I have to admit, it has taken me less time to pick out a new truck than it did to buy a fishing reel.
I had a couple ideas going in, but the more I looked the more confused I became.
If money was no object it might have been an easier decision, but money was. I set a budget of about $100 — willing to go up a little if I had to.
My search was surrounded by a few must-haves. I knew I wanted a low profile reel because I have small hands and they are easier for me to use.
I also needed one that would hold a lot of line. That is something that is normally not an issue, but I have a trip coming up where I am going to need 17- and 20-pound line. Fluorocarbon line is part of that solution, but I still wanted as big of a spool as possible.
I also wanted as many bearings as possible.
I didn’t care about color.
Academy has about 100 options that meet some or all of the criteria either in the store or online. Gander Mountain has another 50. Bass Pro has maybe 30.
I did my homework online, but some of the reels that looked good on paper didn’t feel right on a test drive at the store.
Van fisherman James Niggemeyer understands the dilemma. Even a BASS pro angler and fishing guide can have trouble navigating today’s market.
“There are three things I look for,” Niggemeyer said Monday from Florida, where he was preparing for the BASS Elite Series tournament on the St. Johns River. “The first thing I look at is I want a fair amount of ball bearings. Over eight.”
The fisherman explained that the more ball, the smoother the reel will be both casting and retrieving. The last thing a fisherman wants to do when fishing all day is to fight a handle that is as rough as a boat winch.
Niggemeyer’s second criterion is light weight. As a pro and guide he doesn’t want arm fatigue after casting several hundred times a day. He also doesn’t want the reel to overwhelm a sensitive, light-weight rod.
And finally, “Budget wise, I want it to fit in a certain price,” he said.
Even pros sometimes have to watch their budget.
From there Niggemeyer starts to fine-tune his decision. Some of that comes by handling the reels.
“One of the things I look at is comfort. We all have different sized hands,” he said.
When it comes to line capacity Niggemeyer said all reels today are about the same. As long as it holds about 100 to 150 yards of 12- or 14-pound line he can make it work.
“It is usually a question of what I am doing. If I am going to be flipping or pitching I am going to use 20-pound test. I want a decent amount of capacity, but it doesn’t have to be a lot because I am going to be making short casts,” he said.
In a normal day’s fishing Niggemeyer said he is going to use backing line to cut down the amount of actual line he has on just to make spooling new line easier.
When it comes to gear ratio, unless a fishermen is going to have a reel for every occasion he recommends a 6.0 to 1 ratio. He adds he is using the faster 7.0 reels more these days, but seldom goes with the 5.0.
“The 5.0 is really slow. You notice it. I might use it when the water is colder,” Niggemeyer said.
Surprisingly the one thing Niggemeyer cautions against is getting advice from others.
“As far as talking to others, that can be good and bad. If it is a person you don’t know, they may not fish like you do,” he said, again recommending going to a store and trying the hands-on method.
“It really isn’t harder,” Niggemeyer said about picking out a reel today. “But there are a lot of options.”
Surprisingly I had basically followed his advice without having asked first. The thing I looked at was ball bearings, followed by gear ratio, size and costs. I ended up with an old name, Pflueger, in a new reel.
The real reel test is coming soon.
Have a comment or opinion on this story? Contact outdoor writer Steve Knight by email at email@example.com. Follow Steve Knight on Facebook at TylerPaper Outdoors and on Twitter @tyleroutdoor.