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How to Change a Fishing Reel from Right to Left-Handed

How to Change a Fishing Reel from Right to Left-Handed thumbnail
Dale Shetler
By Dale Shetler
Updated February 25, 2021

Today we teach you how to change the direction of your spinning reel from right to left-handed - or the other way around.

If you are new to fishing, you might not realize that standard reels are designed to be operated with a single hand. If you bought a reel meant for a right handed person but are left handed, there is no need to panic. If you are using a basic spinning reel, you just need to follow a couple of steps to change the location of the handle.

This process does not damage the reel and can be performed at home or even on a boat without any tools, even with a light reel.

Parts of the Reel

If you are new to fishing, you will need to understand just how a reel works before attempting to make adjustments to one. There are multiple types an angler can utilize, including the:

Each one is slightly different and often used for catching varying types of fish. The most common models are the spinning and spincast. Baitcasting and conventional options tend to be reserved for catching heavy fish and are difficult for beginners and novices to use.

When you change a fishing reel from right to left handed, you most likely possess a spinning model. The spinning reel is user-friendly and has exposed parts, making it easy to adjust. A spincast reel, meanwhile, will be fully enclosed and more difficult to control.

Spinning reels have been used throughout North America since the 19th century, and are considered the most efficient model. You don’t have to waste tons of energy using one, and the simple design further means you can rapidly switch between a right and left handed design.

A spinning reel has the following parts:

Spinning Reel Parts Infographic


The handle is the most essential component when transitioning from a right to left handed model as it is the piece you will want to move. The handle is threaded onto an internal socket and should be removable by sampling untwisting it and pulling it out.


The body contains important pieces like the foot, gear box housing, and support arm. Depending on the design of your reel, you might need to adjust the arm when you change which side your handle goes on. The body will be the central piece you thread your handle into. It also contains a dust cap on the side with no handle that can be moved.

Gear Box

The gear box amplifies how many rotations of the internal spindle there are when you rotate the handle. For example, the standard ratio of the gear box is 3:1, so you get 3 spindle rotations each time you complete a full rotation of the handle. You don’t need to touch this piece when changing from right to left.


The spool holds the fishing line secure. You don’t need to manipulate this piece.

Drag Adjustment Knob

A drag system is a series of washers that connect the spool to the shaft. This knob adjusts how much friction the washers apply. You won’t need to handle this piece.


The bail is a semi-circular section of wire utilized while casting. It will flip forward until casting is done and then flips back into its original position.

Anti-Reverse Switch

Not all reels have this. An anti-reverse switch stops your reel from rotating backward while in use.

Steps to Change a Fishing Reel

The process of changing a fishing reel from right to left handed is simple and straightforward. Just follow these quick steps to get the best results.

  1. Look for the dust cap on the right side of the reel and unscrew it until you can remove it
  2. Next, unscrew the reel handle on the left. This can be done by turning the handle in a clockwise direction.
  3. Insert the reel arm into the location where the dust cap was removed, and then tighten it by turning the reel clockwise.
  4. Take the dust cap you removed and place it on the left side of the reel. Screw it into place.

If you would like to perform maintenance while switching your fishing reel, you can apply a few drops of lubricant to the reel arm and dust cap before reinserting them. This will allow the reel to function more smoothly and ensure you don’t experience jams from sticking equipment.

If you still have trouble working it out, here’s an excellent and short video that’ll help you along.


The actual process of changing a fishing reel from right to left-handed is simple. Once you know all of the pieces which comprise your spinning reel, you should be able to carefully unscrew the necessary components and flip them. In particular, pay attention to the handle and dust cap and consider performing some basic maintenance to keep the process easy.

Every angler with a bit of handiness and patience should be able to confidently transform their reel from a right-handed to a left-handed one - or the other way around, of course.