Understanding spinning reel sizes is pretty straightforward. Reduced to its bare bones, it’s little reels for little fish, big reels for big fish.
I don’t say this to be flippant.
On the contrary. This is as concise as it gets. In practical terms, the size of the fish we target, predominantly, determines the size of the reel we should use. But what size is what?
As you may be aware already, the industry-wide spinning reel sizing ‘standard’ is a little more nuanced than big and little.
Nonetheless, a system has evolved that allows anglers to select appropriately sized reels for their applications. Loose as it is, it’s actually pretty effective.
In the following article, we’ll shed some light on spinning reel sizes. We’ll also look at practical spin reel size selection i.e What spinning size reel size should you select?
While fishing beginners will find this article particularly valuable, there’s also useful information here for regular recreational anglers that may well see you reconsider reel size selections for certain applications.
What Are The Different Sizes Of Spinning Reels? Explained
Reel sizing is determined by each reel manufacturer for each reel model and series. In many respects, the process is a little arbitrary.
Nonetheless, a loose set of basic parameters have evolved. A spinning reel size is determined by a set of nominal specifications considered in concert.
Overall size and spool capacities seem to be the main drivers, with weight and maximum drag capacities likely making a modest contribution to size categorization.
You may already be familiar with reel size terms such as 1000, 2500, 3000, and 5000, for example.
The smaller number denotes the smaller reel. As the number increases, so too does the reel size.
This is the labeling system employed pretty well across the board internationally.
Reel sizes start at 500, being very small indeed, moving through to the whopping 30,000, which is for all intent and purpose a game reel.
Starting at 500, spin reels jump up in 500 increments, depending on the manufacturer. It’s more common to see reel sizes jump up in increments of 1000.
It should be noted that very few manufacturers have a 500 size spinning reel. Most manufacturers start the range at 1000.
You will see that some manufacturers have opted for double digits. For example, instead of labeling a reel as 2500 size, they’ll use 25.
Instead of using 5000, they’ll use 50. However, this labeling system is less common.
One Manufacturers 3000 Is Another Manufacturers 4000
As stated earlier, a spinning reel size designation comes from a set of nominal parameters. These parameters can be very broad indeed.
This creates a situation where the 3000 from one manufacturer looks more or less the same as a 2500 or a 4000 from another manufacturer.
You might find a 10,000 size in one reel series looks very much like a 14,000 size in another. The specs could also be very similar.
These variations are not limited to differences between manufacturers. Often the variations exist between reel series from one manufacturer.
While this might sound a little crazy and can be confusing to the uninitiated, there’s a pretty good reason for it.
Reel manufacturers use different materials, designs, and technologies when creating reels. They also install various features to enhance the fishing experience or increase reel performance.
Reels of the same size designation are often designed with a focus on a particular feature.
For example, it might be designed to handle the rigors of saltwater or be designed to cast a long way.
Another critical factor is the price point. There’s a big difference in the make-up of a $45 3000 spinning reel and a $450 3000 spin reel.
Ultimately, design intent results in significant specification differences in reels with the same size designation.
Regardless of the variations, the size designations work quite well once you know.
If I were to ask a buddy to bring a 5000 size reel to tomorrow’s bluefish surf fishing session, they’d know exactly what I was talking about.
They’d have an idea of the conditions and the size of fish we are likely to encounter. They’d also be able to match a rod, line class, and lure weight.
The chart below will give you an indication of the reel sizes and their applications.
Take note of the small, medium, and large designation. You will also hear reels referred to as light, general-purpose, and heavy-duty. These designations can be helpful.
Spinning Reel Size Chart
The following spinning reel size charts are broken up into three size categories, small, medium, and large.
You will often see manufacturers, distributors, and retailers add an extra-large category, but I feel it is unnecessary.
It’s important to note that all sizes can be fished land-based or afloat.
Keep in mind that the 500 size is rare. This is why I have grouped it with 1000 as specs differences are often negligible.
You will also note that I have used 1000 increments. That’s because the half-size increments are also negligible.
A good rule of thumb is that a 3500 reel will have the upper specification parameters of a 3000.
Frequently, the half increment will offer a little extra spool capacity. Otherwise, specs are identical to the half increment below.
For example, the difference between the 3000 and the 3500 is the 3500 may hold a little more fishing line.
The exception is the 2000 and the 2500. Many manufacturers will offer a 2000 and 2500 in the same series.
This is a very common increment. Far more common than a 5000 and a 5500 in the same reel model series.
Keep in mind this is a guide only. Parameters can vary up and down depending on the reel series and manufacturer.
Small Spinning Reels. 1000 to 3000
Small reels are designed to be fished inshore. They can be fished in the fresh or saltwater in rivers, estuaries, creeks, dams, harbors, docks, and jetties.
They suit light fishing rods 6 to 9 feet. Fish target sizes are a loose guide only.
|Reel Size||Mono Strength||Braid Strength||Application||Fish Sizes|
|1000 Small. Ultra-light||2-4lb (1-2kg)||4-8lb||Ultra-light and finesse inshore sports fishing.||to 3 lb|
|2000 Small. Ultra-light||4-6lb (2-3kg)||5-10lb||Ultra-light and finesse inshore sports fishing||to 5 lb|
|2500 Small. Light||5-8lb (2.5kg-4kg)||5-12lb||Light and finesse inshore fishing||2 to 7 lb|
|3000 Small. General Purpose||6-10lb (3kg-5kg)||6-15lb||Light general purpose inshore. Light surf work||2 to 15 lb|
Medium Size Spinning Reels. 4000 and 5000
Medium size reels are very popular as they provide access to various fishing applications.
As well as covering everything inshore, you also have good surf access, rock access, as well as access to lighter pier fishing.
They’re great in saltwater and freshwater, land-based, or afloat. They make excellent kayak models for moderate-sized inshore and nearshore targets.
Rod sizes range from 7 to 12 feet. This size range is no overkill for smaller panfish but also has power for pretty big fish.
Good models of this size range are capable of wrestling fish to 30 pounds and even beyond.
|Reel Size||Mono Strength||Braid Strength||Application||Fish Sizes|
|4000 Medium General Purpose||8-12lb (4-6kg)||8-20lb (3.5-9kg)||Larger class of inshore fish. Surf, rock, and near shore. Light sports offshore. Great for piers||10 to 20 lb|
|5000 Medium. General Purpose||10-15lb (4.5-7kg)||10-25lb (4.5-11kg)||Larger class of inshore fish. Surf, rock, and near shore. Light sports offshore. Great for piers||10 to 30+lb|
Large Spinning Reels. 6000 to 30,000
Clearly, the most extensive size category, applications range from a larger class of salmon in the rivers, drum from the rocks, to marlin and bluefin tuna offshore.
Rod sizes start at 5-foot heavy-duty game rods to 15-foot surf rods.
These sizes are mostly designed for fishing saltwater. They’re sought after by rock, surf, nearshore, and offshore anglers.
Sizes in this category can be tricky to gauge just by looking. Often there is little visual difference between a 14,000 from one brand and a 20,000 from another.
It’s critical to check specifications to ensure you have the power to cover your application. It’s also important to note that the weight of reels picks up significantly in this size category.
Never be underpowered; it results in heartbreak. But overkill is also undesirable. There’s no need to fish a 20,000 when a 7000 will cover your target needs.
The biggest change in spinning reels over the last couple of decades is the power available in the smaller-sized big reels.
A quality high-performance 10,000 reel can deal with a smaller shark and modest-sized GT.
The big 20,000 Stellas and Saltigas are capable of taking serious game fish. They’re particularly popular with land-based game anglers.
While big powerful spinning reels are seriously capable, the likes of 1000 pound marlin, max size dog tooth, and bluefin are still best handled with genuine game reels.
|Reel Size||Mono Strength||Braid Strength||Application||Fish Sizes|
|6000 Medium||12-18lb (5-8kg)||12-30lb (5-13kg)||Larger inshore, rock, surf, near shore, light offshore||10 to 35+|
|7000 medium||14-20lb (6-9kg)||15-40lb (7-18kg)||Larger inshore, rock, surf, near shore, light offshore||10 to 40|
|8000 Medium-heavy||15-25lb (7-12kg)||20-50lb (9-23kg)||Larger inshore, rock, surf, near shore, light offshore||15 to 45|
|9000 Medium-heavy||20-25lb (9-12kg)||20lb-60lb (9-27kg)||big inshore, rock, surf, near shore, light offshore||20 to 45|
|10000 Heavy||20-30lb (9-13kg)||25-70lb (11.5-32kg)||big inshore, rock, surf, near shore, light offshore||20 to 45|
|14000 Heavy||40lb+ (18kg+)||30-80lb (13 -36kg)||Rock, surf, near shore, medium offshore||30 to 50|
|20000 Extra-heavy||50lb+ (22kg+)||60lb+ (27kg+)||Rock, near shore, offshore, game, land-based game||30 to 60|
|30000 Extra-heavy||60lb+ (27kg+)||80lb+ (36kg)||Rock, near shore, offshore, game, land-based game||30 to 70 and beyond. Big|
Which Spinning Reel Size Is Best For Me?
Three main things will determine the size you choose: Firstly, the fish you intend to target. Secondly, the location you intend to fish, and the third factor is your budget.
Other considerations include matching up to an existing rod, preferred line types, lure types, fishing technique, and more. But it’s the first three things that play the biggest role.
Most anglers I’ve ever met are keen to chase a variety of fish. They want to fish for the table, and they want to catch the biggest of whatever species to which they have access.
If you’re chasing bluegill or bass from your local freshwater lake, then things are pretty simple. A 3000 reel will cover you perfectly.
For the sports inclined, you can size down to as little as a 1000 if you like to truly test your skills.
For the saltwater angler, a 3000 will cover you for the lion’s share of inshore work. But you’re underpowered for a larger class of fish.
You can hedge your bets with a 4000 or a 5000. You can still have plenty of fun with smaller panfish, but you also have access to a much larger class of fish up to 30 pounds.
The 4000 and 5000 also deliver great access to the surf, rocks, and break walls.
Now you can target a larger class of drum, redfish, bluefish, stripers, and more. For those with access to a boat, either of these sizes provides great sport with nearshore applications for medium-sized fish.
Of course, should you wish to focus exclusively on a larger class of fish, then refer to the table above. The sky’s the limit. Or…is your budget the limit?
If you’re taking your boat out into the blue water hunting mackerel, tuna, and sailfish, then it’s simple. Get the biggest, most powerful spinning reel you can afford.
Most of us are interested in a wide variety of fishing styles, targets, and locations.
The best way to cater to variety is to start putting together an arsenal. This is where budgets can hamper things.
If you’re like me and blessed with ready access to everything from trout in the mountain streams, everything in the surf, to massive GT’s from the ocean rocks, the more reels, the better.
Having 3 spin reels is a great place to start. A 3000 go-to for everything inshore fresh and salt.
A 5000 for larger inshore targets as well as a go-to surf reel. Then a quality 8 to 10,000 will deliver access to some pretty big fish anywhere.
A 3 reel arsenal like this covers a huge number of applications. Fish them to your heart’s content until you’ve saved enough to get your next reel.
What Is The Best Size Spinning Reel for Bass Fishing?
For the average angler, a 3000 spinning reel is perfect for bass fishing. A skilled angler can land trophy bass with a 3000.
And the average angler will have a great fishing experience with the smallest of bass on a 3000.
If I’m specifically targeting trophy bass in poor and tricky conditions, such as heavy wind and gnarly, line-cutting structure, I’ll fish a larger reel.
But this is rare. The go-to bass reel is a 3000.
There are plenty of anglers who will use a 2000 and a 2500. This really ups the sports side of bass hunting, and in many cases, evens out the odds in favor of the bass.
It’s awesome fun, and highly recommended.
The biggest reason for fishing light, however, is to reduce fatigue. Lure anglers will cast countless times in a session.
It helps to fish as light as possible when you’re rapid-fire casting. Bottom line: fish as light as you dare.
How Do You Match A Spinning Reel To A Rod?
In my opinion, there is no substitute for feel. If I’m matching a 3000 size reel to an 8-foot rod, I want to feel my shortlist of reel selections connected to the rod.
Remember, 3000 size reels can have significant weight differences.
The basic thing to look for is balance. Connect the reel to the rod. Hold the rod with one finger at the end of the handle in front of the reel spool.
If it balances horizontally, it’s a good indicator of a great balance.
There is a bit of feel and personal preference involved in this. That’s why I like to test a new rig for a balance that suits me.
Alternatively, you can buy a combo that has been put together for balance by an expert. This is a great option for beginners and newbies. You don’t even have to think about it.
Another good option is to head down to a tackle shop and ask. Get them to show you hands-on what a balanced rig should feel like.
Check out this article for some great insights into matching rods to reels.
Frequently Asked Questions
Here are some common questions about reel sizes. Keep in mind; the answers are my opinion.
Others may feel differently. Fishing is as much art and feel as it is science and sport. Use what others say as a guide, and discover things for yourself.
Is a 4000 Reel Too Big for Bass?
The short answer is no, a 4000 reel is not too big for bass. However, a 3000 reel or even 2500 reel is generally more adequate.
There are circumstances where I’d use a 4000. But it’s rare, and generally at times when I’m targeting trophy size fish specifically, and in terrible conditions.
The vast majority of times, you’re unlikely to encounter trophy fish. A 2500 or 3000 reel will cover the lion’s share of your bass fishing.
On occasion, you will encounter a monster; That’s why I like using a 3000. It’s great for the bulk of my catch yet provides me with some hope should a trophy fish attack my lure.
What Is The Best Fishing Line For Spinning Reels?
I use both monofilament and braid. Both line types are excellent for spinning reels. Discussing which is better for what application is an article unto itself.
Suffice to say that the choice is up to you.
If you are yet to develop your knot-tying skills, mono is the better choice until you’ve mastered a couple of basic braid to mono, braid to fluoro knots.
What Size Reel Should You Use For Surf Fishing?
This can be a bit tricky to answer because the surf attracts an enormous range of fish from small whiting and flounder to 800-pound sharks.
The 5000 size is an excellent general go-to for targeting any kind of fish, such as bluefish or stripers.
If the surf is down and I’m hunting whiting or flounder at the shore break, I’ll go as small as a 3000.
However, if I’m chasing big fish with big baits, I’ll use a 7000 to 20,000. Surf fishing often requires its own special spinning reel arsenal.
If you can choose only one reel for the surf, the 5000 is a great option for hedging your bets.
Remember, a 5000 will handle 30 plus pounds of fish. And a good one rigged properly will cast a country mile.
Final Thoughts On Fishing Reel Sizes
You can learn a heck of a lot by surfing the net and reading articles such as this.
But the best advice for learning about reel sizes is looking at them, holding them, sitting them next to each other, and comparing them.
For that, you need to head to your local tackle shop. Spend some time there. Chat to your tackle pro. They usually have plenty of time for anglers keen to learn.
Only through seeing and touching can we get a true sense of what the loose and arbitrary size standards of spinning reels actually mean.