What Size Reel for Steelhead?

If you’re fishing for steelhead and want to know what size reel to use, the answer is not as straightforward as one might think. There are a few factors that go into determining the right size of reel for catching steelhead fish.

The perfect size reel for steelhead is a 2000 reel and it will weigh less than five ounces and is good for catching average size steelheads. A 3000-4000 sized reel that weighs closer to 10 ounces will be better for deep waters where steelheads grow larger in size.

Keep reading to find out how the 2000-sized reel will help you bring in those huge steelhead fish when you’re on the water and what other factors you need to consider for your reel.

Steelhead Trout

What Affects the Size of Reel for Steelheads

There are a ton of factors you need to consider for your reel when fishing for steelheads. Having a better understanding of these characteristics will help you when making a decision to buy.

Rod Size

The size of your rod will factor pretty greatly into which reel size you get.

The bigger the rod, the bigger the size reel you’ll need to go with it. A 2000 will work for a medium-sized rod between six and nine feet long.

You’ll be able to catch average size fish with this size rod and reel combo.

For larger rods, you should look at getting a 3000 or 4000-sized fishing reel depending on how heavy your fish are going to be when landed.

Most larger rods aren’t compatible with smaller reels so you can’t get a lighter reel even though it would make the experience easier.

Bigger Steelhead You Would Catch With A Bigger Reel

Weight of the Reel

Another factor to consider is the weight of the reel you are going to use.

Fishing all day can take a lot out of you so it’s important to make sure your reel isn’t too heavy.

The longer you cast in the day, the more wear and tear it will put on your arms and hands.

If you plan on heading out all day on the water then you’ll want to stick with a 2000-2500 sized reel. If you’re only going for a few hours then you shouldn’t have any problems going up in weight.

How Long You Cast

The smaller the reel you decide to use, the shorter casts you’ll be able to make. So, if you were fishing off the shore it would be difficult to get your line out far enough to catch some steelhead.

The heavier the reel, the more likely it is that you are using a long rod. This will cause your line to get out much further than with a shorter rod.

Not to mention the larger your reel, the more line you get with it. Steelheads are known for taking off on some long runs so you’ll want to make sure you have plenty of line to accommodate.

If you’re only fishing off a pier or a boat then you can get away with using a smaller reel size since you won’t need the extra line.

Type of Water

The deeper the waters you get into, the bigger your steelheads may be. That means in order to reel them in, you’ll want to use a larger-sized reel.

The larger reels will use a thicker line and it will be harder for a steelhead to break it. Steelheads are also pretty aggressive during spawning season so they tend to run a lot when on the hook.

The larger reel will give you more durability and a long line to play with.

Shorter waters won’t need a large-sized reel because the steelheads themselves won’t be able to grow very large in the smaller water.

Size of Steelhead

As mentioned in some of the other sections above, larger steelheads require more durability from your reel.

This is especially true during their mating season when steelheads are their most active and aggressive.

The added hostility makes them take off when they get caught and it could mean disaster for your setup if you don’t have the right size reel.

Always look into the water you’re about to fish ahead of time and look at some of the average fish being caught there.

See if you’ll need to increase the size of your reel or if what you have will be good enough.

Smaller Steelhead You Will Catch With A Smaller Reel

What Else Makes a Reel Good for Steelhead

Size isn’t the only thing that will matter when you’re looking into a new reel for steelhead. There’s a number of other features on your reel you’ll want to pay close attention to make sure it’s going to work when you’re fishing.

Drag Rating

The drag on a fishing reel is the resistance you feel when a fish is on your line.

A higher drag rating means it can handle more of a fight from the steelhead before giving out and breaking. This will keep your hookups consistent throughout the day, which makes for easier reels overall.

One thing to note about high-drag fishing reels is that they tend to be very loud. This does not bother most fishermen but it may irritate some people in your group, so you’ll want to think about that before buying one of these reels for steelhead fishing.

If you can find a reel with some carbon fiber added in you won’t have to worry so much about anything breaking while reeling in a big one.

How Much Line it Takes

This goes hand in hand with the reel size talked about earlier. The amount of line is important, especially for steelheads, because the fish could use up to 50 yards of line when it gets hooked.

Not only that, but if you are fishing in a place that has a ton of rocks or other obstacles in the water, you have a high chance of your line getting caught and needing to cut it.

Having an extra line as backup or getting yourself a bigger reel to account for the difference will help you stay on the water longer.

Number of Bearings

The ball bearings inside of the reel help to make your fishing experience as smooth as possible.

The more bearings a reel has, the more smoothly it will do its job and the less likely you are to feel any of those jerks or hitches that happen on occasion with some reels.

The quality of the bearings is also extremely important, maybe more so than the number of bearings.

Either way, make sure you have at least five bearings in your reel so it doesn’t ruin your fishing experience with jerky stops.

Different Types Of Ball Bearings

Quality of the Spool

The spool has a surprisingly big effect on how your reel is going to cast. The shape of the lip can be important and also the line management system.

The higher quality reels will invest into a better spool, leading to a better overall experience.

You’ll be able to cast further than with an inexpensive reel and aim more precisely too.

If you are looking to save some money on a reel, keep in mind that it will not always perform the way you want.

The spool is circled in red.

The Retrieval Rate

The retrieval rate on a reel is how fast you can reel in your line once it has been cast.

This is especially important when fishing for steelheads because they can really put up a fight and take out a ton of drag.

Once the fish is tired and it’s your turn to bring it in you’ll want a reel that can match the aggressiveness of the steelhead. Otherwise, you might never be able to bring it in or get tired of trying.

The retrieval rate is also a big deal because if the steelhead happens to be swimming towards you after it is caught you want a reel that can pick up the slack in the line.

Price for Reels

The larger reel you opt for, the more expensive it will end up costing. The more durable and high-quality materials used in the reels will require a little extra investment.

Smaller reels may be more inexpensive than larger ones, but the price can also range in the quality of reel you buy.

You shouldn’t go for the most inexpensive reel if you really want to catch a decent-sized steelhead. They pose too much risk of breaking and there is nothing worse than losing a fish that is already on the line.

Size Isn’t Everything

Although a standard size reel for steelheads is 2000, the size isn’t the only factor you’ll want to consider when buying a reel. Keep in mind the tips laid out above before making your decision so you can make sure you’re setup is ready to catch the big one.

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