Finding the best baitcasting reel for your budget, experience level and fishing techniques can lead you many different directions so we’re here to help save you some time! Read below for more info all about baitcasters and which models we recommend for all budgets!
What is a Baitcaster?
There are 3 main fishing reel types, but for those new anglers out there, a baitcaster is an open-faced reel generally used for throwing bigger lures and baits used for larger fish – including large and smallmouth bass, walleye, pike, and many saltwater game fish as well. There are two overall types of baitcasters: there is a round reel and a low-profile reel.
If you were to ask me “Why should I buy a baitcaster?” I would respond in short, “Because everything about them is better.” Read ahead while I break down the baitcaster and its benefits and list the best reels for every angler’s budget. If you know your way around these reels then skip ahead to my top choices for your budget.
Varying in size, round reels are generally used in the biggest of game fish situations. These reels are bigger than the average low-profile baitcaster which gives them their advantage of being able to hold more line and cast much larger baits.
For an extreme example of this reel check out Steven Spielberg’s “Jaws,” 1975.
This is the style of baitcaster most commonly used when dealing with large and smallmouth bass. These too vary in size but are designed to be cupped in the hand or palmed. You will never see a professional bass angler without multiple low-profile baitcasters with them for every situation.
These are the trickiest reels to use and even if you’ve never used a baitcaster before I’m sure you’ve heard people talking about the nightmare that they can be. Don’t let this scare you because even though baitcasters are the most difficult reel to master, the benefits far outweigh the learning curve.
If you need further convincing that learning to use a baitcaster is paramount in modern-day fishing then just take a look at any pro anglers boat on tournament day. Amongst other benefits, the casting control is unmatched with a baitcaster – so if you’re trying to advance and grow as an angler, it’s time to get a baitcaster and get to casting. The most important thing to remember when you’re untangling your first, or 100th bird’s nest, is that you’re becoming a better fisherman or fisherwoman in the process, and that in the end, it’s worth it.
Benefits of a Baitcaster
Most of the benefits that come along with using a baitcaster, regardless of the style, is the amount of control they allow in the cast and retrieve. They allow for further and more accurate casts as well as added control on the retrieve, allowing for more realistic jigging work and the ability to put your lure right where you want it.
Things to Consider
So you’ve decided that it’s time to end your exclusive relationship with spinning reels and want to make the jump up to a baitcaster. I say go for it, you won’t regret it. There are some things you should have a base knowledge of before making a purchase though.
- Gear Ratio
- Braking Systems
A baitcaster frame is generally made out of aluminum or graphite. Both are valid options and make for a solid reel but aluminum is decidedly the best option out of the two. Graphite frames are lighter in weight and generally more affordable, but aluminum frames are far more durable than graphite.
The gear ratio may very well be the most important aspect of any baitcasting reel. Gear ratio refers to the speed at which the spool rotates. It is formatted X:1 where X refers to the number of times the spool makes a full revolution for each turn of the handle. Some of the more common ratios are 7.1:1, 6.4:1, and 5.4:1. 7.1 being the fastest spool and 5.4 being the slowest.
Different speeds are ideal for different situations but if this is your first baitcaster I would just stick with an average speed reel and not worry too much about the specifics.
Brakes on a fishing reel? That’s right, and it may very well be the component that saves you hours of trying to undo backlash as you’re learning to use a baitcaster. Braking systems on a reel do exactly what they say by applying one of the three types of friction-based brakes to slow the spool down as a cast nears the end.
- Digital Control
Without a braking system there would be no room for error when it comes to stopping the spool with your thumb. An effective braking mechanism on a reel can be the difference between a day fishing and a day untangling knots.
Now that you know what a baitcaster is, what it’s used for, and its main components, it’s time to decide which reel is best for you from my comprehensive list of baitcasters for all budgets.
Best Baitcasting Reel for the Money
Shimano’s Curado DC is by far the most advanced low-profile baitcasting reel on the market. The price tag isn’t the most beginner-friendly but that’s what you get when you’re dealing with the best.
DC, if you didn’t already know, means digital control and is referring to the braking system used in this reel. Shimano is no stranger to integrating digital technologies into their reels because they first started doing it in the early 2000s. These reels were far too expensive for the everyday angler and the design has since been improved upon and is much more affordable than when it was first rolled out.
The digital control braking system is powered through casting and it steadily monitors the speed of your spool an astounding 1,000 times per second. Once the digital control reads that your spool has slowed down it applies the necessary amount of braking power to slow the spool down and prevent backlash.
This reel comes in a right or left-handed retrieve with an 11 lb. max drag. It is available in three gear ratios to match any style of fishing.
Shimano uses a 6+1 bearing system consisting of shielded stainless steel anti-rust bearings. Shielded bearings prevent any foreign particles from entering the bearings and minimizing the reels casting ability.
The Shimano Curado DC is the best baitcasting reel on the market. It is pretty pricey so it might not be the best reel for beginners – that being said, Shimano still produces the original Curado which is a highly rated casting reel just without the digital components.
Best Baitcasting Reel for Beginners
When it comes to finding the best baitcasting reel for beginners you need to look for quality, performance, and price. The Torrent from Piscifun offers new anglers an affordable and effective entry point into the world of baitcasters.
Available in a standard 5.3:1 and 7.1:1 gear ratio you can focus more on fishing and less on if you’re using the best reel or not. Both of these speeds can be universally applied but if you know you plan on fishing lures requiring a faster retrieve, the 7.1 is for you. The magnetic braking system is perfect for beginners because it effectively slows your spool down to reduce the number of backlashes that occur.
This reel comes equipped with an astounding 18 lb. max drag so you can cast with confidence knowing you have the equipment capable of pulling a slab out of heavy cover. The stainless steel 5+1 bearing system offers long-time performance so it still works even when the beginner is no longer a beginner.
Best Baitcasting Reel Under 50
Topping our list for the best baitcasting reel under 50, the KastKing Brutus is another great reel for beginners; highly reviewed and beautifully priced you can’t go wrong with the Kastking Spartacus II. The high-strength aluminum frame comes in a variety of colors so you can match your new reel to any of your old rods and achieve the exact look you want.
With a max drag of 17.64 lbs, you can count on this reel to land any size bass that decides to test its luck.
With the 7+1 ball bearing setup this reel delivers smooth casts every time with graceful magnet-brake assisted landings.
Best Baitcasting Reel Under 100
Abu Garcia didn’t start manufacturing fishing reels until about two decades after the company started. Originally in the business of making watches and other timekeepers, we just don’t know how lucky we are as anglers for their change of interest.
They’re one of the biggest names in fishing equipment today so it’s no surprise that one of their reels made the cut. This graphite-constructed reel offers professional performance at a price that just can’t be beaten.
Coming in at #1 for the best baitcasting reel under 100, the Pro Max features a high speed 7.1:1 gear ratio making this a dream reel for those baits calling for faster retrieves. In addition to an ideal gear ratio, this reel comes equipped with a 7+1 ball-bearing system for smooth and accurate casting. The Pro Max also comes equipped with Abu Garcia’s coveted MagTrax magnetic braking system.
Best Baitcasting Reel Under 200
Making the list as the best baitcasting reel under 200, it should come as a surprise that this reel has the performance of one priced twice as high. Much like the Shimano Curado above, this reel comes equipped with a digital braking system that monitors spool speed 1,000 times per second for top-of-the-line spool control.
Durable in its construction, this all-metal reel is going to provide you with professional performance for years to come. Another commonly overlooked perk to the design of this reel is the extended handle which provides increased reeling power.
When you pair this reel’s 4+1 bearing system and moderate 8.2 or 7.2:1 gear ratio, with its 11 lbs. of drag, you get a fish catching machine suitable for pulling hogs out of any type of cover.
The performance that this reel offers is unheard of for Shimano’s asking price which automatically makes it a great choice for everybody. This reel is pretty complex but is still a viable option for a more serious beginner.
Best Baitcasting Reel Under 300
Daiwa has been in the industry for over six decades and so it’s no surprise they produce one of the best baitcasting reels on the market today, and our pick for the best baitcasting reel under 300. Their Tatula Elite model was designed with long casts at the forefront of their mind.
This reel’s aluminum construction frame is paired with a lightweight aluminum spool for durability without the cost of unnecessary added weight.
It comes in two gear ratios – a slower 6.3:1 or a faster 8.1:1 for covering more water and finding more fish. Equipped with Daiwa’s signature T-Wing System you can count on this reel for an unrestricted cast and an even line distribution on the retrieve every single time.
Which Ones Right for You?
I think the number one thing that this list does is prove that baitcasters really are for everyone. Whether it’s your first time fishing, or you’re looking to gear up for a tournament, there is a reel available to suit your needs. In the end, the only person who knows the right reel for you is yourself – I hope I helped you figure out what that reel is. Once you have your reel chosen, make sure and check out our guide to the best baitcasting rods here!