fishing reels


There are a vast range of reel styles and functions to navigate in the world of fishing. It can be a daunting task trying to choose the most suitable reel for your fishing exploits. In most cases, selecting a reel is a compromise between techniques or target species.

If you are new to fishing or have a restricted budget, you’ll likely be fantasising about one reel that can do anything and everything. Although some reels styles are more versatile than others, a Bream reel will never be suitable for a Marlin and vice versa. Picking out a suitable reel is a much easier decision if you have very clear fishing goals or techniques in mind so consider your fishing intentions carefully. Seasoned anglers choose specific reels for specific purposes.

Here is a guide to the most common fishing reels and information on the fishing techniques to which they are most suited.


Spinning reels are hands-down the easiest fishing reels to use. Modern spinning reels are robust, reliable and there are many affordable options. Spin reels are also the most versatile reel option and are equally effective for bait or lure fishing applications. This versatility permits a quick switch between techniques if necessary and minimises the amount of fishing tackle carried. Spin reels can be used on any species from Whiting to Marlin.

Spin reels are well suited to distance casting as they place minimal friction on the line once the bail arm is released. They are also the best option for soft plastics and finesse fishing because of their ability to cast light lures.

Applications: General bait fishing, general lure fishing, finesse fishing
Advantages: Ease of use, versatility, casting distance, durability


Bait teaser reels are essentially spin reels that incorporate a function to free-spool baits. This is a particularly handy feature for targeting timid fish species or fish that require extended time to suck down baits. Once the reel handle is cranked into gear, the normal drag system kicks in and it’s game on.

Applications: Bait fishing
Advantages: Ideal for targeting timid fish on baits, improves hook-sets


Baitcaster reels shine when accuracy is important or larger lures are required. In tropical mangrove creeks and among heavy structure baitcaster reels offer increased accuracy via their thumbspool design. Using your thumb to feather the spool helps to control casting distance and stop lures with pinpoint accuracy.

Baitcaster reels also offer more direct cranking power and backbone for hauling big fish out of tight structure. They are particularly well suited to casting medium to large hardbody lures and spinnerbaits.

Applications: General lure fishing with larger lures, structure fishing, baitfishing
Advantages: Accuracy, control, hauling power


Overhead reels are the tried and tested performance reels for inshore and offshore game fishing. They can be used for deepwater jigging and bait fishing applications, but are most commonly used for trolling baits and lures for species such as Spanish Mackerel, Marlin, or Tuna.

Overhead reels offer large line capacities and advanced drag systems to ensure that you have the upper hand on any extended battles with oceanic beasts. They are tough reels that are built to last.

Applications: Trolling baits and lures for game fish, deepwater jigging and bait fishing
Advantages: Large line capacities, advanced drag systems, durability


Electric reels are a relatively new development that is growing in popularity. Electric reels are designed for deep water fishing. They have an ability to gauge depth and the motors automatically haul up the line to reduce angler fatigue.

Applications: Deepwater baitfishing or jigging.
Advantages: Minimises fatigue, accurate depth delivery


Alvey reels are the beach and estuary workhorses in Australia. These side-cast reels pivot to permit long casts over surf and function flawlessly amid salt, sand, and sun.

Alvey reels are simple in design. They do no use bearings or gears, and they feature simple, but effective drag systems. Alvey reels are so robust that maintenance or mechanical issues are virtually eliminated.

Applications: Beach and estuary bait fishing
Advantages: Robust, low maintenance, longevity


Fly reels are specialised for fly fishing activities. Fly reels are available in a variety of sizes or weight classes to match similar rod and line classes accordingly. Their relatively simplistic designs enhance durability and longevity. The fewer components and mechanics decrease the likelihood of damage or malfunction.

Fly fishing primarily involves hand-to-hand combat battles for most estuary and freshwater fish species. In these scenarios, the reel only serves as a line storage device. Once target fish reach a size that is capable of peeling line away from the reel, drag systems and winding capacities become much more critical.

Applications: Fly fishing
Advantages: Simple robust design

Contemporary anglers typically employ reels from these seven reel formats. Familiarise yourself with their functions and uses so that you know which option best suits your needs. Keep in mind that the most important factor that influences reel selection is the targeted species or habitat. The more you can narrow down your required technique the easier it will be to choose a suitable reel.


Is there anything you can add to this article? Let us know and share with everyone else in the comments section below.

Peter Hollingsworth

Peter has been fishing all around Australia since he was a boy. He loves camping, fishing and kayak fishing.