What are Spincast Reels Used for?

Updated on December 8, 2022 by
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Spincast reels are primarily used to teach young anglers how to fish and catch smaller species such as panfish and small catfish.

Spincast reels are probably the easiest type of fishing reel used to catch a variety of different species throughout the world. These reels might not be as flashy and performance-driven as the premium baitcaster or spinning reels on the market today, but spincast reels offer a backlash and tangle-free operation in an easy-to-use design that’s ideal for anyone who might be getting started in the sport of fishing. 

If you’re a beginner or novice angler, you’ve probably asked the same question that many others have:

What are spincast reels used for?

In this article, we’ll explain why anglers use spincast reels and how they are often the best choice for young anglers, or those who are simply looking for a reliable reel that allows them to enjoy their time on the water. 

What is a Spincast Reel?

Spincast reels were first invented in the 1940’s and were introduced in 1949 by the Denison-Johnson Reel Company and the Zero Hour Bomb Company, which is now known as ZEBCO. Since then, they’ve become a staple in the fishing industry and are often the first kind of reels a young angler uses to catch their first fish. 

These reels are nowhere near as complicated as baitcasting setups or even the spinning reels, which they are often confused with by those who are new to fishing. A spincast reel operates using a very simple and basic design that includes a forward-facing spool that’s mounted on top of the rod. The spool is covered by a cover that’s usually made of metal or plastic material, which ensures that nothing will become entangled with the spool while it’s spinning and collecting line. 

Spincast reels were made to solve the problems that anglers commonly ran into when using baitcasting reels. By using a fixed-spool design and cover, manufacturers made it possible to release the line with the push of a button and to reel it in with ease. 

spincast reels purpose

Young or New Anglers 

Spincast reels are commonly used by young anglers. They are very simple and easy to use and they are mostly maintenance-free. Many anglers who are trying to introduce youngsters to the sport of fishing will put a spincast reel in their hands as it allows them to focus more on the fundamentals of fishing instead of dealing with the difficulties presented by spinning or casting reels. 

The same concept applies when introducing adults to fishing as well. It’s better for them to use a spincast reel as they will be able to focus more on where to cast, how much force they need to launch their lure out into the water, and how to land a fish after getting a bite. Too often, anglers associate spincast reels with cheap or poorly-made products, but that’s simply not the case with spincast reels in today’s fishing industry. 

Some of the biggest brands in the fishing industry are now producing high-performance spincast reels that would probably surprise seasoned anglers if they were to give them a try. I’ve actually done this with some of Zebco’s new spincast models like the 808, Omega and Zebco 33 Platinum. These reels offer an exceptionally-smooth action in both casting and retrieval and they hold their own against larger-sized fish that are sure to put a strain on any drag system. 

Catching Panfish Species 

No matter how much experience some anglers have, they sometimes stick to a spincast reel when fishing for panfish for a number of reasons. Spincast reels offer the perfect setup for casting small, lightweight lures a considerable distance without any of the common headaches you encounter fishing with spinning or casting reels. 

For avid anglers who like to target crappie, perch, bluegill or any other variation of panfish species, spincast reels offer an incredibly-simple way to fish. It’s common for anglers who like to utilize spincast reels to catch these kinds of fish to use multiple rods at a time. While some anglers do this when trolling for crappie or other species, using spincast reels is also common for fishing with live bait in an area where you’re sitting still and waiting for a bite. 

Being able to rely on a spincast reel and the fact that you won’t have to worry about backlash or tangles as much is the main reason why these anglers rely on them for catching panfish, but it also helps that they are practically maintenance-free and require very little adjustment outside of the drag. 

Small Catfish 

Spincast reels are also used for catching catfish in many freshwater lakes and rivers across the United States and other regions. Many anglers prefer to use spincast reels over casting or spinning reels for a variety of reasons. The main attraction that spincast reels have for catfish anglers is that they are very simple and presents the same benefits for targeting smaller catfish that they would for panfish. 

It’s common knowledge that spincast reels are not a great choice when it comes to going after sizable catfish. They are usually not well-equipped to handle extreme pressures and tend to have certain parts break or malfunction when under serious stress from an exceptionally-large fish. I’ve caught catfish that are 20 to 25 pounds on a spincast rod, but it was clear that I probably would not have been able to handle anything more than 40 pounds using a spincast reel. Especially if I were planning to routinely land larger-sized catfish using one. 

I have put together a guide specifically for catfish reels that you might find interesting.

Small Saltwater Species 

Another reason why spincast reels are used is to catch small species of saltwater fish. Many anglers like to target smaller fish like mullet, sea bream or drum using a spincast reel while fishing inlets or other areas along the coast. However, if you’re going to use a spincast reel to catch fish in coastal waters, be sure that it’s a reel model that’s rated for saltwater use. Saltwater is known to be very corrosive to certain types of material and many anglers unknowingly ruin a good reel by using it in saltwater. 

Some anglers like to use spincast reels to catch smaller fish from piers and docks in both freshwater and saltwater. If you’re just going to be dropping your lure straight down in a vertical fashion, there’s not much need to have an exceptionally-smooth casting ability. Spincast reels often work very well in these scenarios and are usually very reliable if used properly. 


There are many uses a spincast reel could have, but it’s important to remember that these reels are simply not well-equipped to handle large fish. If you’re planning to go after anything that is big and will certainly put a strain on your drag, it’s probably best to use a casting reel that’s designed to handle such pressures. However, if you’re looking for an easy-to-use reel to fish for small species, a spincast reel is an excellent choice. 

Photo of author

Donny Karr

Donny Karr is a Tournament Angler and writer whose work has been featured in magazines for nearly a decade. He is a member of the Outdoor Writers Association of America. He enjoys bass and crappie fishing in the lakes around the south-eastern United States, as well as trout fishing in the streams and rivers of the Appalachian mountains. He enjoys keeping up with the latest news and gear items in the fishing industry and is always looking forward to his next outdoor adventure. Donny has written for Georgia Outdoor News, Paddling Space, Man Can Outdoors, Alabama Outdoor News, and Bassmaster.