How To Change A Fishing Reel From Right To Left Handed

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Whether you’re new to the world of fishing or a seasoned veteran, there are tasks within fishing that may seem daunting at first but are quite easy once you learn the first time. Changing the handle on the reel is one of those tasks! Do it once, and you’ll know how to do it forever! Even though technology will change, the general premise will stay the same. 

We may be excited about a new reel and not pay much attention when we buy it, but later find out that it’s set to be a right-hand retrieve when you need a left-hand retrieve! Don’t fret – the good thing about fishing reels is that their direction can be changed.

In this article, let’s go through all the steps you need to follow, and you’ll have it switched over in no time. 

Right Or Left Handed Reel? 

Most anglers are right-hand dominant, so they like to cast, set the hook and hold the rod with the right hand. If you are a right-hander, you should have the reel handle on the left-hand side of the reel body and vice versa. 

It is quite rare to find right-hand anglers who like to do the opposite and have their dominant hand do all of the reeling. At the end of the day, it’s up to you and whatever feels more natural. 

Personally, I cast with my right hand (I’m right-hand dominant) and reel in with my left! It’s what has felt comfortable from the beginning. I’m primarily a fly angler, so I need my right hand to do the casting. If you’re spin fishing, casting doesn’t require as much arm movement so you could go either way. 

How To Switch Spinning Reels From Right To Left Handed & Vice Versa

The task of switching the position of the handle on any reel does not impact its performance or any features that the reel has.

Switching the reel arm on a spinning reel is quite simple. Almost every freshwater or saltwater spinning reel will follow the same steps that are mentioned below. 

  1. The first thing you need to do is locate what is called the “dust cap.” The dust cap is usually below the bail on the right side of the reel. Once it’s located, it should easily unscrew. 
  1. If you’re changing the reel arm from the right hand to the left, go ahead and unscrew the handle on the left side. To unscrew it, turn it clockwise. Going the opposite way will make it tighter. You should feel some tension when trying to unscrew it, but it shouldn’t be impossible. 
  2. Once you have it unattached, place the reel arm onto the left side. There should be an opening where you unscrew the dust cap. Once the arm is inserted, rotate it counterclockwise to tighten it. 
  1. Put the dust cap on the right side and make sure that it’s screwed tightly back into place. This will protect that opening from getting any unnecessary dirt and debris inside and ruin the gear. 

To switch the reel from left-handed to right-handed, you would complete the same steps, but do it in the opposite order! Once you do it once, you’ll see how easy it is. 

Can I Change The Reel Handle On A Baitcasting Reel? 

In most cases, you will not be able to switch the handle to one side or the other on a baitcasting reel. Baitcasting reels have gears set up on the specific side that will hold the handle. If you’ve used a baitcaster for a long time, you’re used to switching the rod to your left hand after you make your cast. It’s an easy transition. 

However, if you need a left-handed baitcasting reel, you can easily buy one! More and more companies are creating left-handed reels so that the dominant right-hand anglers can make their cast and reel with their left hand. 

Many anglers are used to the transition of the rod from one hand to the other, so they’ll likely not switch over to a left-handed baitcasting reel, but if you’re getting into fishing, go ahead and purchase one! Anglers don’t usually change their habits if they can help it.

Switching The Handle On Fly Reels

Unlike baitcasting reels, you can switch the handle on a fly or center pin reel! The switch is generally pretty simple. Yes, you can buy right or left-handed reels, but making the switch isn’t complicated! Most fly reels come with a left-hand retrieve so you can make your casts with your right hand. 

Any left-handed casters will have to change from a left-hand retrieve to a right-hand retrieve. 

  1. The first step when changing the retrieve on your fly reel is to remove the spool and arbor from the frame. There is usually a small lever or lock on one side of the reel crank. You either press in the lock and pull the reel apart or unscrew it and pull it apart. 
  1. Take the section of the reel with the line attached and find the clutch bearing. Right on top of the clutch bearing, you’ll see a small, thin piece of metal known as the flip spring. 

Please Note: In the sealed reel body style, the clutch bearing is often located in the male portion of the connection. You’ll have to open the male portion with a flathead screwdriver since it likely has a semi-sealed drag. You’ll find the clutch bearing, flip the bearing over and reseal everything.

When you reattach, make sure you aren’t sealing everything too tightly! Do your best to replace it exactly how it was when you opened things.

  1. You’ll find the flip spring isn’t completely connected. There is a small portion of the spring that has a space in it to make sure the tension stays on the clutch bearing. Locate the portion of the flip spring with the gap and use some fine tool to pry it out. Please keep a finger over a portion of the flip spring! I don’t know how often I’ve seen anglers pop out the spring, and it flies into the grass with no hope of it being found.
  1. Once the flip spring is removed and safely placed aside, you will see the nut facing up at you. Remove the nut and flip it over. By flipping it over, you’re changing the retrieving hand on the reel.
  1. Replace the flip spring and make sure it’s all snugly in place.
  1. Place the male end of the reel back into the female end, and you’ll likely hear the entire reel snap together. This snap ensures that you did it correctly!
Left handed angler retrieves using right hand
A left-handed angler with the reel handle on the right side of the reel

Reel Maintenance And Lubrication

If you have just purchased a new reel, no extra lubrication or maintenance is required. If, however, you have been using the reel for some time, it’s a good time to do some basic maintenance and lubrication while changing over your reel handle.

Reels are not cheap, and fishing can definitely get them quite dirty and wet. So take this opportunity to carry out a check. You can read more on cleaning and maintaining your fishing gear here!

Tips On Switching Your Reel Handle Over

  1. When buying a new spinning or fly fishing reel, you can switch it over easily.
  2. Make sure on a baitcaster reel you order the specific one for you
  3. If you buy a secondhand reel, it is easy to switch if needed
  4. If you give away a reel to a friend or your kids, it’s possible for them to use it
  5. Spare parts are transferable between the two reel-handed options 

Changing Out

I hope this article gave you all you needed to know about changing your reel from right to left-handed and vice versa.

Simple things like changing the retrieval hand on your reel can resolve frustrations. Again, once you learn how to do it one time, you’ll be good to go with the rest of your reels! 

You can read more information on all types of fishing reels here! Including the best buys and tips on selecting your ideal fishing reel.

Daniel Mooers