Choosing the Right Bass Fishing Reel

Finding the best fishing reel for bass fishing is tough because it is different depending on your needs. In this post I will go over everything you need to know about reels to find the best one for you. Let’s start with the different types of reels used when bass fishing. The two popular types of reels used when bass fishing are Spinning, and Baitcasting.

Types of Bass Fishing Reels

Spinning Reels

Spinning reels are open faced and have a rotating bail that guides line around fixed spool. Spinning reels are ideal for lighter lures and finesse fishing techniques.  The main issue with spinning reels is fishing line can develop line twists due to being twisted around a fixed spool. This can be eliminated by using braided line which has no memory.

Spinning reels are unique in that they do not have a button to release line. To cast a spinning reel you pinch the line with your index finger against the rod and flip the bail open with your opposite hand. With the line pinched start your casting motion. On the forward motion release the line in your finger to cast your lure.


Baitcasting Reels

Baitcasting reels feature a spinning spool that takes in and lets line out. This feature of the baitcaster allows it to handle heavier lures. The main issue with baitcasting reels is backlash. Backlash is caused from the spool continuing to spin after line stops being let out. Luckily backlashes can be prevented with practice.

Baitcasters have a breaking system which is located opposite side of the handle and a tension knot located next to the drag. These two features allow you to adjust the tension of the spool depending on the lure you are using. Properly adjusting these setting will help prevent backlashes.


Best Lures to Use for Each Reel

  • Spinning reels are best for lures under 3/8 oz and finesse style baits like ned rigs, drop shots, and in-line spinners.
  • Baitcasting reels are best for lures 1/2 oz and heavier.


Gear Ratio Explained

A reel’s gear ratio represents the number of times the spool turns per handle turn. For example a reel with a gear ratio of 5.1:1 will turn its spool 5.1 times for every handle turn. There are three categories of gear ratios.

  1. Low gear reels – Lower gear ratio reels are ideal for large baits such as swimbaits and deep diving crankbaits. These large baits cause a lot of drag that can tire you out quickly. Lower gear reels offer more toque in exchange for less distance per turn.
  2. Medium gear reels – Medium gear reels are your do everything reels. If I could only have one reel it would be a medium gear ratio. You can speed up or slow down depending on the needs or the lure you are fishing
  3. High gear reels – Higher gear ratio reels are primarily for lures you work with your rod like jigs or soft plastics. High speed reels like a 7.1:1 let you quickly take in slack line that you produce when working the bait with your rod. High speed reels can also help quickly get bass away from cover.

Best Gear Ratio For Bass Fishing

Fishing TechniqueBest Gear Ratio
Jerkbaits7.0:1 - 8.1:1
Jigss7.0:1 - 8.1:1
Lipless Crankbaits7.0:1 - 8.1:1
Soft Plastics7.0:1 - 8.1:1
Topwaters7.0:1 - 8.1:1
Medium Depth Crankbaits6.1:1 - 6.4:1
Spinnerbaits6.1:1 - 6.4:1
Squarebills6.1:1 - 6.4:1
Umbrella Rigs6.1:1 - 6.4:1
Deep Crankbaits5.1:1 - 5.4:1
Large Swimbaits5.1:1 - 5.4:1

How to Properly Set Your Drag Tension

Being able to adjust drag is vital in bass fishing. Drag allows your reel to release line if tension builds too much. This helps absorb shock and prevents the line from breaking. Both spinning and baitcasting reels allow you to set drag. Where you adjust the drag on each reel is slightly different however.

Adjusting Drag on Spinning Reels

To adjust the drag on a spinning reel turn the circle knob located on the front of the spool. Turn the drag adjuster to the right to tighten and left to loosen.

Adjusting Drag on a Baitcaster

To adjust the drag on a baitcaster turn the star wheel next to the handle. Turn the wheel to the right to tighten the drag and left to loosen it.

How Much Drag Do You Need?

When setting the drag of a reel you want to aim for 30% of your line strength. So if you are using 10lb line then setting your drag to around 3lb is a good start. You want your drag to be strong enough to properly set the hook but not enough to risk break your line. In open water it is better to have your drag too loose than too tight. Having your drag on the looser side will take longer to fight the fish in but will lower your chance of breaking the line. When fishing near heavy cover it is a good idea to up your drag. Upping the drag will allow you to bring in the fish faster to avoid the bass from getting tangled up.

Return to beginner bass fishing guide.