Often times on the river or lake I have heard fellow anglers say something like “why would I use baitcasting reels when spinning reels work just fine?” Undoubtedly spinning reels do have their time and place (like pitching 1/8oz jigs to walleyes for example) but for certain applications a baitcasting reel is going to be the weapon of choice. This guide will help you choose the best baitcasting reel for any type of fishing situation and budget. Below are some of the top reasons and situations an angler would choose a baitcasting reel over a spinning reel.
Why Choose A Baitcasting Reel
1. Higher Line Capacity
Baitcasters can hold more line and heavier line than a similarly sized spinning reel. This is one reason why muskie anglers and many bass anglers mostly choose baitcasting reels when targeting those lunkers especially since many of them are throwing bigger heavier lures in heavy cover.
2. Better Control
Due to the way a casting reel is designed it is much easier to control where your lure hits the water than a spinning reel. By slowing down or stopping the spool with your thumb you can make pinpoint accurate casts that place your lure exactly in the strike zone.
3. Fast Line Retrieve
Baitcasting reels in general have higher line retrieves than spinning reels due to higher gear ratios. The Shimano Chronarch MGL Baitcasting Reel XG model’s gear ratio is 8:1:1 while my Shimano Sahara 2500 is only 5:0:1.
Casting Reels in general are lighter than spinning reels. The Piscifun Phantom Carbon reel only weighs 5.7oz! Thats like holding a baby bird in your hand. If you are doing a lot of casting the lighter weight reels really do help make the difference between waking up with a sore shoulder or not.
Best Baitcasting Reel Comparison Table
|Shimano Chronarch MGL||6.2/7.1/8.1||6.5||8BB + 1|
|Team Lew's Custom Pro Speed Spool||6.8:1||5.8||10SS + 1|
|Piscifun Phantom Carbon||7.0:1||5.7||6+1|
|Abu Garcia Revo Elite 7||7.1:1||6||9 + 1|
|13 Fishing Concept A3||8.1||10.5||6SS + 1|
|Shimano Curado XG Baitcast||8.2:1||6.5||5BB + 1|
|Abu Garcia Revo MG||8.0:1||4.5||11|
|Lews Tournament MB Baitcast Reel||5.6.1/6.8.1/7.5.1/8.3.1||6.7||9+1|
|13 Fishing Concept C||5.3:1/6.6:1/7.3:1/8.1:1||6.2||4AC+4SS + 1|
Best Baitcasting Reel Reviews
1. Shimano Chronarch MGL
Gear Ratio: 6.2/7.1/8.1
Bearings: 8 + 1
Lightweight Magnumlite spool, Micromodule gearing, and SVS braking system
There’s a reason Shimano reels have remained the number 1 top choice for anglers worldwide for decades. Rock solid dependability and performance. The Shimano Chronarch MGL is no exception. Weighing in at a mere 6.5 ounces this top performing casting reel has been re-engineered with some of Shimano’s most advanced features. The one complaint we had about this reel is that it is not rated for saltwater use, but that shouldn’t be an issue for freshwater anglers.
Shimano fitted this reel with their new magnumlite spools which allows for a low moment of inertia which requires very little force to get it moving. These new spools feature porting not only along the bottom, but along the sidewalls as well. This translates to much farther casts with less effort when compared to similar reels in its class.
To further enhance casting performance and accuracy Shimano included its all new SVS braking system which garners phenomenal control, and easy trouble free casting. Some anglers have reported when adjusting the external dial that it was a little stiff upon initial use but that should loosen up with repeated use. For me personally I use the tried and true “set it and forget it approach” when it comes to the external brakes. I prefer to leave it a little on the loose side and use my thumb more when using casting reels.
As for retrieve many anglers are shocked at how buttery smooth the Shimano Chronarch MGL is. The smaller teeth used in Micro-Module Gearing equals more solid contact between gears, which translates to smoother, silkier performance.
Considering its advanced features and high end construction its no wonder so many anglers gush with exuberance when talking about their Shimano Chronarch MGL. With its Magnumlite spool, SVS braking system and Micro-Module gearing that allows effortless pinpoint accurate casts and smoother than silk retrieves all it takes is one cast and you’ll know why this is our top pick casting reel.
2. Lew's Fishing Custom Pro Speed Spool
Gear Ratio: 6.8:1/7.5:1/8.3:1
Bearings: 10+ 1
One-piece SLP (super low profile) aluminum frame,C45 Carbon side plates,Double anodized 32MM Duralumin U-spool
All it takes is a few casts to see why the Lew’s Custom Pro Speed Spool SLP won the 2016 ICAST best of show award. Weighing in at a skimpy 5.8 ounces this is Lews lowest profile design ever. Packed with Lews most advanced features and technologies it sits super low on the reel seat providing unmatched comfort and balance when casting. The low profile one piece aluminum frame and C45 carbon side plates make for an incredibly comfortable feel in your hand. It comes in 3 different retrieve ratios but only one of those is made in both left and right hand retrieve. That brings us to our only complaint with this reel the left hand version only comes in the 7:5:1 gear ratio. It’s a happy medium between the two other ratios and still gives you 30” retrieve per crank. Another con some anglers have noticed in the 6.8:1 ratio version is that there is a very very slight play in the handle that makes a very minor rattling noise when retrieved.
Many anglers rave about the ease of use and incredible casting distances they are able to achieve with this reel. Thanks to its aircraft-grade double anodized Duralumin drilled U-shape spool and its externally adjustable 4-pin, 27 position SpeedCast adjustable centrifugal braking system you should have no problem launching lures in the quarter to one ounce range with the right setup.
As for drag this reel comes equipped with a mix of carbon and steel washers that provides a maximum of 20lbs of drag pressure. The performance is smooth and consistent and has been a standard design Lews has used in many of their other reel designs.
If you prefer to use right handed retrieve this reel is a clear winner as you can choose between three different gear ratios and use it for a variety of techniques. With its super lightweight (5.8oz) and SLP design combined with superior casting distances and a strong smooth drag this reel receives our runner up reward behind the Shimano Chronarch MGL.
3. Piscifun Phantom Carbon
Gear Ratio: 7.0:1
Bearings: 6 + 1
Dual brake system, Premium carbon fiber drag system, CNC Hollow Aircraft-grade Duralumin spool.
The ultra lightweight Piscifun Phantom Carbon casting reel comes packed with some very advanced features at an unbeatable budget price. Many anglers are shocked at how smooth and sold this reel is. With more than 300 positive reviews on Amazon its safe to say this reel would make a fine addition to any anglers arsenal. Of those reviews a few of them noted they had a little trouble getting the brakes dialed in but with some tweaking it shouldn’t be a problem.
Some anglers don’t realize this reel has a dual braking system featuring both a 10 setting mag*netic brake and 6-pin centrifugal brakes, one on the inside and one on the outside, which is quite noteworthy for a $69 casting reel. This allows you to custom tailor the brake setting exactly to your casting style allowing for effortless and backlash free casting.
As for casting a quick look at the reviews show how many anglers are quite shocked at ho*w smooth, accurate and how far they can cast with this reel. Many anglers have reported the casting distance equaling 3x to 4x more expensive reels. This is in large part due to its CNC Hollow Aircraft-grade Duralumin spool which is the same spool we see in much higher end reels.
Considering the fact that the Piscifun Phantom reel is a carbon composite reel its retrieve is shockingly silent, smooth, and solid. Many anglers have reported this fact. That brings us to the drag system. With premium carbon fiber drag system providing upto 17lbs of drags, the overall consensus is it provides velvety smooth pressure throughout the drag range.
If you are looking for a baitcasting reel with superior performance for one third the price then look no further. The ultra lightweight Piscifun Phantom reel is packed with a lot of high end features such as the aircraft-grade Duralumin spool, lightweight carbon composite frame, and dual brake system at an unbeatable budget price. The Chinese manufacturers have really upped their game and offer seriously well made reels with similar performance in terms of castability, smoothness etc. as their much higher priced cousins. That is why we have chosen the Piscifun Phantom reel as the best budget reel in our lineup.
4. Daiwa Tatula 200 TWS
Gear Ratio: 6.3:1/7.3:1
Deep spool with higher line capacity, T-Wing system (TWS), Reinforced brass gearing,Rigid aluminum frame and sideplate,100mm handle, Well suited for frogging/flipping
Daiwa has reel has really stepped up to the plate with their updated Daiwa Tatula 200 TWS reel. This new and improved version delivers 30% more line capacity than its predecessor thanks to its deeper spool. This beefed up version was engineered with rugged aluminium side plates and frames in addition to reinforced brass gearing that is well suited for heavier applications like frogging flipping etc. Many anglers also love its 100mm handle which provides more power and leverage. It comes in 6.3:1 and 7.3:1 gear ratios which is great for most applications, but since this reel is built for big baits and deep diving cranks Daiwa could have made it better if they offered a lower gear ratio. **
Let’s get down to performance. Thanks to its Air Rotation technology the Daiwa Tatula 200 TWS is butter smooth on the retrieve. As for casting many anglers have reported that this beast of a reel is better suited for lures weighing three eighths of an ounce and up to however heavy you like. Thanks to the T-Wing System (TWS) the “T” aperture allows the line to flow more freely on the outcast reducing line **friction.
When it comes to power the addition of the 100mm handles really make a big difference for turning the gears on big baits. This is a nice upgrade on the already generous 90mm handles on the original Tatula reel.
The magnetic brakes are adjusted externally so there is no need to take the reel apart and fiddle around with an internal brake. The drag provides smooth and consistent power throughout the drag range and is rated up to 13lbs.
This a great reel for anglers who are looking for a 300 sized reel in terms of line capacity in a 200 sized package. Packed with quality components like a deeper spool with higher line capacity, T-Wing system (TWS), reinforced brass gearing,rigid aluminum frame and sideplate, and a 100mm handle for cranking those big baits its no wonder this reel is a top choice for anglers who are looking for power and strength in a compact package. Its well suited for throwing heavier lures ⅜ oz and up and will make a fine addition to any anglers arsenal who are keen on throwing bigger lures.
5. 13 Fishing Concept A3
Gear Ratio: 6.3:1/8.1:1
Ocean Armor 2 Saltwater protection, Bulldog Drag system providing 30lbs of drag, H.A.M gearing system
Power is the first thing that comes to mind when handling the 13 Fishing Concept A3 casting reel. Built with Japanese Hamai gearing, the new H.A.M gears are much harder, stronger, and thicker than any other reel in its class. Providing over 30lbs of drag the new Bulldog Drag system is strong enough to handle just about anything that bites salt or freshwater. 13 fishing engineered these reels with their Ocean Armor 2 technology so these reels are saltwater ready. We really couldn’t find many cons when it came to this reel. The vast majority of anglers were overwhelming positive with their reports regarding this reels performance. One angler** did mention that it would make screeching noises when he casted it after some time. We can only assume this case was a fluke.
We like the fact that this reel is a dedicated saltwater reel with a whopping 30lbs of drag! 13 fishing really beefed up the drag for this reel for those anglers who are targeting giant stripers, red fish, muskys or any other big game fish. 13 Fishing outfitted this reel with their Ocean Armor 2 technology which means its resistant to corrosion and well suited for saltwater environments. Of course it is a good idea to rinse your reel in freshwater after each outing in the saltwater.
Many anglers have reported the ease with which it handles giant salt and freshwate*r fish thanks to its Japanese Hamai gearing. The new H.A.M gears are reportedly 37% harder than its competitors so you can have confidence when reeling in the fish of a lifetime.
Another really nice feature of the 13 Fishing Concept A3 reel is that it comes with both the Concept cork knob or a power handle. For those anglers preferring the standard co**rk knob you’ll be pleased to find it comes in 100mm size rather than the conventional 90mm. The single knob is included at no extra charge so there is no need to buy it separately.
13 fishing continues to impress with its innovation and high quality components like their Japanese engineered Hamai cut H.A.M gearing. We love how the 13 Fishing Concept A3 reel is saltwater resistant thanks to its Ocean Protection 2 technology and provides a whopping 30lbs of drag. If you are looking for a beefy saltwater rated reel with a robust powerful drag you will want to add the 13 Fishing Concept A3 reel to your arsenal.
6. Lew's Tournament MB
Gear Ratio: 5.6.1/6.8.1/7.5.1/8.3.1
Bearings: 9 +1
One piece die cast aluminum frame, Premium 10 shielded bearings,Lews LFS (lighter,faster, stronger) technology
If you are looking for a high performance, lightweight casting reel at an affordable price that can bomb even lightweight lures a country mile then look no further. With its one piece diecast aluminum frame, ten premium shielded bearings and only weighing at 6.7oz, the Lew’s Tournament MB reel delivers consistent smooth performance and solid hooksets. Lews outfitted this reel with carbon composite drag system delivering 14lbs of max drag. Many anglers have noted how smooth it is. Some anglers have mentioned they noticed a whining noise on the retrieve especially after a light rain when retrieving. Lews has excellent customer service so any issues such as these should be resolved fairly quickly.
The nice thing about a higher drag rating is for many bass anglers they like to max out their drag setting when setting the hook so as to prevent any line slippage. This allows for rock solid hook sets. Thanks to its rugged carbon composite drag system rated up to 14lbs you don’t have to worry about sloppy hooksets.
When it comes to casting many anglers are shocked at how far it casts and even complain they didn’t expect to overshoot their targets by up to 20 yards even with lightweight lures! It has a dual cast control system which means it has a dial on the outside for adjusting the magnetic brake and 4 brake shoes on the inside that work by way of centrifugal force.
Many anglers love how comfortable this reel feels in their hands, even after all day use. While it might not be the lightest reel on the market weighing in at only 6.7oz is still plenty light and the oversized knobs really help when cranking down on a big one.
Packed with quality features and high end performance at an affordable price. . Coming in 5.6.1/6.8.1/7.5.1/8.3.1 gear ratios anglers are spoiled for choice when it comes to retrieves and applications. With super smooth performance thanks to its 10 premium ball bearings, dual cast control system anglers are astounded at how far this bad boy can launch even the lightest of lures. With its ergonomic design and lightweight its a pleasure to cast all day on the water. Many anglers love the oversized knobs which allow you to quickly find them when a fish strikes. Lews continues to deliver time and time again with high end performance at an affordable price. The Lew’s Tournament MB reel is no exception and provides anglers smooth, powerful performance without breaking the bank.
7. 13 Fishing Concept C
Gear Ratio: 5.3:1/6.6:1/7.3:1/8.1:1
6 Way brake system/4+4+1 Stainless/Anti-Corrosion High Spin Bearings/22lb Bulldog Drag System/ Ocean Armor Saltwater protection
This powerful saltwater ready 13 Fishing Concept C is the lighter cousin to the 13 Fishing Concept A3. Weighing in at 6.2oz this bad boy is packed with 4 stainless steel bearings, 4 anti corrosion bearings and 1 Dead Stop Anti-Reverse bearing. Thanks to its Ocean Armor Saltwater protection you can safely use this reel in fresh or saltwater. Delivering up to 22lbs of smooth drag pressure thanks to its bulldog drag system its safe to say this reel can handle practically anything that swims. of The one minus we found with this reel is that it is only available in right hand retrieves, hopefully 13 Fishing comes out with a left handed version in the future.
The Concept C reel instantly stands out with its brilliant pearl white finish which really gives it a refined elegant look. The “Dead Stop” anti reverse system is well named since there is no back play whatsoever when engaged.
The Concept C reel’s drag achieves a whopping 20lbs of drag thanks to its many carbon and steel drag washers providing a large surface area which also allows for smooth consistent performance throughout the drag range. In most cases max drag isn’t always the most important thing when choosing a reel, rather smoothness and consistency is key which according to many anglers the Concept C reel has plenty of.
Many anglers have reported that not only is the Concept C reel is smoother than 13 Fishing Concept A reel it is lighter as well. Thanks to its higher bearing count there is a noticeable difference.
When it comes to casting the Concept C reel uses a 6 way internal centrifugal brake system. While providing accurate long casts many anglers prefer adjusting the brakes externally. For retrieves many have noted it is extremely smooth and delivers a much more friction free experience compared to other reels in its class thanks to its premium 9 ball bearing system.
Many anglers love the fact that this reel comes in a range of retrieves (5.3:1/6.6:1/7.3:1/8.1:1) is very lightweight (6.2oz) and is rated for saltwater use with a max drag of just over 20lbs. Its excellent build quality and high end components make this reel a definite buy for those anglers who want a reel that is strong enough to handle large toothy critters fresh or salt in a lightweight package that is a pleasure to cast all day.
8. Abu Garcia Revo Toro Beast
Gear Ratio: 4.9:1/6.2:1
25lb Power Stack Carbon Drag System/ Infinimax Brake System/High Line Capacity/7+1 HPCR bearings
Big brute cranking power combined with high line capacity comes to mind when talking about the Abu Garcia Revo Toro Beast reel. Designed for cranking big baits in fresh or saltwater the Abu Garcia Revo Toro Beast reel comes in 4.9:1 and 6.2:1 gear ratios. The 4.9:1 version especially pulls giant hard pulling deep diving crank baits like the Strike King 10XD with relative ease. Finally a reel with high line capacity and a slow enough gear ratio to pull big boy crank baits. Another really solid thing Abu did was include two extra power handle options which are normally available in the aftermarket or not at all. Some anglers have reported that the dual brake system is unnecessary in a reel that size and the handle removal can be tricky, but this reel also comes in left hand retrieve so that is a definite plus.
Like the standard Abu Garcia Revo Toro reel the beast utilizes Abu Garcia’s Heavy Duty Duragear brass gear design. This brass gear really helps to contribute to the reels overall smoothness and sold feel when cranking in big baits.
The carbon matrix drag system Abu employs for the Revo Toro Beast reel provides a whopping 25lbs of smooth consistent drag pressure. When it comes to power the extra long handles, low gear ratio, and large line capacity make pulling magnum sized deep diving cranks a breeze. Many anglers really love the large handles and how long they are in proportion to the size of the frame and the extra handle options really you customize the reel the way you like to fish.
Abu engineered the Beast with 7 high performance corrosion resistant bearings and an aluminum frame which makes the Revo Toro Beast an excellent choice for saltwater scenarios and any big game species where power and a large line capacity is required. The 25lb carbon matrix drag system and the option for left or right hand retrieve in low gear ratio make this reel an excellent choice for throwing big baits.
9. Abu Garcia Revo Mgxtreme
Gear Ratio: 8.0:1
X-Mag alloy frame/Aircraft grade aluminum main gear/Super Light Weight Concept spool design (SLC)/Carbon Matrix drag system/ IVCB-4 braking system
Catering to the enthusiast crowd Abu garcia has loaded the Revo Mgxtreme low profile baitcaster with all the latest advancements and technologies. Weighing in at a mere 4.5 ounces it is still a durable reel thanks to its X-Mag alloy frame and C6 carbon to reduce weight and maintain rigidity. The main gear is designed with aircraft grade aluminum which results in world class power in a super light package. Utilizing a hybrid bearing system that combines 8 HPCR stainless steel bearings, one roller bearing, and 2 Ceramilite spool bearings, it’s the only reel we know of that combines ceramic and stainless steel bearings. The addition of the 2 ceramic bearings really aid in casting performance especially with lighter lures. Some anglers have noted Revo Mgxtreme can be a bit noisy on the retrieve which may be due to the ceramic bearings,but the amazing overall performance of this reel far outweighs a slight bit of noise.
Many anglers have noted the insane casting performance of this reel. The Super Light Weight Concept spool design combined with the TI coating on the line guide really shines when it comes to casting performance. Even when casting very light offerings like ⅛ oz lures many have noted that with these light lures it is very hard to birdsnest. The IVCB-4 braking system on this reel is so precisely fine tuned that it allows for extremely precise adjustments for even light lures, which can be a difficulty for a lot of other baitcasters. So it is well suited for finesse applications.
When it comes to drag some anglers may wonder how can such a light reel provide enough power to winch in big bass. The Revo Mgxtreme doesn’t disappoint in this regard either. Hats off to Abu for providing an industry standard 12lbs of drag in such a light compact reel. The carbon matrix drag system provides silky smooth consistent drag pressure and enough power to pull big bass out of heavy slop.
If you are looking for an ultra lightweight high performance casting reel that casts like an absolute dream then look no further. The low profile Abu Garcia Revo Mgxtreme reel packs all the latest technologies in a small compact rigid frame. This flagship reel makes all day casting an absolute breeze thanks to its Xmag alloy frame and Super Lightweight Concept spool design.
10. Shimano Curado K
Gear Ratio: 6.2:1/7.4:1/8.5:1
Micro module gearing, X-Ship, Hagane Body,SVS infinity braking system,CI4+ sideplates
The Curado is without a doubt the most important line of Shimano’s baitcasting reel offerings. For years this has been the go to workhorse reel reel for both fresh and saltwater anglers who need a quality high performance reel in a variety of gear ratios that won’t break the bank. The Curado K reel is Shimano’s latest iteration of this classic reel that now features cutting edge technology like Micro module gearing for smooth performance day in and day out. Thanks to X-ship technology and sculpted aluminum frame many anglers have noted that the Curado K reel is built like a tank. With that being said one con we have noticed is that it is a bit on the heavy side weighing in at 7.6oz. This is not that heavy though when you consider this reel was designed to handle the abuse of saltwater fishing.
When it comes to casting many have noted that it has the same max casting distance as previous versions but it handles light lures and pinpoint casts more effectively. Externally located on the non handle side plate the SVS braking system allows for minute adjustments which makes casting lighter offerings a breeze.
For retrieve the Curado K is noticeably smoother than previous iterations and comes very close to the more expensive Chronarch MGL. Thanks to the combination of Micro Module gearing and X-ship technologies many anglers have noted how great the silky smooth power is when cranking down on big fish.
The Curado K comes with 11lbs of max of cross carbon drag which is down from previous version the Curado I, but the good news is that the drag is more refined allowing for even finer adjustments and yes it is buttery buttery smooth.
As some have noted the Curado K reel is “built like a tank but handles like a sports car”. This new iteration of the legendary Curado line comes very close to its much more expensive cousin the Chronarch MGL in terms of quality and performance for $100 cheaper, and unlike the Chronarch MGL is rated for saltwater use. With a whole host of high end features like SVS Infinity Braking System, micro module gearing, X-Ship, cross carbon drag, Hagane body, CI4+, a variety of gear ratios, and both left and right hand retrieve, Shimano has designed a clear winner worthy of anyone in need of a tournament grade workhouse casting reel.
It’s hard to choose a winner among all these great choices we have covered. Some of these reels have very specific niche applications like the heavy duty Abu Garcia Revo Toro Beast reel for example. Others offer incredible performance and quality at a rock bottom price like the Piscifun Phantom Carbon reel. If we had to choose one reel however as our top pick it would have to be the Shimano Chronarch MGL. What sets the Chronarch MGL reel apart from its competition is its unparalleled pinpoint casting performance thanks to its Magnumlite (MGL) spool. One cast is all it takes for your to know why this is our top pick.
For our runner up pick that title would have to go to the Lews Custom Pro Speed Spool reel it is lighter weight than the Chronarch MGL and offers comparable casting performance but only comes in one retrieve ratio in the left hand.
Many anglers tend to stick their nose up when it comes to the Chinese offerings like the Piscifun Phantom Carbon reel, but the fact of the matter is Chinese engineering and manufacturing quality has improved drastically over the past few years. A simple disassembly of the Pisicfun Phantom Carbon reel will reveal high quality machined components, bearings, and construction at an unbeatable price. The amount of satisfied anglers who rave about the smooth operation, casting performance and strong smooth drag is astounding. The quality and performance this super light weight reel delivers is on caliber with many reels costing three times as much. Thats why the Piscifun Phantom Carbon reel reigns as our best value pick.
We included what we think are the top ten baitcasting reels of 2020 that cover a wide gamut of applications. We included everything from the heavy duty saltwater rated 13 Fishing Concept A3 reel to the ultra lightweight enthusiast favorite Abu Garcia Revo Mgxtreme reel to our top pick the Shimano Chronarch MGL reel. We chose these because they embody the best of what baitcasting reels can offer the angler, namely light weight construction, higher line capacities that are better suited to throwing big heavy baits, and a variety of gear ratios. There are definite applications for spinning gear but for many other applications the baitcasting reel shines. Like it has been said before there is a time and place for everything.