It is therefore most likely that this reel will be your first purchase. These reels are relatively easy to use and are available in a whole range of prices to suit the individual anglers pocket. There are many budget reels in the 10-20 price range that are more than adequate. If you are willing to pay a bit more you can purchase a reel with a much higher specification that will last many years. I still regularly use a reel that was given to me as a review item about twelve years ago. The modern version of this reel costs about 25 which I believe is excellent value for money as it has three ball bearings, counter balanced handle and comes with a spare spool. There are many such reels now on the market and your tackle dealer will be able to advise you on the best buy.

Size

I prefer my fixed spool reels to have relatively large diameter spools. The reasons for this are three fold:

1. The line is not so tightly bent on the spool and does not come off leaving tight loops of line on the surface of the water.

2. Being larger, the spool holds more line and heavier line. As most species of fish tend to be growing to larger sizes and carp are becoming much more common to the extent that it is hard to think of a water that does not contain this species. Therefore there is more demand for spools to hold heavier lines for increasingly larger fish.

3. When a fish runs off at terrific speed and is stripping line off the spool you have far better control with a larger diameter spool as it will be moving much more slowly.

Unfortunately manufacturers have not agreed on a common system for grading spool sizes. I like the system adopted by Shakespeare and use their reels in the 040 size.

Ball Bearings

It is generally recognised that the more ball bearings present in a reel, the smoother the reel feels. Obviously costs increase with the number of ball bearings. As a rough guide three ball bearings give a reel that feels more then adequate for most of my purposes.

Gear Ratio

This is best defined as the number of turns made by the bale arm per revolution of the handle. Match anglers tend to prefer a high gear ratio of up to six to one which means the bale arm rotates six times per handle revolution. This saves time as it gives very fast tackle retrieve but at the expense of some line twist. Generally I compromise and prefer a ratio of about five to one or slightly less as it gives better control when playing the larger fish that I seek.

Spools

I have already covered the topic in regard to the size of the spool but now I want to look at loading the spool with line. Too many newcomers to our sport fish with too little line on their spool which makes casting much more difficult. I like my spools to be loaded to within 1 mm of the spool lip. Below this level the line has to negotiate a greater distance to the lip in casting, whilst above this level the line tends to peel off causing tangles.

A good idea that saves money and makes life much easier is to load your reels from bulk spools of line. Remember that you must always load your reel with line under tension. Years ago I was working in Hounslow Angling Centre with my friend Tim Heridge. In those days it was common for anglers to buy line in fifty yard spools. Tim always told me to point out to customers that a hundred yard spool was only 3p more as the bulk of the price was in spooling charges. This made buying line by fifty yard spools poor value for money and he would sooner sell them a hundred yards of line that represented far better value for money. Naturally line costs dropped remarkably when buying large two or four ounce spools. I have always followed Tim's excellent advice and bought my line when possible in large bulk spools.

Drag/Clutch

Depending upon the model you select, you will normally have either a clutch set on the top of your spool or at the rear of the body. The clutch is a device that is intended to give line as the fish runs off with a force that would break your line. It is therefore a safety device intended to stop you losing big fish. Whether you have a front or rear drag, you should adjust it before fishing so that it rotates to give line before your line breaks. This is simply done by pulling the line and adjusting the drag as you pull so that it gives line.

The most common error is to set the clutch too lightly so that you are forever winding and placing very little pressure on the fish. This will result in the line twisting up and being useless for future fishing.

Counter Balanced Handles

This is a relatively new advance in fixed spool reel design. About six years ago manufacturers worked out that by counter balancing the handle, fixed spool reels felt much smoother. Shimano introduced a double handle system for their reels that made them feel incredibly smooth. To this day, Shimano now make their reels with a double handle as a counter balance device. Other manufacturers counter balance their handle to achieve a similar effect on their up-market reels.

Conclusion

There is no doubt that the price of fixed spool reels has come down in both monetary and real terms. I am surprised at the value customers obtain when purchasing fixed spool reels. There are certainly some excellent bargains to be had in all fishing tackle shops, by mail-order, internet sales and the annual large tackle clearance sales held
in various parts of the country. Prices can sometimes be rather mind blowing!