Selecting the correct reel size

Selecting the correct reel size.

I admit it, I have a lot of fishing reel. More than many of my friends and much more than my wife thinks I need. But then she doesn’t fish so she doesn’t understand I truly do need each and every one of them. I may not need every single one every trip, but I do use each on a regular basis. If you fish a lot, in multiple environments and for a side variety of species chances are you need more reels as well. Let me give you some tips which might help you convince your better half of that fact as well.


Reels come in an almost endless selection of colors, designs and features. Walking through the aisles of any tackle shop can be as confusing as trying to build a time machine. Some features are beneficial; others are simply a way for one manufacturer to stand out from the competition. But in my opinion the place to start is by learning what size reel you need. This is why I have a shelf full of choices. I want to make sure than no matter what I am targeting my reel is up to the task.

One of the reason selecting a reel can be so confusing is that most manufacturers will produce their most popular models in multiple sizes. Each will look like the others in the series but will be slightly smaller or larger. Each size is designed for specific applications, targeting certain species and for use with different lure bait sizes. Luckily, most manufacturers also follow a standard method of labeling each size – learn the labeling method and you will learn how to select a reel


Most name brand reels are labeled with a numeric number Shimano and Penn for instance uses from 500 and up.

Those in the 500-1000 series are smaller, light models and those in the 6000 series are the biggest, heaviest. Here is the general breakdown of the numeric labeling system and what each is designed for:
1000-2500: Smallest models available, designed for use with ultralight or light weight rods. Best suited for fishing trout, panfish and small bass or catfish.
3000-3500: These would be considered medium freshwater reels or light saltwater reels. Best suited for fishing larger fresh water species such a bass, flatheads and walleye or smaller salt water species including bream, flounder & croakers
4000-4500: Heavy weight fresh water or medium weight salt water reel. Best suited for targeting larger fresh water species such as pike or most coastal salt water species including snapper, drum, striped bass or bone fish.
5000-5500: Only slightly larger than the 4000 series and used in many of the same applications when you expect to encounter larger trophy fish or need to use heavier line.
6000 & 10000: These are what you see on the big surf casters or trolling rigs. These heavy reels can hold a lot of heavy line but can still be handled in a conventional manner – casting is still possible.
12000 & Up: These are the big boys you see on deep sea rigs. Although they can hold 1000s of feet of line and handle the biggest trophy fish 100s of feet deep they come at a great cost – literally. Many are custom construction and have a price tag to match.