A baitcasting reel tends to intimidate beginner anglers. This is mainly because the difference between reels isn’t always clearly outlined, and the extra parts available per reel as one moves into more complex fishing require more time to practice.
Still, it should be said, the best baitcasting reels can be a close friend to an angler. Even if you are new to baitcasting reels, once you’ve learned the basics, there really isn’t much to it. This list should give you a clear idea of your options for baitcasting reels out there this year and help you, through a logical understanding of how a baitcasting reel works, decide what reel best matches your skill level and objective. Check our recommended fish finder for your kayak.
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What Makes the Best Baitcasting Reels?
This question is up for debate among anglers. You might find consensus on several forums, the agreement between experts at your local shop, but if you’re interested in buying the best baitcasting reels, it can be useful to understand each part of the reel, and how they operate when put together.
If you approach buying a reel from the most basic understanding of the product up to the complex arrangements of parts and skill, you’re likely to not regret your purchase and save a few bucks along the way. So, what are the parts of a baitcasting reel?
The drag is the part of a baitcasting reel that regulates tension placed on the line while reeling in fish. A proper drag should be able to move smoothly between heavy and lightweight regulation. This ability allows an angler to adjust his line to the size or aggression of fish he’s dealing with. A lighter fish might need less tension and freedom to roam, a heavier fish will require more tension, to compensate for its size. This is an essential part of a baitcasting reel.
The braking system determines how much line you cast. More brakes mean less casting distance and less of a total arc – effectively this gives more control to the caster, yet impedes the size of casting arcs. Less brakes would have the opposite effect, improving casting distance, but losing some of the control heavier brakes can offer. A proper braking system is key to one of the few actions essential to baitcast fishing – casting.
Spool Tension Knob
The spool tension knob is like a smaller braking system kept inside the main braking system. You can think of this part as the gears on a bicycle. Where the braking system slows down the overall movement of the whole bike, a spool tension knob adjusts the cadence of the pedaling. Another way to describe it, more directly perhaps, is that a spool tension knob determines spool speed. A braking system keeps you from casting too much line, a tension knob controls how fast that line comes out. This is one of the more challenging parts of a baitcasting reel for beginners to pick up, but boosts performance quite a lot.
Top 10 Best Baitcasting Reels Review
1. Piscifun Torrent – Best Bang For Your Buck
We already have a ‘cheapest reel’ on this list but the Piscifun is a different category of cheap reel. You can look at the difference between both reels as being generally cheap yet still worthy, and another that provides high value for low cost. The Piscifun is exactly the latter. The weight and build both point to high quality and still the cost remains low. The line retrieval is excellent for a reel so inexpensive and in general compared to its peers.
With an aluminum/graphite body, carbon fiber drag, and a great gear ratio, this reel is a surefire bang for your buck. Still, when weighing up the benefits to a reel like this it’s important to establish the ground rules for a ‘bang for your buck’ reel. That all of these qualities are high value to begin with, but for a reel so affordable, you feel like you’re practically stealing.
On top of these points you have a magnetic/centrifugal braking system which is on par with some of the more expensive and remarkable baitcasting reels out there this year. You will find with the Piscifun that each mark you hold for it will likely not be contradicted by your experience. Reviews are often quite good and most will agree that this is an unbeatable reel for someone working on a budget.
- Very affordable
- Great line retrieval
- Dual braking system
- Loses durability over time
2. Okuma Citrix 300 – Best Beginner Baitcasting Reel
Say you’re a beginner or you’re a veteran who has a nice nephew whose getting into baitcasting. This is your bet on a smile and a good time. Okuma is a rising competitor in the market and proves itself this time with small details and surprises. This is a reel worth checking out if you’re new to the game with this reel type and here’s why:
This is such a comfortable reel to use. The frame is graphite/aluminum which is more than decent and isn’t going to fall apart on you. To choose a beginning reel durability is definitely one of the most important factors, but above all else, you want your first experience with baitcasting to be fun and comfortable. This means that the soft-touch rubber handles that feel great to use here are a high point for the Citrix.
This reel uses another magnetic braking system but stays cheap. Usually the price margin between reels can be spotted by additions like this but not here. This Okuma is definitely affordable as well as built effectively.
The multi-disc carbon drag system is a great one and will make your beginners experience less of a hassle. And isn’t that the point when you’re first getting into it? Find a tool that is true to you.
- Very comfortable on the hands
- Great drag system
- Can feel a bit heavy
3. Okuma Komodo SS – Best Large Water Baitcasting Reel
What makes a great large water baitcasting reel? Okuma has gone ahead and given us a pretty great answer with the Komodo SS. But let’s step ahead a bit and give an answer too: what passes is a reel that can take a beating. A reel that can hold its line down when being pulled out by the biggest fish. Though, that’s just a passing reel.
What about a great baitcasting reel? In this case the answer is a reel that is manufactured purposefully. The frame is aluminum and the internal mechanisms are stainless steel. The stainless steel does explain some of the weight, which stands at over a pound for most models.
The braking system is magnetic and gives some great control to the line. This is a system that was designed for braided line and big catches and even bigger water, around 300 yards much. The drag is 25-30 pounds – bound to stand strong against some of the big waters mightier foes. Okuma has proven recently that their products are nothing to scoff at and this one is no different, ensuring that this reel will take you to open waters and keep you satisfied.
- Strong drag
- Great braking
- Good build
- Quite heavy
4. Shimano Metanium MGL150 – Best Freshwater Baitcasting Reel
Here’s another Shimano added to the list. This one has the same aluminum frame as the Curado and a new introduced spool system which claims higher casting distance. It doesn’t take much digging to figure out how good Shimano has made it for anglers in recent years, and this year is no different. The Metanium shows a lot of promise as a great freshwater baitcasting reel.
The braking system uses a magnetic system that is tight and efficient. Any time you have a system that depends on friction specifically there’s warrant for replacement, but the Metanium is going to last you. On top of this is the Shimano’s multiple gear settings. So here’s the use in that: the MGL150 is a great freshwater reel because it gives the strength and versatility to deal with the small-to-large range of fish you’re going to find in the varying freshwater areas of the US. Also, this gives the angler the ability to choose how he fishes, how it feels to fish, and what he can catch.
- Great line capacity
- Strong build
- Weaker drag
- A bit heavy
5. Daiwa Datula – The Most Consistent Baitcasting Reel
Why use the word consistent to describe the Datula? Why not well-rounded? Maybe it’s the reels personality, but in all reality, the Datula comes down to facts: this reel is well-built, affordable, and friendly overall.
The body and side plate are aluminum which as you’ll discover through the course of this list is a great material that lasts and stays light. The Datulas Air Rotor system which works in tandem with the spools to ensure more efficient line and casting. The Air Rotor is defined by its drilled-hole design which decreases wind resistance.
The Datulas line guiding system is a great addition as it helps guide line retrieval and casting at a nice rate and to a high efficiency. Just another wonderful aspect of the Daiwa Datula. The gear ratio is more than decent and is assembled with stainless-steel ball bearings.
What more could be said about the Datula? This is the most consistent reel on our list, meaning that each aspect of the reel is reliable to its purpose and to you.
- Great additions like Air Rotor System
- Great price for value
- Gear ratio is good but could be better
6. Shimano Calcutta B – Best Durable Saltwater Reel
Shimano is a brand that deserves to be on lists like this. This reel, much like many Shimano products, pays attention to detail. Above that, it wants you to have a reel that lasts. So the main points for the Calcutta are durability and design. Let’s start with that word, design, the Calcutta B is a beautiful reel. Now sometimes that might not look like much – definitely not on paper – but in person, this reel is gorgeous.
The frame is cold forged aluminum. This assures that the frame can take damage, and of course like anything will kick the can after a while, this Shimano should last you many seasons without losing its balance or control.
The braking system relies mainly on centrifugal force which in this case means that the braking system relies on physics rather than just the material. This could be boiled down even more simply to: durability.
So in short, the Calcutta B is another great Shimano product. But here’s the catch: this one is saltwater compatible, not just so, but the type of saltwater baitcaster that rocks your world. Choose this if you want the benefits of a baitcasting reel with you on the saltwater.
- Saltwater compatible
- Fantastic braking system
7. KastKing Royale Legend – Best Well Rounded Reel
The KastKing is both price effective and reliable. Each time that you pass through a selection of Baitcasting Reels it might be aggravating to see the big contenders in their price range and the simple reels in theirs. Luckily for you, KastKing is both good competition and affordable.
The gear ratio is seriously something. The reel affords you speed – thanks to the gear ratio – something that allows you more quicker casts and a higher number too. The line capacity is also another point for the Royale, as it can reach 165 yards – a very decent number indeed.
The Legend is our best well-rounded pick because of its affordability and above average marks in just about every category. The line and the casting are more than good, frame is sufficient, and the lightness is another perk. A lasting point for this reel has to be its saltwater compatibility. So you’re not stuck to using this reel in just freshwater settings.
- Speedy gear ratio
- Great line capacity
- Vulnerable to wear
8. Shimano Curado 200I – The Long Lasting Reel
If you’re an angler who plans on fishing for a while or let’s say you’re a veteran, and you’ve seen the worst of it, the simple fact is that your reel needs to last. Moreover, your reel needs to stand the worst conditions that can be thrown at it. If you’re someone who agrees with this, you’re not alone, Shimano has heard your call and made a nice long lasting reel to be an anglers friend.
The frame is made of Japanese Steel. Why is that a big deal? For one, the Japanese have already come closer to mastering strong engineered products, but their steel, in this case Shimano’s, is as reliable of material for a reel you can come by.
But what’s interesting about the Curado is its lightness. The steel might mislead you, that this is a heavy, bulky reel best used as the ‘big guns’. But in all actuality this reel is ideal for lightweight fishing. The Curado comes with a Shimano Stable Spool Design which is a fancy branded way of describing a lightweight powerful aluminum spool.
- Great build
- Fantastic Spool
9. Abu Garcia Black Max – Cheapest Baitcasting Reel
It can often be misleading when seeing a baitcaster this cheap. There are plenty of brands out there that will look great just because of the price tag. The Black Max happens to be an inexpensive reel that actually stands by its name.
The price is one thing but the frame is another. The Max is a one-piece graphite frame and a nice slick aluminum spool. So, like the previous reel, the Black Max is light and efficient, while keeping you unworried about its strength. This thing will last.
The last big mark for this reel is the drag system. What’s called a Power Drag System with a total drag rating of 18 pounds, is a eye-catcher. But looks are one thing, how does the drag system actually prove itself? Very, very well. This Abu Garcia doesn’t try to trick you with its low-price – this guy is a keeper.
- Great drag system
- Friendly price tag
- Good frame
- Can be an uncomfortable grip.
10. Lew’s Fishing Tournament MB – Best Light and Reliable Reel
The Tournament isn’t just a light reel with flash, the MB proves itself through time. For a reel so quick and easy in your hands, it stands by you through thick and thin, built strong to last through your season.
The body is an aluminum frame – which is an ideal material for good reel frames. This contributes to the frames lightness and fortitude. It should be said, that a proper baitcasting reel isn’t just used for the effectiveness of its components, but chosen by the value of its manufacturing. The MB proves itself.
This Lew’s uses a 2-Way braking system similar to other models, adding both Magnetic and Centrifugal parts, which if you were to boil it down simply means: the MB gives the user control over their casting. No nest-catching or over-enthusiastic arcs here, just reliable distance and feeling.
The Tournament also contains multiple models, all that contain a fantastic drag system and an extremely light and strong drive gear. All in all the MB is a great pick.
- 2-Way Brake System
- Great Drag
- Can be a bit pricey
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
What are the two main types of Baitcasting Reels?
Low-profile and Round. Low-profile have their gears on the side, and tend to be usual for specific bait types. The main difference between these two stocks involve the actual structure of the reel. A low-profile is often known for its comfortable feel.
How do I achieve more distance with my Baitcasting Reel?
There are a few quick-tips and basic knowledges that will help you out. First off, don’t overfill the spool and correct your casting motion. Make sure not to overextend your arm or keep it too straight, keep the strength in your flicking motion. This prevents future injuries and makes your cast count. Some other basics involve using plenty of line when you cast – ensuring that you’re getting distance at all.
How the heck do I avoid the dreaded ‘birds nest?’
Setting up your reel correctly using either the cast tension control and/or spool adjustment control will dramatically reduce your overruns – this really is essential to keeping the birds nest at bay. You should also do some serious research into your reel and just practice. Get to know your device.
The best Baitcasting Reels involve low-maintenance. Now, let’s expand on that idea some. If you choose a reel properly according to your fishing style and experience, your tool is going to last you longer. These are reels that cost you the right amount and spare you huge learning curves. The premise of low-maintenance goes beyond physical care but maintenance as it relates to time to learn the basics, and time to get those basics down to memory.
It’s important if you’re looking around the market to not exaggerate your skill-level. If you find other reels such as Spinners to be ideal for you, go for that. Otherwise, allow yourself the freedom to try out new types of fishing reels. A reliable Baitcasting Reel can be another versatile tool at your disposal when getting on the water. Listen to your gut, your reel, and your reason, but most of all: have as much fun as possible. Good luck!