Casting Reel Buyer's Guide

This is a finely tuned instrument. When played the right way, we can become pied pipers, leading fish to strike our presentations.
 
Baitcasting reels are mounted on the top of the fishing rod and are commonly referred to simply as casting reels. This style of reel is designed with a spool that turns over end at a right angle to the reel seat, or rod. Casting reels works best with lines of 8-lb. test (monofilament) or larger, although lightweight reels are available that will handle line as low as 4-lb. test. Larger versions can take the heaviest line weights for battling bigger fish in both freshwater and saltwater.

Profile


Baitcasting ReelThe profile of baitcasting reels is largely determined by your fishing technique, desired line capacity and grip style.
 
Low

Low-profile reels are popular because of their "palmable" grip style, increasing the comfort level for anglers who grasp the reel as well as the handle as they are winding. 

RoundBaitcasting Reel

Just because low-profile reels can be palmed doesn’t mean the grip on round reels is weaker. Instead of gripping around the side of the reel, like on a low-profile baitcaster, it's gripped from over the back. What's the benefit? Torque. Although taller, their shape accommodates tighter gear ratios in the 4.0:1 to 6.0:1 range, perfect for big baits or lures and heavy fish. Round-profile baitcasters generally hold more line, making them perfect for big game fish, trolling and angling in the depths. 

Technique

Baitcasting reels are ideal for many different presentations, and they’re a pleasure to use if you’ve selected the right model for the technique you’re targeting. Consider buying one if you’re throwing lures such as crankbaits or jigs for intricate lure control. Or, if you’re going after large species of fish that require a lot of cranking power and significant line capacity.
 

Line Capacity

For most freshwater species, line capacity isn’t an issue, with the exception of big predatory fish like salmon and muskie, or for angling styles like trolling. In these situations, you’ll want to have the added peace of mind, knowing you’ve got plenty of line when a fish starts a run. Line capacity is directly related to a reel’s spool, and although a small spindle will increase a reel’s capacity, reels with the most capacity are high-profile round models. Low-profile reels, by nature of their design, have smaller spools and therefore less line capacity. For the majority of fishing applications, the line capacity of low-profile reels isn’t an issue and that shouldn’t be a serious concern for bass, walleye or similarly sized fish in casting situations.

Sizing

You may finds reels labeled with a 10, 100 or 1000, but the size reference is the same. Most common low-profile baitcasters use the '100' name range while round-profile baitcasters use the '1000'. 
 

Low-Profile Reels

100-200

Common weights are between 5 and 9 oz., but can go below or beyond these weights by more than an ounce. Typical line capacity is 100-170 yds. of 12-lb.-test monofilament. These reels are best suited for bass, walleye and other medium-sized quarry.
 
300

Usually between 9 and 12 oz., their typical line capacity is around 120 yds. of 20-lb.-test monofilament. Not uncommon for light muskie and catfishing or throwing heavy swimbaits. Drag pressure is in the high teens to low 20-lb. range. 
 
400 and Larger

You'll find these around the 15-18 oz. range. Common line capacity sits in the 190 yds of 20-lb.-test monofilament class. Best suited for muskie and other large predatory fish where lures will weigh between 2 oz. and nearly a pound. Their maximum drag pressure coincides with the use in the low- to mid-20-lb. range. Reels larger than this class are considerably rare.
 

Round Reels

4000 and lower

Common wt: 8 to 12 oz. Typical line capacity: 150 to 175 yds. of 12-lb. test monofilament.
 
5000

The most common sized round reel, in weights from 10 to 15 oz. Typical line capacity is around 200 to 230 yds. of 14-lb.-test monofilament. Best suited for large bass tackle and light trolling.
 
6000

Sitting in the range of 11 to 17 oz. This size reel is best suited for heavy tackle for predatory fish with typical line capacity sitting around 250 yds. for 14-lb.-test monofilament.
 
7000 and Larger

Between 19 and 23 oz., these reels are built to take a beating from heavy, hard-fighting fish. Typical line capacity is over 250 yds. of 20-lb.-test monofilament.
 

Gear Ratio

Gear ratio can be an issue, depending on target species as well, but it’s more an issue of your style of fishing. In short, the spool of a reel with a 6.3:1 ratio will turn around 6.3 times for every full turn of the reel’s handle.
 
Ratios

·  Slow – 5.9:1 and lower
·  Moderate – 6.0:1 to 7.2:1
·  Fast – 7.3:1 and above

Drag

Drag does a ton of things for you while fishing. It controls fish on the end of your line. It also manages your lines, stretch and breaking point and pressure on the spool. On casting reels, it's adjusted via a star-shaped knob at the same point of attachment as the reel's handle. Construction of the discs varies as well. When a fish is pulling out line, these discs heat up and expand based on speed and pressure. Keeping a constant, consistent pressure is the key to preventing your line from breaking and getting that fish in your hands. Carbon, or graphite and ceramic are common because of their heat dissipation and expansion properties.   
 

Braking

Important, and all too often overlooked. Braking your reel is how you tune it to the lure you're using. To tune, simply crank your lure to the rod tip, and loosen the brake until the lure drops slowly 6"-10" – that’s the sweet spot to preventing backlashes. The two types of braking adjustment used in baitcasters function for certain parts of the cast.              
 

Types

·      Centrifugal – Uses centrifugal force and pins that extend out the higher a spool rotation speeds. This braking mechanism is used to control the spool at the beginning of the cast when spool RPMs are highest.  
·      Magnetic – Uses magnets to control throughout the cast, but takes over as the main brake when the spool slows down. Resistance is constant, no matter the spool's RPM.
 

Ball Bearings

Generally, the smoother the reel, the higher the bearing count. They can be steel or ceramic. All will include one to two instant anti-reverse bearings that prevent the spool from rotating backward while engaged. This ensures a solid hookset when a fish strikes your lure.
 

Frame

This is the foundation of your reel. Either machined or die cast, they are generally constructed of graphite, aluminum or a type of aluminum alloy for balance between weight and strength. High-end reels will be machined of a single piece for rigidity while value-based reels are constructed using graphite. The plates over the frame can be graphite, aluminum, carbon or any combination of these materials.   

Handle and Grips

Baitcasting ReelHandle materials

·      Carbon fiber/graphite – Ultralight, rigid and strong. Everything you want at the end of a long day of cranking.
·      Aluminum/alloy – Construction varies widely. Expect cast handles on value reels while machined handles can be found on nearly any reel           
 
Grip materials

·      Cork – Not common, but considerably light and easy to grip in wet weather.
·      Soft-touch rubber – Generally coated over plastic for grip in wet weather.   
·      EVA – The most common, these can be found in nearly any shape and are easy to hold and crank all day.           
·      Performance – These consist of a tacky tape, usually around EVA or cork for a soft touch and extreme grip.        

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