Special Edition / Choosing the right reel size for trout fishing


Trout fishing with lures, also called spin fishing, is a fishery with many technical choices. Trout, like all salmonids, can be fished with many types of lures in many configurations of positions. The reel is then an essential tool to cast, animate or fight salmonids.

We will discuss in several articles how to choose the size of the reel, the right ratio, the right spool capacity or the advantages of fishing in spinning or casting to finish with examples of choice of reel according to the budget.

The size of the coil defined by a code

The size of the reel is almost standardized between the different brands. It is a number that determines the size of the reel. I insist on the fact that the number defines the size of the reel, because for a reel of the same size (diameter) we find different sizes of frames. The smallest are size 500 and for salmonids we rarely go beyond 4000 for the largest reels.

Shimano and Daiwa reels, which have the letter C, have a frame that is identical to the smaller size. For example, a Shimano Stella C3000S has a 3000 size spool, but a 2500 size frame. The same goes for a Daiwa Exist 2000C which has a 2000 size spool, but a frame identical to an Exist 1000.

These two brands, which dominate the market, have harmonized their code and size matching (pre-2018 Daiwa models tended, beyond the 3000 size, to be much larger than their Shimano counterparts).

Moulinet en taille 2000 garnie de tresse fine
2000 size reel with fine braid for salmon fishing

The size of a reel will go hand in hand with other parameters. The smaller the reel, the less line capacity it has, the heavier it is, the less line it retrieves and the less drag it has. We can make an easy parallel between the size of the reel, the morphology of the fished spots and the size of the fish we are looking for. This is also related to the power and size of the rod. A reel balances the rod and must work in synergy with your foil.

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Micro reels or UL reels

These are the smallest and most compact spinning reels on the market. They are very light and have a small spool with a small stroke (height). They are adapted to hold only a few lines, nylon and for short casts.

These reels are perfectly suited for “pure” Ultra Light fishing with a spinning spoon or small fish in high altitude streams.

Un mini moulinet destiné à la pêche en ruisseau
A mini reel for stream fishing

Shimano has been reproposing this size of reel for a while now, but they are less and less used.

Compact reels for trout fishing

Compact reels have a size of 1000 or 2000. The frame of these two reel sizes is often the same, only the rotor and spool change (size 1000 or 2000). These are the king reels for light and ultra light trout fishing. They have a small spool with a long stroke for perfect use of very fine nylon or braid. They are very versatile and can be used for fishing in high altitude or medium mountain streams, or for light fishing in high altitude lakes, areas and reservoirs.

Un moulinet taille 1000 parfaitement garnie de nylon fin pour lancer loin en lac
A reel size 1000 perfectly lined with fine nylon to cast far in the lake

The 2500 reels

These are the 4×4 of trout reels. You can find all ratios, capacities or frame sizes for these versatile reels. They can be used in the mountains as well as on the plain or in the lake and can be adapted to all fishing techniques. They support nylon and braid and can be used to bring out very big fish.

The 2500C or C2500 reels have a compact frame equivalent to that of a 2000 which makes them light but more fragile and less robust, especially for high ratios. Be careful when choosing.

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Les moulinets de taille 2500 permettent de pêcher fin et de venir à bout de beaux salmonidés
The 2500 size reels allow you to fish fine and catch beautiful salmonids

Conversely, pre-2018 Daiwa reels with the R code have a rod size of the size above. Thus, the famous Daiwa 2508R has a spool size 2500 on a 3000 rod. The goal was to keep the line capacity low (less than a 3000 spool) while having the extra torque and strength provided by the larger rod and gears. It was very popular for bass fishing in Japan and also for trout!

Reels for big trout

The 3000 and 4000 size reels are designed specifically for tracking large salmonids in rivers and lakes. They hold larger diameter line, have a heavy drag and enough torque (turning force) to bring struggling salmonids back into the current.

They are obviously best suited to long and/or powerful rods for casting heavy lures far away in large environments.

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Ethan Smith is a seasoned marine veteran, professional blogger, witty and edgy writer, and an avid hunter. He spent a great deal of his childhood years around the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest in Arizona. Watching active hunters practise their craft initiated him into the world of hunting and rubrics of outdoor life. He also honed his writing skills by sharing his outdoor experiences with fellow schoolmates through their high school’s magazine. Further along the way, the US Marine Corps got wind of his excellent combination of skills and sought to put them into good use by employing him as a combat correspondent. He now shares his income from this prestigious job with his wife and one kid. Read more >>