What is an Open Face Reel – Complete Explanation

Fishing reels offer sport and recreational fishermen the ability to catch much larger and stronger fish. 

Although modern fishing reels are becoming more advanced with numerous features, the basic principle of the fishing reel is relatively simple. 

It consists of a spool (vertical or horizontal) that neatly houses your fishing line. 

A sturdy handle (most offer an ambiguous reeling action) that allows the fishermen to retrieve his/her catch, and an intricate drag system that can be utilized to restrict hard deep runs. 

There are types of fishing reels like KP and fly fishing reels that aren’t equipped with a drag system. 

When fishing with these types of reels, the angler needs to apply force to the reel manually to restrict these kinds of potentially spooling runs. 

Open-Face Fishing Reels are popular amongst all types of fishermen, let’s take a closer look and find out exactly how these wonderful gadgets are designed and operate.  

What is an Open-Face Reel?

Open-Face fishing Reels are also popularly known as a Spinning Reel

This is one of the most common types of reels and is ideal for intermediate and experienced anglers. 

The first thing you will notice when holding this reel is that all the external moving components are uncovered and exposed (for this reason, it is vital to methodically clean your reels with fresh water after each use).

You will notice the vertical spool which houses the line. The bail arm assists with long-distance casting, securing your line to the spool, and retrieval of your rig, artificial lure, or fish. 

The drag system allows you to apply tension when hooked into a large fish. The drag switch is typically positioned on the top of the spool, or in some cases on the bottom of the reel for easy adjustments.

Open-Face Reels also feature a clever locking device, which is positioned on the back of the reel. This restricts the handle from rotating in the opposite direction, releasing unnecessary line. 

Newer models are eliminating this locking device and are now offering an infinite anti-reverse system. This is a great feature to look for when purchasing a reel, as this switch is normally the first component to fail.

What is an Open Bail Reel?

Open face reel

An Open Bail Reel is another name for an Open-Face Fishing Reel. 

When holding the reel you will notice the curved metal bail arm almost looking like a “Halo” above the spool. 

The bail arm is indicative of an Open-Face Fishing Reel and doesn’t feature on a Closed Face Fishing Reel.

How do you put fishing line on an Open-Face Reel?

Putting line on an Open-Face Reel is simple. 

  1. Connect your reel to a fishing rod, if you fish with a two or three-piece, then just use the small handle section of the rod. 
  2. Position your new spool of line in a way that the line can uncoil easily without moving around. 
  3. Feed the new line through the guides from the top to bottom, flip the bail arm into the open position and tie your line onto the spool of your reel. 
  4. Once I have made my knots, I like to cover the spool and line with two rounds of insulation tape. This holds the line and knots firmly in place and also lets me know when I am running out of line. 
  5. Flip the bail arm to the closed position, this will apply tension to the line. Lastly, reel as much line as necessary, transferring line from the new spool to your fishing spool.

How much line do you need for an Open-Face Reel?

When filling your spool with line, it is always a good idea to consult the manufacturers’ specifications. 

Often fishing reels are designed for certain species of fish and have been designed to hold a certain amount of line, this should never be exceeded. 

Over-filling your spool can be catastrophic, and often results in a crows’ nest or wind knots when casting. 

Typically, the larger the reel and spool then the more line it will be able to accommodate, however, this can be greatly affected by the thickness or outer diameter of your line. Check the manufacturers’ recommendations and stick to them.

On average an open face reel will require approximately 200 yards of line.

Best line for Open-Face Reel

Open face reel

The type of line you will use will depend on the type of fish you are going after. The most well rounded line would be monofilament, it offers enough stretch without having too much memory.

If you are fishing for extremely shy trout in clear water you would want to be using fluorocarbon. The benefit of fluorocarbon is that it’s invisible in the water and it also sinks much faster than other lines, so if you want to get a bait to the bottom quickly you need fluorocarbon. However fluorocarbon does come with a price, it’s not very beginner-friendly due to its memory.

Braided line is extremely strong and significantly thinner when compared to fluorocarbon or monofilament lines. This means you can fit more line on your spool to cope with long hard runs. 

Braided line also offers exceptional casting abilities with almost no line memory, which is ideal for smaller Open-Face Fishing Reels. This often comes down to personal preference and the species of fish that are being targeted.

If you are targeting a wide variety of fish the best line for an open face reel is monofilament line. If you are targeting a specific species then you can choose a line to suit that task, like braided for bass or fluoro for trout.

I keep a reel for individual species, for example my trout reel is spooled with 5 lb fluorocarbon. I use this for spinning small rivers. I also keep a reel spooled with monofilament which I use for a wide variety of fish, from bass to walleye.

How to cast an Open-face Reel

  1. Hold the line rod with your dominant hand
  2. Let out about 6-12″ of line
  3. Use your index finger to hold the line from the reel against the rod
  4. Flip open the bailing arm with your other hand
  5. Bring the rod back vertically, then cast the line forward with a swift movement of the rod.
  6. Release your finger holding the line when the rod gets to approximately 45 degrees
  7. Close the bailing arm

When casting, you will need to let go of the line at the correct time for optimum velocity, distance, and accuracy. This may take some time to master, so some practice might be required.

Open-Face Reel vs Closed Face Reels

Open and Closed Face reels each serve a purpose, and each excels in their respective categories. Looks take a look at the advantages and disadvantages of each:

Closed Face Reels


  • Inexpensive
  • Perfect for children and beginners
  • Only requires the use of one hand when casting


  • Line twists and jams easily
  • Manufactured from inferior materials and not for heavy-duty fishing
  • Breaks easily
  • No long casting capabilities

Open-Face Reels


  • The most popular design of fishing reel
  • This type is reel is ideal for most types of fishing
  • Offers significantly more line capacity
  • Available in numerous sizes for various species of fish
  • Strong enough to target sport and game fish


  • Requires the use of both hands when casting
  • Not suited for children and beginners
  • More expensive than closed face reels


Open-Face Fishing Reels are the most popular type of reel used by recreational fishermen around the world. 

The external working components are exposed, and it features a vertical spool, bale arm, anti-reverse locking switch, drag system, and sturdy handle.  

Filling the spool with new line is simple and only takes a few minutes. Monofilament line is ideal for these types of reels, due to it’s versatility. 

You should never over-fill the spool, this can result in wind knots when casting, and crows’ nests when hooked into a large powerful fish.

Casting with an open-face reel can be tricky at first, once the bail arm has flipped over you need to keep the tension with your finger. 

When casting, you will need to release the line at the optimum time to ensure distance and accuracy. Once your bait or lure has hit the water, you need to flip the bail arm over to keep tension and keep the line on the spool.

string(10) "freshwater"
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