Best Baitcasting Reel 2020 – [Buyer’s Guide]

best baitcasting reel

If you are looking to get the most out of your lure fishing then choosing the best baitcasting reel paired with the right rod is the surest way to casting accurately and getting your lures to where the fish are.

Spinning reels are fine for very light work such as fishing with bait or other ultralight techniques, but when it comes to repeated casting all day long nothing is going to beat the perfect baitcaster setup.​

​Most anglers start out on a spinning setup and then over time progress to a baitcaster.

Whilst there is a steeper learning curve to using a baitcasting reel once you learn it there really is no turning back as the level of control that thumbing the spool gives you is far superior to any open face spinning reel.

​Round Baitcast Reels vs Low Profile

Older style round baitcast reels have fallen out of favor in recent years however the do still have a place in modern angling.

While low profile baitcasters are hugely popular in the bass fishing world, round style baitcasters are still used extensively for catfish, musky and when surf casting.

For most freshwater anglers the low profile baitcasting reel will be the reel of choice as they are perfectly suited to most forms of lure fishing.

From throwing frogs into deep cover to Texas Rigs and crankbaits they are the most versatile types of reel when using medium to heavy freshwater lures or bait rigs.

​Best Baitcasting Reels


The best baitcasting reel for the money right now is the Revo SX from Abu Garcia.

It combines excellent casting performance and silky smooth operation all at a really great mid-range price point.

​This is the fourth version of the SX Low Profile baitcaster from Abu and it builds upon the previous models.

Dubbed Abu's "workhorse" reel it can sling lures all day long whether that's 3/8 ounce jigs or pitching into heavy cover it is one of those reels that is suitable for a lot of different setups.

​There are two gear ratio's available the standard comes in at 6.6:1 and has a retrieval rate of 27 inches per crank of the handle and a high speed model with 7.3:1 that can rip 30 inches of line per turn of the handle.

Even the high gear ratio model still has plenty of cranking power thanks to a decent handle length.

​The internal gearing gets upgraded to brass over the previous generations aluminum gears which results in a smoother and slightly quieter running reel.

The newer Power Stack C​arbon Matrix Drag system ​is rated for a massive 24lbs which is more than enough for almost any kind of freshwater fishing.

Casting performance is a slight step above the Revo3 as it used Abu's Infini braking system which combines both a magnetic and a centrifugal breaking system.

The result is a very smooth cast with the spool speed coming in almost perfect with every cast.

The best baitcaster reel for the money hands down!


​Over the past five years or so KastKing has grown as a brand to more or less dominate the low end of the pricing spectrum by offering anglers high quality products at a really affordable price.

​If you are just starting out or are making the switch from a spinning reel to a baitcasting reel then I would strongly advise not spending a fortune on your first baitcaster.

​If you are just starting out or are making the switch from a spinning reel to a baitcasting reel then I would strongly advise not spending a fortune on your first baitcaster.

The Legend Elite series from Kastking is an excellent choice that running and casts super smooth right out of the box with very little or no tuning required.

There are four different color models in the range and each one is matched to a specific gear ratio.

Kastking designed them like this so that anglers can simply look at their different setups in the boat and know instantly what speed reel they can choose.

  • White - 5.3:1
  • ​Blue - 6.6:1
  • Black 7.3:1
  • Red - 8.1:1

This is mostly aimed at tournament anglers fishing multiple bass setups but on the boat at the one time but even for a weekend warrior having several of these on board will not break the bank.

The shape of the reels as Kastking calls "Palm Perfect Design" makes palming the reels and thumbing the spool a perfect fit for your hand. This is especially important when casting all day and it really shows where low profile reels start to shine.

They come with 10 double-shielded stainless steel ball bearings, 17.6 lbs carbon drag, brass pinion gears and a 10 point adjustable magnetic breaking system. 


The Chronarch MGL is the best Shimano baitcasting reel and that is saying something considering how many awesome reels they make.

The Chronarch sits in the Shimano reel range between super high end reel and every day workhorse.

​Once you go above a certain price point the actual differences in technology are barely noticeable by most fishermen spending a fortune on a reel will not make you a better angler anyway.

The reel bang for your buck comes at the mid-range market in terms of price.

The Chronarch sits right in this category and is an exceptional reel for the money.

​The MGL builds on the previous Ci4+ model and the carbon composite reel housing is ever so slightly stiffer than on the Ci4+ which helps to keep all of the internal gears running that extra little bit smoother.

The MGL refers to the newer lighter Magnumlite(MGL) spool which Shimano claim give better distance and also a much smoother free spool allowing for better control when casting.

That combined their new SVS Infinity breaking system gives more consistent breaking and also enables you to cast lighter lures with better accuracy.

There are three speeds available in both left and right hand variations a 6.2:1, 7.1:1 and a high speed 8.1:1 which gives a massive 34 inches per turn of the handle. 


​There are currently two types of Tatula baitcasting reels on the market from Daiwa the Ct and the Type-R.

​The Type-R is just a more expensive version of the CT with an upgraded paint job, some corrosion resistant bearings and a slightly lighter spool, which for most anglers means very little in terms of the value for the money.

​​The CT is a really compact reel so if you light to palm your baitcaster then it the size and shape of the CT will feel quite ergonomic in your hands.

The main standout feature of the Tatula CT is the T-Wing system, which basically means the line flows easier off of the spool thanks to a wide spread on the level wind.

The end result is a much more even line lay on the spool which ultimately allows the line to run a lot easier when casting.

You also get Daiwa's Tournament Drag System which uses over-sized carbon fiber drag washers.

It has a max drag setting of 13.2lbs which is more than enough for freshwater bass fishing, however that drag is silky smooth all the way up to the max setting.

A lot of reels with really big drag rating aren't always that usable when set really high so the ratings can be a bit if a joke.

They come with seven stainless steel ball bearings and one anti-reverse bearing.

A great performer for the price.


If you are looking for high end performance at a mid-range price point the Shimano Curado is that reel.

​A really good mid-range reel for most anglers will feel almost as good as one of the higher priced top of the line offerings from the big brand names.

This is where the best value for money can be got. The Curado looks and feels like a high end reel and unless you are targeting really big musky there would be no need for anything more expensive than a Curado for bass fishing.

They are extremely durable and the build quality is second to none.

Shimano have integrated pretty mush all of it's top materials and technology into the Curado it's not quite in the league of the Chronarch above but it's pretty close.


​Baitcasting Reels

Regardless of whether you go with a round baitcaster reel vs low profile reel there are a number of common attributes that you should consider before buying a baitcasting reel.

I'm never a fan of cheap reels, I've broken many baitcasting rods but buying a high quality reel should be seen as a long term investment.

Look after your reel and have it serviced regularly should result in it lasting for many many years.

Rods will come and go and usually end up breaking at the tip even when you think you are being careful.

​Most reels break due to dirt, grit or salt water finding it's way into the reel housing and ultimately destroying the gears.

Look after them, service regularly, rinse after use in saltwater and try not to leave them down on the ground where dirt and mud can get at them.

How to Choose a Baitcaster

Choosing the right baitcasting reel for your setup depends on a number of different factors:

  • Type of fish​
  • Style of fishing
  • Location
  • Your experience level 

​Round style baitcasters are usually used by anglers targeting large species of fish such as musky, catfish, salmon/steelhead and any of the larger saltwater species.

​Bass fishermen love low profile casting reels

If you are fishing in saltwater on a pier on inshore then you need a reel that can handle the corrosive effects of saltwater.

Most cheaper freshwater reels won;t last too long when fishing in saltwater even if you rinse the reels religiously.

​All baitcasters share a number of features that they have in common:

  • Gearing
  • Size
  • Weight
  • Left vs right hand

​Gearing

​When we talk about the gear ratio on a baitcasting reel it means how many turns of the spool per one turn of the handle.

So for example a 6.5:1 gear ratio will result in 6.5 complete revolutions of the spool for every turn of the handle.

Normally most manufacturers will quote the number of turns of the spool first and the handle second.

A high gear ratio means that you can have a faster retrieval rate than a low gear ratio.

However, the higher gear ratio results in a lose of torque so the amount of power that you can put through the reel when hauling a big fish is reduced.

Frog lures and any other topwater technique that requires you to really burn line in quickly are usually used with a high speed baitcaster reel.

And vice versa a low gear ratio will be slower but will transmit more torque from the handle to the spool making it easier to pull heavier weights with your reel.

Big crankbaits and swimbaits create a lot of drag in the water so a low gearing is best.

​Anything in the 5's like a 5.3:1 is considered low gearing, 6's to mid-6's are in the middle and considered good for general use, reels with gearing in the high 6's to low 7's should be considered high speed reels.

Size

You need to match your reel to the line that you are using. The havier your line the less of it you will be able to spool onto your reel.

Always check the manufacturers specifications for your reel. You should be able to hold at least 110 yards of whatever breaking strain line you are using.

​Most reel brands will quote one number for monofilament and one for braid.

As a general rule braid is roughly half the diameter of mono so if you can get 100 yards of 10 lbs mono on a reel you should be able to fit 100 yards of 20 lbs braid.

Weight

A big heavy reel can end up unbalancing your setup. If you are looking to cast lures all day long then your rod, reel and line need to match up.

The lighter the better when it comes to all day casting but you still need a reel that is up to the job at hand and very small light weight reels can suffer from being a little bit weak and also not holding enough line.

Left vs Right Hand Baitcasters

Unlike a spinning setup where you dominant hand holds the rod and your weaker hands turns the reel handle with baitcasters that can feel a little unnatural.

​Some people prefer to switch sides when they use a baitcasting reel so you really should go with whatever feels the most natural when selecting the best baitasting reel for your needs.