It is necessary to have a selection of conventional reels in your fishing arsenal if you are going after a larger class of fish. The use of conventional reels requires some advanced skill, but these skills can be learned very quickly.
From all directions, conventional reels are able to target a greater class of fish. It is not uncommon for experienced anglers never to have touched a conventional reel in their lives. You can find a conventional reel to suit your application and budget these days.
Let’s take a look at five of the best in this article, and no doubt I’ll include one that will be perfect for you. In this article, we’ll explore conventional reels in more detail.
What is a Conventional Reel Used For?
From grouper to GTs, tuna, sharks, sailfish, marlin, and other monster fish, conventional reels are used.
It was the first choice before low-profile baitcasters and spin reels were introduced. It sits between a game reel and a round-shaped baitcaster.
It has been a long time since we used a conventional reel.
There are many places where large fish dwell, including piers, surf, nearshore waters, offshore waters, and ocean rocks.
As well as being able to be trolled and cast, large spools make them a great option for bottom bouncing.
The reels are also used for all types of jigging.
It can be challenging to cast them to their best ability even though they are reasonably straightforward to use.
You can cast tremendous distances with conventional reels if you master casting.
The main reason for going conventional is that you want strength and power for battling big fish.
How Do I Choose the Best Conventional Reel for Grouper Fishing?
A conventional reel must be chosen based on budget and purpose, just like any other fishing gear.
If you want to fish, where do you want to go, and what species are you interested in, how much money do you want to spend?
This knowledge will help you prepare yourself for the overwhelming number of choices that await you.
It is highly recommended that you handle one before purchasing one.
You can also borrow your fishing buddy’s reel for a few casts to get some experience with conventional reels.
The next step is to research and read articles such as this one. Talk to seasoned professionals and explain your intentions.
Check out how to choose the best conventional reel in a little more detail.
It’s important to understand the features, technologies, and inclusions of reels.
The internal components of traditional reels include stainless steel, light alloys, brass, plastics, nylons, and other plastics.
When you spend more, things become stronger and lighter, and the power-to-weight ratio improves.
In general, these reels are heavier due to the bulkier gears, bearings, and materials.
The lighter models use graphite to reduce weight.
A full metal frame and sideplate, which are lightweight alloys, also reduce the weight burden.
Generally, conventional reels in the entry-level to mid-range price range will be quite sturdy.
Level wind systems, which are often subject to corrosion issues, should have good sealing, especially around the clutch.
A conventional reel has brakes for managing overruns and backlash, similar to baitcasting reels.
There are two types available: centrifugal and magnetic, and both offer great breaking power.
The type of brake system a conventional reel has is often a matter of personal preference. For me, it doesn’t matter.
It is the angler’s responsibility to avoid overrun, regardless of the brake system.
It is possible for an experienced angler with a good touch to handle without brakes.
As long as you’re pushing the boundaries of your brakes, you’ll always maximize your casting distance.
The best way to learn your reel is to practice casting with different rigs, weights, and baits, and test it in different wind conditions.
It still amazes me how far experienced conventional reel users can get from their gear even after using these reels for years.
There are many conventional reels available with lever drag systems, which you will notice right away.
There are some anglers who prefer levers, and there are others who prefer traditional star drag systems. Those who disagree will tell you there is no difference between levers and stars.
They’re partially correct.
It does not impact the performance or action of drag washers which are activated by levers or stars.
A lever or star mechanism, however, can impact the ergonomics of the reel, which impacts power, smoothness, and heat dissipation criteria.
There are some arrangements on a host of reels that I find awkward, even though I like both levers and stars.
It’s best to get out and experience the difference before deciding what’s right for you.
In general, drag power will be proportional to reel size, and your choice will be based on the size of the species you wish to target.
The price of conventional reels is often inversely proportional to the number of bearings.
The entry-level reel usually has one bearing, while the mid-priced reel usually has four or five, and the high-performance reels can have eight bearings.
A shielded bearing and an anti-reverse bearing are a plus.
Almost all big brands offer high-quality bearings at lower mid-price points.
While more bearings are better for strength, performance, and durability, I don’t find them as critical in conventional reels as they are in spin reels.
It is for this reason that conventional reels are often chosen by big fish hunters as they don’t have the same issues with flex and twist as spin reels.
The decision to buy a conventional reel with a level wind can be a very difficult one. I love a quality level wind, as it makes switching between different reels much more convenient and easier.
If the line isn’t packed evenly and consistently on the spool, it’s a manual process that takes a lot of practice and skill.
The level wind, while awesome, can be a failure point.
In my experience, any reel that’s being repaired is due to a failed level wind.
Manufacturers perform level winds differently, but failures do occur.
Due to design limitations, there is a lack of strength.
The reels are not strong enough to handle the fish size the reels are designed for.
As a result of corrosion and gunk buildup, they often fail at some point.
The level wind can be great if you’re chasing mid-sized pelagics offshore, but if you’re chasing yellowfin or dog tooth, forget about it.
As a level wind increases friction on the line, casting distance can also be affected.
It can be better to avoid level winds when looking for prodigious distances for surf applications.
I am not criticizing level winds – I love them. I just want you to be aware of the inherent problems they have.
The problem can be completely eliminated by getting a conventional reel without a level wind.
The task of guiding lines onto the reel with fingers can be challenging for anglers who are not familiar with it.
With a little practice, using your fingers to spool up evenly becomes second nature. I know it’s a pain, but I don’t let it bother me.
Retrieve Rates and Gear Ratios
The retrieve rate of a reel is determined by the spool size and gear ratio, as well as the amount of line on it.
We often prefer low gear ratios for big fish for cranking power, but the reel is usually unable to retrieve many lure types because of the loss of speed.
There are a number of conventional reels that come with split gears or two speeds. You can switch from 4.5 to 2.2 with the flick of a switch.
Because I cast and retrieve a lot, I prefer a reel with a ratio of around 6.2.
Depending on the size of the spool and the amount of line on board, the actual retrieve rate will vary.
If you don’t know which direction to take, don’t overthink it.
Let a tackle expert know your technique and target, and they’ll give you options based on what you tell them.
If you aren’t comfortable with that, check the manufacturer’s specs for the retrieve rate.
If you plan to use lures, look for faster speeds; if you plan to crank at big heavy fish, look for slower speeds.
How do Conventional Reel Sizes Work?
Basically, reel sizes are not standardized. And conventional reels are totally unrealistic.
There are different methods for sizing conventional reels by different brands. Most of them are meaningless.
There is a good example of a unique take on sizing found in Penn’s system of numbering models based on line capacities.
There is a reason for the lack of size standards, and it is a good one.
Design flexibility would be severely restricted if manufacturers locked themselves into industry-standard dimensions and specifications.
To determine what size is appropriate for your needs, check the spool capacity, weight, and maximum drag.
It’s also helpful to see if the manufacturer recommends a rod that is perfectly balanced with the reel.
Handling and eyeballing a reel will ensure that you know its size.
The 5 Best Conventional Reels for Grouper Fishing
It is a bold call to declare any reel the best in the field of fishing reels. The pedigree of household names such as Stella and Saltiga must be qualified.
A subjective and circumstantial evaluation of what is “best” is common. I can’t say they’re the best reels, but I can say they’re certainly worth your time.
1. Daiwa Saltiga Lever Drag 2-Speed Reel
It’s awesome and I definitely recommend this 2 speed reel from Daiwa, but this entire series is awesome, and if you’re looking for a top shelf conventional reel, this is it.
There’s a reel in this series for every angler, but offshore anglers will appreciate it above all.
You can choose from 15 models, so you can find the perfect jigging reel, trolling reel, or casting reel for you. While its superb construction makes it a standout, its wide range of options are what really make it stand out.
There is also a lot of versatility built into each model, with each model being able to operate in a wide range of fishing situations. Designed to handle the sea’s toughest species, the Daiwa Saltiga is great for chasing massive tuna.
2. Shimano Ocea Jigger
There are a huge number of species swimming offshore, making offshore jigging an ideal technique to deal with them.
The Shimano Ocea Jigger delivers one of the best jigging experiences available – at a price. A choice of three sizes is available, each with two speeds.
This Jigger is a force to be reckoned with, as it comes equipped with 8 bearings (6 on the 4000 model) and Shimano’s Micromodule gears.
A top size spool holds 900 yards of PE4 and has 18 kilograms of drag for powerful stopping power.
It cranks jigs home at an incredible speed of over one meter per turn on the 2000 and 4000 models. This is still a jigger’s delight that burns hot and lasts for ages, even when the large sizes are pretty heavy.
It feels particularly light to crank even though the Jigger is relatively heavy, so fishing deeper in the water column is a little easier. It’s not cheap, but if you treat it well, the Jigger will last you a lifetime of blue water monster fishing.
3. DAIWA Saltist Levelwind Casting Reel
The level wind and excellent casting properties make this one of my favorites. Although not the best choice for monsters, it’s still an excellent bluewater pelagic reel.
It is one of the more versatile conventional reels and is suitable for a wide range of angling techniques. The Saltist is perfect for anglers new to conventional reels, while experienced anglers will be impressed by everything it has to offer.
It is built with exceptional quality, as one would expect from a reel bearing the Daiwa label.
Besides fishing outside the heads, this is also an excellent option for land-based anglers. I like it as a rock fishing method, chasing beach freight trains with live baits, and catching big fish from the piers.
The level wind mechanism will last you countless sessions if you keep it clean. You’ll forget about the price tag the moment you cast the mid-priced Saltist. It’s a good value and will last for years.
4. Shimano TR200G
There has been a Shimano TR reel on the market for decades now, and it is one of my recommendations for conventional reel beginners as well as those on an extremely tight budget.
A conventional reel without bells and whistles, this reel is perfect for catching mid-size fish from a variety of spots.
It can be trolled or jigged and has a level wind for convenience, which is ideal for casting big poppers and setting live baits. It might seem underpowered with only 6kg of drag.
The generous spool holds 555 yards of 40-pound braid, so if you hook up big, you’ll have plenty of fighting time. A graphite frame provides good corrosion resistance and is lightweight.
Level wind mechanisms are robust enough to last for a long time if they are cleaned well after each use.
There is good ergonomics with a well-calibrated lever that is perfectly sized and sized for minimal movements of the hand. For the beginner or budget-driven anglers seeking quality and value at a good price, it’s an ideal choice.
5. Penn Fathom Lever Drag
A popular conventional reel from PENN, the Fathom lever drag reel offers a wide range of features and is made from sturdy materials.
The reel is especially rigid and lightweight due to its all-metal frame and diecast aluminum side plates. With stainless steel main and pinion gears, you can easily tackle large fish. This provides a smooth, lightweight feel during fierce battles.
Choose from 6 models in 5 sizes. The 2-speed gearbox allows you to change speeds quickly, and Dura-Drag provides plenty of stopping force. Its handle is designed for hard cranking, and the drag lever is positioned perfectly to control drag while under pressure.
It is great for trolling, jigging, casting, and live to bait, and is suitable for most fishing skills. The 60 is perfect for trolling and live baiting outside of heads and in blue water, while the 25 is perfect for casting from the beach.
The 30 and 60 will appeal to anglers who prefer to fish from piers for big grouper. A great option for those seeking great performance without the price tag of top-notch products. Prices start at the lower mid-range.
Frequently Asked Questions
Are Conventional Reels Better than Spinning?
No. Both are not better than the other. You might have a preference, and some might argue that big conventional reels are better for fighting ocean’s biggest fish. Although they are completely different designs, they should not be compared in this manner. Both types of reels are essential for a good fishing arsenal.
Are Conventional Reels Hard to Use?
Conventional reels do take some practice to master if you intend to cast them long distances with heavy lures and baits. Competent anglers can learn the required techniques relatively quickly through guidance and practice.
Can Conventional Reels Cast?
Most conventional reels can be cast, but it will take some practice since overrun/backlash is an important concern. It is important to recognize that conventional reels have varying casting abilities. Although some anglers do it better than others, a lot depends on how good they are at casting.
Can You Surf Fish With a Conventional Reel?
There are two types of surf fishing reels, conventional and hybrid. Conventional reels are great for surf fishing, but an angler must be skilled at casting them.
How Much Line Should I Put on a Conventional Reel?
It is always a good idea to fill all reel types with the maximum amount of line possible according to the manufacturer’s instructions.