Choosing the right reel for the job is pretty easy. Firstly, there are two general types that you need to consider – the threadline reel and the overhead reel. Threadlines, or spinning reels, are very simple to use and offer a lot of advantages for the newcomer. They are easy to cast, easy to use and can work in a variety of situations.
Overhead reels, while offering greater control over casting and playing a fish, have the downside of being tricky to learn and use so should probably be avoided at first. That is unless you plan to do a lot of deep sea fishing where they’ll come into their own.
So let’s assume you’re going to be doing a lot of shore fishing or even small boat fishing. Which reel is going to do the job and how much do you spend?
Firstly, consider the type of fishing you’re mostly going to do. Do you live near a river and will spend most of your time fishing for bream, flathead and smaller fish? Then you'll be needing a spinning reel in the 2000 to 3000 size range.
Are you close to the beach and want to spend a lot of time chasing tailor or mulloway? A spinning reel in the 5000 to 7000 range is now better, with more line capacity and longer casts off the wider spool.
Is your preference to target herring from the rocks in Fremantle? Here you'll be best with a reel in the 4000 to 5000 range to cover anything larger like snapper that might show up.
Having a reel correctly matched to the size of the fish you’re chasing and the rod you’re using means longer casts, better control and a more enjoyable fishing experience.
It will be even better when you start to learn that “Your Drag Is Your Best Friend!”
So what is a drag?
Well, I’m sure most of you know it’s the screw thingy at the front of your spinning reel, the star looking contraption on your baitcaster and the lever on your trolling reel, but are you using it properly?
The number one reason people I spend a day on the water with lose fish revolves around their drag and the fact they don’t know how to use it. 80% of anglers are happy to play about with herring, whiting or even small tailor that aren’t going to do much to your 6kg line.
However, when they get the opportunity to fish for better fish, they often completely forget about the role the reel’s drag system plays in helping you beat a big fish. How do you think I landed a 200kg marlin on 24kg line? I used my drag to allow the fish to run when it wanted to but with pressure applied smoothly to tire it out.
Your drag is basically there to stop your line breaking once a fish puts more pressure on the line than it can bear. The spool turns and gives the fish line until it decided to stop and, at this time, you can start to work it back to you.
On my recent trip, I was witness to some awesome tailor chopping into mullet and a friend (who shall remain nameless) hooked them and lost them all. Now, these fish were only 3kg and while being tough, they weren’t more than his 6kg line could handle.
After the second bustoff I thought something was wrong and tried to pull some line from the reel. The spool might has well have been glued in place! As soon as the fish surges, the drag was too tight to allow the spool to give line smoothly and PING. Several good fish gone and unhappy boys on the beach.
On the other side of the coin, I regularly see people winding fish in with the drag set too lightly. This means the spool rotates with the rotor or bail arm and you don’t gain any line at all. Even worse, you’re actually twisting the line as it goes back on the reel. Lift and wind is the right technique but that’s a topic for another article.
I’m not going to bore you with how a drag works but I will explain how to set it correctly. This starts with choosing the correct line to start with and this is why you always need to know what your line will break at (it’s written on the spool) before you load it up.
Then, every time you go fishing, get a small scale and hook it to the end of your line while a friend holds the rod as if they were fishing with it. Pull the scale and see what weight it pulls down to. This is your drag weight and it should be roughly 1/3 of the line’s breaking strength for most situations.
This means 6kg line will be set to 2kg, 20kg to 7kg and so on. Sure, certain situations will require you to use more or even less pressure but only mess with the drag if it’s caused you to lose a fish.
The first instinct of beginners is to screw down the drag when a fish runs. In my life I’ve seen a lot of big fish lost and I would estimate 75% are lost due to not letting that fish run, compared to 25% that ran them into trouble. If they touch a drag I’ve preset, I’ll smack them across the hands with a ruler. SET IT AND DON’T TOUCH IT.
Use the force young Skywalker, the force of the drag and you will land bigger and better fish.