Buying guide and review of the best baitcasting reel

Baitcasting reel
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If you are a novice angler looking to try out fishing with a baitcasting reel, then you’ve come to the right place. We’ve gathered the most important things to know when shopping for a baitcaster reel. This includes reviewing the baitcasting reels on the market.

We also cover some tips and tricks next to reviewing baitcasting reels. We’ll also cover some tips and tricks in addition to reviewing baitcasting reels. These tips highlight how to focus and maintain baitcasting reels. This will help you prolong the lifetime of your soon-to-be baitcasting reel. So, if you are looking to add a baitcasting reel to your fishing collection, be sure to read our buying guide as well.

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Best Baitcasting Reel Reviews

In case it wasn’t clear enough, a baitcasting reel has to be mounted on a (bait)casting rod. This is a rod with guides located on the top, unlike the spinning rod where the guides are located on the bottom. As a result, you have more pulling power because the spine of the rod is helping in pulling or holding the fish.

Best baitcasting rod and reel combo

If you wish to buy a rod and a reel for baitcasting or spinning, KastKing Crixus is the ideal option. The combo includes rods, spinning, and baitcasting reels, all at an affordable price.

This fishing rod and reel combo comes in different power ratings and action types. All the options offer a graphite rod blank which is light, strong, and yet sensitive. This minimizes the chances of missing a bite. Though the rod blank is a 2-piece construction, rest assured that there is a smooth flow of energy between the blanks.

Another great feature of the rod is the stainless steel guides that come with quality zirconium O-rings. As such, you are able to perform smooth and long casts regardless of your preferred fishing line.

Finally, it features a carbon reel frame and a CNC aluminum spool. This gives you a fishing reel that is lightweight and offers exceptional performance. The carbon drag system also has a reasonable stopping force which comes in handy when fighting a big catch.

Pros
  • Slip-resistant rod handles
  • Super sensitive
  • Lightweight reels
  • Powerful stopping force
  • Smooth and further casts
  • Work with various types of lures
  • Affordable
Cons
  • No noticeable clicking sound on the drag

Best baitcasting reel under $200 

With a HAGANE body, the Shimano SLX DC reel presents high rigidity to end body flexing. This ensures your actions are transformed straight into cranking power for unmatched efficiency.

Further, the gear utilizes the brand’s unique braking system. This provides consistent and easy-to-manage brake force and spool control. As a result, you get a precise and smooth cast even when using lighter lures.

Another great feature is the external fine-tuning knob. It gives you the option to fine-tune the fishing reel fast and accurately. This helps to avoid wasting time when changing lures. Moving on, the wind vibrations are dealt with by S3D spool technology. The spool features uniform thin wall aluminum, which is well balanced for smooth lure retrieval and casting.

Instead of having the pressed-down clutch bar and freed pinion gear, ball bearings support the latter. This ensures that the spool shaft and the pinion gear remain aligned even after disengaging the clutch. The result is long and smooth casts that improve your experience when fishing.

Pros
  • No friction on the spool shaft
  • Smooth cast and lure retrieval
  • Reduced spool vibration
  • Quick and precise adjustments
  • No body flexing
  • Comfortable handle
  • Easy to use
Cons
  • Some reports of loose drag when the reel is left in the rain

Best baitcasting reel under $100

This baitcasting fishing reel features color-coded gear ratios. This makes it easier to identify the ideal reel for your fishing style. Next to that, it also has a funnel-shaped line guide and a unique Low Friction Tapered Vortex system. This translates into a reduction in line abrasion, allowing you to cast further.

Robust construction is another key aspect that improves the durability of the reel. It features nickel coated brass worm drive, manganese brass main and pinion gears, and 11+1 twin-shielded stainless. All these guarantee strengths and consistent performance in fresh and saltwater conditions.

The KastKing MegJaws is as well up to the task when targeting big fish. This is a result of the carbon disc drag system that provides a 17.6lbs stopping power. Being made out of carbon ensures that the fishing reel is corrosion resistant.

Finally, the attention to detail on the gear is on another level. The reel features aluminum spools and a superior aluminum reel handle. It also has a click-stop spool tension knob and magnetic casting control system. All these provide comfort and a lightweight feel when fishing for long hours.

Pros
  • Color-coded gear ratio for easy identification
  • High stopping power
  • Compact and lightweight
  • Unique design
  • Comfortable grip
  • Adaptive spool tension
  • Smooth casting
Cons
  • Click strain might be stiff
  • Too close reeling knobs can be a little challenging when fishing in saltwater conditions

Best baitcasting reel for beginners

Explore all fishing techniques with built Abu Garcia Black Max & Max X reel. The tackle features an advanced MagTrax braking system that you can fine-tune to accommodate various lures. This further improves your range and accuracy of casting as the braking system applies steady brake pressure.

Another great feature is the ergonomic bent handle and machined aluminum spool. It gives you a comfortable grip for relaxed fishing all day long. Your water experience is less tedious as the reel is lightweight due to a single-piece graphite frame and side plates. Besides, the 4+1 five stainless steel bearing provided a super smooth performance that makes casting stress-free.

Taming a hard-fighting fish is also not a challenge. The tackle is equipped with the brand’s Duragear brass gear that gives superior drag power. Whether you are a seasoned pro or a hobbyist, the reel design makes casting smooth and easy. Indeed the Abu Garcia Black Max & Max X reel is an overachiever due to its performance and affordable price tag.

Pros
  • Suitable for anglers of all levels
  • Plenty of drag
  • Smooth and further casting
  • Easy to switch to different lures
  • Compact and lightweight
  • Affordable
Cons
  • Beginners might find it challenging to adjust the brakes and tension
  • Anti-reverse can break without proper care

Best baitcasting reel for saltwater

This is a compact, low-profile reel developed by expert anglers who understand what it means to have a good fishing tackle. The frame is solid enough for a perfect palm fit with a weight of 5.9 ounces for superior manageability all day long.

Another great feature is the special heat treatment on the worm drive, pinion gear, and aluminum main gear. The process ensures the reel serves you longer without adding unnecessary weight. Besides, the tackle is encased in a rust-resistant frame that can hold up to both fresh and saltwater fishing. Further, carbon fiber handle and high-density EVA knobs enhance durability.

The dragging power of this gear is also not taken to chance. You get 18lbs of stopping force due to a robust carbon fiber drag system with adjustable magnetic breaks. Moreover, Enigma comes with a high-speed spool bearing and chemically polished ceramic bearings. As well, it has an anti-reverse clutch for smooth and reliable casting.

All the reels from Enigma are color-coded based on gear ratio. This makes identification stress-free. Silver has a gear ratio of 8.1:1, white 7.3:1, and black 6.6:1. Thus, you can grab a specific reel by looking at its color and fish as per your preferred techniques, all in seconds.

Pros
  • Color-coded for easy identification
  • Extremely durable
  • Lightweight
  • Smooth and accurate casting
  • Superior drag power
Cons
  • Poor braking system
  • Noisy bearings, which gets better with use

Best baitcasting reel for bass fishing

The Piscifun Phantom is one of the top choices due to its finest carbon fiber plates, handle and side plates. As a result, you get reduced weight without sacrificing durability and strength. The shielded clutch bearing and six rust-resistant ball bearings further enhance its robustness.

Furthermore, the 7.0:1 gear ratio gives you accurate and long-distance casting plus an instant hook set. You can also fine-tune the dual centrifugal brakes to maximize your casting distance. And since the brake system is magnetic, you can adjust them for a wide variety of bait with the least backlash.

The carbon fiber drag system and aircraft-grade anodized hardened aluminum alloy gear make for a 17lbs stopping power. As such, the extended carbon crank grip gives you enough leverage and extra power to reel in the catch from the thickest cover.

There is also no worry when using light lines and lures as the reel has Computer Numerical Control (CNC) hollow spool that starts and speeds up faster. Finally, there is the least line friction due to a large titanium line guide placed far from the spool.

Pros
  • Lightweight
  • Handles light lures and lines
  • Durable gears
  • High and consistent drag power
  • Easy to use
  • Dual brake for further casting distance
Cons
  • A louder braking system that can be fixed with cleaning and oiling
  • Breaks need some tightening

What is a baitcasting reel?

In what follows is a short video explaining the basics of a baitcasting reel. The above image will further help you out in understanding the different parts of a baitcaster along with their purpose when watching the video.

https://youtu.be/2ojGnmWU8wI

In simple terms, a baitcaster is a reel that features a revolving spool and a trigger handle. This reel sits on top of a (bait)casting rod, which is the exact opposite of a spinning reel.

The benefit of having the reel sit on top of a fishing rod is an improved casting experience. This is true for better casting distance and accuracy, which is what sets them apart from the other reel types. Also, baitcasting rods usually feature a two-grip handle, which helps with respooling.

Unlike spinning reels, however, baitcasting reels aren’t left/right interchangeable. Yet, they do come in left and right-handed models. As a result, right-handed baitcasting reels are usually placed in the left hand. The right hand is then used for cranking the handle, which is the exact opposite for a left-handed model.

Advantages

Line capacity: The biggest reason most anglers use a baitcasting reel is for its line capacity. Since it is made with larger-sized spools, it allows for handling heavier lures and a greater quantity of lines. As such, it’s suitable for anglers looking to fish in a range of conditions without snagging and breaking on obstacles. In short, baitcasting reels are a good choice when fishing for heavier fish. 

Castability: The positioning of baitcasting reels makes them ideal for long and precise casting. The fact that it’s also lighter than a spinning reel makes it very convenient if you are casting often.

Versatile: Baitcasting reels allow for different fishing techniques like jerking and cranking. For instance, you have the ability to slowly descend the lure so that it softly falls into the water. This is important when flipping baits into cover as you don’t want to spook nearby fish. This is why baitcasting reels are favored in the bass fishing community.

Disadvantages

Backlash: As the spool moves with the casting of the line when baitcasting, there is a risk that your spool ends up moving faster than your casting line. This causes a knotty mess also referred to as backlash or birds nest. It is only by practice that one can learn how to prevent this from happening. As a result, novice anglers are better off starting with spinning reels. Fortunately, there is a section down below that shows how to control the line as you cast. This requires using your thumb to brake and flipping the rod tip forward as you release the spool.

Maintenance: Baitcasting reels have lots of components like ball bearings and braking systems. So, they need more care than spinning reels. Getting these components to run smoothly is how you get the most out of baitcasting reels.

How do you use a baitcasting reel?

Lake with wooden pier and fisherman in boat.

A. How to put a fishing line on a baitcasting reel

In case you are wondering, you can spool any type of fishing line (monofilament, braid, or fluorocarbon) on a baitcasting reel. You just need to know how to do it well so that you reduce backlashes during your fishing trip. Also, make sure to remove any old line so that the spool’s surface is clean and smooth before putting on the fishing line.

The following video will show you exactly how to spool a baitcasting reel in a fast and easy way. The video focuses on spooling a braided fishing line to a baitcasting reel. Yet, you can rest assured that this method also works well for spooling other fishing lines.

As seen from the video, it’s important that you make a knot so that you tie your fishing line to the spool. This will help in the case you lose the rod and reel overboard and have to pull it up by the line. So, you shouldn’t put your full trust in this knot to hold if a fish has taken all the line down to the end of your spool.

In what follows is a short video showing how to tie the Arbor Knot which is the most common knot used by fishermen. This is true for braided, mono, and fluorocarbon fishing lines.

B. How to cast a baitcasting reel

The baitcasting spool is set in motion when casting with a baitcasting reel. The spool then feeds the line to the bait as it travels through the air. Though, as gravity, wind, or water slows down the bait, the spool continues to feed the line at the same speed as it did at the beginning of the cast.

This results in the overrun of the line known as backlash or birds nest if you don’t slow the spool. You can slow the spool with either your thumb or by having the right adjustments for your reel.

Thus, the key to successful casting is the ability to manage these momentum changes. This requires using the adjustable components built into the baitcasting reel. But also, using your own instincts and timing which comes with practice.

To avoid overrun of the line when casting, two components need to be set the right way:

Spool tension: It is important that you adjust the spool tension using the spool tension knob. You must do this every time you tie a new lure or bait on the end of your fishing line. For this, you hold your rod at about 10 o’clock and loosen the spool tension until your lure or bait drops slowly to the ground and then move back just a click. If the tension is set correctly, then it should take a soft, easy shake to drop the lure at a slow pace.

Brakes: There are either magnetic or centrifugal brakes in baitcasting reels. The latter is much easier to adjust but at the same time more expensive.

For centrifugal brakes, you have to push the tabs out to apply the brake and push in to turn the brake off till you distribute the pressure evenly. This means that turning one on will require you to turn on the other one directly across from it. It is also possible to use three breaks by turning on in a triangle, so feel free to set it to your comfort level.

For magnetic breaks, simply move the dial to a higher setting, say 70% to 80% of the maximum break if you are a beginner. Once done, you will also need to adjust the drag accordingly so that you prevent slipping on the hookset.

The following covers more tips for stopping backlashing at the beginning, middle, and end of your casts.

C. How to clean a baitcasting reel

As mentioned earlier, baitcasting reels are made out of several components such as ball bearings, drag and braking systems. So, it should come as no surprise that proper cleaning of these components will extend the lifespan of your baitcasting reel.

That said, there is no clear-cut answer on how often you need to clean your baitcasting reel. Some anglers are satisfied with brushing off the dirt or excess oil and adding grease. Others take it apart every few months for cleaning and deep cleaning once a year in the winter. In a nutshell, it all depends on the type of water you fish and how often you use your reel. It is always a good idea to take the reel apart for cleaning it took a dive into the river or sand.

The number one reason that baitcasting reels are taken in for service is saltwater entering the reel. If left untreated, there is a high chance the bearings will corrode making it impossible to get them off the pinion or main gear.

Normally you have grease and oil inside to prevent corrosion, but this wears away over time and that’s when the salt starts attacking the ball bearings. So, if you are about to go fishing and upon spinning your wheel you hear a grinding noise or that the gears inside aren’t connecting that well then that’s a definitive sign that your baitcasting reel needs some serious lubing.

The following tools are needed for cleaning your baitcasting reel:

  • Reel grease
  • Reel oil
  • Swabs / Q-tips
  • 10/11mm wrench
  • Flathead screwdriver

In case you don’t have all of these equipment, check out this affordable maintenance kit

Once you have all the right equipment, it’s time to have a look at how to actually clean your baitcasting reel. This means knowing how and which parts to oil or grease. The following video shows how to do just that.

A Useful Tip:
A tip when disassembling your reel is to lay down the parts in the order that you take it apart. This way you don’t need to go backwards when you put them back on.

Also, make sure that the reel is facing upwards when you are taking off the side plate and take enough pictures. The inner parts such as the springs are loose and can so fall out easily without you remembering how to put them back together.

Ally Mash
Ally Mash
Ally is an avid outdoor enthusiast who has spent most of his free time backpacking through South America, Iceland, Vietnam, and Europe. He loves sharing his experience through blogging. His mission is to get more people in the mindset of protecting our planet by sharing its beauty.

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