If you want to go after the big fish, you will need one of the best baitcasting reels equipped for the hard fights you’ll be in for. It will be a contest between you and the fish and the quality of your reel will play a major role in determining who comes out on top. With a great baitcaster, you can be confident that no matter what you land, you’re set up for success.
If you’re just getting started in baitcasting and looking for your very first baitcaster, there is a learning curve and you will have to deal with some nasty backlashes that might make you question whether baitcasting is for you. But with patience and practice, you will soon be able to fine tune the controls, thumb the spool like a pro, cast smoothly throwing lures far away and with pinpoint accuracy and have a lot of fun.
Here we’ve reviewed the best baitcasting reels that are well made and equipped with the features needed to bring in big fish. To help you pick the right baitcaster reel for the job, we’ve also outlined what to look for when shopping for a baitcasting reel. First of all, here are the best baitcaster reels that are top rated for their quality and flawless performance on the water. If you’re on a budget, there are some very affordable options that deliver premium level performance.
Ready to get started? Let’s go.
How To Choose The Best Baitcasting Reel – Buying Guide
Now, let’s take a look at what you need to look for when shopping for a new baitcasting reel. If you found the perfect baitcaster reel for you among the best baitcasters reviewed above and have a great baitcasting rod to create a well-balanced baitcaster combo, you’re all set up to catch some trophy fish. If you’re finding it hard to decide which one you should spend your money on, here’s a guide to help you select the best for you.
In addition to their steep learning curve, buying a first baitcast reel can be very intimidating because there are so many options that look the same but are very different in their features and performance. The good thing is that picking one is not complicated once you know what to look for and how to determine the right casting reel for your needs.
The things to pay attention to when choosing a baitcast reel include the gear ratio, drag system, braking system, weight, line capacity, bearing system and build materials. Once you find a great reel whose features and specs match your target species, fishing style, and technique, you’ve found your best baitcasting reel. Below are the features and specs of baitcast reels explained.
The gear ratio on a reel indicates how many times the spool revolves with each turn of the handle. A 7:1 gear ratio means that for every turn of the handle, the spool spins 7 times. Baitcasters are designed for more aggressive retrievals and usually have higher gear ratios.
When out there on the water trying to land some fish, the gear ratio your reel has determines how fast you can retrieve a lure or how much line is picked up with each turn of the handle. It also determines how much cranking power you have to fight big fish.
The type of lure/bait you’ll be using, the fishing technique you’ll be applying and your target species will determine the gear ratio that is best for you.
A higher gear ratio such as 7.3:1 or 8.3:1 offers a high-speed retrieval, as a lot of line is picked up with every turn. However, the cranking power is lower with higher ratios. It is ideal for pitching soft plastics and jigs, using topwater frogs, buzz baits or jerk baits, flipping and other fast moving baits.
Lower gear ratios such as 5.2:1 and 5.3:1 retrieve slowly but offer more cranking power and you may prefer them if you want more torque to haul bigger saltwater fish out of heavy cover. They are best suited to deep diving crankbaits, big swimbaits, and slow rolling heavy spinnerbaits. They reel the bait slower, so it is in the strike zone longer and doesn’t tire you too fast.
The versatile medium level gear ratio that suits most fishing techniques and lures is a 6.4:1 ratio. It offers both power and speed in moderation.
The gear construction is also an important consideration as it affects the reel’s durability and performance. Precisely machined metal gears are durable and deliver a smooth and silent performance. Brass gears are standard. Plastic gears tend to be noisy and don’t last.
Note: The speed of your reel will also depend on the width and depth of the spool and the amount of line you’ve spooled it with.
Baitcasting reels have a free-spinning spool and the line tends to feed out after the lure lands if you don’t stop the spool rotation in time. This is what makes them prone to bird nesting.
Backlash or bird’s nest or overrun refers to the frustrating mess that occurs when the spool continues to rotate and line to unwind after the bait has hit the water resulting into a pile of tangled line. This is especially bad when casting into the wind, as the spool continues to spin fast while the bait is slowed down by the wind.
The brake system on a baitcast reel is designed to offer a way to control the speed of the spool’s rotation and thus the flow of line at the end of the cast in order to prevent backlash. The braking system on a reel is an important feature to check if you’re to avoid backlash after backlash. Baitcast reels have either a centrifugal or magnetic system. Some have a dual braking system that features both brakes.
Magnetic braking systems are the simplest to use and least expensive. They rely on magnets to control the speed throughout the entire cast, applying a constant resistance throughout. They are great for learning baitcasting but don’t allow for minute adjustments.
Pros prefer the centrifugal (friction) braking system that relies on centrifugal force and pins. Its advantage is that it offers freedom to make specific adjustments where needed such as when casting into the wind. It also allows fine tuning to achieve the perfect setting.
On the other side of the braking system is usually a spool tension knob that applies physical pressure on the spool at the beginning of the cast. You use it to adjust the spool speed according to the weight of the lure.
Another way to control the spool speed when casting is by properly thumbing the spool. Becoming proficient with this manual brake system will give you the best control of your reel when baitcasting.
Choose the braking system you prefer and be sure to understand how it works and how to adjust it. With the brakes and tension knob set just right and with proficiency at applying thumb pressure on the spool, casting will be smooth and farther out and birdnesting non-existent.
You will also want to ensure the baitcaster you get has the line capacity to hold the length and pound test fishing line you’ll be using for your fishing technique and target species. A reel’s line capacity is usually indicated on the spool.
The best low profile baitcasting reels will have plenty of line capacity to handle the most common species such as trout and bass and suit the needs of most fishermen.
If you will be going after large saltwater game fish and species like salmon, muskies, and steelheads, you will need a reel whose spool has a large line capacity, as you will be needing a lot of line to be equipped to handle the long runs you’ll have to deal with.
Right Handed vs Left Handed Baitcasting Reels
Modern baitcasting reels offer right-hand and left-hand models. Right-hand models have the handle on the right side while left-hand models have the handle on the left side. Pay attention to ensure that you order the correct handle orientation.
This is a matter of personal preference developed through experience. If this is your first baitcaster or you’re used to spinning reels, it is a good idea to choose a reel with the handling opposite to that of your dominant hand.
If you are right-handed, go with a left-handed casting reel and vice versa. If you reel with your right hand, select a right-handed reel. If you reel with your left hand, select a left handed reel.
This will ensure a more efficient workflow as you won’t have to switch hands after casting in order to start reeling. With some practice, this workflow will start to feel natural.
Bearings reduce friction between moving gears in the reel and improve the durability of the reel and its gears. They also ensure a smooth operation of the reel. Generally, the more bearings a reel has, the smoother its casting and retrieval are.
Even more important than the number of bearings is the quality of the bearings. A reel with fewer but high-quality bearings will perform better and last longer than a reel with plenty of poor quality bearings. Respected reels such as Daiwa casting reels and Shimano baitcasting reels feature higher quality bearings but also carry a higher price tag.
Most reels have stainless steel bearings while some high-end reels feature ceramic bearings. Both are durable and rust resistant. You also want to ensure the bearings are sealed, shielded or double-shielded to prevent abrasion and corrosion, especially if you’ll be using your reel anywhere near saltwater.
An instant anti-reverse system is also a great feature. This is a special type of bearing that ensures the handle only turns forwards and not backward.
The best casting reels are durable and the quality of the frame plays a major role in determining how long a reel will last. The frame should be strong and durable yet lightweight so it is comfortable to use for long fishing durations.
A one-piece frame is best. The frame is the reel’s foundation and construction from a single block of material gives it rigidity and stability.
Aluminum or magnesium frames are strong and durable. Graphite or carbon fiber is lightweight and comfortable to use but not as resistant to flexing as aluminum is. For lighter applications, graphite is a good option. For larger saltwater game fish, a die-cast or machined aluminum frame has the required strength.
There are also composite frames made from a combination of graphite and aluminum. As long as these are pieced together well to create a strong body, they will also function well.
Another thing to consider is whether to go with a low profile or round profile body design. A round profile reel is gripped from the back delivering more power to throw big baits and go after larger fish. It also usually has a larger line capacity. If you’ll be going after bigger fish such as salmon, muskie, or steelhead, a round profile is the best while a low profile reel is more comfortable to fish with.
You will also want to ensure you choose a handle size and design that suits your fishing technique and target species. A larger and longer handle offers more power to bring large fish out of heavy cover. A shorter handle will give you more control for lighter fishing applications.
Weight is an important consideration when choosing a baitcasting reel as it affects a reel’s usability. A lightweight reel that weighs under 7 ounces is comfortable to handle and you can use it all day without discomfort. If you’re casting and retrieving using a heavy reel, the arm and wrist fatigue you will experience will have you ending your excursion earlier than planned.
Check that the spool size on the baitcaster reel you plan to order is adequate and can handle the size of fishing line you need for the type of fishing you’ll be using it for.
When targeting big fish or using techniques like trolling, you need a bigger/deeper spool that will be able to handle the thicker, heavier and longer fishing line you need. Ensure the reel you go for has the line capacity you need. You may want to go with a round profile reel for its higher line capacity.
Smaller/shallow spools are easier to cast and produce fewer line issues when casting thin diameter lines short distances and when you don’t need too much line. However, they’re inadequate for long casts with large diameter line.
Baitcasting is all about going after strong and fast fish that produce drag-melting runs. If you don’t have an effective drag system with a higher max drag power to handle them, you will be left with broken tackle and empty hands.
The drag system on a baitcaster reel is a feature you want to pay attention to. It is designed to apply enough resistance to prevent a fast swimming fish from pulling all the line off of your reel or snapping your line or rod and also to tire it out. Most baitcaster reels feature carbon fiber drag systems.
It is also important that the drag system is easy to adjust and offers you a full range of adjustment enabling you to fine tune the drag to exactly the level you need to land a fish efficiently.
The drag should be applied evenly and smoothly. A jerky drag system increases the risk of line breaks. A constant speed and pressure is also essential for heat dissipation.
Q: Why Use a Baitcasting Reel?
Q: What Are The Advantages Of Using Baitcast Reel?
Q: How To Use A Baitcasting Reel?
Prepare Your Baitcasting Outfit
Adjust the Brakes for Your Lure Weight
Cast with Your Baitcasting Reel
Vary the Weights and Distance
Globo Surf Overview
No matter what your fishing style is, you need the right equipment for a successful and pleasurable fishing experience. Baitcasting reels are the right equipment for casting heavier lures and lines and going after large fish. It takes time and patience to choose the right baitcast reel and become proficient at its use but the effort is worth it, as a baitcaster reel will give you more control, power, speed, and accuracy.
All the baitcasting reels reviewed here deliver top rated quality and performance at great value for the money. Any of them will make an excellent choice for almost all freshwater fishing applications. Some of them are also equipped for saltwater fishing.
To ensure that you buy the right baitcaster for yourself, ensure its features and specs are suitable for where you’ll be fishing, how you will be fishing and what type of fish you’re going after. Pay attention to the quality of gears, bearings and the frame to ensure your reel will deliver a smooth performance on the water and serve you for years.
Once you find the right baitcaster, ensure that you match it up with a compatible baitcasting rod so you have a well-balanced baitcaster combo that will perform flawlessly. It will also take some practice and patience to learn to set up your reel correctly and thumb the spool like a pro. Once you get it, you will be ready to go after the big fish and experience the benefits of using this powerful type of fishing reel. Don’t be surprised to find yourself soon shopping for another baitcast reel to add to your fishing arsenal.
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Have you used any of the baitcasting reels we’ve reviewed above? What was your experience fishing with it? Share with us in the comment box below