How to know if a spinning reel is the correct size for trout fishing?

There seems to be quite some confusion regarding what size spinning reel to get for trout fishing.

I am going to provide a method that can be used with any brand of spinning reel. This method uses the breaking strain of the line you use to decide what reel to get.

When trout fishing, we typically use fishing line with a breaking strain somewhere between 2lb and 6lb. So the best size spinning reel for trout fishing will be designed around fishing line in that weight class. Ideally, it will have a capacity of around 110 yards of 4lb line.

Looking for a good spinning reel for trout fishing, I have a complete guide here.

If you are fishing for Steelhead or much bigger trout. You might want to fish 8 or 10lb line instead. When this it the case, simply look for a reel that is designed around fishing 8lb or 10lb line. It could not be more simple.

All good spinning reel manufacturers include the capacity of their reels and the breaking strain of the line it is designed to be used with. When buying a trout reel, check out this exact figure. It normally says something like 6/110 or 110/6. This simply means the line holds 110yds of 6lb line (sometimes it is in metric instead).

As an example, I will grab a reel at random. An Abu Garcia Zata 20, I then scroll down to check out its line capacity which is as follows 185/6 , 130/8, 110/10. So to me, this looks like the Zata 20 is a touch on the large size, more designed around fishing 8lb line. I will give this a pass for as a trout reel.

So I will keep looking, this time I grabbed an Abu Garcia Revo SX 10. It is rated for fishing 140/4 110/6 80/8. Okay this looks promising, It is well designed for fishing both 4lb and 6lb line. I will say this is a good size for trout fishing.

Now, I will look at a different brand. Say a Shimano Sienna 1000, it is rated to be fished with 2/280, 4/140, 6/110. Well, all of these breaking strains are ideal for trout. So a 1000 size Shimano Sienna is ideal.

Recently someone asked me if a Daiwa Regal LT 3000 is suitable for trout? Apparently at the time this specific size was discounted. So I will head across to the Daiwa site and check out it’s capacity 10/280, 12/220, 16/160. Not at all suitable for trout, the 3000 size reel is rated to be fished with line much heavier than is suitable for trout. So my answer is no. A Daiwa Regal 3000 is not a suitable size reel for trout. It is too large.

Now, the Regal LT is a great trout reel. So I will check the specifications and see that both the 1000 and 2000 are rated for fishing 4lb monofilament. I will get it in one of those sizes.

By buying a reel based on its line capacity rating you can easily tell if a reel is a good size for trout fishing.

Should I buy a 1000 size reel for trout fishing?

In general, 1000 size reels are an appropriate size for trout fishing which is why many people suggest buying 1000 or 2000 size reels for trout. But there is a problem.

The problem with buying a reel based on the 1000 size, is that not all 1000 size reels are the same size, and not all manufacturers use the same numbering system. Some manufacturers (I am looking at you Daiwa) are not even consistent within their own range.

A 1000 size reel made by Shimano is a different size than a 1000 size reel made by Daiwa. While Abu Garcia and Pflueger do not even make a reel in that size, they use sizing intervals that go up by 10’s instead such as 10, 20, 30.

So is a 200 size reel suitable for trout? I can guess, but without checking the rated line capacity I can not say for certain.

It gets even worst. If you have a look at Mitchell’s spinning reels. As the model number increases the capacity decreases. A Mitchell 310 is a smaller reel than a 308, which is smaller again than the 300.

In the chart below, I will compare comparable capacity spinning size reels from many different manufacturers. Why a model size is not always a good indicator for reel capacity.

Reel modelModel NumberLine capacity (yds/lb)
Shimano Sienna1000110/6
Daiwa Regal LT1000160/6
Daiwa BG 1500100/6
Penn Battle III1000105/6
Pflueger President2590/6
Abu Garcia Revo SX10110/6

Lews Wally Marshall SS75120/6
Mitchell 300310110/6

Can I use a large reel for trout? What are the disadvantages?

Okay, there is nothing stopping you from spooling a Daiwa Regal LT 3000 or a Shimano 6500B with 4lb line and heading to the trout stream. It will work, but it is far from optimal, and it might even cost you a few fish.

In this section, I will explain why it is a bad idea to use a big reel to fish light line.

Firstly, a 3000 size reel is going to swallow several hundred yards of line, a 6000 size reel will swallow over 1000 yards. A standard 110yard spool of 4lb monofilament is not going to be able to full it. So if you are buying a bigger size reel to save money, you are only going to end up spending more on line just to full it.

Secondary, and much more important. Is that a 3000 size reel that has been designed around fishing much heavier line. The drag was designed to be much stronger, it simply will not have the same low breaking strain precision as a drag that has been optimized to be fishe with 4lb line.

I also will note, reels are often advertised with a maximum drag, but they also have a minimum drag pressure, and large reels have a higher minimum drag.

Finally,a 3000 size reel is a lot heavier. It will make your rod butt heavy and over the course of a day fishing, it will be more tiring to fish with. Being tired when fishing simply makes mistakes more likely which could easily result in a lost fish.

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