Centerpin vs Fly Reel: Which is Right for You?

Thomas Krik

Written by

Thomas Krik

Marc Lowe


Marc Lowe

centerpin vs fly reel

The choice between a centerpin vs fly reel will depend on the fishing technique used by the angler. Their main difference is the presence of a drag system that prevents the line from breaking in case a strong fish bites the bait.

In this article, you will learn everything about the centerpin and fly reel. Meanwhile, you can check out the table below and have a quick look at the differences between these two famous reels.

Aspect Centerpin Reel Fly Reel
Design Spool rotates freely on a central pin Spool rotates based on a drag system
Purpose Primarily used for float fishing and centerpinning Primarily used for fly fishing
Drag System Does not have a drag system Has a drag system
Weight Generally heavier than fly reels Generally lighter than centerpin reels
Reel Size Larger in size, suitable for larger rods Smaller in size, suitable for fly rods

Overview of Centerpin and Fly Reel

1. About centerpin reel


Centerpin reels are hand-controlled, free-spooling reels. They are primarily employed in centerpin fishing, a technique favored for targeting salmon and steelhead. There are two types of centerpin reels: bushing and bearing reels.

  1. Bushing reels: They are smoother and faster to load during start-up, making them more favorable among most anglers.
  2. Bearing reels: They are slower to load before they actually spin during start-up.

Centerpin reels are popular with anglers because of their simplicity, exceptional control, and sensitivity. They allow anglers to precisely present their baits or lures and detect even the most subtle bites.

2. About fly reel


Meanwhile, fly reels play a crucial role in fly fishing, a technique centered around casting lightweight artificial flies. Therefore, fly reels are well-suited for beginners.

Fly reels have a drag system that facilitates line management during a fight with a fish. This drag resistance is essential for effectively playing and landing fish.

Fly Reel vs Centerpin – Differences and Comparison

1. Cost Range


Centerpin reels usually range from around $100 for entry-level models to several hundred dollars for premium options.

Custom or handcrafted centerpin reels can be even more expensive, costing from a few hundred dollars to over a thousand dollars.

Meanwhile, fly reels come in various sizes and weights to match different setups. The cost of fly reels depends on brand, materials, and features. Entry-level fly reels start at around $30 to $50, while mid-range options range from $100 to $300.

High-end fly reels from reputable brands can cost $300 to over $1,000, offering advanced features and premium materials.

2. Durability


Centerpin reels are known for their robust construction and exceptional reliability; they are engineered to endure extended periods of use in challenging fishing environments.

These reels are commonly made from aluminum or stainless steel. It enables them to withstand the immense forces exerted by larger fish. They are also corrosion-resistant even when exposed to water and other environmental elements.

On the other hand, fly reels commonly undergo lightweight construction to optimize balance and maneuverability during fly fishing. They are usually made from plastic, machined aluminum, or graphite composites.

They strike a delicate balance between strength and weight. While they may not possess the same level of sheer ruggedness as centerpin reels, fly reels are made to withstand the pressures of engaging in battles with fish and to endure regular wear and tear.

3. Design


The centerpin reel operates on the free-spooling principle. Anglers may then exert control over the line release by using their fingers to apply pressure on the spinning spool.

Meanwhile, the fly reel is a storage and retrieval system for the specialized fly line used in fly fishing. Its drag system applies resistance to the spool, allowing anglers to control the tension on the line when a fish is hooked.

4. Best Uses of Centerpin Reel and Fly Reel


While there are no center pin reels with drag, they are great for float fishing. Due to its larger diameter and free-spinning design, the center pin grants great control over line management along rivers and streams.

Meanwhile, the fly reel is used for fly fishing, a technique that hinges on delicately presenting artificial flies as lures. Designed to effectively hold and manipulate the fly line, the fly reel is instrumental in achieving precise casting.

It also boasts a drag system to skillfully navigate the spirited runs of formidable fish, enabling anglers to successfully engage, play, and land their prized catches.

5. Pros and Cons

1. Centerpin Reel

  • Natural drift: They allow for a more authentic presentation of lures.
  • Smooth spin: They will spin smoothly, whether backward or forward.
  • Longer rod: Rods designed for center pin reels tend to be relatively long, enhancing line control when you cast a centrepin reel.
  • Drag-free drift: Centerpin reels allow their bait to move naturally with the current, increasing the chances of attracting fish.
  • The absence of a drag system can place additional strain on the angler and increase the likelihood of line breaks or lost catches.
  • Expensive: Certain varieties of centerpin reels, particularly those crafted with premium materials and intricate manufacturing processes, are expensive.

2. Fly Reel

  • Made from premium materials: Its manufacturing process utilizes high-grade aluminum, ensuring a robust and long-lasting construction.
  • Easy hand exchange: Passing the fishing rod to another person becomes effortlessly smooth, requiring minimal exertion.
  • Drag System: Itallows for convenient customization of reel tension to suit individual preferences.
  • Single handle: No second handle reduces the angler’s control and leverage over the reel, increasing the risk of losing the fish during the battle.
  • Lacks a hold-ratchet feature: Limited resistance to prevent the line from unwinding unintentionally.

Which is Better Between Centerpin Reel vs Fly Reel?


The centerpin fishing reel provides good line control and drift presentation. Its hallmark feature is a smooth and consistent drag-free drift.

In contrast, the fly reel is used in fly fishing, where the weight of the line is for casting the fly. Fly reels have a drag system that enables anglers to successfully battle larger fish, rendering them suitable for a wider range of species and fishing scenarios.

Moreover, fly fishing techniques encompass nymphing, streamer fishing, and dry fly fishing, thereby offering versatility in different fishing situations.

Ultimately, the choice between a centerpin reel and a fly reel rests upon the angler’s fishing style, target species, and individual preferences.


Due to their superior line control and precision, centerpin reels are ideal for drift fishing. They perform admirably in situations where the finesse of presentation and long drifts are essential.

Fly reels, on the other hand, are tailor-made for fly fishing, which entails casting small artificial flies. Fly reels are specifically designed to hold fly lines and use drag systems to tire down larger fish.

While both can be used to catch big fish, the choice between a centerpin vs fly reel depends on the angler’s preferences, the species being pursued, and water conditions.

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