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What Do Fishing Reel Numbers Mean?

Understanding the numbers on the reel can be complicated because of the plethora of choices. What do they mean? Which one is right for me? Let’s break down those numbers one by one.

What do fishing reel numbers mean?

The numbers on the fishing reel represent the size of the reel. The numbers 1000-9000 tell us the diameter of the spool. Small-sized reels from 1000-3500 are most suitable for catching small fish. The greater the number, the more line you’ll be able to hold and hence have a stronger drag system.

Reel size from 1000-3500 is usually best to catch fish that are less than 15 pounds. A fishing reel size greater than 4000 is made for large fish, but more than 5000 can be a bit too much for smaller species.

You’ll be able to hold more lines if you have a bigger spool. Sizes greater than 6000 are best for boat and beach fishing. They can catch fish such as Tailor, Kingfish, Groper, Mulloway, Samson Fish, Morwong, Cod, Snapper, Aust Salmon, and others.

These numbers are mainly seen on spinning reels and rarely on baitcasting reels. This is because baitcasting reels all have the same spool size.

Your baitcasting reel could have the numbers 150 and 151. 150 is for the right-handed baitcasting reel, and 151 is for the left-handed baitcasting reel. So do not confuse the two!

In general, spinning reels have their sizes depicted in thousands, double figures, and sometimes hundreds. It can be confusing, but 2500, 25, and 250 are all the same size. This is why you only have to focus on the first two numbers of your reel.

Which size should you get? That depends on various factors, but in the end, it all comes down to personal preference. These factors are what kind of fish you want to catch, line strength, and where you’ll be fishing.

What does 1000 mean on a fishing reel?

It is a small spool size, and the biggest advantage of a fishing reel of size 1000 is that it is lightweight. This is best for a line of 4-8 pounds. Fishes such as bass, walleye, yellow perch, and trout are easy to catch with this spool size.

And freshwater, bays, and harbors are suited for a fishing reel of this size(For very light fishing). However, every spool size has its benefits and drawbacks.


  • You can be more in control since it’s highly light
  • Enables higher sensitivity


  • Susceptible to tangling since small spool threshold
  • Not as quick as greater sized reels

What does 2500 mean on a fishing reel?

2500 is the most in-demand size on a fishing reel. This is primarily because it’s not too big nor too small. Just the perfect size! Fishes such as Northern Pike, Bass, and Walleye can be caught with this size. Light fishing can be done in freshwater, bays, and harbors.


  • Not prone to tangling since wide spool of line
  • Very extendable


  • Basic and not as specialized as reel size of 1000.

What does 3000 mean on a fishing reel?

The braid line strength suggested for this size is 6-14 pounds, and the monoline strength suggested is 6-10 pounds. You can even catch fish like Catfish of this size.


  • Smooth overall feel with reel
  • Less likely to tangle and enables additional strength


  • It could be too heavy for some people

What does 3500 mean on a fishing reel?

This reel size is perfect for fishing in large lakes and protected coastal waters. The braid and mono line strength needed is the same as the 3000 size fishing reel. Moreover, it can even hold a rod up to 10-feet.


  • The braided line comes off easily
  • Reels in comparatively faster


  • Very large

What does 4000 mean on a fishing reel?

Fishes such as Barramundi, Drummer, Mangrove Jack, Bone Fish, Redfish, Muskie, Snook, and Snapper can be caught with this spool size. It is mostly suitable for medium fishing offshore.

Its braid line strength can be up to 20 pounds, whereas mono line strength would be below 12 pounds.

What does 5000 mean on a fishing reel?

This size is ideal for species that are mid-sized and can perfectly hold rods that are 7-8 feet. It can fit a barramundi or snapper style rod. Keep in mind that whichever reel seat you select on the rod will hold the bigger foot on the reel.

Their braid line strength can go up to 25 pounds, and monoline strength can go up to 14 pounds. 

What does 6000 mean on a fishing reel?

This is when the reel size is starting to get heavy. And it means you’ll start to get very tired when you’re fishing for a long period of time. The braid line strength suggested starts from 12 pounds and goes up to 30 pounds.

The monoline strength starts from 12 pounds and goes up to 16 pounds. Boat fishing, beach, or rock fishing can be done with this reel size.

What does 9000 mean on a fishing reel?

These large reels are designed for catching big fishes such as Sharks, Roosterfish, Large Mackerel, GT, Dorado, Mahi Mahi, Tuna, and Wahoo. Their braid line strength is up to 50 pounds.

They can hold heavy rods and are suitable for offshore boat fishing, rock fishing, and even surfcasting.

There are bigger fishing reel sizes that can go up to 30,000! These are used for heavy offshore saltwater fishing, and you can even catch a Sailfish.

Is a 4000 reel too big for bass?

Unfortunately, yes. The ideal size for bass fishing is between 1000 to 3500. You should note that any size fishing reel is going to catch fish. You could get bass, but it’s highly unlikely.  Reel size of more than 3500 can be a bit of an over for small species.

If you have a bigger reel, you can catch Striped Bass with a reel size of 6000 to 7500.

Reel size of 2500 is the ideal size to catch bass. It’s not too light nor too heavy, which is why it’s perfect. It also has an average drag system.

The table below shows the suggested reel size, braid line strength, and monoline strength for bass fishing.

Reel SizeBraid Line StrengthMono Line Strength
10004 to 8 pounds2 to 4 pounds
20005 to 10 pounds4 to 6 pounds
25005 to 12 pounds5 to 8 pounds
30006 to 14 pounds6 to 10 pounds
35006 to 14 pounds6 to 10 pounds

How do I know what size reel to buy?

That is up to you, but you should consider a few factors first.

  • Do you prefer your reel to be light or heavy?
  • Do you fish in saltwater or freshwater?
  • What type of fish do you want to catch?

The lower the size of the reel, the lighter and smaller your reel will be. If you fish in freshwater, then you probably aim for smaller fish which is why you don’t need a large reel. But fishing in saltwater requires stronger lines, hence bigger fish.

Overall, if you’re looking to catch bigger fish, you need a bigger reel size. Preferably over 4000. Although, for very big fish, go for over 6000! You should match the reel size to your rod.

What is the best gear ratio for a fishing reel?

There is no ‘best’ gear ratio for a fishing reel. Different gear ratios are suited for different types of fishing reels. There’s a huge difference between the gear ratio of baitcasting reels and a spinning reel. That’s why it’s better if you buy it according to the type of fish you want to catch.

If you’re a beginner, then it’s recommended to start with a lower gear ratio. You can start with 6:1 to 6:4:1. On some reels, it takes time to perform well with a higher gear ratio.

The greater the number of revolutions in the gear ratio, the lower the power. But the speed can be adjusted.

You’ll have to spin the crank fewer times if the gear ratio of your fishing reel is high compared to a fishing reel with a lower gear ratio. For example, if your fishing reel gear ratio is 6.2, then you’ll have to spin the spool 6.2 times every time you crank the handle.

It is easier to catch a fish with a high gear ratio than a low gear ratio. A low gear ratio is something between 5:1 to 5:4:1. And a high gear ratio starts from 7:1 to 8:1:1. A high gear ratio on a fishing reel has many advantages such as:

  • More control over how much pressure is applied on the spool.
  • Fast, which means you can catch more fish.
  • It is recommended for a high-speed chase, for example, in a speeding boat.

Advantages of low gear ratio on a fishing reel:

  • Can catch slow-moving fish
  • Good for fishing in cold water and deep water.

There is also a medium gear ratio on a fishing reel, but they are average and aren’t useful for specialized fishing. They can be used by beginners.

However, at the end of the day, you need to match your line, reel, and rod to the type and size of fish you want to catch.  It’s important to keep these in mind the next time you’re going to buy a fishing reel. Happy Fishing! 

Frequently Asked Questions:

What is the purpose of backing on a fishing reel?

Are fishing reel handles interchangeable?

How does fishing reel drag work?

Why are fishing reels left handed?

Why does fishing reel go backwards?

How to store fishing reels?