Some of the most important features to consider when purchasing a spincasting reel include the following:
Button vs. Underspin
Most spincasting reels rely on a push button design, which features a button at the rear of the reel, which you must push prior to casting. This will release line for the cast.
This system is easy to use and nearly flawless, which is one of the main reasons it is so popular with beginners.
But, a growing number of models have adopted an underspin release where the button is replaced by a trigger or lever-like release in front of the body.
Many anglers find this is easy to use and adds to casting accuracy, plus it allows the reel to be mounted under the rod-like a spinning reel which also improves casting ability.
Unlike a spinning reel, which depends on the spinning bail to gather line, closed face reels use take-up pins. These pins are mounted inside on the spool edge and catch line as it passes.
While this simple design is dependable, it does limit retrieval speeds and the pins are prone to wear, something which will eventually lead to additional hesitation or missing the line altogether.
For faster retrieval speeds and better dependability, select a model with multiple pins.
Additionally, note that models with metal pins will last longer than those with plastic or composite pins.
Size and Weight
There was a time when size and weight were not too high on the list of considerations when it came to choosing a spincasting reel. In most cases, you were casting bait out, or dropping it over the side of your boat, and then letting the rod sit until you got a bite.
But, with more anglers using these reels for ultra-light or bass fishing there has been an increase in their being paired with lures or lightweight rods – both of which make a heavy or bulky reel a negative.
Look for a reel with aluminum or aluminum/graphite construction for reduced weight without loss of strength.
Spincasting reels are not known for their extreme line capacity, and few are able to handle more than 100 yds. of 2 or 4 lb. test. Very few are capable of handling braided line either.
But, if you select a model with the highest capacity for the line you will be using and a quality drag system, which will help prevent spooling, you should be able to target most moderately sized species without difficulty.
Trying to use a line larger than what the reel is rated for is tempting but doing so will not only reduce capacity even further it will also affect the reel’s overall performance.
Check this video to have an overview of re-spooling a spincast reel.
This is one of the areas which can make or break a reel. Gear ratios are about more than just how much line is retrieved per turn of the handle, it also affects lure performance and smoothness of the retrieve.
Too low of a ratio and lures will fail to reach the speed needed for best action. Too high a ratio and your lure will be ripped from the strike zone before a hit can occur.
Not too many spincasting reels suffer from being too fast — in fact, the design is known for lower ratios than other designs. Look for a model with a gear ratio between 2.5:1 to 4.5:1
This is another area where spincasting reels tend to match up poorly compared to other designs, and some models are made without bearings at all.
Unless you are buying a Snoopy or Spiderman rod for your toddler I would never recommend accepting a model without any bearings, but don’t expect to find one with 8 or 10 like your favorite spinning outfit may have.
Obviously, the higher the bearing count the better, as this will provide a smoother overall performance. Any bearings should be stainless steel to avoid corrosion.
Another downfall of the overall spincasting reel design is the drag. There are two drags designs available — star and internal.
Star drags use a large star-shaped wheel, mounted near the handle, for adjustment. This style is easy to use and less prone to accidental activation.
The internal drag, adjusted by a small wheel on the body above the button release, is most common. Although this drag is easy to use it is generally less precise and prone to accidental changes, especially if you rest your thumb near it during use.
If using an underspin-style reel you may able to get one with a rear drag system.
This will be activated by a large knob at the back, near where the push button would otherwise be, and offers a nice alternative, as it is still easy to use one handed and less prone to accidentally being changed.
As stated earlier, the spincasting design is no longer limited to your kid’s first reel or catching panfish from farm ponds.
With advances in technology these “beginner reels” are now being used to target a wide range of species and are even a preferred method for some anglers.
As with your other reels, you should expect your selection to be solidly built, with an aluminum or aluminum/graphite body.
A plastic or all-composite design not only provides limited strength and fails to provide the needed stability for smooth gear operation. You should also expect ball bearing rather than bushings, as they are essential for peak long-term life of your reel.
Even if you buy the best spincasting reel you can afford, there are some limitations you should expect to face.
1. Although some higher-end models are capable of handling large mid-range species you should not expect a spincasting reel to replace all other reels in your tackle box. The design itself limits potential line capacity, casting distance and lure choices.
2. The type of gears used means that fish which tend to run or fight for extended periods will either break your line or burn out the gears in short order. The gears simply cannot handle the pressure and are too difficult to accurately adjust on the go.
Leading Spincaster Brands
There are plenty of companies offering spincasting reels, but only a few known for doing so. Each of the following makers has built a company and reputation on providing some of the best spincasting reels available.
Every company is known for a few specific traits, highlights shared by a wide range of their products, and here is what you can expect from the top three:
Zebco is one of the leading manufacturers of spincasting reels, and they have been doing so since 1954.
Although today’s models are based on the traditional, iconic design, Zebco has gone out its way to make technical advances in terms of materials and construction.
When selecting a Zebco, look for a traditional look, but modern features such as aluminum /graphite body, higher ball bearing counts and all metal gear components.
You will also find that many models are available with multiple take-up pins, ceramic line guides and even bait alerts (rare in spincasting reels).
Plus, with the wide range of models available, there is truly a Zebco for every price range.
One of the areas where Zebco still appears to be lacking is line capability. None of their models are suitable for braided lines, and although they are able to handle higher test lines, they have limited storage.
Another area of concern is gear ratio. Although spincasting reels are notorious for having low gear ratios, and even Zebco’s high-end models tend to lean towards the lower end of the spectrum.
Pflueger is known for producing some of the best spinning reels available, as well as a wide range of price options with even lower end models using advances often found in higher-end versions. They take this approach when building their spincasting reels as well.
With features such as a rigid aluminum frame, aluminum handle and heavy duty all metal gears, their reels are capable of tackling far more than panfish – a few are also suitable for targeting bass.
Additional features including:
- ported front cones
- titanium-coated line guides
- stainless steel ball bearings
- anti-reverse bearing
make you feel like you are holding a far more expensive piece of gear than expected.
Many users also rate casting ability and smoothness as very high. But, as advanced as Pflueger’s reels are, there are some downfalls to keep in mind.
Users repeatedly complain the dual take-up pins do not always function as intended, even after only a short period of use. This means more downtime and less fishing while your fix what should not be broken.
Others report that the push button frequently sticks or breaks altogether, which obviously renders the reel useless.
Those who have tried respooling with line other than that provided by the factory complain they often face problems related to casting distance and spilling of line.
All in all, they make a nice reel but be prepared for extra care and avoid tinkering or attempting upgrades – they are best used as the manufacturer intended.
Daiwa is the third of the top three spincasting reel manufacturers. Like the others, Daiwa is also known for making a wide range of models and sizes, although they are viewed as the go-to brand for ultra-light reels.
They also tend to make each model in both a high-end and economical version –allowing you to enjoy the quality, and many of the features, found in top-end models for a fraction of the price.
The higher priced models not only enjoy excellent reviews by users, but many actually prefer them to other designs such as spinning reels.
Users enjoy the large push button, especially the outside-the-body positioning and fast gear ratios. Others have also commented positively about the long casting distance and smooth drag.
One area of concern, based on multiple reviews, is the apparent lack of quality control. If you read 15 reviews of almost any Daiwa reel you will find an almost even split between those who give it 5 stars and those who offer only 1 star.
This points to only one possibility- quality control.
Although almost every reviewer who contacted Daiwa states they were offered a hassle-free return and exchange, they were still left with an unusable reel when streamside. I would recommend testing your reel prior to purchase whenever possible.
So, there you have it: the good, the bad and the best of the best when it comes to spincasting reels.
If you are looking to add to your tackle options I hope you will give one of the models detailed above consideration. I also hope that these tips will help you make the best selection for your personal angling needs.