Anglers who prefer larger fishing lures and complicated techniques should turn their attention to rods with baitcasting reels or, even better, individual baitcasting reels that can be installed on any compatible rods of your choice.
Good baitcasting reels not only afford you a high degree of lure control to improve lure placement accuracy but they’re also kind on your wallet.
We’ve picked out ten such baitcasting reels for you to consider and wrote a descriptive entry about each of them, allowing you to read up on them and make a more informed decision.
If you’re new to these reels or just want to brush up on your angling knowledge, we’ve also included information about how certain reels are better than others.
Our Favorite Baitcasting Reels in 2021
Full Reviews on Baitcasting Reels
1. Our Top Pick: Shimano Chronarch MGL 150 Baitcasting Reel
The first baitcasting reel we have for your consideration is the Shimano Chronarch MGL 150, a medium price range reel that makes up for its price with its performance. It’s one of the more expensive models on this list, but it doesn’t cost anywhere near the higher-end magnesium-framed reels available. This leaves you with a high-quality product that delivers a high performance for a lower price, a perfect intersection of capability and affordability that’s sure to delight many anglers.
It only weighs 6.5 ounces thanks to its carbon composite frame, making it lightweight yet heavy on enhanced fishers. One of these is the inclusion of Shimano’s reputable high-end reels with the MGL in particular retailing with an X-Ship gear arrangement that makes the reels stabler than others, and so stronger.
Other features include the namesake of this reel, its MGL (or Magnumlite) Spool, which reduces the necessary casting effort on your part by an entire tenth. There’s also the Micro Module gearing, which is designed to retrieve your line smoothly, reducing complications and allowing you to reel in with some added strength and stability. Dartanium II drag washers add to the smoothness of these reels and are also super adjustable.
Its SVS Infinity braking system ensures that this reel can stop on a dime, perfect for accurate and responsive reel control when it counts. Even the braking action is adjustable via an openable side plate that features four internal braking options, allowing you to change them up depending on the fish you’re angling for, and so adding even more versatility to this reel set.
We’d describe the Chronarch MGL 150 as a workhorse reel, perfect for those who need reliable and variable performances without breaking the bank and without straining their rod with a heavy reel model. We’d suggest it’s a particularly good choice if you’re using relatively weightless plastic lures, or finesse lures, though flipping and pitching are more than possible with these too once you’ve gotten to grips with them.
At our second spot is the Team Lew’s Pro Magnesium Speed Spool, a premium reel that not only combines much of Lew’s branded reel technology into a single example but is also designed to be as light as a feather. Its level of sensitivity and comfort must be tournament-grade, if not pretty close, but that’s to be expected when looking at a premium magnesium reel.
The so-called Pro Mag is made to fulfill that delicate balance between speed, strength, and weight that most serious anglers covet, and it does this with a combination of sophisticated materials working in tandem. First, there’s the aforementioned one-piece magnesium frame which does wonders for its weight whilst remaining strong, with most magnesium alloy being heavier than aluminum yet cheaper than carbon fiber.
There’s also C45 carbon side plates and the handles and knobs of the reel are made from both carbon fiber and cork EVA composite, too, ensuring that lightweight yet durable materials were used at every point of construction. The spool itself is machined aluminum that’s treated to remain round for as long as possible, though it does have a compromise in the form of a v-shaped profile that not only reduces weight but is great for level winding.
Lew’s reels have a reputation for being great casting reels, so this or many of the other reels from their catalog are great for those who either can’t cast fully due to physical limitations, or simply require a further reach. This superior casting reach can’t be traced to just one design feature, instead coming from double shielded ball bearings, a tension clicker, and a twenty-seven-point centrifugal braking system that’s adjustable.
At third place is the Revo SX baitcasting reel by Abu Garcia, a great all-rounder reel that should fall within most anglers’ budgets. This model in particular is Abu Garcia’s most popular and successful, and that’s no fluke. They’re easy to palm whilst being lightweight, and they even retail in two differing gear ratios to appeal to a wider variety of fishermen.
Those ratios are the 6.6:1 and the 7.3:1. The first is best for all sorts of fishing techniques you may want to deploy, turning the reel into a workhorse that’s capable of multiple fishing styles. The second is better for jig flipping or the general use of softer plastic baits, since it’ll allow you to get more out of your cast and add appealing movement when using topwater bait.
As of the Revo SX’s newest model, they have a D2 Duragear brass gear that extends the gear life of these reels, arguably the most important component of the reel since it facilitates its turning motion. The reel is topped off with hard, friction-eliminating coatings on the pawl and pinion of these reels.
It also utilizes nine plus one ball bearings for a smoother operation and an Infini magnetic brake system on its side plate to make it responsive to your stop and go commands. Those side plates are also made from C6 carbon, reducing the total weight of the reels without sacrificing durability.
All these features above turn the Abu Garcia Revo SX into a versatile and performance-based reel that doesn’t break the bank, and you should get a lot of use out of them to justify the purchase regardless.
This is the second reel from Lew’s that’s featuring on the list, but that’s for good reason. The Lew’s Tournament Pro G Speed Spool is a logical upgrade on one of Lew’s previous reels, the Tournament MB. The Tournament MB actually features later in this list, too, so if you’re interested in Lew’s catalog but need to make a fair compromise, look out for that below.
As for the Tournament Pro G, paying the additional cost to get this reel instead gets you a lighter model that’s packed with more bearings for a smoother reeling experience and a lure keeper that ensures you won’t lose them in the process. It also has the ability to make precise braking adjustments, resulting in a responsive reel that keeps you in control when you’re reeling in potential catches.
Its main body is a dark gray aluminum frame that’s decorated with orange accents, adding some color to the no-nonsense color scheme it has. The reel itself is made from what are called Lighter Faster Stronger materials, the three qualities that are most desired when looking at rod parts as we’ve mentioned above.
These are such construction features as a carbon handle that’s also swept offset, keeping the reeling power closer inline so that you can better control and maneuver it. Another of them is the double-anodized aluminum spool which, besides being treated against wet and harsh environmental conditions, also has twelve holes and a drilled U-shape into it to reduce weight and ease line movement.
The reel is Texas rig compatible, meaning there’s no need to pull the hooks from plastic bait you use. There’s even a so-called Speed Dial feature that’s added to the tension control knob which takes the size of your line and uses it to make an informed estimate of how tense the reel ought to be to promote its best reeling performance.
Next up we have the Concept A Baitcasting Fishing Reel from 13 Fishing, a manufacturer that always excels at making products that have their own appealing designs. The Concept A is one of their foremost successes, combining a matte black baitcaster frame with cork knobs for a homely, almost rustic touch to your fishing setup. Returning to cork handles isn’t just an interesting statement on behalf of 13 Fishing, however, since cork naturally grips the hand better than most non-rubber synthetic surfaces.
This reel is nestled snugly in the sub-two-hundred-dollar range, so it should be a feasible buy for many of you out there. The matte black surface conceals an aluminum frame that’s paired with composite side plates, allowing the reel to remain lightweight but durable where it counts. Ocean Armor Saltwater protection seals saltwater and related elements out of any potentially vulnerable parts of this reel, resisting corrosion and ensuring more longevity from your purchase.
Enough about the construction, what makes it perform well? Casting is simpler than ever thanks to the unique line guides, dubbed “arrowhead” guides because of their shape, and the spool itself is waffled to not only lighten it but better dispatch the line when casting out. A Concept Brake System inside supports lure casting as light as three-sixteenths of an ounce, all the way up to a full one-ounce crankbait or jig.
You’ll lack access to the brakes from the exterior, making outdoor adjustments a pain, but otherwise, it’s a simple dial twist to any number from zero to six, depending on your preferred tension and responsiveness levels.
Here we have another reel from Abu Garcia, and also part of the Revo range. This time it’s the STX, an upgraded model with high-end bearings and a brake system that supports three separate gearing ratios, those being 6.4, 7.1, and 8.0:1. It’s a tuned-up version of the Revo SX that we put at the number three spot on this list, though note that we’ve put it lower down since we think most anglers can get what they want out of the Revo SX for a cheaper price.
Part of this upgrade is that third ratio, the old Revo SX only being capable of two, so this model is a shoo-in if you need a higher 8.0:1 gear ratio. Despite this, the reel weight has dropped by 0.3 ounces, from 6.9 to 6.4. It also does its work with unparalleled smoothness thanks to the ten plus one bearings that can be found in the reel.
The aforementioned braking system is by far the biggest difference between the Revo SX and the Revo STX. This is because the STX’s braking uses a magnetic system to stop sooner, which is only helped by the Infini brake system that’s seen an upgrade since the SX.
The reel is easy to palm and a carbon matrix drag system means that it won’t feel heavy when you do it. A D2 Gear Design also maximizes your hook setting power, as well as how forceful, and so effective, your cranking action is.
We mentioned in the previous Lew’s entry that there was yet another of their reels coming up and here it is, the Lew’s Tournament MB Special Spool. It’s ideal for those who are serious about their fishing and want a tournament-grade angling experience but are concerned that they can’t foot the bill of higher-end, premium reels.
Like much of Lew’s catalog, the Tournament MB is great for distance casting without you having to put too much effort into it. This works great when using crankbaits or light jerkbaits. The Tournament MB also benefits from Lew’s Lighter, Faster, Stronger construction mantra that sees this reel forged from a single piece of aluminum framing that’s combined with a drilled and anodized aluminum spool for added environmental durability whilst remaining lightweight.
We’d suggest you consider this reel if you’re an avid bass angler since it’s an exceptionally easy reel to handle and control. It’s compact, palms easy, yet the handle features oversized knobs that are great for dragging larger fish out of their cover. This doesn’t mean the reel is a blunt instrument, however, since you can fine-tune its brakes to meet your preferred fishing style. It’s easily done by tweaking four pins found on its graphite side plate and an accompanying adjustment dial.\
The eighth reel we’ve chosen to show you is the Daiwa Tatula CT Baitcasting Reel, an innovative little model that uses its own T-Wing casting system. It takes some getting used to if you’re inexperienced with reels that flip open and shut when casting, but once you’ve gotten used to it, you’ll be rewarded with a further casting distance.
The T-Wing setup is a special line guide design that not only reduces friction and cast obstruction, they also maintain a level line so that the line can be retrieved without it catching or knotting. It flips up into the casting position, which opens up a wide slot so that the line can flow through easier on the cast.
The slot is bigger than the usually small hole that other baitcasting reels often have, so with this reel the line is much less restricted. When retrieving, the T-Wing then flips downwards to hold the line in a narrow groove, leveling it so that there’s very little chance of it moving and tangling itself.
The casting and retrieving actions are smooth thanks to the eight bearings built into the reel and they stop on a dime because of the Magforce-X casting brakes they have, making them a super-responsive reel option.
Next is another reel from Shimano, this time the Shimano Citica I. This reel model builds on Shimano’s long history of delivering reliable and durable reels capable of performing. They’re also great for longevity, especially if you’re ready and willing to clean and/or replace the bearings on them to add a few years of use.
They’re tough for reels at this price, so they should pay for themselves twice over in terms of how long they’ll last. Throughout their lifetime they’ll provide you with a smooth casting experience whilst at the same time stopping when you want it to. This is because of its adjustable Infinity SVS braking system that allows you to tailor its performance to your preference.
The spool itself is Shimano’s S3D spool, a stable model that uses S-A-RB bearings to increase the smoothness of both casting and retrieving. An X-Ship pinion is also used, which not only improves gear durability, but it also maintains a more precise alignment with the other inner workings of the reel, such as the drive gear. This allows the reel to retain its position if and when you’re engaged in a tense reeling match with a fish.
Last but not least we have the Ardent Apex Elite Fishing Reel. Ardent’s Apex series is a great set of reels that they offer, and the Elite is their second best. There isn’t any functional difference between the second best and the best, the Ardent Apex Grand, since it’s only available in different colors and only one gear ratio.
So that’s why we’re sticking with the Ardent Apex Elite. It gives you the same functionality for less and is capable of more gear ratios than the Grand, supporting both 6.5:1 and 5.3:1 speed. It also has a twelve plus one bearing system that helps this model cast further and eliminates any complications that can arise during distance casting.
As for the reel’s construction, it’s made with an aluminum frame and spool to be lightweight yet durable. To the same end, the handles of the reel are also carbon fiber and the knobs have EVA foam padding on them, making them sit easier in your hand and softer to hold where they’d otherwise dig in under the stress of a cast.
The flex-free frame ensures that the reel won’t become misshapen or in any way distorted by the pressures applied to it during casting and retrieval. Its 270-degree magnetic brake dial can be used to establish what level of break you want and, once that’s been decided, it’ll be responsive and stop instantly.
How to Buy the Right Baitcasting Reel
Advantages of Baitcasting Reels
Any angler that knows what they’re doing should have both spinning reels and baitcasting reels at the ready so you can be as versatile a fisherman as possible, and both reels should be of high quality. For baitcasting reels, in particular, there are several demonstrable advantages that you should be aware of, if you were on the fence about getting one.
One of the things that sets baitcasting reels apart is that their spool’s axis of rotation lies perpendicular to the rod guides, resulting in a smoother line transition since it comes directly through the line and rod guides. This makes using heavier lines more tenable, often ten to twenty lbs., along with heavier lures too, from a quarter to a whole ounce and maybe even more, depending on the rod you use.
Less Line Twist
Line twist is the bane of many a fisherman, particularly with spinning reels which are notorious for exacerbating this problem. Because of the aforementioned perpendicular spool axis that baitcasting reels have, the chances for your line to twist are minimized, and is often only a consistent problem if you’re fishing with soft plastics.
This all depends on the rod pairing you use, but your average baitcaster will easily outcast any spinning reel you can get your hands on. This is again partly because of the simple line deployment from the baitcasting spool, flying straight through the rod guides instead of messily uncoiling off of a spinning reel, eliminating complications and allowing the line to fly further. This is particularly useful for bombing hard baits or jigs where you need that extra oomph to throw those heavier lures further.
It’s no surprise that if baitcasting reels are capable of throwing your fishing line out further, it’s because these reels tend to be more powerful in general. The spool placement, in line with its gears and handles, enable the reel to generate more torque and so apply more power. They also lack lever arms when installed on your favorite rods, reducing flex during intense reeling and so providing a more stable base to fish from.
Despite affording more power to the average angler, baitcasting reels are also capable of a higher degree of casting control when compared to spinning gear. Why is this? It’s because with baitcasting reels you can manually use your own thumb to apply pressure to the spool during your casts, simply but effectively limiting the cast distance and speed of your lure to your liking. This can take some getting used to, of course, but proficiency with baitcasting reel control rewards you with near-pinpoint casting accuracy.
What to Look for in a Good Baitcasting Reel
Whether you’re a beginner or just new to baitcasting reels, sometimes it’s wise to read up on the kind of products you’re buying. You don’t just want to take other people’s word for it, after all, so learning just a little bit about what goes into your favorite fishing gear can help you understand and appreciate which features make certain products better than others.
That’s why we’ve written this small section, a buyers’ guide of sorts that aims to break down these reels into their individual parts, describe what those parts do, and then describe which kinds of those parts are the most desirable on baitcasting reels.
Most reels can be broken down into five components, these being their gear ratio, spool size, handle size, brakes system, and its materials. You can find what we have to say on each in the relevant entries below.
When the term gear ratio is used, manufacturers are describing how many times the spool turns with one revolution of the reel handle. This is important since higher ratios mean that more line is retrieved with every turn of the handle, saving valuable time when reeling in a fighting catch.
Common gear ratios to look out for are ones like 5.3:1 and 6.4:1, though higher-end reels are also capable of higher ratios like 7.1 or 8.0:1. If you’re unsure of the fish you’re catching, or just want a reel that’s suited to all-around use, then we’d suggest sticking to the center two of those four, either 6.4:1 or 7.1:1. This is because they’re generally compatible with most bait kinds and fishing styles, as well as a variety of lures.
The lower gear ratios, like those in the fives, are best for deep diving baits or heavier baits since they’ll reel slower, making for more time in the strike zone to attract a catch. More torque is generated too, which is great for pulling in larger fish or dragging them out of their cover. Higher gear ratios are best for topwater fishing, particularly frogs or toads, and they’re also great for pitching jigs or lighter plastic lures.
Spool size is important for two reasons, the first being if you want more line and the second being if you want a thicker, heavier line, and so need the extra room to store it. You’ll definitely want a deeper spool if you’re angling with 20 lb. fluorocarbon, but if you’re flipping or pitching then you’re better off with shallower spools that better house short lines.
If you’re an experienced angler, you may know that variations in handle sizes are most often found with bass fishing reels, particularly low-profile ones. There’s a big overlap between bass fishing and baitcasting reels, so you should pay attention to the handle sizes of the reels you consider.
It logically follows that the compact reels will have smaller handles and vice versa. Shorter handles are better for fishing with worms or jigs, but you’ll struggle to use swimbaits or crankbaits. As with the spool size, larger handles generate more torque which is great for wrenching larger fish towards you, hence why many bass fishing reels have larger handles.
Since we’re talking about handles, it also might be in your best interest to invest in handles that have a grippable surface, such as rubber or cork. They’ll fit better in the palm of your hand and be easier to control, eliminating human error by making sure that you have your hands firmly on the handles.
Tension and Brake Systems
Most reels have a tension knob on them which is used to control your fishing line when you first cast, whereas the braking system controls your line after you’ve cast it out. The braking capability of your reel becomes more important if you’re casting into the wind, since the spool will spin disproportionately when compared to the bait.
Getting a good product that has sophisticated tension and brake control systems results in a responsive reel that you can maneuver more easily. Making the right choice often means choosing a reel with a system that allows you to make long casts with a vast array of lure weights and fishing techniques, allowing you to get the most versatility out of your reel and rod.
First, you should pay attention to the bearings that your reel uses. Not only in terms of materials, where you should weigh up the benefits of ceramic or stainless-steel bearings, but also how many the reel has. Other than the basic weight concerns, more bearings generally equal a smoother experience with the reel when casting and retrieving your line, since it smoothens the turning motion of the reel as a whole.
When considering the construction of your prospective reel, you should keep an eye out for materials that are lightweight but strong and durable. After all, what good is a lightweight reel if it doesn’t perform when you need it to? Such materials that strike a great balance between weight and reliability are metals like aluminum and magnesium alloy, and synthetic materials like carbon composite/carbon fiber.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can you finesse fish with a baitcaster?
With how baitcasting reels have been described, both in this article and online at large, many consider them to be heavy hitters, the simple but strong fishing instruments you break out when you need to haul in a heavy bass or two. There’s merit to this idea, but baitcasters are also notoriously hard to begin using because of how accurate they are and how much control they afford you, too much control when you’re inexperienced.
If you’re looking to finesse fish, many anglers opt for spinning reels since they’re known to be the more dexterous option. That doesn’t mean finessing fish with a baitcaster is an impossibility, however, since you can easily keep the line in place with an open baitcaster reel. You just need to avoid the fishing line tangling and knotting itself but, if you take the time to learn how to use baitcasting reels, you’ll know how to mitigate these problems anyway.
Are baitcasters only for bass?
Baitcasters are heavily associated with professional bass fishing because baitcasters have the control and the strength necessary to lift hulking twenty-pound bass, even out of the dens they hide in. To cut through detritus in the waters that many basses inhabit, heavier fishing line is often used which again, is best used with the strength of a baitcasting reel. The same can be said for heavier baits like crankbaits and topwaters.
Many use baitcasting reels for other fish, and many bass anglers can get by with other reels under the right conditions, but baitcasting reels are the simply the best reels for the job. If you’re unsure of what you need, a good general rule to keep in mind is that if you’re angling for a fish over ten pounds, you’re probably best off with baitcasters.
What are the four types of reels?
The four main types of reels you’ll come across when searching for fishing goods are baitcasting reels, spincast reels, spinning reels, and fly-fishing reels. We’ll only delve into the first three since fly fishing reels aren’t geared towards landing fish, instead simply having a lot of backing to store the ample fishing line you’d need.
Baitcasting reels are reels that are geared heavily towards accuracy, to the point that anglers need to get to grips with these types of reels because of how difficult they can be for newbies to control. Like all things, practice makes perfect, and mastering a baitcasting reel pays off with unrivaled casting accuracy, no matter the weight of your lines and lures.
Spincast reels, on the other hand, are thought of as easier to use and beginner-friendly. They’re often closed, protecting the reel more but also minimizing any adjustability options you may have with baitcasting reels. They’re easily operated by applying pressure with your thumb, though the added security measures these reels have limit their distance and accuracy when casting.
Spinning reels are used by anglers of all stripes and skill levels, and feature an open-faced design that’s ideal for those who want to see the inner workings of their rods, and adds the much-needed versatility that seasoned anglers will enjoy when utilizing a variety of bait types and techniques. The downside here is that they’re not suited for heavier lines, so bass fishers would need to look elsewhere.