reels are important tools for anglers who want to be able to effectively fish larger lures and techniques where light line spinning reels simply don’t cut it. A good baitcaster gives you a high degree of control of your lure, allowing pinpoint lure placements, and the power to pull out of cover and deep water.
This guide will help you understand how to choose the best baitcaster, one that helps you fish your favorite techniques as efficiently as possible, as well as fitting your budget.
For those new to baitcasters, we’ll cover the most important specifications to look for so that you make the right choice for your new . If you are familiar with these things already, then jump right down to our Top 10 picks.
10 Best Baitcasters
Each of these reels reviewed is mid-range and above in price and good value for the money. Each model chosen is made by quality brands and would make an excellent as well as most other freshwater applications.
How did we choose these reels? We took our years of experience and compared data and reviews from multiple online tackle shops. There are many other great reels out there, but these are the best all-purpose reels from on the water experience and raw data.
1. Shimano Curado DC
Pros: Digital brake control technology that makes an incredibly versatile, smooth, and long casting . craftsmanship and all their top technologies.
Cons: A few ounces heavier than other reels in the Top 3.
- Weight: 7.8-7.9 ounces
- Gear Ratios: 6.2:1, 7.4:1, 8.5:1
- Capacity: 10/120 fluorocarbon, 30/135
- Technology: I-DC4 Digital Brake, Hagane Body, X-Ship Pinion
The Curado DC is the latest version of the most popular of all time. We could talk about how this is packed with tech like the Hagane alloy body, X-Ship support, Micro Module brass gears, and Cross Carbon drag, but the star of the show is the I-DC4 digital braking system.
The I-DC4 digital braking system is a tiny microcontroller inside the that monitors your and speed. Every time you cast, the chip measures your speed 1,000 per second to adjust the brake pressure automatically on the fly.
Why is that important? It makes anglers of all experience levels more efficient. You can now change techniques and lure weight without having to constantly readjust the setup. You can achieve long, smooth casts, with less effort, no matter if throwing a light Texas Rig worm, or flipping a ½ ounce jig.
It might sound too good to be true, but it is not. Just read the instructions before with the DC, the I-DC4 is factory tuned and does not require adjustment out of the box. Once you have tried a Curado DC you might end up wanting more, you have been warned!
2. Lew’s Hyper Mag SLP
Pros: Magnesium frame, hardened aluminum gears, weighs just 5.4 oz. Highly adjustable internal braking system (4 pins and 27 positions).
Cons: Premium priced, but you get an amazing reel and the great Lew’s customer service.
- Weight: 5.4 oz
- Gear Ratios: 7.5:1, 8.3:1
- Bearings: 10+1
- Line Capacity: 12/110 mono, 30/110 braid
The Team Lew’s Pro Mag packs all of Lew’s but still priced within reach of serious ‘s budgets. Tournament anglers should love the sensitivity and all-day comfort that comes with a magnesium . technology into a premium feather-light . It’s certainly a premium
The concept for the Pro Mag is to be Light, Fast, and Strong. The is built on a one-piece magnesium frame and C45 carbon side plates. The concept is even taken to the handle and knobs, which are and cork EVA composite, respectively. The is machined aluminum to maintain tight roundness tolerances but has a v-shaped profile for level winding and is drilled to shave off weight.
The performance is as refined as the . Lew’s reels usually exhibit great casting, and the Pro Mag is no exception. The great casting comes from double shielded , an audible tension clicker, and a killer 27 point, externally adjustable system. Throw in an integral bait keep and line size indicator, and you have one heck of a baitcaster.
3. Shimano Chronarch MGL 150
Pros: Magnumlite Spool and SVS Infinity braking for smooth, precision casting, and stout retrieve.
Cons: On the higher end of the price scale, but worth every penny.
- Weight: 6.5 oz
- Gear Ratios: 6.2:1, 7.1:1, 8.1:1
- Bearings: 8+1
- Line Capacity: 12/110 mono, 30/135 braid
If you’ve read this site, you can tell we are fans of reels. The Chronarch MGL 150 is easily in the Top 3 of all reels. The Chronarch MGL costs more than a budget , less than the cost of magnesium framed reels, and performs as a premium should.
The Chronarch MGL has a near-identical carbon composite frame to the previous Ci4+, and still weighs a scant 6.5 ounces, but has some new enhanced features. First, like many of ‘s high-end reels, the MGL gets the X-Ship gear arrangement that provides rock solid gear stability and strength.
Also new are the Micro Module gearing and MGL that give the its name. Micro Module gears make the retrieve strong but smooth, and the Magnumlite reduces casting effort by up to 10%.
The Dartanium II drag washers provide one of the smoothest drag systems around. You can simply adjust it with a flick of your finger while fighting a fish. The SVS Infinity braking system is one of the best out there. There is an external dial as well as 4 internal brakes that are adjusted by opening the side plate and engaging 1 to 4 of the brakes.
Overall, the Chronarch MGL can be the versatile workhorse that you need. It is well suited for anything from finesse lures and weightless plastics, all the way up to your flipping and pitching needs. The fact that you can get this performance in a with a carbon frame. Getting it without the price tag of a Japanese import is a bonus.
Best Baitcasters Under $200
4. Abu Garcia Revo SX
The Revo SX from Abu Garcia is one of the very best all-around reels an can buy today. They are Abu Garcia’s most popular for a reason. It’s very lightweight, easy to palm, and comes at two different speeds.
The 6.6:1 SX is going to excel at a wide swath of . The 7.3:1 , on the other hand, will be better for you if you like to burn in topwater baits, or if you like to pitch and flip jigs or soft plastic creature baits. You’ll get more casts in with the 7.3 ratio. techniques, and we recommend this one if you are looking for a workhorse, multi-purpose
The newest version of this (REVO4 SX) has an upgraded D2 Duragear and clutch, plus a hard coating on the pinion and pawl that take out a lot of friction.
The Revo SX is ultra-smooth on the cast thanks to 9+1 and the Infini system on the side plate. This is a great option if you are looking for versatility, performance, and reliability in a new , yet doesn’t cost a fortune.
5. Lew’s Tournament Pro Speed Spool LFS
The Tournament Pro Speed is a step up in refinement from the Tournament MB (keep reading for that ). For the additional cost, you get more bearings, shave off half an ounce of weight, lure keeper, and precise braking adjustments.
The dark gray aluminum frame is highlighted with orange accents. The utilizes the Lighter Faster Stronger (LFS) materials, including a swept offset carbon handle that keeps your reeling power closer inline to the main drive shaft.
Fishermen should appreciate the little touches incorporated into the Pro Speed . There is the SpeedKeeper near the seat of the that allows storing a Texas rig without pulling the hook from your plastic bait. Then there is an ingenious Speed Dial built into the tension control knob. Just point the clicker to the size of your and you’ll never have to play the guessing game again.
6. 13 Fishing Concept Z
13 has always been kind of a “hype” company to me, making pretty products and splashy marketing. The Concept Z, touting a “Zero Bearing” design is no exception. It is a flashy red baitcaster with great looking matte black handle and knobs. No doubt they can design a good looking , but does it pass the test?
No bearings, how is that supposed to work? The Concept Z uses solid polymer bearings in place of . A solid bearing has no place for dirt and debris to build up and clog the bearings, reducing the performance of your . This technology is impressive and has now been a top performer for several years, proving the hype was real.
On the side, the Concept Z has proven to be more than capable. Casting is a breeze, thanks in part to a unique “arrowhead” line guide, and waffle . The internal 6-way allows casting of lures as light as 3/16oz up to 1oz crankbaits and jigs. One knock is the lack of external access to the brakes, but once inside it’s as easy as selecting a setting from 0-6 on the dial.
7. Abu Garcia Revo STX
We like the STX lineup because of the high-end bearings and brake system, but also for the 3 different gearing ratios available (6.4/7.1/8.0:1). The Revo STX is essentially a super tuned version of the Revo SX. There is a for everyone in the STX, where SX has only 2. The weight drops from 6.9 ounces to 6.4 ounces, and also has 10+1 bearings.
The biggest difference between the two models is the braking system. The Revo STX has a magnetic system, plus an upgrade to a system called the Infini Brake System. It’s up to you if the extra money for the better braking system is worth it to you.
Like on all the Revo reels, you can expect an ergonomic design that is easy to palm, a smooth Carbon Matrix , and a D2 Gear Design that provides plenty of cranking and hook setting power. The STX can be the workhorse you’ve always wanted.
Best Baitcasters Under $150
8. Lew’s Tournament MP Speed Spool LFS
The Tournament MP is a tournament fisherman’s delight. It’s hard to outfit 6 to 8 rods with $200+ reels, which is why reels like the Tournament MP are so popular. Like most other Lew’s products, they cast for distance with minimal effort. That fact is a big deal when crankbaits and lighter jerkbaits.
The MP utilizes the LFS construction, making lighter, faster, and stronger than previous reels. Breaking that down, it means a 1 piece forged aluminum frame, drilled and anodized , and Duralumin gears. This is one sturdy .
It’s loaded with performance features bass anglers will love. It’s compact for easy palming but has a large handle with oversized paddle knobs. The big knobs come in handy wrenching out of cover. The brakes are easy to fine-tune, thanks to four pins inside the side plate and a fine adjustment dial on the outside. Perhaps the best part is being able to choose from 4 different gear ratios, from 5.6:1 all the way up to 8.3:1.
9. Daiwa Tatula CT
The Tatula CT is one of the more innovative reels we’ve seen in a long time, thanks to it’s awesome new ” T-Wing ” casting system. Once you get used to the way it flips open and shut on casts, you’ll be slinging baits further and easier than ever before.
The T-Wing concept is a specially designed line guide that reduces friction and obstruction on the cast while maintaining a uniform level line winding onto the on the retrieve. It works by flipping up into casting position, revealing the wide slot for the line to flow through on the cast.
Compare this to the single small hole found on virtually every other made today. There is less restriction on your , allowing you to cast farther and smoother. On the retrieve, the T-Wing flips down and the line lays in a narrow groove to level wind onto the . It really is an ingenious design from .
The Tatula reels are more than just the T-Wing, coming equipped with a stack, Magforce-X casting brakes, 8 bearings, and several retrieve speeds, all at an affordable price.
10. Shimano SLX XT
The new at any level of experience. The SLX XT promises to build on ‘s long history of performance, reliability, and durability. SLX XT is highly similar to prior years Citica, which were known as some of the for the price. This is an excellent for beginners, but also
Users of the SLX XT will love the and especially the adjustable Infinity SVS braking system. The SLX XT is complete with all the cool technologies like the S3D stable , S-A-RB bearings, and the rigid Hagane metal body design that anglers have been raving about since it came out.
The bottom line is, if you don’t want to try out other brands or have any doubts about cheaper reels, then get into a few SLX XT. They cast like a dream and will last you many, many years of hard before you need to tear it down for cleaning or to buy a new one.
5 Baitcaster Advantages
We believe anglers should use both high-quality spinning reels and reels to be the most versatile possible. However, there are many techniques and lures that are best used with a combo.
- Heavier Line – On a , the ‘s axis of rotation is perpendicular to the rod guides, meaning the line comes off directly through the line guide and straight through the rod guides. This makes it easier to use heavier lines, from 10-20lb test on average, and heavier lures. A good setup can easily cast lures from 1/4 to 1oz, and more.
- Less Line Twist – The is notorious for line twist, and twist is the enemy of good casting. Since the line comes off the in the direction of the rod guides, the only line twist imparted into your line will be coming from your lure, usually when soft plastics. This makes gear work best with both braided lines and fluorocarbon lines .
- Longer Casts – When paired with the right , baitcasters easily outcast spinning gear. The line comes directly off the straight out the rod guides, compared to the uncoiling of a spinning outfit. For bombing hard baits and jigs, you can’t beat the baitcaster.
- More Power – A , thanks to its layout and design. The is in line with the handle and gears, so the can apply more power and torque. Also, because the handles are mounted directly onto the frame there is no lever arm to cause flex when reeling hard on a . is more powerful than a
- More Control – They provide a high degree of casting control compared to spinning gear because you can control the distance and speed of your lure by thumbing the during the cast. Once you become proficient in their use, you can achieve pinpoint accuracy with your casts, allowing you to place your lure exactly where the fish are.
How to Choose a Good Baitcaster
All right, now let’s get into the details of what you need to look for in a new . It’s not complicated once you get to know the specs, and you’ll see which ones we care about most.
The tells you how many times the turns in one revolution of the handle. The higher the ratio the more line that is retrieved per turn of the handle. Common gear ratios of top reels are 5.3:1, 6.4:1, and 7.1:1.
The 6.4:1 ratio is an all-around excellent choice, as you can use any kind of bait and technique, like worms, jigs, topwater, shallow cranking, and have excellent performance. The other gear ratios are more specialized, and you’ll see if that’s something you want to take advantage.
The low gears like 5.2:1 and 5.3:1 are great for baits that pull hard like deep diving crankbaits , big swimbaits, and slow rolling heavy spinnerbaits. The low helps you the bait slower, keeping it in the strike zone longer. You also enjoy a higher torque output on these reels, making them a nice choice for flipping and moving fish out of cover.
High gear ratios are best for techniques where taking up the slack and burning a bait back to the boat are critical. If you like to fish topwater frogs or toads, a 7.1:1 is your best choice. They also excel at pitching jigs and plastics, so you can take up slack quickly and drive home a good hookset.
Here is a good video explaining these concepts further.
A bigger (deeper) can be beneficial if you like to fish stiff heavy line like a 20lb fluorocarbon. The larger creates smaller coils of line that are easier to manage. Smaller shallow spools are best for short line applications like flipping and pitching.
Low profile reels have different handle sizes. Some of the most compact reels have shorter handles. This may be fine for most applications like a worm or a jig, but not for handling big crankbaits or swimbaits. A larger, longer handle creates more torque to winch fish out of heavy cover, as when punching grass mats.
Brakes & Tension System
The tension knob controls the line at the beginning of your cast, and the brake system controls the line at the end of your cast. The brakes help especially when casting into the wind when your tends to spin faster than the bait as it is slowed down by the wind. A good tension and braking system is critical to being able to make long casts with a variety of lure weights and experience minimal backlashes .
Bearings & Materials
Look for quality ceramic or in your reels. In general. the more bearings a has, the smoother it will cast and retrieve. Look for reels that use a lightweight design and use strong materials like aluminum, magnesium, or carbon composite materials. These are strong, durable, and corrosion resistant materials that will give you the best performance as well as durability.
The is overlooked on casting reels, but it is worth talking about. If you intend on flipping and punching heavy jigs into matted grass, you need a with a high max drag. The must not slip when you wrench on a fish with heavy line.
On the other hand, when more finesse-type presentations on lighter lines, the ability to have a drag that smoothly peels off line is important. Think about shaky head jigs, crankbaits, and jerkbaits. Those techniques can catch , but you risk a break-off if the fish decides to make a dive near the boat.
You may have noticed all the recommended reels are models. What about a round ?
A and casting lures for other freshwater , whereas a excels at bigger baits and trolling. is extremely versatile for
If you are lakes and rivers for regular gamefish, go with a . If you are trolling, using heavy , or doing , a is likely a better choice.
Never before have there been so many great choices at affordable prices. Today’s top baitcasters are lighter than ever, with stronger materials, and a . Buy one of the reels we mentioned with confidence and go out and learn to use it. You’ll be a better for it!
Last updated 2021-10-16 at 01:01 / Affiliate Links & Images from Amazon Product Advertising API