Fishing Reel History

Sergio Smirnoff

Hello, my name is Sergio Smirnof, and my goal with FishReeler is to provide a valuable resource for anglers of all levels, from beginners to experienced veterans. I hope that my passion for fishing and dedication to the sport shines through in the content I create and inspires others to get out on the water and catch some fish!

Spinning Reel History

Things You Didn’t Know About Fishing Reel Evolution

The reel is an essential attribute of spinning. It stores the fishing line and participates in casting, as well as posting the bait.

When Was the Fishing Reel Invented?

In 1651 English literature first reported a fishing winch that was placed a couple of feet from the lower end of the fishing rod. This date is usually taken as the first reference to a fishing reel in the Western world.

Who Invented the Spinning Reel?

Until the 1800s a fishing reel was nothing more than a place to store excess fishing lines. The British claim that they are the creators, but the real fishing reel is considered to be the invention of George Snyder from Kentucky. Snyder reels were developed in the 1820s and are most similar to what we use. This invention quickly became popular among American anglers, as it could be used not only with heavy lures but also in fly fishing. For catching large fish Snyder added a more forceful invention to the angler’s equipment.

Why Was the fishing Reel Invented?

The main tasks of the fishing reel are not only to serve as storage for a fishing line but also to carry out the most distant casting of the bait, which is the most attractive for the fish. And in case of success, help in landing a solid trophy on the shore.

The History And Development of Fishing Reels

Initially, the reels were used only in one method of fishing — spinning. With the help of a rod and a reel attached to it with a coiled fishing line, the angler threw the bait, rotated the handle of the reel, and carried out its wiring. The first samples of a drum or inertia reels were a drum fixed to the axis of the body, equipped with legs for mounting on the rod.

This drum was equipped with one or two handles for rotation. The design itself was simple, but sufficient care was required in the manufacture. Only the absence of backlash and the overall balance of the mechanism provided ease of rotation of the drum and, as a result, the casting range.

The main drawback of drum reels was their inertia. Namely, after the initial stage of casting, the drum was unwound under the action of a flying spinner, which unwound the fishing line behind it. Then came the moment when the bait was leveled, and the drum continued to rotate by inertia for some time.  The line no longer is drawn out by the bait continued to unwind.

And if the angler didn’t slow down the spool in time with his hand, it simply became entangled. A so-called “wig” or “beard «was formed. Manufacturers made various attempts to prevent this. There were different designs of reels with a lever brake. As soon as the tension of the unwinding line relaxed, the lever began to brake the spool, touching one of its rotating surfaces.

Another task of the designers was to reduce the weight of the reel drum and increase the ease of movement, which made it possible to throw baits of minimal weight. To facilitate, the drum was made with patterned perforated cheeks and easy running was provided by the use of bearings, cones, anti-friction materials for the manufacture of the spool axis, and bushings. Despite the appearance of more modern types of fishing reels, inertial reels have successfully survived to the present day. Fishermen appreciate them for their reliability, ease of maintenance, and cheapness.

At the beginning of the 20th century, there was a real technical revolution in the world of fishing gear. A spinless spinning reel was invented (its design has not undergone any fundamental changes up to the present day). The reel was a fixed drum (spool) located along the axis of the rod so that the line ran down from it through the front cheek in a free spiral.

Winding was performed using a wire sawmill rotating around the spool and driven by a handle through a transfer mechanism. The mechanism of laying the fishing line resembled a loom shuttle (it is no accident that the authorship of this invention is attributed to the owner of one of the weaving factories).

Before casting the angler threw back the shackle of the logger, freeing the line and cocking the built-in spring. At the first turn of the handle, the spring was released and the logger was closed. The reel was ready for winding the line. For some external similarity, such reels among fishermen received the nickname “meat grinder”.

But the main thing is that the designers managed to achieve a complete solution to the problem of “wigs“. The spool of the reel is completely stationary and there is no inertial rotation at all. The new type of reels allowed you to throw very light lures and bulky wobblers that were gaining popularity and had unimportant ballistic characteristics. Such reels also had another very interesting design novelty — the friction brake.

It was a clamping nut and a set of washers made of anti-friction materials, which pressed against the spool of the coil and allowed you to adjust the scrolling force. This allowed the angler to use thinner fishing lines: a brake pre-configured for maximum effort prevented the tackle from breaking off when a strong fish suddenly jerked.

The reel simply automatically passed the required amount of fishing line. A little later, there were models with a brake located in the back of the eel body. In addition, the coils became high-speed thanks to the step-up gear for one turn of the handle, the logger made several turns.

After World war II the Golden age of inertia-free reels began. Several large manufacturers in Europe started mass production. The reels of the Swedish company ABU, German Dam and French Mitchel were famous all over the world. Manufactured for more than 50 years, the Mitchel 300 coil became a cult product not only in the Old World but also in the New World.

The reels of those years were simple and reliable. The quality of kinematic circuits was the highest: many manufacturers of coils were led by watch engineers and massive rifled gears made of steel and bronze provided long-term flawless operation under constant loads (however, there was also the flip side of the coin-a significant weight).

In the 1970s closed inertia-free reels became popular. The cap completely covered the spool, the logger was internal and the fishing line flew out through a small hole. When casting it was enough for the angler to press a special key that released the fishing line. But, despite the relative cheapness and ease of handling, this type of reel was not widely used. Their main drawbacks were the short casting range (due to the abundance of parts rubbing against the fishing line), low speed, and low power.

Nevertheless, they were successfully sold both in Europe (mainly Abumatic by ABU) and in America, where various Zebco models dominated. Moreover, the same company was no less successful in producing time bombs, which is reflected in the brand name (Zero Bomb Company).

The main direction remained the development of reels with an open spool. Their running became more and easier thanks to the use of high-quality bearings and with the advent of carbon-fiber housings in the 1980s, the coils became noticeably lighter. By this time all the main “childhood diseases” of this type of reel had been eliminated and they became reliable and faithful companions of anglers. In a separate direction, reels for fishing with a running float tackle were allocated. They were distinguished from spinning reels by a small spool capacity, a brake designed to work with thin fishing lines, and a high gear ratio.

By this time the economic situation has developed in such a way that in the struggle for a buyer, European manufacturers of fishing equipment were forced to reduce the cost of production, gradually move production to the countries of South-East Asia. There, first in their own factories, and then placing orders under their own brand they begin to produce millions of similar reels, adhering to the principle of “many-cheap-beautiful“.

Chinese and Korean manufacturers joined the flood of the global market, which already promoted even cheaper, but competitive products under their own brands. Soon enough, the owners of the former glorious European brands became only brand holders abandoning both their own developments and their own production base. The European “reel-building” has come to an end.

Now the main players on the market of high-quality and expensive fishing reels are two Japanese industrial giants, which today are trendsetters in this industry. These are Daiwa. It is the leader in the development and production of modern materials and Shimano, whose engineers are considered the best in developing kinematic circuits and ensuring the softest and most durable operation of modern coil mechanisms. These two competing companies are practically neck and neck, offering consumers increasingly reliable and high-quality products.

How Does a Fishing Reel Work?

The reel is the most important part of the spinning tackle, which gave the name to the method of fishing itself. The essence of this method is to animate the artificial bait mounted at the end of the fishing line. To animate the bait, the angler performs wiring for which he rotates the handle of the reel, winding the line.

Before casting you have to press the fishing line with your finger and tip over the logger:

  1. Before casting make sure that the bait is tightly tied to the end of the fishing line or to the swivel that connects the fishing line and the bait. It allows the fishing line not to twist, thus during the wiring, the bait behaves more naturally.
  2. By lowering the line from the spool, or winding the reel by rotating the handle, ensure that the bait is located from the tip of the spinning rod about 1-1. 5 meters.
  3. Now with your index finger press the fishing line that goes from the coil to the first ring and pulls back the shackle of the logger. Now the spool is in a free state, if you release your finger, the fishing line will start to reel off.
  4. Make a swing, not necessarily strong. It is enough to take the tip of the rod behind your back or to the side. Now whiplash (in the first times not necessarily strongly) wave the rod forward, the tip indicating where the bait needs to fly, and at the very last moment release the finger that holds the line.
  5. The line will start to go off the spool and the bait will fly to the place where you made the cast.
  6. Flip the logger to the standard position immediately after the bait lands in the water so that the line doesn’t continue to descend from the spool and doesn’t form a “beard.

Winding the fishing line by rotating the reel depends on the type of your wiring. If you want to catch on the bottom, then wait for the bait to lie on the bottom holding the line in tension. After falling to the bottom, the line will sag a little. At this point, you need to start wiring. If you want to catch on top, you need to start doing the wiring immediately after the bait falls into the water and fast winding.


 What Are The Types of Reels?

There are three types of reel gear:

  • Inertialess;
  • Inertial;
  • multiplicative.

The inertia reel is a model of the old type. With the advent of inertia-free counterparts, they have lost their relevance due to a significant drawback. After casting the bait the drum continues to rotate by inertia, forming a long “beard” of the fishing line. Multiplier models are suitable for trolling and jig fishing. This is a good choice for walleye fishing at night. Only with the multiplier, the angler can feel the lightest touch of the predator to the bait, even when casting at a long distance.

What Should You Pay Attention to When Buying a Reel?

1# Number of bearings. Bearings provide smooth and more stable operation of mechanisms. On one reel, they can be from 1 to 20 pieces. A coil without bearings will fail faster and its operation will be less reliable than that of bearing models. In addition, coils without bearings are usually equipped with low-quality parts, although there are exceptions. The best option is a coil with 4-7 bearings. This is a high-quality and reliable product that guarantees soft and smooth running.

2# Gear ratio. It represents the ratio of one turn of the handle to the number of turns of the logger. As a rule, reels with a small gear ratio (1:3-1:4,6) are used for spinning fishing, when the movement of the bait should be smooth and slow. A high-speed reel (1:5.2 – 1:6.2) will not allow you to hold the bait smoothly and smoothly at a slow speed. In addition, it is not designed for catching large fish. A high-speed reel can be used for a float rod (for example, a sharp winding when an empty bite is made). The most universal coils are considered to have an average gear ratio (1:4,6 – 1:5,2). They are perfect for fishing on spinning in need of fast or medium of transaction.

3# Friction brake. A friction brake is a device designed to prevent the line from breaking during a strong pull.

4# Long Cast. The long-range casting system is a special spool of elongated shape; with it, you can make a very long-distance casting. It allows you to use a thin line and does not require thickening.

5# Zero return system. A specific coil is designed for a specific load. If you are hooked, for example, on a braided line and use a spinning rod to pull the boat to the hook, the reel may break. The zero-return system is designed to prevent the logger from going back.

6# Anti-vibration system. It is designed to eliminate the vibration of the coil that occurs when it rotates. Most modern reels include an anti-vibration system.

7# Anti-Twist system. This system is designed to reduce the twisting of the scaffold. This is achieved thanks to the special shape of the logger roller.

How to Catch More Fish?

I have been actively fishing for a long time and have found many ways to improve the bite.

And here are the most effective:

  • Bite activator. Attracts fish in cold and warm water with the help of pheromones included in the composition and stimulates its appetite.
  • More sensitive gear.
  • Baits using pheromones.

Tags: #heddon fishing reel history / #johnson fishing reel history / #penn fishing reel history / #ryobi fishing reel history / #true temper fishing reel history / #history and evolution antique fishing reels

Sergio Smirnoff
Sergio Smirnoff
Professional fisherman with 40+ years of experience.
Fishing and the ocean is a passion of my life. I am passionate about all kinds of sea fishing: fishing from the shore (spinning, float, baitcasting), from a boat, and spearfishing day and night.

I live in Tenerife (Canary Islands) for the last 10+ years and share my daily fishing experiences on my website. Many years of personal experience as a fisherman and the vast experience of my friends allow me to write professionally on any fishing topics (from choosing a flashlight and equipment to deep-sea fishing).

All of my advice is based on practical real-world experience and will be useful to both novice anglers and professionals. Read more about the author.

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About the author: Each article is verified by the fishing expert Sergio Smirnoff. The articles are written by professional and amateur fishermen with 20+ years of fishing experience.

Note: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of any agency. The articles are for informational purposes only, share your opinions in the comments and join the fishing discussions, let's share our fishing experiences together!

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Frank E Hanson
Frank E Hanson
3 years ago

I’m just starting to fish. And for me everything related to fishing equipment is quite difficult. It was informative to read about the reel and how it changed over time. Now it became clear how to choose the right coil.

4 months ago

Great article about the fascinating history of fishing reels! I had no idea they’d been around for so long. 🎣

4 months ago

I especially enjoyed learning about the versatility and variety in a design created over the years. 🤔

Josti Weeb
Josti Weeb
4 months ago

It’s great to see how far fishing reels have come since their invention. Fascinating stuff! 🤩

4 months ago

The evolution of features and functionality is amazing – from design to performance. Thanks for this great read! 🙌

4 months ago

The article highlights the incredibly important role fishing reels have played in the development of sport and recreational fishing. 🤗

4 months ago

Wow! The history of fishing reels is fascinating! I had no idea they’d been around for so long.