So, you finally decided to try your hand with a baitcasting reel? Or perhaps you’ve outgrown that old baitcaster that your dad gave you and want to upgrade to something better? Either way, you’re going to need a new reel.
However, selecting the best baitcaster for the money as well as your needs can be a difficult task! Especially if you are a newbie! With so many brands and models to choose from, it’s hard to know when you are getting the best bang for your buck.
I can totally relate! When I bought my first baitcaster, I thought that buying a good casting reel meant that I had to spend a lot of money…I was wrong!
To help you avoid the same mistakes that I made, I put together a list of some of the top baitcasting reels on the market today.
Best Baitcasting Reels: Comparison and Reviews
What to Look for in a Good Quality Baitcaster
Before you reach for your wallet, you might want to stop and think about what you want out of your ideal baitcasting reel. For instance, will this be your first baitcasting reel ever, or do you have plenty of experience using this type of reel? Do you plan on using mostly artificial lures, or will you sometimes be using live baits such as shiners?
Your specific needs will play a big role in determining how much you’ll need to spend on the reel of your dreams.
To help you better understand the different components of a baitcasting reel, I’ve included this diagram:
How Much Should You Pay
How much you pay for a reel will be determined by what you want out of your reel. If you are new to fishing or just new to using a baitcasting reel, then I personally wouldn’t spend more than $100 bucks on a baitcasting reel. With that being said, I wouldn’t spend less $50 or $60 either ( unless it’s for the Piscifun Torrent)!
Something that I see time and time again is newbies thinking that they are getting a good deal on a $25 Walmart special, only to have it break in a couple of months. If they had just forked out another $30 bucks, they could have gotten themselves a good quality reel like the Abu Garcia Pro Max. The Pro Max is an affordable baitcasting reel for most fishermen.
If you have some experience using a baitcaster, then, by all means, spend as much as you can afford. I will say though that I personally don’t see any reason in spending much more than a couple of hundred dollars for a great reel.
Low Profile vs Round Baitcaster
The common consensus among anglers seems to be that both low profile and round baitcasters have their place.
When it comes to choosing between a round baitcaster and a low profile baitcaster, it really is a matter of preference as well as what type of fish you are targeting. Most bass fishermen almost always use a low profile reel, while those fishing for big game like catfish, stripers, musky etc… may opt for the round versions.
Some fishermen prefer a low profile because they offer more accessibility to the spool. This may not seem like a big deal, but if you’re trying to untangle a severe backlash, it suddenly becomes a very big deal.
Low profile baitcasters are also much more popular these days, so finding a reel for a good price that suits your needs won’t be a problem.
My advice would be to go to your local sporting goods store and see how each of them feel in your hand. If one clearly feels more comfortable than the other then go with that style.
Magnetic vs Centrifugal vs Pin Brakes
A baitcasting reels braking system determines how fast the spool rotates while in free-spool mode. In short, the braking system helps to prevent backlash by decreasing/increasing the tension on the spool! Some Baitcasting reels will come with one, even two types of braking systems, which can make things even more confusing. I included a video that can help simplify by eliminating any confusion.
Magnetic Brakes – In my opinion, a baitcaster with a magnetic braking system is a much better choice when you are a beginner. They are much more user-friendly, in that they are easier to adjust when it calls for. In most cases, the lower-end reels will use this type of braking system, while the higher-end reels(more costly), will use centrifugal brakes.
Centrifugal Brakes (Pin Brakes) – Centrifugal brakes or pin brakes seem to be the choice for the more experienced anglers who use a baitcasting reel. While I wouldn’t necessarily recommend them for newbies, I would definitely recommend them if you are already comfortable using a baitcaster. While there is a little more work involved in setting them (you have to remove the side-plate of the reel and adjust each pin), they are pretty much a “set it and forget it” system.
Dual Brakes – A dual braking system is just that…it’s a reel that has both a centrifugal brake as well as a magnetic braking system. I have never personally used a reel with a dual brake system, but after talking with other fishermen have been told that they the additional brake doesn’t make a huge difference if any at all. Most who have this type of reel eventually turn off the magnetic brake and only use the centrifugal. However, this might be a good option for a newbie who wants to start out with the more user-friendly magnetic system and then upgrade to only using the centrifugal brake.
Understanding Gear Ratio
A reels gear ratio is something else that you’ll need to consider!
Reels with lower gear ratios (5.3:1) are slower to retrieve your line, but are better suited for pulling heavy crank and spinnerbaits through the water.
A reel with a (7.3:1) or higher is considered a high speed baitcasting reel. It will give you a faster retrieve, something that can be extremely beneficial when fishing with soft plastics, jigs, topwater or jerkbaits. The higher speed helps to pick up the slack in the line faster, which in turn, helps you make more casts.
However, the best all-around gear ratio and in my opinion, is a 6.4:1 gear ratio! This gear ratio will give you a reasonably fast retrieve as well as provide some torque for pulling crankbaits and diving lures under the water at a slower speed.
Wide vs Narrow Spool
The most common spool sizes for a baitcasting reel will range in the 100 to 300 size.
If you plan on casting long distances, or prefer to use a heavier line like flurocarbon or monofilament, then you probably want to go with a larger spool.
If flipping under tree limbs and around structure is your thing, or you plan on using a smaller diameter of fishing line such as braid, then a smaller spool will work just fine.
I generally prefer something in the middle, such as a 150 to 200 size baitcaster.
This also the size of baitcaster that I would recommend someone who is new to baitcasting reels to start out with.
These days, most baitcasting reel frames are going to be made from one of three types of materials – aluminum, graphite, or magnesium.
I personally think that some people put way too much emphasis on the material that the reel is made from.
With that being said, a lot of anglers will swear by reels made from either magnesium or aluminum. Other than the extra cost that comes with these types of materials, I have nothing bad to say about either one for a reel’s frame.
Graphite or composite is the type of material that you will find most baitcasting reels are made from. Even the more expensive models, such as our number one pick for the best baitcaster for the money.
While some brands will try and get fancy with the name of their graphite, at the end of the day, it’s still graphite.
Although graphite has improved over the years (lighter and stronger), it still has a bad rap with some fishermen.
The common complaint is that graphite reels can flex when under high-stress situations like fighting a large fish. While it’s unlikely that the reel will break, there are some anglers who say that the inner working like the bearings and gears can become misaligned due to the reel’s frame shifting.
Again, I feel that this is blown way out of proportion!
I have never had any issues with my graphite reels and don’t believe that you will either.
It may seem that the number of bearings a fishing reel has should determine how smooth the reel is right? After all, the more bearings is better right? Wrong! This video will help to explain in more detail about bearings in a fishing reel.
Remember this…it’s not the number of bearings that count, but the quality of those bearings.
In fact, the least expensive reel on our list has a total of 12 ball bearings, but that doesn’t mean that it should be placed in the same category as the Shimano Curado, which only has 6 ball bearings.
With that being said, most new fishing reels, whether it be a baitcasting or spinning reel will be extremely smooth right out of the box. It’s how they hold up over time that counts.
This is where a better quality bearing comes into play!
Most of your higher end brands use a higher quality bearing, especially for their higher priced reels.
If you can, opt for a reel that has CRBBs (corrosion-resistant ball bearings)!
CRBB bearings are either treated to resist moisture or are made from a material such as stainless steel, which naturally resists moisture and corrosion.
If you can afford a reel that has shielded CRBBs, you’ve found a real winner!
Top Baitcaster Reviews
Shimano Curado DC Baitcast Reel
- SUPERIORITY - The Curado DC low-profile reel is the most...
- CAST SMARTER - Shimano's new Digital Control braking system...
- EASE OF USE - Anglers of all skill levels will appreciate...
- INCREDIBLE PERFORMANCE - Utilizing the impressively smooth...
- SPECIFICATIONS - Max Drag: 11 lbs. / Gear Ratio: 7.4:1 /...
- Weight: 7.8 oz
- Bearings: 6BB + 1 RB
- Gears Ratio: 6.2:1, 7.4:1, 8.5:1
- Drag Force: 11 lbs
- Right/Left: Yes
The Shimano Curado DC is the most advanced baitcasting reel on this list and is also the most expensive, but for good reason!
Not only does the Curado come with the Micro Module Gear System that creates an almost effortless retrieve, but it also is protected by the extremely durable and highly rigid HAGANE body. For you, this means you’re getting a reel that if properly taken care of will last for many years to come.
However, the thing that really separates this baitcaster from the rest (even its cousin, the Shimano Curado K) is its revolutionary digital controlled braking system. Shimano somehow figured out how to install a microcomputer inside this reel in order to monitor and control the speed of the reel’s spool.
In fact, it’s able to monitor it at about 1,000 times every second, virtually eliminating the need to worry about the dreaded backlash, so that you can spend more time focusing on what really matters… catching fish! Oh, and don’t worry about the microcomputer needing recharging! The revolutions of the spool actually charge the computer.
One thing to keep in mind though is that regardless if a reel manufacturer claims that their baitcasting reel is backlash proof, you are still going to get some backlashes. That’s just the nature of the beast.
With that being said, the backlashes should be minimal! In fact, if it were not for the hefty price tag, I would probably recommend this baitcasting reel for beginners.
Overall, this is an awesome baitcasting reel!
If you’re looking for a baitcasting reel that’s as smooth as butter and can cast a mile without the worry of backlash (even with the wind blowing in your face), then the Curado DC might be the baitcasting reel for you!
Daiwa Tatula 100 Baitcasting Reel
- Made using the highest quality components
- Used by professional fishermen worldwide
- Tested for durability and quality
- Ultimate Tournament Carbon Drag (UTD) with 13.2 lbs Drag Max
- Magforce-Z cast control
- Weight: 6.9 oz
- Bearings: 7 BB + 1 RB
- Gears Ratio: 6.3:1, 7.3:1, 8.1:1
- Drag Force: 13.2 lbs
- Right/Left: Yes
The Daiwa Tatula is considered by many anglers to be one of if the, not the best baitcasting reel for the money on the market and for good reason.
It has one of the lowest profiles among low-profile baitcasting reels, measuring in at a mere 38 mm from top to bottom. Its small frame allows for a more comfortable fishing experience, as anglers with even small hands can palm the reel with ease.
Like most of the Tatula reels, the Tatula 100 comes with Daiwa’s Magforce magnetic braking system. This makes adjusting the tension on the spool in order to avoid backlash a breeze!
With the Magforce braking system, there’s no need in adjusting the control knob. It’s basically pre-set by the factory for optimal performance. You simply adjust the dial for the brakes by setting the knob from 0-20 with 0 being the least amount of resistance on the spool. This unique braking system means very little backlashes!
Another cool feature (and one of the most important) is the T-Wing line guide system that Daiwa has on a lot of its reels. The T-Wing line guide is rectangular shaped (instead of circular), which allows the line to freely move thereby not slowing down while coming off the spool. This simple, yet effective feature will give you more casting distance with less backlash.
While the Tatula is not necessarily made for saltwater use, it’s more than capable of reeling in most inshore species. Also, as long as you give it a good cleaning after each and every use, you should be okay.
The one thing that I found that could be an issue with the Tatula 100 is the location of the braking system dial. If you like to palm your baitcaster as I do, you can unintentionally adjust the dial, which could cause a backlash.
Overall, the Daiwa Tatula 100 is a great reel for the money and is a great choice whether you’re a beginner or an experienced fisherman.
Pflueger President XT Low Profile Reel
- 9 Bearing System - Corrosion resistant stainless steel ball...
- XT Low Profile
- Magnetic Breaking System - Externally adjustable break...
- Aluminum Handle - Aircraft grade aluminum, extreme...
- Soft Touch Knob - Soft touch rubber knob provides excellent...
- Weight: 6.8 oz
- Bearings: 9 BB
- Gears Ratio: 7.3:1
- Drag Force: 12 lbs
- Right/Left: No
When you think of baitcasting reels, Pflueger may not be the name that immediately comes to mind. However, the name has definitely made an impression on the more experienced anglers, and the Pflueger President is no exception!
The President XT comes with 9 corrosion resistant stainless steel ball bearings, and an aircraft aluminum handle, making this reel super smooth as well as extremely durable. It also comes with a star drag that is easily adjustable.
Another cool feature of the Pflueger is the it’s soft touch rubber cork knob. Once the cork gets a little wet, it develops a slight tackiness that will ensure your fingers will never slip while reeling in that catch of a lifetime.
However, the bread and butter of this real is it’s magnetic braking system! Although it’s not as sophisticated as the Shimano Curado, or even the Daiwa Tatula, for the pricel, it can hold its own. It’s easily adjustable by a dial located on the side of the reel.
I looked over this reel from all angles and even scoured the internet looking for someone who may have had a negative experience with the it. I couldn’t find one negative review! In fact, it has a perfect 5 star rating on Amazon.
Most who have bought this reel have said that for the price, there’s no other baitcasting reel on the market that can touch it. WOW!
If you’re looking for a great reel at a great price, then go check out the Pflueger President XT.
Abu Garcia Pro Max Low Profile Baitcasting Reel
- One-piece graphite frame and graphite siteplates
- 7 stainless steel ball bearings + 1 roller bearing
- Power Disk drag system
- Duragear brass gear
- MagTrax brake system
- Weight: 7.4 oz
- Bearings: 7BB + 1 RB
- Gears Ratio: 7.1:1
- Drag Force: 18 lbs
- Right/Left: Yes
Buying a casting reel can be an intimidating process, especially for beginners! Not only does cost become a factor, but you have to also consider features, durability, feel, and ease of use before ultimately deciding on the reel that’s right for you.
If you’re new to casting reels, you’re probably going to want a reel that is forgiving when it comes to backlashes and also one that’s not going to break the bank. The Abu Garcia Pro Max does just that!
At under $100 this reel comes with Abu Garcia’s MagTraxTM, externally-adjustable, braking system. This is a magnetic braking system that is easily adjustable by simply turning the dial to set the desired resistance on the spool.
Oh…and did I mention that all of the dials on the reel, including the star drag click when adjusted. Maybe it’s just me, but a dial that clicks just seems of better quality.
This reel does not have a ton of features, but what it lacks in bells and whistles, it more than makes up in reliability! In fact, the Pro Max is commonly referred to as “the workhorse”!
It has an 18lb max drag, so you never have to worry about losing any fish with it. It’s available in a 7.1:1 gear ratio, which in my experience good enough for most types of fishing. It’s one-piece graphite frame with graphite sideplates house 7 stainless steel ball bearing and 1 roller bearing, brass gears, as well as a double-anodized aluminum spool.
However, there is one issue that I noticed in the reel. There is a tiny bit of play in the handle, but it doesn’t seem to be a major issue up to this point. I just thought that I would point this out.
At a price point that most are willing to pay (especially for a reel that can help prevent backlash), the Abu Garcia Pro Max is my number one pick for beginners when it comes to baitcasting reels.
Piscifun Torrent Baitcasting Reel
- POWERFUL- Advanced, 4-washer, gives the low profile...
- DURABLE - Industrial durable-strength, climate-resistant...
- PERFORMANCE - Low profile design bait caster featuring 7.1:1...
- UNIQUE - Unique side-plate oil port for prolonged...
- UNPARALLELED - Strong double wind shafts and...
- Weight: 8 oz
- Bearings: 5BB + 1 RB Shielded Bearings
- Gears Ratio: 5.3:1, 7.1:1
- Drag Force: 18 lbs
- Right/Left: Yes
If you’re looking for a baitcasting reel for less than $50 bucks and that has almost a 5-star rating on Amazon with over 1,000 customer reviews, then I highly recommend that you give the Piscifun Torrent Baitcaster a look.
The Piscifun (like the other reels on this list) comes with a magnetic braking system that incorporate 5 strategically placed magnets that provide the precise tension needed on the aluminum spool when casting. This helps to reduce “bird’s nest”, even for complete newbies.
Its dial can be set between 0 to 10, with 10 placing the most resistance on the spool.
I personally think that a magnetic braking system is the way to go, especially if you are new to baitcasting reels.
The reel doesn’t have a ton of bearings (it has 6) like some of the other reels, however, they are completely sealed. I’m not sure if you are familiar with sealed bearings, but they can virtually eliminate corrosion by preventing moisture and debris from compromising the actual bearings. They are also something that you would expect to find on a high dollar reel and not a reel for under $50 dollars.
Also, if you’re worried about the Piscifun Torrent being able to handle large fish, don’t! It sports an 18 pound drag system and an oversized handle that allows you to get the torque needed in order to pull in the big boys.
The Torrent also has something that not other reel on the list has and that’s a port hole for easy maintenance. All you have to do is unscrew a tiny screw and squirt a few drops of reel oil into it to keep your reel operating at optimal performance.
While the Torrent does have sealed bearings, there have been some complaints about saltwater getting into them and corroding the inner workings. With that being said, if you plan on using it for freshwater fishing, you shouldn’t have anything to worry about.
For the most part, you get what you pay for! You can’t expect 5-star quality from a reel that costs under $50 bucks. With that being said, for a reel that costs less than $50 bucks, you’re getting a reel bargain!
While I did my best in trying to weed through the hundreds of different baitcasters being sold on the market today, in the end you’ll have to decide which of the baitcasting reels is best for your needs. I will say though that anyone of these reels will serve you well!