A Complete Guide to Choosing a Baitcast Reel

a variety of baitcasting reels on rods

A baitcast reel is a great choice for anglers looking for accuracy when casting and want more power when reeling in large species. To help you find the right baitcast reel for your setup, our Fishing Experts share some basics to know before starting your search for the best baitcasting reel.

What Is a Baitcaster?

A baitcast reel is a type of fishing reel that sits on top of the rod and is designed to increase accuracy when casting as well as allow anglers to use heavier lines and lures.

Benefits of Using a Baitcast Reel

Baitcasting reels have many benefits for anglers, especially for those targeting larger species. Some of the common benefits include the following:

  • More control when casting and retrieving
  • Increased accuracy and distance
  • Ability to use heavier lines and lures
  • Greater line sensitivity for detecting strikes

Parts of a Baitcast Reel

When purchasing a baitcasting reel, it's important to familiarize yourself with its components. Our Fishing Experts share each part and the function:

  • Reel Handle: This part is used to wind the line back onto the spool.
  • Spool: This is what the line wraps around.
  • Spool Release Button: This is the button used to open the spool.
  • Spool Tensioner: This allows you to fine-tune the spool rotation speed.
  • Brake System: This helps reduce backlash by slowing the spool’s speed.
  • Reel Seat: This is where the reel attaches to the rod.
  • Line Guide: This evenly distributes the line on the spool when retrieving.
  • Drag System: This part adds tension to the reel when a fish is hooked.

Types of Baitcast Reels

Baitcast reels come in two main types: low-profile and round. When choosing a baitcast reel, it’s important to know where you’ll be fishing and what species you plan on targeting. Knowing this helps narrow down which type to purchase.

Low-profile Reels

Low-profile reels have a smaller frame and handle, making them much more comfortable to cast all day long. They also feature several adjustable settings including spool tension and the amount of slack in the line. This is the most common type of baitcasting reel you’ll see when freshwater fishing because they’re great for bass and walleye.

Round Reels

Round reels are larger and more traditional in design, making them a great option for surfcasting or reeling in larger species. With their size, they are able to hold more line making them a good option for trolling. They also allow you to cast heavier baits and lures farther and are best used for saltwater fishing or reeling in pike or muskie.

Baitcaster Reel Gear Ratio

a fisherman using a low profile baitcast reel

Gear ratios help tell anglers the speed at which the spool rotates in relation to the handle. A gear ratio is noted with numbers. The first number indicates how many times the spool rotates, and the second number represents the number of times you turn the handle. For example, a baitcaster that has a 6.4:1 gear ratio will have the spool spin 6.4 times with every turn of the handle. Different gear ratios are best suited for different types of fishing and species.

  • Low Gear Ratio: Picking a low gear ratio is great for trolling or casting for larger species because the bait stays in the strike zone longer. You’ll want to look for ratios between 5.1:1 through 5.4:1. These are ideal when using crankbaits or hard-pulling lures while deep-sea fishing or fishing for pike and muskie. 
  • Medium Gear Ratio: This gear ratio is a great choice for those who haven’t used a baitcasting reel before because they are versatile enough for a range of applications. You’ll want to look for ratios between 6.1:1 through 6.4:1. 
  • Fast Gear Ratio: This is a popular choice for bass or muskie anglers. These are noted with a gear ratio of 7.1:1 or higher. The advantage of a fast gear ratio is that you’re able to retrieve and cast more quickly allowing you a greater number of casts throughout the day leading to more opportunities to reel in a catch.

Now that you know the ins and outs of baitcasting reels, you’re ready to hit find the best one for your species and application. If you have any additional questions about using a baitcast reel, stop into your local SCHEELS to speak with a Fishing Expert!