Conventional vs Spinning Reel: (5 Key Differences)

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Anyone looking to get a new reel will be comparing the different reels available in the market.  Conventional reels and spinning reels are some of the most popular reels, and most people will have a hard time determining which one is the best reel. This is because they can be used for a wide range of applications.

If you understand your application well, you will have an easier time choosing between the two. Additionally, getting advice from experienced anglers will give you an idea of what will work best for you, depending on their experiences. Keep reading and identify the difference between the two reels.

Conventional Reels

Conventional reels are very common among anglers eyeing big and robust fish. They work perfectly in harsh conditions and saltwater applications. Usually, they are used in applications where other reels cannot stand.

These reels come with a level-wind line retrieve, and they have a higher line capacity compared to other fishing reels. They can come in one speed or two- speed the choice will depend on every angler. Their sizes also vary from those of other reels. Small conventional reels will be used for fish that are less than 50 pounds; mid-sized conventional reels are ideal for fish ranging from 25 to 200 pounds, while large conventional reels deal with fish exceeding 200 pounds.

Conventional reels are available in star drag or lever drag configurations. The star drag is adjustable; while the lever drag, you can increase the amount of drag by pushing the lever up or decrease the drag by pushing the lever down.

Most Popular Conventional Reel : Penn Fathom Lever Drag

Key Features

  • They excel in situations where other reels cannot stand
  • They sit above the rod
  • Their spool is revolving
  • Ideal for saltwater applications
  • Work perfectly with big and vigorous fish species
  • They can come in either a star drag or lever drag
  • Some come with one speed while others come with two-speeds

Spinning Reel

A spinning reel is the most versatile and probably the most widely used fishing reel. Every angler has used a spinning reel at least once in their career. Spinning reels are used for light applications, and they will be used with lighter tackle. They have a stationary spool with a line wound onto the spool.

These reels are easier to use and also easier to learn. They are the most recommended for beginners due to their reliability and ease of casting. Additionally, they are less expensive compared to other fishing reels. They sit under the rod, and most of their handles can be interchanged to suit the anger’s hand orientation.

Most Popular Spinning Reel : PENN Battle II & III Spinning Fishing Reel

Key Features

  • They are used for lighter applications and with light tackle
  • They sit under the rod
  • The spool is stationary
  • Their handles are interchangeable
Also Read : What are the Most Popular Spinning Reels on the the Market ? 

Conventional vs Spinning Reel: What’s the Difference?

Conventional reels and spinning reels are quite different. Here we will help you tell them apart. Getting the difference between the different reels will help you avoid making a wrong decision when purchasing a fishing reel.


The spool of a conventional reel is cylindrical, and it revolves when the handle is cranked, releasing the line. On the other hand, the spinning reel has a stationary spool with a line wound on it.


The conventional reel is located above the rod, while the spinning rod sits below the rod.


Conventional reels are a little harder to use, and they are complex. This is because they are used for more complex situations; on the other hand, spinning reels are simpler, reliable and easier to use; they are the most recommended reels for beginners.

Target Species

Conventional reels are the go-to reel for anyone targeting saltwater species and the largest and most vigorous species. Spinning reels, on the other hand, are built for smaller species. They will excel mostly in freshwater applications and light saltwater applications.


On a spinning reel, the handle is interchangeable so you can change it to suit your hand orientation and meet your needs. In contrast, the handle of a conventional reel cannot be interchanged if it’s on the right side; it remains there and vice versa.

Conventional vs Spinning Reel: Head to Head Comparison Table

Conventional Reel
Penn Fathom Lever Drag
Spinning Reel
PENN Battle II & III Spinning Fishing Reel
The spool is revolving
Spool is stationary
Generally, conventional reels are bigger
They are smaller
They are a little expensive
They are quite affordable
The handle cannot be interchanged
The handle is interchangeable
Located above the rod
Sit below the rod
They have a lever drag or star drag
They only have a lever drag
Perfect for heavy saltwater applications
Used for freshwater applications and light saltwater applications
Used by tournament level and the most experienced anglers.
Ideal for beginners

Frequently Asked Question

How do I know if My Reel is Conventional or Baitcasting?

Since conventional reels and baitcasting reels are used for heavier applications, some people may confuse the two of them. A baitcasting reel sits on the rod just like the conventional reel; however, it is suited for lighter applications compared to conventional reels. You will find low profile reels with baitcasting reels while conventional reels are larger. Also, all baitcasting reels have level winds which is not always the case with conventional reels as some do not come with level wind. Also, the two differ in flipping the gear; baitcasting reels flip in automatically, while on a conventional reel, you have to put in the gear manually.

Final Verdict

Choosing between a spinning reel and a conventional reel can be challenging. Both excel in different applications and will help you catch different species in both saltwater and freshwater. Some people insist spinning reels are better due to their ease of use, affordability and versatility. In contrast, others claim conventional reels are better due to their strength and ability to handle strenuous situations. People have different preferences, and while one will enjoy using a spinning reel, another will enjoy catching the biggest catch with a conventional reel.


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