Multiplier Reels Guide

Multiplier reels earn their name because they are geared so that one turn of the handle multiplies the number of times the spool rotates. The ratio is usually 4 or 5 to 1 although some modern multipliers do have a 6 to 1 retrieve ratio.

Because the reel spool rotates it is possible that the spool will overrun during casting causing the line to spill and tangle and such tangles (called birdsnests) have been a problem for users in the past and a major reason for novice anglers to choose the less problematic fixed spool. However, ball bearing races, precision gearing and magnetic brakes in particular have completely solved the overrun problems and in recent years there has been a larger choice of models with these vital features as standard.


A range of different size multiplier reels are available and buying the correct size reel for your type of fishing is very important. One reel is not totally suitable for all types of shore fishing or venues, although some beginners compromise by using one middle size model.

The line capacity of the reel gives you a clue to a multiplier’s best use. The small spooled, palm sized multipliers (Cat numbers around 6 or 65) with a capacity of around 300 yards of 15lb (0.35mm) are designed for fishing clean ground and long range casting. The best of these also feature magnetic and fibre brakes to improve casting and spool control as well as ball bearings to improve smoothness and line flow.

The larger model multipliers designed for rough ground or light boat fishing (cat 7 to 75) have a bigger spool capacity of 300+ yards of 20lb, or even 30lb line. There are a few models that sit between these two main sizes and these are the choice of the shore angler wanting one all round reel, although the casting range of such models is dramatically reduced as the line diameter increases and advice is always to go for the precise sized reel for the type of fishing you are doing.

Retrieve ratios differ between models, that’s the number of turns of the spool per turn of the handle with the higher retrieve rates more suitable for skimming tackle back over rough ground. On average a retrieve ratio of 5 to 1 is recognised as the optimum ratio. Faster can put lots of stress on gearing and the hook hold and over the years 5.3 to 1 has become the accepted standard.

Fibre brake blocks are a minimum requirement of a beach casting multiplier, buy a reel without any form of brake or spool control at your peril! Most basic models have a minimum of two brake blocks, usually located at the handle end of the spool and these operate by centrifugal force as the spool spins forcing the blocks outwards on their pins to rub on the spool and slow it down. Some models are supplied without the fibre brake blocks in position, some are not, so check these when you first use the reel.

Magnetic brakes have been a major breakthrough in shore casting multipliers and without doubt have made the reels far more user friendly than the older or cheaper models. Magnetic brakes work via the force of a magnetic field restricting the spool speed. Most have up to six magnets and braking adjustment is via a slide or what’s called a knobbly which is a small knob. This moves the magnets closer of further away from the spool thus increasing or decreasing the magnetic field’s effect on the spool. Look for a model that has an easy to get to adjustment, lots of casters like to use the magnetic adjustment during the cast to combat a side wind or smooth out the drag from a large hook bait.

Most of the best quality multipliers include an “easy take apart” system involving three finger screws. This allows the handle side plate to be removed to get at the spool, bearings, brakes, etc. This allows quick and easy maintenance such as oiling the bearings,  fitting of brake blocks, etc.

Comfortable power handles are favoured because of the need to speed tackle back inshore over a mixed sea bed which is particularly important when the reel is cast at full range and the spool is almost empty of line therefore has a low retrieve diameter. Some models offer a couple of power positions via their centre fixing holes.

The star drag is standard on all multipliers and it is situated below the handle, its star shaped and is a safety mechanism to prevent a hooked fish breaking the line. Turning the star loosens or tightens the pressure on the spool. If a fish threatens to break the line loosening the star allows the spool to slip and release line via the drag washers. Because reels are used for power casting drags need to be locked down tight so that the line and spool cannot slip during casting. Beware of cheap models where the drag will lock up and jam when you try to release it in a hurry.

Some multipliers have a ratchet or line out alarm which is an essential for threading the line through the rod rings. The “clicker” can also be used for a bite alarm.

There are two types of free spool release, the button and the lever. The button release is the most popular because it has an automatic spool re-engage when the handle is turned, whilst the lever has to be physically switched to either position.

A level line mechanism helps lay the line on the spool neatly, the downside is that it can restrict distance reel and get in the way of the thumb trying to grip the spool. However, lots of casters do prefer a level line, especially novices. If you must use a level line use it with a tapered shock leader because this allows the use of a smaller, less restrictive casting shock leader knot. Whatever reel you choose you do need to reel the line on the spool neatly, cotton reel style, especially for the lower layers, learn to do this with your thumb rather than choosing a level line.


As with all types of tackle the more you pay the better tackle you will get. In the case of a multiplier the more expensive models are superior. The cheaper fixed spool models, on the other hand, are often as efficient as the more expensive models. The reason for this is that the fixed spool system lacks any moving parts that affect the reel’s actual casting potential. A reasonably priced fixed spool has most of the features of a model costing much more and may only lack the retrieve smoothness of the more expensive model. However, a cheap multiplier will lack the vital casting control such as magnetic brakes and the spool smoothness of ball bearings which are standard on the expensive models.


The multiplier is a popular reel for shore and boat angling in the UK although that’s not the case across the rest of Europe where the fixed spool dominates.

But it’s the multiplier’s compactness and cranking retrieve power which are especially suited to the UK’s heavier style of sea angling which involves long casting, bigger fish and rougher ground.

The multiplier is less effected by wind when casting in stormy weather with the line unloading more efficiently especially with a low “punch” cast. The fixed spools on the other hand allow the line to be dragged off the spool quickly causing a distance restricting, dragging loop to form.

The downside of the multiplier may be the reel’s potential for an overrun or tangle, the birds nest, although it must be said that magnetic and mechanical fibre brakes plus ball bearings have almost eliminated the problem and as long as the novice uses the braking system correctly overruns will be eliminated.

Owning a multiplier is akin to taking on a pet – The smallest casting multipliers in particular are delicate machines and they need to be maintained and cleaned regularly. Leave ANY make or model in your tackle box salty for a weeks and it will corrode. Brush off salt, etc with a tooth brush under the warm tap after each trip and allow to dry in the open air. Oil bearings, spool ends and handle every few months and your reel will then serve you well for a lifetime!

9 thoughts on “Multiplier Reels Guide

  1. when pier fishing with a shockleader down to the water from the pier how much shockleader should i have on the reel for reeling and handlining small fish up a pier and for useing a drop net will the turns on the reel be rotations of the spool or full turns of the reel handle can you tell me in meters 0r feet please rob

    • Shockleaders are only really needed when casting heavy tackle. The purpose of the shockleader is to handle the extra forces created when distance casting, so your taclke does not break off.
      For pier fishing I would not use a shockleader unless I was distance casting heavy tackle.
      If you use a shockleader put on enough so that when casting there is about 3 turns left on the spool.
      Look at the greaing ration on your reel. If it’s 5.4:1 for example, 1 turn of the reel handle will rotate the bail arm or spool 5.4 times.
      Hope this helps!!

  2. I’m going mahseer fishing next year and am told I need a multiplier that can hold 200yds of 40lb line. I’m having a hell of a job finding a reel in this spec that can a) hold that amount of line and b) cast. The suggestion is a Shimano Calcutta 700b but the only specs I can find are for 30lb line. The other option that can hold this amount of line is a boat reel. But can you cast with one of these? All the boat reels I’ve researched don’t seem to have brakes of any sort (don’t suppose they’re needed if you’re just dropping the line from a boat). Have you any suggestions please???

  3. I’ve just bought a shimano 20/40 and a shimano speedmaster iv to go shore fishing for sharks and tarpon. Both of the se reels were recommended to me by south Africans who fish for monster fish off the beach. Both reels have the same capacity and can hold 330 yards of 30lb line, so should be about what you’re after. However, best thing to do would search the net for someone who has been before and ask them

  4. I have a boat Multiplier reel and I wondered if it could be used for shore fishing. It has level wind that I heard reduces casting distance but I wondered if trying to cast with a boat multiplier might ruin it.

  5. I am a bit of a dinosaur and enjoy making much of. My kit. Lures, floats and rigs. I have just picked up a DAM champion 800B multiplier reel, in good condition, and plan on using it from my twin rod rigged kayak.
    I have never used a multiplier before, so anyone with tips or familiar with this reel model…line capacity etc..please shout.

  6. That day I caught a 34 kilo shark at a beach using a multiplier, it was a 3 hours fight I was almost dragged in to the deep sea but my friends helped me and we landed the fish in the boat safely.

  7. i was fishing way back in the 80s and this guy i was fishing with had a abu 9 or 9000 which had an strange levelwind which you could split open for casting and close it up for retreiving as it was magnetic can any tell me the modle i thing its was a ABU 9000

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