Inline spools, magnetic casting control, low profile frames, and high speed gears. These are just a few of the features that come along with today’s best baitcasting reels. Join the adventure as you learn all there is to know about baitcasters. Discover the answers to questions like, “What are the parts that make up a baitcaster?” or “How do you avoid baitcasting reel backlash?”
Start the journey by jumping right into the best baitcasting reel reviews with 10 models that stand at the top of today’s options. Follow on down for clear explanations that provide a complete understanding of baitcasting reel build, function, features, and performance. Without further ado, the best baitcasting reel reviews are as follows:
- Daiwa Tatula
- Shimano Curado 200I
- Abu Garcia Revo SX
- KastKing Assassin
- Daiwa Lexa 300 HS
- Shimano Calcutta B
- Lew’s Fishing Tournament MB
- KastKing Royale Legend
- Abu Garcia BMAX3
- Piscifun Thunder
Best Baitcasting Reels – 2017 Reviews
#1 Daiwa Tatula
Best Pro Quality Baitcasting Reel At An Amatuer Price
Customers trust their fishing to the Daiwa Tatula more than any other baitcasting reel. The quality and performance of Tatula baitcasters stands up to the expectations of pro anglers, and with good cause. Pros fish for hours on the water and they require a baitcaster that can handle extended stress. Tatula baitcasters answer with an indestructible aluminum frame that protects powerful gears.
Though Daiwa designs Tatula baitcasters to meet pro needs, they also cater to the beginner. If casting backlash is a major concern, rest assured that Daiwa’s Magforce 3 cast control will ease the transition. 3 models offer anglers 3 different choices in gear ratio. Opt for the fastest model and you’ll get 7.3:1, fast enough to fly lures over top water. Slow it down to 6.3:1 or 5.4:1 to add a bit more power to your retrieve.
If you’re looking to battle big powerful species like trophy largemouth bass or lunker catfish, you might want more drag than the 13.2 pounds max that Tatula Baitcasters offer. Still, the Ultimate Tournament Drag design is smooth as can be and handles the right size fish with precision. Other features that enhance the reel include a free spool design, a swept handle that brings it closer to the frame, instant anti reverse roller bearing, and 7 corrosion resistant ball bearings. Durable, dependable, and able. The Daiwa Tatula offers a strong choice in the realm of best baitcasting reels.
#2 Shimano Curado 200I
Smoothest Baitcasting Reel Retrieve
When casting and retrieving lures is the name of your fishing game, it’s time to look at the Shimano Curado 200I series baitcasting reels. Shimano packs Curado reels full of technology with a focus on casting and retrieve. It’s their S3D design that does the trick. S3D is Shimano’s Stable Spool Design which uses a thin spool wall to eliminate vibration. This leads to longer casts with an exceptionally smooth and consistent retrieve.
Other technologies help further support the cast and retrieve, like the rigid Hagane frame. This metal material resists impact vibration and will not flex, two conditions that can knock gears out of alignment. Curado models, like the Diawa Tatula, give anglers 3 choices in gear speed with similar specs. Owner feedback about Curado baitcasting reels is overwhelmingly positive, though there are some disgruntled reports.
The few complaints bring attention to a drag that seems to lose resistance once line brings water to the spool. Another is a misalignment in manufacturing between gears and spools. Warranties cover these no problem, though they are irritating. Finishing touches to Curado baitcasting reels include a low profile design, X-Ship technology which supports the gears, and centrifugal cast control. Adding to its value, you’ll get plenty of use out of 5 stainless steel shielded ball bearings. An anti reverse bearing sets hooks instantly and left hand models are also available.
#3 Abu Garcia Revo SX
Best Baitcasting Reel Drag With A Lightweight Frame
The best baitcasting reel reviews put a lot of attention on special features, but there’s usually one or two that stand out. The Revo SX by Abu Garcia is no different. It uses a lightweight metal alloy material for the frame and graphite for the sideplate. If you prefer a lightweight baitcasting reel but you still want to hook into heavy fish, the Revo SX might be your tool. Its design offers a 25% weight reduction from previous models at 6.7 ounces, and maximum drag resistance of 20 pounds.
The Revo SX makes a perfect baitcasting reel for beginners because it comes with a magnetic cast control system. Owners of the Revo SX speak up about the baitcaster with confidence. The main point of concern has nothing to do with the actual reel itself. Many customers make the mistake of thinking this is the high gear model, which it is not. You get 6.4:1 gear ratio with the Revo SX instead of the 7.1:1 in the Revo SX HS. While there is a difference, many owners that end up with the wrong reel just keep it. They’re more than happy with the performance of the reel.
Plenty of other features fill in the details of the Revo SX baitcasting reel. For instance, a one way roller bearing gives instant ant reverse which sets hooks immediately. 9 other stainless steel bearings offer a smooth retrieve and protection from rust. The frame is not only lightweight, but the alloy material offers anti corrosive protection. If you spend long hours fishing, the weight reduction will save your arms. On top of that, the Abu Garcia Revo SX will catch average size fish all day and provide the strength to pull in the trophy models that happen to connect with your presentation.
#4 KastKing Assassin
Best Price And Features In A Lightweight Graphite Baitcaster
The hype is on about KastKing products, an ICAST award winning manufacturer. If it’s not reaching your ears, it’s time to tune in. KastKing produces fishing equipment like the Assassin baitcasting reel at prices and quality that are difficult to match. As the features of the Assassin baitcasting reel come forth, it’s easy to see the product can perform. However, the focus goes to the carbon material of the frame. Carbon costs less than aluminum, it doesn’t corrode or rust, and it is extremely lightweight. If you’re in the hunt for a lightweight yet durable baitcasting reel (5.7 ounces), you could be pulling the trigger on the Assassin.
Moving on to other features leaves no disappointment, like a dual brake casting system. Yes, the Assassin uses both centrifugal and magnetic cast control which makes a big difference to the learning angler. Drag is important on any reel, and the Assassin maxes out at 16.5 pounds using quadruple carbon discs. That may not beat the Abu Garcia Revo SX, but it’s better than the 13.2 of the Daiwa Tatula. Do you like a smooth retrieve? Try 11 corrosive resistant and shielded ball bearings on for size. When a fish strikes, an instant anti reverse bearing gives split second hook sets.
The biggest problem with all carbon (or graphite as they also call it) reel frames is that the sun breaks them down. It’s true that they don’t rust or corrode, but long exposure to the sun makes graphite brittle over time. The baitcaster is likely to snap off in your reel seat when this happens. The better alternative is anodized aluminum which is lightweight, protects from rust, and won’t become brittle. With proper care, aluminum reels last for a lifetime. Still, is it really worth the price difference? KastKing brings the cost so low that many find value in a cheaper baitcasting reel, even if it only lasts 5-10 years.
#5 Daiwa Lexa 300 HS
Best Hyper Speed Baitcasting Reel & Xtra Large Spool
Back to Daiwa but this time with high speed saltwater ready baitcasting reel. If you love to cast lures and let them sink or rip them across the surface water, dig in to this baitcaster. The Lexa 300 HS offers a high speed gear ratio of 7.1:1, enough to entice fish that won’t budge except for fast moving targets. Speaking about reels that last, the Lexa employs tough aluminum for the entire frame and spool.
The Daiwa Lexa baitcasting reel isn’t a poor choice for beginners as it includes a magnetic cast control system. An ability to tie braid straight onto the spool beckons to some anglers. Perhaps better than that is the ability to add line with a larger spool. You can opt to spool more line than most baitcasting reels or use stronger line and get the same amount. Of course, stronger line does no good with a weak drag. Lexa design takes notice of this and beefs up the drag which maxes out at 22 pounds. Stronger than any of the best baitcasting reel reviews yet.
The majority of Lexa owners report a positve experience though some manufacturing concerns exist. Buyers reports of sloppy packaging and reels that appear used is certainly a concern. A small amount of users also report drag issues after just a couple outings, stating they stop working at all. Fishermen recommend demanding Daiwa to replace the product, as fixing it doesn’t seem to help. Overall fishermen truly appreciate Lexa 300 HS baitcasting reels.
#6 Shimano Calcutta B
Best Round Baitcasting Reel For Inshore Saltwater
Calcutta baitcasting reels come in a range of size options, and this is the smallest in the series. These baitcasting reels use super ant corrosive bearings in the right place to keep damaging saltwater grit out of the gears and drag system. Other than that, there’s not 1 feature that stands out. Instead, Shimano advertises Calcutta baitcasters as the incredibly durable reels they are. If you’re looking for consistent use year after year, keep on reading.
Durability in Calcutta baitcasters exists due to an anodized aluminum frame and side plate. Using nothing but high quality nuts and bolts, the frame surrounds a cold forged aluminum spool that’s as tough as they come. Beginners need not fear casting as Calcutta round baitcasters employ centrifugal cast control. Like simplicity in a baitcaster? Some anglers prefer more bearings, while others feel it’s more that can go wrong. Calcuttas have 1 anti reverse stopper bearing and only 3 regular bearings. It doesn’t make for the smoothest retrieve, but the chances of a bearing seizing are much less.
Because of the quality of materials and the attention to manufacturing, Calcutta baitcasting reels do not land on the cheaper side of baitcasters. It’s a toss up whether you prefer a cheaper reel, or one that costs more and lasts 10 times longer. Customer feedback is all positive around Calcutta baitcasters which shows their attention to craftsmanship.
#7 Lew’s Fishing Tournament MB
Lightest Aluminum Baitcaster With A Dual Cast Control System
If learning how to cast a baitcaster is a major concern, dual braking cast control is right up your alley. Most baitcasting reels use one or the other, a centrifugal or magnetic system. However, as you see in the KastKing Assassin, dual brake casting control isn’t unheard of. The big difference with Lew’s Tournament MB baitcasting reel is its lightweigth aluminum frame. It increases the durability of the reel ten fold.
User feedback on Lew’s Tournament MB baitcaster is stellar for the most part. The reports of issues are very minor. Some anglers feel the handle could be a bit longer and the occasional factory defect does exist. However, anglers that replace the broken product are more than pleased with the result.
Lew’s Tournament MB baitcasters pile in other features that enhance the reel’s performance. Turn off the centrifugal cast control when you’re ready and fine tune the magnetic system. Four different models come with a range of gear speeds. Fast reel lure angler can go as high as 8.3:1 gear ratio. Strong left handed fishermen also have two models to choose from, though you lose the highest speed baitcaster. For the price, design, and overall performance, these baitcasters earn their place on the water.
#8 KastKing Royale Legend
Best Price & Performance From A Baitcasting Reel
Compare the KastKing Royale Legend to baitcasting reels in the Daiwa, Shimano, or Abu Garcia family and they prove just as effective. It’s a fact that’s almost hard to believe until you own or use one. No one feature really stands out above the rest. Instead, Royale Legend baitcasting reels bring a mix of mechanisms that round it out as an incredible fishing tool. Are you planning to learn the baitcaster? The Legend Royale offers both centrifugal and magnetic cast control. It’s also a fast reel with a 7.0:1 gear ratio and comes in models for left handed anglers.
The biggest issue with Royale Legend Baitcasters is the fact that they are mass produced with little supervision. Chances are you’ll get a good product according to user feedback, but the extremely low price necessitates the cutting of some corners. This appears in reports of reels malfunctioning shortly after or even before the first use. With the majority of baitcasting reels, you get what you pay for. Take advantage of the warranty by all means, but understand the craftsmanship won’t stand the long test of time. This is the point where Legend Royale baitcasters fall short of many brand name reels, but for the price many anglers never complain.
A quick look at some other features reveals instant anti reverse and 11 stainless steel shielded ball bearings. 12 pounds of maximum drag is decent as it lists on the manufacturer’s website. Legend Royale Baitcasters have a long dual knob handle with EVA padded foam grips. They are lightweight and ready to use in either fresh or saltwater conditions.
#9 Abu Garcia BMAX3
Best Performing Graphite Baitcasting Reel
The Abu Garcia Black Max 3 baitcasting reel offers the performance you might expect from a top fishing manufacturer. You’ll find the main difference from this baitcaster is the price when you compare it to other Abu Garcia products. The use of graphite as the frame material makes this possible, without sacrificing performance.
Reading all the best baitcasting reel reviews shows that graphite won’t corrode or rust, but will not last throughout the years. This is a long term durability factor and says nothing about how a reel performs. Two models of BMAX3 baitcasting reels exist. One for both right or left hand reeling. The reels use an instant anti reverse bearing and 4 stainless steel bearings. If casting is a worry, you will get magnetic cast braking to help avoid backlash. The drag also provides a substantial 18 pounds of maximum resistance.
The main concerns users have about Black Max 3 baitcasters is they don’t provide enough beef. They must have misrepresentation on other reviews because they are lightweight baitcasters. Users also support the statement that graphite frame reels won’t last forever, though they don’t always mention that the price reflects it. Those are pretty irrelevant issues as long as you understand the product your getting. BMAX3 reels work wonders for what they cost, and the majority of owners agree.
#10 Piscifun Thunder
Best Price And Performance In A Saltwater Baitcaster
Anglers take to Piscifun Thunder baitcasting reels for their low price and high performance in both salt or freshwater situations. It’s tough to pick out one best feature as they all stand up very well on their own accord. Take for instance a fast 7.1:1 gear ratio and 18 pounds of max drag. You can tear lures through the water and not worry about getting crushed by a monster size fish. Instant anti reverse will set hooks without back play, and 8 stainless steel bearings help on the retrieve to make that happen.
Concerns from Piscifun Thunder users stem from the thumb button which releases the spool for casting. It clicks back in when you start reeling, at least it should. Reports of the thumb release sticking half way to the return position exist. Other anglers mention that the thumb release is too close to the spool. If you do get a backlash, this makes it tough to work out and clear up.
The fun doesn’t stop with the features above. Piscifun Thunder baitcasters include magnetic cast control for the learners. They have a tough aluminum frame and an aircraft grade graphite side plate. Weight is average at 8.4 ounces and Thunder baitcasting reels come for right or left reeling anglers. Braid lovers take heed because Piscifun Thunder spools are fully ready to tie on the stronger line. Selling at a price and with performance that’s undeniable, Thunder baitcasting reels make a fine choice and worthy of any angler’s consideration.
Parts Of A Baitcasting Reel – What To Look For In A Quality Baitcaster
Below is a list of the main parts that make up a baitcasting reel. While you will find these features in any baitcaster, it speaks nothing to their quality or ability to perform. That being the case, absorbing the info below will give you the ability to distinguish a quality baitcaster from junk. You’ll also determine which features to look for to enhance your particular style of fishing.
The gear ratio of a baitcasting reel determines the amount of complete spool rotations per one turn of the handle. Gear ratio tells you the rate of speed at which you can retrieve your line, but there’s more. When you choose a high speed ratio of say 6:1 or more, you lose cranking power. Lower gear ratios crank better under heavy loads but sacrifice speed.
2 speed features are available that allow an angler to switch between high and low speed. Unfortunately, their use goes more towards larger conventional reels. Technically speaking, baitcasting reels are conventional reels. However, the best baitcasting reels rarely offer 2 speed versions. They make smaller baitcasters bulky and less practical.
The spool is the part of any fishing reel that the fishing line wraps on to. The larger size spool a baitcasting reel has, the more line (or thicker line) it will hold. Besides the size of a spool, material is an important quality to consider. Lightweight aircraft grade aluminum holds up the best, but is more expensive.
Finally, some spools offer a braid ready feature. Braided fishing line tends to slip when tied directly to a spool. Anglers must tie on monofilament line first when they want to use braid, unless the spool has a braid ready feature.
There’s a couple different factors to consider when looking at a baitcaster’s frame. First, baitcasting reels come in two basic shapes; low-profile or round. There’s no right or wrong choice here. Low profile reels bring the line closer to your hand and are easier to palm. Other anglers prefer the feel of a round frame.
More important perhaps than feel is material makeup. Your three basic choices are graphite, metal, or high grade aluminum. The space tech or aircraft grade aluminum offers the best of both worlds. It’s lightweight, sturdy, and lasts a lifetime. It will also run the cost of the reel up substantially.
Graphite is the less expensive choice and it works quite well. These reels can twist under heavy pressure and bind the gears. Graphite also doesn’t have the longevity of aluminum or metal. Metal reels last a long time and do not twist. They are heavy though and much more prone to rust.
The more bearings a baitcaster has, the smoother the retrieve will be. That’s great by all appearances, but more bearings also puts more mechanics into the reel that can fail over time. If one bearing out of a 9 or 10 bearing system starts to seize up, the reel won’t retrieve properly.
Another factor to consider is that not all bearings are equal. For the best longevity and performance, look for stainless steel bearings that come with shields on both sides. Shields cover the balls inside the bearing chamber which prevents harmful grit from entering.
Finally, some baitcasters offer a superior design by placing bearings in a position to protect and/or support the gears. Bearings position can seal off a baitcaster, preventing any silt or salt from getting into the workings.
Brakes on baitcasting reels go by the term “drag”. The drag systems on today’s best baitcasting reels use carbon discs that push together to create friction. A drag system won’t engage until you put the reel in gear and take it out of free spool. Once a baitcaster is in gear the anti reverse sets in. It won’t allow the spool to roll backwards unless the pulling force exceeds the drag setting.
The amount of drag pressure is set by the angler, but can only create as much resistance as its maximum rating. Because of this, the maximum drag rating on a baitcasting reel becomes very important. If you want 8 pounds of drag, it’s better to have a baitcaster that maxes at 16 pounds versus 12. You’ll only be at ½ the resistance with plenty more to apply if you need it.
Anglers looking for a baitcasting reel to use for short outings may not concern themselves too much with comfort. Add a few hours to your outing and it becomes a big deal. Weight is always the biggest concern when it comes to comfort, with frame design and handle grip bringing up the pack. Metal baitcasters are the heaviest and you’ll feel it after a few hours of fishing, if not sooner. Graphite frames are the lightest, though high grade aluminum won’t tip the scales that much.
Another comfort feature on a baitcasting reel is the handle. This decision may come down to preference. EVA padded foam is comfortable but tends to degrade faster than the no slip rubber other models use. Frame design is also a matter of opinion. Some anglers love the feel of the low-profile frame design while others swear by round frame baitcasters.
When you put your baitcaster in gear, the anti reverse sets in. Anti reverse on baitcasting reels works one of two ways. The first much less common design for baitcasting anti reverse is a dog gear. These use teeth like a ratchet that only catch if the spool rolls backwards. More typical in baitcaster anti reverse systems is a one way roller bearing.
Dog anti reverse systems hold better but have a bit of back-play before they engage. Anglers prefer the one way roller bearing in baitcasters because they provide an instant hook set versus the slight delay from a dog style anti reverse. Dog systems work well by themselves or in addition to one way roller bearings for battling heavy fish with larger conventional reels.
Baitcasting Reel Backlash
Not as drastic as a broken rod, baitcasting reel backlash will still shut down your fishing efforts for at least a minute. Bad backlashes may require you to cut the line off and have to re-spool your reel. A waste of time and money which are both enemies of fishermen. Preventing backlash requires practice and some skill, though cast control features on baitcasters soften the learning curve.
Baitcasting reels that offer cast control will come with one of two different designs. Some reels will use a centrifugal cast control. When the spool spins it creates centrifugal force. Reel design uses this force to push out tabs that rub against the spool, create friction, and slow your cast.
Your other option is to select a baitcasting reel with magnetic cast control. They use small magnets to slow the spool speed on cast. Both work well for the beginner learning the baitcaster. However, slowing your spool speed may not be desirable once you master the reel.
Baitcasting Reel Vs. Spinning Reel
Once you get the hang of using a baitcasting reel, you won’t want to return to a spinning reel except for certain uses. In most fishing scenarios, the baitcaster is far superior to the spinning reel. It’s only an opinion until you experience it yourself. The inline nature of a baitcaster lets you cast further and swim live bait with ease. The inline spool also leads to a better drag system that doesn’t first have to turn on a wire bail. That being said, spinning reels exist today that stand up to a baitcaster in all regards. They just cost 5 to 10 times the money. Many anglers that use baitcasters do prefer spinning reels for ultra light line and tackle.
The Best Baitcasting Reels Winner’s Roundup & Conclusion
The best baitcasting reel reviews above offer a glimpse into 10 top models fishermen use on the water today. After an in-depth inspection of each reel, 2 winners rise above the rest. First is the Editor’s Choice which is the best all around reel. Second comes the Best Baitcasting Reel Value, which combines cost versus performance. Without further ado the two winners are:
Editor’s choice – Shimano Calcutta
There’s a time for dedicated fishermen to realize that longevity proves just as valuable as performance, and it’s worth the extra cost. Graphite baitcasters work fine, but you lose that duration and save in cost. Metal or aluminum frame baitcasters step it up a notch in performance and longevity. Shimano Calcutta reels get the highest marks in both those areas. The Calcutta takes the Editor’s Choice award as dependable reel that will keep catching fish year after year.
Best Value Baitcasting Reel – Abu Garcia Black Max 3
This perhaps is the toughest category for a manufacturer to master and Abu Garcia is up to the task. Is the Black Max 3 a perfect reel? Not by any means. However, when one of the worst things a customer has to say is that they don’t last forever it wins in any book. Especially when you compare the low cost and high performance. The Abu Garcia BMAX3 takes the award as the Best Value Baitcasting Reel. It outperforms reels above it’s class and blows others away in the same cost range.
Thanks for stopping by and reading all about the best baitcasting reels, how they work, and the top ten reviews. Please don’t hesitate to drop a comment below and share your thoughts on the subject.