Spinning Reel: How to Choose the Right Size

How to choose spinning reel

Faced with the diversity of the fishing reel available on the market, choosing a spinning reel can quickly become difficult for beginners. Because understanding the size numbering for a single brand is not always easy. So when the sizes do not match between brands it can complicate the task.

In fact, we did a quick search on the internet and were surprised that we didn’t find precise information on spinning reel sizes that really help us to choose the right one for kayak fishing.

In this article, we will give you advice on how to choose the best size of the spinning reel for your fishing rod, then all you have to do is define a budget and choose a brand.

The choice of a reel is not made at random but according to criteria to be defined beforehand:

  • Cane size
  • Cane power
  • Type of fishing
  • Target fish

Daiwa and Shimano brands we know well and have used for many years. They are also the most widely distributed brands and therefore the most used by anglers. Other very good brands exist (Pflueger, Abu Garcia, KastKing), if they interest you, don’t worry you will find all the information here.

However, the size that most closely matches a Daiwa or Shimano size that you have chosen.

Size equivalence between Daiwa and Shimano

This is a subject that comes up often in discussions because many anglers would have preferred a size equivalence between these two brands. This difference was accentuated with the arrival of ratings of the types 2008, 3012, 3000S, etc.

READ ALSO: Spinning reel under $50 – reviewed and tested

It is difficult to give a perfect equivalence between the sizes of these two brands but we can generalize by saying that for equal size, a Daiwa reel is a little bigger than a Shimano. We can also summarize by saying that you have to take a size above at Shimano to have a Daiwa equivalent in size.


This table is indicative and only there to give an idea of ​​the size difference between the two brands. Certain sizes of reels within the same brand are identical in terms of construction, only the capacity of the reel is different.

This is the case with some Shimano reels in 2500 and 3000 but also at Daiwa where only the capacity of the spool changes between 3000 and 3500.

Balance the cane

Usually, the first and only criterion for choosing the size of the reel, the balancing of the reel rod assembly is an important step. If done correctly, it will allow you to have a comfortable setting when fishing. By comfortable set, we mean a set that is pleasant to use on long outings.

Balancing a set amounts to bringing the point of balance of a rod a few centimeters in front of the foot of the reel, where the hand is positioned during the fishing action.

Most often, a bare rod will tend to nose down when it is held in the hand at the level of the reel seat. But it happens that on certain powerful rods which are very conical (with a large difference in diameter between the tip and the heel). The point of equilibrium is already very close to the handle.

When you add a reel to a rod, most of the time, you shift the balance point backwards and this is all the more so as the reel is heavy.

We can establish a basic rule, which will be used to orient our research to save a little time, between the size of the rod and the size of the reel.

1.6 – 1.8m1500 – 20004-10lb
1.8 – 2.1m2000 – 25005-12lb
2.1 – 2.3m2500 – 30006-14lb
2.3 – 2.8m3000 – 40008-20lb
2.8 – 3.3m4000 – 500010-25lb
3.3m – 3.8m5000 and more12-50lb
  • Small fishing reel suitable mainly for light fishing in lake, river, bay, port, etc.
  • Medium size fishing reel suitable for lakes, rivers, bays, harbors, light offshore boat fishing, etc.
  • Large reel commonly used for boat, beach or rock fishing.

New material technologies such as Ci4 at Shimano or Zaion at Daiwa call this rule into question because the significant weight gain brought about by these new processes makes it possible to offer 4000 reels at the weight of 2500 from a few years ago.

Two reels in size 4000; Same brand, same size, but almost 10 years apart and 120g less (braid deducted) thanks to new materials.

Adapt the size to the type of fishing

In some cases, it will be necessary to put aside the search for the perfect balance between the rod and the reel by taking a size above or below that initially planned.

For example, for someone who fishes in an ultralight small fish with a rod less than 2m, they can go down one size to gain even more lightness. Conversely, for someone who is going to look for good size fish in a kayak with a relatively short rod, we recommend going to the next size.

We can then put a Shimano 4000 or Daiwa 3000 on a 2.1m rod while maintaining a correct balance but with a reel that will not tire on beautiful fish.

Likewise, for someone who fishes with big shads in currents with a rod of 2.4-2.5m, it will be better to put a Daiwa 4000 or a Shimano 5000 because these lures difficult to bring back to the reel make more force the gears and will be more resistant over time than a smaller reel.

READ ALSO: Best spinning reels under $100 in the market today

For very powerful fish, increasing the size is almost mandatory to have a reel with a brake and a frame powerful enough to counter rushes and prevent breakage … of the reel! No more, no less.


In principle, the more bearings a reel contains, the more fluid it is, which is an important quality for lure fishing that requires a large number of cast and retrieve.

But this should put into perspective with the quality of the bearings used according to the models of mills, therefore making it impossible to compare between brands (a reel with 3 + 1 bearings from one brand may very well be smoother and more fluid than an 8 + 1 from another brand).


On the other hand, one quality that can be found in all manufacturers is their anti-corrosion treatment (or not). If they are qualified (we find the names S A-RB, CRRB or RRB), they are in principle usable at sea while limiting wear.

The brake

The combat brake consists of exerting a frictional force on the spool to slow down its rotation. Its power is in particular linked to the size of the frame (see the beginning of the article). The larger the reel, the better the brake will normally be.

There are 2 main types of brakes:

The front brake is the most common and is located on the front of the spool. In general, the reels are mentioned F (for Front) or FD (for Front Drag). The less frequent rear brake offers access to the brake at the rear of the reel (R for Rear).

In both cases, a quality brake will be micrometric (you will hear a tick tick with each rotation), which allows you to better gauge the brake without necessarily viewing it.

There are also “triggers” allowing besides the classic brake to have accessible and permanent control of the brake during a fight.

The brake power is an important element to consider depending on the target fish species.

Recovery speed and ratio

The link between these two criteria is closely associated. Since the higher the ratio, the faster the recovery speed is. The ratio is the number of turns of the coil wound for a complete turn of the crank.

When you have a ratio of 5.2: 1, this means that for one revolution of the crank (number to the right of the β€œ:”), we recover 5.2 turns of the coil. This number of turns of the coil, multiplied by the perimeter of the coil, gives the distance recovered for one turn of the crank.

At equal ratios, a reel with a larger spool will recover more than a smaller reel.

Compared to fishing, certain choices are to be favored. A reel that has a high recovery speed is not necessarily better. For slow scratch fishing, surface lure fishing, a low recovery will be more comfortable and more precise.

Conversely, for hard bait fishing or for fishing with large pulls with soft lures, a large recovery will help you to keep the banner taut during the downward movement of the rod.

READ ALSO: Which fishing rod best to start?

Final Thoughts

To conclude, choosing the right size of the spinning reel for your new fishing rod will be done in several steps. First, try to form a coherent whole in terms of balance with the rod, then increase or decrease the size retained in your fishing.

Finally, the models are now available with several recovery speeds of the same size. Choose the one with which you will be most comfortable. If possible, do not hesitate to go to your close retailer with your rod to choose your spinning reel rather than buying a blind reel!

Liam Dean is a Professional Blogger and Outdoor Enthusiast. He completed Masters in Sports Sciences and spend all of his free time doing sports and other outdoor activities. During vacations, he goes hunting, fishing and mountaineering.

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