Because the fixed spool reel is also widely used by sea, coarse and game anglers around the world, the variety of models available is huge. They differ in size and line capacity and a first essential is to choose a model that suits the fishing you intend doing.
Different sized fishing reels are required for beach casting, estuary fishing, plugging etc with size based on line diameter/capacity. For clear beach angling models suitable for use with 12lb to 15lb line are the standard choice and so a reel that holds a working capacity of around 300 yards of 12lb or 15lb line is most suited. Specialist fixed spool reels suitable for sea angling/casting have a long, wide spool and a total capacity of around 300/400 yards of line, no need to fill the reel with yards of backing line to fill it up as is the case with the older and some cheaper models. The wider profiled spools are contoured to unload the line during the cast more efficiently, the spool tapers towards the front.
The line diameter you use will affect the way the reel unloads the line. Thicker line will decrease the diameter of the spool quickly as it unloads causing the spool lip to catch the line as it is cast. With a thin line (0.35mm mono and below) the spool decreases less quickly and line flow is more efficient because it doesn’t catch on the spool lip. Fixed spool reels allow the efficient use of lighter mono lines and braid lines and it’s possible to use reel line down to 0.25mm from the shore effectively should it be required. You will need to fill the spool with line to the very top of the spool’s lip.
A majority of the fixed spool reels available are sized via their catalogue number and reels from 6000 upwards are suitable for sea angling. Models of 7000 to 1000 are reels suitable for beach casting, but this is not always the case so also check the line capacity, details of this are usually on the spool, whilst the most suitable reels for beach casting have a spool diameter of around 3 inches. The carp anglers big pit coned spool design is also a favourite amongst beach anglers.
Look for a model with a spare spool, this gives you the option of loading the second spool with heavier line for fishing rough ground, or as a back up spool in case of line or leader loss.
Price is a major factor and although many of the economy reels will get you fishing the more expensive models have more refined mechanisms such as smooth ball bearings and oscillating line lays. Bright metallic colours can hide plastic parts and cheap engineering, whilst quality reels have a far better corrosion resistance.
For beach casting your reel must have a front drag. This is the mechanism on the top of the spool that holds the spool on the reel and allows it to slip and release line under pressure to prevent a pulling fish breaking the line. For beach casting the spool needs to be clamped hard down and only reels with a front drag adjustment allow this. Look for a model with an easy to get at and large knob on the front of the spool so that cold winter fingers can let off the drag if it is required. Front drags with a clicker mechanism are best because they do not jam or lock up. The popular rear drag used for coarse fishing etc cannot be tightened down sufficiently enough for full power distance beach casting.
Very essential to a fixed spool reel chosen for the beach or pier is the internal gearing of the reel, in the past poor gears restricted the winding and lifting power of the fixed spool and this particularly effects performance when sea angling. Look for models with heavy duty cranking gears because they improve retrieve and lifting performance with fish and snags etc.
Balance is an important factor when choosing a model, the cheap models are often larger and heavier and this can upset the balance of your rod. Take your rod along to the dealers and look for a compact and low profile reel that sits on the butt snugly so the complete rod is balanced.
Lots of reels are sold with a number of ball bearings and although these are not involved in casting they do make the reel far smoother on the retrieve and that improves the line lay and the general smoothness of use.
Finally, look for a model with a comfortable handle, bearing in mind the winter beach is cold on the hands and a handle that the palm can grip will be more comfortable.
OSCILLATING LANE LAY
This important device moves the bale arm up and down the spool as it rotates around the spool and lays the line on the spool evenly. The more advanced models have an improved and intricate oscillating line lay system which loads the line without the reel wobbling and lays it cotton reel fashion and this increases spool capacity and improves casting smoothness and casting distance.
Some reels with a poor line lay bulge the line unevenly on the spool, wobble and rock as they do so and allow the line to become looped or trapped behind the spool, they should be avoided
REEL ADJUSTMENT, SETTINGS AND FEATURES
Of particular use to the sea angler is an efficient anti reverse which is the small lever underneath, or at the rear of most models. Flip this and the handle will reverse. A really effective way to release line should a big fish threaten to break you when the drag is clamped hard down, in an emergency you can back wind!
A roller bearing in the bale arm acts as an anti twist mechanism allowing the line to run smoothly at right angles to the spool. On cheaper models this may stick, a point worth checking because it saves on line wear.
Most spools have a line clip on the side of the spool to clamp the end of the reel line, fixed spool reel have an annoying habit of expelling loops of line and the clip keeps the end of the line secure. A Velcro reel band or elastic band also solves this problem. The line clip can also be used to set casting distance by clipping up the line at the distance required so that consecutive casts will reach the same spot although few sea anglers bother with this.
The retrieve ratio of the reel relates to the number of turns of line around the spool per turn of handle. Fixed spools are faster than multipliers because the spool is bigger and the line diameter on the spool does not decrease by much. (More and more rock anglers are using fixed spools because of this)
All models include an automatic bale arm return, on some this is simply a buffer the bale arm hits to flip it back into position on the more sophisticated models the return is internal and far smother.
Most fixed spool reels are ambidextrous and can be swapped from left to right hand wind in seconds, a big plus for left handers because they can buy a top class fixed spool reel, whilst if the want a multiplier there is only a couple of leftie models available.
FOR AND AGAINST CHOOSING A FIXED SPOOL REEL
The fixed spool reel’s biggest plus is that it does not have a revolving spool like the multiplier therefore cannot overrun or tangle, its performance is far less affected by the angler’s skill than that of the multiplier. It’s the choice of the novice for this reason and with less moving parts it requires less service and maintenance than the multiplier.
Fixed spool reels are generally of a faster retrieve rate than the multiplier because their spool is larger. This makes them more suitable for use with low diameter monofilament lines (0.20mm+) and braid lines and have a larger working range of line capacity because the spool is wider rather than deeper like the multiplier.
Fixed spool reels are easier to cast in confined spaces and from a standing start, whilst the spool can be changed in seconds enabling the angler the option of spare spools containing different lines rather than carrying several spare reels.
On the downside the maximum casting range is more difficult to attain with a fixed spool reel than with the multiplier because using the fixed spool low down is awkward. The reels are also considered more cumbersome to use than the multiplier by UK sea anglers and not as efficient when lifting or cranking heavy weights or fish through the water column.