How to choose the best baitcasting reels
With a little practice, a baitcaster is likely to become your primary fishing reel. They can open up your fishing world to new techniques using heavier lures and line that can be cast at increased distances with accuracy.
A lot of anglers hesitate to pick up a baitcaster, but in this article, we plan to put those fears at ease and explain the benefits of these reels, and why you should consider adding one to your fishing outfit.
We will also take a look at some common components and characteristics of quality baitcasting reels as well as discuss five of our favourite models so you could choose the best baitcasting reel for you.
Why a Baitcasting Reel?
A baitcasting reel can be used by any angler, but are not going to be the best option for someone just getting starting in fishing.
There is a learning curve, but the bottom line is that if you put in the time and practice anyone can handle and benefit from a baitcasting reel.
Baitcasting reels are fantastic for a wide range of fishing applications and allow you to spool larger amounts of heavier line than other reel types.
The design of the reel is optimal for increased casting distance with heavier lures and provides greater accuracy during your casts. This accuracy comes from a better control of the reel and the ability to manipulate the cast from the beginning to before the lure hits the water.
Baitcasters are also able to generate a lot more cranking power than spinning reels because of the optimal layout of the gears, spool, and the handle.
P.S. If you are looking for a spinning reel with baitfeeder/baitrunner technology instead, check out our Okuma Avenger review as well.
How to Recognize the Best Baitcasting Reel?
What you should pay attention to:
- Spool Size
- Gear Ratio
- Drag System
- Brake System
- Tension Adjustment
Baitcasters can be divided into low profile and round profile body designs.
Round baitcasters are designed to hold heavier line at great capacities. They are great for trolling and fighting large fish that make long runs.
Low profile baitcasters are much more comfortable in your hand and are designed to be cast all day comfortably and give you optimal control.
The only two materials you should see used in the body and frame of a quality baitcasting reel are high-grade aluminium or graphite.
Graphite is much lighter than aluminium but is not as resistant to flexing and can’t produce as much cranking power.
Obviously, low profile baitcasters will hold less line than the traditional round models, and the relative size of the model will determine how much line can be spooled.
Your decision on spool size should be directly related to the type of fishing you have in mind.
High-quality bearings, usually labeled as shielded, double shielded, or stainless and help support the gears and keep the reel running smoothly.
Don’t get too caught up in bearing numbers, a lot of cheap bearings are inferior to a few quality bearings.
The gear ratio is an important concept to understand when looking for a baitcasting reel as it gives you an idea of retrieval speed.
The ratio is given as a number such as 6.4:1. This number tells you that the spool goes through 6.4 revolutions per turn of the handle.
For most baitcasters, you will see gear ratios around this range with higher ratios around 7:1 and the slower models a little over 5:1.
Faster gear ratios are not always the best option. You sacrifice cranking power with higher gear ratios, so it all depends on the style of fishing and the type of fish you plan on catching.
Drag is the tension that is put on the spool dictating how easy it is for the line to be pulled off of the spool.
Most often you will find that there is more than enough drag pressure to stop fish from making huge runs without using up their energy.
More importantly than the max drag pressure is the amount of adjustment that can be made to the drag.
The drag needs to be able to be tuned into specific drag settings across its range rather than a low, medium, and high drag setting.
You also want a drag that has low start up inertia where the drag is employed evenly and smoothly. If there takes extra pressure from this fish to engage the drag, there is a much higher chance of initial breaks.
Baitcasters utilize a braking system to help manage the speed of the spool when casting.
There are two types of braking systems that are most often used on modern baitcasting reels. These include magnetic braking systems and centrifugal (friction) systems.
The purpose of the braking system is to help reduce the amount of backlash that occurs on the spool.
While braking systems are critical, learning to properly thumb the spool is equally critical in learning to control spool speed.
The tension system puts physical pressure on the spool and adjusts its ability to spin.
The tension should be used to match the spin of the spool with the size of lure you are fishing.
Our Top Baitcasting Reels
The Curado reels have a gray/silver finish and when in the sun, appear to have a hint of blue.
There are five different models of the Shimano Curado, each with some similar features as well as some key differences in performance.
The table below outlines some of these differences, ranging from the gear ratio and line retrieve rate to retrieve orientation.
Model Gear Ratio Line Retrieve
6.3:1 26 Right
CU201l 6.3:1 23 Left
CU201lHG 7.2:1 30 Left
CU200lHG 7.2:1 30 Right
CU200IPG 5.5:1 23 Right
As you can see, there are models available for a variety of fishing applications for finesse fishing to high-speed retrieval techniques.
These reels are extremely ergonomic and ride low in the reel seat, but that sacrifices the amount of line you can spool.
It’s nothing egregious, but it’s not as high an amount as other reels on this list.
The Shimano Curado is made from high-quality aluminum and termed the Hagane Body.
This body resists most torque and flexing that occurs when working fish and results in a reel that can channel power from you directly to cranking.
All models are lightweight and come in at only 7.4oz.
Though lightweight, these reels are powerful due to the Hagane body design. Adding the to ruggedness and power of this reel is the one piece frame and single side plate design.
These reels can produce up to 12lb of max drag.
While nowhere near the top of the drag spectrum as other reels on this list, Shimano does provide a system that is incredibly smooth and easy to adjust throughout the drag range.
The Drag is adjusted with a large diameter star adjustment knob that is easy to work with when landing fish.
The Shimano Curado uses a 5+1 bearing system with five of these being their popular S-A-RB bearings which are shielded and corrosion resistant.
They are also placed throughout the reel in key locations for a smooth running reel even under enormous loads.
You have had a look at the three available gear ratios, but what do all the gear systems on the Curado have in common?
Shimano uses X-ship technology which keeps the major gears in contact and aligned while under pressure with the use of key ball bearing placement.
Gears are also oversized and make contact between the gears easier when pressure is applied.
The Curado uses a centrifugal braking system termed SVS.
It’s a fantastic braking system that applies constant pressure throughout the cast, and when used properly, it nearly eliminates bird nesting and tangles in the spool.
The system can be easily adjusted with the external dial located on the side plate.
What all this technology and information boils down to is that the Shimano Curado is a powerful reel that can put out a lot of cranking power for its size.
All of the gear technology lets you lay into aggressive bass without worry of sacrificing retrieval speeds or smoothness.
The braking system along with the spool design also gives a reel that is a smooth caster and also provides a lot of accuracy and distance.
- Model options
- Rugged and durable body
- Well constructed spool
- Smooth drag
- Quality bearings
- X-ship gear technology
- Quality braking system
- Great casting performance
- Not the best spool capacity
- Small line guide
Abu Garcia Revo SX
The Abu Garcia Revo SX low profile baitcasting reel is an excellent reel for those looking to break into the baitcasting game. They have a sharp black matte finish with red trim and highlights.
It is low profile, but all adjustment knobs and dials are accessible.
All reel models feature a bent 80mm handle with rubber knobs that is easy to use and can generate a lot of cranking power.
There are four models available for the Revo SX series and the table below outlines the key differences in performance specs.
Model Gear Ratio Line Retrieve
RVO3-SX 6.4:1 26 Right
RVO3-SX-L 6.4:1 26 Left
RVO3-SX-HS 7.1:1 29 Right
RVO3-SX-HS-L 7.1:1 29 Left
This is a powerful reel that is lightweight with all models only weighing in at 6.7oz.
The reel frame uses X2- craftic aluminum alloy frame that provides some extra stability around the gears as well as corrosion resistance.
The reel also features C6 carbon composite side plates that attribute to the low weight.
What stand out on this aluminum spool is that it is significantly wider than most spools which allows more line capacity as well as easier casting.
These reels can be spooled with 145yds of 12lb test monofilament or 142yds of 30lb test braided line.
The Revo SX models use a carbon matrix drag system which utilizes carbon fiber washers.
This reel has a smooth and consistent drag along the entirety of its range. We would like for the start up inertia to be a little less, but with correct adjustments before setting the hook, it shouldn’t be an issue. We like the fine incremental adjustments that can be made.
The drag system can also put a whopping 20lbs of max drag.
Revo SX models use a 9+1 ball bearing system with all 9 being stainless steel.
They also feature an anti-reverse ball bearing that does have a little too much play in the handle, but not enough to dramatically impact hook setting abilities.
The gear system of the Revo SX series is set up very well.
They use a digital (D2) gear design that maximizes gear to gear contact and helps keep the reel operating smoothly under duress.
The Revo SX uses a MagTrax (magnetic) breaking system.
It is very easy to adjust this system on the water, and you will be happy with the consistent resistance that is put on the spool throughout the cast.
This reel doesn’t top the charts in any performance category, but all aspects of this reel are above average.
It’s a smooth running reel in its retrieval and drag settings and can put the stop on any bass you might encounter. It’s not the best casting reel, but it has more than enough distance and accuracy for flipping, pitching, skipping, or long haul casts that you might need when on the lake.
- Great ergonomic feel
- Great magnetic brake system
- Smooth retrieval
- Very affordable for the performance
- Very fine adjustments throughout drag range
- Spool design helps smooth and accurate casts
- A little back play in the handle
- Not a long distance caster
For this particular review, we are going to focus on the Daiwa Tatula Type R series.
The R series reels have a similar finish as the Revo SX reels with a black finish and red trimming and highlights.
The reel features a large swept power handles with easy to grip I-shaped knobs that are a joy to use when both retrieving and working fish.
There are four different models of the Type R series and the table below outlines the main performance differences between the models.
Model Gear Ratio Line Retrieve
R100H 6.3:1 26.3 Right
R100HL 6.3:1 26.3 Left
R100XS 8.1:1 26.3 Right
R100XSL 8.1:1 26.3 Left
This is a form fitting reel that could easily be mistaken for a reel crafted from a single block of aluminum.
It’s a rugged and corrosion resistant aluminum frame, side plate, and spool that keeps all the gears in line and running smoothly under pressure.
These reels have a tremendous power to weight ratio coming in at only 7.6oz.
The Daiwa Tatula Type R series uses the Ultimate Tournament Carbon Drag System (UTD) that has become one of the calling cards for Daiwa reels.
This drag system can put out 13.2lbs of maximum drag, but the beauty of this system is the non-existent start-up inertia and the ability to easily utilize the entire drag range.
Possibly the best bearings in the business, the Tatula Type R series uses a 7+1 ball bearing system.
The seven bearings include 2CRBB which are shielded and corrosion resistant along with five stainless steel ball bearings.
The quality ball bearings play a huge role in supporting the gear system to achieve the high retrieval speeds.
The Type R series uses a very rugged gear train that is supported by the aluminum housing.
Gears are measured and cut digitally to ensure maximum contact when running and will remain aligned under extreme pressure.
The Magforce brake system used on this reel is incredible.
As the name implies, this is a magnetic braking system that can be easily adjusted through a dial on the reels side plate.
Unlike, most braking systems, the Magforce monitors the speed of the spool and will adjust the amount of resistance applied throughout the cast to maximize attainable distances.
The casting on these series of reels is phenomenal. The spool design, as well as the braking system, plays a large role in the casting performance, but the T-wing line guide system reduces a lot of the friction line normally encounters leaving the spool, and helps improve distance.
This is a reel that has incredible retrieval speeds and is perfect for many bass fishing applications where speed is needed in retrieval and being able to get the lure back into the water.
While it has a high gear ratio, this reel is also able to put out a good deal of cranking power.
- Incredible brake system
- Tremendous power for a fast retrieving reel
- Rugged and long lasting gear system
- Excellent bearings
- Top performance in casting
- One of the best drag systems available
- Excellent spool and line guide design
- It’s going to be an investment
- Not many options in models for Type R
13 Fishing might not be a household name, but they produce some beautiful baitcasting reels that perform flawlessly.
The pearl anodized finish with silver trimming and aluminum spool and handle are visually stunning while the dark cork grips contrast well with the body.
There are seven 13 Fishing Concept models with the table below outlining the main differences.
Model Gear Ratio Line Retrieve
C7.3LH 7.3:1 28.9 Left
C7.3RH 7.3:1 28.9 Right
8.1:1 32 Left
8.1:1 32 Right
5.3:1 21 Right
The 13 Fishing Concept has a variety of modes available in varying gear ratios which allow you to match up the perfect reel for your style of fishing.
The Concept C series from 13 Fishing is made from high-quality aluminum and carbon composite materials.
The various parts all fit together tightly and provide an incredible housing for the reels gear system.
It’s a compact, low profile design that feels great in the hands and can stand up to a lot of pressure even given its light weight of only 6.2oz.
We love the Bulldog drag system on these reels that can produce a whopping 22lbs of max drag pressure, but we are more impressed by the incremental adjustments that can be made throughout the range.
The star drag adjustment dial is easy to locate and adjust and also has a nice audible click when adjusting.
The Concept C reels feature an 8+1 bearing system that features four sealed, anti-corrosion resistant ball bearings and four stainless steel bearings.
These are high quality and used in appropriate positions throughout the reel to help stabilize and keep gears running smoothly.
This series of reels uses a six-point centrifugal braking system that limits the amount of backlash you might experience.
This braking system provides incredible and smooth pressure on the spool spin throughout the cast.
The one issue you might have is that the side plate must be removed to adjust the brake settings.
This is a sharp looking reel with the performance on the water to match.
There are numerous models to match your preferred fishing tactics, and these reels are powerful enough to handle just about any freshwater species and smaller saltwater game fish.
- Great anti-reverse system
- Tight locking body that can take some pressure
- Beautiful looking reel
- Fantastic drag
- Very accurate casting
- Very agronomical
- Brake adjustments not easy to access
- Not cheap
Shimano Calcutta B
The Calcutta B series of reels by Shimano is our pick for a traditional round profile of baitcasting reels.
There are several models available that range in fishing applications for large freshwater species to the biggest saltwater game.
Below is a table outlining the differing specifications between the six models.
Model Gear Ratio Line Retrieve
Max drag Retrieve
23 14/110 50/105 9.5lb
CT200B 6.0:1 27 14/120 50/130 11lb
CT200GTB 6.0:1 27 14/120 50/115
6.0:1 27 14/120 50/130
5.0:1 24 14/260 50/305
This round body baitcasting reel is designed for durability and landing large fish.
This is a full aluminum frame, side plates, spool, and handle that has been anodized for extra strength.
It’s a simple but powerful design that has been the standard for traditionally profile baitcasters.
These reels use the famous Dartanium Drag system.
This is one of the best drag systems for large game fish applications. It has a wide range of settings that can be set throughout the drag range and it offers smooth performance under heavy pressure exerted by large, running fish.
There are not a whole lot of bearings in these reels, besides the CT200GTB model, but that are high quality, A-RB ball bearings that support the drive train of a reel that is meant for heavy cranking.
The Shimano Calcutta reels utilize a VBS centrifugal braking system to aid in controlling the cast.
For a reel that is used to toss big and heavy lures that require a lot of power, this braking system is perfect for controlling the spin of the spool.
As you can see from the table, there is a wide range of models that will be perfect for large freshwater species to heavy cranking reels needed to land tuna and tarpon.
Regarding drag and power, these reels are bar none some of the best for handling these large fish. They have huge spooling capacities that are needed for working far and deep running fish.
- Lots of models available
- Wide range of applications
- Fantastic power and durability
- Fantastic drag system
- Advanced brake system
- Outstanding spool capacities
- A bit unwieldy in larger models
- Not easy to cast all day
Winner and Conclusion
Before you go let’s recap the performance for our pick for the top baitcasting reel. While difficult, we have to go with the Daiwa Tatula Type R series.
While it doesn’t offer the most model options, it does cover the basic gear ratios that cover a wide range of fishing applications, and is available in models with gear ratios of 8.1:1!
With these retrieval rates and rugged aluminum housing, gear design, and top notch bearings, you get a reel that excels in all aspects of fishing. It’s at or near the top of every category with it’s casting exceeding all expectations.
To further add to the list, the UTD system is one of the best drag systems we have ever come across. It’s not the cheapest reel, but if you go with this model, it’s likely you won’t ever switch to another.
If you’re an angler that is serious about expanding your fishing world, we hope you overcome the normal reluctance that comes with purchasing and learning to use a baitcasting reel. Once you get the hang of them, we are confident they will become your primary fishing reel.
And if you want to keep your options open, you could also consider taking a look at some spinning reels. Check out a list of them reviewed by Cast for Fish right here.