Baitcasters are complicated pieces of equipment. Use this guide to familiarize yourself with the components of a baitcaster as well as some of the best products on the market.
High-quality braking and tension systems
Very smooth drag system
Can handle thick lines
High level of customization
No on/off clicker
Lower drag pressure limit than competitors
Good for beginners
Easy to adjust brakes
Flimsy feeling reel
We like this caster as an everyday option for its versatility and durability.
This baitcaster is highly corrosion resistant. It has a dual braking system.
This baitcaster has the world’s highest gear ratio. It's a great option if you already know what you want to fish.
This super light baitcaster will keep your personal accuracy up by reducing fatigue.
We have some reservations about this caster, but overall it functions quite well.
Spencer Lowe is a freelancer writing out of Lewiston, Idaho who grew up fishing in Mississippi. He is a master-baitcaster.
Buying the best baitcaster for you can be pretty complicated. There are several key attributes that you’ll want to familiarize yourself with (see Picking the Best Baitcaster For You).
After that, you’ll probably want to consider some of the awesome baitcasters Bestazy has collected for your viewing pleasure.Then you can decide which of these baitcasters is best for you based on your fishing preferences.
Bestazy also has our own opinion on these baitcasters, which should help you stay informed--good or bad. Rest assured that we will let you know if anything is up!
You can trust that Bestazy kept your best interest at heart when considering baitcasters. We consulted a wide range of experts and industry professionals.
These opinions led us to a selected list, from which we conducted tests and reviews.
The highest performing of these tested products are brought to you here.
Why would Bestazy go to such lengths, you wonder?
Because we care about our readers and want to ensure that they end up selecting the best products possible.
Picking a baitcaster doesn’t need to be time consuming. Read this section if you want the highlights!
Here’s what you need to remember:
The gear ratio will tell you how fast your spool will spin. Higher is better for baits that need to cruise along, and low is better for baits that need some downtime in the water.
The diameter of the spool is also important. The bigger the spool, the more line the caster can hold and the faster it will take up that line.
Give the braking and tension systems a good look before you buy, as well. These refer to the way that your line is slowed down and kept manageable by the reel. If you get mixed up about the differences between the two remember that braking is at the beginning of your cast and tension is at the end.
There are several key attributes to baitcasters that you’ll want to keep in mind as you go about selecting the right one for you.
These terms might seem a bit technical at first. However, once we get into each specification you’ll have an easy time wrapping your head around them.
Well, what are they?
The key things to look out for are the baitcasters gear ratio, diameter of the spool, drag pressure, and lastly the braking and tension systems. Each of these will have a huge effect on the way your caster casts and what type of fishing situations you are equipped for.
Gear ratio refers to the number of rotations that the spool will make for each rotation of the handle. The handle rotation will always be controlled at “1,” making it easy to compare ratios.
So a 7.1:1 gear ratio means that the spool will spin 7.1 times for every complete rotation of the reel handle. A 6.4:1 will–you guessed it–spin 6.4 times every time you spin the handle.
Practically, here’s what that means.
Depending on what type of lure or bait you are using, you may want either a high or low gear ratio.
You don’t need to decide what you are fishing right now, though. There are plenty of middle-of-the-road baitcasters that can do it all.
You’ll also want to make sure you get good, precision matched gears. Your gear ratio won’t matter if the gears slip unpredictably, so make sure that you are getting a quality product in addition to the specifications you need.
A high gear ratio will take up line very quickly. You’ll notice a lot of responsiveness when you start reeling.
So if you are using a worm–live or plastic–you’ll want a bit more speed to bring it to life.A high gear ratio is good for throwing out a line quickly and repeatedly, as well. It takes up the line very quickly, which means you can get through the no-mans-land zones quickly. By this same logic, when you throw the line, it unwinds quickly for effortless casts.
For these qualities, a high gear ratio is also good for a small strike zone. If you need to get your casts out fast so that you maximize your time reeling through a small strike zone, high gear ratios are better for this.
A low gear ratio is good for heavier, slower baits. For instance, a deep diver works extremely well with a low gear ratio because it needs that extra time to sink to its functional zone.
Anything with a lot of built-in motion will usually work best with a low gear ratio.
Even spinners which seem like they should be moving fast will function better with a low gear ratio since it gives the fish time to react to the movements they pick up on.
The diameter of the spool clues you into several key bits of information about the baitcaster.
The diameter of the spool, of course, limits the amount of line your caster can hold, but in doing so it also puts limits on thick that line can be.
Since a thicker line takes up more space on the spool, your spool will be able to hold less the thicker your line. So if you are planning on using a thick line, you’ll need a spool with a large diameter. Otherwise, you may end up with too short a line.
A bigger spool also takes up line faster. If you are making long casts in open water, you may want a spool with a thick diameter.
Thick lines also tend to coil more than thinner lines. The firmness of the line causes it to hold to the shape of the spool once you cast it. A smaller diameter causes more of these coils in your line, which makes the line very difficult to manage.
If you are having a hard time controlling the coils in your casted line, you probably need a bigger spool.
How thick your line should be, and thus the diameter of your spool, depends on what you are fishing.
This part is easy to remember: if you are trying to catch big, thick fish, get a thick spool for your thick line.
But never catcall the thick fish, they hate that.
Thick Fish didn’t work a ten-hour shift just to put up with your shit on the walk home.
Common spool diameters are 100, 150, 200, and 250-yard reels–which refers to the length of the line that will fit on the spool based on the diameter of that spool.
You’ll often see these numbers listed with a weight test, which is called a monofilament line capacity. For instance, 250/12 means that you can fit 250 yards of 12-pound tested line.
If your baitcaster doesn’t list the monofilament line capacity, you can use this resource to track it down.
This is where your selection becomes more about quality than how you’ll be using the pole.
It’s easy to get these mixed up.
Unlike the perfect bloody mary, which still eludes this writer.
The tension and braking systems aren’t going to function that different from baitcaster to baitcaster, meaning you don’t need to buy a specifically tense set-up for any particular situation, for instance.
They will, however, be of different qualities and craftsmanship that will make a big difference on the whole. Some braking systems are also easier to adjust.
There may be a few designs and constructions that work a bit better in some situations–I’ll note these–but, in general, the best systems are going to be the best across the board.
Each manufacturer or brand might have a different design, so I won’t go over each of these individually. You’ll want to see the reviews below to really understand the breaking and tension systems in each baitcaster.
For now, know this…
The Last Jedi was an outstanding movie, and anyone who tells you different is a hack.
Know that it’s easy to lose sight of the difference between braking and tension systems.
The easiest way to remember is that braking is at the beginning of your cast and tension is at the end of your cast.
If you hold your pole out and let the bait fall, the speed that it falls is determined by the braking systems. Once it hits the water, any extra line that comes out would be due to the tension system settings.
Tension is intended to cause the line to stop when the bait hits the water (or to allow just enough line to continue coming in some situations).
Braking applies a continuous pressure to the reel to stop spinning. Some baitcasters apply this pressure through the entire cast until it hits the water, while others apply the pressure only to the very beginning of the cast.
This allows you to adjust your casting distance and how manageable your line is. Too low a setting will allow the line to spin out of control and too high a setting will reduce the range and precision of your cast, so you’ll want to find a good middle ground.
If you see any slack in your line when you cast, you definitely need to raise your braking setting.
As you are starting out, you’ll want your braking and tension set to levels that allows the line to fall through the air but not sink into the water.
This is a good rule-of-thumb for testing your baitcaster and also a great place to start as you hone the settings into your personal preferences (see the Important Information section for more info).
There are two categories of braking systems which can be very different functionally.
Conventional Centrifugal brakes work mechanically. As the bait is cast, the reel spins. As the wheel spins a central ring of brakes expands outward from centrifugal force–just like spinning a grocery bag with an apple in it in science class.
Or if you were a different type of kid, just like spinning your friend on the merry-go-round until he flew off. Only instead of a concussion, the result is a more controlled cast.
When the brake extends and rubs the reel from the inside, the friction slows down the reel just like brakes on a car. This causes the reel to slow down, letting off less line.
Centrifugal brakes also have the classic feel of a harder brake at the beginning of a cast. When you cast with centrifugal brakes you’ll notice an initial heavy braking period before the cast flies mostly unrestrained (until tension kicks in). This occurs because the reel is spinning fastest at the beginning of the cast.
Conventional centrifugal brakes work great, but they require you to remove the outside panel in order to adjust the settings.
Magnetic brakes can be adjusted with a knob on the side of the reel, just like the tension system. You don’t need to take off an entire panel just to adjust one setting.This works by controlling the magnets distance to the reel. As the dial spins higher, it moves the magnet closer to the reel, causing it to have a stronger attraction. As the reel passes this attraction with each rotation, it slows.
There’s a big difference in feel here, from a conventional braking system. This magnetic system applies the same braking pressure to the entire cast, not just for the initial high-speed rotations.
You’ll need to know and understand drag pressure before you purchase a baitcaster.
Drag pressure refers to the amount of pulling weight that a baitcaster can handle. This includes the weight of the fish as well as that fishes resistance in water.
How’s it work?
There are two drag plates in the reel that regulate drag pressure–you can adjust the drag pressure on most reels by reducing or increasing the friction of these plates.
This friction is set using a knob or dial that will adjust how hard the plates push against each other. The friction of these plates will then allow only a certain amount of pressure to be pulled on the line before it is stronger than the pressure of the two plates pushing against each other.
Any pressure over that will cause the reel to ‘slip.’ That’s when you hear that specific little whiny grinding noise coming from your reel–you probably recognize the sound. This happens so that the reel can give slack in the line rather than malfunction or break.
Here’s what that means, practically.
A 30-pound drag weight means that you could tie a 30-pound weight to the end of your line and reel it through the air without slipping.
However, you have to also remember that fish are in water, which produces more drag than air. But, water is also more buoyant than air which will cause the weight of the fish to affect the drag pressureless.
And you also need to take into account the fact that the fish will be pulling back against you.
So, clearly, you can’t take a fish’s weight as a directly transferable to drag pressure.
How do you know what drag pressure to chose, then?
You’ll want to set your drag based off of your line’s capacity. In general, you’ll want your casters drag set to about ⅓ to ½ the strength of your line.
For more information on selecting a line, see the Other Things You Should Know section of this article.
This product was engineered as a competitor to our number two pick, and it does an outstanding job for a very fair price.
Let’s take a look.
One thing we love about this product is that it can be found with many different specifications. In this way, you might consider this baitcaster more of a series of casters that all look identical.
In fact, this baitcaster comes in nine different model, each with a selection of two different reel handles.
Each of these models has different specifications. In general, they all have 25 or 30-pound weight testing--perfect if you are into fishing for larger species. If that’s you, you might also want to try this outstanding braided line, which functions very well with this caster.
The spool is quite large so you should be okay with just about any line. With a 14-pound line, this baitcaster can hold 230 to 290 yards of line depending on which model you chose.
You can find this caster in models with 6.4:1, 6.3:1, and 7.1:1 gear ratios.
The tension and braking systems are very well made and function at a high level.
We also love the materials.
Marketing snafus aside--we love the SS in the Okuma Komodo SS. It stands for stainless steel, as in this baitcasters gears and shafts are made from durable stainless steel.
This adds an amazing layer of durability to the construction of this baitcaster. Since the metal in these pieces is often exposed to moisture, they can sometimes corrode pretty bad.
These materials also allow you to really push the limits on that 30-pound drag testing since you know these parts are going to hold up well.
All these aspects come together to make this baitcaster an especially great option if you’re looking to reel in some higher-weight fish.
Keep in mind that this is not one of Okuma’s lifetime warranty backed products. The warranty on this product is three years long and covers manufacturer defects.
High-quality braking and tension systems
Very smooth drag system
Can handle thick lines
The materials used in this baitcaster are unparalleled--from the stainless steel gear construction to the titanium-coated line guide. This is a highly durable product.
It also functions flawlessly.
There's a lot of tech keeping the product at peak performance.
The power stack carbon matrix drag system proved to be wildly smooth in tests without sacrificing that crucial range of power.
The braking system also allows for a huge range of variability via the casters InfiniMax technology. This system used a two-part build that incorporates both magnetic and centrifugal brakes.
Lastly, the X-Craftic alloy frame and Duragear heavy duty gear design allow this baitcaster to have outstanding durability while maintaining a lightweight.
You can increase that durability with a product such as this one, used during transportation and storage.
I know, I know. You want to hear about the gear ratios.
This baitcaster, which you should consider more of a baitcaster series, comes in eight models. These models are split between 4.9:1 and 6.2:1 gear ratios.
We liked this relatively wide difference in ratio options since it allows different models to function with very different baits without changing the rest of the feel too much from model to model. For this reason, this is a great product to buy two of, since you won’t need to get familiar with multiple baitcaster styles.
Some of these models can handle 210 yards of 14 pound tested line, and some can take up to 250.
All models have a 25-pound drag pressure. We would like to have seen a 30-pound option.
This product has a one-year limited warranty on material and craftsmanship.
High level of customization
No on/off clicker
Lower drag pressure limit than competitors
This is another awesome option of the same class as our first two picks. We do have just a couple reservations, however.
Here’s the low-down.
This baitcaster comes in a single model. This model has a 6.8:1 gear ratio and a 12/120 monofilament line capacity. We would have liked for to see a bit more capacity on this spool. However, since this cast has a 14-pound drag pressure, this capacity be sufficient for the line you’ll be using.
Just make sure you don’t half spool this reel, as you’ll be left with a short casting range after any line breakages at all.
What the spool lacks in capacity, it more than makes up for in speed. This was one of our favorite bass fishing reels, for this reason. It would pair well with this rod.
This baitcaster uses brass gears. We’d have preferred to see these in stainless steel for increased durability and corrosion resistance.
However, the one piece magnesium frame does regain some ground in the durability department.
Three extras stand out as awesome additions to this product. The retractable hook holder keeps your hook out of the way during transportation.
The line dial reminds you of what weight line you spooled. This is a great feature for anyone who uses many different baitcasters with different lines.
Lastly, the external lube port is a great way to keep your baitcaster well-maintained and spinning fast.
You can find information about this product’s one-year limited warranty in the manual.
Great for beginners and experts
Versatile gear ratio
Lower spool capacity
Pflueger is known more for its spinning reels than its baitcasters.
This reel comes in two different models. These have 6.4:1 and 7.1:1 gear ratios. It can hold 145 yards of 12-pound tested line.
We really liked the anti-reverse bearing in this product. The types of bearing are there to allow drag to kick in right away when a fish bites. Without this bearing, the reel handle would be able to spin away allowing the fish to run.
Most reels these days have this bearing, but this particular product had the most instantaneous activation.
Overall this is a very responsive and easy to cast. Many users have reported it as a good option for beginners for these reasons.
One thing we weren’t crazy about:
This product’s durability could be better. The feel of this baitcaster is a little flimsy.
There have been multiple reports of breakages.
This product is covered by warranty for one year. This warranty is void if the reel is used commercially.
Good for beginners
Easy to adjust brakes
Flimsy feeling reel
This 6.5:1 gear ratio baitcaster has a lot going for it, especially with regard to durability.
We also found this to be a very smooth reeling baitcaster, which is likely due to the thirteen bearing system that Ardent managed to stuff in there.
It’s a solid choice.
The construction on this baitcaster is awesome. The aluminum components fit together very snuggly and hold up to abuse extremely well.
The construction is relatively simple, so you don’t have any over-engineered parts to worry about breaking, either.
For this reason, this is a great every-day option if you are looking for something that will hold up to regular use without too much maintenance.
Additionally, the 6.5:1 gear ratio allows you to make use of just about any type of bait. It might not function as well as more specialized high and low gear ratios with those baits, but you'll have a ton of versatility.
We love this baitcaster for an easy ‘throw in the flatbed’ option. You’ll know that you can make the catch in just about any situation with a baitcaster like this.
This baitcaster is backed by a three-year limited warranty on materials and manufacturing.
Good warranty period
Less smooth than reels 1 through 4
Doesn’t function as well as specialized models
If you are looking to add a high gear ratio baitcaster--or just know what you are going to be fishing--this baitcaster is going to beat out just about any other.
It's advertised as the fastest reel on the market.
But remember that you'll be a bit cornered into using baits that work well with a high gear ratio.
This may also be a good option if you are very, very experienced--but if that’s you, you probably already knew that. A lot of pros will use casters in the 7.1 to 9.1 range because if you are a highly trained fisherman, It's easier to slow down a fast retrieve than It's to speed up a slow one.
If you didn’t come here specifically looking for a caster with an extremely high ratio, you may want to pick a reel with a lower ratio.
We would have preferred to see this product’s brass gears made of stainless steel.
This caster would function very well with a braided line like this one.
KastKing has a one year warranty on reels.
Super fast 9.3:1 gear ratio
Gear ratio will be too high for some
Less traditional feel
You can get a lot for a relatively small price tag with this high-value product.
This is another affordable caster that makes use of the dual brake system, which Bestazy was a huge fan of.
It's also a featherweight at 5.7 ounces, which should give you a lot of casting energy on long fishing days. To get that total casting weight even further down, you may want to pair this reel with something like this lightweight rod.
Piscifun accomplishes this weight by using carbon material in the frame and other components. This is great for weight, but also for durability with regard to corrosion.
This lightweight makes the Phantom a great option for boat fishing, or especially kayak fishing. If that is something you are interested in consider some of these awesome inflatable kayaks!
There are two sides to carbon construction, however.
Carbon won’t hold up quite as well as metals to bumps and bangs.
But, as long as you treat this baitcaster well, it should last.
It has a relatively high 7.0:1 gear ratio.
The longer reel handle was a nice addition as it's a simple way to give you a little more torque and power to reel in heavier, stronger fish.
The 17-pound max drag pressure should also help out with more powerful fish.
This product has a one-year warranty for manufacturer defects and materials.
High gear ratio
Not very impact resistant
Lower number of bearings
This is a very good reel, but there are a few things you should know before purchasing.
First off, there have been several reports of poor durability. Some of these models have even malfunctioned with-in the first few uses.
Secondly, we noticed in our reviews that this product has a lot of backlash--which is exactly what you don’t want in a reel. This will make it function less well with regard to casting accuracy and feel.
This rod may do a bit of work to mitigate that backlash.
What we did like:
In our reviews, we found that this product did have a very smooth drag.
We liked the lightweight graphite frame which should provide some shock absorption and impact resistance. And being lightweight, the graphite frame may allow you to keep your personal casting accuracy a little longer into the day.
This caster has a pretty high 7.5:1 gear ratio. It has a 12/110 monofilament line capacity.
Overall we felt that this caster, although good, was also a bit overpriced.
You can read about this product’s one-year warranty, which covers manufacturer defects, in the manual here.
High gear ratio will be right for some
This product’s performance really took us by surprise. It definitely exceeded our expectations. This might not be the flashiest fishing reel, but it certainly gets the job done in a reliable manner.
Let’s get a little closer.
When we saw this baitcaster only had four bearing, we certainly had our reservations. However, after some testing, this proved to be our favorite bass fishing reel.
It accomplishes this by making very good use of the quality bearing that it does have. This simplicity also adds an awesome layer of impact resistance since there are less moving parts to throw out of balance.
We also found that this caster was able to manage line very well with its 20/150 line capacity. We didn’t have a hard time getting used to casting this product without backlash.
But you may have limited variability.
This caster only has an 11-pound drag pressure limit. This means that you'll really be confined to bass fishing and other similar medium sized fish. This is not a caster you’d take out onto the ocean.
We were not able to track down warranty information for Shimano reels.
There are just a few other things that you’ll want to keep in mind with regard to your choice of baitcaster.
As you set your tension and braking system, keep in mind that you should start from a relatively middle of the road point. This will allow you to get used to casting your new baitcaster without backlash.
To find this middle of the road point, set your systems so that your bait will fall through the air but not through water. Your line should also not release any more slack once the bait rests in the water.
This video guide for picking a baitcaster has a really great demonstration on getting a feel for your braking and tension systems at about the 3:40 mark.
Once you have done this, get a few casts under your belt with these settings. Once you feel comfortable, you can start to adjust your systems to better fit your situation or style.
You’ll want to do several things to keep your baitcaster functioning properly for a long time.
It’s a good idea to invest in a reel cover for transportation. These will protect your reels and all those components inside it from any impacts that may occur.
You’ll want to oil your reel periodically, as well. If you notice any stiffness at all, you have already waited too long. Every six months or so take your reel component off and give your reel a good cleaning and oiling. You can get some reel oil here.
Let’s review some of the most important information from this article before finishing up.
Gear ratio refers to the number of rotations in the spool for every rotation of the reel handle. A higher ratio causes the caster to take up line faster.
Spool diameter tells you the size of the spool. A larger diameter will make the line more manageable and also cause the reel to take up line faster.
Drag pressure is the amount of pressure that a reel can hold in terms of weight and pulling strength of the fish. Anything over this weight will cause the line to slip.
Our top pick is the Okuma Komodo SS Large Capacity Low Profile Baitcaster. It's extremely well built with outstanding materials. The stainless steel gears will be working for years. You can find this caster in many different specifications, so almost anyone could find a model that fits their style. It has a huge monofilament line capacity. Needless to say, the tension and braking systems are outstanding and the drag is incredibly smooth.
Overall this is very responsive and easy to cast. Many users have reported it as a good option for beginners for these reasons.
And finally... If you feel like there's some piece of crucial information that was left out of this article--or just know of a great baitcaster--don’t hesitate to leave a comment below!
You’ll want to be very careful about where you are swinging your hooks, obviously.
But more importantly, you need to be knowledgeable about health concerns if you plan on eating your catches. There are several really great resources out there for this.
This guide tells you which fish are safe to eat and which are not.
This guide will give you information about pollution level and toxicity in certain areas that would make fish inedible. It's a collection of several government resources.
There are many types of fish that are being overfished due to their tastiness. Ahi (yellow and big-eye tuna) populations are plummeting in many areas, for instance.
However, these huge losses are almost always due to commercial net fishing.
Pole fishing doesn’t have a major impact on Ahi and most other species. In fact, if you have a taste for these types of fish, one of the best ways you can help out is by catching them yourself rather than contributing to the commercial fishing problem. Pole fishing is almost always sustainable.
You can find out for sure which fish are sustainable to catch and which aren’t here. Seafoodwatch also has some great resources.
You’ll also want to throw back any juveniles that you catch. It's important to fish populations that you allow individual fish to grow, develop and--crucially--reproduce.
You can find information on identifying juveniles here.