Baitcasting reels are a must-have tool for anglers interested in larger fish or complex techniques where spinning reels just don’t cut it. They offer better control of lures and make it easy to pinpoint lure placements.
Most professional anglers prefer baitcasters over spinning reels because they have a higher gear ratio and provide faster retrieves. In this post, we look at the best baitcasting reels and highlight their features.
Before we get into the Buyers Guide, here's a list of our recommended reels.
The rule of thumb is to use a baitcaster when using heavy line, at least 8 pounds. A baitcaster works well with all three types of line i.e. monofilament, braid and fluorocarbon. You can use it with monofilament for top water baits and fluorocarbon for jig fishing.
A baitcast reel filled with braid is pretty reliable for plastic frogs, top water chuggers and buzz baits. It is the kind of reel you need if going for high speed lure presentations or power fishing techniques.
The manufacturer of a reel plays a significant role when it comes to making a decision. Brands offer reels with different features that you may or may not need, depending on your preferrences. Some provide great perks like multi-year or lifetime warranties as an assurance of quality to customers. Industry leaders to consider purchasing from include Penn, Okuma, Abu Garcia, Piscifun, KastKing, and Daiwa.
A dependable braking system makes casting easier. Baitcasting reels come with either one of two types of braking systems, i.e., centrifugal and magnetic. Centrifugal systems are more manual and have room for making adjustments to fit environmental conditions like strong wind. Magnetic braking systems are simple and easy to learn on, but not the most efficient when it comes to modifications.
Bearings are responsible for reducing friction between moving gears, thus improving the durability of a reel. While more bearings mean smoother casts, it is better to have 5 quality bearings than 10 poor ones. Regarding performance, bearings are usually graded from 1 (lowest) to 9 (highest). Look for reels with quality bearings made from stainless steel, ceramic or aluminum.
Baitcast reels often come with machined or die cast frames. Material options include aluminum, graphite or a combination of both. You can also opt for carbon composite materials. Frames made from one solid material offer the best durability and performance.
This tells you how many times the spool turns with a single crank of the handle. A higher gear ratio means faster retrieves. Gear ratio options of baitcasting reels range from 5.0:1 to 7.5:1, with the most common one being 6.4:1. It is an excellent choice for all-around fishing techniques and lures. Higher gear ratios are best for topwater fishing, pitching jigs and taking up slack quickly. Lower gear ratios are recommended for larger spinnerbaits and diving crankbaits.
Bigger spools are quite beneficial for heavy, stiff lines like 20lb fluorocarbon. Additionally, they create smaller coils, making lines more manageable. If you favor short line applications like pitching and flipping, a smaller and shallow spool is better.
Your effectiveness as an angler will be affected if your baitcasting reel doesn’t feel comfortable. A well-balanced rod and reel combo, as well as a comfortable grip, can help deliver more accurate casts, especially after casting hundreds of times in a single day. Take time to try mechanisms like tensioners, drag settings, thumb latches and reeling handles among others.
Best All Around Value
The Tournament MB Baitcast Reel from Lew’s Fishing is an excellent option for those who want to enjoy fishing and push their skills to a higher notch. At only 6.7 ounces, it balances well on a rod and can accommodate most techniques employed by anglers.
This zero-reverse reel uses a one-way clutch bearing that prevents the spool from spinning in a restricted direction. The aluminum frame keeps internal components well aligned, and allows anglers to make adjustments depending on changing weather conditions or lures.
When it comes to braking, this reel offers consistent reliability and function. It has a multi-setting brake that is completely adjustable. The dual brake system makes use of a disc mounted internal shoe brake and an external dial.
Also included is a double shielded stainless steel ball bearing system. The ten ball bearings deliver smooth and fast retrieves. The intricate design gives this reel 5.6:1, 6.8:1, 7.5:1 and 8.3:1 gear ratios.
The Piscifun Kylin Baitcasting Reel is built to withstand pressure and stand the test of time. It comes with a CNC machined aluminum frame and spool to ensure strength without adding too much weight. The graphite side plate provides added longevity.
In addition to the lightweight and durable construction, this reel offers lasting comfort with a flat sided EVA knob.The flat nature of the handle allows for ease when fishing for extended periods of time while providing the power you need to deal with heavy fish.
The bearing system consists of nine stainless steel ball bearings and one roller bearing for enhanced performance. They are corrosion resistant and allow for smoother casts as well as faster retrieves.
The multiple gear system makes it easy to retrieve the line with minimal effort. As such, you can fish all day without worrying about fatigue.
A ceramic guide is included to ensure that the line always flows smoothly.
The magnetic braking system allows you to adjust the tension to match the weight of bait or lure. It also helps with smooth braking and reduced risk of painful backlash.
Best For Beginners
If you are a novice looking to catch a few bass, the Abu Garcia BMAX3 is a good contender. At 7.3 ounces, this reel is lighter than more expensive models. This is achieved with graphite frame and side plates, which feel solid and don’t have room for flex.
The reel offers complete control when casting and reeling in the catch, and can handle well over 5 pounds of fish. The handle is quite comfortable and provides a firm grip, even when your hands are wet. The grips are a little identical to those found on Revo SX Generation 3, which is quite impressive given the low price of this reel.
It comes with five stainless steel bearings that offer smooth performance. You won’t feel or hear grinding during the retrieve, even after several months of use.
If you are learning to cast with a baitcasting reel, you will appreciate how well the BMAX3 facilitates super-long casts. The external brakes can be adjusted depending on weight of lure or environmental conditions. This reel utilizes the Power Drag System, which is relatively smooth and operates as well as expected at its price.
Best Under $200
One of the first things you notice about the Tournament Pro G Speed Spool Reel is the range of adjustability offered. Unlike other reels, backlashes won’t be an issue regardless of how much you adjust this model. Users were blown away by the line management and casting distance when used with lures of varying weights. The adjustable 6-pin centrifugal system allows for 27 on-the-fly adjustments to suit different conditions.
At 6.2 ounces, the Tournament Pro G Speed Spool Reel is incredibly comfortable to use over extended periods of time. The drag system lends a maximum pulling power of 14 lbs, which is great when setting the hook on big bass or fighting jittery fish.
The handles are longer than the older Tournament Pro, thus offering more leverage when muscling big bass away from thick cover.
Lew’s Fishing integrated a Speed Dial line indicator into the tension knob. It lets you know the type or diameter of line spooled on the reel.
Best Under $150
Available in multiple sizes, the Daiwa Tatula CT is an entry level baitcasting reel with a great feature combination. It is a particularly good choice for anglers looking to do freshwater fishing and save a few bucks.
Highlights include Daiwa’s T-Wing System, which minimizes friction due to level wind system and ensures smooth retrieves.
The precisely designed frame and side plates are made from lightweight to ensure durability. This also keeps the weight between 7.6 and 8.1 ounces, depending on the model.
The Zaion carbonite composite air rotor distributes stress throughout the reel, thus reducing weight and improving durability.
All Daiwa Tatula CT Reels utilize the patented Ultimate Tournament Carbon Drag System. It consists of oversized carbon fiber drag washers placed on either side of the spool for even distribution of force.
What makes castability so great is the Magforce-Z cast control. This is a unique braking system that allows the spool to rotate freely early in the cast and slow down at just the right time to prevent backlash. You can use the dial adjustment on the side plate to dial in the right amount of pressure depending on preferences.
Best For Under $100
The KastKing Royale Legend/Whitemax Baitcasting Reel is available in left and right-handed versions.
The reel design is to provide a perfect balance between performance, weight, and strength. This is achieved with a one-piece stainless steel frame and side plates.
Its smooth action combined with multiple drag points allows for quick and accurate casts every time. There are three drag options to fit any conditions and minimize backlash.
This low profile baitcaster also boasts a super silent and high speed retrieve thanks to a 7.0:1 gear ratio.
The carbon fiber drag system offers 17.5 lbs pulling power, and its performance is enhanced by precision cut brass gear.
12 shielded Maxi-Dur corrosion resistant bearings deliver smooth casts and retrieve.
State of the art dual brakes means this reel is tournament ready.
Best Baitcaster Combo
Penn is one of the most recognizable brands in the tackling industry. They have been manufacturing quality rods and reels for more than 75 years.
Their Senator Rod and Reel Fishing Combo boast exceptional features packed into a classic, time-tested design. The reel is made from stainless steel and comes with an aluminum spool. Six shielded stainless steel ball bearings provide smooth casts and fast retrieve.
The HT 100 drag system provides a tremendous amount of stopping power.
With the massive stainless steel gear and heat pickled pinion gear; you can rest assured that the Penn Senator Reel is designed to withstand the test of time. Its enhanced configuration allows the spool to spin in the spindle and pinion gear. This reduces friction and maximizes casting distance. The Live Spindle enhances line retrieve.
Other notable features include stainless steel reinforcement rings and backlight side plates.
Baitcasters offer significant advantages over traditional spinning reels including higher efficiency, control, and accuracy. And while they do have their drawbacks, professional anglers almost universally prefer them due to their skill.
You should make sure that a baitcasting reel is a right choice for your needs. Consider the type of fish you’ll be going after, and where you are fishing. If in any doubts, we hope this guide clarifies any questions you may have.