Dive Into The World Of Fishing Reels: A Comprehensive Overview

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Different Kinds of Fishing Reels – China was the first country in which fishing reels were ever produced. The concept of a fishing reel was first mentioned in the book “Lives of Famous Immortals,” which was written in the fourth century.


Ma Yuan, a Chinese painter who worked during the Song Dynasty, created a picture in 1195 that was titled “Angler on a Wintry Lake.” It depicts a fisherman who is sitting in a boat and using a fishing rod and reel to catch fish.


Another Chinese painter, Wu Zhen (1280–1354), who lived between the years 1280 and 1354, depicted fishing scenes in his paintings, including the use of rods and reels. A fishing reel is depicted on an Armenian parchment that dates back to the 13th century.


The “Collected Illustrations of the Three Realms” volume of the Chinese encyclopedia Sancai Tuhui, which was published at the beginning of the 17th century, contains the first detailed drawing of fishing reels. This drawing even includes a depiction of the windlass pulley. (Article about “History of Fishing Reels” on historyoffishing.com)

Other interesting best sellers are:

Different Kinds of Fishing Reels – History of the Fishing Reel

Now almost everyone knows what a reel is used for in fishing. However, the early fishermen were not that interested in these devices. They could catch enough fish with the pole. Often a reference is made to Hemingway’s book, “The Old Man and the Sea” which states that even with a regular “hand-line” one could catch a serious fish. In those earlier days there was still plenty of fish and catching them was relatively easy.


It is believed that the Chinese invented the fishing reel around AD 300 or 400. It was not until the seventeenth century, and then only in art, that the fishing reel was seen to be used by some fishermen. A professional fisherman named Barker said a “winder” would be useful for catching bigger fish.


It was not until the end of the eighteenth century that craftsmen, watchmakers, and jewelers began to design the so-called “winches”. These were the wide spooled, narrow arboured brass winches. But because metallurgy was not yet strong in his shoes, they became unusable rather quickly when a large fish was caught. With such a catch, the teeth of the soft brass gear were broken.


Since the design of a fishing reel was not yet fully developed, it was discovered early on that the volume of the reel also had to be adjusted. Fishermen soon found out when the line was completely reeling. Only then were fishing reels with a larger diameter made.


Until the mid-nineteenth century fishermen used the fishing reel for all kinds of fishing such as trolling, fly fishing, and float fishing. But from then on people started to categorize and spoke of the “fly” and “coarse” fisherman.


One of the first reels to be made was the ‘Nottingham’ and got its name from the place where it was designed. It is a practically all-wood design measuring 4 inches in diameter and was created about 150 years ago. This reel was mainly used for trolling and float fishing.


A light fishing line was used and one could cast up to twenty yards. The Nottingham was a very smooth-running fishing reel. Only after the Second World War and the emergence of the nylon fishing line was the switch to the more practical fixed spool reels.


Today the Nottingham Fishing Reels are a highly sought-after collector’s item. This is of course due to their attractive design in which the colors of the wood played an important role. The way a Nottingham was attached to the rod with a brass nut was also special.

Nottingham Fishing Reel (Kinds of Fishing Reels)

 Kinds of Fishing Reels
Nottingham Fishing Reel

The centrepin reel appeared in the very early 1880s. It had a sprung latch allowing the spool to be released quickly by pressing a button in its center. In the beginning, this reel was made from a combination of wood and Bakelite, but as soon as the cheaper aluminum came on the market, the all-metal versions became the rule.

Old Centrepin Reel – Type “Allcock Aerial” (Kinds of Fishing Reels)

Allcock Aerial
Allcock Aerial
Old Centrepin Reel
Old Centrepin Reel

One of the first fly fishing reels was Birmingham. Renamed after the city where they were most commonly produced. It appeared at the end of the nineteenth century. The material used for this reel was brass. In rare cases, ebonite was sometimes used.

Brass Birmingham Fly Reel (Kinds of Fishing Reels)

Brass Birmingham
Brass Birmingham Fly Reel

The next in the line of fly fishing reels was the famous “Hardy Perfect”. This really lies based on today’s modern reels. Here too, the models were first made in a combination of brass and aluminum. Later, the full aluminum reels were used. They had a detachable spool and an adjustable drag. A ball race was also incorporated into Hardy Perfect’s mechanism to make it run smoother.

Hardy Perfect Fly Fishing Reel (Kinds of Fishing Reels)

Hardy Perfect
Hardy Perfect Fly Fishing Reel

In 1907 the “threading” reels were introduced. This was done by A.H. Illingworth. This man had a weaving machine and he looked countless times at the “shuttle” that was used on it and suddenly thought about fishing. He designed a fishing reel with a modified shuttle to cast the line. The term “threading” was used because before the nylon fishing lines existed they had to fish with woven silk lines which weren’t much thicker than threads.

Hardy Illingworth No.3 Casting Reel (Kinds of Fishing Reels)

Hardy Illingworth
Hardy Illingworth No.3 Casting Reel

In 1932 a spectacular successor to the Hardy Illingworth was released and the series was called “Hardy Altex”. The most important part of this was the ‘patented full bale arm’. This was to ensure that the line is held automatically and conflicts with the fishing line were avoided. Despite the patent, the Hardy Altex couldn’t break through commercially enough because the nylon fishing line didn’t exist yet. With the braided natural fiber lines that they now used, there were several problems such as repeated tangles.

Hardy Altex Fishing Reel (Kinds of Fishing Reels)

Hardy Altex
Hardy Altex Fishing Reel

In 1954, Hardy’s patent expired. Two brothers-in-law were there to take over the patent and the new fishing reel “The Mitchell” was produced. The 2 men were Charles Pons and Léon Carpano and had an engineering company in Cluses, France. Again there were problems with the fishing line and it wasn’t until the early 1970s, when the nylon finally appeared, that the spinning reel became a direct hit. More than 25 million copies were sold.

Reel Mitchell 300 (Kinds of Fishing Reels)

Reel Mitchell 300
Reel Mitchell 300

Different Kinds of Fishing Reels – Information about the Fishing Reel

Since a casting rod is used to fish at great distances, you obviously need a lot of fishing lines. To be able to store that line, you need a spinning reel. Usually, the better devices can store up to 100 m of fishing lines.

This reel must be of excellent quality. There are some questions to ask:

  • does the brake mechanism (slip) of the reel gives a dosed amount of line?
  • also important; when the fishing line is released: does that happen “smoothly”? We don’t want a shocking reel, of course.
  • if possible, one should open the reel to view the internal mechanism. It must be durable and of good material. It wouldn’t be the first time that the interior was made of plastic … (and that for a spinning reel that has to handle the heavier work) In fact, you could compare it a bit with the interior of a mechanical watch that also needs to be extremely sophisticated to enjoy it for a long time and to work meticulously.

The Inside of a Spinning Reel (Kinds of Fishing Reels)

The Inside
The Inside of a Spinning Reel

Many anglers think that a spinning reel must have many ball bearings to be able to speak of high quality. In practice, however, this is not the case: some people have been fishing with the same spinning reel for more than 10 years and which has only 3 ball bearings. Other mills, which sometimes contain up to 12 ball bearings, fail after a few months.

The following types can be distinguished within the extensive range of reels:

Fixed spool reel

Fixed Spool Reel
Fixed Spool Reel

This is the simplest type and is highly valued by many anglers. The low price of such reels, the handling, and the long casts that one can do with them are extremely attractive. The reel is easy to swap and the retrieval speed is decent too.


You can also choose between 2 braking systems: front slip or rear slip. With the front slip system, the operating pawl is on top of the reel and with the rear slip system, you will find a wheel to turn on the back of the reel. Every fisherman has his own preference.


The weight of the reel also plays a role for some. Especially in lure fishing where the rod is almost always in action, a lighter weight can be more comfortable. The size or storage capacity of the reel depends on the fishing line used and more specifically its thickness.


As I mentioned above, most mills are offered with a capacity of 100 meters. That does not alter the fact that some producers also offer their own mills with, for example, 80 meters or 120 meters. One speaks of a “twenties” if one wants to use a 100 m line with a thickness of 0.20 mm. And this then continues with a “thirties” (100m – 0.30mm) etc … Most manufacturers offer sizes 10 to 70. (A “seventies” is therefore a reel for storage of 100m line with a thickness of 0.70mm).

Freewheel spinning reel (free runner)

Free Runner
Carp Fishing Reel Free Runner

This reel is very popular with carp anglers. The fishing line can be released without any problems with a pulled free-wheeling lever and a closed bracket. You can easily set that resistance utilizing a small wheel on the back of the reel. As soon as you switch off the freewheel, the “normal slip” comes into effect again.

Spinning reel without line reversal

With this reel, the fishing line is spooled straight up which is a huge advantage. The throwing of the line, on the other hand, requires some art and will therefore first have to be properly practiced.



This is a spinning reel in the more expensive price range. This is due to the high quality and strength that this device possesses. The reel has its own interior already built-in, which is very handy for transmission. The reel speed is not as good as with a fixed spool reel, but still smoother than the other types, such as a trout reel. Also very handy for “trolling”. The robustness of this spinning reel provides a modern magnetic slip system and centrifugal brakes. This way, the fishing line will not easily get tangled when casting.

Centrepin reel and trout reel

Centrepin Reel
Centrepin Reel

: these reels can be classified as the very first and simplest systems. The line storage is simply done on a spool attached to the center shaft. To control the “slip” you use the best system in the world: your index finger. Since most anglers prefer to use the most modern systems and only a few die-hards swear by the center pin reel, these are therefore quite expensive. Simply because it is not in great demand.

Fly Fishing reel

Fly Fishing Reel
Fly Fishing Reel

Since here too, the demand is small, this spinning reel also belongs to the more expensive class. It is in principle the same device as the center pin reel, but smaller. Sometimes it is also provided with a ratchet.


Hopefully, I have been able to teach you about the history of reels as well as the contemporary models that are used. If there are any comments, questions, or additional information, feel free to let me know.

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