Let’s get this out of the way up front, there is no one true best baitcasting reel on the market. The “best” baitcasting reel will depend on what you are fishing for, where you’re fishing, and what your budget is for new gear.
For a little background on baitcasters if you aren’t a believer in them just yet, baitcasting reels allow the user more precision and control over their casts than spinning reels. The catch is that baitcasting reels take a bit of practice to perfect the technique. Luckily, modern technology has made baitcasting reels much more intuitive and easier to use than ever before.
Baitcasters also feature larger spools than most spinning reels, which allows for bigger, heavier line, or longer line. With the right baitcasting rod and reel combination, you’ll also find yourself casting further and with more accuracy than with a traditional spinning rod.
Here’s a rundown of the main characteristics to review when purchasing a new baitcasting reel:
- The frame of the reel is the base that holds every mechanism together. With that said, a frame that is going to stand the test of time is one of the most important factors to consider if you’re planning to spend a substantial amount of money. Ideally your new reel will feature an aluminum base, as graphite and alloy are more popular, however, weaker options.
- You’ll hear a lot about bearings when reading reviews for a new baitcasting reel. While more bearings are better than fewer bearings, the material of the ball bearings is just as important for longevity. The purpose of the bearings is to smooth out friction between the other working gears in the reel to ensure the longest possible lifespan.
- Gear Ratio
- The only spec you’ll see more often than the number of ball bearings is the reel’s gear ratio. This will look like an alien language at first but simply describes the amount of rotations the spool goes through with every full turn of the handle. So, if you see a number such as 5.5:1 that means that the spool rotates 5.5 times for every one complete turn of the handle. The higher the gear ratio, the quicker the retrieve speed of the reel.
- The drag is controlled by a rotating adjusting switch. Beginners generally start with the drag all the way up and steadily adjust the drag down as they become better equipped at controlling the tension on their own.
- The material of the spool will vary by brand, and the lifetime of the spool ultimately will depend on the materials used.
- The braking system on a baitcaster slows the output of line and can be implemented in a few different ways. The reel will have either centrifugal brakes, magnetic brakes, or a combination of both. Magnetic brakes are adjusted simply with a dial on the side of the reel, while centrifugal brakes require you to open a chamber and manually adjust the mechanisms. Centrifugal brakes provide for more customization depending on your situation, and hybrid brakes allow for the most overall optimization. As a general rule, you should start with the brakes higher and adjust down as you would with the drag.
The Best Baitcasting Reel for the Money
The main question most people want answered when researching a new baitcaster is “what is the best baitcasting reel for the money?” If you are looking for the best affordable baitcasting reel, you’ve come to the right place. Here we will break down the best value baitcasting reel for a wide range of price points, from the best cheap baitcasting reel, to the premium baitcasters. Below you’ll find the best affordable baitcasting reel no matter what your price point is.
The Best Baitcasting Reel Under $200
In the range of reels between $150 and $200, there aren’t many that can compete with the new series four Abu Garcia Revo SX line of reels. The Revo SX comes in two different gear ratios: a 6.6:1 which can handle almost any application, and a 7.3:1 for when you need to present the bait quicker or retrieve faster.
What makes the Abu Garcia Revo SX purr is its one-piece X2-Craftic frame. The X2-Craftic is made from premium aluminum alloy, featuring increased corrosion resistance which creates a reel that should last for years to come. Abu Garcia didn’t stop there either, adding in a new Infini brake system, which features both a centrifugal brake as well as a magnetic brake that allows the angler to fine tune the reel depending on what type of bait is being thrown.
The Abu Garcia Revo SX also features a Power Stack Carbon Matrix drag system for reliably smooth and durable drag which delivers up to 24 pounds of drag power. Lastly, this reel provides an oversized handle with oversized knobs to give you every last bit of control that you’ll need when pulling in a big old lunker.
The Best Baitcasting Reel Under $150
It’s hard to beat the Daiwa Tatula CT Casting reels when it comes to anything under $150. That’s because the features and technical specs on this series are usually reserved for much more expensive offerings. This Daiwa features the same 13.2-pound Ultimate Tournament drag system as the previous iteration of the reel, only now the CT has a lower profile and lighter weight.
Rarely do you find a reel that combines lightweight performance with affordability. The best part is that the Daiwa Tatula CT is available in five different gear ratios, ranging from 5.5:1 to 8.1:1
The Best Baitcasting Reel Under $125
KastKing is one of the most respected brands in the business, and they’ve knocked it out of the park with their Kapstan Elite Size 300 Reel. This is a low-profile, large capacity reel featuring 8+1 stainless steel ball bearings.
The Kapstan features the largest frame and highest capacity of any KastKing reel, while maintaining a weight of 10.8 ounces. Bust out this bad boy when you’re going after bigger freshwater fish such as steelhead, muskie, salmon and pike.
The best part about the KastKing Kapstan Elite is not only is it the best baitcasting reel under 150, it’s also the best reel under $120.
The Best Baitcasting Reel Under $100
For the best budget baitcasting reel, look no further than KastKing, who once again provides a versatile high-speed reel at an affordable.
The first thing I love about the KastKing Speed Demon Pro is the look and feel of their super polymer grips.
What really gets this thing going though, is the 9.3:1 gear ratio and the 13 stainless steel ball bearings inside of it. Despite those specs, the Speed Demon still clocks in at just 6 ounces.
The KastKing Speed Demon Pro may very well be the best casting baitcasting reel on the market.
The Best Baitcasting Reel Under $50
To find the best inexpensive baitcasting reel, we head to Piscifun, a reliable and respected brand in the fishing reel business. Specifically, we’re talking about the Piscifun Torrent Baitcasting Reel which can be purchased for a penny less than $40.
Don’t let the price fool you, this reel features climate-resistant brass gears and maintains a low profile along with a stealthy 7.1:1 line retrieve. Adjustable magnetic settings help to eliminate backlashes, and a side-plate is uniquely positioned to provide easy access to oil up your gears.
The Best Baitcasting Reel for Beginners
I can’t help but feel like an Abu Garcia salesman, and I haven’t personally tested these three reels, but from everything I’ve read, the Black Max is an absolute steal under $50.
Best Round Baitcasting Reel
Round baitcasting reels are true specimens of the fishing equipment universe, and with beauty often comes expense. Round baitcasting reels can cost as much as over $1000 but spending that much money is not necessary to come away with a high-quality reel.
For less than $80 you can buy yourself a nice quality Abu Garcia Ambassadeur SX. For the money, it’s hard to recommend anything else.
The Best Inshore Baitcasting Reel
First, let’s start with what the difference is between inshore fishing and offshore fishing. Inshore fishing means you are in water which is at a maximum of 30 meters deep. Once you’ve ventured far enough into the ocean that the water level reaches 100 feet, you’re now officially offshore fishing.
Generally, a trip fishing offshore is likely going to be a longer journey, to the point that you see the horizon for a full 360 degrees. To properly fish offshore you’ll need a large boat that likely uses radar and can hold heavy tackle with trolling equipment.
Whether fishing inshore or offshore, the best saltwater baitcasting reel for the money is the Shimano Tranx.
The Best Saltwater Baitcasting Reel
To find the best baitcasting reel for saltwater, we go back to one of the original fishing reel manufacturers than many young and old anglers grew up on: Shimano.
The Shimano Tranx LowProile Baitcasting reel provides enough power to catch anything that swims. For offshore fishing, you can’t buy a much finer piece of equipment than this beast of a reel.
One of the nice advantages of buying this reel is you have a plethora of choices to choose from as far as gear ratio goes. For my money, this is the best Shimano baitcasting reel on the market.
The Abu Garcia Revo Toro Beast is another top contender to consider as the best saltwater low-profile baitcasting reel on the market. They call this reel the Beast for a reason, as the Abu Garcia Revo Toro Beast can go toe to toe with the meanest fish in the ocean. Abu Garcia spared no expense when putting together this beauty, which looks as good as it performs. The Revo Toro Beast should be considered the best baitcasting reel for redfish, for my money.
You’re going to pay a little more for the Abu Garcia, so in this case my overall recommendation goes to the Shimano.
The Best Baitcasting Rod and Reel Combo
If you’re just starting out, the best baitcasting rod and reel combo for the money that I would recommend is the Abu Garcia Black Max combo, which can get you started with two quality pieces of equipment for under $75.
The Best Baitcasting Reel for Bass
To find the best baitcasting reel for bass fishing you’re going to be looking for a lower cost reel than any of the more expensive saltwater options. The best baitcasting reel for bass is going to be the baitcaster that you feel the most comfortable with. So, it really comes down to personal preference. The majority of the reels mentioned in this article for under $200 should perform well for bass.
The Best Baitcasting Reel for Catfish
For the best baitcasting reel for catfish, we head to a familiar friend in Abu Garcia and the Catfish Special. Featuring a carbon matrix drag system for reliably smooth pressure, the Catfish Special is designed specifically for hauling in large whiskered fish.
After taking one look at this reel you can see that it means business. The handle is extended and enlarged for extra reeling efficiency, and the massive spool features a synchronized level wind system keep your line tidy and smooth.