Baitcaster Gear Ratio Guide - Which One Should You Get?

UPDATED 29 JANUARY 2021

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by Robert Ceran

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If you’re new to fishing, you’re probably confused about the different baitcasting reel models and gear ratios, and wondering which one is right for you.

In this article we’ll cover the three main baitcaster gear ratio categories, and we’ll explain what each of them is used for, so you can choose the best one for your purposes.

 

Baitcaster gear ratio explained

A baitcasting reel gear ratio is a three digit number that describes how many times its spool rotates every time you turn the handle once. For example, a 7.5:1 gear ratio means that the spool rotates 7.5 times for every single turn of the handle.

So, the higher the gear ratio, the faster the retrieve speed of your reel. In general, casting reels are faster than spinning reels, which usually go from 5.1:1 to around 6.5:1, while baitcasters start around 5.5:1, and go all the way up to 9.3:1.

The three main categories of casting reel gear ratios are: slow, medium and fast, which together cover all the different fishing tactics and applications.

Gear ratioSpeed categoryRetrieve rateMain applications
5.5:1 to 6.6:1Slow speed23″ to 27″Fishing heavy lures (e.g. big crankbait and swimbait)
6.7:1 to 7.9:1Medium speed28″ to 33″Standard applications (e.g. spinner baits, swimbaits, plastic worms, bottom bouncing rigs, etc.)
8.1:1 to 9.3:1High speed34″ to 39″Open water fishing, long casting, pitching/flipping, targeting bass close to cover

 

The table above covers the 3 main speed categories of baitcasting reels, plus the applications they are used for.

Now let’s look at each of these speed categories in more detail.

 

Low speed baitcaster

Let’s start with a low speed bad casting reel, which is anything from 5.5:1 to 6.9:1. These are mostly used for fishing high resistance lures, or heavy lures that you’re casting long distances, and that create a lot of resistance in the water (such as deep diving crankbaits, large rigs and big swimbaits).

A low speed gear ratio on a casting reel works just like the low gears on a bicycle. A low speed generates a lot of torque when you turn the handle, which allows you to fish big baits without getting exhausted during the day, so reels in this category are great for those applications.

 

Medium speed baitcaster

Next, we’ve got medium speed reels, which includes models with a gear ratio from 7.1:1 to 7.9:1. 

This is a really good standard gear ratio for baitcasters that can be used for a wide variety of fishing tactics – anything involving spinnerbaits, chatter baits, or shallow diving crankbaits. Medium speed reels are also good for bottom bouncing tactics with worms, jigs, and Carolina rigs.

Most casting reels nowadays fall in this moderate speed category, and the great thing about them is that they are well suited for a wide variety of tactics. So if you’re looking for a single speed you can use for everything, this is the one to go for.

Especially if you’re a beginner, we suggest choosing a reel in this category, and once you’re more experienced you can start trying out the other models, and test more specialized applications and tactics.

As a beginner, you probably also want to get a reel with effective backlash technology. For more information on this, check out our review on the best baitcaster for beginners.

 

High speed baitcaster

Now let’s look at high speed reels. These reels include anything that’s 8.1:1 or higher. Some of them actually go all the way up to 10.1:1, which is an ultra high speed reel. An example of this is the KastKing Speed Demon, which has a ratio of 9.3:1.

High speed baitcasters are useful for:

  • Targeting schooling fish in open water
  • Long casts and quick retrieval
  • Pitching or flipping from a drifting boat
  • Targeting bass close to cover

 

Let’s look at each of these applications in more detail:

When you’re fishing for schooling fish in open water, it can be tricky to stay on top of the fish, and you might notice that the school has moved to a different spot right after you’ve made a cast. In that case you want to retrieve your lure as fast as possible, so you can cast it again to the new location.

Fast reels are also good for tactics where you’re making long casts and then retrieving your lure through a strike zone that’s far away. After you’ve covered the strike zone, you want to be able to reel it in really quickly so you can make another cast. 

Also, when you’re jigging, pitching or flipping from a drifting boat, you usually only get 1 or 2 casts in each fishing spot, and if you miss the target on your first cast, you want to be able to retrieve your bait very quickly, so you get a second chance to hit the strike zone before you’re out of range.

Finally, whenever you’re targeting bass close to cover, such as lily pads or submerged trees, you run the risk of getting the fish snagged on that cover right after setting the hook. That’s where a high speed reel comes in very handy, as it allows you to haul that bass away from the danger zone as fast as possible.

 

Baitcaster gear ratio for bass

In general, the speed of your reel is determined by the type of lure or bait presentation that you want to use. So any of the 3 speed categories can be great for catching bass, depending on the tactic you’re using.

But having said that, most bass anglers prefer medium to high speed reels. The reason for this is that bass are often found close to cover, and you want to be able to pull them away from that cover before they can snag the line, and a high speed reel helps a lot with that.

Also, when it comes to bass pros, they often choose reels that are on the faster end of the scale. This is because they want to waste as little time as possible retrieving their lure, so they can make another cast right away to maximize the chances of catching more fish.

In case you’re not sure which speed is best for you, just choose a medium speed model, since this can be adapted for almost any purpose. A great all round reel for bass is the Tatula 100 (for more details check out our article comparing Daiwa Tatula 100 vs 150).

 

Conclusion

So hopefully that covers baitcaster gear ratio for you, and will help you to choose the right one for your fishing tactics. 

To summarize: the best reel speed to choose as a beginner is a medium speed model, since you can use that for almost anything. Then, as you become more experienced, you can start experimenting with lower and higher speed models.

Tight lines and see you on the water!

 

Additional resources:

Robert Ceran

Robert Ceran

Robert grew up fishing for crappie and bluegill as a young boy, and later graduated to the pursuit of bigger game. He loves participating at bass tournaments all over the country, whenever he’s not on one of his fly fishing trips to Canada. Robert started writing when he was just 17, and is now our chief wordsmith at Sport Fishing Buddy.

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