Spinning Reel Parts – Your Detailed Guide

Jeff
| Last Updated April 30, 2021

Did you know that a spinning reel can contain up to 88 parts?

Designed very intricately, this type of reel has only eight main components that you need to know about to use it effectively.

We have designed this article to equip you with the knowledge required for the ultimate fishing experience.

Photo credit: minrel.cl

Spinning Reel Parts Explained

A spinning reel may appear to be delicate, but we assure you that much thought has gone into the making of these marvelous items of engineering. They’re reliable and robust. With the proper care, they can last a lifetime.

We list each part with its primary use, then a more detailed explanation will follow:

Part

Use

1. Anti Reverse Switch

Prevents reeling in reverse

2. Body

Houses the reel’s smaller parts

3. Bail Arm

Helps manage the line

4. Spool

Holds the fishing line

5. Drag Adjustment Knob

Adjusts tightness of the spool

6. Foot

Securely connect reel and rod

7. Handle

Rotated to retrieve the line

8. Line Roller

Enables orderly retrieval/spooling of the line

Anti Reverse Switch

This feature is typically located at the bottom of the reel and can help fight smaller fish. It’s a switch that allows you to “back reel”—reel in reverse, rather than relying on your drag system for line tension.

While considered okay for lighter fish, this feature's use isn’t recommended for fighting and landing larger specimens. You have to place complete reliance on the drag system or run the risk of joining the "One That Got Away" club.

When in the ”on” position, you can only crank your handle in one direction. “Off” allows you to crank the handle in either direction to let the line out or retrieve it.

This application is more beginner-friendly since it bypasses the reel's gearing system, thus putting the reel in manual mode. The “off” position means that when you cast your line and it's pulled, it’ll keep going until you start retrieving.

So if your line is of a low breaking strain, i.e., more likely to snap when hooking a bigger fish, you have this extra cushion until you bring the reel's drag into play.

Body

The reel's body is its casing, to which all of the parts we’ll discuss here are attached. Note that if required, the body is replaceable. It also houses the smaller pieces mentioned in our introduction and, most importantly, the reel's gears. Let’s look at the function of the gears more closely.

Photo credit: sportfishingbuddy.com

The gear ratio of a spinning reel tells you how many times the bail will rotate around the spool in a single turn of the handle. A 5:1 gear ratio, for example, means that for every turn of the handle, the bail rotates five times around the spool. 

A 4:1 ratio is slow, as a shorter length of the line is rolled onto the spool when you crank the handle once. A slower ratio gives an advantage when battling larger fish, as it provides more power. A higher one of 7:1, on the other hand, will retrieve lines at a much higher speed, which would be suitable for quicker lure retrieval. 

Bail Arm

The bail arm serves two essential purposes. First, it’s the trigger mechanism for casting. You must open—or activate—the bail so that line can freely spool off the reel after a cast.

Once your weight and lure/bait have landed (hopefully) in the area you were aiming for and been given a chance to sink, the bail must be closed. You can do this either by rotating the reel handle as if reeling in or manually flipping the arm to its closed position. 

Once closed and the line passes through the roller on the end of the bail arm, you can start the exciting wait for a fish to bite. Otherwise, if fishing with a lure, you can keep on reeling at your desired speed until your prey falls for it and bites. 

The second function of your spinning reel's bail is to keep your fishing line in order as it comes out of the water and rolls onto your spool. Without the bail and roller, your fishing line can become uncontrolled, potentially causing knots and limiting performance.

The bail arm thus allows for smooth casts and retrievals. It’s replaceable at tackle shops.

Photo credit: ifixit.com

Spool

This component is found just under the drag adjustment knob and holds the fishing line; it’s specific in length, weight, and type to your reel. Graphite or aluminum are the materials used to make suitable spools.

The spool is fixed to the reel and will only be allowed to move while fishing by loosening or tightening the drag adjustment knob on your reel.* So, when reeling your line in, the spool remains fixed, allowing the line to wrap evenly around it, thus preventing tangles and providing smooth casting/releasing.

Before adding a line to your spinning reel, check your spool's line capacity, which is usually marked or noted somewhere on the component's face. Also, ensure that the spool isn’t cracked or warped as this can result in unnecessary problems. You can get replacements from tackle shops.

*Note: It's important not to have your spool fully tightened because the risk of your line snapping while fighting a fish increases.

Drag Adjustment Knob

Located above the spool on the very top of the spinning reel, this vital part of the drag system allows you to adjust the pressure on the line spool, thereby controlling it while fighting a fish.

When a fish takes your bait or lure, your first objective will be for the hook to set within the fish's mouth before the fight to land said fish begins. The drag shouldn’t have been set too tightly as hooking a big one could immediately snap your line.

Once you are confident that the hook is in, you’ll need to tighten or loosen the drag—depending on the fish's weight—by turning the drag adjustment knob. Simultaneously, it’ll allow a large fish to take more line off the spool should it make a powerful run. 

The drag system itself comprises a set of metal, alternating with felt, washers that vary in number depending on the system in place or the reel manufacturer. Failure of the drag system can be catastrophic—in fishing terms—making it essential to service. Check these washers occasionally. 

You will find parts of the drag system that may need replacing at tackle shops. Another word of advice here is that you don't want sand getting into this system. It's worse than dragging your fingernails across a blackboard!

Foot

The foot is the part of a reel that fits into “the reel seat” of the fishing rod. You should ideally match these reel and rod parts during the initial purchase.

An extension of the reel's body, the foot is made of the same strong material. It’s designed in the shape of a long neck to keep the reel's handle and other moving parts away from the rod.

We stress that the rod and reel must be adequately and firmly secured together at all times to avoid any disappointment once you've hooked up that big fish. In the unlikely event of any part of this foot breaking, you should purchase and replace the reel's body.

Handle

The handle fits into the reel's body on one end and has a spinning knob on the other. An essential feature of spinning reel handles is that they’re interchangeable for left and right-handed anglers. 

The handle's primary purpose is that, by turning it, the reel's spool starts rotating—through the gears' simultaneous rotation—to retrieve the line back after a cast or while bringing in your catch. It should be comfortable to the touch and smooth. Some have rubber grips to stop slippage.

Please bear in mind that the longer the handle, the more leverage you have when reeling in the line. Also, the larger the spinning knob, the easier it is to grip.

Handles can also be purchased separately at tackle shops and are easy to replace. While on the reel, most of them can be unscrewed and turned so that the knob faces inwards for storage purposes.

Line Roller

Briefly touched on in the bail arm section, the line roller adds to a spinning reel's overall effect by being the line's first point of contact as it’s retrieved from a cast.

Situated right on the end of the bail arm, it resembles a little pulley that guides the line as it passes through. The friction provided by uneven edges or rough surfaces is something that all anglers don't want, so it’s crucial to ensure that the line roller is smooth at all times.

Another purpose of a line roller is to eliminate line twists by forcing potential twists away from the reel's spool. Rollers that aren’t appropriately maintained can complicate this and make twists a more frequent problem.

These parts should be serviced occasionally and can be purchased from tackle shops if needed.

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How to Choose a Spinning Reel

Several factors should be considered when choosing the best spinning reel for you. When properly selected, your reel could last you a lifetime.

What Gear Ratio to Choose?

Unlike with a car, you can’t select different gears on a single reel. Each comes with only one ratio.

It would be best if you adapted the ratio choice to your planned usage of the fishing reel. Should you require a single reel to cover all your fishing needs, we recommend that you settle on a 5:1 gear ratio. Anglers consider this to be of medium speed. If you plan on getting more than one spinning reel for various applications, we suggest that you choose slow, medium, and high-speed models to cover all your requirements.

Spinning Reel Size to Choose

These reels come in many different sizes ranging from size 1,000 to size 30,000. Here we mention that you need only pay attention to the first two numbers as some manufacturers will number theirs from size 10 to size 300, which means the same.

Small-sized reels are classed from 1,000 to 3,500, medium from 4,000 to 5,500, and large from 6,000 to 30,000. 

The size best suited to you will depend entirely on the fish species that you will be targeting.

Best Rod to Suit Your Reel

Again, we recommend that you read the above site for more detailed information. Most importantly, it would be best if you looked specifically for spinning rods since their design differs from that of baitcasting rods

A baitcasting rod is not compatible with a spinning reel, and you can't use a spinning rod with a baitcasting reel. Rods also come in varying lengths and need to be matched with your reel of choice or vice versa.

Some numbers are listed just above the grip on most rods. These tell you the rod's length and the strength of the line that the manufacturer recommends using it with. Once known, you can use this info to match a rod with your reel.

Best Line for Your Reel

Most spinning reels come with three options for line weight, along with the best line yardage to go with them. You’ll find this listed on the side of your reel; it’s manufacturer tested and recommended.

You’ll encounter endless problems if your reel spool is overloaded with the line, and you don't want too little line either. When choosing your line, bear in mind the size and weight of the fish species you are after. Unless otherwise stated, these numbers refer to a monofilament line.

Photo credit: liveabout.com

Conclusion

We trust that you now have more insight into the workings of your spinning reel and have picked up a few pointers on the way. Having said this, all that remains is for us to wish our valued readers all of the “fishing best” and “tight lines!”

People Also Ask

The spinning reel should form part of your arsenal, whether fishing inland or on the shores of a body of saltwater. The following are questions frequently asked about this versatile and handy piece of equipment. 

How Does a Spinning Reel Work?

The spinning reel derived its name from the rotating bail wires and bail arms around the spool. But for the drag system, the spool itself is fixed. The bail arm and roller are there to retrieve the cast-out line and store it in an even and orderly fashion.

What Size Spinning Reel is for Bass?

Most experts will say that a 3,000-size spinning reel is perfect for bass. This size reel will not only enable you to fish for smaller species—panfish to bream—but you can go after bigger largemouth bass and smaller saltwater species like snook, grunter, rock cod, and redfish from the beach or rocks.

Jeff

My name is Jeff and I have been hunting and fishing for over 40 years. I am an avid archery lover, bass fisherman, and all-around outdoorsman. Currently, I'm obsessed with elk hunting but I'm sure I'll move onto a different favorite soon. You gotta love hunting for that reason :) If you have any questions, or just want chat about your latest hunting score or big catch, you can reach me at admin@biggamelogic.com. Read more about Big Game Logic.