When Was The Spinning Reel Invented?

Spinning reels are the best type of fishing reels of all time, for all the right reasons. They have a wide variety of applications, including ice fishing, surf fishing, bobber fishing, fishing with rigs, live or dead bait, or with artificial lures.


The modern fishing reels allow for further casting distance with high accuracy, in addition to the tension and speed of the fishing line retrieval, which prevents its snap and hook dislodgement.


These great functions raised so many questions about spinning reels, and one of them is “when was the spinning reel invented?”
That is what I will be answering in detail in the next few lines.

When Was The Spinning Reel Invented?

When Was The Spinning Reel Invented?

Originated in China

The first fishing reel was first by the Chinese around 300 AD or 400 AD, till 17th century, there were no proofs regarding this other than several Chinese paintings.

  • The 14th century’s painting “Lives of Famous Immortals” is the first known text that mentions the spinning reel
  • In 1195, the Chinese painter Ma Yuan painted a painting that shows a fisherman using a fishing rod with a spinning reel in his boat. The painting’s name is (Angler on a Wintry Lake).
  • The painter Wu Zhen (1280–1354) also has many paintings that include fishing rods and fishing reels.
  • The 13th-century Chinese encyclopedia named (Collected Illustrations of the Three Realms) included the first detailed painting of spinning reels.
  • • Not only this but also there is an Armenian parchment from the thirteenth century that includes a spinning reel
  • Fishing reels may have been originated in China, but the development later was done in England and the United States of America.


Development in England


1650 C.E was the time when fishing reels were seen in England and the whole of Europe for the first time ever.


In England Western Hemisphere. An incident is shown in a selection from (The Art of Angling), where he revealed some rare secrets, as he said:


“The manner of his Trouling was, with a Hazel Rod of 12 foot long, with a Ring of Wyre in the top of his Rod, for his Line to run thorow: within two foot of the bottom of the Rod there was a hole made, for to put in a winde, to turne with a barrel, to gather up his Line, and loose at his pleasure; this was his manner of Trouling”
Thomas Barker

Later on, the fishing industry became so famous in England in the 18th century, where the fishing rods and limited spinning reel types were sold at many places.


The modern spinning reel function and design started to become famous during the late 18th century, and the main element model was also named after a city Nottingham, which was known as the Nottingham reel.


Nottingham fishing reel was so easy to use and it was used by many anglers. It was freely spooled out with so much wider diameter.


The design later started to improve from the 19th century, as the multiplying reel was invented, with a ratio of up to 3:1 (3 turns of the main drum for each turn of the handle). But this type of spinning reel did not gain big popularity in Britain.


Later in 1810, George Snyder of Paris added some modifications to this fishing reel. And he started selling it the in United States of America. Where it gained massive popularity and achieved more success. And that was the first baitcasting reel in history.


At first woods for a fly rod, spinning reel type was made by horsehair. but later silk line was introduced to cast flies in wind. These lines had a larger casting distance.


Yes, silk lines did allow for further casting distance, but the angler’s need for more fishing lines on their fishing reel resulted in entangling. So the spinning reel had to get upgraded with the regulator to evenly spool the fishing line out.

In 1874 the American Charles F. Orvis came up with the first fully modern fly reel. While in 1905, the English politician and businessman Albert H. Illingworth came up with the modern model of the fixed spool spinning reel.


This new model included a fishing line pickup that restrained and rewound a fishing line when it was casting. allowing for so much lighter in weight lures to be cast since the fishing line did not pull against the rotating spool.

Now let’s talk about the origin of different fishing reel types in detail.

Origin of the different types of fishing reels

Fly reel

Fly Fishing-Reel

This reel type is a single-action fishing reel, simply work by stripping the fishing line off the fishing reel with your dominant hand, and casting the fishing rod with the other hand at the same time.


The fly reel is mainly designed to store fishing line, offer smooth uninterrupted tension (drag) if a big fish makes a long run, while counterbalancing your fly rod’s weight while casting.

fly fishing reels have always been so simple in construction, they have slightly changed from the design innovated in 1874 by Charles F. Orvis.


Charles came up with the fly fishing reels idea by using lightweight metals with multiple perforated holes for designing the housing, which resulted in a lighter fly fishing reel that at the same time permitted the spooled fly line to dry more quickly than the conventional reel.


These reel types did not have a drag system, but they were fitted with a click mechanism, designed to protect the fly fishing reel from overrunning when the fly line gets pulled from the spool.


To slow a larger fish down, the fisherman needed to exert hand pressure to the rim of the orbit. And after a while, this old mechanism got upgraded to offer a limited adjustable drag system.


The multiplier reel types were so popular earlier. featuring a geared line retrieve of 2:1 or 3:1, allowing for quicker retrieval of the fly line.


But their heavyweight, hard to use and high-cost features did not justify the perk of faster fly line retrieval for many fishermen. That is the reason why they are barely used nowadays.


Saltwater fly reels

Saltwater fishing reels are designed to be used in the ocean.
Saltwater fly reels have a much larger spool’s diameter than freshwater fly fishing reels. Providing better line retrieve ratio and more fly line and backing capacity, which optimizes the construction for many trips of powerful ocean game fish.


Saltwater fly reels for saltwater fishing utilize the following to prevent corrosion.
• Electroplated or stainless steel components
• Sealed and waterproof bearing
• Drive mechanisms.


Centrepin reel

Centrepin reel


Also known as a center pin and float reel. It is a fishing reel that freely runs on its axle.
During the 1950s and 1960s, a lot of fishermen in England started fishing using a centrepin reel. And nowadays the centrepin is used by coarse anglers.


Instead of the drag system, the fisherman’s thumb is mainly used to take over the fish.
Fishing in the margins for carp with lightweight fishing tackle is very common with a ‘pin’ and is usually used for ‘trotting’.


What is trotting? It is a method were afloat on the fishing line suspends a lure at a definite depth for flowing with the current with the waterway.

Sidecast reel

Sidecast reel

The side cast fishing reel shares some features of the centrepin reel, with adding bracket, allowing the fishing reel to get rotated 90° to the fishing rod for casting. and then simply return to its position to retrieve the line.

While casting, the spool is perpendicular to the fishing rod, opening the fishing reel’s face, which allows the fishing line to run off the spool’s side.


Sidecast reels were first invented by Australians, they are the ones who made “Alvey”. This reel type is widely used by anglers there for all forms of freshwater and saltwater fishing. They mainly use it for surf casting.

Baitcasting reel

Baitcasting reel

Baitcast reels are mounted above the fishing rod, that is why they are called “the overhead reels” in New Zealand and Australia,
These reel types have been around since the mid-17th century, but in 1870 they became widely popular by amateur anglers.

The first bait casting reel models were designed using brass or iron gears, casings, and spools made of brass and hard rubber

Featuring multiplying gears from 2:1 to 4:1, those fishing reels did not have a drag system, and anglers used to use their thumbs on the spool to give resistance to runs by a big fish.


In the 1870s, some bait casting reel models utilized bearings to mount the spool. Since the free-spinning spool used to lead to backlash during strong pulls on the fishing line.


Baitcasting reel users, later on, found out that that the clicking noise of the pawls offered an essential warning that a fish had taken the live bait, which allows the fishing rod and fishing reel to be left in a rod holder during waiting for a strike by a catch.

What are the disadvantages of bait casting reels?

  • To make the most of your bait casting reel, you need to have previous experience and a great skill set. That is what makes bait casting reels such a bad choice for amateur and beginner anglers.
  • There are high chances of getting backlashes while casting with no proper techniques.
  • You have to know so well about spool tension adjustment for various spool sizes.
  • Suitable for heavier lures only.
  • More expensive than spinning reels.

Conventional reel

Conventional reel

A conventional reel (aka trolling reel) is the same as the baitcasting reel in terms of cylinder position since it is perpendicular to the fishing rod.


In this setup, the fishing line doesn’t go over the spool’s end as it does with a spinning reel.
Conventional reels come in two types, star drag, and lever drag reels.

Spinning reel (fixed spool reel)

Spinning reel (fixed spool reel)

In 1870 the fixed spool reel type was used in North America. This type was modified to permit the use of artificial flies, or other types lures while catching salmon or trout.


You will usually find the spinning reel or the fixed spool reel mounted below the fishing rod. This position does conform to gravity, while needing no wrist strength for maintaining the reel in position.

For right-handed users, the spinning rod should be held and cast with the right hand, letting the left hand free for operating the crank handle mounted on the left side of the fixed spool reel.


As a matter of fact, the fixed spool reel solved the issue of backlash, as it has no rotating spool to overrun and foul the fishing line.


Holden Illingworth is the first known name that is associated with the modern fishing reels of this type. While casting the Illingworth reel, the fishing line was found drawn off the spool’s leading edge, but was restrained and rewound by a line pickup, (a device revolving around the stationary spool).

Later in 1948, the Mitchell Reel Company of Cluses in France released Mitchell 300 spinning reel, which oriented the fixed spool reel face forward in a permanently fixed position beneath the rod.

Spincasting reels

spincast reels

The first commercial spin cast reel was released in 1949 by the Zero Hour Bomb Company (ZEBCO) and Denison-Johnson Reel Company.


The spincasting reels were found to solve the issue of backlash found in baitcasting reel designs, by decreasing the fishing line twist and snare issues encountered with traditional spinning reel designs.


Just like the fixed spool reel, the fishing line gets thrown from a fixed spool and could be utilized with light lures and baits.
Usually mounted above the fishing rod, the spincast reel is fitted with an external nose cone which protects the fixed spool as well.


Underspin reel

the origin of the Underspin reel

Underspin reels (aka Triggerspin reels) are spincasting reels where the reel is mounted below a standard spinning rod.


With the weight of the fishing reel suspended below the fishing rod, underspin reels are so much more comfortable to cast and hold for longer fishing trips.


Not only has this, but its ability to use all standard rods increases its versatility in comparison with traditional spincasting reels.

FAQ about When Was The Spinning Reel Invented?

What are the most popular fishing reel brands?

What are the most popular fishing reel brands
  • Abu Garcia
  • Quantum
  • Shakespeare Fishing Tackle
  • Lews
  • Alvey Reels
  • Daiwa Corporation
  • Penn Reels
  • Pflueger
  • Scientific Anglers
  • Zebco
  • Okuma
  • Kastking
  • 13 fishing
  • Piscifun
  • Shimano

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