Best Baitcasting Reels to Check Out: Complete Baitcasting Reel Review
Baitcasting is a style of fishing that involves larger lures, heavier techniques, and more powerful cranking. The best baitcasting reel will support those efforts with a powerful gear system, optimal braking, and a large enough body to help you crank in larger fish.
I love my spinning gear but even I can admit that baitcasters are the right choice for deep crankbaits and swimbaits. I was intimidated by them years ago because I was so worried about getting tangled but after a few hundred (or thousand) casts, you get the hang of it. Let’s take a look at the top seven baitcasters from the best brands in the world.
The 7 Best Baitcasting Reels: Total Breakdown
What don’t we like? Straight out of the box this reel is sharp looking, durable, and lightweight. It’s got a nice low-profile appearance with a crisp gray frame. If you’ve ever fished with a Lew’s reel before, you’ll know that they’re very smooth and they cast well, there’s no difference with this one.
One thing that actually makes me a fan of this baitcaster even more is the fact that they don’t go overboard on the features. There are two primary features that stand out to me though.
There’s a speed dial indicator which allows you to mark what type of line and what size you’re using so you can remember for next time. This is great if you use a lot of different lines and reels but not that big of a deal if you don’t fish too much.
The reel also comes with a speed keeper hook keeper which I personally find to be pretty valuable but again, some of you might not see it as a “feature.”
It comes with a high-end 11-bearing system with double shield stainless ball bearings and a zero reverse. This one-way clutch is a great choice for fishing dense cover.
As for cranking, you get carbon fiber handles with Dri-Tack knobs from Winn which you really can’t beat. I’m personally surprised that they don’t charge an extra $200 for this reel. Where some come and say that it’s priced as a premium reel, I disagree. A premium reel is somewhere in the $400-500 range and the fact that you can get a reel of this quality for $300 is mind-boggling.
Abu Garcia Revo Toro
If you’re in the market for good baitcasting reels with a little more power, the Abu Garcia Revo SX series is where you want to be. These are some of the most popular reels of all time and the Toro got its name for a reason. It’s durable, sleek, has a low-profile design, but has many internal components that allow it to take on quite a load without breaking down on you.
First, the overall design of the reel is incredible. It uses a 5+1 internal bearing system with an alloy frame and side plate to prevent corrosion. The X2-Craftic frame is also present to reduce the overall weight of the reel. They use titanium additives in the frame to help protect it against abrasion and ensure that the pressure and stress you put on it aren’t noticeable after a few trips to the lake.
One of the most important features of the best baitcasting reels is the handles. Here you’ll get thick metal handles with EVA knobs. There’s very little backlash, the knobs fit nicely into your hand and they make it easy to crank. Plus, you really feel like you can crank these guys because of how sizable the handles are overall.
It’s pretty clear that this reel is designed for larger fish and the corrosion resistant materials makes this one of the best baitcast reels for saltwater fishing.
Lew’s Speed Spool LFS
This is a redesign of the original speed spool from Lew’s and while I loved the original one, I don’t know why they even bothered to redesign it because they don’t do that much. That said, this is a highly affordable baitcasting reel and you get a lot of bang for your buck.
At first glance, it doesn’t stand out appearance wise. It looks like it has a lot of plastic but what should you expect when paying $100 for a reel. It comes with an aluminum frame though (no plastic) and brass gears and pinions.
You get three different gear ratio options unless you’re left-handed and a 9+1 bearing system. These days, anglers are demanding more and more for less cost and for this reel only being $100, you’re getting a lot. They’re focusing on minimizing the amount of extraordinary features you can get by maximizing the basic components of the reel to ensure you have something that performs over time.
I’ll always be a fan of that strategy and this is the best reel you can get right not for less than $200.
The reel feels small in your hand because of the low-profile design. If you have a hard time handling the larger bulkier reels, you’ll like this one and experience less fatigue throughout the day.
The one major difference from the old model is the decrease in weight which I’m always in favor of as well. It comes with a spool capacity of 150 yards of 12 pound line as well which is a step up from the previous model limit of 120 yards.
Daiwa Tatula SV TW
There was a time when someone asked you what your favorite reel was, it was always a Daiwa. This brand has led the way for a long time until a lot of other manufacturers started popping up. They’re usually at the front of cutting edge fishing technology and they implement so many incredible features into their reels.
The T-Wing system solves a huge problem that a lot of baitcasting anglers experience. There is friction caused by the level wind system and the T-Wring helps the line flow better through the top section of the reel when you cast. The end result is a smooth cast and more cast control.
They also use something called an air rotor which is much lighter than your traditional rotor but it also helps provide added strength to your retrievals.
The technology keeps flowing with Daiwa with their Magforce-Z feature as well. This is a magnetic braking system that allows the spool to spin early in the cast and it naturally starts to apply friction to the rotation to prevent back spooling. This adjustment provides more control over your cast without having to wear out the gear system.
Shimano Curado DC
The Shimano Curado DC is an incredible reel that comes loaded up with features that only the top-of-the-line baitcasting reels get. You get the Hagane alloy body, X-Ship pinons, Cross carbon drag, and I-DC4 digital braking system. Come on now!
The X-Ship body is designed specifically to increase the smoothness of your cast while increasing the overall power of the retrieval.
The money maker is really in the digital braking system. There’s a digital controller inside the reel that monitors the speed of the aluminum spool. When you cast, the chip will measure and compare the data with previous casts to automatically determine the amount of pressure required to get the casting distance you want.
This is great if you use a larger assortment of lures because you won’t have to adjust anything, it’s done automatically and you can get the perfect casting distance each time.
Shimano Chronarch MGL
You know it’s good when you have such a hard time finding something wrong with the reel. I’ve always been a person to focus on the quality and performance of it rather than looking at the appearance but this reel looks amazing. It’s so impressive and really eye-catching when the sun reflects off the incredible black finish.
It boasts an 8+1 bearing system with the micro-module gearing. This design uses smaller teeth in the gears to ensure that there is more surface convergence. That’s a fancy way of saying, you’ll be able to cast further with less resistance. It uses a centrifugal braking system that you can adjust using a knob on the outside.
I’m a huge fan of having all the adjustments in a place where you can easily access them. You shouldn’t need special hardware to adjust the max drag or braking systems on your reels and Shimano did a nice job with this one.
As for performance, the retrieval and cast on this reel is as smooth as butter. You get an impressive casting distance even with lightweight lures and pitching into dense cover is easy as well. Many people prefer to go without the drag but the system overall is top-of-the-line whether you use it or not.
KastKing Royale Legend GT
First, let’s talk about the price. You can barely get a gimmicky childrens rod for $40 nevermind a baitcasting reel that you can actually take onto the water and catch something with. We all know KastKing as the “amazon” brand of fishing products but this one is pretty impressive.
It has a graphite body with a compact design meant to be low-profile, smooth, and comfortable in your hand. They use a soft-grip handle which will also help you fish longer without feeling fatigued but they’re mounted on a 95.5mm aluminum alloy handle so you’re not sacrificing any durability.
They do a nice job of breaking down the construction of the reel as well. KastKing uses a precision brass main gear which is said to improve the overall life of the reel but we also know that the main gear is responsible for smoothness and this one is as smooth as a baby’s butt.
It also has one of my favorite features which I haven’t seen too much of yet (surprising that this is the cheapest reel) which is the ceramic line guide. These help preserve the integrity of the line while also supporting optimal casting distance and overall performance.
How to Choose the Best Baitcasting Reel
As you’re shopping around for the best baitcasters, there are some important factors that you’ll want to keep in mind. Everything outlined in this baitcasting reel review is great, but it means nothing if you don’t know what you’re shopping for.
The gear ratio refers to how many times the spool turns per revolution of the handle. So, if you have a 6:1 gear ratio, it means that the spool will turn six times each time you crank the handle around once. The most typical gear ratios you’ll find are 6.4:1 and 7.1:1. These are the best choices for worms, jigs, and topwater spinnerbaits.
Lower gear ratios are ideal for deeper cranks and swimbaits. When you’re moving the bait slower you’re keeping it in the strike zone longer giving it more time for a strike. You also get more power out of these baits making them a great choice for flipping into cover. Fewer revolutions also means that you can tighten your drag a bit because you’re not going to be burning the line up on the way back to the boat battling a big fish.
If you desire a reel with a high gear ratio, these are best for fishing smaller topwaters and plastics when you need to set the hook quickly and get the fish back to the boat as fast as possible. Higher gear ratios are more popular with spinning reels and fishing things like topwater frogs.
The size of the spool will determine how much line you can fit on the reel before you start reaching the backing. They also play an important role in managing the line so you don’t have to deal with nesting or other tangling related issues. If you do a lot of pitching or flipping, you don’t need a large spool because you’re not casting long distances.
For the most part, many spool sizes are standard and there isn’t too much variation between how much line you can fit on all of them. This information will apply most for sea anglers who are fishing for much larger offshore fish where they’re taking the line out really far and battling for 10-15 minutes at times.
When it comes to the handle you’ll want to focus on the size and materials. The best baitcaster for bass will be low-profile with smaller handles because you won’t need to have as much power to crank them in. If you’re fishing with primarily jigs and soft plastics, you don’t have to worry too much about fatigue with a low-profile reel because the cranking isn’t the issue, it’s the presentation.
That said, if you’re doing any type of offshore fishing or even inshore saltwater, you might be fishing for larger fish with big crankbaits. Having a longer handle will give you more leverage to pull the fish out of dense cover and battle them when they’re dragging your lure in the opposite direction.
Handle and knob material is important as well. EVA knobs are most common but a lot of manufacturers are doing things to make them more comfortable while increasing their durability. This is important but it’s impossible to say which one is “best” because everyone has their own preferences. Shop around and understand that these are necessary factors to think about.
The braking system may be one of the most important components of a baitcasting reel. This is one thing that is primarily different from the spinning rod and reel combo. With a baitcaster, you have a tension knob that controls the amount of tension on your line at the beginning of the cast. The braking system will control the tension at the end of the cast. Without the right amount of tension, wind will start to impact your cast. It will slow down your lure. But, that wind is not slowing down the spool which will keep spinning at the same velocity until that lure hits the water.
The end result is a huge mess when your line gets all knotted up in the reel which is referred to as a “nest” or “crows nest” depending on where you’re from. It’s also called backlashing. This is the number one thing that turns people away from baitcasters because this is something that you need to learn how to manage otherwise you’ll be constantly breaking apart your line and throwing it away because it’s all tangled.
If you have a baitcaster with an exceptional braking system, these problems won’t happen. If you notice, some of the manufacturers even use computerized technology to minimize the chances of this happening.
Having high-quality bearings in your reel improves the smoothness of your cast and retrieval. Some people think that more bearings generally means it’s a smoother reel but that’s not always the case. There are so many factors that determine that so don’t just run for the reel with the most bearings.
You want one that offers ceramic or stainless steel ball bearings and is made with lightweight materials. When you combine those factors, you’ll end up with a smoother reel than if you went for something cumbersome with 11 bearings.
If your reel has a great line guide, it’s the best feature in the world, if it has a crappy line guide, it’ll be the first thing you regret. Try to find one that’s made of ceramic because it has less friction but they are very fragile so you’ll want to be extra careful when handling the reel.
Titanium guides are nice but they’re more expensive and I don’t find them to necessarily be any better. The most important thing about line guides is that they operate properly and flow smoothly with the line so they aren’t creating any tension.
What’s the reel made of? All metal is the way to go and anodized aluminum offers the most durability with the lightest weight. There are also many manufacturers implementing graphite side plates as well for added durability over the internal components. No matter what, the construction of the reel is one of the most important aspects because you’ll want something that is not only durable but easy to operate.
Why Choose a Baitcaster?
The big question is, why would someone choose a baitcaster over a spinning reel. First, a baitcaster sits on top of the rod whereas a spinning reel sits underneath the spinning rod. There are some pros to using a baitcaster instead of a spinner though.
These reels are generally perceived as more durable and capable of holding larger quantities of heavy line. Of course, there are unique scenarios where this might not be true but this is the reason why casting rods and reels are mostly used for saltwater fishing. They offer more control over your casting distance and precision, they have stronger drag capabilities, can hold more line, so ultimately, they are the better choice for heavier fish.
The downside to using a baitcaster is the fact that they have a steeper learning curve. This is the reason why most people start out with spinning rod and reel applications and later switch over when they have a better feel for things. Backlashing is the number one reason for this and you’ll need to play around with the braking system and drag more on a baitcaster.
I always believe that you need to stay in your budget, whatever that may be. You don’t need to go out and spend hundreds of dollars on a reel to have a good time on the water. If you’re stressing over how much the reel costs, it’s too much. There are plenty of baitcasters for less than $200 and even less than $100. Don’t worry about the price and just get what you can afford.
As I do these reviews, I realize that I’m splitting hairs most of the time. If you’re not fishing dozens of different reels a year like I am, you won’t even notice many of the differences that I notice.
You need a baitcasting rod or a trolling rod for a baitcaster. Do not use a spinning rod because it won’t work. The reel needs to rest on top of the rod and the seat will need to be much different and larger than with a spinning reel.
Choosing the best baitcasting reel isn’t as difficult as it seems. In reality, it’s as simple as understanding what makes one the “best” and simply settling on something. As I mentioned, there are plenty of great options on this list so don’t stress it too much. Find one that you like and go for it. Even if it’s not the most expensive reel on the market, that doesn’t mean that it’s not a great option.