Having a fish on the line battling it out on the sea is one of the most exciting moments for any fisherman. Sometimes a big one can get away just through sheer bad luck, but often your equipment plays a big role in whether the fish is actually caught, or if it escapes.
Having the right reel is just as important as having the right rod, line, and bait for getting your fish on board your boat. No matter how powerful the fish, there’s a line and reel combination out there that can get the job done.
In this article, we talk about the various aspects of baitcasting reels to consider, the pros and cons, the best options out there, as well as how to care for and use them.
Key Features of our Favorite Baitcasting Reels
The number of times a spool turns in a single revolution of the handle is referred to as the gear ratio. A higher the gear ratio means more line is recovered on each turn of the handle. The most familiar gear ratios for popular baitcasting reels are 5.3:1, 6.4:1, and 7.1:1.
If you want to fish with stiff, heavy line, like a 20-pound fluorocarbon, a larger, or deeper, spool is your best bet. The smaller line coils are easier to manage on a larger spool, while smaller, shallow spools work well for short line applications like pitching and flipping.
Shorter handles are what you see on most compact reels. These work well for most fishing applications like using a worm or jig for bait, but will not be sufficient for large crankbaits or swimbaits. Using a longer handle will create more torque to winch fish out of deep cover.
Brakes & Tension System
At the beginning of a cast, a tension knob controls your line, while at the end, the braking system is in control of the line. If you cast into the wind, brakes can be very helpful because your spool often spins faster than the bait as the wind slows it down.
Together, a good tension and braking system will enable you to make longer casts with a large variety of lure weights while experiencing minimal backlashes.
Bearings & Materials
Good quality ceramic or stainless-steel bearings are what you need for baitcasting reels. Generally, a reel with more bearings will cast and retrieve more smoothly than one with fewer bearings.
Focus on lightweight reels that use durable materials like carbon composite, magnesium, and aluminum materials.
Types of Baitcasting Reels
Let’s talk about the different kinds of baitcasting reels and what purposes they are suited for.
Round reels are heavier and have larger spools, which hold more line. Since they usually are made from aluminum, they are corrosion resistant for saltwater environments and good for fishing larger fish like salmon and pike.
This type of reel is lighter and usually contains a mix of graphite and aluminum. The ergonomic design means wrist action is easier. It’s good for freshwater fishing. Similarly, you should keep in mind the drag systems when choosing a reel.
This type is adjusted from the side between the reel and handle, and is easier to use for beginners. It is great for jigging and inshore fish under 40 pounds.
The lever drag is adjusted from the top of the reel/handle and gives more precise control over the drag setting with the ability to preset a maximum drag. It is good for trolling and large offshore fish over 40 pounds.
Considerations When Buying a New Baitcasting Reel
Because baitcasting is not easy for beginners, it is recommended to have significant fishing experience before attempting to test out baitcasting reels. Also, they are usually more expensive than spinning reels. Another con of using spinning reels is that you can only use a heavy lure.
The main advantage of baitcasting reels is that you have the freedom to control the entire cast. You can cast much more accurately with baitcasting reels if you have enough experience and know what you’re doing.
They are also the ideal reels for hunting big games and can accommodate heavy rods, heavier lines, and bigger lures. You also get more power due to the additional torque from the reel.
Baitcasting reels also impart less line twist due to spooling the line perpendicular to the spool axis. You also can perform longer casts because the line comes directly off the spool straight out the rod guides, compared to the uncoiling of a spinning outfit.
Quick Take | Best Baitcasting Reels
Just looking for the top three best baitcasting reels? Here they are:
Review of the Best Baitcasting Reels
Let’s now take a look at some fine examples of baitcasters and their features. These are the top picks from the huge variety available in the market.
One of the most low-profile baitcast reels is the KastKing Royale Legend with its state-of-the-art dual brakes with an ultra-reliable centrifugal and magnetic brake system for ultimate casting control.
The super silent, high speed 7.0:1 brass gear ratio and 11+1 noise-free, corrosion resistant MaxiDur ball bearings, and braided fishing line and monofilament compatible ceramic line guide give you optimal high-speed performance.
The oversized, stainless steel handles on this reel give you superior control and the non-slip EVA padded foam grips are comfortable and designed to wick away moisture.
The spool is made from CNC machined, cross-drilled anodized aluminum. It's strong enough to deliver 17.5 pounds of drag with its amazing carbon fiber star drag system, while still remaining lightweight and easy to maneuver.
While this is a perfect reel for freshwater fishing like fishing for trout, bass, or on the ice, the Royale Legend is also suitable for saltwater fishing when properly maintained. It is lightweight, strong, has great components, and is comfortable to handle.
Piscifun Torrent Baitcasting Reel
The Piscifun Torrent weighs just eight ounces and comes with double line-winding shafts for stability, performance, and strength. It has a 7.1:1 gear ratio, water resistance, strong stainless steel springs and screws, dependable operation, and nearly noiseless, steady-speed retrievals.
The reel has shielded bearings for a long life, and the three carbon fiber drag washers outlast and outperform other washers. The extended 4-⅓-inch handle with EVA knobs increases leverage and power.
This reel is perfect for both freshwater and saltwater fishing, with a comfortable grip, speed, and plenty of power for a strong cast. It is lightweight, has great components, and is reliable enough for most fishing needs.
Best for the Money:
KastKing Speed Demon 9.3:1 Baitcasting Fishing Reel
The KastKing Speed Demon baitcaster is very fast, with a 9.3:1 gear ratio, brass gears, and 12+1 shielded ball bearings for uncomplicated casts and speedy retrievals. It has a three-disc, carbon fiber, star drag system with 13.2 pounds of drag power and an easy to adjust trilateral magnetic brake.
The drilled aluminum spool eliminates backlashing and the stainless steel main shaft is very durable. The sure grip flat paddle EVA knobs make adjustments and control extremely easy.
Thanks to its smooth casting, speedy retrieves, and durability, this reel will be your go-to baitcaster for tournaments or recreational fishing in all kinds of conditions. It has lots of cranking power and a solid drag.
The KastKing Rover Round Baitcasting reel features precision machined brass gears, reinforced hard anodized aluminum side plates and spool, all alloy level wind, stainless steel worm gear, and superior protection against corrosion with its stainless steel shaft.
The ball bearings are also stainless steel and shielded for smooth operation. The reel has a carbon fiber drag system that can handle up to 20 pounds of smooth drag, reduces hand fatigue with oversized non-slip EVA grips, a clicker alarm that tells you when your line is out, and an easily accessible thumb bar spool release (40-60 sizes).
The 3.6:1 gear ratio, weight saving design, and single oversized T-handle provide any angler with an excellent experience and maximum control.
The Rover is a good baitcasting reel for bottom fishing, trolling, and other types of freshwater and saltwater offshore fishing. Its large line capacity can easily handle the lengths of braided or monofilament line needed for such applications. However, some grinding and weak drag issues have been reported, so consider those when you buy.
The Perseus is built for durability, performance, and smooth baitcasting in both fresh and saltwater scenarios. It has a 6.3:1 gear ratio with reinforced CNC machined brass gears, as well as three premium carbon fiber drag washers for up to 18.5 pounds of drag. The dual brake system makes casting smooth and effortless.
The dynamic six-pin centrifugal brake, plus magnetic brake, provide on-the-fly adjustments. For additional power and leverage, the aluminum crank handle is extended.
The smooth, powerful retrieve offers an excellent fishing experience. In addition, oiling is easy with the screwed oil hole in the side-plate, for easy and quick lubrication of the reel.
This reel is light, easy to lubricate, and performs well with baits of various types like swim jigs, spinnerbaits, Carolina rigging, and Texas rigging etc. However, keep in mind that some complaints have been reported for backlash, brakes not working, and noise.
How to Clean and Care For a Baitcasting Reel
The first step before you clean the reel is to gather the supplies you will need. You should have a bucket of hot water, a biodegradable cleaning compound like Simple Green, hi-speed reel oil like TG's Rocket Fuel, some Ronsonol Lighter Fluid, Super Lube Grease, and Reel X.
- First, remove the side cover to begin disassembling your reel. Lay the parts carefully on a rubberized mat. Label or number the parts as you remove them so that you can put everything back together without having parts leftover.
- Position your reel correctly during disassembly and assembly and use a pair of tweezers when handling wire clips and springs to prevent against loss.
- Remove or secure your fishing line before you remove the spool.
- Clean parts with Simple Green or another biodegradable product applied on a toothbrush.
- Using a toothpick or a small brush, apply grease to the bottom of the teeth.
- Clean the bearings with lighter fluid and then test them to make sure they spin. Then oil them with TG's Rocket Fuel using a toothpick.
- After all that put your reel back together. Lastly, protect the outer finish and line by applying a bit of Reel Magic.
How to Use a Baitcasting Reel
Using a baitcaster is not too complicated, but you really need to understand how the various components work.
- Reel the line in until your bait or lure is 6 to 12-inches (15 to 30 centimeters) from the rod tip. If you have a sinker or bobber attached to the line, it should be 6 to 12-inches from the rod tip instead.
- Grip the rod behind the reel with your thumb resting on the spool. Loosen the drag until you can freely pull out the line.
- Adjust the spool tension until it is loose enough for casting, but not too loose or you may get an overrun. Set the brakes when you want to take your thumb off the reel and adjust the other settings.
- Turn the rod so the reel handles point up, but if you cast with your opposite hand, the handles should point down.
- Press the reel spool release button.
- Next, sweep the rod forward until it reaches eye level. As you do so, lift your thumb off the reel spool enough so that the weight of your bait or lure pulls line off the spool as it is propelled toward the target.
- Press down on the reel spool with your thumb to stop the bait when it reaches the target.
Using a baitcasting reel is no doubt challenging for beginners and takes a lot of practice to get used to. But the rewards for the avid angler are great, as you will have greater accuracy, power, and casting range. Keep in mind the factors to look for when selecting your new reel.
For some great baitcasting reels, check out our recommendations above and let us know how you like them. Whether you’re new to the baitcasting game or a seasoned pro, there’s something there for everyone!