I’m a huge fishing reel buff, and I love breaking down the best bass reels on the market to help people understand how to properly choose the right one. When you’re first starting out with fishing, it’s important that you understand the way a reel works, so you get the right one, right away.
If you choose the wrong reel for bass fishing, it will not only impact your ability to catch any bass, but it might even turn you away from the sport altogether.
Now, if you’ve been out there fishing for a while, don’t think this guide isn’t for you. I’ve got reels from all ends of the spectrum, so if you’re looking to upgrade your current rig, I’ve got some premium choices for you as well.
We’re taking a look at the best spinning and casting reels on the market in 2020. Some of these are new to the market, while some are my long-term favorites that I’ve used for years.
Anyway, let’s not waste any more time. Let’s dive into the best bass reels for 2020 and beyond!
Quick Note: Before we dive into the content, I want to mention something. If a lot of the terminology like gear ratio and max drag sound foreign to you, hop down towards the bottom of the article, and you’ll find a large section of content where I focus on understanding the components of your reel.
If you’re already familiar with what makes your reel tick, then proceed with the reviews!
Our Reviews Of The Best Reels For Bass Fishing
Shimano Stradic Ci4+ – 2500FB
Our first choice for the best bass reel is this hit reel from Shimano. It’s lighter than a lot of the other options, and Shimano has made some upgrades to the reel over time. First, the Magnumlite rotor uses an asymmetrical shape that improves the rotation when you first start your retrieval. This factor makes the overall retrieval of your lure smoother and easier.
The X-ship is a support bearing that is cold-forged to the main gear with a brass drive gear. The goal of this design is to help prevent the two metals from wearing away at each other. When you do this, you increase the longevity of your reel while also maximizing the performance while you have it.
In this review, I specifically chose the 2500 size model of the Shimano reel because I feel it offers the most applicable drag and gear ratio for most bass fishing. You get a solid gear ratio at 6:1 as well as a 6+1 bearing design, which is optimal as well.
This reel is priced towards the top of most people’s price range, but what you’re getting is the absolute epitome in fishing technology packed into a reel that gets the job done.
Many customers on Amazon are unhappy that Shimano didn’t include an anti-reverse switch on this reel. The anti-reverse switch prevents the reel from unspooling, and it engages the drag instead. It’s nice to have the option to turn the switch on if you like, but most anglers are okay with back-reeling in this case.
At the price you’re paying for this reel, you would like to have all the options available. Overall, This reel is the best of the best for bass fishing.
Pflueger Supreme XT – SupXTSp30X
Next, we have a bass reel from another popular company, Pflueger. The main thing that stands out to me about this option is the SMART retrieve technology, which is something I’ve always had a problem with.
When your line doesn’t lay evenly on the spool, it makes it difficult to get the best cast and casting distance. It’s important to purchase a reel that has some form of technology to help with this, and this reel has the best solution to the problem.
Another thing that many anglers enjoy about this reel is the lightweight design. While it’s not much lighter than the Shimano, you get this one for around a quarter less than the Shimano, so you decide what’s important to you.
This reel comes with a 10 bearing system, which is impressive, but even with the added bearings, you’re not getting a higher gear ratio. I have to say; for a reel in this price range, you can’t go wrong with this option from Pflueger.
Abu Garcia Revo MG Xtreme – 2000CT
There’s a lot to say about this reel, and I’ve chosen it for the best casting reel for bass fishing, so I want to give it a solid review. Let’s start with the ergonomics.
The reel feels great in your hand, it’s a low profile baitcaster, it’s comfortable to palm, and it cranks nicely as well. The only thing I don’t like about the design is the cork handles. I don’t know what it is, but it just seems wrong to use them on a reel at this price range. This is a premium baitcasting reel and one of the best on the market.
It has an adjustable drag system with 6 different settings. Now right off the bat, this reel is not a power reel. It doesn’t have the drag you need for some of the larger fish you might typically plan on catching with a casting reel like this. It’s a finesse reel, and that’s what makes it so great for bass fishing.
The adjustability on the drag is nice because it provides you with the flexibility you need to fish in a variety of different settings with the same reel.
The overarching thing that stands out about this reel is the weight. It’s only 4.5 ounces, which is kind of incredible. It’s one of the lightest reels I have ever encountered.
Finally, the casting and retrieval performance of this reel is incredible. It casts so smoothly and retrieves the same. It’s almost impossible to birds nest even with a light lure.
My overall thoughts are, if you’re trying to add a baitcaster to your arsenal and you are willing to shell out some cash for a reel that you won’t have to upgrade from for a while, this one is the right choice.
Daiwa Tatula CT – TACT 100P
Here is our casting reel runner-up. This reel maximizes casting distance and accuracy with the T-Wing system and Magforce Z spool. The benefits you receive come in the form of a more precise cast that can withstand the distance as well.
A lot of the time, when you try to cast super far, you end up tangling your line because there is too much inertia, and the spool can’t unravel fast enough to keep up with the pressure you put on it. The Daiwa Tatula CT minimizes the chances of that happening.
I love the handle on Daiwa conventional reels because they’re really ergonomic. They place the handle closer to the machined aluminum spool, which feels more comfortable in your hand. When you feel more comfortable holding onto your reel, it results in improved cranking power.
Something that impresses me is the 13.2 drag rating. Even though this is not a power reel, it does a great job of setting the hook. The main problem I have with it is the weight. It weighs 7.4 ounces, which is a bit much compared to other competitors in this price and power range. If you don’t mind a little extra weight, you’ll enjoy this reel, though.
Abu Garcia Revo X – 2X10
Here we have a fantastic reel for the money. For less than $100, you can have yourself a high-performing spinning reel for bass fishing that is both lightweight and highly functional. This one combines a 6+1 bearing setup with EVA handles.
They also use a lightweight graphite rotor with an X-crafty gearbox design that keeps everything in perfect alignment while also making it easy to hold and fish with all day.
You have four different size model options with this one, and I would recommend going with a middle of the road choice. For this review, I used the Revo2x30 as my choice, and I felt it performed up to expectations. It’s an affordable spinning reel that is the perfect choice for beginner finesse anglers.
Pflueger President XT – PRESXT73LPX
Our final option is an affordable baitcaster at less than $100. There are a few reasons why I recommend this reel. First, it’s a great beginner choice because backlash is almost impossible. The Magnetic Braking System controls the spool rotation and helps you cast longer distances without worrying about backlash.
Second, the reel fits nicely in your hand. It’s a big adjustment to go from a spinning reel to a baitcaster, and the overall feel of the reel is different. This reel helps you accommodate the changes.
Finally, at a low price point like this one, the aluminum handle and comfortable grip provide the durability of a premium reel for a bare-bones price tag.
How To Choose The Best Bass Fishing Reel
Now you’ve seen a lot of the great options that are out there, let’s talk about some of the factors that go into making your decision. It’s important to understand how certain factors impact bass fishing specifically and why you want to keep them in mind.
The weight of your reel is an obvious consideration you want to think about when purchasing one. The lighter the reel, the less fatigue you’ll feel, and the more comfortable you’ll feel with it in your hand.
You don’t want to run to the lightest reel, though, and assume that it’s the best because it has the lowest weight. Instead, you want to marry a combination of weight and durability together in perfect harmony. Many reels do this by combining technology and design together.
For example, the Shimano Stradic Ci4+ uses Carbon Interfusion, which is a technology that not only makes the reel stronger, but it also makes it lighter in the process. You want to look for reels that use this kind of science to improve your comfort and the longevity of the reel.
The bearing setup in your reel is rather simple, and it’s the same whether you’re fishing for bass, trout, grouper, crappie, or whatever. The more bearings you have, the smoother the reel, but it’s also important to pay attention to the type of bearings.
You want to see corrosion-resistant stainless steel bearings in the reel because they won’t wear down over time, and if you maintain it, you won’t have to worry about the dirt and debris getting inside and causing the bearings to corrode. If they start to break down, you’ll hear more grinding noise coming from the reel, and there will be more friction that leads to a reduced casting distance and harder cranking.
I will be honest with you; I don’t find drag as important as some anglers might. I find that a lot of reel manufacturers try to distract anglers from the real issues with their reels by talking a lot about drag ratings and max drag.
Here’s the deal. Bass are a hard fighting fish, and it takes a solid hookset to get them in your boat. Under no circumstances do you need more than 12 pounds of max drag to reel in 99% of the bass you’ll ever catch.
Your drag rating is the amount of resistance the fish feel when they try to pull away in the opposite direction. If you have a low drag rating, it will be easier for the bass to swim away with your bait and harder for you to get them back.
A high drag rating will result in a lot of resistance and easier retrieval. Sometimes this can work against you, though.
If I were you, I wouldn’t worry much about drag because all spinning and casting reels you buy will have enough drag for bass fishing. When looking into drag, you want to pay attention to the quality of the drag washers.
The gear ratio is the number of cranks it takes to get the fishing line to rotate. So, if you have a 6:1 gear ratio, it means that every time you crank the handle one time, it turns the internal gear six times.
With that knowledge, you should realize that the higher the gear ratio, the less cranking you need to do to get the fish in the boat. Here is a factor you should pay attention to with bass fishing because a higher gear ratio will also help you set the hook faster.
This factor is simple. When you see 145/12, it means the spool can fit 145 yards of 12-pound monofilament/fluorocarbon line. Most manufacturers will specify the difference between mono and braided, but in this article, I focused entirely on monofilament.
It’s not too important to worry about line capacity for bass fishing either because you shouldn’t even come close to 145 yards worth of line; if you are, you’re doing something wrong.
Choosing Between a Spinning and Casting Reel
There’s one major determination you need to make when choosing between a spinning or casting reel, and that is the weight of your lure and line. Small line diameter like 10 or 12-pound test won’t typically go on a baitcaster. If you’re using lightweight lures with a small line like that, you’ll always lean towards a spinning reel.
If you’re sizing up your lures and using a 20+ pound braided line, you’ll want to use a baitcaster because you’ll have a stronger cranking ability and the power you need to reel in a much larger fish.
In many situations, I’ve found that it’s not so much about choosing one as “better” than the other for bass fishing, but it’s most important to look at the specific situation and use that to determine what type of reel you’ll use.
Another clear factor is your fishing rod. Some rods are spinning and some are casting so you’ll want to make sure your reel is compatible.
For me, bass fishing calls for a spinning reel and a finesse style approach. I’ve preached it throughout all of my articles, and I stand by it. I stick to a couple ounce lure with a 12-pound test on a high-quality spinning reel and have no problem bringing in 2-4 pound bass all day long.
At this point, you should have a strong understanding of how to choose the best bass fishing reel and some of the “why” behind your choice. Remember to pay attention to the brand you’re purchasing from as well.
I always recommend going with a brand name like Shimano, Daiwa, Penn, or Pflueger because their reputation is so solid. These companies have been around for a long time, and they’ll often make sure you’re satisfied with your purchase no matter what.
As for choosing the right reel for you. Go with something that makes sense for your fishing style, and don’t worry too much about the little details.
You won’t feel the difference between a 6:1 and 7:1 gear ratio, and you won’t notice a 12 pound versus an 11-pound drag. Those are small factors that won’t impact your ability to catch bass. Instead, look for outstanding brand reputation and features that improve the durability and smoothness of the reel.
Get your fishing gear ready and get out there!