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Usually reserved for experienced anglers, baitcasting reels are defined by a free-spinning spool that makes them notoriously tricky to master. However, once you become proficient, you’ll find that baitcasters allow you to cast with better accuracy and range than standard spinning reels. They’re also particularly well suited to heavier lines and lures. Things to look out for when choosing your reel include the gear ratio, material, number of ball bearings and the intended fishing conditions. below, we look at the best baitcasting reels to buy today.
Our Top Picks
Best Overall: Daiwa Tatula CT Type-R Baitcast Fishing Reel
With a pro-caliber performance and reasonable price-tag, the Daiwa Tatula CT Type-R Baitcast Reel is a great all-rounder for freshwater angling. It features an ergonomic low profile design, as well as a rugged gear train protected by a super lightweight aluminum frame and side plate. Highlights include the Magforce Z Cast Control System and a hybrid levelwind equipped with Daiwa’s signature T-Wing aperture. The former allows for pinpoint accuracy across a wide range of different lures.
The latter allows for fast, friction-free casting and even distribution of the line across the spool width upon retrieval. With no fewer than eight ball bearings, retrieval is also exceptionally smooth. The reel’s Ultimate Tournament Drag System features a 13.2-pound maximum drag and an extra strong drive gear for turning the heads of larger fish. The 90mm swept handle boasts soft-touch knobs and a cut-away design that reduces the reel’s overall weight. Different models offer 6.3:1, 7.3:1 and 8.1:1 gear ratios and the option to choose right or left-handed configurations.
Best Budget: Abu Garcia Black Max Baitcast Fishing Reel
Pinching pennies? The Abu Garcia Black Max Baitcast Fishing Reel is a solid choice for anglers on a budget. It features a low profile design and an ergonomic bent handle that increases your comfort on all-day fishing trips. The one-piece frame and side plates are made of graphite, while the spool is made from machined aluminum for added strength.
The brass gears offer a fast ratio of 6.4:1, while five ball bearings pair with the Power Disk drag system to provide a smooth cast. The MagTrax braking system improves your range and accuracy by creating consistent brake pressure throughout your cast. Choose the right or left-handed version according to your personal preference.
Best High Gear Ratio: KastKing Royale Legend Baitcasting Reel
Primarily intended for freshwater fishing, the KastKing Royale Legend Baitcasting Reel has a gear ratio of 7.0:1. This allows for a silent, speedy retrieval of 31.5 inches per turn (IPT), perfect for buzz baits and other fast action lures. The gears are made of precision-cut brass, while 11 + 1 corrosion-resistant ball bearings help to make your casting and retrieval as smooth as silk. The spool is made from lightweight anodized aluminum with a ceramic line guide that’s compatible with monofilament and braided line.
Available in left and right-handed configurations, the reel weighs just 7.5 ounces but uses a carbon fiber drag system to provide 17.5 pounds of maximum drag. The dual centrifugal and magnetic braking system allows for superior casting control, while the oversized stainless steel handle features EVA padded foam grips that help to wick moisture during the fight. The reel’s professional-quality attributes are even more impressive when one considers its affordable price-tag.
Best Low Gear Ratio: Abu Garcia REVO Winch Low Profile Reel
The Abu Garcia REVO Winch Low Profile Reel combines an extended bent handle with a low 5.4:1 gear ratio to provide unparalleled cranking power. It’s the ideal choice for fishing with diving crankbaits, large spinnerbaits and any other high resistance lure. Reviewers love that it makes it easy to reel in large baits without getting fatigued. The Carbon Matrix Drag System is built to withstand extreme drag pressures, while the Infini™ brake system offers almost unlimited adjustability.
This reel is built to last, with brass gears, a corrosion-resistant X2-Craftic alloy frame and eight stainless steel ball bearings. The palm side plate is made of carbon to reduce the reel’s overall weight, while the aluminum handle side plate adds strength and durability. Available with a left or right-handed setup, the reel also includes large EVA knobs on the handle for improved grip when fighting larger fish.
Best Inshore Saltwater: Daiwa Coastal-TWS 200 Reel
Designed especially with inshore anglers in mind, the Daiwa Coastal-TWS 200 baitcasting reel is made to withstand exposure to saltwater with eight corrosion-resistant ball bearings. These last approximately 12 times longer than standard stainless steel ball bearings and combine with the reel’s high-strength gears to increase its overall longevity. The reel has a maximum drag of 15.4 pounds and a fast 7.3:1 gear ratio.
The aircraft grade aluminum spool provides 35 percent more line capacity than the brand’s freshwater equivalent so that you can use a heavier line to target more powerful saltwater species. Other highlights include Daiwa’s Magforce Cast Control and wide T-Wing aperture (which helps to reduce line angles and friction). Available in right and left-handed models, the reel weighs in at 8.1 ounces and features a 100mm swept handle with non-slip EVA knobs.
Best Offshore Saltwater: Shimano Tranx TRX500HG Baitcasting Reel
The Shimano Tranx TRX500HG Baitcasting Reel is the perfect solution for deep-sea anglers who want to combine the pinpoint accuracy of a baitcaster with the power needed to target offshore species such as tuna, grouper and billfish. The reel features eight corrosion-resistant ball bearings and an aluminum frame coated with a special treatment that locks out saltwater.
It has a maximum drag capacity of 25 pounds and an impressive line capacity that translates to 420 yards of 50-pound test braid. The latter is essential for offshore fishing, as it provides the space needed to allow bigger fish to run with the line during the fight. Other highlights include a smooth drag with a wide range of different settings; a power handle with comfortable non-slip knobs; and a 6.6:1 gear ratio perfect for fast action lures.
Best Splurge: Lew’s Fishing Team Pro Magnesium Baitcasting Reel
If you're looking to spend some serious dough, the Lew’s Fishing Team Pro Magnesium Baitcasting Reel is worth every penny. It boasts a one-piece magnesium frame with carbon side plates, high-strength aluminum gears and a double anodized spool. It tips the scale at just 5.5 ounces yet offers 20 pounds of drag power; and with its gold-accented black body, it looks as good as it feels.
Eleven ball bearings make for flawlessly smooth casting and retrieval. The centrifugal braking system features 27 adjustable positions, while the carbon fiber handle comes with two custom EVA foam cork knobs. The reel has a high gear ratio of 6.8:1. Patented Lew’s innovations include the Speed Dial line indicator (to keep track of what line type and weight has been spooled) and a retractable hook keeper.