Can You Use a Conventional Reel for Freshwater Fishing?


Updated on December 20, 2022 by
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Yes, conventional reels are very popular for catching large freshwater species, such as catfish, due to their high max drag and lower gear ratio.

Conventional reels are popular with anglers for many different reasons. They are relatively easy to use for beginners and easy to find even in your most basic shop selling fishing gear. Plus, they’re incredibly versatile and powerful. Many anglers use them for saltwater expeditions or deep sea fishing to catch large, heavy fish.

That doesn’t mean you can’t use conventional reels for freshwater fishing. In fact, you can use these versatile reels in a few different settings, including freshwater, inshore, and offshore fishing. Depending on the fish you are going for, a conventional reel is not always the best choice, but the type of water doesn’t matter as much.

Here is your guide to figuring out when you can use a conventional rod and when it is better to make another choice.

conventional reel for freshwater

Can You Use a Conventional Reel for Freshwater Fishing?

Yes, you can use a conventional rod for freshwater fishing. You can use conventional rods in any type of water. These rods are very simple, with some of the oldest designs of fishing rods (That doesn’t mean they are always easy to use, and learning how to cast them has a bit of a learning curve.). That makes them versatile and easy to use for most styles of fishing.

There are certain situations where a conventional rod is not the best choice. However, the type of water doesn’t matter as much as the type of fishing you are performing and the species you are targeting. Conventional rods are best for passive styles of fishing as well as catching heavier species.

Advantages of Using a Conventional Reel for Freshwater

There are a few advantages of using a conventional reel when going freshwater fishing. 

1. More Powerful

If you are targeting larger freshwater species from catfish to salmon, conventional reels are some of the best that you can have on hand. There are a few different design features that make them so great for larger fish.

One is the torque. These reels have lower gear ratios than other types of reels, which increases the torque when reeling in larger fish or when you have to pull in a deeper dwelling fish a long distance. 

Conventional reels are also much stronger than other types of reels, which means they can hold more line and resist tugging when fighting a monster of the river.

2. Conventional Reels Are Versatile

Conventional reels can reel in big fish without limiting you in terms of which fish you can catch. They come in many different sizes (which is why you can find guides specializing in choosing the right conventional reel size). That gives you more versatility than simply stuffing a large reel with lots of line.

3. More Durable

Conventional reels hold up to more wear and tear than some other types of reels, which is great if you put your gear through a lot of damage. Since conventional reels are most commonly used for saltwater fishing, they are designed to hold up against more corrosive saltwater. 

4. They Are Easy to Find

Finally, you can get conventional reels in just about any tackle store. If you’re starting out and don’t want to load yourself down with a lot of gear, getting a versatile conventional reel is a good starter pack.

Disadvantages of Using a Conventional Reel for Freshwater

While you can use conventional reels in freshwater fishing, there are a few reasons why this choice is less popular among experienced anglers.

1. Difficult to Cast

Conventional reels are simple, but that means tasks that are automated in other fishing reels have to be done manually by the angler. But they are much more difficult to cast long distances and accurately when compared to a spinning reel or baitcaster. They are better suited for dropping baits rather than fast moving lures.

2. They Are More Prone to Tangling

One big problem with conventional reels is that they are more prone to backlash and forming birds’ nests than spinning reels. There are techniques to avoid this, but it takes a while to master them.

3. They Are Heavier

The same advantage that makes conventional reels popular for offshore fishing makes them overkill for just catching small fish in your local pond. These rods are so heavy and durable, they are overkill for fishing small fish. Their weight makes it difficult to cast your line, and you lose some control.

Which Freshwater Fish Species Would You Target with A Conventional Reel?

You should target bigger species when using a conventional reel, such as:

  • Salmon
  • Steelhead
  • Striped bass
  • Catfish

Final Thoughts

Conventional reels are more common for saltwater fishing, but you can use them for targeting larger freshwater fish thanks to their high max drag and lower gear ratios. 


Photo of author

Russ Egan

Russ is an avid fisherman. He has fished all over the world for more than two decades, primarily for saltwater game fish but also for local trophy fish. Russ writes reviews for all of his fishing gear to help others achieve their own fishing goals. There is nothing I prefer than heading down to my local tackle store, buying the latest fishing reel, and taking it to the water to test. My favorite reel is a Shimano Curado Baitcaster. My dream is to catch a Black Marlin.