The Best Gear Ratios for Baitcasting Reels

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The fishermen who use baitcasting reels tend to be more experienced than novice anglers; they use baitcasters because they are strong and can handle big fish, but also because they suit a wide variety of fishing situations. Baitcasting reels are available with differing gear ratios, which relates to how many times the spool spins per each revolution of the handle. Some baits perform better with certain gear ratios.

Gear Ratio

  • Gear ratios are represented with numbers like 5.1-to-1, 6-to-1 or 7-to-1. The first number in the ratio refers to the number of teeth in the main drive gear. The second number refers to the number of teeth in the pinion gear. (The numbers are reduced to the lowest common denominator. A 6-to-1 gear ratio, for example, might have 72 main drive gear teeth and 12 pinion gear teeth.) In general, the lower the ratio, the slower the reel can bring the lure back to the boat.

5-to-1

  • Reels with a gear ratio of 5-to-1 or lower are best when fishing with crankbaits, especially those that have big lips and dive deep. These type of baits dive deeper on a slow retrieve, so the bait will reach its depth potential when you turn the reel handle at a normal speed. Casting and retrieving crankbaits can be physically exhausting, so using a reel with a low gear ratio can reduce stress on your wrist and arms.

6-to-1

  • A 6-to-1 gear ratio is the most common. Considering the range of gear ratios available, it represents an average ratio. A 6-to-1 ratio is good for fishing spinner baits, lipless crankbaits and topwater baits such as buzzbaits. Additionally, this ratio affords anglers who fish with jigs or plastic worms on the bottom more sensitivity. That's because when they move their bait with the rod tip, they have to reel in the slack line. A reel with a 6-to-1 or higher gear ratio reduces the number of times they have to turn the reel handle to tighten the line.

7-to-1

  • Anglers who retrieve their lures quickly choose reels with the highest available gear ratios -- 7-to-1 and higher. Some of the techniques synonymous with high gear ratios are burning spinner baits just under the surface, and retrieving shallow-running crankbaits quickly through the shallows. High-speed reels also are top choices for covering water and trying to locate fish that are feeding actively.

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