Use of baitcasting reels was commonplace worldwide through the early 20th century but they had an annoying problem – backlash. Baitcasting reels produced a tangled mess of line unless the right amount of tension was applied by the angler’s thumb to the line spool during a cast. This had inventors looking for a solution. That solution came about in the 1940s with the invention of the spincast reel, one of the most significant and popular fresh-water-fishing innovations in the history of fishing with a rod and reel.
How They Work
Spincast reels eliminate backlash "birdnest" tangles because the spool on which the line is wound doesn’t move. As the rod is cast, line is pulled off the fixed spool through a hole in the front of the reel by the weight of the lure. Because the stationary line spool can’t over-spin, line stops feeding when the bait hits the water so backlash isn’t possible.
To get line to feed from the spool and wind back onto it, spincast reels use either a thumb button at the back of the reel or a trigger lever underneath the front of the reel. When these are pressed or pulled, line take-up pins inside the reel retract and allow line to feed freely from the spool during a cast. The line take-up pins pop up from their retracted position inside the spool cover as soon as the reel handle is turned. Turning the handle also repositions the internal rotating spool cover and pins to wind line back onto the line spool.
Models equipped with more than one take-up pin are desirable because line retrieval begins more quickly. With single-pin reels, there may be a very short delay as the pin turns up to one complete revolution before it catches the line and starts winding it onto the spool. It’s important to remember to keep tension on the line when reeling in so that the line lies evenly on the spool in order to ensure consistent line feeding. Maintain tension when reeling in light lures or slack by pinching the line between your thumb and forefinger just in front of the reel as you crank the handle.
The Two Kinds of Spincast Reels
Operating a spincast reel is as easy as pushing a button or pulling a trigger. Push the thumb button and hold it in as the rod is brought back to cast, then release pressure on the button during the swing of the cast to let the line feed. Push-button spincast reels are mounted on top of a baitcasting rod. Trigger-equipped reels are called underspin or triggerspin reels and are paired with a spinning rod.
They sit under the rod like a spinning reel and work like a push-button model, but with finger pressure held on the trigger until it’s time to release it during the cast. For those wanting to transition from baitcasting to spinning gear, or for youngsters wanting to move from a push-button spincast reel to a spinning reel, underspins are an affordable and effective way to make the transition.
Spincast Drag Systems
Spincast reels have one of two methods for setting the reel’s drag. A star drag is mounted externally on the side of the reel between the handle and reel body. It’s often large, easy to see and easy to operate with two fingers. The other kind of drag is internal and controlled by a small wheel that has one edge protruding through the reel’s cover. A + and - on either side of the drag-control
wheel show which way to turn it for more or less drag. Manufacturers often position these drag-control wheels so they can be operated by an angler’s thumb when a fish is on. When shopping for a spincast reel, try out reels with both kinds of drag systems to see which you prefer.
Spincast reel gear ratios are expressed in numbers such as 2.6:1 or 4.3:1. The number to the left of the colon is how many times line is wound around the spool, and the number to the right is the number of complete handle turns needed to accomplish the number on the left. A spincast reel with a gear ratio of 2.6:1 will wind line around the spool 2.6 times for each turn of the handle. A gear ratio of 4.3:1 will wind line around the spool 4.3 times every time the handle is cranked once. The lower the gear ratio, the slower line is retrieved after the cast. Lower gear ratios retrieve line more slowly, but also have more cranking power – kind of like the low gear in your vehicle’s transmission. High gear ratios offer faster line retrieve. The range of gear ratios available in spincast reels is not as great as it is in baitcasting or spinning reels and typically falls between 2.5:1 and 4.5:1.
Compared to other reels, spincast models usually have smaller line capacity. Most hold between 80 and 120 yards of line, but the exact amount will vary with the diameter and strength of line used and the size of the reel. Spincast reels usually come with line included and prespooled in the reel. Some models have interchangeable spools that enable anglers to switch from one kind of line to another quickly.
Spincast reels are no different from other kinds of reels when it comes to ball bearings. More is better. The greater the number of ball bearings, the smoother the reel will be to operate. Spincast models usually have between two and six ball bearings.
Spincast reels probably catch more fish in America each year than any other design. That’s because they’re easy to use, inexpensive compared to other designs and widely available. Because they are so easy to use, spincast rod and reel combos are what most parents choose to teach children how to fish. But spincast reels aren’t only for children.
Anglers of all ages fish with spincast reels. Some have even put a few fish in the record books while doing so. You won’t find reels that are more affordable and simple to operate. Check out our selection by typing in "spincast reel" in the search bar at the top of this page. Or visit a Cabela’s retail store fishing department and one of our outfitters will help you decide which spincast reel is right for you.