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As a kid my family always took yearly bass fishing trips into Ontario, Canada. Among my many memories from those trips include long car rides, cool morning boat trips into the bay, and the odd fishing reels my cousins used.
They were, of course, baitcasting and spinning reels which seemed alien and unfamiliar to 12-year-old me. Why would anyone use one of these reels instead of the simple spincasting reel I always got from dad?
Today I’ve been able to figure out that spincasting reels come with many drawbacks, despite their distinct ease of use. The best baitcasting reels overcome many of the drawbacks with a few tradeoffs.
Let’s dive in to some criteria you can use to select your next baitcasting fishing reel!
Best Baitcasting Reels
Quick Answer: The 7 Best Rated Baitcasting Reels For 2021
- Abu Garcia Revo Toro Beast Low Profile Reel
- Shimano Curado DC Baitcast Reel
- Daiwa Tatula Elite Baitcast Fishing Reel
- Lew’s Tournament MP Speed Spool LFS Baitcast Reel
- Piscifun Phantom Carbon Baitcasting Reel
- KastKing Speed Demon Baitcasting Fishing Reel
- Abu Garcia Low Profile Baitcast Fishing Reel
Baitcasting Reel Reviews
This sexy looking low profile baitcasting reel looks like it’s a cross between a fighter jet and a race car.
Luckily for us, it’s actually a fishing reel. Abu Garcia put a total of 8 stainless steel ball bearings in this baitcaster reel.
Alloy frame and side plate are both coated for corrosion resistance and it’s obvious they’ve target this reel at being a lifelong investment for anglers.
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Why stainless steel and alloy frame? Because it’s less likely to rust when exposed to water in the fishing environment.
With its stainless steel ball bearings for corrosion resistance along with the titanium-coated line guide I would say the Revo Toro is the best baitcasting reel for saltwater.
Video: Overview of the Abu Garcia Revo Toro.
I like that they focused on the gear system with their DuraGear heavy duty internals. Again, we’re seeing that this high-end reel is meant to last.
They also packed the reel with their proprietary Power Stack carbon matrix drag system which is highly adjustable and can provide tons of drag.
Available in two ratios, 6.2 and 4.9, this casting reel should suite anyone’s fishing needs!
- Weight: 13.6 Ounces
- Gear Ratio: 4.9:1, 6.2:1
- Bearings: 7+1 stainless steel HPCR
- Drag: 25 Pounds
Shimano baitcasting reels are a name my dad would recognize and buy just because he’s always loved their reels.
Shimano’s mid-to-high-end reels are hard to beat in the baitcasting world. Particularly the Curado lineup which has a history spanning decades of use and refinement.
Compared to many modern bait casting reels the looks are modest and sleek. This belies the performance and tech packed inside, however.
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Shimano’s new Curado DC uses a digital chip (DC) inside to monitor and control the magnetic brakes 1,000 times every second! This technology allows the reel to manage backlashes with just 4 simple “set and forget” settings.
Additionally, the micro-module gears and all-aluminum frame (plus aluminum side plate) make the retrieve butter smooth.
With a max drag of 11lbs and a reel weight just over 7 ounces, you’ve got fresh water versatility in a lightweight package and the best casting reel under $200. Available in 6.2, 7.4, and 8.5 gear ratios.
- Weight: 7.8 Ounces
- Gear Ratio: 6.2, 7.4, and 8.5
- Bearings: 6+1 S A-RB® bearings
- Drag: 11 Pounds
I can confidently say that the Tatula Elite is among the smoothest-casting reels I’ve ever had the pleasure to throw.
They’ve redesigned and upgraded just about everything from the much-loved Tatula lineup to upgrade this reel.
I’ve always been a fan of the semi-flattened reel handles that the Tatula sports. The 8-bearing reel system is buttery smooth and your casts are controlled by the Magforce-Z braking system for smooth drag.
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Daiwa modified the Magforce brakes specifically for this reel to maximize long-distance casting. Additionally, they lightened up the spool which helps improve overall distance.
One of the more innovative features, however, is the T-Wing guide. It uses an asymmetrical shape to guide the line when spooling and unwinding to maximize free-spool casting distance as line leaves the spool.
If you want a baitcasting reel with beefy line capacity and all the features of the Tatula family, the new Elite model will deliver.
They put on an oversized grip and reel handle so that you can really generate some torque with your reel.
The reel is also rocking a carbon drag system and corrosion resistant clutch so you’ll be able to work this reel for years to come with minimal wear and tear.
Note: They also released the Tatula Elite P/F for short-distance pitching and flipping and it’s wonderful!
Available in 6.1, 7.1, and 8.1 gear ratios.
- Weight: 8.1 Ounces
- Gear Ratio: 6.3:1, 7.1:1, 8.1:1
- Bearings: 7+1 stainless steel
- Drag: 13 Pounds
With a highly adjustable brake sporting multiple settings, a 10-bearing crank, and a redesigned slim profile it’s hard to complain here.
For the price tag, they managed to put on this reel they also somehow got away with a centrifugal and magnetic brake system. That’s a lot of features at a reasonable price.
The entire reel, without line, weighs in at under 7 ounces so you won’t get fatigued casting and reeling all day long.
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You’ll have tons of control over your brake system on this reel with an internal 4-pin centrifugal brake and an external click dial for adjusting the magnetic braking system.
This gives you precision control over when and how much braking occurs during parts of the cast.
Gear ratios range from 5.6 – 8.3 and many in between so there’s plenty of options for any type of casting you’ll want to do.
There should be a reel ratio here for everything from spinners to poppers and in my opinion the Lew’s Tournament is the best baitcaster for the money.
- Weight: 6.7 Ounces
- Gear Ratio: 5.6:1, 6.8:1, 7.5:1, 8.3:1
- Bearings: 9+1 stainless steel
- Drag: 20 Pounds
With a carbon round drag system and graphite side plates, this baitcaster reel is meant to provide smooth reliable drag for a long lifespan.
Full size baitcasting reels are meant more for big fishing so this would be appropriate for salt water or Great Lakes fishing.
Head for this reel when you might be sending bait to serious depths or fighting fish that take long runs.
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This one comes in a set gear ratio of 7.1 with CNC machined brass gear. You have your choice of left or right handed models.
With 7 total stainless steel ball bearings, there’s plenty here to keep the casting and reeling smooth as butter.
They’ll even throw in some 4-strand line which is nice, but most fishermen are going to prefer putting their own line on. No chance risking a catch on unknown line!
Overall the reel weighs in at 5.7 ounces and can pack in up to 240 yards of 10-pound test.
The magnetic braking anti-reverse system should help to massively eliminate those nasty bird nests as well. If you looking for a cheap baitcaster, I think the Piscifun Thunder is the best baitcasting reel under $100.
- Weight: 5.7 Ounces
- Gear Ratio: 7.0:1
- Bearings: 6+1 stainless steel
- Drag: 17 Pounds
This baitcaster has got something to truly set it apart from the competition. With a gear ration of 10.5, CNC machined brass gear and aluminum spool it’s able to pull in line faster than just about any other reel.
With 13 total shielded ball bearings, there’s a guarantee that it’ll be smooth casting and quick. Unfortunately, having such a high gear ratio also means that it’s going to have a harder time hauling in loads.
4-disc carbon fiber drag system can handle up to 18 pounds of smooth drag pressure which should be plenty for any fish you’ll be catching on a compact baitcasting reel.
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They’ve used a magnetic brake system on this reel for elimination of backlashing, or bird nests. It’s moderately adjustable and should be able to handle most situations but I would have liked to see a bit more fine-tuning ability.
Overall, this is definitely a reel that sacrifices torque for speed. I would keep this on a rod that’s dedicated to light and fast casting.
If fast gear ratio doesn’t bother you and you’re looking for high speed retrieval, this is one of the top baitcasting reels for a budget price!
- Weight: 6.7 Ounces
- Gear Ratio: 10.5:1
- Bearings: 12+1 stainless steel
- Drag: 18 Pounds
With a total of 10 stainless steel ball bearings, titanium-coated line guide and sealed corrosion protection this low profile baitcaster from Abu should stay smooth casting for years.
They took a lot of steps to keep the weight down on this reel, such as the C6 carbon side plate, aluminum spool and alloy frame. An alloy frame helps keep the frame rigid, corrosion resistant, and lightweight.
They have tried to maximize just about every internal system with D2 gear design, MagTrax magnetic braking system, and compact recurved handles.
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According to the manufacturer’s website, they were able to drop over 2 ounces of weight with the recent redesign using new materials and tech.
Pretty much everything from the frame to the gear system was overhauled so if you’re used to older Abu Garcia reels, you might need to try a new one.
Overall, it’s a friendly, easy to adjust, and well-rounded reel with a moderate price tag.
It’s not the cheapest or the most expensive, but with so many good features this high-end reel is definitely worth a look and the best baitcasting reel for beginners.
- Weight: 7.8 Ounces
- Gear Ratio: 6.4:1
- Bearings: 9+1 stainless steel
- Drag: 20 Pounds
Baitcasting Reel Comparison Table
|Baitcasting Reel||Weight||Gear Ratio(s)||Bearings||Rating|
|Abu Garcia Revo Toro Beast||13.6 Ounces||4.9:1|
|7 + 1 stainless steel HPCR bearings||4.6 / 5.0|
|Shimano Curado DC||7.8 Ounces||6.2:1|
|6 + 1 S A-RB® bearings||4.6 / 5.0|
|Daiwa Tatula Elite||8.1 Ounces||6.3:1|
|7 + 1 stainless steel bearings||4.8 / 5.0|
|Lew's Fishing Tournament MB||6.7 Ounces||5.6:1|
|9 + 1 stainless steel bearings||4.7 / 5.0|
|Piscifun Phantom||5.7 Ounces||7.0:1||6 + 1 stainless steel bearings||4.5 / 5.0|
|KastKing Speed Demon||6.7 Ounces||10.5:1||12+1 stainless steel bearings||4.4 / 5.0|
|Abu Garcia Low Profile||7.8 Ounces||6.4:1||9+1 stainless steel bearings||4.6 / 5.0|
How to Choose the Best Baitcasting Reel – Buyers Guide
- Gear Ratios
- Line Capacity
- Right Handed vs Left Handed Reels
- Why Use a Baitcaster?
- Considerations for a Baitcaster
- FAQs About Baitcasting Reels
- Best Baitcasting Reel Brands
- Final Thoughts
Gear ratios affect to main things. First, how fast will your reel retrieve the line? Second, how east will it be to haul in heavy catches?
Gear rations are listed as follows (6.4:1) First up is the revolutions of the spool, second is the number of turns of the handle.
So, for this example, the spool will spin 6.4 times per handle turn. Higher that ratio, the faster the retrieval. The lower the number, the slower your spool will retrieve but the easier it will be to haul in a heavy load.
It can be important to consider gear ratios when choosing a casting reel for certain types of bait. Consider if you want high speed retrieval to be able to move your bait fast or more torque for bigger fish!
Good baitcasting reels always come with an integrated braking system. This is used to help slow down the cast so that bird nesting and backlash become less of an issue.
When your spool continues to unwind after the bait has hit the water, you’ll end up with an excess pile of unspooled line. This is backlash. Spool brakes are your best defense against birds’ nests
There are two main types of brakes found in baitcasting reels. Magnetic brakes are usually more expensive but can be adjusted just like mechanical brakes.
Mechanical brakes in most cheap baitcasting reels rely on a pin system which creates friction during the cast to slow down the spool. Be sure to understand your braking system and how to fine-tune your adjustments.
Consider the type of fish you’re planning to go after before making a choice on line capacity. For general use or unless you’re planning specifically to do some deep water or big-species fishing, spool capacity isn’t usually an issue.
For saltwater fishing, when targeting big fish, you’ll want a spool with tons of capacity for casting distance when you have those long runs!
For most anglers, a low profile baitcasting reel will have plenty of line capacity to handle bass or pickerel. Fish like salmon, muskies, and steelheads you might want to heavily consider a full capacity fishing baitcaster.
Right Handed vs Left Handed Baitcasting Reels
If you’re a righty, most people will go with a right-handed rod and reel setup. For baitcasting it’s important to have an ergonomic rod and reel both.
The temptation tends to be to set up your equipment for the hand you’re dominant with.
This means, however, that when you cast with your right hand, you’ll have to switch the rod to your left hand to work the crank with your right.
Some anglers prefer to set up their gear with a left-handed rod and right handed reel.
With some practice, you’ll be able to cast with your left hand and reel with your right hand.
Why Use a Baitcasting Reel?
While a spinning or spincast reel is easier to use and get comfortable with, baitcasting reels have their place. There are many situations where a baitcaster is the far superior choice of reel. Let’s take a look at them now.
You have much more control with casting distance using a baitcaster as compared to spinning reels. This is because you are able to vary the distance/speed the of the lure by using your thumb to slow down the spool. After practice, you will be able to put a lure or bait exactly where you want it.
Increased Reel Strength
This is due to the design of baitcasting reels where the handle is connected directly inline to the frame of the reel and the spool is inline with the handle. This allows you to apply more force when reeling in a big fish because there isn’t an arm to flex like there would be with a spinning reel.
Fishing Line Weight
With the design of a baitcaster where the spool is perpendicular to rod, (unlike a spinning reel where it’s inline to the rod and there is an arm), this allows the line to feed directly straight through into the rod guides. This allows you to cast with heavier line and lures to catch bigger fish!
Considerations for Choosing a Baitcasting Reel
So let’s sumaraize what you should look for in your new baitcasting reel so you can get out and starting catching some fish!
Have more bearings will generally give you smoother casting and retrieval. Look for either high quality stainless steel or some of the more expensive reels now use ceramic bearings. Either of the these bearing types will last a long time are resist corrosion.
Lighter is better, look for aluminum or magnesium. Some of the newer reels even feature carbon composites that extremely light and strong while resisting corrosion.
The size handle you use will be determined by the size fish you are targeting. A longer/larger handle will allow more cranking force to go after those trophy size fish! While shorter handle will give you more a bit more control.
Using a deeper spool that allows you to use more line OR use thicker, heavier line. A larger spool also means less turns of line on the reel and easier to control.
Tension and Brakes
This can be a confusing topic. What you need to know is the brakes control the line at the end of the cast and help prevent backlash. Normally this is a “set and forget” setting but you might adjust if your casting into the wind.
Tension on the other hand is varied according the weight of the lure you are using. This video helps explain how to setup tension and your brakes.
FAQs About Baitcasting Reels
Q: What makes a baitcasting reel so good?
A: Many would consider a baitcasting reel to be among the best reels available for freshwater fishing. There are a few reasons for this:
- The line is spooled in the same direction as the line guides. This decreases friction, increases cast distance, and reduces line memory or kinking.
- Thumb pressure can be used to control cast distance.
- Brakes can be used to precisely control free-spool friction for maximum cast distance.
These are the main reasons die-hard baitcast users stick with their reels. I can tell you from experience that a good baitcaster can really chuck a lure! If you’ve never thrown a heavy lure on a free spooling baitcaster, let me tell you it’s amazing how far you can whip even a tiny lure.
However, using a baitcaster like this requires tons of practice. As you get better you will invariably birdsnest your baitcast. And, while you’re learning, you’re going to get even worse cast performance than a spinning reel because you’ll have the brakes set high to prevent nests.
Put in the time and effort, however, and baitcasters become a top pick for most anglers!
Q: What’s the best way to learn how to use my baitcasting reel?
A: There are a few common tips and tricks to practicing with a baitcaster. Here are my tips to you:
- Start by only spooling on a few-dozen yards of line. In case you get a birds nest you won’t be wasting much line.
- Turn all the brakes up as high as they’ll go.
- Attach a ½ ounce weight.
- Open the bail and slowly dial the brake back until the weight falls to the ground.
- The brakes should prevent the spool from continuing to run once the weight touches the ground.
- Now try a few casts like this.
- Slowly turn the brakes off and continue casting.
Of course, this process is usually easier to see in a video format so check out this awesome video on how to adjust your baitcasting reel!
Q: Should I use mono or braided line on my baitcaster?
A: I think a majority of people these days are using braided line on baitcasters. Most often this is also paired with a mono or flouro leader of about 10’ or so.
That said, there’s no reason you can’t run your baitcasting setup any way you like. If you do decide on using brain with a leader, you can learn how to set that up with this video.
Using braided line means less stretch so your hook sets are firmer and you can feel your lure bumping along structure (and feel hits) a lot better with longer line. Be careful, however, as braid can be so quick to set you’ll rip the lures right out of the fish so it may take some time to get used to.
For most topwater uses, I usually just tie braid straight to my lure personally. One of the downfalls with this, however, is that the braided line may be visible to picky fish so if the bite is hard, try using a clear mono leader for float.
Q: What is a low profile baitcasting reel?
A: Most baitcasting reels you’re thinking of are low profile. These reels sit close to the rod, they’re small, and they’re lightweight.
On the other hand a full size baitcaster is quite a large reel that sits fully atop the rod. These are often used for fishing with downriggers and other deeper techniques that require tons of large diameter line.
Don’t confuse the two. While one is great for casting, the other is really more for trolling.
All of the baitcasting reels we’ve recommended are low profile type baitcasters.
Q: What gear ratio is good for me?
A: This is a preference thing as well as knowing what you’re fishing and how to fish it.
Higher gear ratios mean a faster line retrieve. This is ideal for search baits like spinnerbaits, french spinners, buzzbaits and those long steady retrieves. It’s also particularly useful when you’re in shallow water and need to keep a bait up near the top.
Low gear ratios pull line in more slowly. This is good for fishing big fish or using baits that need more time to sink. While it takes more cranks of the handle to pull in line, it’s easier to fight current, trolling forces, or heavy fish.
For me, personally, I almost always prefer a higher gear ratio for fast retrieves. With a high gear ratio you can always slow down your retrieve, but I hate having to reel low gear ratio reels super fast to get a bait moving!
Best Baitcasting Reel Brands
As always choosing the “best” brands of reels is subjective and truth is, with modern manufacturing and technology most all brands are pretty good. There are always a few brands that keep coming up among experienced anglers and personally I have had good luck using all these brands:
Outside Pursuits Overview
Baitcasting reels have a reputation as finicky and prone to bird nesting. With some practice and a well-tuned reel, you can quickly learn to master these reels.
They provide greater control, efficiency, and accuracy over traditional spinning reels. While baitcasting reels have some drawbacks, experienced anglers almost universally prefer their tunability and accuracy over other reels.
Make sure a baitcasting reel is the right choice for you. Whether you choose a compact or full size reel, first consider where you’ll be fishing and what type of fish you’re going after.
If you’re just going out for a weekend once a year bass fishing, baitcasting reels aren’t for you. But, if you’re ready to push the limits on what you can do with a reel, this is the reel type you need.
I hope this guide was helpful for finding the best baitcaster to fit your needs. If you want to comment or recommend a reel I didn’t include, please use my contact form to get in touch.
Have fun and good luck!