Reel Balance

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Photo by Louis Cahill

Photo by Louis Cahill

Have you spent much time thinking about the counterweight on your fly reel? Someone has.

Odds are good you haven’t spent a lot of time thinking about that little button opposite the handle on your fly reel. Some of you may have thought it was just there for decoration. Well, it isn’t. The counterweight is actually a really important piece of your reel’s design and without it you’d be in trouble.

Think of it like the lead counterweights on your car tires. When you buy a new set of tires the guys at the tire shop balance each of them once they’re mounted on the rims. Without those counterweights your car would feel like it was driving a washboarded forest service road all the time. Your reel works the same way.

Without a counterweight every time you hooked into a fish big enough to pull some serious line, your reel would buck and vibrate like that car tire that’s out of balance. That would cause a couple of things and none of them good.

The jerking motion of the rod caused by an out of balance reel would cause you to lose fish, either by breaking them off or dislodging the hook. It would also cause extra wear on the reel shortening its life. It would also be annoying as hell causing you to throw the reel as far as possible.

It’s easy to understand why a reel needs to be balanced. What’s tougher is actually balancing one. It’s a surprisingly tedious process. The slightest change in the length of the handle makes a big change in the counterweight. There are formulas, but reel balance only comes from a process of trial and error.

When I was at the Nautilus factory a few weeks ago my friend Kristen Mustad showed me how they balance Nautilus reels. It’s pretty clever and a great example, I think of how much thought goes into a good reel design. Watch the video. If you spin your reel this fast, I want to fish with you!!!

BTW, Yes, this Nautilus reel is completely encrusted with rhinestones. Bling Bling!

Come fish with us in the Bahamas!

Louis Cahill
Gink & Gasoline
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6 thoughts on “Reel Balance

  1. Never knew what that was for until now. Just tried doing a google search, and there is hardly any information on counterweights.

  2. I deal with dynamic balancing at work, but on a larger scale. Like 33,000 pound fan rotor scale. You are right that there is science behind the process and there is also an art form to doing it well.

  3. Dan. I work in the same field at a miniature motor level. small world. unfortunately, I havent had the experience with fly reels on line tearing fish that I worried about balance!

  4. We used to take old freewheels in the bike shop and do the same thing, except drop them to the floor and watch’em scream into the other mechanics feet. Good times….

  5. I understand how important the counter weight is but man they must have had some time to balance it with all those rhinestones on there

  6. “It all boils down to how it feels in your hand.” That’s it, right there. I’m not a salt water fisherman, so I don’t know what it feels like when a truly fast fish burns like off the reel, but reel wobble as a cause of fish breaking off, or significant wear? Oh, man, I think that’s stretching things a bit, at least for 99.9% of the fishing most of us do. Keep up the good work, friends. I love Gink and Gasoline!

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