Bearings In Reels - How Many Are Needed?

Does the number of bearings in a reel make a reel better, smoother, and worth the extra money some manufacturers charge for more bearings? The number of bearings claimed by the manufacturer I believe has very little to do with the performance of the reel. I and many of the members here have had reels with one, or no bearings and they have performed well and are still going strong.

Many old vintage reels have no bearings and are still functional.

Reels below have lasted over 50 years without bearings. Does anyone think the reels made today will last the next 50 years?

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Bearings

Bearing make the reel smoother and easier to fish. How many bearing are needed to have a great reel? Some of the newer reels are listed by manufacturers as having 11-14+ bearings, and the sell for less than $30, and some are $200+. I am not a reel repair expert like many of the members here, but I don’t think more than 3 - 5 well placed bearings are needed. I listed some of my reels below with the schematics. I have never had a reel wear out, or break, with bearings and without bearings. I keep my reels protected with reel covers, keep them clean, and keep them lubed with Corresion X.

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Mitchell Garcia 308

Couple of one bearing 308’s. Both reels are really smooth. Have not tried the reels yet. One with the spool is a first generation 308 with raised France lettering on side plate.

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Penn 113H 4/0

I been using a Penn 113H 4/0 Senator with one bearing for years with no problems.

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My 4/0 is not a half frame.

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Daiwa SS 2600 Tournament Whisker Series

Daiwa SS 2600 Whisker is a three bearings reel I purchased it at a flea market probably in the early 80’s new in a box for $22. Only problem I had with this reel was a spring popped loose while I was try and clean and lube the reel. I could not put the reel back together. I sent it to the Dawia Service Center and they put the spring back and fully serviced and lubed the reel without charge.

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Here is an ad from the 80’s shown the Daiwa Tournament Gold with two bearings.

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Shimano Magnumlite GT-X5250SQ

In 1986 I picked up a top of the line Shimano Magnumlite GT-X5250SQ spinning reel on clearance for $50. It has 5 stainless steel ball bearings and was advertised as the fastest reel in the world with a gear ratio of 6.2:1. This reel was also advertised as having the most bearings than any reel made. Reel is still trouble free and smooth. It was my favorite reel for years.

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Here is a three bearings GT-X2250SQ from 1988. This has also been trouble free and smooth. Really don‘t notice much difference in the two reels.

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Penn 525 MAG

The Penn 525 MAG is used for surf fishing and is used for long distance casting competition. This reel has 5 stainless steel sealed bearings. It has been trouble free and smooth.

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Daiwa Plus Plus 4000 BRi

Daiwa Plus Plus 4000 BRi is a 6 bearing with has a spool free clutch system which allows the reel to release line freely when a fish takes the line. The clutch is engaged by the turn of the handle. Clutch system was selling point to me, and it was on sale for half price. I have only used it once or twice.

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Shimano Stradic CI4 2500F

Shimano Stradic CI4 2500F is one of my favorite reels. This reel has 6 stainless steel bearings and one roller bearing. Frame and side plate is made up of carbon fiber. It is very light weight and the smoothest reel I have. Well worth the $200 price tag. I have have this reel for about 8 years now.

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I could only locate 6 bearings.

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Okuma Aria 20a, 30a, & 40a

I picked up some new Okuma Aria 20a, 30a for $6.80, and 40a for $5. These all had 1 ball bearing. Not a fan of Okuma, but at this price, I can become a fan. Reels feel well built and does not feel like cheap plastic. These reels have a really strong drag system. The 40a has a drag of 17.4 pounds. Have not tried these reel, but I like the feel of them.

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Bearing on the main shaft and bushings on the main drive gear. Very functional I believe and well worth the money spent.

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Shimano Bantam Curado 200

These older Shimano Bantam Curado 200 have 5 bearings. Great smooth trouble free reels. Below are three different models of the Curado.

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These Curados have 2 roller bearings, sign of a well made reel. C417D285-BCF9-4399-84C2-493BCC4D6B74-41jmmwy8lo.jpeg

Lews Tournament Speed Spool TS1H

At the same time I bought the Okuma reels, I picked up a Lews Tournament Speed Spool TS1H Bait Caster for $97, regular price of $149.99. This reel is listed as a 10 bearings reel, and that I guess hooked me. The reel was made in China, I had thought it was make in Korea.

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Looks like a lot of plastic in this reel.

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I took the schematic and tried to locate all the bearings and was only to locate 9 bearings. Four of the nine was located in the handle. The bearings are microscopic in this small reel and probably most of them are useless. I doubt if the bearings cost more than a few cents each. I am going to return this reel. This was my first experience with a Lews reel, and probably my last. This reel made me appreciate my Shimano reels more.

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Jim took apart a Quantum spinning reel that I sent to Skip. The manufacturer claimed it had 11 bearing. Jim was unable to locate all the bearings, and many that he did find were tiny and useless. Bearings are cheap and cost only a few cents, so don’t judge a reel by the number of bearings it has. When looking at bearings, better reels use stainless steel and roller bearings. Five or six well placed bearing I believe are all that is needed. When buying known brand names, you are more likely to get what you pay for.

Lots Of Bearings Reels - Cheap - Extra Bearings For Your Pockets

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High Priced Shimano

For this price, reel should bait you hook, reel the fish in, clean your fish, and cook the fish for you.

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So... what do you think? Please leave me a comment.

20 Comments:

  • Huckster37: I’ll take bearingless reels, the first thing that wears out on my car is the bearings. If they made a car without bearings it would last forever!
  • Ron: I put almost 200,000 on each of my two Toyota cars and never changed a bearing. Dennis, you must be making the turns too quickly getting down to you fishing spot. 😂
  • timmy: i have to agree with Dennis on this one. the correct answer is zero ! i have no need whatsoever for bearings in reels....
  • dustyjoe: Ron, I just had the left front wheel bearing replaced in my 233,000 mile Outback. 1 1/2 years ago I replaced right that was sooo bad that the wheel was leaning about 5 degrees and I had to replace the $90+ spindle. So, I figured it would be a good idea to replace the right before it ruined the spindle.
    Several years ago, I replaced the left on my 1997 F150 4×4, which is unit that bolts on with 3 bolts. Then last summer we had to do the right, which was totally shot also. Now just about a month or 2 ago, we had to replace the left again. In defense of the old gal, I must add that it now has over 300,000 miles on it and like that pink bunny, still going. For people who know me, if I compliment a Ford, it’s a goodun. LOL
  • dustyjoe: Bearings are fine, but the old reels with bushings worked just as well. Three or four are all that’s necessary on any reel and the others are just to impress and catch ignorant fishermen. Hope I don’t offend any of you with the I word, which just means un-informed. LOL Jim
  • Ron: To each his own. I like reels with and without bearings. When at the lake I always bring my Shimano Stradic, and some older vintage reels. I like the smoothness and light weight of the newer reels and use them more, yet I like the feel and feeling of catching fish with a vintage.
    I’ll continue to use and buy both reels with and without bearings and enjoy both.
  • skip smith: I have a handful of reels with bearings, don’t notice much diff.
  • Ron: You keep them in your hands Skip?🤨
  • skip smith: Sometimes I do, Ron. :D
  • TheReelDeal: You have used the term "bearing" as the equivalent of "ball bearing", which is fine, as we all know what you mean. But, a bushing is a bearing too, also referred to as a plain bearing or maybe a sleeve bearing. A roller bearing is similar to a ball bearing, but not quite the same, although they are both rolling element-type bearings.
    Some bushings are made of a material that will hold a lubricant, such as the oft-mentioned "oilite bushing". Reel bushings are often bronze, but I’ve seen newer reels that advertise "graphite bearings", which means they are really plastic bushings, although maybe of a type that functions better than other plastics as a bearing surface.
    I have no preference one way or the other as far as a reel having ball bearings or not. Advertising the number of reel ball bearings is mostly sales hype, IMHO. I rank graphite or plastic bearings a notch or two below bronze bushings, mostly because I believe a bronze bushing is likely to be a better bearing than a plastic bearing of unknown composition. This is mostly just an opinion, too.
    I am of the belief that a well fitted (i.e., close tolerances) bronze bushing may offer less space for particles of grit to get into the bearing and cause trouble than an open ball or roller bearing. A sealed ball bearing may even the score in this regard, but then the sealed bearing is harder to clean and re-lube.
    One of the greatest, if not the greatest, spinning reel of all time, was the old-style French-made Mitchell 300 and it’s relatives, the 350, 400 and other similar models. These reels had exactly -0- ball or roller bearings. Some of the later but similar models, like the 300C, had roller bearings; I’ve used these models, those with and without the roller bearings, and cannot honestly say that either seems to provide a performance advantage over the other, if well maintained and lubricated. I have heard it expressed more than once by anglers I know are more knowledgeable and experienced that I am in using the old Mitchell 300s that they seldom see the bronze bushings in these reels wear out in normal use.
    TRD
  • Ron: Bearings, or no bearings I think comes down to personal preferences. I do feel the smoothness of a high quality reel over the reels with just bushings, but that is my opinion, but I enjoy using all types of reels.
    Just cleaned up a very early Garcia 308 and it is really smooth. Can’t wait to use it.
  • skip smith: I’m happiest and most comfortable fishing with vintage spin cast fishing reels, which are usually fitted with bronze bushings. Yeah, yeah, I know, "old school". Well, I’m old too, so it fits, right?
    I admire Ron’s willingness to give vintage spin casters a try, given his history of experience with spinning and bait casting equipment.
  • Ron:

    Skip, it was all yours and Jim’s fault in getting me into spincast reels. I think I have about 15 Johnson and 6 Zebco reels now. They all work great and a pleasure to fish with.



  • timmy: ok Ron, i keep blaming everyone here for all the vintage fishing equipment i keep hoarding. however, the truth is i am the one with the out of control underlying addiction. admitting this is the first step towards trying to find other ways to blame it on everyone else !!! LOL
  • skip smith: Ron, I own my share of the blame for getting you started on spincast reels. Something like"misery loves company". I think my assortment of reels is in the neighborhood of 100. I blame all of the fans of various makes for steering me into "other than Johnson" reels for the increase. :p
    Tim, I was forced to control my addiction by a desire to have my reels out where I can see them. Ran out of space. You might try that technique. :)
  • Ron: Right Timmy. Then I too blame everyone here at this site besides Skip and Jim. This last week I bought 18 reels, 12 were new and 6 were vintage. Last night I bought 3 spools for my newly purchased Garcia 308. And I thought I was the most sane in this group here. Well, I am probably still the most sane, I still have the smallest number of reel collected compared to everyone here. I keep telling everyone, I am not a collector.
    Sounds like a AA meetings.🤢🤨😏😊😅🤣
  • skip smith: "Sounds like an AA meeting". Ron, you crack me up! LOL!
  • TheReelDeal: Ron, enjoy that 308. I have a 309 (lefty 308, and I’m not a lefty) & hope to get a 308 to try. But, use a bunch of caution if you ever take that 308 apart and are thinking about taking the ball bearing apart too. I understand the ball bearing is a nightmare to reassemble. In this case, I think I’d have preferred a good oilite bushing.
    TRD
  • Ron: Thanks TRD. I didn’t know the 308’s had a bearing. This is the second 308 I bought. The first one I bought is a first generation 308. I looked up the schematic and it has a warning on the bearing, “do not take apart”.
  • TheReelDeal: Besides being tough to reassemble, there is an old style and a new style as far as adjusting the bearing; if you had one of each, you could get thrown as to why in tarnation they are different. Ditto the bail springs.
    TRD

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