Looking to improve your fishing game but don’t know where to start?
Try a baitcasting reel. Baitcasting reels are an excellent choice for really taking your fishing skills to the next level. You’ll get more precision, use heavier lures more effectively, and be able to flip and pitch with ease.
However, buying a baitcasting reel can be a bit of challenge. There are a number of terms you need to be aware of when making your selection. You don’t want to just go buy any reel off the shelf and then find out it’s not what you wanted.
Trust me, baitcasting reels can be quite expensive compared to spinning gear so it’s not something to take likely.
To also add there is the learning curve that comes with baitcasting reels. You can’t just buy one and expect your skills to improve. You must practice with your chosen reel until you get good at it. Trust me though the hard work is worth it.
So if you’re ready to step up your fishing game and find out exactly what you need to know when it comes to baitcasting reels all you have to do it read on...
Best Baitcasting Reel Reviews
The Abu Garcia Revo SX is one of the most popular baitcasting reels on the market today and it can also be considered the best baitcasting reel for the money.
Abu Garcia offers the Revo SX is two configurations. A standard and a high-speed model.
The standard model comes in a 6.4:1 gear ratio while the high-speed model comes in a 7.1:1 gear ratio. The standard model is going to be the better buy if you’re looking for an all-purpose reel.
However, if you want to pitch and flip jigs or soft plastics the high-speed model will let you get more casts in.
Both models have an aluminum alloy frame and carbon composite side plates. This makes the reel fairly lightweight at just 6.7oz while also remaining fairly durable. There is plenty of cranking power in this reel and the gear design allows it to function wonderfully under stress.
The SX models come in a 9 + 1 stainless steel bearing configuration. The plus 1 is an anti-reverse bearing that helps to eliminate some of the back play in the reel handle. Because of the high bearing count and the fact that the bearings are high quality this reel has an incredibly smooth retrieve.
Abu Garcia has included a magnetic braking system on the SX models that apply constant pressure throughout the cast. A relief for people new to baitcasting reels as centrifugal braking systems are more difficult to get right.
Overall this is a premium baitcasting reel that is an excellent example of what a little bit of a budget can get you. The Abu Garcia SX is a premium reel with an excellent design and a bunch of premium features that won’t hurt your back pocket too much.
- Smooth retrieval
- Very ergonomic
- Slight back play in the handle
- Not a long distance caster
Daiwa Tatula is more than one reel. It’s a whole series of reels that are offered in various configurations including high speed, hyper speed, and high power.
There are also type R models that have impressive retrieval speeds.
The Tatula reels are heavier than some of the other reels on this list. Currently, Tatula reels can weigh anywhere from 7.6oz all the way up to 8.1oz depending on the model.
The reason for the weight is that all of these reels come with a full aluminum body that offers impressive corrosion resistance.
All Tatula models come with a 7+1 sealed bearing system. Further adding to the corrosion resistance. Because of the high quality of these bearings, the retrieval is incredibly smooth and will last you through hundreds of fishing trips.
As for gear ratios, Tatual models offer gear ratios ranging from 6.3:1 - 8.1:1. Even though these reels have a pretty high gear ratio they still offer quite a bit of cranking power.
One of the great things about the Tatula baitcasting reels is that they come with the Daiwa T-Wing casting system.
The T-Wing casting system is a specially designed line guide that reduces friction and obstruction on the cast. It works by creating a wide slot for the line to flow through as opposed to every small hole found on most other baitcasting reels.
Along with the T-Wing Daiwa also includes a carbon drag stack that supports up to 13.2 pounds of drag and a Magforce braking system. The Magforce braking system provides consistent pressure throughout the cast that limits backlash. Even for novices.
Daiwa’s primary goal with this family of baitcasting reels was really to design a reel that professional anglers could use as well as amateur anglers. Overall I would say they did a remarkable job and they got it done without breaking the bank.
- Durable and long lasting
- Fast retrieval
- Offers both left and right handed models
- T-Wing concept allows you to cast farther and easier
- More expensive than other reels on this list
- A bit on the heavy side
More of an entry level baitcasting reel theKastking Royale Legend does not disappoint. In fact, it has quite an impressive specs sheet.
First, this reel comes with an impressive 12 bearings. The bearings are in an 11+1 configuration. They are also sealed and corrosion resistant making it great for both fresh and saltwater environments.
Secondly, the Royale Legend comes with an impressive 7:1 gear ratio that makes retrieval quick and smooth thanks to the large bearing count. While the high gear ratio doesn’t make it great for all fishing situations if you are pitching and flipping jigs to bass it will accel.
One interesting feature this reel comes with is a dual braking system. It features both a magnetic and a centrifugal braking system to really allow you to fine tune the reel to what you want. Because it has both this is a great way for novices to get some experience with friction-based braking systems.
Kastking definitely hasn’t forgotten about ergonomics in this reel. This reel is incredibly light at just 7.5 ounces. This means you can flip and pitch all day without exhausting yourself.
The reel also has an oversized stainless steel handle that features EVA padded foam grips that help to wick away moisture while fighting a fish. This reel becomes even more impressive once you see the price tag.
Overall the Kastking Royale Legend is a great entry level baitcasting reel for the angler who is looking to step up his fishing game without breaking the bank.
- Very affordable
- Good quality
- Excellent braking and drag systems
- Reel can be noisy even when new
Tight on cash but want to step up your fishing game? The Abu Garcia black max baitcasting reel is a great choice for anglers on a budget.
In fact, it’s probably the best budget reel on this list. And for bass fishing, it is the staple reel for beginners.
This reel features a low profile design and ergonomic handle that both increases your fishing comfort on those all day fishing trips.
Despite having a 4+1 bearing configuration the reel is surprisingly smooth. Part of the reason for the smooth drag is due in part to the excellent “power disk” drag system.
The maximum drag on this reel is an impressive 18 pounds and it offers an anti-reverse feature that is nice. It also comes with a Duragear brass gear, that really helps to extend the lifespan for the gear.
The gear ratio is 6.4:1. Not bad for an all-around reel. This reel is mainly meant for fishing rivers and lakes so it’s perfectly capable of fighting bass or even Pike. Along with decent gear ratio, you also get a superb braking system.
Using the MagTrax brake system you’ll get consistent brake pressure throughout the cast. As I mentioned this is truly a beginners baitcasting reel and magnetic braking system really helps to ease the learning curve.
The frame and side plates are made from graphite making the reel both light and pretty strong. It won’t be a great saltwater reel but it’ll freshwater no problem. The spool itself is made from machined aluminum, that really helps to increase the overall strength of this reel.
Overall if you’re looking to get into baitcasting but don’t want to commit 200+ dollars on a baitcasting reel the Abu Garcia Black Max is a great reel to start out your journey. This reel also comes in a combo with a rod. So if you don’t have a rod to throw it on you can save a few dollars by picking up the combo set.
- Extremely affordable
- Left-handed support
- Very ergonomic design with a comfortable hand
- Low bearing count
Not surprising Pflueger reels often make our list due to their high quality at an affordable price point and the Pflueger President XT Baitcaster is no different.
First, this reel has an impressive 9 double shielded stainless steel bearings that will give you a smooth operation during operation.
One of the 9 bearings is of course dedicated to the excellent anti-reverse feature on this reel that really offers great control and precision.
However, you’ll also find a 6-pin centrifugal braking system. Making the reel somewhat off-putting to newbies.
The frame on this reel is all one piece of aluminum that also includes an aluminum side plated handle with soft touch knobs as well. Making it great for fishing in both fresh and saltwater. While this reel can be used in saltwater I would recommend light saltwater usage such as inshore fishing.
The gear ratio for this reel is an impressive 7.3:1. Making it a speedy reel but of course, losing a bit of cranking power. However, it’s still a fantastic reel for bass fishing or other freshwater species.
Speaking of cranking power the President features a multi-disk drag system that is easily adjusted and quite precise. While it’s not the smoothest or the strongest drag system on the list it is capable of delivering a respectable 5.5 pounds of counter pressure. Which is more than enough for largemouth.
The ergonomics on this reel haven’t gone unnoticed either. First, this reel is super comfortable to hold and is designed with palming in mind. The spool opening isn’t symmetrical and is actually designed to accommodate your thumb while palming the reel.
Overall the Pflueger President XT baitcaster is another great entry level baitcasting reel that will get the job done rather you’re a novice or a professional.
- Very ergonomic reel that is lightweight and comfortable
- Durable aluminum body and side plating
- Side plate fully disconnects from frame that makes adjusting brakes with one hand more difficult
What You Need To Know About Baitcasting Reels
All right, now that you have seen some of the best baitcasting reels on the market it’s time to get into what makes a baitcasting reel the best. Like other types of fishing reels I have covered before it’s really not all that complicated once you get to know the terminology and you’ll see which specifications we care about most.
Why You Should Upgrade To A Baitcasting Reel
The first thing I would like to cover is why should you upgrade to a baitcasting reel. Most people typically use either a spinning reel or a spincast reel. But a baitcasting reel will really help you to step up your fishing game.
Rather you want to be a pro or you just want to outfish your friends learning how to use a baitcasting reel effectively can help you do just that. Below I’ve covered some advantages and disadvantages of using a baitcasting reel.
Advantages of a baitcasting reel
Heavier line - On baitcasting reels, the line comes off the spool perpendicular to the rod guides. This basically means the line comes off directly through the line guide and straight through the guides on the rod.
Because of how the line comes off the spool this makes it easier to use a heavier line like 20-pound test and you can also use heavier lures than you would be able to with spinning gear. A proper baitcasting setup can easily cast 1oz and heavier lures.
Less line twist - Another advantage to a baitcasting reel is you get less line twist. This is mainly due to how the line comes off the spool. Since the line is spooled perpendicular to the spool axis there is virtually no line twist.
The only line twist you should experience when using a baitcasting reel is from the lure itself. This usually happens when you use lures like soft plastics.
Longer casts - When paired with the right line and rod baitcasting reels far exceed the casting capabilities of spinning reels. Again this has a lot to do with how the line comes off the spool.
In spinning rods, the line comes off the spool with a lot of line twist which drastically lowers the casting distance potential. Whereas a baitcasting reel offers very little line twist and allows the line to flow freely off the reel.
More power - Because of the spool layout and design baitcasting reels are capable of providing more power than their spinning reel counterparts. Since the spool is in-line with the handle and gear the reel is able to apply more power and torque.
Having the handle directly mounted to the frame rather than using a lever arm like spinning reels also allows you to really crank down on a fish because there is less flex in the handle.
More control - Probably one of the biggest advantages of a baitcasting reel is the control it gives you when casting. A baitcasting reel allows you to control the distance and speed of your cast by feathering or thumbing the spool during the cast.
With a lot of practice, you can become quite proficient and use a baitcasting reel to achieve pinpoint accuracy. Allowing you to put your lure exactly where the fish are.
Disadvantages of a baitcasting reel
More difficult learning curve - Possibly the biggest disadvantage to baitcasting reels is there a much steeper learning curve than with other reels. Casting a baitcaster ineffectively can result in line creating backlashes and bird nests.
In order to prevent this, you must spend a lot of time practicing your cast and learning how to properly feather or thumb the spool. Baitcasting reels are truly meant for more experienced anglers. But the accuracy you’ll get from them is well worth the headache.
Higher price point - Another disadvantage is that baitcasting reels usually have a higher price point than other types of fishing reels. You can find a few decent baitcasting reels in the sub 100 dollar range but most decent reels are going to cost more than a good spinning reel would.
However, as you can see above I have selected a few decently priced baitcasting reels to include on this list. Once you are comfortable with a baitcasting reel you can always upgrade to a higher end reel if you wish.
But honestly, if you get proficient with the one you have I don’t see too much of a need to step up to a high dollar reel unless you really feel you need to do so.
Must use heavier lures - The last disadvantage to baitcasting reels is the fact that heavy lures are pretty much required to use a baitcasting reel.
There are some fish species such as trout where you really want to use lighter lures and a baitcasting reel just doesn’t really offer that.
However, if you are going to be targeting larger species such as bass, muskie, or even saltwater species this isn’t too much of a disadvantage.
What To Look For In A Good Baitcasting Reel
Now that you know some of the advantages and disadvantages of baitcasting reels let’s go over a few different specs you should be looking for when selecting a baitcasting reel.
Round profile vs low profile baitcasting reels
The first step in figuring out what baitcasting reel will work best for you is deciding between a round profile or a low profile.
The profile refers to the design of the body, and there are a few things that will determine what type of profile will work best for your situation. Things to consider are your fishing style, what line capacity you prefer and your level of comfort.
Round Profile - If you are targeting larger fish and deeper water a round profile will work best for you.
Round profile baitcasting reels offer more power and torque because of the reels design. A round profile reel is designed to be gripped from back which is what allows the reel to offer more torque.
Round profile reels are capable of accomodating large lures and more line capacity so they’re perfect if you are planning on targeting fish species such as Salmon, Muskie, or steelhead.
Low-Profile - Low-profile reels are designed for comfort. This style of baitcasting reel is designed with a palm-able grip. This means that if you like to hold onto the reel and handle while winding this type of reel will be better suited to you.
Low-profile reels are strictly designed to be more ergonomic and provide an overall more comfortable fishing experience. This style of reel works great for bass fishing.
Baitcasting Reel Materials
When it comes to baitcasting reel materials there are only two material types you should see. Aluminum or graphite. Graphite reels are lighter but have more flex than aluminum reels. Graphite reels are best for fishing creeks and streams for small bass and panfish.
If you’re looking to target larger bass and most other game fish you will want an aluminum body. Baitcasting reels made from aluminum are more resistant to flexing and offer more cranking power than their graphite counterparts.
If you’re looking to fish in saltwater an aluminum reel is an absolute must. Sometimes you will see hybrid reels that are made of both aluminum and graphite. The most important aspect of these reels is that they are pieced together well and can resist body flex and bending that comes with fighting fish.
When looking at spool size you really need to consider the type of fishing you’ll be doing. Depending on how and what you’ll be fishing for you may need more or less line capacity.
If you’ll be pitching and flipping a smaller spool size will work great. However, if you’re planning to target bigger fish or will be trolling then you’ll need a considerable amount of line. If you need more line you should consider picking up a round profile reel.
I’ve talked about bearings a few times in some of my other reel posts so I’ll try to keep this short. Traditionally the more bearings you have in a reel the better the reel will perform overall.
In baitcasting reels, you will want to look for ceramic or stainless-steel bearings. You also want to make sure your bearings are high quality. A few high-quality bearings will outperform a high quantity of low-quality bearing every time.
Unfortunately, you’ll only find this out after you have a few trips under your belt or when the reel is under load. Typically in higher end reels, you will also find high-quality bearings and those do come with a higher price tag.
Another thing to note is that if you are going to be using your reel near salt water you will want to look for sealed or corrosion resistant bearings as saltwater can really corrode the inner workings of the reel.
Baitcasting Reel Gear Ratios
Gear ratios are typically written as 6.5:1. This means the reel will go through 6.5 revolutions per turn of the handle. Baitcasting reels are built for more aggressive retrieving techniques and as such will usually have higher gear ratios.
On average a 6.5:1 gear ratio is pretty common.
However, a higher gear ratio does not always mean it’s the best. When you start getting into higher gear ratios you will often find cranking power decreases. This is the same concept you see in a car. When you go up a steep hill you put your car in low gear to get that extra power and leverage.
If you’re planning to fish for larger saltwater species a lower gear ratio is recommended as you’ll get more cranking power. Something you’ll need for saltwater game fish.
Baitcasting Reel Drag Systems
Drag refers to the tension that is placed on the spool and determines how easily line can be pulled off the spool by a running fish. While pretty much any reel today will prevent a fish from running off with all of your line there a few factors you’ll need to consider when choosing a ree.
The first thing you should consider is the material the drag system is made of. When a fish pulls the line off the spool the drag disc heats up and expands equally to the amount of pressure and speed being applied to the line.
Therefore you should consider drag systems that are made from materials such as ceramic, carbon or graphite as they allow heat to be dissipated more quickly. Allowing heat to dissipate will result in few line snaps and lost fish.
The second consideration you need to have is can you fine-tune your drag. When fighting a fish being able to fine-tune your drag is critical. It helps to control the fish on the end of your line and allows you to better manage your drag to prevent line breaks.
You want a drag system that offers a full range of adjustment from the least amount of drag pressure to the highest amount of drag pressure. Being able to tune your drag and adjust it on the fly is a useful feature to have.
A braking system is what really gives baitcasting reels control. The braking system is responsible for reducing the speed of the reel rotations and will help to prevent backlash on the spool.
There are two braking systems to be aware of. Magnetic or Friction.
Magnetic braking systems rely on magnets to control the speed of the spool throughout the cast. The primary benefit you get from a magnetic braking system is that they are adjustable and can be tuned to your preferences.
Friction based braking systems work by using centrifugal force and pin. The pins extend out further as the speed of the spool increases. Because of this, the system controls the spool speed at the beginning of the cast.
However, while there are automatic braking systems built into baitcasting reels you still need to learn how to properly thumb the spool. Thumbing the spool is a manual break of sorts and will really give you the most control once you master the technique.
The last thing you need to be aware of is the tension system. The tension system in baitcasting reels is designed to put pressure on the spool and adjust its ability to spin.
It is important to note this is not a braking system and shouldn’t be used as such. If you do use it as a braking system you can wear down the internal mechanics of your reel very quickly. Thus shortening the life of the reel drastically.
Tension should be used to match the spin of the spool with the size of the lure you are fishing. The tensioning system is a way to fine tune your reel for farther and more accurate casts.
One issue novice baitcasters have is not correcting the tension on the spool when changing lure weights. Because tension controls the speed of the spool it can also help to prevent backlashes on the spool as well.
How To Properly Cast A Baitcasting Reel
Once you have your chosen baitcasting reel on your rod and ready to go you’ll want to practice before actually hitting the water. Below I have included a simple guide on how to use your new baitcasting reel correctly
Reel in the line - Reel in the line until your lure is about 6 - 12 inches from the rod tip. If you are using a bobber your bobber should sit 6 - 12 inches from the rod tip instead.
Hold the reel properly - Grip the rod behind the reel with your thumb resting over the reel spool. You will use your thumb to thumb the line and apply a manual brake when casting the reel.
Try holding your thumb at an angle for thumbing the line rather than the flat of your thumb. Having a slight angle will give you better control over the flow of the line.
Press the reel spool release button - On modern baitcasting reels, you will find the spool release button or bar behind the spool that is designed to be pressed with your thumb.
The spool release disengages the reel spool from the handles so that they don’t turn during the cast allowing for longer casting distances.
Bend your casting arm - Bend your arm at the elbow so that crook of your arm forms a right angle. As you do raise the rod until its tip is slightly past vertical.
Sweep the rod forward - Sweep the rod until it reaches the 10 o’clock position or roughly 30 degrees. As you sweep the rod forward lift your thumb off the reel spool so that the weight of your lure pulls the line off the spool.
Stop the bait - As soon as your bait reaches the water press your thumb down on the reel spool to stop the bait. If you do not apply your thumb soon enough the spool will continue to turn creating a birds nest you’ll have to untangle before you can retrieve your lure.
I have also included a video on how to properly cast a baitcasting reel as well.
As you can see there is a lot that goes into selecting a baitcasting reel. But once you get down to the brass tax it’s fairly simple. However, the same can’t be said for learning to use a baitcasting reel.
But learning a new way of fishing is a great way to really increase your fishing skills. After a few hours or days of practice, you’ll be landing fish much better than your buddies who chose to stick with their spinning or spincast reels.
Baitcasting reels allow pinpoint accuracy and better hooksets meaning you’ll be able to drop your lure right in front of the fish and make sure they don’t find their way off your line.
If you found this article helpful be sure to share it on social media and help get some other anglers into baitcasting as well.
As always thanks for reading and remember...adventure is waiting.