Buyer's Guide for Baitcasting Reels
Baicasting reels are more advanced than ever and they're adapting to all kinds of lure weights. This type of reel is generally better for casting lures that have a bit more weight - rather than spinning reels which are suited to virtually any lure weight. Baitcasting reels do require a bit more experience, but once mastered, they're a weapon to covering loads of attractive water and hitting strike zones.
There are many components to consider before purchasing a baitcaster and some of these components are more important than others when it comes to performance. However, a lot of these features come down to personal preference and relate to comfort - such as the rubber handles, or the thumb bar.
Here is a list of the key components and features to consider before buying a baitcaster, for each we will provide an in depth summary of how each component will impact the performance of the reel and how they play a role in improving the experience for the angler:
- Low Profile or Round
- Gear Ratio
- Breaking Systems
- Ball Bearings
- Line Guides
Low Profile or Round?
There are two different kinds of baitcasters, and you’re going to find both kinds in any store you go into. The first kind is the low-profile baitcaster, these reels have a palm side and a handle side and are designed to fit the contour of the hand.
Low profile baitcasting reels
The primary advantage of the low-profile baitcaster over the round baitcaster, is the comfort in the hand. These reels are built for an efficient wrist action, while being more ergonomic - focusing on comfort and performance. Low-profile reels are known for accurate and precise casting, which is so important in bass angling.
These are the most popular baitcaster reels when it comes to bass fishing - which is what we specialize in, so you’ll see us chatting a lot about low-profile baitcasters.
Round baitcasting reels
Round reels are built less for comfort, but more for handling more and heavier line. These reels help with casting larger baits and are better suited for long runs during the larger fights. Round reels are used more for other large freshwater species or for saltwater angling.
All reels have a specified gear ratio. Essentially, this is the speed of the reel. An example of a gear ratio in a baitcasting reel is 5.4:1. What this ratio means, is that the spool rotates 5.4 times for every 360 degree turn of the reel handle. The gear ratio will be specified on all reels.
Baitcasting reels offer a wide variety of gear ratios and the higher the first number in the ratio is, the faster the reel is going to be when it comes to retrieval. Gear ratios on casting reels usually range from 5.0:1 to 9.1:1 and we've even seen faster.
Slower gear ratios (5.1-5.4:1)
Reels with a slower gear ratio have a greater amount of torque, which essentially means less effort in retrieving your bait. This reels are suited for lures that pull a lot, such us:
- Deep crankbaits
- Deep diving spinnerbaits
- Bigger, slower lures
A slower gear ratio is also better for winter bass fishing, as slower lures are more attractive to bass in these conditions. A slower gear ratio will also keep the lure in the strike zone for longer.
Medium gear ratios (6.1-6.4:1)
These reels are more versatile when it comes to lure presentations, meaning you can use a variety of different lures and presentations comfortably. This essentially means you can either use this reel for deep water lures, or even topwater lures in the shallows. Here are some ideal lure types for this gear ratio:
Reels with a moderate gear ratio are better than slower gear ratios when it comes to fishing in heavily covered areas and you need to retrieve your lure a bit faster. Faster lures will also work better in the summer months.
Fast gear ratios (7.1-8.1:1)
Faster gear ratios are best when you need to take up line quickly. This helps with getting a better hookset while avoiding any threat of slack line.
Here are some techniques that suit a fast gear ratio:
- Texas rigs
For a beginner, or a lesser experienced angler, it would be wise to look into a low to medium gear ratio, ranging from 5.4:1 to 6.4:1. One will be able to fish any technique with this ratio and the retrieval will be more controlled.
A lot of bass fishing lures require a slower retrieval and experience is required in order to fish slowly with a high gear ratio. Having a low to medium gear ratio will give novice the chance to work slow, and fast moving baits more easily.
Once anglers have more experience in working low to medium gear ratios, one should experiment with faster gear ratios and try understand the benefits they bring about.
Each casting reel will come with a braking system. The ‘brakes’ are responsible for slowing down the rotation of the spool during the cast. Without this system, backlash would be a common result when casting and this is never a pleasant experience.
Backlash is when the lure slows down after hitting the water but the spool does not - resulting in the mess (bird’s nest) of line in the spool area. Backlash often scares people away from baitcasting reels, but modern reels are being designed to help anglers avoid the dreaded backlash.
Baitcasting reels will generally have a specific braking system, that is either centrifugal or magnetic. Modern reels today may also have dual systems, combining both braking mechanisms which will provide greater fine tuning for different lure weights.
Centrifugal brakes do most of their work during the first part of the cast. Often what happens is that when anglers cast, the spool will rotate at a faster rate than the lure is travelling, causing the line to get loose - a huge factor that contributes to backlash.
The centrifugal brake is a control that ensures the line to feed off the spool at a similar rate of speed as the cast itself. Most reels will have 6 brake pads, which can be turned on and off by the angler.
If all 6 brakes are turned on, it will slow down the spool faster, while if less are on, the spool is able to rotate faster - leading to a further cast, but a greater chance of backlash.
The one negative of centrifugal brakes, is that you are required to remove the side panel of the reel in order to adjust them.
Magnetic brakes are used in some reels, and they have a flat circular dial on the opposite side of the reel compared to where the handle is. This dial is adjustable in terms of the distance of the brakes from the spool.
Magnetic brakes work slightly differently to centrifugal brakes, as they impact the cast at a later stage rather than the first part of the cast.
This braking system works on the principle that the closer the brakes are to the spool, the faster the spool will slow down within the cast. While the further the brakes are to the spool, the slow the spool will slow down.
One advantage of magnetic brakes over centrifugal, is that the dial is easily accessible and easily adjustable.
Dual systems are a combination of both the centrifugal and magnetic braking systems. For this system, the centrifugal brakes play a bigger role in the beginning of the cast, while the magnetic breaks play a bigger role at the end of the cast.
This braking system is more beginner-friendly and will benefit novice anglers with avoiding backlash. However, it is advised to get either a solely centrifugal or magnetic casting reel first up, as this will help you learn the true technique of thumb control and casting.
If you’re struggling with backlash, your first action will probably be to adjust the spool tension knob - a circular knob located just above the handle of the reel. Tightening this knob will essentially apply greater ‘brakes’ to the spool when casting and will stop the spool sooner once the lure has hit the water, helping to reduce the chance of backlash.
Anglers will also generally tighten the knob when they are working with heavier lures - as it’s easier to gain distance with a heavier lure.
The limiting factor of tightening the spool tension knob, is that you’ll lose distance in your cast.
If there is a greater degree of confidence in casting with a baitcasting reel, anglers will look to loosen the spool tension knob, which will essentially reduce the ‘brakes’ on the spool - leading to greater casting capability. Loosening this knob will however increase the chances of backlash.
The frame is the material which outlines and covers the spool. This is usually made out of aluminum or graphite.
Aluminum frames tend to provide more rigidity and durability, which is often why they’re used in high-end, more expensive reels.
Graphite frames are more advanced than ever these days and provide a lighter feel while having solid durability. Graphite is impervious to rust, making it a good option for saltwater fishing. Graphite is usually used for lower end casting reels when it comes to bass fishing, as it isn’t quite as durable as aluminum.
Ball bearings are stainless steel, cylinder shaped rings which are responsible for creating an ease of motion inside a reel while reducing friction and increasing speed while angling.
Bearings are vital for the smooth running of your real and they also play a massive role in the results of your casting. Having more friction will lead to a less smooth cast, meaning a loss in distance. This is where the bearings play a helpful role in reducing friction.
Many people believe that more bearings automatically means better quality in smoothness and better motion, however, this is certainly not always the case. You can find up to 14 bearings in a reel, but if these are low quality bearings, you may not get the desired results in the running of your reel.
The kind of bearings you’re looking for are “shielded”, “double-shielded”, and “sealed” bearings. These kinds of bearings are highly durable and will lead to consistent performance of your reel. So, rather than looking for the number of bearings, rather focus on the quality of the bearings the reel is providing.
Other bearings which should be regarded are ARB (anti-rust bearings), or CRBB (corrosion-resistant bearings).
This is the part of the reel where the line is held. This is an essential part of the reel, and is definitely something to consider when looking at your next reel.
The majority of baitcasting reels come with an aluminum spool, while higher-end reels come with a forged aluminum spool. Less expensive reels will be die-cast aluminum. Forged will be stronger than die-cast and it will be harder to damage the surface of the spool. Anodized aluminum is another commonly used build for a spool.
Another common trend in today’s spool includes drilled holes within the spool. These spools are lighter in weight and are easier to stop and start spinning. Most modern baitcasters will have these drilled holes.
Lighter spools are better when it comes to casting lighter lures, as line will come off more easily. Often finesse angling can be tough with a casting reel, which is why spools are constantly being improved in order to aid the casting of all lure weights.
The line guide is the mechanism within the reel which enables the line to move freely out of the reel during the cast and come back again smoothly during the retrieve. The line guide plays a large role in reducing line twisting as well as minimizing friction.
When looking at line guides, more expensive reels will usually have a titanium made line guide, as it provides high durability. Lower priced reels may have a ceramic line guide, which is still quality - but may crack or deteriorate from alleviated u
One of the most popular line guide systems is called the T-Wing System and it was designed by Daiwa. This system features on most of the Tatula casting reels.
This is the main interface between the hand and the reel itself, where the working of the line is done.
Personal preference with comfort comes in for this component, as anglers will be looking to get a reel with a handle that they can use for long periods of time.
Aluminum handles with soft, large knobs are usually the standard for baitcasting reels and do a great job in holding up for long sessions. Reinforced metals in the handle are on the higher-end of the reel market and provide a very rigid and dependable material for advanced anglers looking for something more heavy duty.
Based on feedback collected from reviews and top retailers, and reviews left by our users, these are the top ass fishing with their associated ratings.
The 10 Best Baitcasting Reels for Bass Fishing:
Based on collated feedback from leading retailers as well as feedback left by our website users, these are the 10 best baitcasting reels for bass fishing.
Daiwa Zillion SV TW
The 2021 Zillion SV TW has been a huge success for Daiwa. Anglers were shocked as to how smooth this reel was, as well as how far it could cast.
Many have commended the forgiveness of this reel as well, thanks for the Air Brake System from Daiwa.
One also has to mention how comfortable this reel is to fish with - something that we're seeing the huge brands strive for in modern reels.
From what we can see, the Zillion SV TW from Daiwa is a masterpiece!
Shimano Metanium MGL
The Metanium MGL is a high-performance reel that is up there with the best, and has a price tag to match. It is about as smooth as a reel can get, as confirmed by just about every angler that has reviewed it across the web. Additionally, it is comfortable to fish and lightweight, making it the perfect "all-day" reel. Not to mention, it just looks so good on any rod.
The Metanium casts an absolute mile thanks to its MGL III spool and easy-to-adjust SVS Infinity braking system. Want a baitcaster that can cast featherlight lures? You are going to struggle to beat this one. The only consistent complaint from some anglers is that the 11lb max drag is a little underpowered for a reel of this price. The most common use for this reel however is for lighter presentations, anglers using it for this use-case have no issue with the drag at all.
The Metanium MGL is kind of like the Ferrari of Shimano baitcasters. Will using a baitcaster that provides optimal smoothness, comfort and build quality put more fish in the boat? Probably no more so than some of the other high-mid range options on the market. But one thing is for sure, its going to feel great fishing with it, and there is a lot to be said for that!
Did we mention that it looks so good it is basically a work of art?
Shimano Metanium DC
Not much else can be said about the Metanium DC. It is quite simply one of the most impressive reels we've come across and it is guaranteed to enhance your angling experience. The Metanium DC gives anglers the chance to toss lures of all weights and styles in all kinds of conditions. The DC braking system pretty much eliminates backlashes and maximizes casting distance.
If you're serious about your angling, we couldn't recommend this reel more highly, but you're going to need some budget. Some other, more affordable ranges that have models using the DC braking system include the Curado and the SLX.
Shimano Curado MGL 150
The Curado MGL 150 has been incredibly well received by the anglers who use it thanks to its light weight, build quality and all-round versatility. All reports point to the fact that the MGL 150 is a dream to fish with, and sits very comfortably in the hand. The MagnumLite (MGL) spool enables superb casting distance and accuracy, whether you are throwing heavy or super light lures. To top it all off, the reel also boasts a buttery smooth feel on retrieve and is robust and sturdy.
Overall, it is clear that the Curado MGL is a "do-it-all" baitcaster of very high quality. It may be on the pricey side, but it is sure to last you a long time and allow you to fish whatever technique you like with confidence. It really is difficult to beat this reel on overall value in this price range.
Daiwa Steez A TW
Overall the Steez A TW is a casting reel that has only ever racked up positive reviews. The reel uses the latest in spool technology to provide anglers with great casting distance, without having the threat of backlash.
This is a strong, lightweight, versatile, and comfortable reel and is guaranteed to be any baitcaster-enthusiast's dream. This is however an expensive option. It might be worth checking out a member of the Tatula series before considering the Steez A TW, such as the Tatula Elite.
Lew's Tournament Pro Speed Spool LFS
The Tournament Pro Speed Spool LFS is a serious contender for the best casting reel in this price range, and many say it should be worth a lot more. We highly recommend this reel if you're looking to getting into baitcaster reels, as this reel will help make the transition seamless. Overwhelming reviews with undeniable quality. If you're looking for a more affordable Lew's casting reel, it might be worth checking out the Speed Spool LFS.
Shimano Curado K
The Curado K is another exceptional build by Shimano. This reel is usable by anglers of all levels, and would be a great option for a newcomer to casting reels. The versatility of the reel makes it great for all kinds of Bass angling, and is also suitable for saltwater. One thing to consider is the braking system, as one needs to remove side plates in order to make the required adjustments for casting.
Daiwa Tatula SV TW
The Tatula SV TW is another highly rated reel used by many experienced anglers. Many users love the SV spool combined with the magnetic braking system, as it gives them to ability to cast all lures with precision and minimal chance of backlash. The SV spool is also particularly good when it comes to throwing light baits and for skipping.
This is another reel we highly recommend if you have a reasonable budget.
Shimano SLX DC
The Shimano SLX DC as well as the whole SLX series has become one of Shimano's most successful series. The SLX DC combines the latest in braking technology with classic smoothness of the best casting reels to bring a reel of world class status, which can be used by newcomers, or anglers of a high level.
The braking system on this reel is incredible, there is no other way to say it! The four preset settings give anglers of all skill levels a braking setup that will suit their needs. If you are new to using baitcasters, are throwing light lures or are fishing into heavy wind, crank the number up to 3 or 4 and enjoy the extra backlash protection. Those looking for a more free spool can turn the settings down to 1 or 2 and cast this reel an absolute mile.
Personally, this reel changed the game for me in terms of being able to skip cast. Turning the reel's setting up to 4 gave me the confidence to practice skipping without fear of blowing up a spool of fluorocarbon. It allowed me to build up confidence in this technique, something I have not managed to do with any other baitcaster reel!
Shimano Chronarch MGL
The Shimano Chronarch offers tournament level performance at a price that while not cheap, is most definitely fair. The reel is lightweight, durable and performs incredibly well on just about every metric. It enables anglers to cast an absolute mile thanks to the MGL (MagnumLite) spool and Super Free Spool technology combination. On top of that, it also makes casting light lures a breeze allowing anglers to fish more finesse presentations on a baitcaster without having to go for something in top-tier price points like the Metanium MGL or Metanium DC.
The Chronarch is also versatile. It is perfectly suited to lighter line techniques, but is equally good at the heavy stuff. Its light weight and ergonomic design makes it one of those reels you can keep in your hand all day without fatiguing.
The only consistent negative feedback we found on the Chronarch MGL is the fact that the paint chips off easily. While this is only a superficial problem, it is a pity and for a reel costing around $300, this is not something that should be happening. Overall though, it is hard to fault this reel when it comes to overall performance and value for money. Its become a favorite among experienced and new anglers for good reason.
Lew's Speed Spool LFS
The Speed Spool LFS is an absolute gem. A perfectly designed casting reel which gives anglers forgiveness, smoothness and immense versatility. If you're on a budget, or even if you're just looking for high class reel - have a look at this weapon. This reel has been compared to some of the best in this price region, such as the SLX.
Lew's MG Speed Spool SLP
The MG Speed Spool SLP is without a doubt one of the best options out there if you're looking to get a high quality baitcasting reel comfortably under the $100 mark. This reel features some of the finest components within the Speed Spool series and is made with the same care and design of some of the higher-end reels in Lew's' collection.
If you're looking to get a reliable casting reel without breaking the bank, the MG Speed Spool needs to be looked at.
The Shimano SLX is an excellent casting reel for the price you're paying. Many anglers compare the casting and overall smoothness to other world-class, much more expensive models such as the Curado. For this reason, the SLX is largely considered the "King" of affordable, $100 or less baitcasters. It is a fantastic option for the experienced angler on bit of a budget, or someone just starting out fishing a baitcaster. Availability in 6.3:1, 7.2:1 and 8.2:1 gear ratios means there is an SLX for just about any technique or setup.
This reel pairs beautifully with the SLX baitcasting rod, and it is without a doubt one of the more eye-catching combos on the market.
The Shimano Caius may come in at a low price point, but it doesn't perform like a cheap reel. It feels solid and rigid in the hand, is very versatile and actually casts like a dream thanks to the Super Free Spool technology included by Shimano. A standout feature of the Caius is its ability to launch light lures. It was designed with lighter presentations in mind and handles these lighter line techniques very well indeed. Usually you would need to go with something premium to throw lighter lures on a baitcaster. the Caius opens this opportunity up for less than $100.
The one thing the Caius is not really optimized for is fishing heavy cover. While you could do some lighter flipping/pitching with the Caius, its not really a reel designed for heavy line situations.
The Caius might not have the premium look and feel of Shimano's mid-high tier reels, but it performs well above its price point. The plastic side plates may feel a little cheap, and the drag is not up there with the strongest, but if you are looking for a solid, versatile reel, optimized for light-mid weight presentations and don't want to break the bank, you really can't go wrong with the Caius.
Abu Garcia Revo X Casting Reel
The Revo X has become one of the most used casting reels in the bass angling industry, and this is partially due to its affordable price tag - but many say this provides all you need: smooth retrieval, long casting, and easily adjustable brakes in order to counter backlashes. The reel does have some users which question it's durability, but overall, this is definitely one of the best options if you're on a budget. If you're looking for a Revo option with better overall performance, it might be worth paying a bit more and looking at something like the Revo Premier.
The CC80 is an affordable casting reel that provides anglers with solid performance all-round. For sure, it's not going to cast the furthest, or have the smoothest drag, but it's going to provide you with the necessities to have a good day out on the water and all at a brilliant price.
You may want to consider a reel such as the Tatula CT if you're looking for something slightly more premium.
Abu Garcia Silver Max
The Silver Max is another hugely popular reel because of the price tag combined with the performance it provides. Many rate this reel right up there with reels well above it's price range, which is definitely something to consider if you're on a budget. This reel has racked up a serious amount of ratings, and has still managed to average above a 4 star rating, which is seriously impressive!
One thing that needs to be considered when purchasing a reel at this price is the longevity of its use. Some will say you're paying for the durability, rather than just the elite performance. This is without a doubt one of the brands more affordable options, so if you're looking for some a bit more smooth and durable, maybe have a look at the Revo X.