fishing reels on dock

Choosing a Left or Right-handed Fishing Reel

A common question from beginning anglers shopping for a new fishing reel is, “do I buy one with the cranking handle on the right or left side?” Back when I was a kid in the 70’s, reels were only made one way—baitcasting reels had the handles on the right and spinning reels had them on the left. So I didn’t have a choice, along with everyone else from my generation.

Fortunately for me it worked out well with spinning, I have no inefficiencies. But unfortunately my baitcasting requires switching the rod between hands two times with each cast! This robs efficiency.  I cast the rod in my right hand and also crank the handle with the same hand because that was where the handles were positioned when I learned. So to use the right hand for both casting and cranking, once the cast is made I must swap the rod to the left hand to make the right hand available to turn the crank handle. Then of course, after retrieving the lure, the rod has to be swapped back to the right hand again for another cast. Fortunately in today’s world the choice exists, allowing beginners to avoid the switching and choosing what is most comfortable. This allows for a faster learning curve and better efficiency and fluidity with casting.

Most people have a dominant hand/arm. We use it to write, throw, shoot, and so on because it performs the task better than the less dominant hand/arm. Fishing is no different. The dominant hand/arm will learn to cast a fishing rod more easily than if attempted with the offhand. And in the end, the dominant hand/arm will perform the cast with better efficiency, fluidity, and accuracy as well. I recommend anyone new to fishing to use their dominant hand/arm to hold and cast the fishing rod. This leaves the offhand responsible for turning the reel’s crank handle.

To my knowledge, there does not exist a right or left-handed fishing rod, so shoppers don’t need to worry about messing this part up. Simply pick out the proper rod for the fishing application.

Regarding modern spinning reels, manufacturers design the crank handle so it can be switched to either side of the reel thus accommodating both right and left-handers. Therefore you will not see spinning reels labeled as “right-handed” or “left-handed.” The crank can be attached so right-handers can cast and hold the rod with their right hand while turning the crank with their left. Meanwhile, left-handers can switch the crank handle to the opposite side of the reel so they can hold the rod in their left hand while turning the crank with their right.  This wasn’t the case when I was growing up in the 70’s, back then the handle’s were only available on the left side. This accommodated the right-handed person (like me) well, but left-handers would have the inconvenience of casting with the left hand and then switching the rod over to the right hand so they could then turn the crank. OR…you would get the upside down approach from left-handers. They cast left-handed and hold the rod so the spinning reel is on top, thus allowing the crank handle to be turned backwards by the right hand.

Due to the inherent design of baitcasting reels, the crank handles are not switchable to either side. Therefore they are made in right-handed and left-handed models and labeled as such. They label a reel according to which hand turns the handle. For example, a reel labeled “left-handed” requires the angler to turn the crank handle with their left hand. Older fishermen like myself learned baitcasting when the only option were reels with the crank handle on the right side. Therefore you will notice us older, right-handed fishermen casting with the right-hand and then switching the rod to the left hand for the retrieve. THIS IS INEFFICIENT! But I am stuck with it because of the many years of operating this way.

Anglers new to baitcasting gear can avoid this inefficiency by purchasing a reel with the crank handle in the proper place. Avoid the switch! Just like spinning, if you are right-handed (casting and holding the rod in the right hand) use a reel that has the crank handle on the left side (labeled as “left-handed”). Left-handed anglers should choose a baitcasting reel with the crank handle on the right side (labeled as “right-handed”).

Back in the 70’s when I learned casting, there wasn’t any options for left or right-handed reels. So I was forced into an inefficient way of handling baitcasting gear. Luckily today, reel manufacturers offer reels with the crank handle on either side. New anglers today now have the opportunity to learn how to cast quicker and ultimately be a better and more fluid caster by choosing the proper right or left-handed reel.


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One Response to “Choosing a Left or Right-handed Fishing Reel”

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    I seen convertible baitcasters with gears on both sides, HEAVY CHUNK OF REEL. thanks for the article.