Rods and reels are arguably the two most important components in an angler’s arsenal of tools. Whether you are a seasoned fisherman or are new to the sport, utilizing the right equipment to get the job done is essential to having the most success and enjoyment on the water. My suggestion is to buy the best rod and reel that you can afford. I often say that a top of the line rod and reel will not necessarily make you a better angler, but an inferior outfit will most definitely hamper your ability and limit your effectiveness. There are a plethora of options available nowadays with quality products even at the low to mid-range price points. With that in mind, the sheer volume of variety that is on the market can be confusing or intimidating to any angler. The following is a basic primer that I hope can be helpful when selecting new rods or reels or perhaps evaluating your current set-ups.
The most common styles of fishing reels in our part of the world are spinning, casting, and to a lesser extent the spincast. Spinning refers to an open-faced reel with a wire bail that directs the line ninety degrees from the rod guides onto the spool. This is the most commonly used reel style owing mainly to the design’s ease of use and low maintenance. Casting (or bait casting) reels have the spool lined up directly in line with the rod. They are easily identifiable by the twin reel handles and a thumb button used to release the spool. Spincast reels are covered spools with a push button that releases the pickup inside the housing and are most often found on kid sized rod and reel combos. Each style is used for a wide variety of applications, but generally speaking, spinning outfits are better suited for lighter lures and presentations while casting outfits handle heavier lures and rigs much better.
The ninety degree turn for the line puts much strain on a spinning reel, and the user as well, when repeatedly winding in heavier weights, diving lures, or fighting larger fish. To compensate, some spinning reels are made larger to better handle these situations but they are ultimately not as effective as a bait casting option. The in line spool is physically much easier to reel line in with and thus is the reel style of choice for targeting big fish such as catfish or for throwing larger lures such as muskie, pike, or bigger bass baits. The spinning reel can cast light lures much further and easier however as the line comes off of the reel more freely and is ideal when using presentations such as jigs, smaller lures, or float rigs.
An important feature to look for in any reel is the gear ratio. This number will be prominently displayed on the packaging or is quite often stamped on the reel itself. The ratio refers to the number of times the spool rotates for every turn of the handle. A very high number such as 8:1 will reel in your line much faster than one of the slower ratios such as 5.1:1. Each gear speed has its advantages depending on the technique or target species. For example, a slower reel is good for pulling diving crankbaits as the higher torque in low gear takes less effort to reel line in. A fast reel would be good for presentations where you need to take up slack line quickly to set the hook such as jerkbaiting or topwater presentations.
A feature that many base their reel purchase on is the ball bearing number. Generally, more bearings such as the upper end of 8 or 10 are better as it makes for a much smoother reel. A more important factor to consider however in addition to the ball bearings is the quality of the components. A low quality reel with more bearings will not perform as well in the long run as a quality reel with a lower bearing number. An example being a quality 2-bearing reel with stainless steel sealed bearings is favourable compared to an inferior 8-bearing reel with unsealed brass bearings.
There are many moving parts in any modern fishing reel. I cannot stress enough the importance of solid manufacturing and design when choosing one to buy. That being said, if you only fish a few times a year, your investment should correlate accordingly. If you are an avid angler, then a quality reel with proper maintenance should serve you for a very long time. If you are just starting out, there are reels available that can serve a multi-purpose role for you such as most that are in the mid-size and mid-gear ratios. For the more experienced anglers who are targeting different species, having a variety of reels designed for specific techniques and presentations will improve your experience. Contact me anytime if you have any questions.
Angler Profile: Franco Labaupa
Franco is an experienced local angler who hails originally from the Philippines. He is my dad and taught me everything I know about fishing growing up. “I started sportfishing soon after I came to Canada. You were just a baby when me and your Ninong would take you with us fishing,” he recalls laughing. “We would take turns going to the car to check on you”. A year into retirement from his 35 year career at Motor Coach Industries, Franco has nothing but time to dedicate to one of his favourite hobbies. He even recently started competitive fishing when he and I entered the Pine Falls Kevin Fryklund Memorial walleye tournament last fall. Aside from myself Franco’s favourite fishing partner is his wife of 36 years Dominga. When not fishing, they enjoy gardening and walking laps with their friends at Polo Park in the mornings. Pictured is Franco’s personal best walleye measuring in at a whopping 33” caught on the Red River at Selkirk.
Hometown: Sto. Domingo, Nueva Ecija
Favourite target species: Greenback Walleye
Favourite lure/bait: 1/4oz jig and twister tail
Favourite body of water: Pine Falls