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Parts of a Spinning Reel – What an Avid Angler Needs to Know

parts of a spinning reel
Written by Immanuel Baranov
Last Update: July 24, 2023

Spinning reels are one of the preferred reel types when fishing. They’re easy to use, easy to cast with, and normally quite sturdy. It’s important for every fisherman to understand the different components of his spinning reel so that he/she gets the best use out of it and knows what to do when maintaining or changing line. Here’s a breakdown of a spinning reel and its parts.

Different Parts of a Spinning Reel

1. Handle

The handle is what you will use to reel your line back in once it has been cast out. The reel rotates with every revolution of the handle to pull your line back in and wrap it around the spool again. It is important to make sure sand and grit stay out of the mount section of the handle to keep it rotating smoothly, especially for when you are reeling in that prize catch!

2. Body

Reel bodies vary in their material make-up. Some are made of plastic while others are composed of graphite or even aluminium. The body houses all the important little pieces that make the reel work properly and it is important to look after it. Keep in mind that plastic bodies are prone to quick wear and tear and do not last very long. The graphite or aluminium options offer more longevity and less maintenance issues long-term. If you want to buy an inshore spinning reel, make sure its body is saltwater resistant.

3. Gearbox

The gearbox houses the gears that set the rotation ratio of your reel. The gear ratio on spinning reels varies from 1:1 to 1:6. So the highest ratio means every time you turn the handle once, the reel rotates line back around the spool 6 times. Lower ratios are for the purpose of raw torque whereas higher ratios are there for speedy line recoveries. Your style of fishing will determine what gear ratio is best for you. Quick and smooth finesse-type fishing would demand a higher gear ratio for example.

4. Spool

The spool is what your fishing line gets wrapped around. They are fixed so that the line can be wrapped around them without twists and tangles. Different spools will have different line capacity and line capacity is an important factor to consider. If you are looking to cast far or pull heavy fish you need a larger line capacity so that thicker line or simply more line can be housed on your spool. The line capacity of each spool is marked on it clearly for convenience.

5. Drag adjustment knob

Drag is the tension setting on your reel. You use the drag adjustment knob to either increase or decrease tension whilst fishing. The tighter the drag, the stiffer your line is and the harder it is for a fish to carry your line out. The looser your drag is, the easier it is for the fish to swim out. Different situations call for different tension settings.

In some cases, you will want to allow the fish some freedom to swim out to ease the tension on your line and rod until he is tired and can’t fight anymore. This is especially the case if the fish is particularly strong and threatens to break your line or rod. In this case, turning the drag adjustment knob down to allow less tension is a good bet. In other cases with smaller, easier fish it can be better to tighten the drag and force him in before the hook has a chance to come loose, or if you simply want the fight to end quickly and he poses no threat to the integrity of your line or rod.

6. Bail

The bail is a half-moon shaped wire that keeps the spool fixed or loose. During casting it is flipped in one direction to allow total freedom of outward rotation so your line can cast out smoothly. When it is flipped back after cast completion, it locks the spool so that only rotating the handle can turn the line in. This prevents the line coming back on to the spool unevenly and prevents it from running outward instead of in after cast.

7. Anti-reverse switch

The anti-reverse switch is the other component that locks or releases the rotation of the reel by way of controlling the gears. It allows the gears to either move in only one direction, or in both. This provides grip and stability when a fish latches on and gives you the needed control to bring it in at your own pace.

Parts of a Spinning Reel Diagram

Here is a clear diagram showing each of the parts we discussed to help you easily locate them on your reel.

spinning reel parts

These are the basic spinner reel parts that help a user set up a spinning reel perfectly. Each is important in its own right and it is imperative that you keep these parts clean, free of grit, and in working condition. The failure of any of these parts will mean you losing the fish, or all your line, or at the very least a messy bunch-up of line that could take you hours to sort out. If you keep these components in good working order your reel will work as intended and you’ll be hauling in those prize catches as planned. Happy fishing!


Q. What does the plus and minus mean on a spinning reel?

Ans. The little button on the reel with a plus and a minus indicator is the drag. This keeps the line breaking when you catch a fish. The line gets harder to pull off when you put the drag on a plus and vice versa. You want to keep the drag somewhere in the minus unless you have to horse the fish out from underneath a structure.

Q. What to do when the line doesn’t stack on correctly?

Ans. You need to adjust the spool height on the spinning reel with the given shims. Add a new shim if you find the line too high on the spool. Remove a shim if you find it too low.

Q. What does PE mean in fishing rods?

Ans. PE is most commonly used to rank polyethylene fishing lines. The method measures the diameter and estimates the strength of a braided fishing line. It’s the only type of line that uses the UHMWPE or ultra-high molecular weight polyethylene.

Q. Why is the drag not smooth?

Ans. This happens when your drag washer is soaked with oil or lacks grease. You need to re-grease or replace the drag washer.

About the author

Immanuel Baranov

My life is pretty much defined by my avid outdoor activities. I’m generally obsessed with fishing, skiing and occasional hunting and whitewater paddling. I’ve been active since my early years. I inherited my passion for fishing from my father who made frequent family trips to the banks of Sacramento River. Growing up, I did a lot of fishing in the vicinity. Now that I have two sons, our weekends are full of fishing activities. I would say, you need good spots where you can go out a lot for the thing you love. I had the privilege to grow up near numerous water bodies and I’m proud to say that I made good use of them. It’s also great to do something with kids that helps them learn patience, endurance and preciseness.

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