Multiplier Reels

While most anglers start off using a fixed spool reel due to the ease of use and low maintenance this type of reel requires, but many anglers eventually upgrade to a multiplier reel. This is because the free running, but adjustable spool of the multiplier allows greater casting distance and the cranking power of the spool design is more effective when reeling in. The drawback, however, comes with the fact that multiplier reels are much more difficult to master, and need to be used with a smooth casting style. Even a small mistake in casting can lead to the dreaded ‘bird’s nest’ – a messy explosion of line which can take a long time to sort out.

Multiplier reel labelled


All multiplier reels consist of a cage makes up the structure of the reel and the spool is inside. The handle is on one side and controls such as the spool disengage button (or lever) and magnetic controls are located on the other side plate. The spool revolves on a spindle. Multiplier reels are usually attached to a rod with coasters (metal attachments similar to jubilee clips) or moveable reel seats. The choice to have a reel ‘up’ (towards the centre of a rod) or ‘down’ (at the bottom of a rod) is down to personal preference. It is also worth noting here that whereas fixed spool reels can be altered to right or left handed use, multiplier reels have their handle built on one side and this cannot be changed meaning that multipliers need to be bought for right or left handed use and cannot be changed. Multiplier reels need to be paired up with the correct type of rod that has been ringed for multiplier use – rods designed for multiplier reels have a higher number of smaller rod rings when compared to rods made to be used with fixed spool reels.

Reel Size and Use

Multiplier reel coasters

A Diawa SL20SH attached to a rod with coasters.

Different reels have different uses for the sea angler. A relatively small reel (such as the Daiwa 7HT) will be ideal for clean ground distance fishing with 15lb line and shock-leaders, whereas a heavier, bigger reel (the Daiwa SL20) will be suited to rough ground fishing with 30lb line all the way through. There are also plenty of all round reels on the market (6500 size Abu Garcias) which allow anglers to perform long-distance casts over clean ground but still have the retrieval rate to handle mixed to moderate rough ground. Remember, a big heavy multiplier loaded with 30lb line will pull through weed and snags but will not cast as far as a reel with 15lb line and a shockleader. Many anglers who have been fishing for some time and built up a collection of tackle have light reels for clean ground fishing and specialist bigger, heavier reels for fishing rough ground. However, a single well-chosen reel can handle 90% of the fishing situations UK anglers will encounter, and only struggle with very long range casting or very rough ground and rough seas.

Multipler Reel Ratio

Multiplier reels are so called because one turn of the handle multiplies the amount of turns that the spool turns. For example the Daiwa Sealine SL20 has a ration of 6.1:1, meaning that the spool rotates just over six times for every full revolution of the handle. Generally speaking reels designed for rough ground will have a high ratio as this provides the speed to get rigs up off the seabed and high in the water, away from snags. The previously mentioned Daiwa SL20 retrieval ratio is one of the highest on the market and realistically the highest that UK sea fishing reel can have as retrieval rates any higher would make the reels over-complicated, too expensive and potentially rip hooks out of the mouth of any caught fish. Most reels on sale in the UK have a ration of somewhere between 4:1 to 6:1.

Braking Systems – Magnetic and Centrifugal

Multiplier reels have a braking system which reduces the speed of the spinning spool during a cast to make the reel more manageable and providing additional control for the angler during a cast. In some reels this takes the form of a centrifugal system where the reel features brake blocks located on pins in the side plate of a reel. Some reels have two brake blocks on two pins, whereas modern reels may feature as many as six. As the spool rotates during a cast the brake blocks fly outwards and hit the outside edge of the reel and slow it down. On a reel with two pins using small brake blocks with speed the reel up, whereas using larger brake blocks will cause the reel to run slower. On a six pin system using all six brake blocks will cause the reel to run slowly, whereas removing them will progressively speed the reel up.

Many modern reel use a highly effective magnetic braking system. This can be in addition the the centrifugal brake blocks. The magnetic system works by placing a number of magnets in the reel which create a magnetic field around the spool. A dial is turned which moves the magnets closer or further away from the spool which lessens or increases the strength of the magnetic field which allows the angler to control the spool speed.

Modern braking systems – particularly advanced magnetic systems – have seriously cut down on the chances of getting a bird’s nest. Many anglers set their reels to run at their slowest (either have the magnetic setting at its slowest or have the most/largest brake blocks in their reel) and then progressively speed the reel up as their knowledge, technique and confidence of using the reel increases. It is worth remembering that it is better to sacrifice a few yards of casting distance and have the reel set up to function in a smooth and reliable way than have the reel set up to run at its fastest and get a bird’s nest every other cast!

Tuning a Multiplier Reel

Some anglers take a step further with their reels and tune the reel to achieve optimum casting performance. This is done by disassembling the reel and removing the bearings and then cleaning them of their oil in petrol, paraffin, lighter fluid or a similar substance. Once this is done the bearings can be re-oiled with oil with a thick viscosity causing the reel to run slowly, while thinner viscosity oil will make the reel run faster.

Casting and Retrieving with a Mulitplier Reel

Prior to casting the angler needs to disengage the spool by moving a lever down, or pressing a button. The angler then holds the spool in place with his or her thumb and performs the cast, releasing the spool at the required part of the cast. The spool then spins letting out line as the weight flies through the air pulling line with it. During the cast either the brake blocks fly outwards to reduce the speed of the spools revolutions or the magnetic system kicks in to achieve the same result. If everything goes well the angler will apply pressure to the spool with their thumb as the weight hits the sea, stopping the spool from spinning. Problems can emerge if the reel has not been set up properly for example the wrong or no brake blocks used or magnetic system at the incorrect setting. This could mean that the spool spins too slowly, reducing casting distances, or too fast making the reel difficult to control. In a reel running too fast major problems can occur when the reel keeps on letting out line when the weight has hit the water. This results is a bird’s nest – an explosion of loops of line from the reel – can take a long time to sort out and damages line. Only a properly set up reel and good casting technique will eliminate the chance of bird’s nests. When it comes to retrieving multiplier reel with a button system to disengage the spool with automatically re-engage when the handle is turned to reel in. Lever systems usually need to be manually switched back into the original position to allow retrieval to take place. Some multipliers are fitted with a level wind (see below). With one of these is fitted line is placed back on the reel evenly and neatly by the reel itself. Without a level wind the angler must manually lay the line on the spool as he or she reels in.

Other Reel Features

Star Drag: Most multipliers have a star drag system which allows anglers to set the reel to let out line at a certain tension. This is used so that if a big fish threatens to break the line the reel will let out additional line before this happens. However, most anglers simply tighten down the star drag as tight as it will go when they are fishing and do not use this feature.

Ratchet: Also know as a line out alarm most multiplier reels have a mechanism which is used so that the reel will make an audible warning when line is pulled from the spool. This is used when fishing for large species such as conger or tope. When they move off with the bait in their mouth the angler will be warned by the noise that they have a bite, and the line being let out will prevent the rod being pulled into the sea by these large species. In most normal sea fishing situations where smaller species are being targeted it is not necessary to use the ratchet.

Multiplier with Level Wind

A multiplier reel with level wind

Level-wind: The level-wind is a device built into the reel which lays line across the spool evenly when reeling in so that the angler has no need to do this manually. This is a big help to anglers as it means that laying the line evenly is taken care of with no effort from the angler. However, using a level wind also has result of cutting down casting distances, as the level wind has to move from side to side rapidly during the cast that inevitably impedes the cast. Some anglers see this is a small price to pay for the convenience of a level wind, whereas other anglers see the level wind as a hindrance used only by beginners and those who cannot truly master using a multiplier reel. It is also important to note that the level wind itself encroaches on the spool of the reel and prevents the angler from getting a full grip of the spool with their thumb when casting. Most manufacturers make their most popular reels with and without level wind options. Reels without level winds often (but not always) have CT in their name or code, whereas those with a level wind have CS or CSM.

Suggestions for Multiplier Reels

Budget Multiplier Reel:

  • Fladen Warbird 3600 – A budget multiplier reel which can take around 300 metres of 15lb line. It has two ball bearings, a retrieval rate of 4.2:1 and a centrifugal braking system. It is available in either left or right hand configuration and comes with or without a level wind, meaning it offers something for everyone. An excellent first reel for someone looking to switch to a multiplier, or a good back up reel for anglers to keep in the tackle box. Available from £30-£45.

Beachcasting Multiplier Reels:

  • Daiwa Millionaire Tournament 7HT – An all time classic casting reel which has been in production since the early 1990s, the 7HT offers brilliant casting performance for the price. It has a retrieval rate of 5.2:1, centrifugal brakes and takes around 300 metres of 15lb line and has three ball bearings. It is famous for offering great casting straight from the box, and remains an immensely popular clean/mixed ground reel. Often sold as having an RRP of close to £200, it is often available (brand new and unused) substantially cheaper.
  • Abu Garcia 6500 – Abu Garcia made their name on the quality of their reels and the 6500 series maintains this reputation. These reels come in a range of different versions and are ideal for all round beachcasting throughout the British Isles. Prices range from £75 to around £130 depending in the exact model chosen.

Rough Ground and Larger Multiplier Reels:

  • Daiwa SL20SH – A classic rough ground muliplier (is is obligatory to mention that it is referred to as ‘Slosh’ by UK anglers). It offers a fast 6.1:1 retrieval rate to get rigs up off the seabed and away from snags and also features an over-sized power handle to make reeling in easier. It holds around 190 metres of 30lb line and has four ball bearings. A dependable, tough rough ground reel that is available for around £80.
  • Abu Garcia 7000i – At around £100 this is an affordable rough ground reel. It has four ball bearings and takes around 250 metres of 20lb line. The 7001i caters for left-handed anglers.

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