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Why Wide Spools Make for Better Spinning Reels

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March 14, 2011

Why Wide Spools Make for Better Spinning Reels

By John Merwin

Here’s a tale of two spinning-reel spools. The spools shown in the photo are from reels of similar size. One is short and wide. One is tall and narrow. So why is there a difference?

Wide-spool spinning reels recover more line with each turn of the handle. That means there’s slightly less line twist created than with a narrow-spool reel of equivalent size. Wide-spool reels enable longer casts, too. That’s because each line wrap coming off the spool during a cast is slightly longer, which ultimately reduces friction on the outgoing line.

I once got curious about this, and so measured casting distances with both narrow- and wide-spool reels. The set-ups, casting weights, and line were otherwise identical. A wide-spool reel enabled casts that were roughly 20 percent farther.

On all spinning reels, the spool moves up and down as you crank so line is spooled evenly. A wide spool isn’t as tall, so it doesn’t have to move up and down as far. That allows for smaller gearing inside the reel, which in turn allows a smaller and lighter reel body.

For all those reasons and more, wide-spool spinning reels are one of the most important recent trends in spinning tackle. U.S. Reel pioneered this concept in its modern form. Now there are some copycats. Bass Pro Shops adopted this concept a few years ago for a line of its spinning reels. (I should point out that when I asked them, Bass Pro vehemently denied copying anything.) And I’ve just noted that the recently rejuvenated Lew’s brand has come out with a wide-spool spinning reel too.

Wide-spool spinners are still much less common than reels with tall and narrow spools. That might or might not change eventually, but for the time being, at least, it’s nice to see something different. And, I think, better....

Comments (12)

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from Phil1227 wrote 3 years 5 weeks ago

Thats interesting I didn't relize there was that much difference.

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from Koldkut wrote 3 years 5 weeks ago

Wider is nicer for open water. One thing I have noticed is that the narrow spools are better for ice fishing, especially when you consider that first guide is very close to the spool, a tighter radius prevents rod tip bounce.

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from jay wrote 3 years 5 weeks ago

I must say that I'm a little perplexed. Spinning reels have been manufactured for decades and the fact that a wider spool is better than a narrow spool is something that is fairly new. Seems like the engineers of these reels would have figured this out decades ago; especially since the advent of computer aided design techniques would have allowed them to design the "perfect" spool without even going thru a costly R&D prototype.

I remember back in the nineties that narrow, longer spools became the rage. At the time, the marketing stated you could get longer casts. I bought a Shimano Aero with a bullwhip rod that I still have as of today. Now the marketing guys are saying we need to go back to shorter, wider spools. Seems a little fishy too me. IMO its all marketing BS.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from buckhunter wrote 3 years 5 weeks ago

Jay hit the nail on the head. Longer spools were the rage a few years back and now we discover it was not an improvement but a marketing tool. Surprise, surprise. Let this be a lesson that new or different is not always better.

My last two reel purchases have been the Shimano Stradic and the Shimano CI4. At the time top notch reels. Funny how similar shape the spool is to the Mitchell Garcia 300 from the 70's.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from jrok6661 wrote 3 years 5 weeks ago

That's crazy. I would have thought that exactly the opposite were true. That is why I love this website. I learn so much here.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from vtbluegrass wrote 3 years 5 weeks ago

The thing with those short spools is that if they aren't completely full they are almost worthless to cast. If you break line of during a day of fishing the friction caused by casting from deep in that short spool will kill it. A spool that is tall and wide(no surprise many surf fishing reels are designed as such)is best. So what if the drive gears are smaller when I got a school of 10-15lb drum or striper in front of me I want solid and unbreakable.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from santa wrote 3 years 5 weeks ago

I have designed and worked on baitcast reels most of my life. I was on the design team for the Speed Spool reel back in the early seventies. I worked on spinning reel design some, but after never finding much relief from line twist gave up on them as not being as practical as baitcasters. Several years ago, I got hold of a new US Reel 180 spinning reel. It had the large spool. I liked it enough to get several more models. I now have a US Reel 250, and a Johnny Morris JM2000 that I use to compare casting distances between different reels. I have been able to cast as you mention much further with the larger spools, but I can outcast the spinning reels with the new US Reel baitcasters. I just finished doing a comparison between the new 600 series US Reel that you just ran an article on in this blog and the JM2000 and the USR 250. I used a CHILDRE PREMIUM GRAPHITE Triger Rod, Model CP4-166 6'6" medium action spinning rod. I used the same rod, line and weight through out the testing, even though the 600 Invader is a baitcast reel. After 100 casts with each reel, I cast on average 12 percent farther with the bait cast reel than the spinning reels. My personal conclusion is that the short larger diameter spools on spinning reels are better than longer smaller diameter spools, but the new generation of levelwind on the bait casters is capable of out casting even the "wide" spool spinning reels.

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from santa wrote 3 years 5 weeks ago

Opps, that was a Trigger Rod, not a triger rod.

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from Brian Jackson wrote 3 years 5 weeks ago

I like the wider spools with fluorocarbon line. I fill the spool a little less than halfway with mono and then put on the fluoro. The bigger spool seems to keep it from twisting and tangling as often.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from shane wrote 3 years 5 weeks ago

I have a few older reels I still use that follow the short and wide rule. I don't think it's a new concept, I just think we as consumers are heavily toyed with. Most of my reels are kind of in the middle, some of the light/UL stuff is more on the long side. No biggie, there.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from steelhead08 wrote 3 years 5 weeks ago

I understand the physics involved as well as the fairly simple geometry..what has me baffled is the basic engineering involved in matching say, a 40-series reel with adequate main gearing, shafts, and the rest of the guts that make a "40 series" reel just that; a med. heavy weight reel. I seems as if all manufacturers who've adopted these nifty, and physically accurate principles have stopped-dead at the rotor and completely left-out everything in modifying all mechanics lying below the rotor.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from spokey9 wrote 3 years 2 weeks ago

seems like the industry goes back and forth on this. when i was a kid the manufacturers touted the longer skinny spool as the breakthru and was so much better. Within the last few years they're going back saying shorter & wider. i'm guessin it just depends on the kind of fishing you do and the quality of reel.

0 Good Comment? | | Report

Post a Comment

from jay wrote 3 years 5 weeks ago

I must say that I'm a little perplexed. Spinning reels have been manufactured for decades and the fact that a wider spool is better than a narrow spool is something that is fairly new. Seems like the engineers of these reels would have figured this out decades ago; especially since the advent of computer aided design techniques would have allowed them to design the "perfect" spool without even going thru a costly R&D prototype.

I remember back in the nineties that narrow, longer spools became the rage. At the time, the marketing stated you could get longer casts. I bought a Shimano Aero with a bullwhip rod that I still have as of today. Now the marketing guys are saying we need to go back to shorter, wider spools. Seems a little fishy too me. IMO its all marketing BS.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from buckhunter wrote 3 years 5 weeks ago

Jay hit the nail on the head. Longer spools were the rage a few years back and now we discover it was not an improvement but a marketing tool. Surprise, surprise. Let this be a lesson that new or different is not always better.

My last two reel purchases have been the Shimano Stradic and the Shimano CI4. At the time top notch reels. Funny how similar shape the spool is to the Mitchell Garcia 300 from the 70's.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from jrok6661 wrote 3 years 5 weeks ago

That's crazy. I would have thought that exactly the opposite were true. That is why I love this website. I learn so much here.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from vtbluegrass wrote 3 years 5 weeks ago

The thing with those short spools is that if they aren't completely full they are almost worthless to cast. If you break line of during a day of fishing the friction caused by casting from deep in that short spool will kill it. A spool that is tall and wide(no surprise many surf fishing reels are designed as such)is best. So what if the drive gears are smaller when I got a school of 10-15lb drum or striper in front of me I want solid and unbreakable.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Phil1227 wrote 3 years 5 weeks ago

Thats interesting I didn't relize there was that much difference.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Koldkut wrote 3 years 5 weeks ago

Wider is nicer for open water. One thing I have noticed is that the narrow spools are better for ice fishing, especially when you consider that first guide is very close to the spool, a tighter radius prevents rod tip bounce.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from santa wrote 3 years 5 weeks ago

I have designed and worked on baitcast reels most of my life. I was on the design team for the Speed Spool reel back in the early seventies. I worked on spinning reel design some, but after never finding much relief from line twist gave up on them as not being as practical as baitcasters. Several years ago, I got hold of a new US Reel 180 spinning reel. It had the large spool. I liked it enough to get several more models. I now have a US Reel 250, and a Johnny Morris JM2000 that I use to compare casting distances between different reels. I have been able to cast as you mention much further with the larger spools, but I can outcast the spinning reels with the new US Reel baitcasters. I just finished doing a comparison between the new 600 series US Reel that you just ran an article on in this blog and the JM2000 and the USR 250. I used a CHILDRE PREMIUM GRAPHITE Triger Rod, Model CP4-166 6'6" medium action spinning rod. I used the same rod, line and weight through out the testing, even though the 600 Invader is a baitcast reel. After 100 casts with each reel, I cast on average 12 percent farther with the bait cast reel than the spinning reels. My personal conclusion is that the short larger diameter spools on spinning reels are better than longer smaller diameter spools, but the new generation of levelwind on the bait casters is capable of out casting even the "wide" spool spinning reels.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from santa wrote 3 years 5 weeks ago

Opps, that was a Trigger Rod, not a triger rod.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Brian Jackson wrote 3 years 5 weeks ago

I like the wider spools with fluorocarbon line. I fill the spool a little less than halfway with mono and then put on the fluoro. The bigger spool seems to keep it from twisting and tangling as often.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from shane wrote 3 years 5 weeks ago

I have a few older reels I still use that follow the short and wide rule. I don't think it's a new concept, I just think we as consumers are heavily toyed with. Most of my reels are kind of in the middle, some of the light/UL stuff is more on the long side. No biggie, there.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from steelhead08 wrote 3 years 5 weeks ago

I understand the physics involved as well as the fairly simple geometry..what has me baffled is the basic engineering involved in matching say, a 40-series reel with adequate main gearing, shafts, and the rest of the guts that make a "40 series" reel just that; a med. heavy weight reel. I seems as if all manufacturers who've adopted these nifty, and physically accurate principles have stopped-dead at the rotor and completely left-out everything in modifying all mechanics lying below the rotor.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from spokey9 wrote 3 years 2 weeks ago

seems like the industry goes back and forth on this. when i was a kid the manufacturers touted the longer skinny spool as the breakthru and was so much better. Within the last few years they're going back saying shorter & wider. i'm guessin it just depends on the kind of fishing you do and the quality of reel.

0 Good Comment? | | Report

Post a Comment

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