make sure you ask your salesperson if a reel is salt water rated and to what degree.

I have seen so many anglers on the coast who made purchase on the prairies and brought their new purchase to the coast.  In some memorable occasions I have seen a large size 50 spinning reel smoking as the angler was fighting a twelve pound spring salmon.  In the end, the reel was being dunked into the ocean to cool the drag and ended up in the trash.  Other times, anglers complain that their reels turn poorly or feel rough.  Even though the unit was not in salt water use, the salt air pitted the inner workings, shaft and gears.  Only reels designed for salt water use can be reused.  Penn reels is the most outstanding salt water reel manufacturer in the world.

Reels are just like rods and line. There is a reel for you that will work most of the time. I think as important as size, it will be the smoothness of the action and the drag that will make your choice a good one.  Reading through the Topic of the Day will give you a better insight into where your dollar is best applied and leave you with the confidence in your latest purchase.

Follow up and go through tips and tactics.  Here you will find more common sense applications that make your angling experience more enjoyable and far less expensive.

In the picture you will see a size 25 and 30 Pflueger Patriarch spinning reel.  The #25 caught and landed a 25# Northern Pike on 6# test Berkley Sensation line.  Just an FYI.

Courtesy of Sask Landing Fishing Adventures