Though a spinning reel is much more complicated compared to a rod with more moving mechanical parts, spinning reel basics for an angler to choose from are simpler…so less headache.
Following are what I’ve learned over the years which you can refer to when buying your 1st reel with much excitement or your next adding to your collection.
When reel examples are needed, I will use the Daiwa brand which is the one brand used over the years with full confidence that has never let me down. In fact I started with competitor brands & ended up with only Daiwa which meet all my expectation while other brands fail in some sectors.
I emphasize all information shared in this blog is just my personal opinion & experience which some may beg to differ 🙂 If you have any thoughts or questions please leave them at the end of this post.
- This should be listed as one of the top few specs in your consideration when choosing a reel for a particular application.
- A drag system in a spinning reel usually starts with a turning knob at the top for clockwise tightening or anti-clockwise loosening of drag. Down below housed inside the reel arbor is an array of carbon fibre, Teflon, cork, cloth or felt washers interlaid with several metallic washers. By tightening the knob, pressure is applied on a coil spring inside the knob which in turn act on the array of fibre/metallic washers. This pressure is transmitted downwards creating resistance in spool rotation against another washer housed on the reel spindle below the spool. This resistance in spool rotation is what we called drag used in controlling the length of line released over time against the pulling force of the fish.
- If it’s for the smaller species eg. below 5kg, drag in most small or medium size reel should suffice & thus less of a concern. But when you move up to the bigger species eg. in deep jigging or popping where you can meet biggies above 10kg then you need to pick one with enough drag to handle your quarry.
- Drag is closely related to your line class & capacity; when considering 1 you have to think about the other 2 at the same time. Take for eg PE3, PE6 & PE8 in popping…as you go higher in line class ie. line diameter;
- you need more line capacity to take in the thicker line to give you the needed cast distance. Note PE in braided line refers to the line diameter (dia) & not the breaking strain (this will be covered in more details in post on braided line).
- as line capacity goes up, dia of spool increases
- as spool dia increases, reel drag increases (as drag washer dia increases) which matches the higher line breaking strain
- weight of reel also increases as you jump up PE class
- For eg. Daiwa Saltiga comes in the following size & max drag (PE line class, line capacity & reel weight are in brackets):
Hint: After deciding line class (eg. PE3) & line capacity (eg. 300m) needed for the type of fishing (eg. vertical jigging) & size (eg. ave 10kg) you’re targeting, it will give you a rough idea which reel (with the drag required) can match your needs (eg. Saltiga 4000). This will be covered in more details in later post on Tips in Matching Rod & Reel.
Drag Washer & Grease
- Most of the smaller & medium size reels come in felt washers while the larger size, especially higher end ones, come in better carbontex ( Amazon / eBay ) washers.
- Whenever carbontex ( Amazon / eBay ) washers are within your reach, I strongly suggest you upgrade all to carbontex to give you smooth, stable & consistent initial & continual drag. When I say “within your reach” I’m referring to availability as they are inexpensive & worth every cent of your money. If you cannot find them in your local tackle shops, order them from Smooth Drag in the US.
- Overcoming the initial drag when spool is at rest is higher than the force required to maintain continual drag that follows. This is where carbontex makes the difference in providing a smooth transition from initial to continual drag where other material will need higher initial force to set the spool moving before settling down to lower force resulting in a jerky start.
- For carbontex ( Amazon / eBay ), I suggest you use them as a wet drag system by applying proper drag grease eg. Cal’s Drag Grease ( Amazon / eBay ), also from Smooth Drag. Not just any other ordinary grease…& definitely not oil. For washers that are used dry as they are without any addition, they are dry washers which can give higher max drag but will not provide smooth initial drag over time as compared to wet washers. Fyi…carbontex washers can be used either wet or dry.
- Deep or shallow? Some brands offer different models with deep or shallow spool.
- Go for deep if you need to load more line eg. for deep jigging. But it will cost you more, especially with braided line, to fully load up to 300m in 1 spool. Note most of the time you may be using only the front 100m with the balance going to waste. One way to overcome this to save costs is to flip over the line from back to front once you see wear & tear in the front. Paste a small label (when spool is empty without line) on the spool arbor indicating 1x or 2x so that you know whether to flip over (if 1x) or discard (if 2x).
- Go for shallow when you’re doing shore luring at the beach or reservoir to save on braided line as well as the time & effort needed if the line has to be stripped off the spool for cleaning. In shore luring, cast distance is relatively shorter & a fish runs are usually not extensive due to the terrain.
- It’s a good idea to buy another spare spool & get it ready loaded with line & leader for a quick changeover instead of wasting time retying your leader during a hot bite. A spare spool of different depth is good for different application eg. 200m shallow spool for shore luring & 300m deep spool for offshore jigging…best of all using the same reel body saving some money there.
- Refers to the amount ie. length of monofilament or braided line in a certain PE/LB rating that can be loaded to fill up the spool to the required fullness to provide a good distance cast.
- Example shown below & in pic is that of Daiwa Saltiga 5500H ( Amazon / eBay / Tackle Direct ) which I use for GT popping. Such info is usually printed on the outside curved surface of the spool.
- PE stands for Polyethylene the material which braided line is made from. The number that follows refer to the diameter of the line…the bigger the number the thicker the line.
- Remember PE is not the KG/LB breaking strain but there are PE to KG/LB conversion tables from popular brands you can refer to. But do note tables from different brands will show slightly different KG/LB rating for the same PE number as some brands use Ave rating while some use Max…so remember to use table from the brand of braided line you’re using. Conversion table on right is from Sunline Monster Battle ( Amazon / eBay ) which I’ve been using with confidence.
- Lastly the number in metres (m) refers to the length of line that can be loaded to fill up the spool to the required fullness. This explains the reason the higher the PE number (ie. the thicker the line) the lesser amount of line the spool can take.
Hint: Try to aim for the middle selection of line rating/length printed on the spool external surface which will give flexibility if you need to use thinner or thicker line in the future.
Note if you’re using the lower selection, you can have the choice to downgrade to a smaller (lighter) reel needing lesser line. Similarly for the higher selection, you can have the option to upgrade to a bigger (heavier) reel if more line is needed.
Retrieval Speed (the H in Daiwa reel)
- In Daiwa reel, this will be eg. Saltiga 6500 vs Saltiga 6500H ie. with or without the H:
- 6500 (normal retrieval speed) – gear 4.3
- 6500H (high retrieval speed) – gear 5.7
- Gear 4.3 means for every 1 complete turn of the reel handle, the rotor makes 4.3 turns. In other words, gear 5.7 will retrieve line faster than gear 4.3 as the former rotor makes more turn than the latter for each full turn of the handle.
- In popping, many anglers think H is needed for faster retrieval but in my personal opinion, it’s not always the case. In fact, when popping with stickbait or popper/chugger, you move them with slow or moderate speed with optional pauses added periodically. As such, H is not absolutely needed in popping UNLESS you’re zipping the lure on the surface at high speed most of the time.
- In vertical jigging, some anglers use H in high speed jigging & also to help in retrieving jigs at higher speed especially in deep water.
- Do note H higher retrieval speed does not mean higher power to reel in your catch…in fact its power ratio is lower than a reel without H. Like in a bicycle, you use high gearing to go faster but switch to low gearing when going up slope which needs more power. Also note you use your rod to fight & pump in the fish & not your reel to winch in your catch.
Hint: I’ve used Daiwa Saltiga both with & without H…in popping, I don’t feel any significant difference but in jigging, I find it does help in high speed jigging & in retrieving jig faster when a change of location is needed.
- Drag washer – this will be the topmost upgrade I will carry out as soon as I bought a new reel when carbontex ( Amazon / eBay ) washers are available. I need a stable & reliable drag system out on the water delivering good performances each & every time. Refer to paragraph above on more details on carbontex.
- Spool – Daiwa provide spool upgrade from their RCS (Real Custom System) range on selected models. Eg. for the Luvias 2506 ( Amazon / eBay ) I bought for light fishing, stock spool comes with only 3kg drag. As I sometimes need to go after bigger specimens, I upgraded to a RCS 2508PE ( Amazon / eBay ) spool with 7kg drag enough to subdue any sizeable quarry keeping my stock spool as a spare.
- Knob – as I prefer softer EVA ( Amazon / eBay ) non-slip material on knob handle to hard plastic on original stock knob which can become slippery when wet, I upgraded all knobs if EVA options are available in my small to medium size reels. Moreover these EVA knobs are designed ergonomically for comfortable fit of your fingers & hand important for long hours of fishing. At the same time they provide a firmer non-slip grip when fighting a fish.
- In bigger reels like Saltiga they come with stock aluminum knobs ( Amazon / eBay ) & handles without any upgrade to EVA knob available. Though these knobs are harder to the feel, with gloves on in heavier popping & jigging, it doesn’t really make a big difference as long as it provides a solid grip.
- One personal reason why I prefer Daiwa Saltiga series to its main competitor is the bigger cross-section diameter of the arm leading to a more robust design of its bail arm.
- In heavier popping & jigging, I need a sturdy bail arm which I flip open & close many times in a day of fishing. Moreover it’s one part of the reel that gets inevitably knocked several times a day as it’s one of the most protruding parts sticking out of a spinning reel.
- One important aspect of a spinning reel which I want to highlight is the design around the line roller which function is to guide line evenly back to the spool during retrieval.
- In older Daiwa model if you look closely near the line roller you’ll notice there is a fine gap due to the matching of 2 separate parts between the end of bail arm & line roller housing. I’ve experienced this gap catching the line many times after closing the bail arm especially in jigging when the weight of the jig is contacted at the sea floor. This can cause line digging into the gap or immediate breakage if a biggie happen to take your jig upon hitting ground.
- Believe Daiwa received feedback from the field & corrected this problem in their newer models by re-designing end of bail arm as a single flowing piece right to the line roller thus removing the fine gap. So do take note of this when choosing your next reel.
Reels are not Specific to Fishing Types (unlike rod)
- What I mean is you need to pick a rod specific to the types of fishing you’re doing. You cannot use a popping rod to jig or a jigging rod to pop. But reels are more generic & can be exchangeable amongst the several rods you have. There isn’t a spinning reel on the market designed only for popping or jigging.
- This can save you some money in getting a reel for each of your rod unless you’re doing several types of fishing in a single trip.
- Eg. I have the options to match my Saltiga 5000H ( Amazon / eBay / Tackle Direct ) with my PE6 Ripple Fisher Ultimo 711 popping rod or with PE3-6 Seed Shiren Light 65H jigging rod…using a spare spool with different line for the switch over. But as I mostly do both popping & jigging in my trips, I go with another Saltiga…good excuse to expand my arsenal 🙂
What I’m Looking for in a Spinning Reel
- First & foremost…Sturdiness, Robustness & Ruggedness…which give me the confidence & reliability which I can find in the Daiwa range especially the Saltiga well suited for rugged popping & jigging. A major competitor brand has all the finesse but that is not what I’m looking for when going after the biggies.
- Drag system..smooth without jerking; upgrading to carbontex helps significantly.
- Water/dirt proof…the proprietary magnetic-sealed (Magsealed) system in rotor & bearings in Daiwa eliminate friction & prevent water, sand & dirt from getting into the vital parts of your reel thereby simplifying maintenance & prolonging longevity.
- Smoothness…this is not the sweet smoothness (in finesse major competitor) I’m looking for but the rough & tough feeling in the gearing when turning that handle.
- Ease of Servicing/Availability of Spares…just like cars, this is one major concern when picking a brand. In the early days when Magsealed was introduced, many were worried about difficulty in servicing & getting the magnetic oil. Nowadays there are many authorized service agents for Daiwa & there are even some unregistered private ones working from home selling their version of magnetic oil (not that I’m recommending you go for these).
All the best,
PS: Please leave a comment if any information in this site is inaccurate or incorrect…I’m learning too 🙂