Baitcasting reels come in many different sizes and with many different options. Many people may be wary of these reels due to their reputation for backlashing, but these reels are oftentimes what you’ll find the pros and trophy fisherman using, with few exceptions. Their propensity to backlash depends strongly on your experience level as well as your commitment to practice, as you’ll find that when you put in a day of practice, backlashes will come few and far between.
These reels are known for their power and retrieve ratio, making them great candidates for you if you are looking to cover water, catch monster fish, or are pulling bigger lures around, and they’ll complement your spinning reels well. Read more about baitcasting vs spinning reels here.
There are a few things that are important to look at when thinking about purchasing a baitcasting reel. They are: size, gear ratio, braking systems, and construction.
The first and foremost thing is to ensure that you are getting the correct sized reel for the species of fish you will be targeting with it. These reels come rated for certain line weights and capacities, and it’s important to make sure that you get the correct size. For example, a reel may say 160 yds / 8lb test, meaning it is rated to hold 140 yards of 10 lb test monofilament. It is also extremely important to note that monofilament and braid are far different in diameter, and many baitcasting fisherman choose to use braid because the line pairs well with the whole style of baitcasting – speed and power. So, with the above example, you could probably fit the same amount of 30 lb test braid on the spool. The above example would be a great reel for bass fishing, northern fishing, and more, though you could go slightly bigger and still have a great performing reel.
With this in mind, make sure that you purchase a reel suited for the species of fish you target. Some fish, like salmon, are notorious for making long runs, so make sure it can hold plenty of line and can handle it. It is important not to load a reel up with line that is much smaller of a diameter than the reel recommends, as this can increase your chances of backlashing.
Gear ratio is what controls how fast you can reel a lure in. Like spinning reels, these come in a wide variety of gear ratios. Basically, the gear ratio tells you how many times the spool will turn for every full rotation of the handle. For example, a 7.1:1 ratio means that every time you make a full rotation of the handle, the spool has turned 7.1 times. This is a very fast reel, and you would benefit when you are trying to rip lures through the water or when you are merely spot casting then retrieving rapidly to recast.
Some general rules that are good to follow are to stick with around 5:1 ratios when you are pulling slower moving lures through the water like crankbaits and softbaits. Go up to around 6:1 if you are planning on doing some crankbaits and softbaits as well as spinners and other fast moving lures, and upgrade to around 7:1 if you want to really rip lures around or do a lot of spot casting. Reels around 6:1 are very good for all purpose use, while the other two sizes have their own special uses. You can certainly use a 7:1 reel for pulling slower lures, but will have to reel very slowly, which isn’t a big deal if you are only doing this 10 percent of the time. You can also use a 5:1 reel for ripping spinners through the water, but it may get tiring. However, this too is fine if you are only doing that a small percentage of the time.
Try to choose a reel with a gear ratio that matches the style of fishing you do the vast majority of the time.
The braking system on a baitcasting reel can make or break your day on the water, as it is what really assists you in your fight against backlashes. Basically, these are magnetic or physical brakes that apply pressure to the spool to slow it down as you cast, drastically reducing the chance that the spool will keep spinning after the lure hits the water, which is what causes backlashes.
Most all reels have adjustable braking systems, so you can change it easily based on the size lure you are throwing. If it is very heavy, tighten the system down, but if it is very light, lighten it up so you can cast your lure. Many people simply will tighten it all the way up, then let their lure hang and loosen it until the lure starts slowly dropping. This is a good starting point to fish from, and you can adjust it slightly either way according to your preferences.
Ensure that the reel you are purchasing has a braking system that is easily adjustable and will suit the size lures you are looking to cast.
Look for a baitcasting reel that is light yet strong, and where the frame is made from one piece. The most expensive reels are made of titanium, which is lightweight and strong. A notch down from that is aluminum, which is also very light and strong, then there are steel and magnesium. Magnesium corrodes with saltwater, so remember to avoid that if you do any saltwater fishing. There are alloys you can purchase today that are also light and high quality.
Just like spinning reels, the more ball bearings, the smoother it is reeling it in, which makes fishing a lot more enjoyable.
The more of the reel is constructed of metal, the better, as your chances of breaking this are a lot less than plastic. Make sure everything feels tight and precision machined, otherwise return it.
These are the first four basic things to look at when choosing a baitcasting reel. If you are aware of these when you are looking for your next baitcasting reel, you’ll find exactly the reel you are looking for. Remember to practice often at first to avoid the bird’s nest called a backlash.