Centerpin Float Reel
A natural presentation and covering water are the cornerstones of successful steelheading. Centerpin float reels are unmatched in their ability to do both. They allow the line to pull off the spool freely as the float drifts downstream enabling amazingly long and perfectly natural drifts.
Spinning reels lack the line control and the instant response to a bite since the bail arm has to be engaged before setting the hook. Baitcasting reels, although adequate on big water with heavy gear, can’t cast light rigs effectively and lack the excitement of a centerpin’s direct one-to-one retrieve when fighting fish.
Although most anglers today have never heard of centerpin reels, they were the original fishing reels, pre-dating spinning, baitcasting and fly reels. They started as simple wooden spools that would run on a spindle attached to the rod. However, the designs greatly evolved with modern materials, hi-tech components and sophisticated engineering. Historically, the spool ran on bushings, but these reels were quickly replaced with the development of high-performance ball bearings. Most modern reels run on a pair of bearings to provide an ultra-smooth low-inertia spin, making it the perfect tool for float fishing.
There are a number of important considerations when selecting a centerpin, including: spool weight, diameter, ergonomics, balance, finish, design, bearings, maintenance, durability and tolerances.
- Spool Weight: Lightweight spools, as featured on the Raven® T-5, generally perform better with lighter setups, on smaller waters and are great for Wallis casting. A reel with a heavier spool (like the MATRIX™ XL) has the advantage with heavier setups and on larger waters. They are especially useful when batting-in (using flicks of the hand against the lip of the spool to retrieve) the float at the end of a drift.
- Diameter: Centerpins are generally available from 4″ to 5″; diameter. The larger the diameter, the quicker the retrieve. However, larger diameter reels are also heavier and need to be balanced with heftier gear. As a good rule of thumb, anything under 4.5″; balances best with float rods 13′; or less and anything over 4.5″ works best with rods 13′; or longer. The perfect all-round combo is the 4.5” SST-2 reel matched with the RAVEN® 13’ IM8 float rod. For smaller waters try the RAVEN® 11’6” Steelheader rod with a 4 3/8” Matrix reel. To tame big waters try the 5” MATRIX™ XL and the RAVEN® 15’ IM8 float rods
- Ergonomics: Does it fit comfortably in your hand?
- Balance: Does it properly balance with your float rod? Remember that a fully spooled reel increases in weight by about one ounce.
- Finish: Are all edges and corners polished smooth to avoid line damage, especially around the base of the foot?
- Design: Are the clicker and handles located in a convenient position? Are they likely to catch on the line?
- Bearings: Does the reel run smoothly? Does it start up easily? Can the tension on the bearings be adjusted or is it pre-set from the factory?
- Maintenance: Is it designed to be easy to maintain? (Avoid press-fit bearings and parts, which are difficult to remove and re-assemble.)
- Durability: Is it designed to last? (Avoid thin or notched spindles that can bend or break with heavy use.)
- Tolerances: Has it been machined to acceptable tolerances? (The gap between the spool and the back plate should be tight enough so that line cannot easily get behind the spool yet large enough to prevent fine debris or frost from binding the spool.)
Once you have your rod and reel matched up, it is time to spool up the reel with a good main line.