The Importance of Reel Capacity

Over the years and literally reeling in enough line to go to China and back it finally dawned on me the importance of reel capacity or size. As fishing on the Great Lakes continues to evolve more and more, equipment is becoming more readily available to enhance the fishing experience by making it easier. And it just plain feels better, too!

Importance of Reel Capacity with Shimano 700lcThis year we have added several additions to our fishing arsenal. New this year aboard Ace Charters you will find larger capacity level wind reels manufactured by Shimano and Okuma (See pictures below). Specifically you will find changes made to our dipsey, rigger, and copper reels. Our 30 lb. wire dipseys are now on 700lc Shimano reels with upgraded tournament master drags installed. We actually tested these set-ups last year near the end of the season with excellent results. Many more of our younger clients were able to land giant Lake Ontario king salmon with minimum to no adult assistance. The light bulb inside my head lit right up. If the kids were finding it easier to battle huge Lake Ontario king salmon then so should the rest of us.

Benefit of Larger Spool Size

All else being equal, the amount of line returned on the spool per crank of the handle increases as the size of the spool (line capacity) increases. Keeping this in mind, we switched our 600 copper reels from 345GTI Penn reels to SLR-50L Solttera reels made by Okuma. Here’s what’s really interesting. The Penn reels have an advertised 3:25/1 gear ratio. The Solterra reels have an advertised gear ratio of 2:25/1. Now this would make you think that the Penn reel would be faster in getting the line back onto the reel than the Solterra. Not So!!!! I repeat!!! Not so!  It all has more to do with the size of the spool (reel capacity) than gear ratio. I have actual numbers comparing a Shimano Tekota 800 to the Solttera SLR-50L and it’s an eye opener. The gear ratio of the Shimano is 4:25/1 and we already stated that the Solttera is 2:25/1.


large reel capacity of Okuma SolterraAt face value, you would think that the Shimano should be almost twice as fast. Again, not so!!!! Here are the numbers. It takes 34 passes on a Shimano 800 to pull in 400ft of copper. It takes 8 cranks of the handle to make one pass. (A pass is one time across the face of the reel with the levelwind arm) With division we can now find the pick-up rate per crank of the handle. 400ft copper/34 passes = 11.76 ft. per pass/ 8 cranks= 1.47 ft. per crank. The Solterra reel takes 40 passes to pick up 600 ft. of copper. It takes ten cranks of the handle to make one pass on the Solterra.


So, 600 ft. of copper/40 passes=15 ft. per pass/10 cranks=1.50 ft. per crank.  So as you can see they are virtually the same. But remember that the Solterra has a 2:25/1 gear ratio compared to the Shimano’s 4:25/1. The Solterra takes almost half as much effort to reel in the same amount of line as the Shimano while the speed to get the same amount of line in  remains about the same. (A miniscule speed advantage to the Solterra).

Melting this all down and digesting it mathematically indicates that having a larger capacity reel takes less effort to get the line back on the reel. I can tell you from actual experience that this holds true. It feels easier and it is noticeably faster reeling in a 600 copper on a Solttera as compared to the 345GTI Penn. Although there is somewhat of a bulkiness issue when dealing with the physically larger reels, the ease and speed in which the lines come back onto the reels more than makes up for it. Reeling our way to China and back has gotten a whole lot easier thanks to modern innovations!


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Hi I am just starting out and need your opinion. I read your article on reel capacity and am a bit confused. I just purchased 2 Convector 20’s for wire Dipsy’s and a Convector 45 for copper. I am just going with 1 copper for now untill I get more experience. It seems like the 45 may be to small (I can take it back). The salesman said this should be ok but it looks like I need at least a 55 ? I am not familiar with the Solttera model at all, just the Magna and Convector TIA.  Thanks, Dave


Hi Dave, sorry I’m a little late getting back to you. I’ve been out on the road all day.You’re right! All my 600 plus coppers are on the Soltteras. If Shimano made a reel big enough to hold 600-800ft coppers I would be running them instead of the Okuma Solltteras. I have years on my Tekotas with many kings. They can take it. The Soltteras are rather new. I don’t have a lot of time on them yet but they appear to be well built. The function faster than the Penn reels. The Penns are notorious for blowing out clickers. I do not have a lot of experience with Okuma reels like the Convectors so I can’t really comment on them. I will repeat though that you get what you pay for when it comes to fishing reels. Fins spectra braid is usually available on Ebay. You can Google it up. I haven’t had to buy any in a while. That’s why I like it so much, because it really lasts.

Join me on the Blog and we can continue our discussion.   Captain Jimmy

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