Spinning reels are also called open-faced reels and work well in a wide range of fishing situations. They hang under the rod, and a bail (a U-shaped part that guides the line onto the spool) revolves around a fixed spool to take in the line. You can buy spinning reels designed for fresh and salt water, and some saltwater models hold large amounts of line, allowing them to be used for surf-casting and for fighting fish that make long runs.
A spinning reel.
How a Spinning Reel Works
The line is exposed on a spool sticking forward of the reel seat. A wire bail is mounted on a sleeve that revolves around the spool. This bail has a line guide spindle on it and it can be opened to allow the line to be cast. It locks open and stays there out of the way while the cast is made. When the handle is turned the bail flips back to the closed position, picking up the line and guiding it to the spindle. The line goes around the spindle and onto the spool.
Some spinning reels have interchangeable handles that will move from one side to the other. There is a hole or a threaded pin on both sides and the handle will fit on either one. The side not being used has a cap to protect the handle attachment.
The line comes up the rod guides and makes one turn under the bail spindle to go to the reel. As you turn the handle the spool goes in and out a short distance to make the line fill the spool evenly and not stack up. Drag on a spinning reel can be made (as a part of the spool) into the spool or in the reel itself. Center-drag reels have an adjustment for drag on the spool and the drag works between the spool and the reel housing (by creating friction between the spool and the reel and letting the spool turn and allow line to go out slowly as the fish pulls). Rear-drag reels have an adjustment on the back of the reel and the drag is internal (putting pressure on the stem that holds the spool on the reel and letting the spool turn slowly from this friction).
Putting Line on a Spinning Reel
Line should go on a spinning reel the same way it comes off the new spool. Lay the spool of new line on the floor and run the end of the line through the line guides on the rod, from the tip up to the reel. Leave the bail open and tie the line to the spool. If you forget to open the bail first, the line will not be under it and you can't retrieve it.
If you forget to open the bail, unsnap the spool from the reel, open the bail, and then replace the spool. This is usually much easier than cutting the line from the spool and starting over.
From the rod handle end, look at the way the bail revolves on the spinning reel. If it turns clockwise, lay the spool of new line on the floor so it comes off in a clockwise direction. Hold the rod above the reel and turn the reel handle to close the bail. Start winding line onto the spool, letting the line run between your fingers, and keeping tension on the line so it spools tightly and evenly.
If the line starts to twist and form loops at the tip of the rod, the new spool of line on the floor is turned wrong. Flip it over and start winding line on again. It should not twist as you spool it up.
Fill the spool to one-eighth inch of the lip. If you put too little line on the spool it will bind on the edge as you cast, reducing the length of your cast. If you overfill the spool, the line will “jump” off the spool when you open the bail and cause problems.
Set the drag on a spinning reel so the line slips before it breaks. Start by pulling the line from the reel and tightening the drag until it slips easily but with a steady smooth resistance. Then adjust the drag while the line and rod are under a load as they would be when fighting a fish by tying your line to a solid object and pulling against it with the rod bent. The drag should slip at two-thirds to three-fourths the break test of the line.
Spinning Reel Quality and Drag
A metal or composite frame, and metal gears inside the reel, are much stronger than plastic and will not break under a strong load. A light metal bail is best, too. The spindle must be hardened so the line will not cut it. Better reels have a spindle that turns as the line passes over it so it will not damage the line.
The handle on a spinning reel makes a big loop and the bail also covers a lot of area when it's turning. For that reason make sure the handle doesn't hit the bail or your hand holding the rod while the bail is turning. The reel seat must be on a stem long enough for the bail to clear your hand when in use.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Spinning Reels
These are some advantages to using spinning reels:
They are easy to learn to cast and simple to use.
The spools can be big enough to hold a lot of line.
The line makes only one sharp turn to go on the spool, reducing the binding areas.
Line comes off the spool fairly straight to the first guide when casting, lowering drag on the line.
If there's a problem you can see it and get to it easier.
The spool of a spinning reel can also be much larger than on a spin-casting reel, so it retrieves line faster.
Spinning reels can have the handle on either side, allowing fishermen to cast with their dominant hand.
You can cast and hold the rod with one hand and turn the handle with the other without moving your casting hand.
The drag systems are good enough to handle long runs of strong fish, like bonefish, on light line.
These are some disadvantages to using spinning reels:
It's easy to twist line with a spinning reel, especially if you wind while the drag is slipping.
Loops of line often form at the spool when you start winding the line in, and they will tangle on the next cast and cause problems.
Some people feel they can't get good leverage for a hook set.
Spinning outfits don't have the ability to horse fish out of cover fast (meaning, to pull the fish out of a tight spot quickly).