What Is An Electric Fishing Reel? How Do They Work?

As pleasurable as fishing is, reeling in a fish, particularly a heavy fish, can be hard work and places a strain on the angler. Electric fishing reels are designed to make the process of retrieving a fish easier.

An electric fishing reel uses an electric motor to automate the retrieval of fishing lines. Using a display and an electric line counter, you can set your bait to the depth you wish. When a fish bites, you press a button to trigger the retrieval of the line without any manual effort.

An electric fishing reel, therefore, removes the necessity of manually reeling in fish. By reducing the strains reeling in can place on an angler, fishing can be an even more pleasurable experience. In this article, we shall look at how fishing reels work, their benefits, and how much one may set you back.

What Does An Electric Fishing Reel Do?

Electric fishing reels remove the manual element behind fishing and discard the strain when reeling in a heavy fish. It requires minimal effort and skill levels, making it perfect for people just starting fishing. It reels in heavy fish with ease, making them useful for deep water sea fishing.

The purpose of an electric fishing reel is to facilitate the whole reeling process. By removing the manual element, an electric reel removes the strain placed on an angler when struggling to reel in a fish. This struggle intensifies when the fish is particularly heavy or bulky.

At first glance, an electric fishing reel may not look that different from a traditional fishing reel. It will still have a handle, a spool, and bearings. However, you will soon notice additional buttons and a small electric display. Most importantly, an electric fishing reel contains an electric motor which means you don’t need to rely on manual reeling anymore.

An electric reel also provides more control over the depth at which you fish, using an electric line counter and the display on the reel to show you the relevant data. Using an electric fishing reel requires minimal effort and minimal skill levels. This makes it ideal for beginners as well as more experienced anglers.

An electric fishing reel can reel in heavy fish with ease, freeing you from the effort which can place quite a strain on the body. This is one of the prime reasons why these reels are seen as a particularly useful piece of kit for deep water sea fishing. However, regardless of your type of fishing, an automated reel process can offer several benefits.

Are Electric Fishing Reels Good?

Electric fishing reels are very good. They’re accessible to those with injuries and disabilities, they’re easy to use, they save plenty of time and energy, they’re more accurate than traditional reels, they’re more efficient for deep sea fishing, they’re great for larger fish, and can be manual.

An electric fishing reel uses an electric motor to land fish, removing what at times can be a fairly strenuous effort from the angler. Reeling in larger fish manually is a physical demand, one some people will struggle with more than others. Anyone with an injury or disability which makes manual reeling difficult will benefit from an electric fishing reel.

Traditionalists might balk at the idea of automating the process of reeling in a bite, but electric fishing reels will have appeal to both match recreational anglers and those involved in commercial fishing. The following are some of the main benefits of electric fishing reels.

Easy To Use

One of the main attractions of an electric reel is how easy they are to use. You might think such a reel would be too complicated a bit of kit and therefore irrelevant to the everyday angler. However, the beauty of these reels is they are simple to operate. You do not need any particular skills or experience to work an electric reel, which makes them ideal for beginners.

With an electric fishing reel, there is no need to continuously crank the manual handle as you cast and re-cast while trying to locate the fish in different areas of the water. A single press of the button on an electric reel and the electric motor does the job for you instead.

Time And Energy Saving

There is certainly a thrill from reeling in a fish, one which does not alter regardless of how many you catch across the day. What does change though is the strain this can have on not just your hands and arms, but the whole body. The sheer exertion of manually reeling in fish during a day’s fishing can take a toll physically, as well as prevent you from enjoying the experience as much.

Automating the reeling process removes the physical effort from the angler and places it all on the reel. Using an electric fishing reel also saves time in bringing in the fish. An electric reel is more powerful than a traditional manual reel and will reel in the line faster. Time saved reeling in means more time to catch fish.

Better Accuracy

Electric reels have electric line counters which you can calibrate, making them more advanced and accurate than manual reels and manual line counters. This provides more control over your line and is a feature even the most experienced of anglers could benefit from. Being able to set the release of the line to the area you know the fish are biting is a big plus.

Electric reels also display various data depending on the brand and model of the reel. Accurately tracking and mapping where you fished makes it easier to return to the areas which have proved successful and to place your bait or lure at the same depth by releasing the same amount of line.

More Efficient For Deeper Waters

Fishing in deeper waters becomes a lot easier and less physically demanding when using an electric reel. The currents are usually stronger in deeper waters, and the combination of depth and strong currents can mean it takes ages to manually reel in a fish. With heavier weights used to sink the lure to deeper depths, reeling in manually is also physically very demanding.

Therefore, an electric reel can retrieve your line faster and spare you the effort and physical struggle of pulling it in manually. An electric reel offers more stability than a manual reel too, which can be beneficial in harsher and less predictable environments such as deep-sea fishing.

Ideal For Larger Fish

When you are targeting larger, heavier specimens, a right old battle can ensue once you have hooked your fish. For many, this battle to land the fish is a large part of the sport’s attraction. However, there is no denying this can become a physically demanding struggle, placing a lot of strain on the arms.

An electric reel alleviates this struggle, taking it away from the angler and placing it firmly onto the reel. Electric reels have superior drag systems which makes retrieving bulkier fish much easier than relying on a manual reel. As many electric reels contain a manual winch too, you could use the electric motor element as help when struggling to manually haul a fish in towards the boat.

Two For One Reel

As just touched upon, electric reels usually have a manual winch built into the design alongside the electric motor. For traditionalists concerned that using an electric reel could be detracting from the core nature of the struggle between angler and fish, and then this could be the compromise solution that allows them to have an electric backup when required.

When you want to fish manually, you can do so. When you fancy sitting back and having a more relaxed day to admire the scenery, then you can switch to electric mode and automate the reeling process. Having the choice can be a satisfying benefit of an electric fishing reel.

Are Electric Fishing Reels Legal?

Electric fishing reels are legal, but match anglers should verify their acceptance at events. For some anglers, using an electric reel can still be a contentious issue, as their ease of use is seen as an advantage, and due to their high price, everyone may not be able to afford them.

The principle behind electric fishing reels is predominantly about making fishing more accessible to all. They make retrieving lines less strenuous and are ideal for those who have a disability that makes using a manual winch on a reel difficult or impossible.

Electric reels are also good for beginners, as you don’t need any skill or experience to operate them. This can help bring newcomers to fishing. Struggling with a traditional reel may put off some beginners, whereas the ease of use of an electric reel can help make them enjoy the sport more and want to fish more.

International Game Fishing Association Guidelines

Up to 2021, the International Game Fishing Association (IGFA) guidelines prohibited electric fishing reels in both freshwater and saltwater tournaments. However, recognizing the increasing popularity of these reels, the guidelines were changed to allow electric reels, although with very strict criteria.

The guidelines suggest electric reels can only be used to retrieve the bait or lure up to the boat before manual redeployment, and that the electric power accessory must be removable.  Only when the power accessory is removed from the reel is it then deemed legal to bait and hook a fish.

Recreational anglers can use electric reels so long as there are no limitations imposed by private owners of the waters they are fishing. Sea anglers often use electric fishing reels as they are more efficient for the depths they fish at and for dealing with the stronger currents.

How Much Do Electric Fishing Reels Cost?

Electric fishing reels cost from $100 to $6,000. The most common reels cost around $600.

Electric fishing reels are not cheap bits of kit, although there is quite a range in the price you could pay. Electric reels can range from $100 to over $6,000. Your intended use of the reel will largely determine the cost, but some of the more commonly used electric reels cost around $600. You can still buy a reel in this price range with enough spool to fish to decent depths.

If you intend to fish in shallower waters, the spool does not need to hold as much line, and therefore a cheaper electric reel should suffice. Once you start fishing in deeper water with stronger currents, you can find yourself paying more for an electric reel with a more powerful drag. A more expensive reel will both hold more line and also have the power required to cope with larger, heavier fish.

How To Use An Electric Fishing Reel

The theory behind using an electric fishing reel is no different from using a traditional manual reel. You bait your line before using the reel to place the bait at the required depth and retrieve the line when there is a bite. However, as the electric reel automates the process, you are pressing a button to set and retrieve the line instead of having to do it all manually.

An electric fishing reel is usually powered by a battery, but you may be able to power the reel directly from a boat’s power supply. However, using a power supply from a boat can be hard to regulate, and one could see the supply to the reel fluctuate, something which can have the potential to damage the reel.

Before using an electric reel, you should always refer to the manufacturer’s manual, as this will provide advice on connecting it to your rod as well as on how to operate the electric motor and use the display screen. The following are the key points for using an electric fishing reel.

Line Type And Capacity

The advantage of using an electric reel is it makes fishing in deeper water and landing trophy fish less demanding on the angler. Anyone who has landed several large fish over a day knows how arduous the process can become. To ensure you get the full benefits, you need an electric reel with a suitable line capacity to hold the amount of line to fish to the required depth.

You can buy electric reels which allow you to fish to a depth of 800 feet, but the range of reels on the market is extensive, so if you only intend on fishing in shallow waters you will find reels with smaller line capacities to suit this requirement. These reels should be cheaper too.

Which line you use can be down to personal preference, but many anglers prefer braid over mono as it is a stronger line, better able to cope with a deep water environment, and less likely to break. For deep water fishing, you may need 80 lbs/ 36.28 kg to 100 lbs/ 45.36 kg braid. The depth you are fishing and the fish you are targeting will determine the line capacity of the reel and the type of line you use.

Once your line is baited up and ready to cast, you simply slip the line into the water and press the release button on the reel and let the electric reel take over.

Setting Your Electric Reel

Before using your reel, you should reset it first by pressing in and holding down the reset button for a couple of seconds. Again, it is important to refer to your reel manufacturer’s manual for precise instructions about the settings and how to use them. However, resetting the reel should show you a zero on the screen.

To drop the line, you just press a button on the reel, and the display will show you the depth as the line goes down. An electric line counter will help even the most experienced fisherman to place their bait or lure at the depth they require. Without a line counter, it becomes a question of estimation, at which some anglers will be better than others.

Retrieving The Line

Once you see movement on the rod indicating a bite, you just press the retrieval button, it’s that simple. Automating the retrieval process will bring the fish to the surface quicker, meaning less time in which you may lose the fish. Any qualms about not reeling in manually because that is the traditional way may soon disappear once you see how effortless line retrieval is with an electric reel.

As mentioned previously, most electric reels come with a winch which allows you to reel in manually if you want. Having this choice may suit anglers who like the personal battle with their catch initially but may need some power assistance when struggling with a difficult fish, or when they are feeling tired toward the end of a long day’s fishing.

When considering an electric reel, you should take into account the reel’s retrieval rate. A decent retrieval rate will help reel in a catch with ease and in good time.

Retrieval Speeds

Retrieval speeds offered can vary across the brands, but a speed between 400 and 1000 feet per minute should suffice for most scenarios. Retrieval rates at the lower end of this scale should still have a cranking power of around 30 lbs/ 13.6 kg.

The retrieval rate of your electric reel will be faster than when you reel manually, and when you are physically reeling in fish, your speed of retrieval can dip further as you become tired. This gives the fish more time to be rid of the bait or lure and to set itself free.

Another feature you can program into an electric reel as part of the retrieval process is the distance you want the line to stop before it reaches the boat. Set your reel to one meter and that is the distance where the retrieval of the line will slow down and stop, allowing you to pull the line and fish onto the boat by hand.

Pay Attention To Drag

Drag remains important on an electric fishing reel. When a fish bites and takes off, it pulls the line off the reel, and the drag is the level of pressure applied by the fishing reel to prevent the reel from releasing more line. Drag offers resistance, as otherwise, the full weight of the fish could snap your line.

Just as you would need to adjust the drag on a traditional reel according to the fish you are targeting, the same applies to an electric fishing reel too. Usually, it requires adjusting a few screws or knobs which control a pad that is in direct contact with the spool. Depending on your requirements, you can tighten or loosen the drag pad on an electric reel.

As a rule of thumb, electric fishing reels tend to have their drag set between a range of 40 lbs/ 18.1 kg to 80 lbs/ 36.28 kg. This takes into account that many anglers use an electric reel for fishing in deeper waters and heavier fish. However, it is simple to adjust the drag to suit the fish you’re targeting by rotating the screws or knobs in the relevant direction.

Setting the drag too tightly can risk losing the fish, but set it too loose and it can be hard to get hold of the fish in the first place. Setting the ideal drag rating is one of those angling things which comes with experience, but once it is set right, your electric fishing reel will happily do the hard graft part for you and reel in anything you hook.

Final Thoughts

An electric fishing reel is a great way to automate the process of reeling in a fish. It’s accessible to those with disabilities, easy to use, saves time and energy, is more accurate, is more efficient, and is ideal for larger fish. Its downside is that it’s relatively expensive, however.