Tech & Gear Accessories The Best Baitcasting Reels That Are Quite a Catch By Jessica Macdonald Jessica Macdonald Facebook LinkedIn King's College London Jessica Macdonald lives in South Africa's Eastern Cape province and has been TripSavvy's Africa Expert since 2016. She also covers travel products and has written about everything from camping knives to climbing chalk. TripSavvy's editorial guidelines Updated on 08/05/22 Fact checked by Nathan Allen Fact checked by Nathan Allen University of Missouri-Columbia Lindenwood University Nathan Allen is the Outdoor Gear Editor for TripSavvy. Nathan loves many outdoor activities but makes it a priority to run or bike on singletrack every day. TripSavvy's fact-checking Share Pin Email We independently research, test, review, and recommend the best products—learn more about our process. If you buy something through our links, we may earn a commission. TripSavvy / Chloe Jeong Usually preferred by experienced anglers, baitcasting reels are defined by a free-spinning spool that makes them notoriously tricky to master. But once you do become proficient, baitcasters will likely help you cast with better accuracy and range than standard spinning reels. They’re also particularly well-suited to heavier lines and lures. There are many factors to consider when choosing a baitcasting reel, including its gear ratio, braking system, number and quality of ball bearings, and component materials. The best choice for you will depend on your experience and preferred fishing style—and of course, your budget. Based on our research, here are the best baitcasting reels for every kind of angler. The Rundown Best Overall: KastKing MegaJaws Baitcasting Reel at Amazon Jump to Review Best Budget: KastKing Brutus Baitcasting Fishing Reel at Amazon Jump to Review Best Splurge: Shimano Curado DC Baitcasting Reel at Amazon Jump to Review Best for Beginners: Piscifun Torrent Baitcasting Reel at Amazon Jump to Review Best Low-Gear Ratio: Abu Garcia Revo Winch Low Profile Reel at Amazon Jump to Review Best High-Gear Ratio: Abu Garcia Revo Rocket Low Profile Baitcaster at Amazon Jump to Review Best for Inshore Saltwater: Daiwa Coastal-TW 200 Inshore Baitcaster at Amazon Jump to Review Best for Offshore Saltwater: Shimano Tranx 500 Baitcasting Reel at Amazon Jump to Review Table of contents Expand Our Picks What to Look For FAQ Why Trust TripSavvy Best Overall KastKing MegaJaws Baitcasting Reel 4.8 Amazon View On Amazon What We Like Great performance at a reasonable price point Range of color-coded gear ratios available Funnel-shaped line guide for extra-long casting What We Don't Like Graphite body is less durable than an aluminum body Insufficient max drag for offshore applications The KastKing MegaJaws Baitcasting Reel is our best overall baitcasting reel thanks to its exceptional reviews, excellent value, and cool shark-inspired aesthetic. The reel comes in left- and right-handed versions with four gear ratios to choose from, ranging from 5.4:1 to 9.1:1. Each gear ratio is color-coded, so if you purchase multiple reels for different applications, one can be selected from your tackle box at a single glance. The sleek, low-profile design combines a graphite body with a CNC aluminum spool and handle for the perfect combination of lightness and durability. For a smooth, far-reaching cast, the reel features 11+1 double-shielded, stainless steel ball bearings and a funnel-shaped line guide. Click adjustment stops controlling the spool tension, while the magnetic braking system features ten easy-to-use settings for minimizing backlash regardless of your chosen bait size and style. Price at time of publish: $80 Gear Ratio: 5.4:1, 6.5:1, 7.2:1, 9.1:1 | Ball Bearings: 11+1 | Max Drag: 17.6 pounds | Weight: 7.5 ounces, 7.6 ounces (9.1:1 Model) | Recovery (Inches per Turn): 22.4, 26.9, 29.8, 37.7 Best Budget KastKing Brutus Baitcasting Fishing Reel Amazon View On Amazon What We Like Great performance considering the low price All-rounder gear ratio Left- and right-handed options available What We Don't Like Construction isn’t as durable as top-quality reels Fewer ball bearings means a slightly rougher cast Maximum drag is just 10 pounds KastKing's Brutus Baitcasting Fishing Reel is one of the most affordable choices available that doesn't skimp on performance. Reviewers praise its relative smoothness and ease of control, often comparing it favorably to higher-end reels. While it comes in just one gear ratio, it's a middle-of-the-road 6.3:1 that can be used for multiple applications, saving you the expense of purchasing additional reels. The Brutus features a light, single-piece graphite frame. However, the spool and handle are crafted from aluminum for added durability, while the main pinion gears are sturdy brass. With 4+1 stainless steel ball bearings, the casting action isn’t as smooth as one would expect from a top-quality reel; however, they are shielded for protection against debris. With a synthetic-washer drag system providing 10 pounds of stopping power, this reel performs best with smaller fish. Price at time of publish: $35 Gear Ratio: 6.3:1 | Ball Bearings: 4+1 | Max Drag: 10 pounds | Weight: 7.1 ounces | Recovery (Inches per Turn): 28.3 Best Splurge Shimano Curado DC Baitcasting Reel Cabela's View On Amazon View On Dick's View On Cabelas.com What We Like Available in three different gear ratios Unique Shimano technology for unparalleled performance Top quality materials including reinforced carbon side plates What We Don't Like Not available in an especially low gear ratio Insufficient max drag for large offshore species Shimano is one of the most respected names in high-end fishing gear, and the Shimano Curado DC is a best-in-class option for those looking to spend more than average for a reel. It comes in three gear ratios: the standard 6.2:1, the HG (7.4:1), and the XG (8.5:1)—all of which are available for left- and right-handed anglers. This reel is the perfect illustration of how quality over quantity is sometimes the best policy when it comes to ball bearings, pairing 6+1 bearings with the brand’s trademark MicroModule gear system for an unbelievably smooth cast. Other Shimano technologies incorporated in this reel include the HAGANE body, which uses C14+ reinforced carbon side plates for the ultimate blend of strength and lightness. The I-DC4 braking system features an externally adjustable brake dial for reduced backlash regardless of conditions or tackle. And X-Ship technology aligns the pinion and drive gears perfectly—equaling longer, more accurate casts with light tackle and sufficient strength for heavier lures. Price at time of publish: $260 Gear Ratio: 6.2:1, 7.4:1, 8.5:1 | Ball Bearings: 6+1 | Max Drag: 11 pounds | Weight: 7.8 ounces (Standard and HG), 7.9 ounces (XG) | Recovery (Inches per Turn): 26, 31, 36 Best for Beginners Piscifun Torrent Baitcasting Reel Amazon View On Amazon View On Piscifun.com What We Like Affordable price tag Quality brass gears and shielded bearings Lubrication port for easy maintenance What We Don't Like No mid-range gear ratio option Graphite frame is less sturdy than aluminum If you’re new to baitcasting, a cost-effective reel with easy functionality is probably the best option for your first buy. We like the Piscifun Torrent Baitcasting Reel for its low price point and simple design. There are two retrieval speeds to choose from—a slower 5.3:1 gear ratio, and a faster 7.1:1 gear ratio. Both are available in left- and right-handed configurations. The reel’s graphite frame keeps it light, with the added durability of a ported aluminum spool and brass gears and the 5+1 stainless steel ball bearings are shielded from debris. The reel is also designed to make operation and maintenance as easy as possible. To help minimize backlash and the tangles every beginner baitcaster fears, there’s a knob for controlling spool tension and ten adjustable settings on the magnetic braking system. When the reel needs oiling, use the lubrication port on the side for easy access. For more comprehensive cleaning, the side plate is released with a lever instead of the usual fiddly screws. Price at time of publish: $40 Gear Ratio: 5.3:1, 7.1:1 | Ball Bearings: 5+1 | Max Drag: 18 pounds| Weight: 8 ounces | Recovery (Inches per Turn): 22.8, 30 The 11 Best Fishing Rod and Reel Combos of 2023 Best Low-Gear Ratio Abu Garcia Revo Winch Low Profile Reel Amazon View On Amazon View On Basspro.com View On Cabelas.com What We Like 5.4:1 gear ratio for great cranking power Titanium-coated line guide for extra smooth casting Alloy frame is light and corrosion resistant What To Consider Only suitable for specific fishing styles One of the more expensive reels on this list Specially designed to provide maximum cranking power when using crankbaits and other high resistance lures, the Abu Garcia Revo Winch Low Profile Baitcaster offers a gear ratio of 5.4:1. Available in left- and right-handed configurations, it also features an extended handle with oversized EVA knobs for maximum comfort; while the combination of an aluminum handle side plate with a C6 carbon palm side plate makes the reel wonderfully light. The quality is also top-notch, with a trademarked alloy frame for ultimate corrosion resistance. Other innovations that are unique to Abu Garcia include Duragear brass gears and the Power Stack Carbon Matrix Drag System, capable of handling up to 24 poundss of drag. Everslik coating on the pinion shaft and pawl combine with a titanium-coated line guide to provide impossibly smooth casting action. This is further backed up by 8+1 stainless steel ball bearings. The reel has a hybrid magnetic/centrifugal braking system and a lubrication port for easy maintenance. Price at time of publish: $200 Gear Ratio: 5.4:1 | Ball Bearings: 8+1 | Max Drag: 24 pounds | Weight: 7.6 ounces | Recovery (Inches per Turn): 22 Best High-Gear Ratio Abu Garcia Revo Rocket Low Profile Baitcaster Amazon View On Amazon View On Dick's View On Basspro.com What We Like The fastest retrieval speed available Pro quality with multiple design innovations Protected for use in salt and freshwater What We Don't Like Some say the smaller handle is uncomfortable If fast retrieval is key to your fishing style, you’ll love the Abu Garcia Revo Rocket Low Profile Baitcaster. With a gear ratio of 10.1:1 and an astonishing recovery rate of 41 inches per turn of the handle, it is the fastest baitcasting reel on the market—no more snagging in heavy cover, or wasting time between casts when tournament fishing. Available in left- and right-handed configurations, this low-profile reel is a top-of-the-line choice with a dual magnetic/centrifugal braking system and 10+1 stainless steel ball bearings. It also features the full range of Abu Garcia innovations, including a lightweight, corrosion-resistant X2-Craftic alloy frame, Duragear brass gears for ultimate durability, and an ultra-smooth Power Stack Carbon Matrix Drag System. In terms of capacity, the reel can hold the equivalent of 175 yards of 10-pound monofilament line, or 190 yards of 20-pound braid. The maximum drag is 18 pounds, making it suitable for inshore saltwater fishing as well. Price at time of publish: $320 Gear Ratio: 10.1:1 | Ball Bearings: 10+1 | Max Drag: 18 pounds | Weight: 7.3 ounces | Recovery (Inches per Turn): 41 The 9 Best Bass Fishing Lines of 2023 Best for Inshore Saltwater Daiwa Coastal-TW 200 Inshore Baitcaster Amazon View On Amazon View On Basspro.com View On Cabelas.com What We Like Corrosion-resistant ball bearings for saltwater Increased line capacity due to oversized spool Ultimate Tournament Drag technology for added stopping power What We Don't Like An expensive option aimed at pro-class anglers Some reviewers claim casting can be somewhat noisy Only available in one high-speed gear ratio While several of the reels on this list can be used for saltwater fishing, the Daiwa Coastal-TW 200 Inshore Baitcaster is specially designed with inshore anglers in mind. Here’s how: With 7+1 ball bearings treated to resist saltwater corrosion, and a 200-size, aircraft-grade aluminum spool that provides the much greater line capacity needed for fighting larger, stronger coastal species. For example, you can fill the spool with 165 yards of 14-pound mono, or 190 yards of 40-pound braid. Either way, you’ll get a retrieval speed of 32.2 inches per turn thanks to the 7.3:1 gear ratio. Other innovations include Daiwa’s famous T-Wing System—a T-shaped line guide that minimizes line angle and friction, for fewer backlashes and greater cast length and accuracy. Ultimate Tournament Drag technology provides up to 15.4 pounds of stopping power, while the oversized handle with its comfortable EVA knobs is designed for long-lasting cranking power in all conditions. Left- and right-handed setups are available. Price at time of publish: $230 Gear Ratio: 7.3:1 | Ball Bearings: 7+1 | Max Drag: 15.4 pounds | Weight: 8.1 ounces | Recovery (Inches per Turn): 32.2 Best for Offshore Saltwater Shimano Tranx 500 Baitcasting Reel Amazon View On Amazon What We Like Available in High Gear and Power Gear models Unique design for maximum line capacity Huge cranking power and a maximum drag of 25 pounds What We Don't Like Not offered in a left-handed configuration The most expensive specialist reel on this list If you’re headed out into the big blue on an offshore fishing expedition, you need a reel that’s compatible with heavy tackle and has the strength to take on powerful ocean-dwelling gamefish. The Shimano Tranx 500 is custom-made for the job and available in HG (6.6:1) and PG (4.6:1) models to suit a variety of different applications. One of its biggest attractions is its revolutionary design, which lends previously unheard-of capacity to a low-profile shape. Expect to load 160 yards of 30-pound mono, or 420 yards of 50-pound braid. Both models have a max drag of 25 pounds, a centrifugal braking system to reduce the chance of backlash, and 7+1 ball bearings that have been shielded on both sides for maximum protection from sand and salt. In addition to the previously mentioned X-Ship technology, other Shimano innovations include HEG (large drive and pinion gears for extra leverage and power, as well as a zero-flex one-piece frame). A Super Free Spool allows for the brand’s smoothest casting yet. Price at time of publish: $520 Gear Ratio: 4.6:1, 6.6:1 | Ball Bearings: 7+1 | Max Drag: 25 pounds | Weight: 20 ounces | Recovery (Inches per Turn): 30, 43 The 8 Best Striper Lures of 2023 What to Look For in Baitcasting Reels Fit There are two factors to consider when thinking about the fit of a baitcasting reel. First, will it fit your rod? Baitcasting reels are designed to be used with baitcasting rods (rather than spinning or fly fishing rods). You should also match the reel and rod size. For example, smaller reels fit lighter rods and are intended for use with light tackle for targeting small, freshwater species. Offshore fishing for large pelagic species, on the other hand, requires a heavy rod and tackle setup—and of course, a big reel with plenty of line capacity and high maximum drag. Secondly, consider the fit of the reel for you personally. Reels are typically designed for either right- or left-handed use, but most models are available in both. Retrieval Speed Retrieval speed, or the number of times the spool turns for every crank of the reel handle (and therefore, how much line is retrieved), is measured by the gear ratio. For example, if you choose a reel with a gear ratio of 6.4:1, the spool will turn 6.4 times with every crank. Low-gear ratios are classified as those in the 5:1 range and are best suited for fishing with deep-diving crankbaits (or any other lure that needs to attain some depth in the water column before being reeled in). High-gear ratios are those in the 7:1 range and up. These reels are best suited for topwater baits that need to be retrieved quickly and/or skipped along the surface, either to attract specific fish or to escape from heavy cover. Gear ratios in the 6:1 range are a good all-around choice. Materials Baitcasting reels come in a variety of different materials. The most common choices for the frame are aluminum or graphite, with aluminum being the sturdier, more durable option and graphite being the lighter, more cost-effective option. The most expensive baitcasting reels will typically use either an aluminum alloy or drilled sections to achieve the optimum balance of lightness and strength. Line guide materials also vary, with common choices including ceramic (budget), aluminum (mid-range), and titanium (high-end). It’s also important to consider the number and quality of ball bearings. Generally speaking, more bearings equals a smoother cast; however, fewer quality bearings outranks a higher number of standard bearings in this respect. Frequently Asked Questions How is a baitcasting reel different from other fishing reels? Unlike other reels that are mounted underneath your fishing rod, a baitcaster sits on top of the rod. This lets you cast in line with the rod rather than away from it, allowing for better accuracy and distance. The other major difference is when you cast, the spool revolves, requiring you to maintain the speed of the release using your thumb. If this isn’t done accurately, the spool will move faster than the line, resulting in a tangle known as a bird’s nest. This is the main reason why baitcasting reels are typically favored by experienced anglers. What gear ratio is best for me? The best gear ratio for you depends on your fishing style. Lower gear ratios (in the 5:1 range) are typically associated with deep-diving crankbaits, big swimbaits, and any other lure that needs to be retrieved slowly and smoothly at some depth. High gear ratios (7:1 and above) are best for the fast retrieval of topwater baits, or for flipping and pitching in heavy cover. Gear ratios in the 6:1 region are ideal for those who plan on using the same reel for a variety of different applications. Don’t forget that spool capacity also affects the amount of line retrieved per turn. How do I care for and maintain my baitcasting reel? All baitcasters need to be cleaned periodically to keep them running smoothly. If fishing in saltwater, reels should be rinsed with freshwater after every outing. When it’s time for a proper clean, use a screwdriver to remove the side panel. You can use a soft toothbrush to remove any sand, dirt, salt, or debris from the reel’s interior. Then, use a biodegradable cleaning compound to clean the individual parts, before applying a light coat of grease to the gears and oil to the bearings. Alternatively, pay to have your reels professionally serviced at your local tackle shop. Why Trust TripSavvy As a qualified scuba instructor, Jessica Macdonald spends much of her time on the water and often has a fishing rod in hand. She also comes from a family of experienced fishermen, whose opinions she sought for this article. When researching products to include, she spent many hours reading articles on the preferred baitcasting reels of various fishing professionals. She then researched a shortlist of almost 20 different reels, comparing specifications, cost, and customer reviews to choose the best baitcasting reels in a range of different categories. Was this page helpful? Thanks for letting us know! Share Pin Email Tell us why! 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