Fishing reels including fixed spool, baitrunners, closed face and centrepin reels

The fishing reel is a vital part of your fishing kit and choosing the right reel for both the target fish species and the fishing method is something that should be given a lot of thought.

In this section we cover the most common freshwater fishing reels outlining their characteristics and intended applications.

The most common fishing reels

There are several freshwater fishing reels widely used by anglers, these include the most common which is the fixed spool reel, also the baitrunner (free-spool) reel, the closed face reel and the now not so common centrepin reel.

Each of these reel designs have their own intended applications when it comes to fishing. Some are designed for ease of use and versatility, such as the fixed spool reel, while others are intended for specific types of fishing, such as the centrepin reel.

We will cover each of these types of fishing reel below and outline their typical uses.

Fixed-spool reels (spinning reels)

These are undoubtedly the most common fishing reels in use today. Their design offers great flexibility and reliability which makes them a great all round course fishing reel.

Although some designs have slight variations the basics are the same across the manufacturer's model ranges. Below we outline the main parts of the fixed-spool reel.


Reel foot

This is used to secure the reel to the rod.

Reel Handle

This is used to wind in the line.

Anti-reverse switch

This controls whether the spool is able to spin in the opposite direction releasing line.

Drag control

The drag control, in this case, is a rear drag, other models feature a front drag (which is on the front of the spool). The drag controls how much pressure is required in order for the line to be pulled from the spool, this is a vital feature when playing fish.

Bail arm

This has two positions, open or closed. When open it allows line to come off the spool freely, for example when casting. When the bail arm is in the closed position, which is its normal position, it inhibits the line from leaving the spool.


This holds the fishing line, there are various sizes of spool each with their own line-holding capacity. They are usually interchangeable allowing you to change your desired line very easily.

Line runner

This directs the line onto the spool. As the bail arm (and line runner) rotates the spool will move up and down ensuring an even layer of line.

Baitrunner (free spool) reel

This type of reel is basically a larger version of the fixed spool reel with one very handy additional feature.

The baitrunner switch (fig 1.2) controls the free-spool action of the reel. When it is engaged the spool will turn freely allowing the line to run off the reel. It is a great function when fishing for big, powerful species such as carp, barbel, catfish and pike.

The baitrunner reels also feature larger spools than their standard fixed-spool counterparts, allowing more line capacity of stronger line.

Closed face reel

This type of reel is also very similar in function to the fixed spool reel with a few exceptions.

The spool has a cover and there is no bail arm or line runner. To cast it is as simple as pressing the bail pin(s) which lets the line run freely off the spool, then with another touch of the finger the line can be stopped, having the same effect as closing the bail arm on a fixed spool reel.

This type of reel is very popular with some anglers due to its simplicity and also its ability to avoid line tangles, especially in windy conditions.

Centrepin reel

Some anglers call this the Rolls Royce of fishing reels, although not that common it is a great reel for trotting a float down a fast flowing river.

Its function has been slightly superseeded by the closed face reel but the feeling of a centrepin reel can not be imitated. The connection you feel when a fish takes the bait is unsurpassed.

The model shown to the left has a ratchet switch, which when actioned, has a similar effect as increasing drag on a conventional reel. It impedes the flow of line from the reel adding pressure.
The drums come in 2 basic variants, narrow drum and wide drum. The former being great for light line fishing for small species, the latter being designed for the bigger, hard fighting specimen fish.

Although primarily used by anglers for float fishing, with the models featuring the ratchet switch they can be used for ledger or feeder fishing.

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