Best Baitcasting Reels
What's better to use - A spinning reel or a baitcasting reel? This is an age-old debate in the fishing community that continues today, but the short answer is: It depends. What it depends on are your needs, particular style of casting, what type of fish you're going after, and how much you value distance and accuracy in a cast.
Baitcasting reels are typically known to provide further distance and better accuracy on the cast than their spinning counterparts. Baitcasting reels are also favored by many anglers who are planning to land larger fish, let's say, 20 lbs and up. However, the main drawback to baitcasting reels are the learning curve and susceptibility to backlash (essentially a brutal birds nest).
Like lots of other gear in the fishing industry, and sports in general, these disadvantages that have been constantly noted by anglers are the aspects of the equipment that manufacturers usually improve with time. Baitcasting reels are no different, as the design and manufacturing now allows for improved protection against backlash, as well as ease of learning through simplified "thumbing" ( we will get to this later).
Therefore, if you're someone who fishes somewhat regularly, we would definitely recommend trying out a baitcasting reel if possible. While they aren't necessary in order to be successful on the water, they provide a chance to improve performance and find something that works better for you. Worst case, it doesn't work out, and you focus more of your attention on improving your skills with a spinning reel. In any case, we definitely think it's worth a shot.
Below we will provide some of our recommendations for the best baitcasting reels currently on the market, and we will categorize them in different price points, hopefully alowing you to find something that works not only for your game, but also for your budget.
- Magnetic brake system
- Carbon fiber drag system
- Anodized aluminum spool
- 17.5lbs of stopping power
- Stainless steel spool shaft
- Comfortable handle
- Not as durable as higher-end reels
- Frame seems a little cheap
- Magnetic brake system may take some initial adjustment depending on your requirements
The KastKing Royale Legend is a great value baitcasting reel that is perfect for anyone looking to try out this type of reel. The low profile design, which is becoming increasingly common in baitcasting reels, incorporates a high speed precision gear structure and a carbon fiber drag system.
The magnetic brake system is reliable and the spool is constructed with anodized aluminum, making it suitable for both saltwater and freshwater. The oversized EVA foam grip handle is comfortable and is available in both left- or right-handed format.
While this is a great deal for the price, there are a couple drawbacks that any angler should consider. First, the durability just isn't to the same level as some of the higher-end reels, but at the lowest price point, I guess that can be expected to some degree. The frame seems a little cheap, and some anglers have found that they really needed to do some adjusting with the magnetic brake system to have it functioning to the way they like, but once the adjustments are made, it seems pretty stable. Also, try not to get sucked in by fancy terms like "aerodynamic", "super silent", "two-color", etc. This is still a lower level reel, so it's best to focus on the function rather than any advanced features that may be exaggerated.
Overall, this is a great value reel that gets the job done. It's awesome for beginner baitcasters who don't know if making the switch is going to pay off. With a cheap and effective reel, you can certainly test the waters and get some good practice in, and if you find that you prefer baitcasting, then this reel is still definitely capable of accurate casts and hauling in some large trophies!
- 7+1 stainless steel bearings
- Machined double-anodized aluminum spool
- Power disk drag system
- Brass gears for added durability
- Magtrax brake system
- Cheap frame
- Handle isn't overly strong
- All around durability is average, or slightly below.
The Abu Garcia Pro Max line of baitcasting reels are yet a more reels that offer solid value. They are a little more expensive than the lower model KastKing reels that we reviewed, but the internal components are slightly better.
This reel still comes in at a fairly low price point, but you wouldn't know it from the performance. The casting and retrieval is very smooth with a nice return ratio. The magnetic brake is easily adjustable and the star-lever drag system performs well. In general, the this reel is highly adjustable which can help you optimize its settings based on what and where you're fishing, but may take a while to find all of your sweet spots (this is common across most baitcasters, though).
In comparison to the KastKing Royale Legend, this reel has slightly improved performance, but the durability is about the same. They both have non-metal frames that seem pretty cheap on the whole, and the handle on this Abu Garcia reel has been known to break fairly early for some anglers.
Overall, this baitcasting reel offers nice value and solid performance, making it an ideal choice for beginner to intermediate anglers. It's a lot of fun to practice on, and the highly adjustable settings are fairly intuitive to figure out. It may not last as long as some other reels, but with proper maintenance and care, you should definitley get your money's worth out of this one.
- Rigid die cast aluminum frame and side plates
- Multi-disc carbonite drag system with 25 lbs max drag
- 8 stainless steel ball bearings
- A6061-T6 anodized aluminum spool
- 6.4:1 gear ratio
- Very lightweight
- A noticeable jump up in price
- Gear ratio may be slightly low for some (optimal in our opinion, though).
Okuma is an extremely reliable brand that is known to produce upper end high quality products. Their Citrix baitcasting reel is no different and has received endless compliments from a large population of anglers.
While there is certainly in increase in overall performance, one of the things we really like about this reel is that they clearly care about the durability. Instead of plastic housing, they use a rigid aluminum frame for optimal protection, alongside stainless steel ball bearings and anodized aluminum spool.
The perfomance shouldn't be overlooked though. The multi-disc carbonite drag system is capable of providing 25 lbs of drag and the 6.4:1 gear ratio provides all-around capabilities. It's very forgiving for beginners, and is capable of launching casts a great distance with good accuracy. The smooth cast and retrieval is noticeable, and the brakes perform well while still being easy to adjust.
The main downside to the Okuma Citrix baitcasting reel is the cost. It's a significant jump up in price from the Abu Garcia reel that we reviewed, but at the same rate, you get what you pay for.
Overall, this is an excellent baitcasting reel, and while it is definitely more expensive, it still holds good value due to the performance and durability. We recommend this reel for those looking for a step up from a intro-intermediate reel, or those who can afford to spend a little more on their equipment. Otherwise, if you're simply looking to get the hang of how a baitcaster works, we would recommend something cheaper.
- Extremely lightweight magnesium frame and side plates (overall weight = 6.1 oz)
- Magnumlite spool design
- High efficiency gearing
- Variable brake system
- Different versions available with different gear ratios (from 6.2:1 to 7:1).
- Amazing casting distance combined with supreme accuracy
- High quality materials of all internal components ensures top-notch durability
- Very expensive!
The Shimano Core 50 MG7 is an unbelievable baitcasting reel that feels like a dream. It's casting distance is second to none, especially for lightweight lures, and the smoothness of the retrieval is awesome.
Every component of this reel is constructed with high quality materials, and this ensures that you're getting the best performance and durability combined. The frame is extremely sturdy especially for being so lightweight, the A-RB bearings are shielded, the driving gear is heavy duty brass, and the star-drag system is cold forged aluminum.
The main downside? You guessed it. This reel costs a pretty penny. It's one of the more expensive reels out there, but it's also one of the best both in terms of performance and durability.
Overall, there isn't much else to say about this Shimano baitcasting reel other than it's completely awesome. For the casual angler, those new to baitcasting, or those on a budget, it's completely unnecessary. Therefore, we recommend this reel for anyone looking for a top-notch product regardless of price.
What to Know About Baitcasting Reels
If you're relatively unfamiliar with baitcasting, don't worry, everyone needs to start somewhere. As we briefly mentioned at the beginning of this article, there are pros and cons to baitcasting reels, and they are quite different from spinning reels, but try to not let the unknown intimidate you. Like any other piece of sports equipment, disadvantages associated with certain gear are constantly being improved upon by manufacturers, so often the disadvantages aren't as bad as you're led to believe.
What's the Difference Between a Baitcasting Reel and a Spinning Reel?
If you were to look at two anglers standing side-by-side, one with a baitcasting reel and one with a spinning reel, there would be one obvious difference: the baitcasting reel sits on top of the rod, while the spinning reel hangs below, and therefore, you will want to make sure you have a casting rod if you're planning on using a baitcasting reel. There are a handful of reasons for this setup, but the main reasons are so that you can use your thumb on the spool, and having the reel on top means the line is also on top of the rod, allowing you to gain more leverage and reel in bigger fish.
One of the other major differences is that the spool in a baitcasting reel rotates as the line is being cast, unlike a spinning reel. As your casting the line with a baitcasting reel, you can "thumb" the spool, which allows you to fine tune the casting distance. Generally speaking, you have the ability to cast much further with a baitcasting reel, but just as (if not more) importantly, you have much greater accuracy.
There are many other smaller differences between a baitcasting reel and a spinning reel, but those are the major ones that create the fundamental differences. For more information on how to cast with a baitcasting reel, as well as some additional information about the design of these reels, check out Glenn May's excellent tutorial below:
Why do some baitcasting reels look so different?
There are essentially two different types of baitcasting reels. Fundamentally, they are the same, but performance-wise they can differ quite a bit. You can get round baitcasting reels, which appear to be a more simple design. The main advantage to a round baitcasting reel is the ability to hold more line, and therefore heavier line as well. Subsequently, they are also better for reeling in huge fish that will take you for a run.
The other type of baitcasting reels are "low-profile" baitcasting reels. These are becoming increasingly popular, and not just because they look cool. Simply put, these are much easier to manage, as they tend to be smaller, lighter, and they are easier to use when palming. If you're using lighter lures, let's say something for decent sized bass, then a low profile baticasting reel is most likely ideal for that situation.
One other thing to keep in mind is that most companies incorporate their recent improvements into their low-profile reels first. This is one of the reasons they are becoming more and more popular, and with time, we expect to see the function and durability of low profile reels become even better.
Why do baitcasting reels have braking systems?
It may seem weird or unnecessary to have a braking system incorporated into a reel, but remember, in a baitcasting reel the spool is actively turning as well. If we revist one of the main disadvantages of a baitcaster, which is the backlash, the braking system allows you to prevent this nuisance.
A backlash will typically occur when the lure stops traveling forward, but the spool keeps spinning. This causes your line to continue to be released, but since it has nowhere to go, it just piles up creating a tremendous mess. By having an easily-controlled braking system in place, the angler can not only provide more control over the placement of the cast, but they can also hit the brakes just before the lure hits the water to prevent this mess from occurring.