Fishing Reels Buying Guide

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Fishing Reels Buying Guide

Buying a new fishing reel can be a daunting task, with the large variety of fishing reels available on eBay, and the differences of each reel to the overall fishing experience. Having a happy marriage between the reel and the rod is important for efficient fishing, whilst the reel and the fisherman or angler need to also get along.

Finding the perfect reel for your needs can be difficult, with the reel varieties being vast. Does a fixed spool reel, a spin cast reel, a centre-pin reel or a fly reel meet the necessary fishing needs? This guide will attempt to outline the types of fishing reels available, how they are most efficiently used, and how to buy them on eBay.

What are Fishing Reels?

Fishing reels are devices that are attached to a fishing rod during fishing, angling and competitive casting. They are cylindrical in shape, but each manufacturer is likely to use different materials and components for their reels. Freshwater and saltwater reels also differ in terms of their protective coatings and materials, with saltwater protection being key for saltwater fishing reels. Good quality saltwater reels have brass gears, graphite bodies and stainless steel components whereas freshwater reels may simply have an all-over aluminium construction to resist water corrosion, with anodised aluminium being a stronger resistance against saltwater.

Most fishing reels have fittings that aid casting for distance and accuracy, a spool attached to a handle for retrieving the line and reeling in the fish, and components for it to be mounted onto a fishing rod or directly onto boat gunwales or transoms (sides of the boat). A well-balanced rod and reel partnership is important as they need to work together for the best results. Having a too heavy reel on a thin rod or vice versa can make fishing difficult.

Materials and Mechanics

The main components of a fishing reel are the spool, the frame, the ball bearings and the line roller or crank (which rolls the line back into the spool). A reel also contains a ‘seat’ or ‘foot’ to secure it to the rod and fly reels employ a drag system to put tension on the spool while it is revolving, to tire the fish and stop the line from over-running and being over-expended.

The spool is the part of the reel that holds the line, and can be detachable and interchangeable in order to hold different strengths of fishing line. Spools are usually made with water-corrosion resistant graphite or aluminium, with graphite spools being lighter and less expensive than aluminium whilst aluminium tends to be more durable.

The frame determines the shape of the reel and is usually made with graphite or aluminium, again to resist corrosion.

The ball bearings are used to help the reels work more smoothly and be more stable, by supporting the moving parts. Sealed stainless steel bearings are preferable over plain bushings for added durability and control. Most spinning reels also contain a roller bearing within the line roller. Basic reels tend to have from one to three bearings whilst high-end reels may have as many as twelve. Generally speaking, the greater the number of bearings, the smoother the reel will perform and the greater the price. Experts recommend a minimum of four ball bearings for optimum reel performance.

Types of Fishing Reels

There are several types of fishing reels available on eBay. Below is a list of most commercially available fishing reels, including how they are usually used:

  • Fly reel: single-action reel operated by stripping the line off the reel with one hand while casting the rod with the other. It stores the line, providing smooth uninterrupted tension and counterbalances the weight of the fly rod. Used mostly in fly fishing.
  • Centre-pin reel: runs freely on its centre pin or axle, allowing the line to be cast using the momentum caused by the rotating reel. It uses a large diameter spool, whilst a bracket attached to the reel allows it to be rotated 90o for casting, then returned for retrieving the line.
  • Baitcasting reel: these are conventional, revolving spool reels that are multiplying reels, in which the line is stored on a revolving spool. The reel is mounted above the rod. It has a clicking noise that serves as an audible warning that the fish had taken the live bait, which allows the rod to be placed in a holder while waiting for it to happen.
  • Conventional reel: similar to the bait casting reel except a little lever is used to put the line into a free spool. The star drag of the reel means the user has to keep their thumb on it to keep off the backlash. They are used for really big fish, usually offshore and are mounted on shorter rods.
  • Spinning (fixed spool) reel: they are normally mounted below the rod, conforming to gravity which means the user needs no wrist strength to maintain the reel in position. The spinning rod is held and cast by the dominant hand whilst the other hand operates the crank handle mounted on the other side of the reel. The lack of rotating spool meant they did not have the problem of backlash, with no chance of overrunning and fouling of the line.
  • Spin cast reel: traditionally mounted above the rod, it has one or two simple pick up pins and a metal cup that is used to wind the line on the spool. It has an external nose cone which encloses and protects the fixed spool, and it reduces line twisting and snaring which can happen with traditional spinning reels. Suitable for beginners.
  • Underspin reel: also called Triggerspin reels, they are spin cast reels but the reel is mounted underneath a standard spinning rod. It makes it generally more comfortable to cast and hold for long periods of time and can be used with any and all standard spinning rods which make it incredibly versatile compared to traditional spin cast reels.

Buying Considerations

The following are some factors that are helpful to consider when buying fishing reels:

  • Line Capacity: this is the amount of fishing line that a reel can accommodate at any one time. Reel line capacities range from 15 yards to as much as 900 yards. The amount of line a fisherman or angler may need depends on the type of fishing they are doing. Fishing in a small lake or pond requires minimal line capacity whilst fishing in open water or in larger and deeper ponds needs a line capacity that can handle the water’s depth and the type of fish that may run with the line.
  • Gear Ratio: this indicates how quickly a reel will retrieve the line per revolution of the reek’s crank (or handle). As a guide, lower ratios give more power which helps to bring fish from deeper depths whilst higher gear ratios are better when pulling fish from closer to the surface.

For the convenience of being able to carry lots of spools, a cartridge or cassette reel can be used. A plastic spool is inserted into the spool frame which in turn pops into the reel frame like a conventional spool. In general, however, reel choice is unique to the angler, the type of fishing location, the size of fish and the size of the rod that the reel will be partnered with. 


Having a fishing reel that works well with your rod and with your fishing habits and preferences can help immensely to improve and enhance the fishing experience. With the large variety of fishing reels available on eBay, knowing how fishing reels work, and which ones are the best for which occasions can help turn a rather daunting task into a simpler one.

Using this guide, and asking yourself ‘What Do I Want From My Fishing Reel?’ can help anyone interested in expanding their fishing collection to decide whether it is a fixed spool reel, a spin cast reel, a centre-pin reel or a fly reel that will be the perfect fishing reel for their fishing endeavours.

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