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For beginners, start with a decent sized spinning reel on either a 10' salmon rod for light sea fishing or a 12' beachcaster.  You should be able to get both of these new from you local angling shop for under 100 EURO - but if you do pay a lot less, worry about the quality!  Beginners should avoid buying and using multiplier reels.

multiplier reel

spinning aka fixed spool reel
Multiplier Reel:  

It is commonly used on boats and can be used in most other types of sea fishing, even spinning!

Multiplier reels come in all sizes, and every price imaginable too - and as a rule tend to be more expensive than the fixed spool or spinning reel opposite.  Modern mulitplier reels are complex beasts - if unsure how to maintain or fine tune your reel, consult a professional or you risk destroying the reel.

These reels usually control the drag using a star shaped fitting on one side of the reel. Drag is what tires out the fish - it is the pressure exerted by the rod and the reel against the fish as it tried to pull line off your reel. On newer models, the thumb operated Lever Drag replaces a star drag (above).  You can have digital line counters built into the reel if you really want...

The guide that moves the line across the spool barrel evenly as you retrieve is called a levelwind - it is useful but some argue that it inhibits long distance casting.  It does ensure an even distribution of the line onto the barrel, ensuring that you do not suffer vibrations on casting with the reel.

Multipliers use brakes in casting, otherwise you end up with overrun, where the line continues to run off the reel after the trace has landed. A common problem with people new to beachcasting with a new multiplier reel is that they have not fitted the brakes!

Spinning or Fixed Spool Reel:  

This is the most common type of reel and is used in spinning, beach casting or light sea fishing.  You can use them off a boat, but multiplier reels tend to (a) hold more line, (b) give better control, and (c) do not explode if you're fighting a big tope!  These reels are ideal for novices.

On old models the drag is controlled by tightening the central drum head (A).  This is not easy to do if you are fighting a fish!  On new models this control is far more accessible, located under the reel (B).  

In new models the first turn of the handle will automatically fold over the full length retrieve arm (which brings in the line, C), whereas older models demand you must insert the line manually into a small crook.

Spinning reels are relatively simply to care for, and usually only require a light oiling after each trip.  Some people bath their reels in pots of oil, especially over winter and let them drain off for a week or so, but I've always thought of this as overkill!  A lightly oiled cloth removes sand and above all salt.  Salt is the angler's reel enemy.

Much the same applies to multiplier reels but these require careful maintenance given their 'innards' e.g. gears is more complex...  Fixed spool reels are cheaper, and the latest models have two piece bale arms which is a problem fighting big fish.

centrepin reel

salt water fly fishing reels

Centrepin Reel

This kind of reel is more commonly associated with trotting techniques on rivers but it can be used in sea fishing, as can fly rods and fly reels.  Its a new idea!

Salt Water Fly Fishing Reels:

I have yet to find these available outside of America, but they are normally loaded with a backing before a final fly line is attached.  Fly fishing is very different!

Multiplier Reel Brands:

Good multiplier reel brands include Penn, Daiwa, Abu, and Ambassadeur, and in the lower price brackets makers like Daiwa and Shakespeare - lots of options...

Good Fixed Spool Brands:

Good brands include all those listed for multipliers and other manufacturers like Shakespeare.  If you are going to spend more Euro, use it for a better multiplier.

What to Look For in a Good Reel?



Multipliers are complicated beasties... but the same basic rules apply as are listed alongside for fixed spool or spinning reels. Check for any materials used in the reel that will minimise abrasion and corrosion.

Does it have a levelwind, i.e. a moving guide that ensures that as you reel in the line is distributed evenly across the full width of the drum?  Some people wear by them (me), others will swear at them...

Check the reel's line capacity for different breaking strains, and match this up to the expected uses to which the reel will be put and the rods with which it will be paired.

It is not as easy to change spools on a multiplier as it is with a fixed spool reel, so additional empty drums are not that great an idea, but that said, it is handy having one (pre-loaded with line) in a tackle box.

Multiplier gearing is hugely complicated, so if you do not understand this, ask the shop assistant how it works... Ed: we will add an additional page on the topics of multiplier gearing and on multiplier brakes shortly... it is a complex topic.

What do fishing magazines reviews say?

Spinning Reels: 

Look firstly at the build quality of the reel.  How much of it is plastic (and not carbon fibre which is very strong)?  How much of it is alloy or stainless steel as opposed to a metal easily corroded by salt water / sand?

Many handles fold down for easy storage - check that the pins and folding mechanism are strong.  Most reels can be adjusted for right and left handers. Check this too, even if you are not ambidextrous,as it may affect the resale value when you go to trade it in.

Check the reel's capacity.  This is always listed as yards (or metres) versus a breaking strain e.g. 250 yards for 15 lbs line.  As the breaking strain increases the capacity will decrease given the increase in the line's thickness.  If you can buy an additional empty spool to let you change the main line to a different breaking strain(s), without having to reconnect a whole new reel!  This helps in competition if you hit a bird's nest.

Where is the drag control - it should be easily accessible under the body of the reel?  What is the gearing ratio i.e. how fast can your retrieve versus the level of drag available in a given fixed spool reel?

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