A Brief Look at Overhead Reels.

For many people looking at getting into game fishing for the first time, the myriad of options available when it comes to tackle can be almost overwhelming.
An in depth look at every overhead reel available on the market today would take up the whole magazine and probably bore you to death. The following is intended purely as a rough guide only for those interested in investing in their first overhead style reel.

With this in mind, let's take a look at what is on offer with two of the best known names in the world of game fishing today, Penn and Shimano.
Both companies have an extensive range of "thread-line" style reels suitable for light tackle game fishing yet it is the overhead style reels that seem to cause the most confusion among new comers to the sport.
For the purpose of the exercise let us break the reels down loosely into the following three categories: Specialist bait-casters, Lever Drag Reels and Star Drag Reels.

Specialist bait-casters include the Penn International series and Shimano's Calcutta range.
These reels are the overhead equivalent of the spinning reel, predominantly used for the casting and retrieval of lures but with the added benefits of all over-head style reels:

  • Unlike thread-line reels, which throw a twist in the line with every rotation of the handle whilst the clutch is slipping, bait-casters can be continuously wound with zero line twist problems.
  • Drag settings can be adjusted far more easily throughout the fight as the drag knob is set on the side of the handle and negates having to reach around the front of the reel to adjust the setting whilst the line is hopefully screaming off the reel.

This therefore gives you greater control over your adversary.
(Note:- Drag settings should be monitored closely if you are continuously winding against a slipping clutch as this will create additional heat to the drag plate, which in turn increases the drag setting as the plate expands.)
The majority of specialist bait-casters are level-wind style reels, that is to say they have a device that distributes the line evenly on the spool without the angler's assistance as it is retrieved.

Lever Drag Reels
Lever drags offer the greatest control of all for the experienced angler. These reels range from lightweight outfits up to the truly serious big game International and Tiagra range.
Drag control is as easy as sliding a lever, however, for the novice angler this can cause its own problems in the heat of battle, many a fish has been broken off by the nervous temptation to slam the drag forward and try and halt a fast emptying spool.
One of the beauties about lever drags is that you can pre-set your drag settings (using a set of scales) before you start fishing and mark them on the reel with a marker pen for later reference during a fight, thereby removing a lot of the guess work and risk out of drag adjustment.
Many of the middle of the range lever drag reels such as the GLS, LD and TLD series offer an excellent and affordable alternative for those anglers who aren't likely to get the use out of, and therefore can't justify the expense of purchasing, the "Rolls Royce" end of the game reel market.
For those who can, and are seeking the best possible advantage against that once in a lifetime fish, there is nothing that will surpass the performance of a quality "two speed" lever drag reel. These have a low set of gears for fighting and, at the push of a button, another set for high-speed line retrieval when necessary.

Star Drag Reels
The range of star drag reels on the market today is extensive to say the least. They range from small lightweight affairs to heavier duty game fishing reels, from level-winds to surf casting reels and many make great multi purpose reels that suit everything from "bottom-bashing" to casting and light game trolling.
They are usually robust in construction and easy to use. The star drag system requires more of a conscious effort on the part of the angler to adjust and is therefore more forgiving in the heat of battle.  
Look for names such as Senator, GTI, Longbeach and Jigmaster just to name a few.
The range is so great that advice from your local tackle store is definitely advisable to ensure you get the right reel to suit your needs.

Once you have chosen the type of reel best suited to your needs, then select a rod to suit the reel. A well-balanced outfit is a pleasure to use and can easily be the difference between a successful, enjoyable day - and going home empty handed and frustrated.

For those anglers looking to cast overhead reels for the first time I would advise you to ask the guy's at your local tackle store for some pointers first and then practice, practice, practice - "birds nests" are an integral part of learning the art of casting any overhead reel, it's bad enough untangling them at home in your backyard but get a "birds nest" when the fish are eating everything in sight and it will cause a major tantrum.  Trust me!!

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