Thinking of buying your first reel for trout fishing, but unsure what size to get. While it is possible to catch trout on nearly any size reel, fishing will be a lot more enjoyable with one of an appropriate size.
Reels typically come in a range of sizes. Now, there is no universal standard for reel sizes, so a 1000 size reel from company A could be a different size than a 1000 size reel from company B. Sometimes it is not even uniform within a brand. What is uniform, is that usually a small number means a smaller reel. A 500 reel is always a lower capacity than a 2000 size reel (when within a brand), and a 10 size reel is smaller than a 20 size reel.
When buying a reel for trout fishing, most of the time you will be wanting a reel somewhere between 1000-2500 size. These size reels hold an appropriate amount of lightweight line, and they usually balance well with the lightweight rods we cast spinners with.
There are a few exceptions. When ice fishing, anglers often use 500 size reels. This is because ice fishing rods are typically very short, and there is no need to cast. Just drop the lure down the hole. Tiny reels work well in this very niche situation.
The only time someone will buy a larger reel for trout fishing, say a 4000 size is usually when they plan on targeting multiple species. Say a Salmon fishermen who catches the occasional trout. But such a reel is typically too big in 99% of trout fishing situations.
Why are 1000 to 2500 size reels best for trout fishing?
1: They balance well with ultralight rods
It is possible to catch fish with a badly balanced rod, but our muscles constantly have to rebalance the rod. For many anglers this is not a big issue, but as we get older or fish for ever longer amounts of time. That strain does start to show.
A well balanced rod is also easier to cast, making it more accurate, which in turn allows us to put more power into the stroke increasing casting distance. While it is possible to fish a badly balance combo, there is no on the water advantages to it.
2: They hold an appropriate amount of line.
When trout fishing, we usually want to have around 110-140 yards of say 4lb line on our reels. Even if targeting large, powerful trout like Steelheads 140 yards of 10lb is sufficient. Even on long runs trout do not take that much line.
This gives enough line for long casts and to fight even the most energetic of trout is not going to spool you. I have been fishing for close to 30 years, and have never had a fish empty the spool of line. Unless you are fishing with a mostly empty spool it is never going to happen.
The only time I got anywhere near to running out of line was when trolling, sometimes I like to run my lures 60-80 or so yards behind my kayak. So the spool can be half empty even before the fish starts to run. When trolling I suggest getting a reel with a slightly larger capacity.
3: They are lightweight, so are less tiring to cast for many hours on end.
This might not seem like much of an issue, but after a long day on the river. All of those casts do start to add up. The older we get the more apparent it becomes. I know of many elderly anglers who end up buying 1000 size reels simply because they are easier on their arthritis.
4: Their drag, will hopefully be optimised for low breaking strain lines.
The final point, is that the drag on a spinning reel should be designed to be smoothest around a third of the breaking strain the reel is meant to hold. But, if you decide to run 4lb line, on a 5000 size reel. You might find the drag is less than optimal when tightened down to just 1lb.
5: It is more fun
Fighting trout on appropriately weight gear is simply more fun. Trout put up a decent fight on ultralight gear. I once caught a trout on a 6500 size reel, which I was targeting 6ft long sharks with. The trout did not have the power to move the drag, I basically just winched it in.
Should I buy a 1000, 2000 or 2500 size reel for trout fishing?
Lets discuss the pros and cons of each reel size.
1000 size reels are generally the lightest and the cheapest trout reels around. They also have the lowest line capacity with the tightest spools. For example, a 1000 size Shimano typically holds 110yds of 4lb monofilament.
These small reels also trend to produce the most line memory. This is because every rotation the line takes around the spool creates potential memory. This in turn, increases the chance of wind knots and tangles occurring. The tightly wind coils of line, also slightly reduces casting distance.
2000 size reels are a less common size. They typically a 1000 size frame with a larger spool, or a 2500 size frame with a smaller spool.
One good example is the Daiwa Regal LT 1000D and 2000D. They are both the same reels, but with different size spools. The 1000D holds 250yds of 4lb line, while the 2000D spool holds 340yds of 4lb line.
To reduce line twist, I always suggest buying a larger spool on the smaller frame.
2500 size reel are another step up in size. They normally weight about 1oz more than the 1000 size, but have a much larger spool which results in lower line twists.
A 2500 size Shimano easily holds over 300yds of 4lb line, but I typically fish 6lb monofilament or 8lb braid.
When fishing braid. It can become expensive to full up an entire spool, so it is a good idea to use a monofilament backing, then wind the braid on after that.
If you want the lightest reel possible, then consider a 1000 or equivalent size. But, a 2000 or 2500 size reel, would result in less memory and have in general provide better line management.
If you are also targeting steelheads, then consider a 3000 size reel.
If you are after recommendations for spinning reels for trout fishing check here.
If you are after recommendations for steelhead reels check here.
For my recommendation on the best line to use for trout fishing check here for braid, or here for monofilament.
For my recommendations on the best rod length for trout fishing click here.