What Are the Parts of a Spinning Reel?

Man fishing from boat

Spinning reels, also known as open-face reels, are mounted on the underside of a fishing rod and are popular among anglers using lighter lines and smaller lures. Featuring a fixed spool, this reel style comes in a variety of sizes and gearing rations that can handle as little as 2-lb. test line up to 50-lb. test line. Spinning reels are often recommended for novice anglers due to their mechanism design which eliminates tangle-producing backlashes.


Spinning reel handles are threaded into sockets on either side of the reel's body. This allows the angler to swap sides for left- or right-handed operation. The angler rotates the handle to retrieve the line, and hopefully, the fish.


The body is comprised of the foot, gear box housing and support arm. Bodies are often made out of plastic, graphite or aluminum, with plastic being the most economical yet least reliable. Graphite is the lightest of the three materials while aluminum is the strongest.

Gear Box

Inside the body is a gear box connected to the handle and the spindle. The gear box is designed to amplify the number of spindle rotations for each rotation of the handle. A common gear ratio is three to one so that every one rotation of the handle results in three rotations of the spindle.


Spools hold the fishing line and are made of anodized aluminum or graphite. The line is secured to the spool and is wrapped around its axis. The spool is rotated on the spindle by the gears when the line is retrieved and freely rotates during the cast.

Drag Adjustment Knob

The drag system refers to a set of washers that hold the spool to the shaft. An adjustment knob on the front of the spool is turned to increase or decrease the amount of friction, or drag, applied.


The bail is a semi-circular section of wire that is attached to the body on a hinged joint. The bail is flipped forward to release the line for casting. As the handle is rotated to retrieve the line, the bail is automatically flipped back to its starting position. Attached to the bail is a bracket wrap that moves with the spindle as it turns to ensure the line is evenly wrapped on the spool.

Anti-Reverse Switch

When engaged, the anti-reverse lever is designed to prevent the reel from rotating backward. When not engaged, the gear box can rotate in either direction.