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Which Reel to Use for Drone Fishing?

It is important to choose the fishing reel that suits you and the style of drone fishing you are doing.

There are a number of different brands and models of reels on the market such as Shimano, Daiwa, Okuma and many others. There are also massive differences between reel styles. Each has advantages and disadvantages, with big price differences, ranging from $50 for the cheapest Spinning Reel to a thousand dollars or more for a premium Electric Reel.

The three main ones commonly used for drone fishing in New Zealand are:

  1. Spinning Reel
  2. Overhead or Boat Reel
  3. Electric Reel

Spinning Reels

For many people a Spinning Reel is a good option. A Spinning Reel is very easy to use and to retrieve the line without too much hassle.  Once you lift the bail arm, it is easy to release the line quickly from the spool – something that is really good when a drone is traveling out at high speed. They also less likely to cause a birds nest (a great big mess & tangle of line).

spinfisher vi 5500 2On the down-side, a Spinning Reel generally does not hold as much line as a boat reel – in many cases you will struggle to get more than 3oo metres of line.  This is why we suggest looking at a bigger sized Spinning Reel and using Braid as your mainline – this way you can fit more line onto your reel.

It might also be useful to look at a reel that has a higher drag.  With drone fishing you are often looking at multiple hook traces, which can create quite a weight if you happen to get a number of nice size fish on the line. Also, if you happen to hook a ray or shark, you should be able to retrieve your line (and not lose it) after becoming spooled!

Overhead / Boat Reels

The second option is the Overhead or Boat Reel, as many people call it. The Boat Reel is a very solid style of reel for drone fishing in New Zealand.


The Boat Reel can carry a significant amount of line. 500 or 600 metres, or even more, is quite common.  Of course we prefer to use Braid as a mainline when fishing with drones, preferably with 50 to 80 pound breaking strain and +10kg of max drag, for the same reasons mentioned above.

One of the big negatives of using a boat reel is that it is easy to birds nest and tangle the line. You have to keep a close eye on the line as you send your drone out to ensure this does not happen, especially given the high speeds a drone travels while moving your traces offshore. Set a tiny amount of drag up with your reel as it will largely mitigate any bird nesting and never leave your boat reel in free-spool mode while drone fishing – you will be asking for trouble, particularly if you are fishing by yourself. If you are fishing with a friend, make sure they are in control of the reel (using their thumb) while you fly the drone out to the drop-zone.

The other issue with Boat Reels is the retrieve of line. Generally you will need to guide the line in with your thumb as you retrieve it, which requires a little concentration, to avoid the line bunching up on one side of the spool.  You could use a reel with a level-wind type system however it has been proven that, given the speeds that the drone takes the line out, the worm gears behind the level wind systems don’t last long and simply break down.

Electric Reels

The third option is a premium option: the Electric Reel. It is premium because it is so much more expensive than the other two reel types above with the benefit that, when it comes time to wind in your line (and hopefully lots of fish!), you simply flick the switch and the line is automatically retrieved for you.


Of course, with this reel option you are looking at anything from $NZ1000 up to $NZ2000. It is a good idea to start with one of the other reel options and then work up to this one.

There are not many options for electric reels at the moment. The big brands do though have some reliable options including: The Daiwa Tanacom 1000 (at $NZ1000), the Shimano ForceMaster 9000 (at around $NZ1600) and the top of the range Shimano BeastMaster 9000 (around $1900).

Some might call an Electric Reel the “lazy persons option” for drone fishing. In reality, if you are wanting to do three or more drone sets, looking to drop your line 500+ metres off shore, then an Electric Reel could be a really good investment. They are becoming extremely popular for this style of fishing, for obvious reasons!

We hope this has been a worthwhile introduction to the different fishing reel styles that are available for drone fishing in New Zealand. Remember that each reel type has its pro’s and con’s so its best to do your research and invest in a setup that is going to be just right for you!  Please feel free to reach out and contact us if you have any questions!

Please note that all our articles are put together by our team and should not be replicated or plagiarised in any way without express written permission.

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