2 min to read

Putting too much bearing on bearing count

Category : TACKLE BOX


It seems like anymore reel companies are jamming as many bearings into a reel as their tiny frames can handle. Less than ten years ago you were lucky to have five bearings. Now reels with seven or eight often get scoffed at by customers. We have reels boasting as many as eleven bearing systems. To the consumer that sounds great. The more bearings the better, right? Not necessarily. Here is the 411 on what bearing counts really mean.

Let me start by saying that casting reels and spinning reels require different bearing counts. A smooth, functional, spinning reel only requires about four bearings. You need an anti-reverse bearing, two bearings supporting the crank and main gear, and one for the line roller. The line roller can also be supported by a bushing, but I feel you get less twist if a bearing is present.

Casting reels require a few more. A casting reel with five or six bearings will function as well if not better than a reel supporting more. The key bearing areas are one on the main crank shaft, an anti-reverse bearing, and two or three supporting the spool shaft.

You may be wondering then if reels only need a handful of bearings, where do all of the rest of them end up. Great question! Well a ten or eleven bearing reel will have four bearings on the handle, two in each knob. Yes four bearings in the handle! Replace those with bushings, and were right there back where we should be. An eleven bearing reel has two more bearings supporting the worm gear. A spinning reel with ten bearings has one under the spool. Just in case you hook a tuna I suppose.

What really makes a reel good is not the number of bearings, but the quality. A buddy of mine a long time ago put it this way, “you can jam as many bearings into a reel as you want, but if they are all junk, the reel will still be junk.” This is the reason why Shimano can use five bearings and stay so smooth. It is also why the Daiwa Zillion (my favorite reel) can support a six bearing system and be the best distance casting, smoothest reel I have ever used. These companies invest in better bearing quality and less on bearing count. Shimano’s ARB bearings and Daiwa’s CRBB bearings are specifically designed to hold up better to the elements. They have special coatings to make them last longer and stay smoother. All of this adds up to a silky smooth, better casting reel.

For those of you who are still diehard on your bearing count, here is something to consider. Generally your bearings are the weakest link on your reel. They are the most vulnerable to getting dirty, they have issues with rusting, they require the most maintenance, and they will wear out faster than any other component. The fewer bearings you have the less likely your reel will need be to be serviced.

So when you go to buy your next reel, consider the bearing counts. It might surprise you what companies can do with just a couple bearings.