How to Use a Spinning Reel

How to Use a Spinning Reel

Most anglers cut their teeth on spincast reels in their youth, or anytime they exposed themselves to the sport of fishing. The natural progression for most of us is to step up to the spinning reel.

These types of reels open up a whole other world of fishing techniques. It also comes with some bumps along the way as you master this piece of equipment. In this article, we will try to smooth that transition to using spinning reels proficiently.

Spinning Reels: The Basics

Spinning reels, also known as open face reels, sit directly beneath the rod. Spinning reels have a fixed spool, meaning it does not rotate, and gets its name from the rotor that spins and oscillates around the spool, laying line evenly back on it.

The spool sits in line with the length of the rod which means the line comes off at an odd angle. This odd angle reduces the distance of casts that can be obtained compared to baitcasters. The overall design, including the gear layout, also reduces the gear ratios compared to baitcasters.

The basic parts of a spinning reel include the reel foot, which is what sets in the rod’s reel seat and holds the reel in place, the main body where the internal gear system is held, the spool, rotor, bail, line roller, drag adjustment dial, arm, and grip knob.

Where spinning reels excel is in being able to use lighter lures often needed for finesse fishing applications. Spinning reels are also more resistant to wind because it is a fixed spool.

They are also much easier to become proficient in than baitcasters and is probably the main reason they are used by a lot of anglers.

Still, spinning reels have some intricacies in how to work them, and we are going to take a look at some of these next.

The Cast

Casting with a spinning reel still has a learning curve with it, and it does take some time to get to the skill level to put some distance on your cast and develop some accuracy.

Like we have mentioned before, spinning reels use a fixed spool so the weight of the lure is what is doing the work. It can be tempting to try to overpower the cast, and this is the perfect way to cause a mess of line on your spool.

The basics of casting start with using your index finger of your dominant hand to pull the line just above the bail and line roller and bring it back to the rod. With your other hand, open up the bail to give yourself a “free spool” where line can now leave without resistance.

From here on, it is just like casting any other rod and reel. At the point of release, simply release the line from your index finger. Unlike a baitcaster, you do not have to put pressure on the spool because it is fixed. The line will stop leaving the spool as soon as the lure hits the water.

Though it sounds simple, it is going to take a little time for the uninitiated. Don’t sweat it though, there is a reason it is one of the most popular reels for the casual and more serious angler. You’ll have it down in no time.

Working the Drag

Spinning reels use a stacked drag system made of washers of various materials. The drag is adjusted by tightening or loosening the amount of pressure exerted by the washers on the spool. The drag can be easily adjusted by a dial that sits on top of the spool facing out towards the end of the pole.

Turning the dial clockwise will tighten the pressure of the washers making it more difficult to pull line off the spool while counterclockwise will give the opposite effect.

Becoming proficient with the drag settings during a fight and being aware of the setting before hooking up on a fish will make you a much more efficient angler with a lot fewer line breaks.

Dealing with line twist

Dealing with line twist is inherent when you pick up a spinning reel. The angle that the line comes off of the stationary spool and the bail and rotor design are going to cause this line twist inevitably.

Line twist paired with slack line eventually results in some pretty nasty tangles on the that tend to wrap around not only the spool but seemingly every other part of the reel.

There are several methods of reducing the amount of line twist with your spinning reel. The first is to spool line onto the reel in the same direction that it was put on the spool of line that you purchase from manufacturers.

The second way is to be sure the line is tight when you close the bail manually after casting and give a few quick reels with a tight line. The third method is to change your line after several outings or a couple of months of the line sitting in the garage.


A spinning reel offers the angler a lot of versatility in various fishing techniques. They are relatively easy to get the hang of, but there are some limitations and some intricacies that come with using this style of reel.

We hope that this short article has shed a little more light on what makes up a spinning reel and some of the basics of working these tremendous pieces of equipment as well as made clear some of the potential headaches you might encounter.

How to Use a Spinning Reel
Article Name
How to Use a Spinning Reel
New to angling? This guide teaches you how to use a spinning reel like a true professional.
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Cast For Fish
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