Let's Talk About Fishing

How To Choose A Reel?

Do you know how to choose a reel? Here`s detailded guide.

As with most tackle decisions, the first and most important step is to define your target and how you’ll be chasing it. Are you going to spend 20 days a year chasing double-digit bones at Shell Key in Islamorada? Or maybe you’re sneaking away for a couple days to the Bahamas to chase smaller but less-finicky fish. Perhaps it’s even a trip to Los Roques or Christmas Island where the general size of the fish is more than compensated for by a willing attitude. Once you decide on the target, you need to determine how you’ll be fishing for them. Will you be primarily wading or fishing from a boat? Are you going to be casting to nervous, hyped-up fish in shin-deep water or casting to cruising or mudding fish in several feet of water?

Once you’ve defined those parameters, then you can get down to the nitty-gritty: things like price, retrieve mode, drag, capacity, weight and arbor size.

Price of reel

For our purposes here, we’ve broken bonefish reel selection into three price categories: entry-level ($40-$199), mid-range ($200-$399) and premium ($400-plus). In the early days of fly-fishing in salt water, anglers had few choices other than some of the old standards like the Seamaster S-handle or Fin Nor Wedding Cake. Those were (and remain today) great reels, but nearly 50 years later — thanks to improvements in materials, design and manufacturing processes — anglers have a wider range of choices that will get the job done.

As with choosing a fly rod, it’s important that anglers buy the best reel they can afford. The good news is that all three categories have some fantastic choices. In the under-$200 category, Echo, Nautilus, Okuma, Orvis and Sage offer some great options. In the mid-range category, these manufacturers are joined by Albright, Alutecnos, Bauer, St. Croix and Waterworks-Lamson. In the premium-reel category come the big boys, including Abel, Hardy, Pate, Tibor, Van Staal and others offering some great high-end equipment that’s sure to be handed down over generations.

Direct Drive Reel, Anti-Reverse or Dual Mode?

Once you’ve determined the amount of money you want to spend, the next question is what retrieve mode is best for you. There are three types: direct-drive, anti-reverse and dual mode (a combination of the first two).

Direct-drive mode is probably the most popular and, consequently, anglers have the most variety to choose from in this category. When the drag is engaged on a direct-drive reel, the spool and handle turn as the fish runs, a characteristic that has earned these reels the nickname “knucklebusters” through the years.

Anti-reverse-mode reels like the Billy Pate utilize a slip clutch that allows the handle to remain stationary while the fish takes line. Their two biggest advantages are bloodless knuckles and fewer broken tippets on speedy runs when koala-like reflexes such as mine aren’t up to par.

The dual-mode reel first popularized by the late Capt. Bob McChristian of Seamaster fame gives anglers the best of both worlds. If an angler wants direct-drive-type control, all he needs to do is wind. If he wants to back off and allow the fish to run without busting his fingers, slightly pulling back the handle allows a slip clutch to engage. One of the newest entrants into the dual-mode market is the Marryat Plus, which uses a unique finger-pressure system on the handle to switch from direct drive to anti-reverse.

I prefer direct-drive reels for most of my personal fishing. Bonefishing, though, is one of the areas where anti-reverse or dual-mode reels can come into their own. They’ll help prevent busted knuckles and parted tippets for novice or beginning anglers.

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