Baitcaster Sizes Explained (With Examples)

PUBLISHED 22 MARCH 2021

by Robert Ceran

If you’re thinking about buying a new baitcasting reel, one of the first things you need to decide is what baitcasting reel size is best for your purpose, and which one you should get. It’s tempting to ignore this question because there are so many other factors to consider when choosing a new reel, and size may not seem as important as some of the other factors.

But if you want to get the best results with your baitcasting reel, it’s essential to choose the right size for the kind of fishing you want to do. In order to make this choice easier, we’ve put together this guide (if you’re in a rush, just take a look at the baitcasting reel size chart below to find the right one for your purpose).

Baitcasting reel sizes explained

Most baitcasting reel lineups come in sizes ranging from 100 to 400, but in a few cases manufacturers give their sizes between 10 and 40. The important thing to remember here is that you should look at the first digit when choosing the best size for your purposes.

Also, keep in mind that baitcaster reel sizes are not highly standardized, and there can be big differences between different manufacturers. In fact, some manufacturers don’t even attempt to follow a sizing convention. For example, Abu Garcia baitcasting reels don’t have a size rating – instead you have to use their line capacity rating to choose a size.

But many of the major brands, including Daiwa, Shimano and KastKing, do use the 100 to 400 size rating, so it’s definitely worth wrapping your head around these numbers, and figuring out which one is best for your purposes.

Baitcasting reel size chart

Baitcaster reel sizeWeightLine capacity (lb/yd)Retrieve rate (ipt)Max dragRecommended use
505 oz12/6523" to 29"10 lbUltralight fishing for trout and bass
706 oz12/8523" to 32"10 lbFinesse fishing for bass
1007 oz12/12026" to 34"11 lbMost bass fishing applications
2008 oz12/20026" to 36"12 lbHeavy bass fishing applications
30011 oz12/26026" to 36"22 lbInshore saltwater fishing
40012 oz12/33026" to 38"25 lbInshore saltwater fishing

The table above compares low-profile baitcaster reel sizes, with respect to the following specifications:

  • Weight (oz)
  • Monofilament line capacity (lb/yd)
  • Retrieve rate (inches per turn of handle)
  • Maximum drag pressure (lb)

Note that all of the values given in our table are approximations, as the specifics can vary from manufacturer to manufacturer. For example, the Daiwa Tatula 300 has a mono line capacity of 12/260, while the Shimano Curado 300 has a mono line capacity of 12/230.

However, while the specs can vary between models, the overall trends on the table are valid. And as you can see, smaller baitcasting reels are generally lighter, have lower line capacity, lower maximum retrieval speed, and lower maximum drag pressure.

So why is this? Well, it intuitively makes sense that smaller reels weigh less, and that their smaller spools have lower line capacity. But why should the maximum retrieve rate and maximum drag pressure be lower on smaller reels?

Let’s talk about the retrieve rate first. This is determined by two factors: the gear ratio, plus the diameter of the spool. The gear ratio refers to how many times the spool rotates when you turn the handle once. You can choose a reel with higher or lower gear ratio, depending on how fast you want the retrieve rate to be.

See also: best gear ratio for baitcaster

But in addition to the gear ratio, spool diameter also affects retrieval speed. Just think about it: when you turn a large spool once, it wraps more line around the spool than if you turn a small spool once. And that means the amount of line that’s spooled per turn of the handle also varies depending on how much line is already on the spool.

So  if you’re using a small reel, and cast your lure far out, you’ll find that the retrieve rate is significantly lower at the start of your retrieve, than towards the end of it. 

Finally, a bigger spool also provides more surface area for the drag system to apply pressure and generate friction, which is why bigger reels come with a higher maximum drag pressure. 

Smallest baitcaster sizes

While most baitcaster reel lineups start at size 100, some manufacturers offer reel sizes that are smaller than this, including size 50 and 70 baitcasters.

Here are some examples:

  • Shimano Aldebaran MGL (size 50)
  • Shimano Curado 70 (size 70)
  • Daiwa Steez CT SV (size 70)

The 50 size is the smallest that’s currently available on the market, and is mostly used for ultralight casting applications for trout and small bass in creeks and ponds. 

See also: what is the lightest baitcasting reel?

The 70 size, on the other hand, is big enough to handle bigger fish, and also allows longer casting distances. Because of this, it works well as a finesse baitcaster for bass fishing when you want to downsize your baits and tactics. Many bass anglers like to keep a lightweight casting rod with a size 70 reel on their boat, ready to throw smaller lures when the fish don’t respond to regular tactics.

If you’re interested in lightweight applications, you may also want to consider spinning reels, which usually perform very well for ultralight tactics.

100 size baitcaster

The 100 size is the best all around option for low-profile baitcasters. It’s the most popular size used for bass fishing, and works well with the majority of bass fishing applications.

Here are some examples:

  • Daiwa Tatula 100
  • Lew’s Speed Spool
  • KastKing Speed Demon

Some manufacturers also produce a 150 size, which is right in the middle between a 100 and 200. Examples of this are the Tatula 150, and the Shimano SLX, either of which can be a great choice if you want to use slightly stronger lines, or cast heavier lures.

See also: Daiwa Tatula 100 vs 150

Many bass anglers like to use a 150 size reel when fishing close to cover, as it allows them to spool heavier braid. When you’re flipping or pitching jigs around heavy cover, it can be a good idea to use an extra strong line, and a 150 reel enables you to spool more of it.

200 size baitcaster

The 200 size is great for heavy bass fishing applications, if you want to spool 65 or even 85 lb test braided line. 

Here are some examples:

  • KastKing Royale Legend II 200
  • Shimano Curado 200
  • Daiwa Tatula 200

Another advantage of this reel size is that it has significantly greater line capacity compared to smaller models, which means you can achieve greater casting distances. And while extended casting distance usually isn’t that important for bass fishing, it can be a big advantage when you’re fishing large flats, or open water bass.

Some bass anglers like to use a 200 reel when fishing topwater frogs on extended grass flats, as they can achieve greater casting distances and cover more ground that way.

300 size baitcaster

The 300 size is mostly used for saltwater fishing, since it comes with a significantly higher line capacity and higher maximum drag pressure than the smaller models. That means you can spool stronger lb test lines, throw bigger lures over bigger distances, and fight bigger fish.

Here are some examples:

  • Shimano Tranx 300
  • Daiwa Lexa 300
  • Shimano Curado 300

Similar to the previous class, 300 size reels deliver extra long casting distances. 

400 size baitcaster

The 400 size class is almost exclusively used for saltwater fishing, and these reels are usually built with all-metal construction and come with shielded ball bearings, in order to withstand the corrosive environment of saltwater fishing.

Here are some examples:

  • Daiwa Lexa 400
  • Shimano Tranx 400
  • Shimano Calcutta 400

Overall, these reels need to be able to handle the extra stress of casting and retrieving bigger rigs and baits in stronger currents, and they also need to handle exposure to saltwater and sand without getting jammed. 

What size baitcaster should you use for bass?

The best all around baitcaster size for bass fishing is the 100 size. This is small enough to be highly ergonomic and ‘palmable’, which means you can fish with it all day long without becoming fatigued. At the same time it has enough line capacity to spool sufficient line, which means you can hook into big bass without running into problems.

If you want to throw larger lures, or fish around heavy cover, a 150 size baitcaster may be a better choice, as this will enable you to spool heavier braid. Finally, if you’re fishing on extended grass flats, a 200 size reel will enable you to achieve longer casting distances, as it has almost twice the line capacity compared to smaller reels.

Finally, if you want to use finesse tactics for bass, but don’t want to switch to a spinning setup, then a 70 size baitcaster is the right choice for you, as that’s small enough to throw lightweight lures.

Low-profile vs round baitcaster sizes

All of the sizes discussed above are for low-profile baitcasters, which are the most popular models nowadays.

However, you can also choose a round baitcaster, and as the name already suggests, it comes with a big round spool that has a larger line capacity compared to a low-profile model.

This baitcaster variant is better suited for trolling, as it comes with enough line capacity to spool hundreds of yards of heavy pound test line. On the other hand, it’s not a great choice if you want to do a lot of casting, as these reels are heavier, and not as ergonomic as lowprofile models.

See also: what is the best round baitcaster?

Since round baitcasting reels are used for heavier fishing applications, they usually come in bigger sizes than low-profile baitcasters, ranging from 1,000 upwards, all the way up to 10,000 (though some manufacturers denote 1000 as 10, and so forth).

How to choose the right baitcaster size

Okay, so now that you know what sizes are available, which one should you choose for your purpose? The two most important questions to ask yourself are: where will you be fishing, and what kind of fish do you want to catch? 

If you’re fishing for largemouth and smallmouth bass in lakes, rivers and ponds, a 100 size reel is the ideal option for most applications. It’s light and ergonomic enough to fish with all day long, while being big enough to spool plenty of line for regular casting distances (needed for most bass fishing tactics). And since bass don’t pull a lot of line off your reel when you fight them, you don’t have to worry about not having enough line for that.

On the other hand, if you’re fishing for big bass around heavy cover, you’ll probably want to spool extra heavy line to avoid losing fish due to line breakage, and in that case a 150 or 200 size reel would be a better option. The latter is also an excellent choice if you want to achieve greater casting distances. For example, many lakes in Florida are famous for having huge areas with emergent grass flats, and when the water is clear, it’s a big advantage if you can cast your lure farther away from your boat, so you don’t spook the fish.

Finally, if you’re looking for a baitcaster for inshore saltwater fishing, then either a 300 or a 400 size reel are the best options to choose from. These sizes have a much bigger line capacity compared to smaller models, which means you can spool lots of strong braid. They also come with a lot more drag power, which is essential if you hook into hard fighting fish like trevally or bluefish.

Additional resources:

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Bass Fishing Tips video