Best Baitcaster Under $200 In 2024 Tested And Reviewed

Written By John VanDerLaan

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Are you looking for the best baitcaster under $200?

Well, you have come to the right place!

Our team of expert fisherman share their top picks for the best baitcasting reels under $200 so that you can find the right baitcaster for your fishing style without going over your budget.

Below you will find our reviews of the top baitcasters, complete with what we like and don't like about each one.

Best Overall

Shimano Curado K Baitcasting Reel

Shimano Curado

Editor's Choice

Shimano SLX DC

shimano slx dc

Best Compact

Abu Garcia Revo SX RKT LP Baitcast Reel

abu garcia revo sx rkt

Top 10 Baitcasting Reels Under $200

How I Chose The Best Baitcasting Reels Under $200

I have been using baitcasting reels ever since I won the 1987 Candlewood Classic Bass Fishing Tournament on Candlewood Lake in Connecticut. That was almost 40 years ago, and in that time, I have had the opportunity to use and test hundreds of baitcasting reels.

As I was preparing for this article, I reached out to all of my fishing friends, both professional anglers and weekend anglers, and I asked them what was their favorite baitcasting reel under $200.

It quickly became evident that there were some reels that were used much more than others in this category.

Once I had the list of baitcasters, I began gathering the reels from a number of sources for testing.

I tested each of the reels and rated them on a number of different criteria.

  • Casting ability
  • Resistance to backlash
  • Smoothness of drag
  • Smoothness of retrieve
  • How it felt in hand when casting, retrieving and fighting fish
  • Durability and materials used in construction
  • Price

Below you will find reviews of the baitcasting reels that came out on top.

1. Best Overall: Shimano Curado K Baitcast Reel

Shimano Curado K Baitcasting Reel

The Shimano Curado is our go-to baitcaster for both fresh and saltwater fishing and it has been a staple in the Shimano line up for a number of years now.

We love the super smooth retrieve of this reel, thanks to the MicroModule gearing.

The Curado is made from CI4+ carbon fiber and a HAGANE reel body for rigidness, that makes this baitcasting reel super lightweight at only 7.6 ounces, but without the flex of some other baitcasters.

The drag is also super smooth thanks to Shimano's Cross Carbon Drag material. This is the smoothest Shimano drag that they have developed yet.

The Curado also features the S3D spool, which is a thin wall aluminum spool that casts further that other baitcasters using a standard spool.

Where the Curado really shines is in its SVS Infinity brake system technology. It allows super efficient braking so that you can even cast lightweight lures without the fear of backlashes.

Key Features

  • Sturdy HAGANE body construction
  • Three gear ratio options, namely 6.2:1, 7.4:1, and 8.5:1
  • Anti-reversing bearing
  • A maximum drag of 11 lb.
  • SVS brake system
  • Weighs 7.6 ounces
  • (6 + 1) ball bearings
  • ‎Black in color

What We Like

  • Compact, lightweight design
  • Perfect for casting across the spectrum
  • Long-lasting MicroModule gearing
  • A refined modern look
  • Stronger handle 

What We Don't Like

  • The casting control might be challenging to inexperienced anglers.

Here's a great video showing the features of the Shimano Curado.

2. Editor's Choice: Shimano SLX DC Baitcasting Reel

Shimano SLX DC

Our staff of experts were evenly split on their top pick for best baitcasting reels under $200, but after much debate, we chose the Shimano SLX DC as the runner up. The truth is, you can't go wrong with either of the top 2 choices.

The SLX DC shares a lot of the same features as the Curado, with the exception of the Shimano's proprietary DC braking technology that allows you to cast even the lightest of baits without the fear of backlash.

If you are a beginner or new to baitcasting reels, we highly recommend the DC braking technology for learning how to effectively cast these reels without a birds nest.

One of the reasons that the SLX DC is the runner up and not the best overall is that it only has 4+1 ball bearings as compared to the 6+1 ball bearings of the Curado.

The SLX is till super lightweight at only 7.6 ounces and is available in up to 8.2:1 gear ratio.

When paired up with the right fishing rod, you can't beat the performance and durability of the Shimano SLX DC Baitcaster.

Key Features

  • HAGANE metal body construction
  • Gear ratio up to 8.2:1
  • Super Free Spool eliminates friction
  • A maximum drag of 12 lb.
  • DC brake system
  • Weighs 7.6 ounces
  • (4 + 1) ball bearings
  • ‎Black and blue in color

What We Like

  • We love the DC Braking system on the SLX
  • Easy to cast, even for beginners
  • Durable MicroModule gear system
  • We love how smooth this reel is
  • Super lightweight

What We Don't Like

  • Some fisherman don't like the DC braking system
Staff Member With A Big Bass Caught On A Shimano SLX Baitcaster

The Shimano SLX DC is one of our favorite baitcasters for bass fishing. If you are new to baitcasters or have a problem casting without getting a backlash, the SLX DC is the baitcasting reel for you.

3. Best Daiwa Baitcaster Under $200: Daiwa Tatula 100

Daiwa Tatula Baitcaster

Our two top picks for best baitcasting reel under $200 were Shimanos, but some of our readers were asking us for the best daiwa baitcaster under 200, so our staff immediately responded with the Daiwa Tatula 100 TWS.

The first thing you will notice when you pick up a Tatula 100 is its compact size. It fits perfectly in the palm of your hand it is unbelievably lightweight at only 6.9 ounces, significantly lighter than the Curado and the SLX.

Adding to its comfort is a 90mm handle that works perfectly with its compact reel body.

The Tatula is a favorite of our staff members that fish competitive tournaments all day, and for multiple days. Its small size and light weight is perfect for fatigue free all day fishing.

It also has the most ball bearings out of our top 3 picks with 7+1, as compared to 6+1 for the Curado and 4+1 for the SLX.

We also love Daiwa's proprietary T Wing System, which solves the problem of constricting the line flow that is found in other level wind reels by utilizing a T shaped level wind for superior line control on the spool.

Key Features

  • All aluminum body for light weight and corrosion resistance
  • Gear ratio up to 8.1:1
  • MagForce Z magnetic braking control
  • A maximum drag of 11 lb.
  • Zero Adjuster, factory set for perfect casts
  • Weighs 6.9 ounces
  • (7+ 1) ball bearings
  • T Wing System level wind

What We Like

  • We love the palm-able size of the Tatula 100
  • Unbelievably lightweight
  • Incredibly smooth casting and retrieve
  • We love how smooth this reel is
  • We love the price, given all of the high end features
  • One of the longest casting reels we tested

What We Don't Like

  • Some guys don't like the T Wing system

Lew's Tournament LFS Speed Spool Baitcaster

You may not have heard of Lew Childre, but the top names in the fishing industry know the company and many use their reels. In 1973 they made their first baitcaster, going into direct competition with Abu Garcia’s Ambassadeur reels, aimed at the bass fishing community. America loved them and though a small company, they produced exceptional baitcasting reels that were smooth, durable, and long-lasting.

Fast forward to today and they have a few very high-quality yet affordable baitcast reels. We cover two of them here.

This Lew’s Tournament MP Speed Spool LFS  Baitcast Reel has some exceptional features. It’s made for bass fishing tournaments so it has that extra durability and precision you need for fishing tournaments while being lightweight enough to cast for hours on end. To be honest, for the price, we love this reel and use it for anything we can!

RELATED: Best Bass Fishing Rod

Key Features

  • Construction – One piece aluminum body + graphite side plate.
  • Gear Ratio – Options are 5.6:1 (23″ retrieve), 6.8:1 (28″), 7.5:1 (31″), 8.3:1 (35″).
  • 9+1 Bearings
  • Zero Reverse one-way clutch bearing.
  • Drag – 20 lb. carbon discs.
  • Braking System – Adjustable centrifugal system.
  • Weight – 6.9 to 7.0 oz.
  • Right and Left retrieve.

What We Like

  • The size and weight are just right.
  • Customizability with options for handedness, and different gear ratios.
  • Combat Grip knobs are super comfortable.
  • 20 lb. of drag is more than we usually need.
  • We love the price

What We Don't Like

  • One-year limited warranty. Wish it was 3 years and unlimited!

The Lew’s MP Speed Spool LFS Baitcast Reel has some great features and can work for you no matter what you’re fishing for though it is made for speed, precision, advanced features, and durability. The reel received fantastic reviews from hundreds of buyers at Amazon, and we have put this one at the top of our list for good reason.

Lew’s baitcasting reels have proven themselves for years as some of the highest-quality reels you can fish with. Get yourself one and see the difference.

5. Best Compact Baitcaster Under $200: Abu Garcia Revo SX RKT Baitcast Low Profile Fishing Reel

Abu Garcia Revo SX RKT LP Baitcast Reel

As you learned above, Abu Garcia was producing baitcasting reels in the early days before many of you were even alive. My first baitcast reel was an Abu Garcia Ambassadeur round profile reel. I used that reel for everything from shore, wade fishing, pier fishing, kayak fishing, and trolling from my kayak. Then I bought two more. They’re incredibly tough reels that have stood the test of time and come out on top.

These low-profile reels are nice because they’re even smaller and lighter weight, allowing you to hold the rod and fish longer without tiring.

The Abu Garcia Revo SX RKT Low Profile Baitcast Reel is a great buy at any price.

Key Features

  • Construction – Alloy frame and side plate.
  • Gear Ratio – 9:1, and 37″ very fast line retrieval.
  • Line Capacity – 140 yd./30 lb.
  • # of Bearings – 9+1.
  • Instant Anti-reverse feature.
  • Drag – Carbon disc drag, 18 lb.
  • Braking System – Magnetic and centrifugal.
  • Weight – 8.2 oz.

What We Like

  • The low-profile style is perfect for frequent casting.
  • Super-fast line retrieval makes this a good candidate for a tournament reel.
  • Always love magnetic brakes!
  • Compact design
  • Left and right options.

What We Don't Like

  • Alloy frame and side plate – an alloy of what materials? Not stated. We’re sure it’s strong and anti-corrosive, but would love to know the material.

Abu Garcia products are always well-made and reliable. For this Revo SX RKT reel, you get exceptionally fast line retrieval, a lightweight reel, and some nice features like magnetic braking, and ten ball bearing units that make it very smooth to use all day.

6. Staff Favorite: KastKing Bassinator Elite Baitcasting Reel

KastKing Bassinator Elite Baitcasting Reel

KastKing reels have been around for about a decade, their parent company started in 2013. Their first product was KastKing fishing line. They’ve expanded their base product line to include spincast, casting, spinning, and conventional reels. They also produce other fishing gear like rods, line, fishing tools, sunglasses, clothing, and rainwear. Reels are made in China.

This KastKing Bassinator Elite baitcasting reel is an excellent tournament bass fishing reel designed for speed and lightweight strength. It features an aluminum frame, carbon sideplates, and stainless steel handle for the base model. The speed model for tournaments gets faster retrieve and lighter handle and grips.

Key Features

  • Construction – Aluminum frame and carbon sideplates.
  • Gear Ratio – 6.6:1 (27.8″ retrieve) and 8.1:1 (34.1″) includes carbon handle and cork grips.
  • # of Bearings – 10+1
  • Anti-reverse bearing.
  • Drag – 17.6 lb. of carbon fiber disc drag.
  • Braking System – Magnetic and adjustable centrifugal brake shoes.
  • Weight – 5.7 oz. for the 6.6:1 Ninja reel and 5.9 oz. for the 8.1:1 Classic reel.

What We Like

  • We love how light this reel is. It is great for long days on the water
  • Left and Right options.
  • Gear ratio options.
  • 11 ball bearings
  • Swing-Wing side cover opens and stays attached for convenience.

What We Don't Like

  • Hardened aluminum main gear isn’t likely as strong as stainless or brass.

Amazingly, KastKing reels have become competitors to Shimano, Daiwa, and Penn fishing reels in a very short time. They did this by outsourcing manufacturing and parts to China. Many companies are doing this, and the results are mixed depending on the company. KastKing has proven itself over a very short time and has good products like reels and line, we’ve used both for years. Some on our team swear by these reels.

7. Best Saltwater Baitcaster Reel Under $200: Piscifun Alijoz Baitcasting Reel

Piscifun Alijoz Baitcasting Reel

The Piscifun brand was started by two young friends in 2013 based on their love for fishing and family. Pisci is Latin for fish. They now sell reels, rods, tools and bags, and apparel. Their business is based in China.

This Alijoz baitcasting reel is their second most expensive reel, they focus mostly on reels under $100.

The all aluminum frame and brass main gear and pinion make this baitcaster ideal for saltwater use.

RELATED: Best Conventional reels For Surf Fishing

Key Features

  • Construction – Aluminum frame. Brass main gear and pinion.
  • Gear Ratio –5.9:1 (26.8″ retrieve) and 8.1:1 (36.2″).
  • # of Bearings – 8+1
  • Anti-reverse bearing.
  • Drag – 33 lb.
  • Brakes – 8 magnets.
  • Weight – 11.3 oz.

What We Like

  • We love the brass gears and pinion for use in sandy, saltwater environments.
  • We like the big comfortable grip and aluminum handle.
  • 33 lb. of drag is great to have available.
  • Right and Left retrieve options.
  • Gear ratio choice.

What We Don't Like

  • It is heavier due to the durable construction

This reel is heavier than the others on this page and made by a company you probably never heard of. That said, they have some decent specs on this reel that, for the very low price, might make it worth it for you. We’ve enjoyed using this reel, but honestly, we haven’t used it for 10 years like some of our other baitcast reels.

If you're looking for a saltwater baitcaster that won't break the bank, then the Piscifun Alijoz is the reel for you.

RELATED: Best Surf Rods

8. Best Budget Option: KastKing MegaJaws Baitcasting Reel

KastKing MegaJaws Baitcasting Reel

The KastKing MegaJaws baitcasting fishing reel is priced right, so if you’re looking for a reel to fit your budget, this one is it. It’s lightweight, has decent drag, and plenty of ball bearings for very smooth casting and retrieval.

Key Features

  • Construction – The frame is graphite. Main gear is hardened aluminum. Pinion is a manganese-brass alloy.
  • Gear Ratio – Great White 5.4:1 (22.4″ retrieve), Deep Water 6.5:1 (26.9″), Blacktip 7.2:1 (29.8″), Predator 9.1:1 (37.7″).
  • # of Bearings – 11+1 double-shielded.
  • Anti-reverse bearing.
  • Drag – 17.6 lb.
  • Brakes – Magnetic and centrifugal.
  • Weight – 6.7 oz.

What We Like

  • The magnet on the spool is a solid ring.
  • Good range of gear ratio selection.
  • Left and Right options.
  • High number of ball bearings.
  • Very lightweight and small.
  • Price is exceptional!

What We Don't Like

  • Not as high quality as our other top picks.

You’re not going to find a cheaper baitcasting reel with better features than this one, we’ve looked! The price is right for this lightweight, strong, and well-designed line of reels. The number of options with 4 different gear ratios and right and left-hand options means anyone can get one.

This is a great reel to buy as your entry point into KastKing products. The reviews say it all – check them out when you go see this reel on Amazon.

9. Best Baitcast Rod And Reel Combo Under $200: Abu Garcia Max Pro Baitcast Combo

Abu Garcia Max Pro Baitcaster

I used a few rod and reel combos during testing and I was really impressed by this one, especially at the low price point.

This MAX4PRO-L is an entry-level baitcasting reel twith an awesome gear ratio. It felt great in my hand and it was very smooth casting and retrieving.

It’s ergonomic and lightweight, and the price is right on this one too!

The rod is a 7 foot medium heavy action with a 10-20 lb line rating. The rod and reel combo is ideal for bass fishing.

Key Features

  • Construction – Graphite frame and side plates and Brass main gear in the reel. 24 ton graphite rod blank with stainless steel guides.
  • Gear Ratio – 7.1:1 (28″ retrieve).
  • # of Bearings – 7+1
  • Abu Garcia reel seat and custom polymer split grip.
  • Drag – 15 synthetic material.
  • Brakes – Magnetic.
  • Weight – 7.4 oz.

What We Like

  • Ideal gear ratio.
  • Right and Left options.
  • Lightweight for all day use without fatigue.
  • Small and feels great in your hand.
  • Super inexpensive.
  • Love the company. We have great experiences with Abu Garcia reels.

What We Don't Like

  • Drag doesn't use carbon fiber.

This reel is small and will fit any small to medium hands, it's lightweight, and very inexpensive for a quality reel from a great company. It is fitted perfectly to the rod. I leave this one behind the seat of the truck for those times when I just can’t resist pulling off the road for a 30-minute fish in the canal for Florida peacock bass!

10. Best Baitcasting Reel Under $100: Lew’s Speed Spool LFS Baitcast Reel

Lew’s Speed Spool LFS Baitcast Reel

Lew’s has a small army of dedicated fans of their gear and I’d probably have become one if I didn’t already have too many Penn and Shimano reels. Others on our team love them!

Key Features

  • Construction – Aluminum frame. Graphite sideplates. Solid brass main gear and pinion.
  • Gear Ratio – 5.6:1 (23″ retrieve), 6.8:1 (28″), 7.5 (31″).
  • # of Bearings – 9+1
  • Anti-reverse bearing.
  • Drag – 15 lb. Clicker.
  • Brakes – 5 magnetic discs.
  • Weight – 7.1 oz.

What We Like

  • Oversize handle is appreciated by bigger hands.
  • Lightweight and ergonomic, the ease of use is fantastic.
  • Rugged and well-built.
  • Right and Left options for the 6:8:1 and 7.5:1 reels.
  • Great price!

What We Don't Like

  • The 5.6:1 gear ratio option has only the right-hand reel option.

Lew’s baitcasting reels are durable and enjoyable to use. This model performed very well in my testing.

Buying Guide for Best Baitcasting Reels Under $200 

Here are some things to know about buying baitcaster reels in the under 200 dollar range. We go over some of the crucial features and benefits you need to know to make your decision – Which Baitcaster to Buy?

Ball Bearings

Ball bearings are necessary to ensure the smooth operation of your reel during casting and line retrieval. When manufacturers state something like 9+1 ball bearings they don’t mean there are only 10 ball bearings in the entire reel. They mean the reel is using 9 assemblies (races) of ball bearings that may include 8, 12, or 20 balls in each.

The +1 designation is for the solitary and moveable bearing that acts as an instant anti-reverse mechanism for the reel.

Fishing reel manufacturers typically use stainless steel or ceramic bearings for their reels. There are different levels of precision possible, but reel companies rarely state what they are. Ratings are in ABEC levels of 1, 3, 5, 7, and 9. The highest rating of 9 is something that high-tech companies like NASA use. ABEC 5 bearings work very well for rollerblades and skateboards.

Bearing races can be unshielded, shielded, or double-shielded. You can guess which are best for fishing reels, right? The double-shielded bearings can block most of, and sometimes all of the saltwater, dirt, and grime that comes with fishing.

Remember to lubricate your steel ball bearings with the recommended lube a couple of times per year for long life. Ceramic bearings never need lubrication.

Reels are expensive. It’s always a good idea to try out the reel you are purchasing to see just how smooth the bearings are in the reel before buying because they could be any ABEC level.

Steel bearings are fine for fishing reels, though there are upgrade kits you can buy to replace your steel ball bearings with races of ceramic ball bearings for just over $100.

Gear Ratio

The gear ratio determines the amount of power or speed you have in retrieval while reeling in a fish. A gear ratio of 9:1 may mean you have 37″ of line retrieval with one full rotation of the handle. A gear ratio of 5.6:1 may mean just 23″ of retrieval for one turn of the handle.

The gear ratio of 9:1 means that with every 360° turn of the crank, the spool spins 9 full times. That’s an easier way of thinking about it.

Faster gear ratios are ideal for bass fishing tournaments where anglers need to cast and retrieve hundreds and even thousands of times during the tournament. Having a fast retrieval rate allowed by a high gear ratio reel allows them to retrieve line much faster and cast out more times, resulting in more fish over time. Ideally, anyway!

Lower gear ratios give you more cranking power to reel in heavier, stronger fish that can really put pressure on the line and reel. It’s kind of like the first 7 gears of a 21-speed mountain bike. You can ride straight up a very steep hill by putting it in very low gear. Same thing with fishing reels with a 6:1 or lower gear ratio, you can apply more pressure by reeling in fighting fish.

Type of Fish & Environment

The baitcasting reels you buy in this price range are almost always fine for freshwater and saltwater. As you probably know, saltwater affects metal and other materials more than freshwater and causes corrosion and residue inside the reel that will cause it to fail or not run smoothly.

RELATED: Florida Surf Fishing Species

The components in today’s baitcast reels are all corrosion-resistant and everything is sealed pretty well. You will still need to clean your reel out 1 to 2 times per year and lubricate the inside with grease and oil. If you ever drop your reel into saltwater or freshwater, you should open it up and clean it out as soon as possible, re-lubing where necessary.

RELATED: How To Catch Redfish

Baitcasting reels are often used for fishing in lakes, rivers, streams, ponds, bays, and estuaries, as well as inshore. They are typically made for lighter fish under 20 lb. and may not be able to handle all you can throw at them. If you’re after musky, bowfin, pike, gar, or heavier saltwater species, you should get another reel. Bigger spinning reels can handle the task better in freshwater, while conventional reels work really well at the beach, piers, and for trolling.

RELATED: How To Catch Spanish Mackerel Like A Pro

Baitcasters are the best all-around small fish reels for freshwater and saltwater. If you’re anxious about the transition from casting a spinning reel to a baitcaster, don’t be! There is a small learning curve, but it won’t take more than a day or two until you have the process down well enough to catch fish with your new baitcast reel.

RELATED: Top Texas Fish Species


Baitcasting reels have a lot of components that you need to know and understand in order to decide which reel is the best one for the type of fishing you do.

Baitcasters in the $200 range are considered mid-level reels and they have a number of features you can choose from, some that will help you catch more fish or last longer while you’re out there catching fish.

Let’s list some of the most crucial features you will need to know, and how they affect your fishing.

  • Size/Weight – Baitcasting reels you will hold and cast over and over need to be as light as possible. Some of the reels on this page are 7-8 oz. This is super light and ideal if you’re going after fish under 10 lb. like bass in a fishing tournament. The heavier the reel, the more likely you’ll be putting it down as you wait for fish to strike, so the extra weight is not a burden.
  • Gear Ratio – Low gear ratios under 6:1 are ideal for strong or heavy fish. High gear ratios like 8:1 or higher are perfect for casting and retrieving hundreds of times a day while using artificial lures you’re dragging through the water.
  • Maximum Drag – A high maximum drag of 25 lb. and higher is preferred for heavy fish or fish with a lot of energy that you want to slow down and land quicker. For bluegill, 5 lb. drag would be overkill. For a freshwater catfish, bowfin, or gar, you may use all of the 25 lb. max drag available to you. As with all features, what drag you decide you need depends on what fish you’ll be frequently targeting.
  • Anti-reverse Feature – Nearly every reel has this feature that blocks the reel from turning in reverse and fouling your line. It consists of 1 ball bearing as described above.
  • Braking System – This keeps the spool from free-spinning after the cast and your bait has hit the water. If the spool continued to spin, you’d get a bad bird nest of line in your reel. The brakes help slow the spool down.
  • Frame and Sideplate Materials – Aluminum is generally the material used for the frame because it’s strong and lightweight. We are seeing different composites used for the frame and sideplates now that manufacturing costs are lower for them. If you’re fishing for bass or fish smaller than bass, there’s no need for any great strength in your frame and sideplate. If surf fishing for something bigger and stronger, you will need as strong a reel as you can afford. RELATED: Best Surf Fishing Reels
  • Clickers – Clickers click when line is being taken from your spool while the drag is on after you’ve already cast your line. It alerts you in case you didn’t see the bite and line moving. You can turn it off or on with a sliding switch.

New features on fishing reels are popping up all of the time and it’s great that there is still innovation in the space considering that reel manufacturers nailed the basic functions and features they needed decades ago. New reel technology focuses on convenience and efficiency and helping you catch more fish and be more comfortable doing it.

Brake System

The braking system of baitcasting reels comprises two parts. The two primary systems are the magnetic system and the centrifugal braking system. The magnetic systems are ultra-smooth and reliable. It is easy to use and is the preferred method on a reel for a beginner.

The centrifugal braking system is a little bit harder to manage and may require you to add/remove weights inside the reel based on the type of fishing you’re doing. A good centrifugal braking system will virtually eliminate reel backlash.

Near the handle should be a spool tension knob you can turn to tighten (increase) tension on the spool during casting. This has nothing to do with the drag adjustment like the lever or star drag system.

When a reel has both magnetic and centrifugal braking, it’s a combination of light constant pressure applied to the spool with the spool tension knob, and extra pressure automatically applied as the spool needs to slow down at the end of the cast to prevent backlash.

Drag System

The drag system works by applying friction to the spool when you have hooked a fish and are reeling it in. The drag tires the fish out so you can bring it in quicker and can also allow you to land the fish before it gets too tired and cannot function due to exhaustion when you let it go.

The drag system is completely different from the braking system. The drag system usually works by compressing discs of carbon fiber together to get a smooth even pressure as the fish pulls against the drag. Smooth and even pressure is important in the drag system to prevent line breaks.

A drag of 10 to 15 lb. is more than enough for catching bass and other fish that don’t get too big. The drag resistance should match the reel or something could break. If you have a super-lightweight reel and it has a 40 lb. drag, you may break the gears inside, or something else because the drag is too strong for that lightweight reel. A small baitcasting reel is not really made for catching very heavy fish.

Handle Size & Orientation

Some anglers prefer a right-hand retrieve and some like a left-hand retrieve. If you’re casting with your strong side, the right side, it would be easier to just reel in fish with your left hand. Still, some people insist on reeling in with the right hand, their strong hand. So, either way, do as you wish but keep in mind that it’s important to be as comfortable as possible because you will be casting and retrieving many times.

The handle size of your baitcast reel has to be big enough that you can grab one handle and comfortably reel in line (and fish!). Oversized handles are preferred by most anglers for better comfort.

RELATED: Spinning Reel vs Baitcaster


What is the best baitcasting gear ratio?

Most people find a gear ratio between 5:1 and 7:1 as the most comfortable ratio to use on their baitcasting reels. This is a good range to start with. If you’re fishing in a tournament, or you prefer to use artificial lures that require you to cast and retrieve over and over hundreds and even thousands of times in a day, you will want an 8:1 or 9:1 gear ratio to retrieve line as fast as you can.

Should I choose a right or left-handed baitcaster?

You should use the one that feels comfortable for you. I find I can switch from reels with left-hand or right-hand retrieval without a problem. You may be that way, or you may prefer one side or the other. It’s entirely up to you.

What causes a backlash on a baitcaster?

Backlash is caused by the spool spinning to release line when it isn’t being taken out during a cast or pull on the end of the line. Excess line released from the spool happens during casting or when a fish hits your lure or bait and your drag is set too loose (or not at all). The spool spins fast and doesn’t slow down, causing line to knot up all over the reel.

RELATED: Best Spinning Reels For Trout

Is braid or mono better for baitcasters?

Braided line is better because it is easier to cast and is a thinner diameter than mono line. Baitcaster reels can hold more braided line, so most people use it as their main line and tie leaders of mono or fluoro on the end.

How much should I spend on a baitcaster?

You should spend at least $100 on a baitcasting reel. Less than that and you really bring some junk reels into the mix. I prefer to spen between $150 1nd $300. That seems to be the sweet spot in getting the quality features that I need.

 The key features for me are line capacity, ergonomics, max drag, gear ratio, and weight. I also really appreciate a butter-smooth operation and will pay extra for it. You’ll need to decide what features are the most important to you, and decide how much money you are willing to spend on a baitcaster reel.


Baitcasters are versatile enough to be used to catch basscrappie, northern pike, musky, bowfin, walleye and gar in freshwater and trout, pompano, sheepshead and other marine species found close to shore or a pier.

This is exactly what I used my first Abu Garcia for when I was younger. Baitcasters are excellent for casting accuracy, they are strong and well-built, and give anglers a confident feeling about their equipment. My Abu Garcia, Penn, and Daiwa reels have never failed me. That’s over decades of fishing!

The reels shown above in the under $200 class are all quite good quality baitcasting reels that will last you a long time and catch fish. 

Tight lines!

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John VanDerLaan

John VanDerLaan is the founder and lead editor at Fisherman's Authority. John is a passionate fisherman whose travels have taken him all over the country in search of different species of gamefish. He has won bass fishing tournaments, including the 1987 Candlewood Classic. He also chases winter steelhead in upstate New York, summer stripers in New England and spends a lot of time fishing the waters of Florida Keys. John is an active member of the Outdoor Writers Association Of America.

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