Best Baitcasting Reels 2018 – Reviews And Top Picks

When the time comes to choose a baitcasting reel, some of us may immediately see what ‘being stumped’ means. A well-prepared fisherman might approach this essential purchase with some knowledge about spool design types, braking systems, gear ratio and the number of ball bearings. Still, the main question remains – how to not get confused when those bait casters seem to differ ever so slightly?

The thing about picking fishing gear with your own hands is that it all comes to knowledge. Investing your time in a deliberate selection could be very rewarding. Baitcasting reels are valuable tools for those anglers interested in using larger lures and big-fish techniques more efficiently, where spinning reels with light lines simply do not keep up. If you want to get a more advanced control of your lure, a well-chosen baitcasting combo provides you with just that, as well as granting you the power to pinpoint lure placements and pull redfish out of deep water and its covers.

Sooner or later, baitcasters are what you usually come to adore on your way of a passionate angler. And it’s, surely, a combination of topwater-plug fishing, inshore salmon fishing and freshwater bass fishing that brings to light the full usability and enjoyment of the swiftly revolving star-drag reels.

A quality reel could seem priceless as long as one’s passion is concerned. But, of course, excellent casting reels do have prices, and there are offers on today’s market for just any need and financial muscle. Below are the top models selected because of their design specifications, easiness of use and overall effectiveness. Furthermore, if you feel like reading on some guidelines for choosing a bait caster, there is a special section after the categories of top reels created for instruction purposes and stuffed with lots of useful facts.

  • SHIMANO Metanium MGL
  • Rating:
  • Comfortability: left/right handed
  • Environment: fresh water
  • Fish species: all freshwater species
  • Gear ratio: 6.2:1 / 7.4:1 / 8.5:1
  • Weight (oz): 6.2
  • Braking system: SVS Infinity Braking
  • Material: carbon, magnesium, aluminum
  • Color: metallic
  • Abu Garcia Revo MG Xtreme
  • Rating:
  • Comfortability: left/right handed
  • Environment: fresh/salt water
  • Fish species: bass and other inshore fish species
  • Gear ratio: 8.0:1
  • Weight (oz): 4.5
  • Braking system: IVCB-IV
  • Material: magnesium alloy, carbon, cork
  • Color: black&red
  • 13 Fishing Concept A3
  • Rating:
  • Comfortability: left/right handed
  • Environment: fresh/salt water
  • Fish species: all large fish species
  • Gear ratio: 8.1:1
  • Weight (oz): 10.4
  • Braking system: 6-pin centrifugal
  • Material: HQ aluminum, cork
  • Color: black
Name
Max Drag (lb)
Weight (oz)
Gear Ratios
Price

Best baitcaster for the money

More than just a couple of factors require consideration when you start trying to determine what baitcasting reel suits you best. For many anglers, though, this variety of options boils down to the highest price/performance ratio. This baitcasting reel category will help you determine what exactly price/performance ratio cuts it for you.

Starting from Japan and continuing around the world, Shimano has become a synonym for quality fishing tackle. Basically, they are the Apple of the fishing tackle industry. If you are engrossed in finding the flawless spinning reel, it might very well be Shimano that you stop on in the end.

Being praised for their great performance and light weight, Shimano’s bait casting reels have won themselves a lasting place in the North American and Canadian bass fishing market. The absolute winner in light weight and flawless performance, Shimano has long ranked as #1 choice for professional bass anglers and world-famous fishermen.

This striking Shimano Metanium MGL represents the current year’s effort of the Japanese manufacturer to take things to the next level. As it is produced along the newest baitcasters in the market, a buyer can expect to receive quite a few high-end features and technological novelties in one package. Shimano did a great job of improving its operation to ultra-smoothness. The reel’s composition is basically a superlight blend of carbon, magnesium, and aluminum. Loaded with Shimano technology and high-end features like Hagane Body, Micro-Module Gearing, Silent Tune, X-Ship, and all new SVS Infinity Braking, and available in three gear ratios from 6.2 to 8.5:1, the Metanium MGL is the optimal choice for a wide range of presentations, conditions, and species.

Comfortability
left/right handed;
Environment
fresh water;
Fish species
all freshwater species;
Gear ratio
6.2:1 / 7.4:1 / 8.5:1;
Weight
6.2;
Braking system
SVS Infinity Braking;
Materials
carbon, magnesium, aluminum;
Color
metallic.
PROS

Impressive light weight;

Incomparably smooth feel;

Great durability;

All out for angler’s comfort;

Cons

Relatively quickly covered with scratches;

Quite expensive;

The Abu Revo MGX is as created for excellent performance as it is for an impressive look. The Black&Red scheme gives it the rightful appeal of an expert low profile baitcaster. Its frame is composed of a single-block X-mag alloy and that is the very reason for its award-winning durability. The Abu Revo MGX offers a precisely adjustable drag, whereas the Carbon Matrix system secures the drag consistency throughout the full range of applicability. Its frame machined from aircraft quality aluminum maximizes the resilience and wear-resistance of Abu MGX baitcaster.

Comfortability
left/right handed;
Environment
fresh/salt water;
Fish species
bass and other inshore fish species;
Gear ratio
8.0:1;
Weight
4.5;
Braking system
IVCB-IV;
Materials
magnesium alloy, carbon, cork;
Color
black&red;
Seller
Right Handed: buy it here; Left Handed: buy it here .
PROS

Comfortable to palm;

Ever-smooth and powerful drag;

Backlashes eliminated;

Prolonged gear life;

Cons

Similarly to every baitcaster, it takes effort and time to master;

Excellent value for the money but may pale in comparison with more expensive products;

Best saltwater baitcasting reels

More than just a couple of factors require consideration when you start trying to determineMore than just a few kinds of saltwater fishing agree with bait casting reels. The round-style baitcasters are considered more classic (look for them among our reviewed items below) and fall into the category of heavy tackles. These are an ultimate choice for hunting large inshore and nearshore game, including larger species like striped bass, amberjack, redfish, and sharks.

Live bait fishing is also possible with those round buddies, even though they are mostly favored for large lure fishing. Depending on your method and approach, round baitcasters can be tools of great help with trolling, pulling fish out of deep cover or bottom fishing.

Low-profile baitcasters (also covered in our list) are your weapon of choice in the salt when it comes to fighting flounder and big speckled trout. At the same time, reels of this type have long won the heart of bass anglers, so with such multipurpose tackle both saltwater and freshwater is your oyster.

All in all, regardless of whether you pursue tailing redfish in marshes or pursue stripers and big blues while having some good time with surf fishing, nothing could stand in for the good ol’ baitcasting reel with its speed and productivity.

The Concept A3 Casting Reel by 13 Fishing delivers unfailingly when high results are expected. This feature-packed reel is what you can always rely on in both relaxing time and competitive milieu. With its maximized comfortability for total control, you will be able to cast lures of a various caliber like never before. The streamlined body is reinforced by robust-but-light aluminum chassis positioned low on the rod. The system of seven bearings comprises anti-corrosion ball bearings supplemented by a Solid Stop anti-reverse bearing. Enabled with powerful centrifugal brake and a bulldog drag, The Concept A3 beats most of its bait casting rivals in the price range.

Comfortability
left/right handed;
Environment
fresh/salt water;
Fish species
all large fish species;
Gear ratio
8.1:1;
Weight
10.4;
Braking system
6-pin centrifugal;
Materials
HQ aluminum, cork;
Supplied with
optional single-knob power handle;
Color
black;
Seller
Right Handed: buy it here; Left Handed: buy it here.
PROS

Compactness with no harm to the fish stopping power;

Profound drag and exceptionally smooth operation;

Top quality parts;

Stout saltwater protection;

Cons

Without magnetic braking, no extra fine adjustment is possible;

High protection makes the braking system not that easily accessible;

This standard Tatula is an exceptionally nice introduction to the entire Tatula series, enabled with the remarkable T-Wing levelwind. If your main area of fishing interest often changes from saltwater to freshwater and back, then this uniquely multipurpose baitcaster will be up your alley. As always, Daiwa is here to rock your world – but this time, however, for a quite affordable price.

Comfortability
left/right handed;
Environment
fresh/salt water;
Fish species
all;
Gear ratio
6.3:1, 7.3:1, 8.1:1;
Weight
7.2;
Braking system
magnetic;
Materials
aluminum, carbonite;
Color
black&yellow / black&violet.
PROS

Feels very smooth and solid;

T-Wing;

Brand-famous magnetic braking;

Decent resistance to corrosion;

Cons

Quite heavy;

Requires you to practice for a while to achieve a steady throw;

Neat and utterly reliable, Abu Garcia Revo Toro proudly shows you what it takes to unfailingly perform in harsh saline conditions. This bait casting reel is armed with excellent winding power and can house great quantities of line – all these properties come in handy when fighting stubborn and overly vigorous fish.

Its slick and ergonomic frame is all about enhancing the gear efficiency. This Abu Garcia Revo is one of the most impressive members of the Toro Beast series. Anglers receive access to a diversity of customizable features getting to set the finest tunings for chasing bass fish, tuna, striped marlin, and muskie.

Comfortability
left/right handed;
Environment
fresh/salt water;
Fish species
hard-pulling inshore fish species;
Gear ratio
4.9:1 / 6.2:1;
Weight
13.5;
Braking system
6-pin centrifugal;
Materials
aluminum, EVA;
Supplied with
three different power handles;
Color
black&blue.
PROS

Top-of-the-line drag system;

Enhanced durability;

Neatly engineered brake system;

Instant anti-reverse;

Cons

Cranking power is insufficient vs rival muskie reels;

The handle may feel a bit oversized;

When we want to look for an ergonomic and amazingly lightweight baitcaster, there is no need to look further than Penn’s Squall Lever Drag. Hooking the large ones have never been more exciting and unhesitant as with this reel enabled with the high-powered Dura-Drag™ system. The Squall Lever Drag offers you a high-spin gear enclosed in stainless steel and anti-corrosion graphite. For either charter or recreational use, this neatly manufactured reel pairs perfectly with baitcasting rods for a solid and exclusively productive combo.

Comfortability
left/right handed;
Environment
fresh/salt water;
Fish species
rays, redfish, tarpon, red snapper and other reef fish species;
Gear ratio
2.9:1 / 1.5:1 (SQL50VSW); 4.2:1 / 1.8:1 (SQL30VSW); 4.5:1 / 2.1:1 (SQL16VS);
Weight
27.4;
Braking system
externally adjustable magnetic;
Materials
graphite, aluminum, bronze;
Color
black.
PROS

Very affordable;

High protection and resistance;

Manufacturer-guaranteed drag force;

Precision-oriented castability;

Cons

Not fully sealed;

Shaped in a truly revolutionary way, Shimano TranX reels take the advantage of low profile to the next level. The baitcaster comes in power gear (PG) and high gear (HG) models that find use in the widest possible range of applications.

The Shimano TranX 500 can surprise even a sophisticated angler with its unique approach to the reel design. As capacious and powerful as your conventional reel, it still has more to it in terms of castability and comfort that match those of top low profile baitcasters.

Comfortability
left/right handed;
Environment
fresh/salt water;
Fish species
bill fish, tuna, king fish, trevally, other saltwater species;
Gear ratio
6.6:1 (HG) / 4.6:1 (PG);
Weight
20;
Braking system
VBS (centrifugal);
Materials
machined and forged aluminum;
Supplied with
metallic.
PROS

Perfectly smooth;

Line capacity like you wouldn’t believe;

High retrieving speed;

New standard of durability;

Cons

A bit pricey;

Best baitcasting reel under $200

The Shimano Curado 70 sets lots of reel properties anew, including brake system performance, length of casts, and harsh-environment durability. Here, X-Ship is fully revised to enable fishing with lighter lures and enhance castability along with overall gear performance. An angler can now adjust their cast precisely thanks to externally-tunable SVS Infinity brakes. The two gear ratio versions are a rapid HG and an even faster XG that is your ‘XXL’ of gear speed. There is also a pretty tangible increase in the spool stability, achieved through nearly zeroed spool vibration factors and upgraded consistency of rotation.

Comfortability
left/right handed;
Environment
fresh/salt water;
Fish species
all freshwater and saltwater;
Gear ratio
7.2:1 (HG) / 8.2:1 (XG);
Weight
6.5;
Braking system
SVS Infinity;
Materials
aluminum (Hagane);
Color
grey&dark grey.
PROS

Lightweight;

Small form factor;

Fast line retrieval;

Smooth;

Cons

Somewhat underpowered for deep diving use;

Due to fast retrieve rate compares poorly with the multipurpose Curado I;

As outstanding in its performance as in the garish look, the Okuma Helios TCS would make a pride of tackle in any fisherman’s collection. The range of Okuma models has lately been reinforced in speed and versatility with the addition of 8.1:1 and 6.6:1 gear ratios. When holding this mere 6.3 ounces in your hand, you can already feel that robustness has been made a priority among the Okuma reel’s makings.

With its featherweight AlumiLite frame and beefy gear system, the Okuma Helios is a top-notch tool for honing your fishing skills to perfection.

Comfortability
right handed;
Environment
fresh/salt water;
Fish species
all freshwater, salmon, steelhead;
Gear ratio
6.6:1 / 7.3:1 / 8.1:1;
Weight
6.3;
Braking system
6-pin centrifugal;
Materials
aluminum, carbonite, carbon fiber;
Color
matte black&blue.
PROS

Gears and shafts of heavy duty aluminum;

Lightweight;

Powerful drag system;

Japanese precision at its best;

Cons

Sideplate needs to be disconnected to access cast controls;

No lefty (again);

For many anglers, this Pro Magnesium reel solves both the question of speed and that of practical weight in a baitcaster. Throughout the entire fishing world, products by Lew’s Team have earned respect by pros and amateurs alike, and the Pro Magnesium gives you the full measure of it. The baitcaster is equipped with the brand-famous adjustable centrifugal braking (ACB) SpeedCast system coupled with a dial indicator for the line speed parameter. All this presents an angler with an unparalleled number of cast adjustments – 27 positions for the exact and sensitive tuning of your baitcasting tool.

Comfortability
left/right handed;
Environment
fresh/salt water;
Fish species
bass, stripers, other freshwater species;
Gear ratio
7.1:1;
Weight
5.3;
Braking system
ACB (centrifugal);
Materials
duralumin, carbon fiber, EVA foam, cork;
Color
black&yellow.
PROS

Fish-stopping drag;

High-grade duralumin;

Speed Dial;

Speed Keeper;

Cons

Plastic details not shock and impact resistant;

More good bait casters

The Revo STX belongs to Generation 3 baitcasters and we can see by its example how technologically advanced materials blend into a progressive new compact design by Abu Garcia. It almost feels like a fishing breakthrough with its significant weight drop of more than 2.5 ounces since the former Revo STX reels. EVA pads further enhance the lightweight effect, presenting the angler with less hand fatigue far in the day. Made of an upgraded alloy, the frame ensures premium protection from corrosion, water and sand. The reel’s braking system comprises both magnetic and centrifugal components for faultless operation – in sum, for many users the Revo STX manages to beat even those pricier baitcasting reels offered in the industry.

Comfortability
left/right handed;
Environment
fresh/salt water;
Fish species
all freshwater, esp. bass;
Gear ratio
8.0:1;
Weight
11.2;
Braking system
magnetic + centrifugal;
Materials
aluminum, C6 carbon, EVA;
Color
black&chrome.
PROS

Smooth and noiseless operation;

Increased comfortability;

High and stable performance;

Cons

The spool isn’t shock-resistant and may break on impact;

The Chronarch MGL made by Shimano is a bait casting reel much praised for its top-level performance. It contains a Magnumlite spool engineered to cut down on the reel’s weight. This lively spool requires minimal influence to begin spinning as its design allows for a very low moment of inertia. As the result, you can cast lures to much greater distances without putting a lot of effort in it. This Shimano reel is equipped with the MicroModule gear system, which adds to a more responsive and controllable feel in hand.

Comfortability
left/right handed;
Environment
freshwater;
Fish species
all freshwater;
Gear ratio
8.1:1;
Weight
6.5;
Braking system
SVS Infinity;
Materials
carbon composite;
Color
gray
PROS

Very light as for a composite reel;

Superior casting length;

Great palming;

Cons

May seem slower in comparison with top reels;

Best baitcasting reel under $100

One of the least weighty baitcasters in its category, the Piscifun Phantom showcases the breathtaking speed that a carbon frame-based reel can be enabled with. Aside from an internal centrifugal brake with 6-pin adjustment, this baitcasting reel possesses also a 0-10 magnetic brake. The flexible operating modes all are aimed at the maximized casting distance with whatever bait you go for. Its high gear ratio is finely paired with the low-profile body, which renders the reel well-suitable for both sportfishing and recreational fishing.

Comfortability
left/right handed;
Environment
mostly freshwater;
Fish species
all freshwater;
Gear ratio
7.0:1;
Weight
5.7;
Braking system
centrifugal + magnetic;
Materials
aluminum, carbon fiber, titanium;
Color
black&green.
PROS

Dual brake system for optimal control;

Reinforced carbon fiber drag;

Fast-accelerating duralumin spool;

Cons

Issued by a comparatively new manufacturer;

With the Abu Garcia BMAX3 Max, a fisherman receives a refined baitcasting tool for large fish chasing. Bass, even the largest ones, stand no chance against the 15 pounds of its pure drag power. The reel is optimized for an effective performance in both shallow and deep waters. Furthermore, this bass-fighter is all up to becoming a reel of choice for beginners due to its plainness in set-ups and maintenance. Its gear is made from brass to maximize the rust and corrosion resistance and guarantee the angler smooth functioning and a truly long-lasting use of this fine piece of tackle.

Comfortability
left/right handed;
Environment
freshwater;
Fish species
bass;
Gear ratio
7.0:1;
Weight
5.7;
Braking system
magnetic + centrifugal;
Materials
graphite composite, aluminum, brass;
Color
black&red.
PROS

Affordable with no apparent loss in quality;

Smooth and quiet operation;

Efficient line retrieval;

Superb choice for occasional fishing;

Cons

The reel still runs with slight drawbacks;

Not that durable because of a lower grade of materials;

May require some upgrades of spool and/or bearings;

May be not that satisfactory for pro heavy use;

Best beginner baitcaster

Choice #1 in the book of many efficient fishermen who prefer staying with cost-effective equipment. The KastKing Speed Demon seems to be the fastest bait casting reel in its price range, supplied with a gear ratio of 9.3:1 and brass-made precision matched gears. It has primarily been designed for uncomplicated and smooth casting as well as speeded-up line retrieval.

Comfortability
left/right handed;
Environment
freshwater;
Fish species
trout, bass and other freshwater;
Gear ratio
9.3:1;
Weight
8.3;
Braking system
magnetic anti-backlash;
Materials
aluminum, carbon fiber, EVA;
Color
pure black.
PROS

High-speed gear ratio;

Anti-backlash magnetic brakes;

Premium grip with its 115 mm handle;

Lightened cross drilled aluminum spool;

Cons

No saltwater fishing with this. Otherwise, do a nice cleaning after exposing it to saline ;

No direct access to the magnetic brake, only dial-adjustable;

Buyer’s Guide – How to Choose a Baitcasting Reels

It’s no secret that your fishing needs dictate the type of equipment you should buy and use. The sport of fishing, however, has long come to recognize five basic types of reels, so your choice can be narrowed without much doubt.

The five primary types include a fly reel, underspin reel, fixed spool reel, spin cast reel, and baitcasting reel. Of said types, the most widely used one is the baitcasting reel, which many anglers believe to be incomparably practicable.

Baitcasting Reels: Upsides

The reel frame of a baitcaster contains a spool with the line wound on it and, regardless of brand and type, the reel itself is fixed to the top side of the rod. That is a bait casting reel in a nutshell; as soon as you cast it with the rod, the line unspools towards the intended point, with the lure’s weight propelling it forward. The possible distance and accuracy of a cast depend on both the heaviness of the lure and your skill.

It’s the ability of advanced control on the cast distance that makes a baitcasting reel so useful to fishermen. At the same time, the main and annoying disadvantage lies in the chance of ending up with a spoolful of tangled line; but we’ll look into it in a while.

Let’s concentrate on other advantages of the flexible reel tuning:

  • Distance – not only easily controlled during a cast but can be preset as well. Modify the length of a cast by loosening/tightening up your baitcaster (use the tensioner for that purpose). A properly loosened reel will extend a cast to 125% of its original length.

  • Accuracy – as you throw a lure with a spinning reel it becomes the limiting factor for the distance. Alternatively, you may try snapping the bail to jerk the flying lure back – if you have no mercy for the reel spring, that is. A baitcaster allows you to forget about the rigid rules of a cast as you have all means to regulate the spool’s speed.

  • Drag – baitcasting reels easily beat its spinning brethren in that they possess a lot more drag power.

  • Line handling – while spinning reels can handle a line with only so much thickness, baitcasters are designed to employ every bit of the benefit of heavier lines without detriment to castability.

  • Rod selection – due to the high popularity of baitcasters, there are way more baitcasting rods to choose for a combo than spinning ones. This is particularly true for muskies and bass.

  • Speed – baitcaster manufacturers put a special emphasis on this parameter. Except for the obvious need to pick up the line fast, anglers also seek for easing up the job of retrieving big cranks – and baitcasters are geared low exactly with that purpose in mind.

  • Weight – if we talk similar specifications, spinning reels will always compare poorly to baitcasters, which are usually lighter. All that results in a better sensitivity and balance of a baitcasting rod.

Another great advantage that should be underlined: there is simply nothing like baitcasting reels when it comes to hard fighting and hard running game. Take bass or striped bass, pike or muskie – they all are famously strong fish prone to destroying flimsy tackle. With such fish, an opportunity to set up the spool resistance comes as a salvation. Your reel allows you to bridle even a very large fish thanks to the adjustable drag system. This set up can be accessed directly during use via the star-shaped knob (a.k.a star drag) without twisting nor snapping the line.

One more feature aimed at handling a big catch in the process of cranking is anti-reverse gear. As losing dragging power during winding can be costly, anti-reverse gear prevents the handle from spinning backward by lessening play in it. Also, since a hard fight with fish makes the ball bearings undergo a lot of stress, the anti-reverse feature brings in some relief. Finally, the angler benefits from an even distribution of line on the spool when cranking and saves themselves the effort of doing it manually.

A near-professional mastery with a baitcasting reel can be achieved through patience and practice in a relatively short term. With that level of skill, an angler gets access to other baitcasting reel varieties such as the flipping reels, which makes it possible to cast underhand into hard-to-reach spots. Pro baitcasters like this one are powerful tools in the hands of dedicated anglers and offer both expert approach and good productivity in fishing.

Baitcasting reels: Downsides

There are, of course, some drawbacks to casting reels; however, they are few to none, depending on how accustomed you are to those type of reels.

High-accuracy baitcasters will cost you more, that’s true; however, the under-$100 reel selection offers lots of nice products too. To work up accuracy on a cheaper baitcasting reel, you will have to stay focused and give more heart to it. This type of reels is commonly associated with frustration in first-time users; at the same time, practiced anglers suffer rarely if at all due to knowing a simple detail: the spool must be paused with a thumb the moment you drop the bait.

Without a basic guidance, novice fishermen take the entire day sometimes trying to achieve a perfect cast and fighting the line instead of fish. Moreover, lovers of spinning reels are often annoyed by the inability to use ultralight and light lures with the predominant number of baitcasters.

It’s important to know that reel manufacturer are well-aware of those drawbacks, as well. This results in a race of some kind where each eliminated downside of a bait caster adds to the good name of a reel producer. For instance, our list features only those reels that manage not to fall short when it comes to dealing with the most common issues, namely:

  1. Damage from soil, sand and other contaminants

    The better your reel assembled (e.g. has nicely fitted parts, no play etc.), the slower it collects dirt. Sometimes, cheaper multiplier reels tend to have its mechanism more exposed to water and sand. Those and other damaging factors may affect the reel’s smoothness with time. Still, even the best tackle needs cleaning once in a while, and top bait casters are no exception.

  2. Short-living clutch mechanism

    This essential part of a baitcasting reel should be made of a highest-grade material. It’s disability to properly engage-disengage can be the reason the fishing line breaks too often. All this can cost an angler a lot of wasted time or even his catch. A low-quality clutch is what often causes a premature degradation of the reel.

  3. Slow ball bearings

    Needless to say that light and high-speed bearings are decisive for your reel’s performance. Luckily, those can be easily replaced – look for hybrid bearings with ceramic balls and steel races to get an increase of 25-30% of the cast distance; the newest models have polymer ball bearings preinstalled.

  4. Narrow compatibility with ultralight baits

    So, you are into ultralight fishing. That may come as a surprise but you actually need to check if the reel you are about to buy supports light lures. As always, expensive bait casting reels cover it all, but some of us prefer to measure our pocket and stay specific about what suits our fishing needs.

  5. Fishing in the cold could be problematic with cheaper reels

    It largely depends on the type of lubricant used, but some baitcasters indeed can become a bit sluggish when fishing below zero. Whether the reel is suitable for winter, too, should be checked individually.

What the perfect baitcasting reel looks like

Buying a new reel is certainly a serious matter. It does not necessarily mean a lot of fuss, though – especially, when you know what to look for. The following points have been created to guide you on your quest for a most reliable reel.

Brand

It is popularly thought that there exists a “best brand” for just every tool in the fishing industry. In fact, every company and every product line has its benefits and drawbacks. Some models appear to be ‘better’ designed than others and the assortment of each company always has something worth looking into. Giving it a go is the only way to find out for sure. Actually, a lot of anglers come to like a specific brand because they begin with it and soon get accustomed. This should hopefully be a convincing argument for those who fret about choosing the “right brand” too much – how much a certain reel appeals to you is what matters at the end of the day. That – and your readiness to invest time in mastering your newly-bought baitcaster.

  1. Daiwa

    The company that is believed by many to produce the best of saltwater reels and rods in the whole wide world. It was founded back in 1955 and have been staying famous for its sturdy, harsh environment equipment ever since.

    Daiwa baitcasters incorporate cutting-edge technological innovations. They also enable their extra strong lightweight rods with power lift grip to give the angler an advantage in tough weather conditions.

  2. Shimano Reels and Fishing Rods

    This is a much-renowned Japan-based company. Untold numbers of fishermen praise it for the excellent fishing experience. Shimano reels and rods often become the choice of fishing professionals and sportsmen.

    Not only does this brand offer a wide variety of fishing rods and baitcasters, they also continuously compete for the futuristic and utterly appealing look of their products. Shimano’s fans claim that their reels provide a flawless performance.

    In 79 years of fishing equipment production, Shimano has shown that fishing tackles can indeed emulate art.

  3. Abu Garcia

    Initially founded in Sweden in 1921, Abu Garcia is currently owned by the USA corporation Newell Rubbermaid. World’s most reliable fishing rods and reels originate here.

    Abu Garcia have made themselves a name in selling durable fishing equipment. Their baitcasters often become an angler’s first ever choice due to the reasonable price – and stay forever favorite due to a superb quality of the materials.

  4. Lew’s Team

    Along with its numerous well-recognized trademarks, the Lew’s brand is currently owned by Do Outdoors Inc. Even though it was Lew Childre who originally established the company, the current owner, Reeves, pays a great deal of attention to maintaining the Lew’s name in its place of industrial prominence.

    Lew’s Team create as amazing products as ever and their never-ending innovations make their baitcasting reels ones of the fastest, lightest and strongest on the market.

  5. Penn Fishing

    A worthy competitor to Daiwa, Penn Fishing also put their biggest emphasis on the manufacture of saltwater reels. In fact, the history of their manufacturing prowess reaches as far back as 1932; ever since that date, the company has been supplying fishermen with saltwater fishing reels of exceptional quality.

    Their award-winning rods are in high demand among those who know the finest quality product when they see it. Penn’s reels are composed mostly of stainless steel and aluminum to enable full effectiveness in harsh saltwater conditions.

  6. Okuma

    First and foremost, Okuma stands for Taiwanese quality fishing tackle. Both amateur and expert anglers adore their reels and rods and stay loyal to the brand.

    Okuma offers special fishing tackles for trout, salmon, and catfish. The company takes pride in having developed their own distinctive style to inspire people’s passion for fishing.

Gear ratio

Top baitcasting reels come hand in hand with efficiency. Getting you catch out of water could be difficult enough even without you reel slowing you down. In order to get the reel speed issue covered, you should become acquainted with the reel’s specifications, especially the gear ratio. When buying a baitcaster for the first time, the numbers like 5.4.1, 7.1.1, and 6.4.1 might seem abracadabra-ish. They are easy to follow, though, as, for instance, 6.4.1 tells you that for each turn of the reel handle the baitcaster’s spool will make 6.4 revolutions.

  • Getting it higher

    The ratios like 7.1.1 will allow you to retrieve the line faster while applying the same amount of work. This is normally required by some techniques such as worming.

  • Getting it lower

    A slower spool means fewer quantities of line retrieved per unit of time. 5.4.1, in this instance, too is suitable for certain applications, such as big swimbaits.

  • Getting it in between

    Various applications mean higher popularity. 6.4.1, therefore, is perfect for those who like their presentations with both fast and slow movement.

Spool size (line capacity)

So, your bait casting reel takes up the line with various speed depending on its gear ratio. But let us not forget about a reel’s spool size that should be factored into this calculation as well.

A bigger size of the spool translates to a higher line capacity. Aside from that, it adds to the spooling power, so even larger lengths of line go in as you turn the handle. The spool with more space on it also means a higher number of line coils on it – and this becomes really important with thick lines so valued by hunters of larger and stronger catch. In case you do exactly that and hunt for big game, deeper and bigger spool should be your matter of interest. Here, actually, capacious spools are twice as helpful because they can house that useful amount of extra line needed for handling large fish.

If, however, you do not want to exchange casting accuracy and versatility for power, then lighter lines will do. Go for something like 12-pound test to keep a smaller spool. Generally, bass catchers depend on such moderately heavy lines for success and so stay happy with not-too-big spools.

Drag capacity (drag system)

Drag has become a powerful thing in modern baitcasters. Basically, the drag system is meant to influence the turning spool via mechanical friction; in other words, it works as a super-sensitive brake. A non-adjustable fixed drag was the Achilles’ heel of baitcasting reels of older models.

Avoid leaving the drag on. With literally every fishing trip, you should go and back off the drag. Otherwise, the reel drag system will have a much shorter and way sadder life.

Your drag mechanism saves you the trouble of changing set-ups for catching fish of various weight ranges. With a good drag, it’s quite normal that you can fight bigger fish on smaller tackles, such as 30-40 lbs with a baitcaster which drag specification says 10-14 lbs.

That is because the drag mechanism is engineered to prevent the line from breaking under the strain that a great fish gives to it while being pulled out of the water.

Simultaneously, this adjustable friction device rules out the risk of line slacking. It keeps the line tightened just enough to not give the catch a chance to escape.

Overall, a properly tuned drag gives away neither too much nor too little line, and so the angler can safely land the fish without ending up with a broken or tangled line. But there is also a benefit to fishing techniques; while your drag takes all the twitching frenzy of the fish and dissipates this energy into heat, it helps you tire the fish on its way up. This tiring benefit can be optimized by combining your baitcaster with a rod that provides a nice flex.

Frame/body

The reel’s strength mostly comes down to the frame quality. That is why it sits high in our list of guidelines for choosing a truly excellent baitcasting reel. Below are the usual types of baitcasting reel frames you’ll meet on the market.

  • Aluminum frames

    The strongest reel frames are machined from aluminum. This type of material, often aircraft grade, simply removes the worries as to whether you buy a lifetime-lasting reel. Such sturdiness, however, costs a pretty penny and not everyone can afford it, especially when in doubt if the reel really worth it. Furthermore, when your fishing equipment requirements are not too stringent, you can get by with other frame materials just fine.

  • Graphite frames

    There goes an unconquerable material strength. Graphite is weaker and significantly so. On the other hand, you win highly in terms of price. The cheapest is pure graphite, and then there are the reinforced, composite and composite reinforced types. Choose whichever one sounds better for smaller catch and if you have to cut on budget.

Bearings

The grade of reel’s bearings is what you check to make sure you get the top baitcaster. The number of bearings varies, but do not let anybody fool you. Fewer or more bearings matter not at all in comparison with what they are made of. That and not the number of them, which often misleads you into buying a not-that-superb reel. After all, you can always install more bearings with your own hands as long as you use high-quality ones. For this purpose, reel bearings come graded from 1 to 9 according to the ABEC rating. Experts recommend that you get grade 7 to achieve a flawless performance. Simply remember – higher grades and better materials (e.g. ceramic, stainless steel-ceramic or polymeric) earn your reel a smoother operation and longer life.

Brake system

Full control over the fishing process necessarily includes the ability of your reel to stop timely and properly. The spool rotation must not be one-way-going and it’s essential for the spool to stay in a sensitive connection with the braking system. It’s due to adjustable rotation of the spool during casting that the angler can prevent backlashes and ensure good productivity of the reel.

  • Centrifugal brakes

    Also known as friction brakes. You make the necessary adjustments by working the pins located on the reel’s side plate. The brake engages when the pins are moved outward. In case of a 6-pin system, the pins have to be adjusted to stay across from each other regardless of whether they are on or off.

  • Magnetic brakes

    Instead of mechanical friction, these brakes reduce the revolution rate by employing magnets. An angler can adjust this type without fuss too. Even though they are pretty high-tech, a bit of tuning won’t do them any harm; use the knob to adjust your baitcaster’s brakes to perfection.

Profile

Baitcasters feature two main types of design, which have come to be known as low-profile and round-profile bait casting reels. The differences between two types vary from slight to rather tangible depending on the brand.

Round baitcasters are believed to be matchless for trolling techniques and handling hard running fish. Their simple design makes them awesomely compatible with large spools and, consequently, especially capacious for heavier lines.

Low-profile reels are more comfort-oriented if compared with round ones; they are designed specifically to be cast for long periods of time without tiring your hand much.

Tension adjustment

The reel handle has a big knob on its side. That knob gives you access to the tension system’s set-ups; by setting the knob to be more tightened you decrease the ability of the spool to spin. Depending on how heavy a lure you attach, you might need more or less tension to see the lure fall slowly as you disengage the reel.

Yes, you definitely want to tune your baitcaster for any lure of a different weight because this is key to sensitive control and a higher rate of successful casts.

Anti-reverse

When you use the drag to pull the line, the anti-reverse function prevents the fishing reel handle from turning backward. Spinning reels seem to have always included that feature; the majority of today’s baitcasting reels follow suit, featuring anti-reverse by default.

Even beginner anglers are well-familiar with how handy is a reel that eliminates plays in the handle. Anti-reverse secures you that and more – which is particularly true for top baitcaster models with the number of bearings like 7+1 (meaning, there is also an anti-reverse bearing inside). This additional bearing powers up the anti-reverse gear, allowing you to use the reel to the limits with baitcasting and trolling while catching large and strong fish.

Handling and comfort

Denying themselves comfort is the worst thing a fisherman can do. First and foremost, we talk effectiveness when buying a baitcasting reel – and how is that supposed to be possible if your reel doesn’t feel comfortable? Casting accuracy is directly connected to the balance and grip quality of your rod-and-reel combination.

The importance of that becomes evident the moment you imagine how you cast with your combo hundreds of times. Therefore take all the time you need to test out drag settings, tensioner knob, thumb latches, cranking handles, trying out the tackle as much as possible. A good idea would also be to drop in on your avid angler friend and get a wider perspective based on his selection of reels. Ultimately, the more baitcasting reels you see the more grounded your judgment will be, so no hurry when casting comfort is at stake.

Line guides

These are installed right where the line feeds off the reel’s spool. As can be guessed from the name, this part guides the line on its way on/off the spool and it also shifts accordingly to lessen the angle between the line and the spool, thus relieving the tension. For obvious reasons, line guides should be super-strong and of the highest grade material.

Opinions differ as for the shape of line guides which would enable the perfect guidance of the line off the spool. For instance, the T-shaped guides patented by Daiwa come as a part of T-Wing System, that feeds off the line from the widest top end of the T and receives it on the narrowest bottom end of the T. The shape, though, is not near as efficiency-defining as whether your line guide is titanium-strong and can withstand the wear and tear of active fishing.

Lines

Light lines aren’t exactly the thing for baitcasters and can be difficult, if not impossible, to fish with. We recommend you to memorize “the three heavy” to never get misled in your choice of baitcasting tackle: Heavy Cover, Heavy Lures, and Heavy Lines.

Line thickness becomes especially important when you are selecting an effective baitcasting combo. When everything is set correctly, the fishermen have no trouble pinpointing a 6-inch radius target from more than 50 feet away without as much as ruffling the water.

A bait casting reel is compatible with the following 4 types of lines: braided, monofilament, fluorocarbon, and fusion.

The rule of thumb here is to use over-10 pound lines for baitcasting tackle and below-10 pound lines for spinning tackle. Better designed baitcasters, nevertheless, can be spooled even with 8-pound fluorocarbon or monofilament line. This works particularly well with some methods like vertical jigging from a boat. For other, more general applications, most anglers prefer to use a round braided line intended for weights from 12 to 17 pounds or similar. That is to say, when compared in diameter, a braid of 17-pound thickness corresponds to 10-pound monofilament. Practice shows that a brightly colored line, e.g. red or yellow is pronouncedly useful because it helps detect strikes. Also, bear in mind that your line should end in a two-foot-long fluorocarbon or mono leader connected by means of back-to-back uni-knots.

Lures

There is an abundance of lures common to bass fishing and lots of other presentation styles.

Topwater Baits have the greatest use in not-too-deep water, about 12 feet or less. Their productivity peaks in the morning and evening and also during the night (especially, summer nights). Cloudy and moderately sunny days are the best. Some anglers are happy to know places where diving or floating minnow plugs stay extremely effective throughout the entire season; those baits are usually worked to emulate erratic movements of fish.

Spinnerbaits are your best call when you want to lure your catch from its deep cover. The greatest thing about spinnerbaits is that they collect little weed and form tangles only occasionally. These are your best friends to fish with in shallow water in springtime. To achieve deeper retrieves it is recommended to use single-blade spinnerbaits.

Soft-Bodied Jigs resemble soft fish bodies; the ones known as shad baits are distinguished by a wide tail that makes broad wiggling motions. Those jigs, as a rule, come in blunt-end and sharp-end versions. Leadhead jigs are also not uncommon, and they go into the water with all the existing kinds of soft-bodied baits sorted together as grub. Such diversity of soft lures plays in favor of in various sizes for diverse species. Aside from these, there are also jigs are led slowly along the bottom with the angler imparting the proper action by moving the rod tip.

Soft-bodied Bait can also have a wormlike look and are sometimes favored by bass anglers. Mostly, these imitate leeches, earthworms or small eels, but lizard- or salamander-like baits also find use in some baitfish applications. The Carolina rig and the Texas rig are, undoubtedly, two most popular rigging techniques that require sinkers.

During or often immediately after making the purchase, many fishermen find themselves worried about the minimum weight their new bait casting outfit would throw. Incorrect choice of the lure weight can actually be the reason you end up with birdnests so often – this happens due to the inability of your baitcaster to stop spinning once the too-light-to-be-felt lure hits the water surface and starts slowing down.

Do not hurry to switch to spinning tackle, though, as it notoriously offers way less accuracy. The solution for using smaller worms or baits with a standard baitcaster can be found in the means of extra weight. As an alternative, you may prefer choosing special baitcasting combos, with both reel and rod designed to cast ultra-light lures from 1/16 oz and lighter.

Techniques and Species of Fish to Catch

The fishing technique to be performed should be identified before going for a certain large game fishing reel. Almost any specific technique of fishing, e.g. spincasting, spinning, baitcasting, and even basic fly fishing methods require a particular reel type. However, even if you stick to a baitcaster, there still exist variations as to what method corresponds to what species of fish.

Baitcasting techniques chart

Baitcasting TechniqueDescriptionSpecies of Fish
TrollingTrollers usually pull hook-rigged baits behind a boat. This method requires rugged and durable reels with powerful drag.Steelhead, Salmon, Shark
BaitcastingA conventional method of fishing that involves casting live bait that is simultaneously used as the weight to carry the fishing line.Trout, Tuna, Salmon
JiggingJigglers prefer boats for this kind of baitcasting in which the reel is used to pull the sunk bait in a swift, jerky motion.Trout, Bass, Salmon

Other things to consider

Performance tweaks

Normally, your newly purchased reel does not require more than a good tuning to sing and fly. But if you like to view things in perspective, here are a few upgrade options for a baitcaster.

  • DRAGS are the one thing that can be improved in almost every reel. Whatever the drag material is, the performance of the drag can be improved by cleaning and polishing the metal surfaces, using the proper grease in the proper amounts, and by replacing the non-metallic washers with Carbontex washers. As for cleaning: acetone, carb cleaner, brake cleaner or lighter fluid (naphtha) will do just fine. As for greasing: something like Shimano star drag grease or Cal’s drag grease would be a great choice. Note: If you routinely fish in extreme cold, you will want to find some other grease for your drags. These two greases will both become sticky when subjected to very cold temperatures.

  • GEAR SWAPS is a rather simple procedure; almost every variety of brands there is suitable for that. Normally, the gear set is replaced with a higher speed one, for instance, 5.1:1 gears can be swapped with a 6.3:1 or even 7.1:1 set (if it fits, of course). You should always make sure the new gear set will go in fine in your particular reel case. Also, it is recommended to install sets without disassembling them, meaning, it would not be a good idea to replace a drive gear while leaving the old pinion gear in place or the other way round.

  • BEARINGS are something worth experimenting with; you need them as high rated as possible, whereas most stock baitcaster bearings come unrated. With HG bearings you simply move up the quality scale, receiving tighter tolerances and faster spin with less wobble, or wear. That’s it, plain and simple: high graded bearings show more stability at higher speeds, and a reel spool, in this case, is exactly the part you want to use them in.

Be specific

It has been mentioned already, but you really need to decide what your reel should be best at. That is, decide before buying it. You might be specifically interested in one of the following:

  • mini;
  • high speed;
  • lightweight
  • long casting
  • ice fishing

… or any other reel of certain abilities and features. Most of the more expensive baitcasters offer, basically, a one-size-fits-all solution. However, a pricy purchase would not necessarily mean the full satisfaction, so measure your needs carefully and choose wisely.

Reel weight

Most folks believe that baitcasters perform poorly in finesse applications. However, your bass-fishing world can be greatly expanded by simply downsizing your bait casting combo. It’s no secret to anyone that spinning reels differ in many more aspects than just weight; as long as your reel sits below and not above the rod, it changes the entire process of fishing to an astounding degree.

But what about baitcaster reel advantages? Ah, that is where concentrates all the grind of fishing – because nothing can beat a baitcaster when it comes to power-pulling large game out of its deep cover. So here is the long and short of it: you choose a reel weight strictly depending on your fishing needs.

And nothing forces you to limit yourself with heavyweight baitcasters only. Today’s baitcasting tackle market has numbers of more finesse reels with a subtle presentation to meet the requirements of light and very light lures.

Lightweight baitcasters cost their manufacturer a lot of concerted efforts aimed at drilling, cutting and thinning the reel body to achieve the minimal possible weight of the reel. For instance, a cross-drilled aluminum spool is almost featherweight while still capable of withstanding great drag pressure. Add to this the carbon fiber handle and high-grade graphite sideplates and frame elements and you will get a perfect bait casting tool to use with lighter lines.

Reel color and sundries

Putting together a nicely matching baitcasting combo could be painstaking but is, nevertheless, rewarding. For example, a really sharp looking one can be obtained by matching a silver/grey rod with a silver Daiwa or Shimano. Further on, a black/red baitcaster would look much better on an equal black/red stick, but hardly so on a white one. Even if you despise fashion chase (like most of us do), it still might be a good idea to go for a combo appropriate to the season.

It is true, some anglers fancy going fishing with a Curado paired with a rod of golden hues specifically on sunny summer days. A green-accented Piscifun looks real good and fresh on the water. At the same time, silver-white baitcasters are flashy and catch the eye of other fishermen.

Finally, if you don’t like colored rods or don’t care about pairing color you can always opt for a plain black reel attached to a blank graphite rod.

Basics of Using a Baitcasting Reel

Setting up a Baitcaster for the First Use

Baitcaster reels have a reputation as being harder to use and master than ordinary spinning reels. These specialized tools require both dexterity and practice, and an angler accustomed to a spinning reel must take time to study before using one of those. However, the baitcaster’s superior accuracy and speed is a worthwhile reward. To learn how to cast easier, it’s important to correctly set up the reel so you’ll get a chance to focus on the basics of casting.

Step 1: Tie on your lure and pull out not less than six inches of the line. Then hold the baitcaster in your dominant arm (of course, reverse if you are left-handed and so is the chosen reel) with the rod straight out in the three o’clock position and tighten the adjustment knob down snug.

Step 2: press tightly the thumb bar with your left hand to release the spool.

Step 3: gently loosen the adjustment knob with your right thumb and forefinger. The correct weight adjustment will be achieved once the lure begins to slowly drop toward the water. Therefore, stop as soon as it happens.

On the opposite side of the baitcast reel, you will find the second adjustment. It is designed to compensate for strong wind in case of casting in a stormy weather. You will cast freely when this adjustment is set low at one or two clicks. If you are still having troubles with getting spool over run, yet you believe the adjustment is set correctly, you should add up one click or number at a time until the problem seems to be solved.

Eventually, you will learn to control the spool with your thumb as the line comes off. After this little trick is mastered, you’ll be able to make satisfyingly long accurate casts avoiding backlashes while loosening up both adjustments. To make it easier you can also follow one little tip and lubricate both the line and the spool. A little drop of WD-40 or silicone will do just fine. The lubricated line will allow you to make much smoother casts and lessen backlash as well.

You have to keep in mind that incorrect adjustments of spool tension, as well as centrifugal and magnetic brakes, will doubtlessly lead to uncontrollable backlashes.

Basics of Casting

Firstly, you should place the thumb right on the spool. Since almost all anglers place the dominant arm on the reel handle, it should be the thumb of your dominant hand. However, the selection of various left-handed baitcasters is in no way less satisfying than the majority of the right-handed fishing reels. Once your thumb is placed on the spool, flip the bail lever taking the reel out of gear. This position allows you to control the rotation of the spool. The moment you remove the thumb, the spool spins freely in either direction.

With the reel in free spool, you are now ready to cast. The basic casting principle is exactly the same as that of an ordinary spinning rod. You have to build up rod power right behind your shoulder and release when you are ready so that you’ll be driving the obtained power in forwarding direction. With a spinning reel, however, the casting technique ends once the angler lets go of the line.

When using a baitcaster, you should release the line for a moment by removing the thumb and then immediately bring your thumb back to bear on the line. The trick is not to try stopping it with brute force but to slow the spool. Why? Well, if the angler doesn’t do this, the spool will spin faster than the release of the line so it will eventually backlash, putting over wraps, tangles, and knots throughout the spool. The minimum effect of backlash is a temporary halt of fishing. In worst cases, you’ll have to consider getting yourself a new spool of line.

Specifics of a Casting Rod

Just because you are going after your money’s worth, doesn’t mean that you are not going extra when choosing a baitcasting fishing rod.

There is a whole bunch of various factors you need to consider when checking out the specifications of a casting rod. The best way to begin is by selecting the number of rod pieces. A good one comes in a single piece unit. However, this is as reliable as unpractical. One simply cannot use the one-piece casting rod all the time, due to the troubles with its transportation. Two-piece fishing rods may be suitable for long trips and they can do the job as well.

After deciding on the number of rod pieces, your next consideration should be the logistics. This is about the length of the casting rod as well as its power and action.

  1. Rod Length. Casting rods come in several length options. They are actually longer compared to spinning models. The rod length is practically the main factor (excluding the physical parameters of the angler) that determines the casting distance, so choose wisely! The length of the fishing rod should correspond with the length of your hands and your height so that it will be actually handy.

  2. Power. Simply put the power of baitcasting rod describes its ability to fight a fish. Hence, choosing the power for the fishing rod depends mostly on the size of fish you want to catch. There are four types of fishing rods: heavy, medium-heavy, light and ultra-light ones.

  3. Action. This refers to the moment the bend in the rod beings to stiffen up. The action of the rods are categorized as:

    • Slow-Action Rods. The name is rather self-explanatory – they are designed for slow and gentle casts.
    • Moderate-Action Rods. These fishing rods are best used for casting middleweight crankbaits.
    • Fast-Action Rods. This type of action rods has a distinction of being very sensitive, so this will give you a chance to get an easy hook setting.
  4. Line Guides. The most common inserts of line guides include ceramic, plastic or metal parts. It is recommended to opt for a casting rod that comes in nickel-titanium alloy or ceramic inserts instead of the cheaper rods with low-quality materials such as plastics. As for the rest, ceramic line guides are usually considered better than metal ones since they resist wear and tear, provide good casting distance and have better sensitivity than other models.

  5. Line Rating. This parameter determines what types of weight lures will suit your casting rod. Since all parts of your rod should work together like a well-oiled machine, it is necessary to match your fishing rod, lure, and line with great accuracy.

  6. Handle and Grip. The design of the handle and grip, as well as the material used for it, will determine the level of comfort you will enjoy throughout your fishing experience. The pistol grip is the shortest type of grip and is often contoured to fit the shape of your hand. When it comes to the handle, cork and EVA foam are the two most commonly used materials. Most anglers select one of those being guided by the aesthetic sense. However, from a purely practical point of view, EVA foam is better because it is more resistant to radical temperature changes, short-run mechanical deformations, and stains. It is also very durable so that it can stand the test of time.

  7. Blank Materials. The majority of high-quality fishing rods comprise graphite and fiberglass. There are also rods available in the combination of these two materials. If you want flexibility, sensitivity and fighting power, you should surely opt for graphite. Fiberglass, on the other hand, is much more durable, yet it cannot provide that kind of sensitivity; it is also significantly heavier when compared to graphite rods. Hence, the exact blank material should be selected according to your fishing habits, since the provided materials represent the opposite features necessary for a practical rod.

  8. Reel Seat. Baitcasting rods have the reel on the top, above the trigger grip that allows you to maintain control while casting the rod and fighting a fish. The reel seat of your rod should be compatible to all of the major brands of reels and can be securely fit when tightened.

As you can see, your choice should be based primarily on your fishing style. Even if this hobby is rather new to you, you must not worry. You will soon figure it out once you have experience using few different casting rods. Once you develop the suitable level of muscle memory and instinctive response, you’ll be able to narrow the search parameters bearing in mind the features that interest you the most.

Round vs Low-Profile Baitcasters: Key Differences

How to choose

There are two basic types of baitcasting reels- round and low-profile. Each has its own benefits that suit different fishing styles, so here are a few things to consider before choosing the right one.

Baitcasting reels are a staple of fishing, especially for predatory fish species. The design of a baitcaster puts the line in a more direct path from the reel to the tip of the rod, decreasing torque on the line and reducing the chance of break-offs. Here’s everything you should consider when selecting a baitcasting reel.

Team Lew's low profile baitcaster

Fell

The primary gears of the low-profile reels are located on the side, usually right on the handle. The benefits of this position are that the reel becomes easier to control and adjust. The reel is shifted lower to the rod, so you have a slightly better grip on both the reel and the rod. When working a jig for big bass, or buzzing a spinnerbait over a weed bed, a low-profile reel is a great tool.

Line Capacity

The more line the better – within reasonable limits, of course, – so the reels with greater line capacity are of more interest to the most anglers, who are after big fish species like big pike, salmon, catfish and so on. Whereas most low-profile reels can hold just over 100 yards of line, round reels can hold much more, depending on the size and line weight.

Shimano's round baitcaster

Power

Gearing makes a reel work, and baitcasters have big-fish catching ability. If you are hauling bass out of the weeds, or working crankbaits all day long, you want the power a low-profile reel produces. The type of gearing in the low-profile reel is best for working the bait. Round reels have big gears that offer a solid connection. They have more power for “winching” in a big strong fish like a salmon.

Distance

When it comes to distance, the round baitcasting reel easily wins the round. Larger baits and longer rods with the extra line capacity allow you to send the bait as far as necessary. Keep in mind that with both reels, you have to control the line with the spool. Low profile reels tend to have more adjustment to help slow the spool, which is good because a backlash is tricky to untangle.

Speed

If a faster retrieve ratio is of great importance to you then you should look at low-profile reels. Round reels usually have a much slower retrieve ratio, which makes them less suitable for spinners. However, they are more useful when fishing with live baits, since they allow you to release or bring in more line per every single turn. This is also great for slow presentations in case you are interested in such a show.

Which one to select

Traditionally, round reels are geared to handle larger fish. Their drags are heavier to apply more pressure than the low-profile models. The combination of drag strength and gear power make round reels the best choice in those situations. You can fish bigger, heavier baits without feeling torque in the rod and reel.

Usually, round reels tend to be technique- and fishery-specific, so there will always be a place for them in fishing big swimbaits, hefty spinnerbaits, A-rigs, and big baits for muskies and pike. Many anglers also prefer round reels for throwing deep-diving crankbaits because of their typically greater line capacity.

Gradually anglers adopted the more compact designs, which were easier to palm than round reels on pistol-grip rods and the emerging split-grip and blank-through designs. The focus has shifted to speed. Reels continue to get faster, with designs driven largely by tournament angler input. The rationale is simple: the more casts you make, the more potential for bites and the better the possibility of cashing a check.

Following the pros’ lead, anglers have moved to faster speeds for applications like pitching, flipping, and punching, where speed and increased line pickup is important.

Low- profile vs. Round Baitcaster Comparison Chart

 Low-profile Round
WeightUsually more lightweight and tire your wrist less heavily.Up to 50% heavier (and bulkier) than their low-profile alternatives.
Drag RangeAs it largely depends on the washer quantity/size, the drag system is less powerful (maxed at 40 lbs).High rate of drag and increased fish fighting capabilities.
Gear RatioSmaller spool size here means higher gear ratios (up to 9.3:1).A lower diversity of gear ratios (from 1.5:1 to about 6.0:1)
Line RetrieveHigher, on average (26-37 inches / crank)Lower, on average (17-33 inches / crank)
Frame / structurecarbon composites, aluminum -> lightnessgraphite, aluminum -> ruggedness

Baitcaster Reel Components

Line Capacity

When it comes to the mechanics, all these tiny pieces, triggers, and gear wheels, which comprise a classy baitcaster reel, are divided into two sets of features: internal and external.

Baitcaster Reel Components

Internal ones include brakes, spools, and spool/cast control knobs, drag control star, thumb bar, levelwind mechanisms, and handles.

External features of baitcast fishing reels are simply gears, ball bearings, and drag washers.

Important note

Most reviews of those components and tips on how to choose a baitcast reel based on them are provided in detail above. One thing worth to be discussed specifically, though, is ball bearings.

Despite the majority of opinions provided in many thematic magazines, it is not how many ball bearings the reel feature that matters so much as the quality of them. The reel with nine ball bearings is enough to satisfy even the most precise angler, yet the quality of them should be of your main concern. The receipt is simple: to get a massive difference in performance and casting get better bearings.

To keep the rolling smooth and controllable you have to avoid the stainless ones – the greased bearings slow the cast and make it awkward. The ceramic ball bearings – dry and smooth – are surely better.

Avoiding Backlashes

A few of the most common tips to avoid backlashes.

Practice Using a Heavy Lure

Baitcasting reels are fully compatible with heavy lures so it may be a useful hint to try a heavy one. To avoid backlashes an angler has to make precise efforts, which is surely difficult for a beginner. However, in this particular case, inertia is not your enemy but rather a helpful ally. Try a heavy lure when using a big crankbait or a massive swimbait. In fact, you will end up backlashing in a rather insane fashion in case you start with a light bait.

The reason for this is that it might not be possible for the light lure to take out the line quickly so as to keep up with the fishing reel.

Pick the Right Rod Length

Obviously, a shorter pole is more suitable to improve your control rather than a longer one. Moreover, it will not be a great idea to go for a rod having a medium action given that you will be able to cast the lure even without a backlash thanks to the medium action’s flex.

Fine Tune the Braking System

Usually, baitcasting reels come with a flexible braking system. You can easily fine-tune this system with the help of a knob, which is positioned on the exterior portion of the reel. You’ll be able to avoid getting a backlash by using it correctly.

Try to set the braking system at the optimal setting when you are starting it for the first time. Afterward, it is suggested to gradually lower the brakes once you become more experienced, and this will allow for longer casts.

Use a Heavier Pound Test Line

It is very much likely that you are going to come across a backlash in case you happen to be a beginner, and are rehearsing for the very first time. The task of untangling a birds nest is going to be very easy provided you have selected the appropriate line. For instance, it could be extremely difficult to get out a backlash along with a braided line.

Fluorocarbon, on the contrary, has a propensity to backlash more than that of a monofilament. In this way, the usage of monofilament while practicing will always be recommended by me. You will find it rather easy to untangle your fishing line although it cannot help you to avoid getting a backlash.

Avoid casting into the wind: Your bait is going to slow down while a lure is cast into the wind; however, this will not happen in case of the reel and, consequently, it will result in a backlash. You are suggested to throw along with the wind instead of going against it while you are starting out for the first time. Afterward, you can always start casting into the wind after acquiring adequate experience and skill for using the reel.

Tighten Down On Your Spool Tension

In case you have the spool tension (which is closely linked to the braking system) too high or too low, the result will be a backlash. Ensure that the spool tension is set correctly prior to casting. Also, the tension must be appropriate which will make the lure fall down at medium or slow speed. It is undesirable to allow the lure to fall too fast or too slow.

Keep Practicing

The matter-of-factness of this advice does not nullify its usefulness. Regular practicing in your backyard will allow you to obtain more control, adjust your coordination and test your dexterity. Exercises will allow you to make sure you know what you’re doing and move forward to real fishing.

Conclusion

The above-mentioned tips may and surely will help you to select a suitable fishing tool, yet no words can substitute an actual training. In case you have already tried casting the reels and ended up in frustration, you must not worry. Firstly, this is a normal phase in mastering the tool. Secondly, you can make your life a bit easier and fishing more fun if you learn why and how to properly adjust a bait cast reel’s settings.

The modern baitcasting reel is in no way a simple spool with an attached piece of string. It is a complicated mechanism consisting of a more than a dozen parts, each of which should be double-checked, adjusted and maintained with great accuracy. Thereby, they will work in complement with one another and at their maximum performance levels for the type line, lure and weather conditions in which you may be fishing.

At first, you are going to start with fairly passive and rather streamline casts just like all the beginners do. Once you get more comfortable with the technique, you’ll move on to fine tune to where you set your baitcaster more aggressively. To do so you will have to alter the rule of the thumb to make the bait fall quicker and get a space for more swift and aggressive casts. You can adjust the brakes to loosen the line and control the reel spool with a gentle touch of your thumb, barely changing the grip to increase the distance of the cast. Surely, this level of control comes with practice and understanding of your own casting preferences.

Resist the temptation to set maximal or minimal settings. Despite the seemingly great increase in power and distance, these settings may decrease your control of the bait. Of course, the exact setting suitable for beginners depends on the type of the braking system you are using. However, the winning strategy is to set it at a happy medium of somewhere in the middle, maybe on the heavier side to make sure you are ready to apply an extra bit of control.

Do not try to master a single casting technique, avoiding all other methods. Sure, years of fishing eventually leave traces on someone’s casting, yet a beginner should not narrow the exercises to a single way of doing something until it is obvious that the chosen method is the most suitable.

Do not force yourself to cast a bait in one way or another, casting it over the head or from the side. Different locations, as well as different baitcasters, require fairly different methods to make sure you can handle few of them. Do not stay in your comfort zone; try different timings and various weights.

Avoid using excessive force. In fact, casting a reel is not about force. It is all about technique and precise timing. Release the line just before the halfway point of a full casting motion. Your cast should go directly in front of you. Initially, if you are right-handed, you will send the lure off to the left or if casting overhead into the water right in front of you. The accuracy associated with baitcasting will come with practice and experience.

It is worth mentioning that many beginners give up on baitcasting reels without unlocking their full potential. Sure, using such a tricky tool may be quite difficult and it stays this way until you develop right coordination and adjust yourself to a specific pattern of movements. Nevertheless, all it really takes is a fair share of practice. Wait for a nice sunny day, choose a calm place to practice, give yourself a chance and the results will not be long in coming.

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By Chris Hayes
about author

My name is Chris and I am a hunter, outdoorsman, survivalist of 36 years old from Bosie, Idaho. Being a participant of Ihea-USA, I like big game hunting most of all, especially hunting white-tailed deer. Except hunting, I’m also keen on fishing and gaining new knowledge how to survive in the wild nature. As a professional hunter, I do not stop improving upon own hunting skills and testing new gear, equipment, hardware and weapons. I write articles to share my experience and knowledge with the readers who motivate me for more. For any additional information contact me at [email protected]