Introduction: Everything you wanted to know about fishing reel bearings, including how they are created, and what role they play in reel operation. Class is in session as bearing guru, ChuckE, explains the ins and outs of reel bearings in "Bearings 101."
Background: Ball bearings and roller bearings are the most common types of anti-friction bearing found in today's modern fishing reels. However, that was not always the case, and early reel bearings were really nothing more than a guide or alignment sleeve which had a rotating component traveling through it (very similar to a sliding friction bearing). Frequent cleaning and lubrication was often required to maintain performance in these early reels, since the guides tended to wear quickly. So over time, reel manufacturers eventually adopted more robust designs, to reduce friction, corrosion and wear. Ball, roller, journal, needle, thrust and tapered bearings have all been used in reels over the past 100 years.
Anti-friction bearings operate under the principle of rolling friction, where balls or cylinders roll between two metal sleeves to overcome friction. The sleeves are actually round grooved tracks that the balls or rollers ride between, which are called races (or rings). Friction is reduced in this type of bearing because only two points on each rolling member actually contact the races at any one point in time. Roller bearings are typically used in lower speed but higher load applications because more of the roller is in contact with each race. Whereas, ball bearings are used in higher speed and lighter load applications because they have less friction. Ball bearings may also be equipped with shields or seals, which cover part of the area between the races...more