Bearings, one of the more important factors a lot of anglers use to consider how good a reel is. I have overheard without intentions of eavesdropping that this reel is better because it has more bearings than the other one; or you should get this reel because it has got more bearings.
So, what are bearings? Bearings are in general little things that could be shaped like balls or cylinders that helps to reduce friction between parts. In general that is what bearings really are but then why are they so important that anglers use them as a means of judging how good a reel is?
The bearing at the spool.
Fishing And Heat
Our reels work really hard when we fish. It works hard when we are casting (bait casting reels especially). They work hard when we retrieve our lures or baits. They work hard when we are fighting fishes. They even work hard when we are spooling in lines, removing lines, etc. When they work, friction amongst parts creates heat.
Big game anglers that play with turbocharged high performance fishes can attest to how hot a reel can get when in battle. Reels have burnt with parts inside breaking mid fight. Some reels get so hot that they could lightly burn one’s skin. Thus you sometimes hear stories of people pouring water on their reels mid fight to cool it down. Heat is caused by friction.
Reels get really hot especially when managing a fast and hard running fish like a sailfish.
Why Use Bearings?
First off, I want to make clear that personally I am not a believer in the “more bearings is better gospel.” I believe that the efficient use of bearings is more important than the amount of bearings. That said, bearings are super important because they help to reduce friction thus reducing reel breakage mid fight. They also help with stability and balance.
Bearing reduces friction and provides for smoother operations.
Types Of Bearings Found In Reels
Inside your fishing reels there are basically 3 types of bearings and they all have a role to play. These bearings are:
Radial bearings are found on reel shafts that supports spools, side plates, handle knobs, etc. They allow for smoother operations. When one talks about how smooth a reel is, this is one of the contributing factors.
One Way Bearings
One Way Bearings are needle roller clutch bearings that are designed to move only in one direction. The one way bearing is normally placed at the side plate of the handle area. The use of one way bearings is as the name suggests, to allow smooth movements in one direction.
Ball bearings are basically balls that are placed at places such as the areas that support the shafts in certain reels, inside certain handle knobs, to support certain worm gears, etc. They are of course sound inside radial bearings.
All these bearings are made using various materials such as steel, stainless steel , and ceramic of which we will cover in later magazine issues.
All reels have bearings because without bearings the reel will not be able to function well.
Bushings Vs. Bearings
Remember earlier on I said that I am not a believer in the gospel of more bearings means better reel? The reason is because for certain reels more bearings may not be better. One example is saltwater reels. Certain parts in saltwater reels are more prone to getting wet with saltwater.
Being corrosive in nature, saltwater can and will rust even expensive good quality stainless steel. For reasons of such some reel manufacturers use bushings instead of bearings for these parts and it makes sense maintenance wise.
Saltwater reels may have lesser bearings, using bushings instead for certain parts of the reel. This helps reduce corrosion issues.
Simply Adding Bearings
Another reason is that there are manufacturer who add bearings just for the sake of adding bearings to create a better image of their reels (some only claim to have that many but actually don’t). Doing so brings no benefit but there is the additional weight and maintenance issues to think about (rusting bearings breaking up and causing damage to other parts for example).
High Quality Reels
There are high quality reels with lots of bearings like the Shimano Stella that comes with 14+1 bearing. A lot of time, effort, and money has gone into making them better reels and the bearings used are placed there functionally to give one the ultimate of smoothness and feel as well as better durability to parts. In such instances I agree wholeheartedly with the amounts of bearings needed.
So Now You Know
So now you know why bearings are important and having more does not always mean better. What’s more important is functionality. This article should also give you new found respect for your reels. Take care of them well and they will in return take care of you.
Bearing at the side plates of a casting reel not only provides for smoother operations but also balance.