One of the most intimidating purchases a newcomer can make is a new baitcast reel because there are so many choices yet they look similar but can be very different.
There are left- and right-handed models, various gear ratios, different materials and prices that range from $50 to $300 or more. The average angler can be confused easily trying to understand what separates reels that look and feel similar.
Gear ratios are always a consideration, but remember that reel speed is only partially determined by gear ratio. Other key factors are width and depth of the spool and how much line you put on it.
Don’t assume that gearing solely controls how fast you move line when reeling; it’s equally important to pay attention to the number of inches of line a reel takes up in one rotation of the handle. And remember, that number diminishes with narrower spools.
Quantum’s website helps you determine that, providing inches per turn (IPT) in its charting of each reel listed.
Maximizing your IPT is critical when making long casts with deep running crankbaits, which is why wanted a wider spool on my Quantum Tour KVD cranking reel. The longer cast helps achieve maximum lure depth and the wider, deeper spool maintains line capacity that doesn’t substantially diminish the IPT.
It has a 5.3:1 gear ratio which allows me to crank big plugs effortlessly and helps me feel the lure movements better. And, because of the wider spool, it has the same IPT as most other 6.3:1 reels due to spool size. The larger gears also deliver better feel of the lure and less strain for pulling big baits.
I do utilize smaller spool reels for other techniques. The upside of narrower spools is they are easier to cast, produce fewer line issues, are generally lighter and fit in your hand better. However, long casts with large diameter line on narrow spools can literally remove line down to the spool and leave a very small IPT. However, for short casting applications to targets, they are great.
I like higher speed reels (7.3:1 or higher) when I’m working the bait with the rod, such as with soft plastics, jigs, topwaters or jerkbaits. The higher speed allows me to pick up slack faster and make more casts.
I’ll opt for 6.6:1 gearing for spinnerbaits, shallow running crankbaits and bladed jigs that are fished somewhat faster around short-distance targets.
One of the key differences between inexpensive and premium reels is the quality of gears, bearings and the frame material. When you’re putting a lot of torque on a reel, you want all the moving parts as tight as possible to ensure smoothness and durability.
Premium reels have harder gears, tighter tolerances, premium bearings on the key contact points and a stable frame to hold it all together. Aluminum or magnesium framed reels do a better job with that than composite frames.
Also, most baitcasters have a spool tension knob on one side and a braking system on the other. The tension knob allows you to adjust for the weight of the lure while the adjustable brakes provide cast control so you can compensate for gravity and wind drag near the end of the cast.
Magnetic braking systems are the simplest and least expensive type, but also the least efficient. They are great for learning with a baitcaster, but don’t provide the minute adjustments and casting freedom as a centrifugal braking system.
That’s why I prefer the infinitely adjustable centrifugal system. The difference between a 10 mph wind at my back and one at my face can be huge and require specific adjustments.
Make no mistake about it, I get backlashes because I keep pushing the reel to get maximum performance and constantly make slight changes to achieve the perfect balance. That’s easier to do with centrifugal braking system.
So, when shopping reels, think about how you will use them and get features that make you most efficient with those techniques. Buy the best you can afford to ensure years of satisfaction.
And remember, it’s all about the attitude!