Choice of reel is critical when selecting a baitcasting outfit.
The best baitcasting reels allow you to punch out quick and accurate casts even with light lures.
The ability the thumb the spool at the end of casts makes lobbing your lure into tight structure relatively simple. Something that is important when targeting bass and other medium sized sportfish.
But it is critical to choose a reel that is durable, easy to cast (minimises bird’s nests) and has both the right drag and retrieve settings for the fish you are targeting.
Best baitcasting reels – 2021’s top picks
Best baitcasting under $250
For us, the reel that ticks all the boxes here and is our best baitcasting reel of 2020 is the Daiwa Tatula SV TW. This is a superb reel that makes casting a pleasure and stopping even tough fish an easy task.
Best baitcasting reel under $200
But is a close run thing and the Abu Garcia Revo SX is a strong competitor and if you want a bit more stopping power this may be the better baitcasting reel for you.
Best budget baitcasting reel
And for those on a tight budget, the KastKing Spartacus gets you on the water with a decent baitcasting reel with a lot of change in your pocket.
With that said, it’s on to the body of the review to find out all about our picks for the best baitcasting reel of this year.
The 8 baitcasting reels we have reviewed here are:
- KastKing Spartacus – tremendous value
- Piscifun Phantom X – great price, choice of retrieve speeds
- Shimano Curado K – high-speed retrieve, Hagane gearing
- Abu Garcia Revo Beast X – powerful drag, light-weight design
- Daiwa Tatula SV TW – Japanese quality, light and durable
- 13 FISHING – Concept A2 – solid mid priced baitcaster
- KastKing Royale Legend II – cheapest credible baitcasting reel
- Pfleuger President XT – best value mid-priced baitcasting reel
Best baitcasting reels of 2021: comparison table
|Daiwa Tatula SV TW||Shimano Curado K||Abu Garcia Revo SX||Piscifun Phantom X||KastKing Spartacus|
|Line Capacity||14/100 (mono); 30/115 (braid)||20/150 (braid)||10/175 (mono) 20/190 (braid)||10/190 (mono)20/215 (braid)||10/125|
|Features||Air Brake system; Stress-free Vertical technology; Ultimate Tournament Carbon Drag, ultra-lightweight spool made of Super Duralumin, T-Wing levelwind system||Digital Control (DC); Hagane Body which helps to ensure that the reel is extremely rigid and durable||Carbon Matrix™ hybrid drag system; MagTrax™ brake system, X2-Cräftic™ alloy frame, Dura-clutch design||4 Disc Carbon Draglow profile frame, carbon crank handle and hollowed spool design||Carbon fibre drag, brass drive gear, CNC machined aluminum spool|
Best baitcasting reels: Full Reviews
Lightweight, smooth and a dream to cast, the Tatula wins our review here as the best baitcasting reel of 2020. The 7+1 ball bearings provide a super smooth action and the carbon drag and lightweight rigid body contribute to a strong reel that get your lure right where you want it on a consistent basis and stop the strongest of fish. Daiwa has a great reputation for quality and the Tatula is no exception. This is the reel that we want to own out of this group.
This low profile reel is a great looking piece of kit that doesn’t let you down when it comes to performance. Being a low profile model there is a slight compromise on line capacity with standard models, but it is super light and packed with features including a carbon drag and twin centrifugal and magnetic braking. It’s a smooth reel that makes casting a breeze and is a worthy competitor to the two Japanese designed reels here – the Daiwa and the Shimano.
The Curados have a cult following among their fans and it is easy to see why. The braking system is superb, helping to control overun without limiting casting distance. It’s a reel that just feels right in your hand. You can choose a range of gear ratios right up to a fast 8.2:1. It’s light, strong and durable. A fine choice and relatively good value for money.
A quality reel at a nice price. We like the strong stopping power with 18lb of drag, and the range of gear ratios available – something you don’t get with its bargain competitor, the KastKing Spartacus. The one thing that lets it down in our eyes is the lack of magnetic brake.
What you are looking for with this reel is that it does everything you want a baitcasting reel to do, and that it is durable. That’s because at the price point, you know that if it ticks these boxes you are getting tremendous value. And we have to say, on balance, it does deliver. The competing reels in this review have better components, better features and a better finish, but for the price the Spartacus absolutely delivers in terms of getting a budget-conscious user on the water with a reel that’s going to do the job. It’s also a great reel for less experienced anglers as it has both magnetic and centrifugal braking to really minimise the potential for bird’s nests. One of the best value reels around.
Another higher end reel, the Lew’s Hyper Mag SLP is designed to be both light and power. Lew’s achieves this with the use of a one piece magnesium frame with lightweight carbon side plates.
The reel even has a carbon fiber handle and the aluminium spool is drilled out to save weight.
There is no compromise on quality though and this is a real that you’ll love to cast thanks to its sophisticate centrifugal braking system
And the rugged carbon fiber drag is great for stopping fast fishing.
This is a really versatile and reliable baitcasting reel that is a dream to cast. We like the cork knobs on the handle and the upgraded Bulldog carbon drag. In an era when some manufacturers are cutting down on line capacity, the A2 has 25% more line capacity for the same size of reel. It is still a lightweight reel though with an aluminium frame and you won’t get tired fishing with this.
The KastKing Royale is even cheaper than KastKing’s Spartacus model.
The Royale Legend Series has been around since 2014 but has recently received a major upgrade including a new magentic braking system.
There are more bearings for a smoother wind when under pressure and higher gear ratios than the previous models and offers 17lb of stopping power with its drag. It is not the lightest baitcasting reel, at 7.2oz, but it is one of the cheapest credible offerings out there.
The Pfleuger is an awesome mid priced baitcaster. It is significantly cheaper than the leading Japanese models but offers similar performance.
The President’s is fit for use in fresh and salt water. With nine bearings and a magnetic braking system the President has a similar spec to its more expensive rivals. Our experience with friends who have used this reel is that it is fun to cast and very robust. For those looking for a high performing reel for a very competitive price, the President is a great choice. This is consistently rated the best value baitcasting reel in this mid-range price point.
When to use a baitcasting reel
Baitcasting reels tend to be used by more experienced fishers as they are more difficult to come to grips with than a spinning reel. That said, modern baitcasters are smooth and easy to use and the dreaded bird’s nest that results from failing to control the spool rotation is mostly easily avoided.
The single best advantage of a baitcasting reel over a spinning reel is the ability to control the cast length by thumbing the spool to correct it.
The other thing to consider is if you are casting lightweight baits and lures it’s better to stick with a spinning reel as the baitcasting reel needs a bit more weight to rotate the spool on a cast.
Baitcasting reel buyers’ guide
Look for reels with stainless steel or ceramic bearings for their corrosion resistance. In general, the more bearings the better, but the quality of the bearings used is just as important in terms of getting a reel that will stand the test of time.
Gear ratio/retrieve speed
Unlike with spinning reels, many baitcasting reel models come with a choice of gear ratios. If the type of fish you target like a fast retrieve, go with a more highly geared reel. Conversely if you target fish that need a lot of grunt to haul them out, you may want to choose a slower retrieve.
The gear ratio lets you know how many times the spool turns in one revolution of the handle. The higher the gear ratio the more turns of the reels and the more line that is retrieved per turn of the handle. Typical baitcasting reel gear ratios are: 5.3:1, 6.4:1, and 7.1:1.
Most people go with a 6.4:1 ratio as a versatile choice. This ratio allows you to do both the slower retrieves involved in big spinnerbaits and swimbaits as well as techniques where a faster retrieve is needed such as fishing plastics and jigs and topwater lures.
You can choose the higher or lower ration depending on which type of fishing you do more off.
Remember, too, that a lower gear ratio provides more power to haul in a heavy fish, but it is not as good at ripping a fish out from cover before it can turn around and bury you in heavy timber.
Materials used and weight
The use of aircraft grade aluminium and other metals means most baitcasting reels are only marginally heavier than their spinning reel equivalents. Higher end models use carbon fibre materials that are highly rigid yet super light allowing the manufacturer to shave precious ounces off the weight.
Baitcasting reels employ a braking system to minimise the overrun that causes birds nests. The tension knob allows you set the tension at the beginning of your cast and the brake system controls the line at the end of your cast. Having a decent braking system and tension control is important for making decent casts, especially when it is windy, while avoiding backlashes. Most higher end models have adjustable magnetic brakes that make casting relatively simple.
No buyers’ guide is complete without a look at price. Baitcasters range in price from about $50 under to $300 and above. Baitcasting reels are inherently more costly than comparable spinning reels. We recommend getting the best baitcaster you can afford.
We’ve included a couple of models around the $50 mark for those chasing budget baitcasting reels.
And at the other end of the spectrum, we’ve include some high end reels at around the $150 to $200+ mark from leading manufacturers Shimano, Daiwa and Abu Garcia.
It is true that you get what you pay for – the higher priced reels generally have better components. That might mean more carbon fiber, more titanium and ceramic bearings. They also have more advanced coatings on the gear and better waterproofing of the bearings.
But if you are just starting out in fishing, or you want a reel that you want to take on a kayak – where losing an outfit overboard is always a possibility – then the cheaper Piscifun and KastKing models here are fine.
Advantages of baitcasting reels
- More casting control – for us, one of the key reasons for using a baitcaster over a spinning reel is the extra casting control that a baitcaster provides. Having the ability to thumb the spool enables you to brake an overshot cast and drop the lure short of its original trajectory. You can ability a slight brake for a cast that’s marginally overshot or stop the line dead if you need to. This makes baitcasters much more verstaile and effective for punching lures into tight spots around boat docks, trees and other pockets of water near heavy structue.
- More Power– Baitcasters can apply more power to a fish when you are winding than a spinning reel because of the way they are constructed. The spool rotates in-line with the handle and gears, so the reel can apply more power and torque without flexing.
- Less Line Twist – For the same reason, baitcasters are much better for avoiding line twist. Unlike a spinning reel, where the line can get twisted as it is wound onto the spool by the bail arm, with a bait casting the line winds straight on meaning no twist..
- Longer Casts – Unlike with ultralight lures – when a spinning reel is a better choice for long casts due to the inertia of the baitcaster spool – for heavier lures a baitcasting reel will cast further, particularly with heavy line. The line comes directly off the spool straight out through the rod guides meaning less friction and longer casts.
- More Power– Baitcasters are capable of more power than spinning reels, thanks to their spool layout and design. The spool is in-line with the handle and gears, so the reel can apply more power and torque. Also, because the handles are mounted directly onto the reel frame there is no lever arm to cause flex when reeling hard on a fish.
- Better drag – in our opinion, baitcasting reels have more reliable drag systems than spinning reels. The drag is also easier to operate with the actuator being located just inside the handle where it is easy to tighten or loose with a flick of your finger.
Once you’ve practiced with this type reel, you’ll find your casting accuracy goes through the roof compared to a standard spinning reel. Baitcasters are perfect for those fishing situations where accuracy is key and the new models can cast even light lures a reasonable distance.
Get our verdict on the best baitcasting rods for bass – Daiwa, St Croix, Fenwick and other top brands reviewed by our in-house professionals