By Brandon White. In Light Tackle Fishing Part 2 we covered details about the different types of rods you have to choose when light tackle fishing for striped bass. In part three we’ll dive into reels, specifically spinning reels and then in part four we’ll cover bait casting reels.
Spinning reels are probably the most widely used reels for light tackle anglers targeting striped bass. They are easy to cast, versatile and can be used in almost every application of hunting stripers from jigging to casting and from throwing jigs or swimming lures to casting top water poppers.
When choosing a spinning reels there are a few attributes that you need to understand: reel size, gear ratios, ball bearings, reel body make up and drag systems. Let's take a look at each attribute in detail.
Different manufactures use different numerical sizing schemas to designate the size of their reels. For instance Shimano, which I use for all my light tackle fishing, uses thousands (i.e. 2500, 3000, 4000 etc). Another solid reel manufacturer in the saltwater realm is Penn who uses hundreds (i.e. 260, 360, 460). For my light tackle fishing I use Shimano reels and in my spinning reel arsenal for chasing stripers I use sizes 2500 and 4000. A different reel size means different gear ratios which we will touch on below, as well as how much line can be spooled on a reel. For striper fishing a hundred yards is sufficient and the Shimano 2500 and 4000 holds that in 10lb test mono and easily can hold 12lb and even 14 or 15lb test braid.
As you move from small to large on the reel size scale you move from one gear ratio to another. Gear ratio means how many times the reel spins, i.e. how much line the spool picks up with one revolution of the crank. A slow gear ratio for example of 4:1 means the spool turns four times for one crank of the handle, not a lot of line being recovered. In the 2500 and 4000 sizes that I use for striper fishing you will generally find gear ratios on the faster side of the scale in the 5:1 to 6:1 range, which is ideal. If I am jigs I may use a reel on the 5:1 side of the scale, while if I am fishing top water poppers I like to use something in the 6:1 ratio to be able to move the popper quickly.
Chevy Chase said in Fletch something to the extent, “It’s all about ball bearings”. Put simply the more ball bearings a reel has the smoother the reel will be. Less expensive reels generally have three ball bearing while more expensive reels will have six and as many as seven. While it may sound like a good marketing tale to weave for manufacturers I have found that it really is true that the more ball bearings the smoother the reel.
Since we are fishing for stripers in brackish/saltwater it is imperative that we have a reel body made of some sort of element that can withstand the corrosion that salt can cause. High end spinning reels like the Shimano Stella’s use a magnesium frame and side plate along with an aluminum rotor, both great elements that resist corrosion. As you move down the price scale you will find reel bodies made out of aluminum, which work perfect in the salt with good care. Further down the price range you will find reels bodies made out of graphite, which also performs well. Regardless of the material the body is made out of a good wash down and chamois dry after each day of fishing should be part of your regular maintenance to assure you get the best life out of your reels.
We’ve saved one of the most important attributes for last, drag. Simply put, you need a smooth drag with minimal start up inertia to assure you do not loose fish. When looking for a spinning reel, look for what manufacturers call a “waterproof drag”. This means the drag system is sealed and will not allow saltwater to enter the drag system.
You will also encounter front and rear drag controls. I prefer front sytems since it generally means they have multiple drag washers that provide a smoother drag performance and also offer more durability. If you choose Shimano or Penn brands you will find both have front drag controls.
What I Use
I use Shimano Sustain 2500, 3000 and 4000 spinning reels for most all my striper fishing. Penn reels have a great reputation and hold up well, but I am a stickler for anti-reverse, meaning when the handle stops it does not move backwards at all, and I find the Shimano has tighter tolerances which make for no backwards movement and smoother reeling. If you do not want to go to the higher end right way, a good Shimano series to look at is their Static series; it’s a great bang for the buck. I have a few and they have lasted me years. If you happen to be more of a Penn person, check out the Penn Slammers; I have not used them extensively, but have some friends who have and like them. The best advice I can offer is use this article as a reference and visit your local tackle shop and try a few of the reels out in the store and see which one feels best to you. We’ll talk next month about bait casting reels, until then, good fishing!
Next in this light tackle fishing article series Part 4 we’ll take a look at light tackle baitcasting reels.
The Light Tackle Fishing for Striped Bass Series
Part 1 - Introduction to Light Tackle Fishing for Striped Bass
Part 2 - Light Tackle Fishing Rods
Part 3 - Light Tackle Spinning Reels
Part 4 - Light Tackle Baitcasting Reels
Part 5 - Fishing Line
Part 6 - Fishing Knots
Part 7 - Lures: Plastics and Jigs/Bucktails
Part 8- Lures: Topwater Poppers
Part 9 - Lures: Crank Baits
Part 10 - Lures: Spoons
Part 11 - Putting it all Together: Where to look for Striped Bass
Part 12 - Boats: Reviewing the Best Light Tackle Boats
Part 13 - Boats: Rigging your Boat for Light Tackle Fishing