Round and round she goes, where she'll stop, nobody knows.
Wait a second! Like most other anglers, I want a reel to stop turning - with zero back play - the instant I quit cranking. Unlike knuckle-busters of yesteryear, today's tackle affords us this luxury. An anti-reverse system keeps the reel handle and drive train from spinning backward; this function proves especially important at the hook-set and when fish pull drag. A reel's type, size and price usually determine which of two available anti-reverse mechanisms it employs; many reels contain both.
A good anti-reverse can stop on a dime and give you 9 cents change. Known as instant, continuous or infinite anti-reverse, this type of system relies on a one-way roller bearing (also called one-way clutch, or OWC).
Ball bearings contain spheres; one-way bearings house tiny cylinders (rollers) that ride between an inner clutch sleeve and outer lock ring. Springs press the rollers against ramps inside the lock ring. "When the reel handle moves forward, the clutch sleeve pushes the rollers away from the ramps for free turning," says Chris Littau, manager of product and technology strategy for Zebco (manufacturer of Fin-Nor and Quantum, zebco.com). "Try to turn the handle or spool backward, and the rollers get wedged against the ramps and cause the sleeve to lock. Since springs force the rollers into constant contact with the sleeve and lock ring, there is negligible back play before the clutch locks. But springs weaken with time and use. Our Maglok anti-reverse - available in certain Fin-Nor and Quantum models - uses magnets instead of springs to pull the rollers into contact with the sleeve. The Maglok clutch is also much stronger and more robust than a conventional clutch."
The second type of anti-reverse works much like a ratchet. "A pawl or dog spring grips the anti-reverse gear's teeth to keep it from turning backward," says Jeff Lambert, reel-repair specialist at Charkbait (charkbait.com). "On spinners this part is located right below the spool. Bait casters typically have infinite anti-reverse, but quality models are backed up with a dog system. Some larger reels even have a double-dog system, that is two pawls on the same anti-reverse gear. These are located under the main drive gear of a conventional reel. Most trolling reels have an anti-reverse on the left side plate, typically featuring two pawls that are much heavier than those on a normal dog system."
A pawl offers more inherent strength than an OWC but has two major disadvantages: noise and back play. "A multi-stop anti-reverse is typically found in lower-priced spinning reels. Most anglers prefer an instant stop for hook-sets, and a multi-stop ratcheting design will always have some play," says John Bretza, director of product development for Okuma (okuma.com). "To reduce play you must add teeth to the anti-reverse gear, which results in finer teeth that make the function weaker."