Why Does My Fishing Reel Spin Both Ways?

Why Does My Fishing Reel Spin Both Ways?

There are several reasons why your fishing reel spins both ways. The most common problem is that something is wrong with the anti-reverse, which can be fixed. It could also be the drag is not set right or is broken, or there is something wrong with the bail. 

To figure out the problem, you may have to go through some trial and error to find the right solution. Technically, fishing reels are supposed to spin both ways but not all the time.

Why Your Reel Might Spin Both Ways

1. The Anti-Reverse

How Does the Anti-Reverse System Work?

The anti-verse will stop the fishing reel from spinning in the wrong direction. Switching the anti-reserve on will stop the spool and handle from spinning backward. It will also stop the line from coming off the spool.

If it is not engaged, then both the handle and spool can spin in both directions.

The Problem and How to Fix It

If your reel is spinning in both directions, check if you have the anti-reverse switch engaged. If switched on, the problem might be in the anti-reverse switch or the entire system. There could be components that are broken or misaligned.

To diagnose and fix a problem with the anti-reverse component, this is how you do it.

  • Check to ensure the reverse switch is not stuck in the off position.
  • If it is stuck, you’ll need to disassemble it.
  • Unscrew and take off the housing cap, remove the rotor nut and spool washers. Take off the rotor assembly to find the clutch bearing. You will need to unscrew the screws by the rim next to the bearing cap.
  • Once all the screws are removed, take out the clutch assembly. Do not move the pinion. This is an important piece that needs to stay in place.
  • See if the roller clutch sleeve is nested inside the large-diameter busing. You will need to realign the clutch bearing so it sits right into the anti-reverse clutch.
  • If you see any visible broken parts, you will need to have them replaced by a professional.

2. The Bail

How Does the Bail Work?

The fishing reel is designed to spin both ways, but not at once. The bail is the U-shaped wire that is moved from one position to the other. In the open position, the bail will allow you to cast your line. The handle and spool will spin in reverse to let the line off the spool.

When in the closed position, it will stop the handle and spool from spinning in reverse, meaning you must have it in the closed position to reel in the line. For casting or retrieval, make sure that you have the bail in the correct position on the spinning reel.

The Problem and How to Fix It

If the bail is placed correctly for casting or retrieving and it is still spinning in both directions, then there is probably something wrong with the bail. 

To find out if this is the problem, take off the bail, unscrew it, and then look at the inside of the bail. You want to make sure that the bail is in good condition and in one piece.

If there are any broken components in the bail system, this could be the problem, so you will need to replace the damaged parts.

3. The Drag 

How Does the Drag Work?

The drag you find on a fishing reel controls how much pressure the fish can put on the line in the reverse direction without the fish pulling the line out. The drag system will keep the handle and spool from spinning in the wrong direction but only up to a certain pressure point.

Once the fish has applied more pressure than the drag can handle, the spool and handle will be released to let the line out. The biggest benefit is that the fishing line won’t snap.

The Problem and How to Fix It

If the drag is set too low, the fish can pull the line out too easily and cause the spool and handle to spin in the wrong direction. To fix this, just increase the setting of the drag and recalibrate for the size of the fish you want to catch. If this doesn’t work, the drag system could be broken.

Try removing the components in the drag system and cleaning them. The pieces will need to be replaced if anything is broken.

4. Free Spool/Baitrunner Feature

Some fishing reels, particularly certain types of baitcasting reels or specialized models, may have a feature called “free spool” or “baitrunner,” where the handle can rotate in both directions when the reel is disengaged. This allows for controlled line release when using certain fishing techniques or for live bait fishing.

If you have such a reel and are experiencing this behavior, it is likely normal operation.

Make sure to also check:


Why Do Some Spinning Reels Have Reverse?

While not all spinning reels have a reverse feature, it can be beneficial in specific fishing scenarios.

The reverse feature allows anglers to quickly retrieve excess line and prevent line tangling or spool overrun. If there is loose line or slack on the spool, engaging the reverse function can help reel in the excess line efficiently.

In situations where the fishing line gets snagged or tangled, the reverse feature can be useful. By engaging the reverse function and gently pulling the line in the opposite direction, you can potentially free the line from obstacles without having to untangle it manually.

During the fight with a powerful fish, using the reverse function can provide additional control and help you reel in the fish effectively.

Check the video below for more details on how to use the anti-reverse button.

How to use the anti-reverse button

Make sure to also check:

What Causes Line Twist on a Spinning Reel?

If the fishing line is not spooled onto the reel properly, it can lead to line twist. If the line is twisted or spooled unevenly, it may come off the spool in a twisted manner, resulting in line twist during casting and retrieval.

To avoid this, make sure to spool the line onto the reel evenly and under proper tension. You can use a line spooler or have someone hold the line tension while spooling.

Spinning reels have a bail that guides the line onto the spool. If the line is coming off the line spool in the opposite direction of the bail’s twist, it can cause line twist. To prevent this, make sure the line is spooled onto the reel in the same direction as the bail’s twist.

Casting with excessive force or using a jerky retrieval motion can cause the line to twist as it comes off the spool. To minimize line twist, use smooth and controlled casting motions and avoid sudden or jerky movements during retrieval.

Some fishing lines, especially monofilament lines, tend to retain memory and develop coils or loops, leading to line twist. To reduce line memory, you can soak the line in warm water or stretch it gently before spooling it onto the reel. Alternatively, consider using low-memory lines such as braided or fluorocarbon lines.

Why Does My Reel Keep Unwinding?

The drag system on your reel might be set too loose, causing the line to release freely when there is tension or a slight pull. Check the drag setting on your reel and adjust it accordingly to provide enough resistance to prevent the line from unwinding unintentionally.

Line twist can cause the line to unwind from the reel unexpectedly. Ensure that the line is properly spooled onto the reel, minimize casting techniques that induce twist, and consider replacing the line if it is old or prone to excessive twisting.

There may be an issue with the reel’s internal components or mechanisms that are causing it to unwind. If you suspect a mechanical issue with your reel, it might be necessary to have it inspected, repaired, or serviced by a professional.

The anti-reverse mechanism on your reel is designed to prevent the handle from turning backward, which in turn prevents the line from unwinding when you’re not actively retrieving.

If the anti-reverse mechanism is faulty or not engaging properly, it can result in the reel continuously unwinding.

Sometimes, the unwinding issue may be caused by user error, such as inadvertently disengaging the reel’s anti-reverse or not properly securing the line on the spool. Double-check that the anti-reverse switch or lever is engaged, and ensure the line is securely fastened to the spool using an appropriate knot.

How Do You Change the Direction of a Fishing Reel?

Changing the direction of a fishing reel refers to switching the handle from one side of the reel to the other. This is typically done to accommodate the angler’s dominant hand or personal preference.

Here are some general steps to follow:

  1. Determine the Handle Side: Identify the current position of the handle on your fishing reel. The handle is typically located on the right side of the reel for right-handed anglers and on the left side for left-handed anglers.
  2. Locate the Handle Screw: Look for the handle screw or retaining nut that secures the handle to the reel body. It is usually located near the base of the handle.
  3. Loosen the Handle Screw: Use a suitable screwdriver or tool to loosen the handle screw or retaining nut. Turn it counterclockwise (left) to loosen it and remove the handle from the reel body.
  4. Remove the Handle: Once the handle screw is sufficiently loosened, carefully pull the handle straight off the reel body. Set it aside temporarily.
  5. Prepare for Handle Reversal: Assess the opposite side of the reel body where you intend to install the handle. Ensure there is a handle screw or retaining nut on that side as well.
  6. Reattach the Handle: Take the handle and align it with the handle screw or retaining nut on the opposite side of the reel body. Insert the handle into the designated slot or hole, making sure it fits securely.
  7. Tighten the Handle Screw: Use the screwdriver or tool to tighten the handle screw or retaining nut on the new side. Turn it clockwise (right) to secure the handle firmly to the reel body. Ensure it is tightened adequately but not excessively to avoid damaging the reel.
  8. Test the Handle: Give the handle a gentle tug or rotation to ensure it is securely attached and functions smoothly. Verify that it feels comfortable and operates correctly in the new position.

Check the video below for more details on how to change the handle of a fishing reel from one side to the other.

How to change the handle of a fishing reel form one side to the other

It’s worth noting that not all reels are designed to allow handle reversal, especially some low-profile baitcasting reels or reels with specialized configurations. In such cases, it may not be possible to change the handle direction.

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