When my grandfather handed me my first gear fishing reel and rod some twenty-five odd years ago, he didn’t tell me what kind it was and barely told me how to use it. It held a worm on a hook and caught fish. That was what mattered. It also happened to be easy to use. Although I didn’t know it then, it was, of course, everyone’s first reel and rod combination, a spincaster.
Now that I’m in my 30’s I’ve moved on, most days, from a worm and a hook. What I haven’t moved on from is the easy-to-use closed face spincaster.
How To Choose The Best Closed Face Reel
The simplicity of the closed face reel means you can narrow your purchase down by looking at a few basic things.
Button vs Trigger casting
The first thing to consider is a button versus a trigger line release. If you are purchasing the reel for your spinning rod then a trigger is your only option. Purchasing a reel for your spincast rod means you’ll most likely be using a button.
In the end, this one, more than anything, comes down to personal preference. A rod reel combo is always an option, but I recommend you test out a few different reels and determine what release feels best to you.
Price, Components, and Durability
Once you’ve decided on trigger versus button, you’ll want to think about cost and the positives and negatives that come with that. Think here durability, line capacity, and quality of components.
Many lower-priced rods will do just fine in most situations. Be aware though, that they made be constructed with plastic or lower-quality materials and not last as long.
Considering components, you’ll also want to think about the internal take-up pins. On a spincasting rod, the line is allowed to be cast by releasing these pins. The line is then retrieved by these pins being reset.
Generally, a higher quality or priced rod will have more pins. More pins equal more line returning more quickly. That equals more casts, better retrieves, and quicker hook sets.
Another consideration when purchasing not just a spincaster but really any reel is the drag adjustment. Spincasters have two types. The first is a star drag. This system is external and found on the outside of the reel, just inside the handle.
The second is an internal drag system operated by an extruding dial. Both methods are effective, and in my experience, the angler’s personal preference is the most significant deciding factor here.
When purchasing a spincasting reel, size is something you’ll want to pay close attention to. The nature of a closed face reel system means the amount of line most of these reels can take will be less than a comparable baitcaster or spinning reel. As with all reels, consider what your target species will be and adjust your reel size accordingly.
In recent years many spincasting reel manufacturers have begun taking reel quality and reel corrosion more seriously. With the increase in spincasting reel quality, many anglers have sought to take their prized spincasters to salt. If you’re one of those anglers, don’t forget to check your reel’s corrosion rating.
And remember, even with a corrosion-resistant reel, it’s never a bad idea to do a freshwater soak after a saltwater fishing trip. I do this with ALL my gear.
This affordable Zebco offering is a reel that will cast as good as it looks. With a dial adjust drag, Zebco's quick set anti reel reverse, switch retrieve, all-metal gears, and a dual knob handle, this is an affordable reel that does it all.Check Today's Price
Zebco is the name of the game when it comes to solid-built spincast reels, and this option is no different. Offering soft touch handle knobs and a soft touch thumb button design, you can expect this reel to feel the part in your hand.
If you’re looking for bells and whistles at a great price, look no further. With Zebco’s quickset anti reverse, a patented no tangle design, and a whopping 19 inches per turn of retrieve speed on dual-handle knobs, this reel does it all. You can be sure to expect a smooth cast and retrieve from this one.
Keep in mind that some of this reels components may not last as long as Zebco’s more expensive offerings. Watch that one year warranty mark that comes with all Zebco products.
The Zebco Bullet Spincast Fishing Reel is a premium offering built to cast and to last. No expense has been spared with one of the quickest line pickups in the game and more features than you can count on your hands and toes combined.Check Today's Price
Zebco Bullet is a reel for the angler ready to take spincasting to the next level. An easy-to-use design is paired with precision machined components, an 8 bearing setup, and a triple cam dial adjust drag. This reel delivers a smooth cast and retrieve most fishermen only dream about.
With a bulletproof build and Zebcos patented “GripEM” all weather design, this reel makes fishing easier and keeps you fishing longer.
Keep in mind that all of the extra bang comes at a few extra bucks. So you can expect to pay double or triple the price of a budget reel for this one.
KastKing offers a sleek, easy-to-use, high-speed, spincast reel that keeps a high quality at an affordable price. It also comes with a reversible handle for left or right retrieve and is pre-spooled with 160 yards of 10-pound test. This budget-friendly reel looks great and is ready to cast right out of the box.Check Today's Price
KastKing Brutus is a spincast reel for the serious angler on a budget. With dangerous looks, a high-speed gear ratio of 4.0:1, a dual-line pick-up system, and a highly adjustable thumb drag system, the Brutus lets you pull in your line exactly how you want it and looks good doing it.
KastKing pairs all that adjustability with an anti reel reverse that works instantaneously. That means all of that adjustability isn’t wasted on missing a quick set.
Keep in mind that this reel is rated and medium-heavy and comes in on the larger size. Kastking doesn’t recommend throwing on anything smaller than 6-pound test on this reel. If your focus is solely on small sunfish, this may not be the reel for you.
KastKing Cadet is an easy-to-use reel at an easy-to-swallow price. Offering a smooth action, a low profile, and simple push button casting, the Cadet is a reel comfortable in the hands of a seasoned angler as it is in the hands of a first timer.Check Today's Price
Simplicity is the name of the game with the KastKing Cadet. This budget-friendly reel is low profile, lightweight, and easy to use. It will inspire confidence in even young and beginning anglers.
With a dual-line pick-up system often found on more expensive reels, you can keep your line retrieves quick, even under poor conditions. This will make cast after cast easy and fun.
When buying this reel, keep in mind that a low cost often comes at a price. For the KastKing Cadet, that price is composition. The pickup pins are stainless steel, and the front cone is aluminum, but the high-quality material list pretty much ends there.
Zebco has put together another high-quality, reliable reel with a smooth, consistent retrieval and drag. This reel does it all with powerful gears, an all-metal construction, a spare spool, and two handle choices. The reviews are in, and this reel comes highly recommended.Check Today's Price
With its all-metal construction and 7 bearing drive, the Zebco Omega Pro is a medium-heavy reel that packs a punch everywhere, but you’re wallet. Pair this reel with your favorite spincasting rod and pull in everything from a crappie to a striper.
We’re big fans of Zebco’s commitment to well-built, versatile spincasters. On top of the seven bearings, 6 clutch smooth as butter retrieval, we’re sure you’ll love Zebco’s reliable instant anti revere technology.
Keep in mind that although this reel can do it all, Zebco built it like a tank to catch medium-sized to large fish. It even shipping it pre-spooled with 10-pound test. It will undoubtedly reel in sunfish, but the slow retrieve rate might have you scratching your head after a few missed sets on smaller targets.
Beginners don’t need the most advanced reel. This one is by no means a low-quality reel, but it’s a little less advanced than some others out there.Check Today's Price
It has corrosion-resistant ball bearings and a 5-bearing system that reduces friction and makes using this reel easy and smooth. The aluminum front cone frame is tough and keeps your line safe from the elements.
A soft-touch, high-friction rubber knob offers good grip and the instant anti-reverse clutch ball bearing will make the fishing experience easier for beginners. It’s a freshwater reel, so won’t be suitable for angling in saltwater.
The size 30 Bullet is the fastest reel Zebco makes, with 29.6 inches per turn. Beginners can definitely use this reel, but it will certainly catch the eye of professionals or experienced anglers who want a closed face reel.Check Today's Price
As well as speed, the Zebco Bullet has precision-engineered brass gears with a 5.1:1 gear ratio, 9 bearings and can handle bigger fish with a mono capacity of 90 yards per 10 pounds.
Anglers will benefit from an oscillating fast-change spool, an instant anti-reverse clutch, a changeable right/left-hand retrieve and a patented no-tangle design. GripEm all-weather handle knobs and a double-anodized, forged aluminum front cover make it highly durable.
It’s a freshwater reel, so experienced anglers who spend their time in saltwater will need a separate reel for that.
If you prefer saltwater fishing, this reel is made for reeling in bigger fish. It’s made from durable, rust-proof stainless steel, all-metal gears and ceramic pick-up pins.Check Today's Price
With a 2.6:1 gear ratio, a mono line capacity of 145 yards per 20 pounds and QuickSet Anti-Reverse technology, this closed face reel can handle bigger fish and more adverse conditions.
This size 80 reel comes pre-spooled with a 20 lb Zebco line.
What is a closed face reel?
A closed face reel is a gear fishing reel that holds the fishing line, usually mono, on a spool inside of a closed spool cover. You’re thinking of the correct reel if you’re picturing something like the business end of a 30-30 round with a hole in it.
Now, there are two types of closed face reels. Although they look similar, one seats onto the top of a special spincasting rod, and the other seats into the bottom of a general spinning rod.
Most anglers are familiar with the closed-face reel that sits on top of a spincasting rod. The line on this reel is button released. On the back of the spool cover, where the casting thumb naturally rests, is a large button. The reel is cast by depressing the button and flicking the wrist. The depressed button raises internal pins holding the line in place. When the angler is satisfied with the placement of the cast, all they do is release the button.
Many anglers may be less familiar with the closed face reel that seats into the bottom of a spinning rod. In this case, the reel mechanism works basically the same, but the line is instead released with the pull of a trigger.
In either event, with the drag correctly set, from the cast on, the angler simply fishes like they would any other gear fishing setup.
Are open or closed face reels better?
Back when my grandfather handed me his old rod and closed face reel, an apparently indestructible Zebco 33 from something like 1966, the question of better or worse didn’t cross my young mind. To tell you the truth, I doubt it crossed his. As a practical old man, what did cross his mind was most likely ease of use. In fishing and life, there is such thing as the right tool for the job.
Are closed face reels better? Yes. And no. It depends on the job.
The clear advantage of a closed face reel is its lower cost. Closed face reels are just outright less expensive than their open face counterparts. Furthermore, because they are generally less costly, they are also usually simpler and easier to use. This makes a closed face reel a great teaching tool.
Beyond teaching, a closed face reel offers another huge benefit. When using an open face reel, even the seasoned angler will occasionally have their line end up in a bird’s nest. This bird’s nest can occur because when casting an open face reel, the reel moves in and out to let the line out.
With a closed face reel, this just doesn’t happen. The only thing pulling the line out is the weight of the lure. This lack of added movement combined with a close face means no tangles. I’m not talking less time untangling. I’m talking no time untangling.
What kind of anglers would benefit from a closed face reel?
Seasoned veterans and newbies alike benefit from a closed face reel, although the most obvious fishermen are children or first-timers. The simplicity of a spincaster means the angler can learn to use the reel effectively rather quickly. This allows them time to perfect the other more complicated aspects of fishing.
Beyond first-time anglers, anyone looking for a delicate presentation should look no further. Many spincasters are made to take light line and present small lures. Walk down any popular lake dock, and I guarantee a good number of anglers catching a good number of the fish are casting to those fish with a spincaster.
Fishing for wary bluegill, perch, or Crappie? The ease of use and light gear will allow you to get the lure right where you want it and focus on nothing else but the wiggle and bite.
Finally, beginner or not, anyone looking for simplicity should look no further. The form factor of a closed face reel forces simplicity. No overthinking here. With a correct rod and a few simple lures, a closed face reel can be the perfect after work, set it and forget it setup.
What are some disadvantages of a closed face reel?
Many of the spincasters greatest strengths come with weaknesses.
There are, of course, more expensive spincasters, but the majority are on the cheaper side, and less costly than their open face counterparts. A cheaper reel often means cheaper components and a shorter life span.
On top of the lower quality components is the major design “issue” of being closed face. That closed face simplicity means you can fish it and forget it, but be careful. An open face reel will dry quickly, and a closed face reel will not. With improper maintenance, you can expect a season at best with some lower-end closed face reels.
Finally, closed face reels just don’t cast as far. Because the line is fed only by the lure flying through the air, the weight of your lure will make a big difference when it comes to distance cast. The nature of the reel is more about simplicity and less about power. If casting to the moon is the name of your game, I’d recommend looking at a spinning reel or baitcaster.
Can you use a closed face reel for saltwater fishing?
The answer here is yes. And no. Any gear rated for saltwater can be used in saltwater. When looking for a saltwater reel, though, you’ll want to keep a few things in mind.
When fishing in saltwater, corrosion is the name of the game. So make sure the reel you purchase is corrosion resistant.
Another thing to look for is line capacity. Generally speaking, saltwater fish are going to be bigger, and the water will be too. Keep in mind that many closed face reels will have a smaller line capacity. If you’re looking for a closed face reel specifically for saltwater, find the largest arbor you can get your hands on.
Finally, as mentioned above, spincasters don’t generally cast as far as their open face counterparts. That means whether pier fishing in salt or boat fishing, you’ll need to get close to the target species.
Whether you’re a first-time angler fishing with your grandpa or a seasoned veteran looking for simplicity, a closed face reel is one worth taking for a cast.
The form factor that was designed to put your mind at ease and fish in the boat is as effective today as it was when it first came on the market nearly a century ago. With years of proven results, consistent affordability, and a range of products to choose from, this arguably easiest-to-use set it and forget it reel is one you shouldn’t leave home without.
A special thanks to Kenneth Reeves for contributing to this article. Kenneth has more than 2 decades of fishing experience, both recreationally and competitively and he shares his passion for and knowledge of fishing over at Perfect Captain.
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