How To Change A Fishing Reel Handle

  • Author: Craig "Howie"
  • Date: March 9, 2023

How To Change Fishing Reel Handle

In this article we learn how to change a fishing reel handle. You can then the change the handle from left to right, or vice versa, from right to left hand on a spinning reel.

On some spinning reels the handle is on the right side, luckily you can change most fishing reels with a few simple steps.

There are pros and cons of holding your fishing rod in your dominant hand and winding the reel with the other hand.

To see which hand you should be holding the fishing rod in and what hand you wind the reel with, click on –  What Hand Do You Hold A Fishing Rod In? 6 Reasons Why.  This article should help you decide, which side you want the handle on.


How To Switch The Handle On A Spinning Reel

How To Switch The Handle On A Spinning Reel

(The reels used are a Shakespeare Sigma (above left) and the Abu Garcia MAX X spinning reel to the right.)

This will depend on the brand, model and type of spinning reel, but most reels you should be able to change handle sides.

Before we get into the step by step guide, there are two main types of reels in the way you change the handle.

1. Bolt Handle (Also called the pin through.)
2. Screw On Handle


Switch reel handle

The reel with the bolt handle arm, you can pull out of the body of the reel.

The second type is a screw in handle to the body. You unwind the reel handle arm from the reel body.

To determine if the handle is a bolt-on handle or screw arm type, unscrew the side cap or nut off. (Opposite side of handle.)

If the cap or nut won’t budge, don’t force anything otherwise you can damage the reel. Check with your local fishing tackle shop, or manufacture, that the reel handle can be swapped to the other side.


For the bolt on handle reel:

Spinning reel handle change

1. Unscrew the cap on the other side of the fishing reel handle arm.

2. Pull out the stem, or reel handle arm out. Be careful if there are any pieces like washers, circlips or any bits don’t fall out.

Swap reel handle

3. Insert the reel handle into the other side of the reel. (Some reel arm will have a square stem and you have to line it up inside the reel.)

4. Screw the reel handle cap back on the end.

5. Double check the cap is screwed on firm. Check the reel winds properly.

Tip – Place some clothing, bag or matt under the reel, so if a piece of the reel handle falls out, you will catch it. If you are fishing in the field, place your hat underneath it or clothing to catch any pieces.

Spray some anti-corrosion or lubricant, on the reel arm handle / stem if the reel needs some love.


For the screw on handle reel:

The second type of reel design way to change the handle side is:

Switch handle reel side

1. Take the cap off the fishing reel

2. Hold the body of the reel and untwist the handle. Backwind, the opposite way you normally wind.

Screw in reel handle

3. Screw the arm (forward wind) on the other side of the body of the reel.

4. Screw the end cap back on.

5. Check to see if it reel is working properly.

Tip – If you are having trouble pulling the handle arm out or unscrewing, (especially if the reel has been used in saltwater, or it is old,) the reel bolt or screw in stem can corrode and be hard to pull out or unwind. Spray it with some lubricant and let is sit before trying again.



Are there left-handed and right-handed fishing reels?

Most modern spinning reels you can swap handles, but you can get set right-hand or left hand reels. Check first before buying a new reel.


Are spinning reels right and left-handed?

As above question, most are changeable. However check with your local fishing store or the manufacturer first before purchasing one.


What side is the handle on a right-handed reel?

For a right hand fishing reel, this will have the handle on the right side of the reel.


Can You Swap The Handle On A Baitcaster Reel?

On most baitcasting reels the handle is set and the side it is on can’t be changed.




There are two general types of fishing reel handle type designs. The bolt handle and screw on type handle.

With a few simple steps, a spinning reel handle can be switched from one side to the other.