How To Choose The Right Baitcaster Reel

Author: galaszuk   Date Posted:18 January 2018 

How To Choose The Right Baitcaster Reel main image How To Choose The Right Baitcaster Reel image
In the world of fishing there are brands that have almost cult like followings and in the past such brand loyalty had not only been earned by companies, but in most cases was actually deserved. During that particular era reels were made inhouse and there was a kind of pride attached to producing tackle that would stand the test of time - think early days of Abu Garcia, Mitchell, Penn etc.

Over this past decade the world has experienced technological development on what could best be described as a hyperbolic scale. Whether it be from the further refinement of traditional designs and materials or the development of completely new and innovative equipment, there has never been a period in history that has offered anglers such a wide range of quality reels at ever more affordable prices, and 2018 is shaping up to be the best year to date!

Before we get into the nitty gritty of how to select your next baitcaster reel let me first say that I am in no way loyal to particular brand. I judge all fishing equipment on merit via three criteria:

  1. Fit For Purpose
  2. Real World Perfomance
  3. Cost - Performance Ratio

Now lets get into the nitty gritty.

Fit For Purpose

It would be insane to try and use a Ferrarri for off-roading or a Toyota Landcruiser for track racing. Each of these vehicles is designed with a particular use in mind, and the same can be said for baitcaster reels. When considering if a certain baitcaster reel is 'fit for purpose' you first need consider aspects such as construction material its associated weight, bearing quality, gearing ratio, spool capacity, cast control system utilised, max drag etc. Let's break it down a little first:

Construction material

The two most common materials are alloy or reinforced graphite composite. Each has its advantages and disadvantages.

  Alloy and Alloy Composites Reinforced graphite composite
  • Rigidity and torsional strength
  • Can be machined to higher tolerances for mounting bearings
  • Resists damage from UV light
  • Lighter than alloy for equivalent volume
  • Easier to mold/inject so can take amore intricate form
  • Heavier than graphite and graphite analogues
  • Susceptable to corrosion when exposed to corrsive environments - think saltwater/seawater
  • Better alloy mixes are generally more expensive
  • Thread integrity is not as good so without brass inserts service life is very limited
  • Can be damaged by UV light
  • May warp after repeated stressing
  • Cannot be readily machined so lacks the tolerances of machined alloy


Due to each material possessing limiting factors, it is best to narrow your search by first recognising what you actually need from a baitcaster. If you fish mainly saltwater enviroments then it may be best to opt for a carbon composite reel, whereas if you were chasing larger freshwater species that hit hard and place huge stresses on equipment (think Pike fishing)., then you should definitely consider and alloy framed reel. If you are exclusively casting lures it may be beneficial to choose a lighter and stronger reel and an angler may place higher importance carbon graphite, carbon fiber and aircraft alloys.


'Gearing is probably the second most important aspect to consider when choosing your next baitcasting reel as it is not easily changed and can be either very beneficial or extremely detrimental'

As a general rule:

Slow - low gear ratio reels (4.8:1 ~ 5.5:1) are generally suited to crankbait fishing as they offer improved feel and allow anglers to get cranks down as quickly as possible without stressing the geartrain of the reel.

Medium - standard gear ratios (5.6:1 ~ 6.3:1) are often called workhorses, but I would class them as 'jack of all trades'. I would consider them general purpose reels and more suited to using real baits rather than lures.

High - high geared ratios (6.4:1 ~ 7.5:1) are suited to burning surface lures and buzzbaits or spinning with high-speed metals etc. 

If you try to use a reel that's gearing ratio doesnt suit your purpose you are asking for trouble. Doing such generally results in equipment failure and worse still is that such damage would not be covered under warranty by manufacturers as the reel hasnt been used for its intended purpose. 

Real World Performance

The fishing tackle industry is a highly unregulated industry, with companies bombarding anglers with jargon, acronymns and performance claims for otherwise basic functions or standard materials, kind of like calling the photocopy boy a 'Digital Imaging Technician' or a toilet cleaner 'Head Sanitation Officer'. Dont be fooled by such actions from the major manufacturers. The only way to really judge a baitcaster is by reading real angler reviews, actually using it yourself or talking to someone you trust that has. Specifications and manufacturer claims can only tell part of the story. Generally speaking though:

  • Bearing count for comparison purposes means absolutely nothing unless the bearings are of equal quality. More doent necessarily mean smoother operation, especially when half the bearing count has been hidden in the handles - common ploy by manufacturers. As many as 8 bearings are commonly hidden in the handle knobs just to make the bearing count higher. Actually for many purposes bronze bushes are a superior choice.
  • Stronger materials arent always a good thing as stresses may then transfer onto other parts and result in failure. In an ideal reel design, the cheap and easily replaceable parts should be the ones that wear out or fail when the reel is stressed.
  • The spool braking performance is of utmost importance unless you are extremely proficient at using baitcasters. If you are an angler that changes lure weights often, or may cast a range of different baits from the one rod and reel set-up, then it is best to have a reel that can adjust for such changes without having to constantly remove the side plate to internally adjust the braking system.

Cost Performance Ratio

This is probably the hardest to measure as it can be somewhat subjective based on the type of angler you are. A novice or a weekend warrior may not be worried about acheiving an extra 10 metres casting distance if they needs to pay $50 to $100 extra in order to do so. On the other hand, a professional angler may think that it is money well spent. The same applies to the reel weight and paying top dollar for a reel that is 20g lighter – can an angler really tell if a fishing set-up weighs 20g more just by picking it up?

As a general rule – we would advise that you be more concerned with comparing reels of equal performance and then choosing the reel that costs less. This way you get the best bang for your buck.

Another path less travelled is to buy a reel that is structurally sound and then replace the bushes with bearings. You can think Shimano and Daiwa – both these companies offer several reels that are constructed on the same frame and platform, only to differ in the number of bearings with maybe a slight cosmetic change.  It is often much more efficient to buy the lower spec reel and then use the money you save to fit it with quality aftermarket Japanese bearings to give a reel that performs better than any of the reels made on that frame. If the weight is an issue an aftermarket handle can be fitted to considerably drop the overall weight. With all that said and done the end is a reel that cost less and performs better than its equivalent top spec reel offered by the manufacturer.

If you have any questions you would like to ask our staff then please forward us your queries via our contact us page.

Pro-Spin Tackle wishes you the best for your next reel purchase!