Fixed spool reels are massively popular in UK sea fishing as they are easy to use, cheap to buy and require little maintenance. While some anglers move on to the more capable (but harder to use) multiplier reel, others are happy to stick with fixed spools for all their fishing. There is a massive range of fixed spool reels available, ranging from small spinning and cheap beachcasting reels, to more expensive fixed spools which can allow anglers to cast long distances. The rising popularity of Continental style rods has also seen a rise in the numbers of anglers using fixed spool reels, as they work well with these types of rods, especially when braided line is used instead of monofilament.
Design and Features
Fixed spool reels are based around a non-rotating spool which is fixed in place (hence the name). A bail arm rotates around this spool and wraps line around the spool when reeling in. Generally fixed spool reels require very little maintenance, other than a wipe down with water after a fishing session.
Fixed spool reels (usually) have to be paired up with rods that have been designed for fixed spool use. These rods have fewer but larger rings (multiplier rods have a higher number of smaller rings) to break down the line as is comes off the spool in circles. However, a number of manufacturers now make rods with the rings designed in such as way that they can be used with either multiplier or fixed spool reels. Bearings are used in the construction of a reel, and generally speaking the more ball bearings a reel has the better it will perform. Entry level fixed spool reels will be made with a single ball bearing, whereas top end ones will have as many as ten. All fixed spool reels have an oscillating wind system which lays the line evenly on the spool as it is retrieved, and good quality reels will have an anti-twist roller on the bail arm. Fixed spool reels also have a reverse switch which allows the reel to let line out by winding in the opposite way when this is selected. Most fixed spool reels can be switched around between right handed and left handed configurations, and feature a reel handle that can be folded down for ease of transport and storage.
Reel Size and Ratio
Fixed spool reels used for beachcasting need to be a decent size – able to hold at least around 300m of 15lb/0.35mm line. If the reel is any smaller than this it will not be strong or tough enough for beach fishing (but may be fine for light bass, flattie or lure fishing). Many (but not all) fishing tackle manufacturers use a system where the size of reels are given in thousands, with larger beachcasting reels being 7000, 8000 or 9000 size, smaller reels designed for bass, flatfish or lure fishing being sized 4000 or 5000, and fixed spool reels designed for LRF (Light Rock Fishing) may be as small as size 3000, 2000 or even 1000. However, not all manufacturers use this system, and there are discrepancies between manufacturers, and so line capacity is a better measure of reel size. Many reels come with spare spools – and some have different sized spools, one for use with monofilament line, the other with braided line (see below). A decent sized fixed spool reel will be capable of clean ground beach fishing and will be able to handle mixed ground/light rough ground fishing. Due to issues with line level which are discussed below all fixed spool reels work best with lighter line and a shockleader, and while they can be used with 30lb line straight through for rough ground fishing the casting distance will be reduced considerably. Just like multipliers fixed spool reels have a retrieval ratio and the bail arm of a fixed spool reel will revolve around the spool several times for every complete turn of the handle. Most fixed spool reels used for sea fishing will have a retrieval ratio of 4:1 to 5:1.
Fixed spool reels are either front drag (often designated as FD in the reels name or code) or rear drag (RD). Whichever system the reel features its aim is the same: to allow the reel to give out line before the force of a fighting fish snaps the line. Rear drag systems are delicate and sensitive as they are generally designed for the gentler demands and calmer waters of freshwater fishing. In sea fishing rear drag reels are useful for spinning, float fishing or lure work but they are mostly avoided for bait fiishing from beaches or rock marks. The vast majority of sea fishing fixed spool reels are therefore front drag. In order to cast hard the front drag must be locked down as tight as it will go, as a slipping drag will cause major issues during a cast. Most anglers simply leave the drag tightened like this during a fishing session, and click the reel into reverse (where winding backwards will let line off the spool) if the need arises when fighting a big fish. Be aware that many manufacturers of reels make the same model in both front drag and rear drag configurations, so look for the FD or RD in the title of the reel and ensure that the correct one is selected at the time of purchase.
The line level of the spool is a very important factor with fixed spool reels. This is because line that comes from the spool effectively catches on the lip as it leaves the spool, and this creates friction and decreases casting distance. A reel that is full to the edge of the spool (but not overfull) will create less friction when casting and therefore achieve greater distances. Furthermore, using a light line (i.e. 15lb/0.35mm) will cause the line level to drop less and therefore less friction to be caused. Braided line which can be as thin as 0.10mm is even better in this respect. However, using thick 30lb/0.50mm line will cause the line level to drop quickly, encountering more friction and cutting down casting distances.
When filling a fixed spool reel with line ensure that the line level comes to within a few millimetres of the spool for best performance. Do not be tempted to overfill the spool as this will see line come off in clumps which will then tangle in the rings of the rod. Since many beachcasting fixed spool reels have line capacities of three hundred metres or more it is a good idea to put a hundred metres of backing line on first (use old or worn out line that is no longer needed). There is little point of filling up a reel with several hundred metres of brand new line when only the first hundred metres or so will ever be used.
Braided Line: Advances in line technology mean that it is now possible to cast using braided line (in the past it was only used in boat fishing). Fixed spool reels are much better suited to being used with braided line compared to multipliers. More information on using and casting with braided line can be found here. Alongside the developments in braided line technology many anglers are turning to Continental style rods which are much longer (typically 15 – 16ft) rods with a softer action than traditional beach casters. When these rods are used with fixed spool reels and braided line impressive casting distances can be achieved, even with simple casting styles. There is an article on Continental style fishing rods which can be read here.
Casting and Retrieving with a Fixed Spool Reel
Casting with a fixed spool reel is less complicated than casting with a multiplier. The reason for this is that a multiplier’s revolving spool can overrun, causing the dreaded ‘bird’s nest.’ As the fixed spool only takes line as it is drawn from the spool this does not happen. To cast an angler will hold back the line against the reel seat with his or her finger. Often a finger stall – such as one of these from Amazon– will be used as a mis-timed cast can see the line cut into the angler’s finger. Alternatively, a thumb button (such as the Breakaway Cannon) can be fitted so that the angler does not need to hold back the line with their finger at all and there is no risk of injury. The bail arm can then be flipped over where it will click in place and line can run free from the spool while the cast is performed. When it comes to retrieving all fixed spool reels have an oscillating line lay system which ensures that the line is spread across the spool as it is wound back onto the reel. The more advanced and expensive reels generally have a better, smoother system which results in better line lay, and therefore longer casts.
Suggestions for Fixed Spool Reels
Below are a range of fixed spool reels for a number of different types of sea fishing rod and fishing situation. Click on the links to be taken to Amazon or Sea Angling Shop (pages open in new window) where the reel can be purchased.
Budget Fixed Spool Reels:
- Fladen Charter 70– A well-priced fixed spool reel manufactured by Fladen which is good quality and the right size to be used with a full sized beachcaster for general sea fishing. This reel has one ball bearing, an anti-twist line roller and comes pre-spooled with 20lb line.
Fixed Spool Reels for Beachcasters (12 – 15ft rods):
- Penn Surfbaster 7000 or 8000 – A fixed spool reel which offers the great build quality and relaibilty which Penn are famous for. The 8000 size has a capacity of 330 metres of 30lb line and has a very good retrieval rate of 4.1:1. The design has six ball bearings and is completely saltwater resistant. A reel for anglers wanting the casting distance and quality of a high end product. Priced at around £80 – 90. The 7000 size caters for anglers looking for a slightly smaller reel which is still capable of being used for beachcasting.
- Penn Affinity LC– Possibly the best fixed spool reel on the market. The 8000 size has 9+1 ball bearings, quick turn drag system, machined aluminum construction and is saltwater resistant. At around £130 this is one of the best fixed spool reels available to anglers, with both 7000 and 8000 sizes being ideal for shore fishing.
Fixed Spool Reels for Bass Rods (10 – 11ft 6ins):
- Fladen Tectonic Fixed Spool Reel – A very good value reel which features seven ball bearing construction, rear drag and come pre-spooled with line. In the 4000 and 5000 sizes this is a great reel for bass rods and longer spinning rods.
Fixed Spool Reels for Spinning Rods (6ft – 10ft):
- LeaningTech EF500 Series Spinning Reel– A capable front drag reel which is ideal when combined with a spinning rod and used for lure or float fishing. This reel has an impressive ten ball bearing construction. The EF5000 size can take 160 metres of 15lb breaking strain line and is the best choice for anglers using spinning rods which are 8 – 10ft long. Available from Amazon with free delivery for less than £16.