The Best Baitcasting Reels of 2020

baitcasting reel

When it comes to reels, baitcasters are a whole other animal when compared to your standard spinning reel. When paired with a suitable rod, their performance really is unmatched when control, power and speed are required to get the job done.

If you already have a baitcaster of your own, I’m sure there are times when you wouldn’t dream of using anything else. If you’re looking for your first one, there’s no question that with time and practice, your fishing game will reach a whole new level.

But picking the best baitcasting reel can sometimes be as difficult as learning to cast one! There is just so much that goes in making a good reel. And depending on your budget, you want quality where it matters most to get the best bang for your buck.

Our Top Picks

Detailed List of The Best Baitcasting Reels

Shimano Curado DC

There’s no question that Shimano makes some of the best reels available on the market today and their Curado DC is a true standout. What makes this baitcaster special is that it features a digital braking system. Inside the reel there is a tiny computer that monitors the spools rotation speed 1000 times a second. It then intelligently applies the perfect amount of braking for excellent casting with minimal backlashes.

This is a super neat feature if you’re prone to over-braking during your cast out of fear of backlashes, thus sacrificing distance. Or on the other hand, if you tend to under-brake resulting in backlashes, the Curado DC will definitely help you out in that department.

Beyond the braking system, this reel features Shimano’s Hagane high-rigidity alloy body, which prevents body flex and maximizes impact resistance. It also includes seven high-quality shielded bearings to ensure smooth retrieval and reduce corrosion. The MicroModule gear technology of Shimano is also included in this reel to give super smooth operation.

For all its impressive, high-tech functions, it’s worth noting that the Curado DC does come in a little heavier at 7.8 oz. Not too surprising considering it has a mini computer on board! 

The reel is salt water approved, but with a max drag rating of 11 lb, you will probably be limited to lighter inshore fishing. The reel is better suited for fishing freshwater species like bass and will do a damn good job of it.

Finally, the Curado DC comes in a great range of gear ratios of 6.2, 7.4 and 8.5. So whether you’re cranking or working a top water, there’s an option available.

If you’re eager to experience the next generation of baitcaster braking systems for a new level of performance, the Shimano Curado DC is a must-have. In no time, you’ll be maximizing your cast distance while minimizing both backlashes and effort.  

Pros

  • Digital braking system to improve casting and reduce backlash
  • High-rigidity alloy body to reduce frame flex
  • Seven high-quality shielded bearings for smooth retrieve
  • Great range of gear ratios, including 6.2:1, 7.4:1, and 8.5:1

Cons

  • Comes in slightly heavier at 7.8 oz
  • Lower max drag of 11 lbs

Lew’s HyperMag Speed Spool

If you’re a serious angler who wants a lightweight high performing reel for a long day on the water, the Lew’s HyperMag Speed Spool should be at the top of your list. This low profile baitcaster uses an externally adjustable centrifugal braking system with a massive 11 quality stainless steel bearings for super smooth operation.

But that’s not even the best part.

The HyperMag only weighs 5.4 oz!

It’s frame is made from magnesium which is not only lighter than aluminium, but also stronger and far more corrosion resistant. Weight savings are also made with the spool which is made from anodized light duralumin and features drilled holes to lighten the load.

You have two options for gear ratios. An all rounder 7.5:1 which is going to be suitable for a wide range of techniques, or a 8.3:1 which is going to be a more specialised reel for things like topwater techniques where you need to take up the slack quickly.

If you’re that angler who spends the whole day on the water and is sick of your arm tiring out a few hours in, the Lew’s HyperMag Speed Spool is going to be a great solution. A true lightweight performer in the world of baitcasters.

Pros

  • Super lightweight design
  • Magnesium frame for extra strength and corrosion resistance
  • 11 double-shielded bearings for smooth retrieval
  • Quality max drag of 20 lb
  • Externally adjustable centrifugal braking system

Cons

  • No low gear ratio options for high resistance baits

13 Fishing Concept Z

The 13 Fishing Concept Z is one of the more unique baitcasting reels on the market today. A bright red low-profile beauty, this reel doesn’t use bearings at all, instead utilizing a polymer brushing.

It does feel a bit different from ball bearing reels, so expect a bit of a learning curve. However, if you’re tired of degrading performance and corrosion on your ball bearings, this is well worth the investment and will offer you silky-smooth operation.

The Concept Z comes in at a decent weight of 6.4 oz. Its frame is made from aluminium to reduce frame flex and keep all those gears aligned and performing great. 

One downside of aluminium is that it’s more susceptible to corrosion compared to graphite frame reels. However, 13 Fishing have helped solve this problem with their Ocean Armour coating which dramatically improves the body’s corrosion resistance. 

The corrosion resistant aluminium frame combined with the polymer bushing make the Concept Z a high performing reel that’s going to stand up to saltwater just as well as fresh.

The Concept Z has a solid max drag at 22 lbs and is available in gear ratios 7.3:1 and 8.1:1. A ratio of 7.3 is going to work well for most techniques whereas the 8.1 is really going to shine with things like topwaters or pitching jigs.

If you like to fish saltwater and sick of replacing corroded or degraded bearings in your reels, the 13 Fishing Concept Z might just be the reel you’ve been looking for.

Pros

  • Substitutes bearings for polymer brushing to eliminate performance loss due to corrosion or debris
  • Strong, corrosion-resistant aluminum frame
  • Solid 22 lb max drag
  • Relatively lighter than most models
  • Salt and freshwater approved

Cons

  • Feels different compared to you standard ball bearing reel
  • No low gear ratio options for high resistance baits

Lew’s Custom Speed Spool SLP Series

If you want to avoid the higher price brackets but still want a slick performing baitcaster, the Lew’s Custom Speed Spool SLP series is an excellent choice. 

You won’t get the fancy digital braking systems, polymer bushings or magnesium frames of more expensive options. But what you do get is a top notch, low-profile, light reel that is great value for the money.

Built to be nice and light but still durable enough to handle most jobs, the SLP boasts an aluminum frame, a graphite side plate, and a lightweight aluminum spool. Where the frame minimises flex and keeps the gears aligned for smooth operation, the side plate and drilled spool help drastically reduce the reel’s weight for reduced arm fatigue.

The Custom Speed Spool SLP Series has a high quality 10-bearing system that you’d expect from Lew’s for a nice smooth operation. The bearings are double shielded which is going to prevent sand and salt water intrusion to keep the reel performing at its best.

The braking system of the Speed Spool SLP uses both magnetic and centrifugal components, which gives you extra capacity to fine tune your reel to how you like it. In terms of gear ratio, you’re pretty much set no matter what your favorite technique is. It comes in a 6.8:1 for high resistant lures, a versatile 7.5:1 ratio and an 8.3:1 for topwater applications. 

If you’re in the market for a high-quality but versatile reel that offers reliable performance, the Lew’s Custom Speed Spool SLP Series is an excellent choice. 

Pros

  • Aluminium frame to prevent frame flex
  • Hybrid magnetic and centrifugal braking system for extra fine tuning
  • Graphite side plate and drilled spool to reduce overall weight
  • Ten double shielded bearings for a smooth retrieve 
  • Good range of gear ratios

Cons

  • Hybrid brake systems are a little more complicated to use

Abu Garcia Revo SX Low Profile

If a high quality drag and fighting power is what you are looking for, the Abu Garcia Revo SX Low Profile baitcaster needs some serious consideration. 

The Revo SX boasts a frame and spool made out of durable aluminum alloy. This will help reduce flex and keep the reel in alignment, no matter the task. It also has a high drag weight of 24 lbs, which will give you more fighting power when you face larger fish. It does come in a little heavier than most reels at 8.1 oz. But that’s the cost of having such a reliable and robust build for those larger species.

But a heavier build doesn’t mean it won’t operate smoothly. With a 10 quality stainless steel bearing system, you will get the high performance and smooth operation we all expect from Abu Garcia.

Another hybrid design, the Revo SX features a combination magnetic and centrifugal braking system for extra control of your cast. Abu Garcia has also included two gear ratio options, a workhorse 6.6:1 for lures like deep diving crankbaits and a 7.3:1 which will work for most lure techniques. 

All in all, the Abu Garcia Revo SX Low Profile is the perfect option for value-conscious anglers who want a reliable reel that won’t break the bank. 

Pros

  • High quality and strong drag system up to 24 lb
  • Durable aluminium alloy frame for no flex
  • Braking system is a combination of centrifugal and magnetic
  • 9+1 stainless steel bearings setup for smooth operation

Cons

  • Heavier build
  • No higher gear ratio for fast retrieve techniques
  • Hybrid brake systems can be a little more complicated to use

13 Fishing Concept A

The 13 Fishing Concept A is the perfect baitcasting reel for the budget-conscious angler who still cares about performance. To keep costs down, 13 Fishing has taken great care to put high-cost materials where they are needed most. 

One place they haven’t cut corners is their low flex aluminium frame featuring their ocean armour saltwater protection process to help prevent corrosion. It also comes with a quality drag system which maxes out at 22 lb which you can use to take on those bigger fish. With all this it still comes in at a decent weight of 7.4 oz which is heavy enough to let you know it’s there, but not so bulky that you’ll throw your arm out. 

The Concept A Reel also features a system of seven ball stainless anti-corrosion high spin bearings. This will smooth out operation while offering you consistently solid hookups and protecting against runoffs. 

There is also a super nice variety of gear ratios for this model, ranging from 5.3:1 to 8.1:1. So if you want slow retrieve for heavier lures or a speedy topwater option, there’s a model to suit your needs.  

The 13 Fishing Concept A uses a six-way centrifugal brake system, which rounds out a reliable and affordable reel. If you’re interested in a mid-range but high-performance design that will suit any fishing technique, the Concept A is the one for you.

Pros

  • Corrosion-resistant aluminum frame to protect against frame flex
  • Quality drag that maxes out at 22 lbs
  • Seven stainless anti-corrosion high spin bearings for smooth retrieve
  • Excellent range of gear ratios
  • Suitable for salt and freshwater

Cons

  • Smaller line capacity

Daiwa Tatula CT

Even as you approach the lower price brackets, some reels still have some really cool features like the Daiwa Tatula CT. What’s neat about this reel is its proprietary T-wing system. This is essentially a specially designed line guide that reduces friction during the casting process. By being larger, wider, and less restrictive, it allows the line to freely exit the spool for further casts and reduced backlash. 

Beyond its unique line guide system, the Tatula CT has a compact low-profile design and comes in at only 6.8 oz. A good weight for sporting a rigid aluminium frame like it does.

You also get a nice set of 7+1 shielded corrosion resistant ball bearings for smooth performance that lasts. The magnetic braking system is also nice, giving you twenty increments of braking power so you have plenty of room to dial in your prefered amount.

The max drag comes in a little lighter than other models at 13 lbs. So if you need a stronger drag to pull in hard fighters you may want to consider another option.

The Tatula CT gives you access to some of those lower gear ratios like 5.5 and 6.3. Good options for more resistive lures like deep diving crankbaits or any bait you want to keep in the strike zone a little longer. 

Overall the Daiwa Tatula CT really is a standout in the mid range market, giving you a level up in casting with their T-wing line guide system.

Pros

  • Unique T-wing system allows for less friction and longer casts 
  • Good weight at 6.8 oz
  • Rigid aluminium frame
  • Twenty increment magnetic braking system for more control
  • 7+1 shielded corrosion resistant ball bearings for lasting smoothness

Cons

  • Lower drag of 13.2 lbs. 

KastKing Royale Legend Elite Series

If you’re after affordability but still want a reel that’s going to outperform the no-name reels at Walmart, the KastKing Royale Legend Elite will do just that. Now with any baitcaster at this price point, you aren’t going to have it all and you need to pick where the savings are made. For this reel, the frame is made from graphite composite material, which helps lower the price but makes for a more flexible frame compared to aluminium.

However, where the costs aren’t cut is in the 11 double shielded stainless steel bearings with one instant anti-reverse. This makes for a reel with a really nice and smooth operation you’d expect from a higher end reel at a ridiculous price point.

The Royale Legend Elite Series also comes in at a respectable 7.2 oz with a beginner friendly magnetic braking system. There’s also a huge range of gear ratios from 5.3 all the way up to 8.1. So whether you want a more specialised ratio or a versatile mid range ratio, you’ll find an option to suit your needs. If you plan to buy a few, each ratio has its own unique color so you don’t get confused.

If you’re a budget angler who wants the smooth operation of a higher end reel, the KastKing Royale Legend Elite Series should be at the top of your list.

Pros

  • 11 double-shielded stainless-steel bearings for smooth performance
  • Convenient magnetic braking system 
  • Huge range of gear ratios
  • Budget friendly

Cons

  • Graphite frame is less flex resistant
  • Budget reels generally contain lower quality internal components

Piscifun Torrent

If you’re new to baitcasting reels or just looking for a bargain, the Piscifun Torrent is an affordable option that’s still sturdy enough to stand up to most challenges. The aluminium frame is specifically designed to be both durable and reliable. At the same time, the all-magnetic braking system is easy to use and perfect for baitcasting beginners. 

Despite its low price tag, the Torrent also includes six shielded stainless steel bearings. While they might not make for the smoothest operation out there, they will protect from corrosion and intrusions from sand and water. 

It’s worth noting that the all-aluminum Piscifun weighs in at nearly 8 oz, so expect to give your arm a bit of a workout. Still, the added weight is largely due to the brass gears, which provide a little extra sturdiness to the reel while allowing you to take on larger fish.  

If you’re a beginner baitcaster looking to test the waters, the Piscifun Torrent is a great way to dip your toe in without a major investment.  While it’s nothing to write home about, it provides good value and durability for a reasonable price. 

Pros

  • Flex-resistant aluminum frame
  • Magnetic braking system is very easy to use
  • Six shielded bearings to reduce corrosion
  • Budget friendly

Cons

  • Heavier build
  • Budget reels generally contain lower quality internal components

Abu Garcia Max Low Profile

If you’re after a budget baitcaster but still want the reliability of one of the big names in fishing, the Abu Garcia Max Low Profile is a good choice. At this price point, you will have to do with a graphite frame that is more prone to frame flex. But it does come with the upside of not corroding like the aluminium frames.

The Max Low Profile has a respectable 4+1 bearing construction. A little lower than other alternatives but you get the build quality of Abu Garcia. It also comes with a magnetic brake system which is easy to use and great for beginners.

With this baitcaster you’ll have to settle for a gear ratio of 6.4:1 which can be quite versatile and work well for lures like crankbaits. 

If you’re new to baitcasting you’ll find the Abu Garcia Max Low Profile lightweight, corrosion-resistant, and priced to move. 

Pros

  • Graphite frame does not corrode and lighter
  • Beginner friendly magnetic braking system
  • Very affordable 

Cons

  • Graphite frame will experience more frame flex
  • Only one gear ratio available
  • Budget reels generally contain lower quality internal components

When to Use Baitcasting Outfits

When precision, power and speed are needed, that’s when the baitcasters come out!

The design of baitcasting reels and rods give them unmatched casting accuracy compared to spinning options. Scenarios where there are overhanging trees, logs and rocks are going to be made much easier with a baitcaster. 

Fishing from boats and casting towards the shore is another scenario where a baitcaster will come in handy. A spinning outfit will provide no control during the cast. So if you accidentally overshoot, your lure might get stuck on trees and shrubs on the shore. A baitcaster solves this problem by letting you use your thumb to brake during the cast. This lets you stop or slow down your lure if it was heading for the trees.

Benefits

  • Casting accuracy – The exposed rotating spool of baitcasters allow you to control the line during the cast. As the lure approaches your target, you can use your thumb as a brake to slow down the line and land it where you want. The line also comes off the spool straight (compared to coiled for spinning) which helps with improving accuracy.
  • Heavier lines & lures – The design of baitcasters and how the line comes of the spool make them more suitable for heavier line applications. Casting rods are also usually stiffer and more powerful. This gives you some extra backbone to help cast those heavier lures. 
  • Heavy cover – The improved casting accuracy makes them perfect for heavy cover. It lets you drop the lure right where you want it to avoid snags or getting your lure stuck in a tree. The short powerful rods are also great for horsing fish out of structure to prevent them tieing you up.

Trade Offs

  • Casting difficulty – Baitcasters are usually quite difficult to cast for beginners. Because the spool spins during the cast, once the lure hits the water, the spool can continue to spin. This keeps unloading line even though the lure has stopped causing massive tangles.
  • Less suited for lighter lines & lures – This has more to do with the rod than the reel, but since they need to be used together it’s something you have to consider. The stiffer rod blanks don’t flex with light lures which limits your casting distance. It’s not to say you can’t use lighter tackle with baitcasters, it’s just going to require some fine tuning of your reel and some extra skill.

How to Compare Baitcasting Reels

Frame Material

When it comes to your baitcasting reel frame, the two main factors that will be affected are rigidity and weight. You will want something that won’t fail you on the water and maintain its performance. But at the same time, you don’t want something overly heavy that’s going to tire your arm out too quickly.

Graphite / Carbon Composite – Popular among many reel manufacturers, these frames are generally lighter than the alternatives. They are also much easier on the pocketbook than aluminum or magnesium. And while they won’t corrode over time, they are more prone to frame flex when a big fish strikes. This can cause your reels internal gears to misalign and other problems that diminish its performance.

Aluminum – Aluminum frames are incredibly popular among anglers of all experience levels. While among the heaviest options out there, they are also extremely durable and far less prone to frame flex and misalignment. All of those benefits come at a cost, however, as aluminum frames can often be quite pricey. As it is metal, you will also have to be wary of corrosion. If you go with an aluminium frame and fish saltwater, make sure you give your reel a good rinse after a session.

Magnesium – Magnesium is actually stronger than aluminum and is also lighter in weight, which most anglers tend to appreciate. They are also far less susceptible to corrosion. However, magnesium frames tend to carry a heavy price tag, so be prepared to make an investment. 

Braking System

The braking system is usually the main thing standing between you and a backlash. But braking systems aren’t all the same and there are a few different types available.

Magnetic – This mechanism is contained within the side plate of the reel and is made up of several small magnets. Using a control dial, you can move the spool further away or closer to these magnets, thus changing the force and the stopping power for the reel. These systems are considered easy to adjust and simple to use, which makes them perfect for beginners.

Centrifugal – This braking mechanism sits in the side plate as well, but works via a series of small brake pads rather than magnets. Typically there are 6 brake pads contained in the reel which you can switch to engage or disengage. However, to access these brakes, most design require you to unscrew a side plate which can be a little annoying if you need to make an adjustment on the water. Higher end models sometimes use an externally adjustable dial which is really handy.

Digital – Some more innovative baitcasters actually use a microcomputer to apply braking. The computer monitors the rotation speed of the spool and automatically adjusts it to prevent backlash. Though pricey, they virtually eliminate the guesswork involved in baitcasting braking. Still, they are best suited to anglers who already have baitcasting experience. 

Bearings

All reels have bearings, as this is what allows all their knobs, gears, and spools to spin properly. However, when it comes to baitcasting reels, there are a few things you’ll want to consider when looking at the bearing system. 

Number – The number of bearings in your reel system greatly impacts the overall “smoothness” of both casting and retrieval. Generally, a higher bearing count will make for a smooth operating reel. However, the sheer number of bearings isn’t the only factor at work.

Quality – While many anglers have never really considered it, there are both low- and high-quality bearings. This generally has to do with the precision of the manufacturing process and the material being used. While most will be made of stainless steel, precision can vary widely. Consider the manufacturer of the reel and the quality most anglers have come to expect from them.

Shielding – The shielding on the bearings is extremely important for protecting against sand and water intrusion. Corrosion from water (particularly saltwater) is actually the biggest contributor to bearing failure and sand can quickly turn your smooth reel into a crunching grinder.

There are three main types. Unshielded bearings are open to sand, water, and other potentially harmful elements. The next level up in protection is shielded bearings. These have a barrier to protect the bearing from water and debris to improve their longevity. For the ultimate protection there are sealed bearings which basically stops anything from getting it. The downside of these is that they put up a little more resistance when rotating and are much more difficult to service when they need a touch of lubricant. 

Weight

It should be clear by now that baitcasting reels are much more complex than their spinning counterparts. From the frame to the bearings to the materials used in the construction of the components, many things will impact the overall weight of your reel.

Some people convince themselves that they’ll do fine with a heavier build. But a couple hours casting on the water is sure to make them think twice!

The weight of the reel is something you have to balance with its features. You may want a super smooth performing reel with 10 ball bearings, but each of those come at the cost of a heavier build. A sturdier and durable reel often needs tougher and heavier materials for the frame and internal components as well. 

Think about what features are important for you to have in your reel and try to balance these with the overall weight.

Choosing the Right Baitcasting Reel Specs

Gear Ratio

The gear ratio refers to how many times the spool turns for every single revolution of the handle. There are many combinations, and they all have the potential to significantly impact your style of fishing. 

A slower gear ratio in the 6:1 range or lower is going to be great for lures that have more resistance during the retrieve. Things like deep diving crankbaits or large swimbaits usually require a bit more effort to reel in. Just like using a low gear to ride up a steep hill on a bike, it’s going to make it much easier on you if you’re spending hours on the water. Low gear ratios also slow down the retrieve and helps keep the lures in the strike zone longer to increase your chances of a bite.

A faster gear ratio in the 8:1 range is better suited for burning lures like topwaters or frogs where you want to take slack up quickly. A tight line gives you better control of the lures movement with the tip of your rod. Like using a high gear on a bike, you get extra speed but when you get to a steep hill (aka when fighting a fish) it’s going to require some extra effort. Another benefit of these reels is that you can slow down your retrieve speed as necessary compared to a low gear ratio that has a lower limit on its retrieve speed.

A mid range gear ratio around 7:1 is going to be your most versatile option. If you like to mix and match techniques this might be the best option for you. If you are new to baitcasters I’d also recommend this range or a bit slower.

Handed

Unlike spinning reels, baitcasters come in distinct left-handed and right-handed designs. Generally, right-handed people will prefer a reel with the handle on the left. If you’re new to baitcasters, you’ll want to keep the handle on the same side as on your spinning reel.  

Takeaway 

Baitcasters might require a bit of time to master, but they provide anglers with accuracy, power, and the ability to fish in heavy cover. In general, they are a more sophisticated reel for more-experienced anglers. Still, there’s a lot that goes into designing a great baitcaster. 

Should you be looking to get your hands on a highly-rated baitcasting reel and you have some cash to spend, we recommend the Shimano Curado DC. With it’s digital braking system, high-quality construction, and corrosion-resistant bearing system, you’ll be able to adapt this reel to pretty much any fishing environment. 

While you won’t get the true “baitcasting braking” experience from using it, you’ll also avoid frustrating yourself with frequent backlashes and casting errors. 

In the end, fishing is still supposed to be fun. Don’t be afraid to invest in a tool that cuts out the nonsense and let’s you catch more fish.