By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Outdoor Life: Reel advice for beginners
Alvin Richardson

Got the itch to take up fishing?
Maybe you’ve got kids that seem to have an interest or you would like to gauge their interest in the sport.
    Selecting a reel that best suits your needs and wallet is an important aspect in your first stage of getting started. I’m going to give you some information today toward that end. 
    The process of buying fishing reels can be complicated or fairly simple. The market is full of reels and they come in a multitude of shapes, sizes, and in a wide price range. My advice is this — if you are a beginner or are helping a young lad or lady get started just keep it simple and relatively inexpensive. Let’s take a look at the basic types of reels and discuss a little about each one.
    The old standby for beginning fishermen is the spin cast reel. The reason they are so popular is that they are easy to cast, they are efficient handlers of most freshwater fish and they are inexpensive. If you have ever gone into large retailer you have probably seen them. 
    They are set above the rod, have a closed housing (you can’t see the line without taking off the cover), and have a decent drag system. If you are unfamiliar with the term drag system it is a mechanism on the reel that keeps a fish from breaking the line. You can set the drag to suit your needs. Most spin cast reels can be bought for between $15 and $50 although some run higher. I would stay away from the very cheapest ones because they are not likely to give you long service. Good brand names include Abu Garcia, Pflueger, Shakespeare, and Zebco. Some of these reels will come with line already on them and it’s usually 8- or 10-pound test. You can change it out if you want something a little bigger but remember that the smaller line is going to cast better.
    I wouldn’t go any bigger than 10- or 12-pound test to start with. That size line will handle just about anything if the drag is set correctly.
    One other item I should mention. Just because this is a simple outfit, don’t get the idea that it won’t haul in a big fish. I’ve seen guys catch 30-pound striped bass with a spin cast reel in hand.
    There is also a spin cast type reel that is called an underspin reel. The reel on this type of outfit is set under the rod and works in essentially the same manner. It is simply a matter of comfort. 
    The second basic type of fishing reel is a bait casting outfit. These are the standard in bass fishing but can be intimidating to use at first. Because of the way the line comes off the reel, backlashes are common for the beginner. A backlash will result in severely knotted line on your spool that will sometimes require cutting to get out.
    These reels however, once mastered, can give you excellent performance in different types of casting and offer a very good drag system. The prices range from about $40 to well over $200 but as before I would start with something in the medium price range. Well known brands include Ambassadeur, Shimano, Daiwa and Quantum, and Bass Pro Shops has their own line of reels as well. The market is full of many other brands of good quality. Fishing line is not included on these reels and I personally favor Stren line. It has always worked well for me and it is moderately priced. Twelve pound test is a good size to start with. 
    The last major type of fishing reel is known as a spinning reel. Sometimes referred as an open faced reel, it is much easier to cast than a bait casting outfit and has perhaps the best drag system of all the reels we have discussed. Top brand names include Shimano, Mitchell, Abu Garcia, Shakespeare and Quantum, and Bass Pro Shops offer a very good spinning outfit in their Johnny Morris Signature Series. Typical prices range from about $25 to upwards of $200. These reels do not backlash as does the bait caster but you have to beware of getting loops in your line when you retrieve it as this will cause headaches in the form of tangled spools. 
    A few final thoughts.
    I would not buy a fishing reel online unless you are already familiar with fishing gear. It is better to put the reel in your hand and see how you like it. If you happen to be left handed, take care when you shop. Most of the reels are set up for right-handed fishermen but some can be adjusted to fit either hand. There are sites all over the Internet that will give you more information on fishing reels including instructions on how to cast them. YouTube even has videos on casting methods. There are a myriad of details that haven’t been included here today because of space, so if you have questions just email me and we’ll get them sorted out.    

    Alvin Richardson is a contributing writer, retired educator, and public speaker. Contact him at