Tips for Choosing a Baitcast Reel

Picking a Baitcast Reel

By John Neporadny

Bass anglers wanting to master various tactics of the pros must make the baitcast reel one of their key tools of the trade. Since reel manufacturers have made baitcasters highly specialized, the choices become more difficult when buying a new reel.

“You want to buy the best quality reel you can afford because it pays off for you in longevity”, says bass fishing superstar Kevin VanDam. “It’s going to cast better and perform better for you the whole life of the reel.”

Gear ratio is a key consideration when buying a new baitcast reel. Vandam recommends buying a reel with a lower gear ratio, such as 5.3:1, for fishing with crankbaits and a medium gear ratio model (6.2:1 to 6.6:1) for spinnerbaits. A high-speed reel (7.3:1) is Vandam’s choice for burning spinnerbaits and square-bill crankbaits. The high-speed reel also allow VanDam to pick up slack line quickly when he is lifting and dropping plastic worms and jigs or popping a topwater lure.

Baitcast buyers should also consider the reel’s spool size. VanDam suggests small spools reels are easier to control while casting and backlash less that larger spools. The Michigan pro prefers small spools for skipping lures under docks and for light-line tactics. However, he opts for larger spools whenever he needs more line capacity for casting large crankbaits long distances or for heavier test lines and braid.

Ball bearings play a key role in keeping the reel tight at all of its pivot points, so the buyer should pay close attention to the quality and quantity of the bearings. “Most of the premium reels have ten ball bearings”, says Vandam. “A four ball-bearing reel might feel good at the store, but after a year of use it will probably be done. Those premium reel will feel the same at the end of the season as they did at the beginning.”

This tip from John Neporadny’s Book, 101 Bass Fishing Tips – Twenty-First Century Bassing Tactics and Techniques from All the Top Pros. Copies of his book are available at his website,