What is a Conventional Reel? (And How does It work)

If you are targeting the biggest species, then it’s high time you got a conventional reel. Although it’s not as popular as spinning reels or baitcasting reels, this reel will get the work done and last a lifetime. Anglers who have used this reel can boast of their strength and high performance. In this article, we have explained what conventional reels are in detail. So, whether you are a beginner or not, you can understand how they work.

What is a Conventional Reel

Conventional reels are quite similar to baitcasting reels, but they are larger. They should not be the first choice for anglers looking for casting reels. However, they are the ideal companions for anglers looking for a reel with excellent line capacity and superb cranking power. These reels are made for large game fish applications with heavy-duty cranking power and heavy lines. Any angler setting out to fish in saltwater or other harsh conditions will appreciate using these reels. They deploy baits vertically with heavy sinkers due to their heavy cranking power. They can be purchased with levelwind systems or without, and they can also be purchased with two drag systems.

How Does a Conventional Reel Work?

Conventional reels are probably the easiest reels to use. Like baitcasting reels, conventional reels work by rotating the spool to feed the line out and crank it back in. So, as we have seen earlier, these reels can come with two drag systems, the traditional star drag or the advanced lever drag system. When using a star-shaped drag spinning reel, use the star-shaped drag control knob to adjust the drag. Also, when you are using the lever system, you can increase and decrease the drag by shifting your arms back and forth.

These reels have a spool braking system located on the side of the spool, also known as a tension brake. The brake helps slow down the spool by applying pressure, and an adjustment knob controls it. The brake setting is determined by the weight of the lure and works to reduce overruns and backlashes. You do not have to rely much on your thumb to control the spool with the braking system. First, tighten the tension brake knob by rotating it in a clockwise direction less than a ¼ turn and use the thumb to control it.

Why Conventional Reels?

Should you get a conventional reel? Of course, yes. Any angler looking to undertake heavy game fishing, this should be your first option. The heavy cranking power and big size of these reels will get you boasting grown Tuna and other big species. Additionally, you can set out for all saltwater applications without fear of having the reel destroyed. Also, these reels are very easy to use, even for beginners in applications not involving casting. So, if you are looking for a reel for heavy trolling, surfing, deep drop fishing, kite fishing, and pier fishing, then this is the perfect companion.

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Advantages of a Conventional Reel

  • They have greater torque for pulling large fish.
  • They come in a wide variety of sizes.
  • Most feature harness lugs so you can attach a fighting belt

Drawbacks of a Conventional Reel

  • Some do not include the level wind feature, so; you have to physically push the line back and forth to ensure it lays evenly.
  • They do not have a centrifugal or magnetic brake system to reduce backlashes.
  • The handle cannot be switched from one side to another

Parts of a Conventional Reel

Identifying the different parts of your conventional reel will help you understand it better and how it works. Despite the wide variety of sizes and designs, the parts of a conventional reel remain the same. With a good knowledge of these parts, you can easily dismantle the reel and put it back together while cleaning or greasing the reel. The different parts include,

  •  Reel Body
  • Spool
  • Lever Drag
  • Handle
  • Gear Speed Selector

Conventional Reel Size

Conventional reels have the largest variety of the three major groups of reels. Their sizes include small, palm-sized, to giant trolling reels.

This makes the reeks perfect for different fishing applications. Small conventional reels are made for smaller fish under 50 pounds. On the other hand, mid-sized reels work best with fish ranging from 25 to 200 pounds; however, if you are eying the largest species, go for the large and heavier-duty conventional reels.

Drag System of Conventional Reel

The drag system can be described as a series of washers connected to the spool. The drag system on a conventional reel does not differ much from other reels. However, it would help be extra careful on the trolling speed, fishing style, target species, and line. To adjust the drag on the conventional reel, make sure the setting is at 25 to 33% of the line’s breakage point. There are two types of Drgs for conventional reels: star drag and lever drag. So, what’s the difference between the two?

Star Drag

The star drag is used to tighten the drag gradually. You will be guessing how much drag you are applying to the spool with a star drag since you can’t look at the reel visually to see how much drag you have applied. With this drag, it is easy to over tighten the drag; that’s why it’s more ideal for smaller-sized species.

Lever Drag

The lever drag can be moved back and forth to tighten the drag to your most preferred settings. You can see how much drag is on the reel, making it ideal for beginners. The lever drag system has a strike setting. The strike setting is where you would want your drag adjusted to have enough drag to set the hook. The main advantage of using a lever drag is that you can quickly set the reel to the proper strike setting.

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Conventional Reel Speed

The gear ratio of your conventional reel will determine its speed. As we have seen before, conventional reels are made for harsh environments, so speed is not always the first consideration. Your target species and the fishing area will determine the speed. With the different technological advancements, you will find one-speed conventional reels and two-speed conventional reels.

One Speed Conventional Reel

One-speed reels are the most popular, even for conventional reels. One-speed reel comes with one gear ratio. Therefore, if you get a high gear ratio, you will only be limited to high-speed retrieves, and if you get a low gear ratio, you will be limited to slow retrieves. One-speed conventional reels are perfect If your reel has harness lugs, and you can attach to them and know how to pump the fish properly while keeping the pressure consistent.

Two speed conventional Reel   

Two-speed conventional reels provide high gear and low gear cranking abilities. These reels are more versatile and better suited for a wide range of fishing applications. With them, you can handle large fish that fight deep and must be battled to the surface.

Conventional Reel vs. Baitcasting Reel  

Although baitcasting reels and conventional reels are used for high power applications and their handles are one side, the two also differ a bit. Here are some of their differences.


Conventional reels are way heavier than baitcasting reels; that’s why they are meant to handle the largest species. In contrast, baitcasting reels are smaller, and they even come with low-profile reels.

Gear Ratio

The spool of conventional reels cranks slower, so they have lower gear ratios. Baitcasting reels, on the other hand, have higher gear ratios.

Level winds

Baitcasting reels all have level winds. On the other hand, not all conventional reels have level wind.

Conventional Reel vs. Spinning Reel

Conventional reels and spinning reels are quite different. Unless you are very new to fishing, you can easily tell their difference without struggling much. Their differences include,


Conventional reels are made for heavy-duty fishing tactics and tackle. On the other hand, spinning reels are used for light applications and with lighter tackle.


Conventional reels are bigger and heavier, so they have enough torque to deal with large species. Spinning reels, on the other hand, are smaller for lighter applications.


Spinning reels are the best for beginners since they are easy to use. Conventional reels, on the other hand, are perfect for veterans and tournament-level anglers targeting the largest species.


The spool on a conventional reel revolves while making a cast. Spinning reels, on the other hand, have a fixed spool.

Line Capacity and Line Options of Conventional Reel

The line capacity of a conventional reel is the maximum length of the line that can be used without overloading the reel. The higher the diameter, the greater the strength. Line manufacturers list the line capacities to make it easier to choose the best line. The most popular options for conventional reels are braided line and monofilament. Braided line capacity is usually higher than that of monofilament. This is because the braided line is made from woven or braided materials like Dacron or Spectra fiber, making it have higher tests in lower diameters. On the other hand, the monofilament line has a built-in stretch and floatation.

Level Wind Conventional Reel

Level wind conventional reels have a moving line guide that sports a pawl that runs back and forth across the front of the reel. The moving line guide ensures that the line is evenly distributed onto the spool from side to side without overlays. With these reels, you can choose to use your preferred line. Although the level wind excels in different applications, it’s not the ideal surfcasting reel.

Line Counter Conventional Reel

A line counter conventional reel records and reports the line that has been extended. This way, you can estimate the depth of your presentation and ensure the bait hits the right place. Line counter conventional reels are very accurate, and they excel in trolling applications. You can use them with the monofilament, braid, and leader core line.

Final Verdict

Understanding what a conventional reel is and how it works will help you decide on whether to purchase it or not. From the article, we have seen that conventional reels stand out for their great strength and versatility. This is a reel that will not disappoint in any application.


What is a Spinning Reel (Everything You Need to Know?)

What is a Conventional Reel Used For ( And Are they Hard to Use)


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