baitcaster gear ratios Explained – What does it Mean on your Reel?

For serious bass anglers, baitcasting reels are a critical piece of equipment. 

The control, casting distance, power, and perhaps most importantly, the retrieval rate of these modern marvels is unsurpassed in the fishing world.

Spincast and spinning reels try to compete, but they are distant rivals in the bass fishing world.

The retrieval ability of a baitcasting reel is a combination of the spool size of the reel, and the gear ratio between the handle and the gears that move the spool.

In general, higher retrieval speeds are easier to generate with a higher gear ratio.

Lower speed retrieves are just the opposite; it takes a lot more turns of the handle to bring a lure back to you with a lower gear ratio. 

As is the case in outdoor equipment, there is always a middle, in this case, a medium-speed baitcaster reel.

Baitcaster Gear Ratio – What Does it Tell You?

Baitcaster gear ratios may seem like a strange, confusing combination of numbers, but they’re really not. 

Instead, the gear ratio just provides basic information on how many times the spool turns for every crank of the handle.

For instance, a gear ratio of 5.5:1 is read as 5.5 turns of the spool, to a single turn of the handle. 

The 5.5:1 is the smallest gear ratio you’ll find, and when combined with a smaller reel, a high-speed retrieve.

A ratio of 9.3:1 is at the opposite end of the spectrum. This is as fast as baitcasting retrieves get. For every one turn of the handle, the spool turns 9.3 times. 

Combine that high ratio with a larger spool, and your lure will race across the water.

Baitcaster Gear Ratio Chart

RatioSpeedRetrieveUses
5.5:1Very slow23” per crankCrankbaits
6.6:1Slow27” per crankFrogs, heavy lures
6.7:1Slow/medium28” per crankPlastic worms, drop shots
7.9:1Medium33” per crankBottom bouncers, spinners
8.1:1Fast34”Pitching/flipping for bass
9.3:1Extremely fast39”Open water fishing

High-Speed Baitcaster

The benefits of a high-speed baitcaster are the faster retrieve. Along with that fast retrieve comes a larger spool, with a larger line capacity in most high-speed baitcasting reels.

High speed reels are the best choice for targeting fish in open water. They’re also a good choice drifting along with the current and flipping bait as you float by promising bass habitat.

Target fishing is as close to hunting as you can get with a rod and reel. It’s often a challenge to stay on top of a school of fish once you spot one. 

Schooling fish are quick; by the time your lure arrives on a long cast, they can be several yards away. Getting that lure back quickly is easy with a high retrieval speed.

Remember, you want that lure in the water attracting fish as close as you can get it without spooking the prey.

If you’re making a long cast over a school of fish, and bringing your lure back to them, a fast retrieve is the way to go. You’ll be able to position your bait quickly, then work it at a speed that will attract the fish.

If they don’t hit, a fast retrieve gets you right back into position quickly.

A feature of fast retrieval reels that many anglers overlook is the speed you can bring a hooked fish back to the boat. Bass are smart, they’ll find cover to wrap around as they try to spit out the hook.

If you’re reeling them in at high speed, they’ll stay on top of the water and be much less able to snag a foothold around a lily pad or a patch of cattails.

Also Read: Ultralight Baitcaster Reviewed

Medium Speed Baitcaster

The “Goldilocks” of the baitcasting world is the medium retrieve reel. It’s not too slow, and it’s not too fast; it’s just right.

Variety and adaptability are the hallmarks of a medium-speed baitcasting reel. These reels have gear ratios that range from 7.1:1 to 8.1:1.

They’re perfect for crankbaits, spinnerbaits, and chatter baits, but they’re also a good choice for live bait and are used for drop shotting with worms, minnows, and lead head jigs attached with rubber minnows.

This is a perfect choice for a beginning angler since the reel does most of the work and takes the guesswork out of how fast, or how slow to turn the handle.

The medium-speed reel can move into both the low speed and high speed baitcasting world by simply adjusting how fast you’re cranking the handle.

Low Speed Baitcaster

Low speed baitcasting reels are the most powerful of the three designs. A lower speed reel acts in much the same manner as the lower gears on a truck. 

The engine (the handle) turns at the same speed, but the wheels (the spool) spin slower with more power in a vehicle. That same technology extends to baitcasting reels.

A slower speed reel allows you to pull heavier lures through the water, creating the noise, ripples, and splashing that drive big, aggressive bass crazy.

Lower speed baitcasters are the reel of choice for crankbaits, large swimbaits, and big fishing rigs of any type.

Those heavier lures allow very long casts. 

A well-placed cast will provide coverage of a larger area of promising bass habitat with each cast.

How Do I Choose The Best Gear Ratio For My Baitcaster?

That’s the million-dollar question that each angler must answer. If you’re a novice, the medium speed baitcaster is the way to go. 

You’ll have the versatility to fish a much wider array of baits, lures, and harnesses than with the lower or higher speed reels.

If you live in an area with great fishing but not much variety of fishing habitat, you need to select a reel more specialized to your setting.

If it’s a big lake with areas of good habitat interspersed with wide-open areas, get a high speed reel. 

You’ll cover more area, keep the lure in the water longer and have greater success by placing that lure where the bass are the most concentrated.

You can’t beat a low speed reel if you’re fishing an area with low water levels with big bass hiding in heavy cover in shallow water. 

Lower speed baitcasting reels make it easier to throw big, noisy surface lures that aggravate the already aggressive bass hiding there.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Is A Good Gear Ratio For A Baitcast reel?

The best gear ratio has to be tied to the type of fishing you’re about to do. Fast for open water, slow for heavy baits that splash and attract, and medium for everything else.

What Is A 7.5:1 Gear Ratio Used For?

The answer is, just about everything. A 7.5:1 is right in the middle between slow and fast baitcasting reels. 

In addition to being the most common gear ratio, it can be used for numerous fishing applications 
The 7.5:1 is good with live bait, presenting worms, minnows, and leeches at just the right speed. 

It’s a great ratio for bottom bouncing or dropshotting in heavy bottom cover, and it is fast enough for spinnerbaits, shallow divers, and crankbaits of all types.

What Gear Ratio Is Best For Spinnerbaits?

For spinnerbaits many anglers prefer a 6.5:1 gear ratio. It’s just the right speed to present the bait well.

It takes the guessing out of how fast or how slow to crank the handle. Just crank away and let the reel do the work.

What is the best gear ratio for crankbaits?

The bottom end of the baitcasting world in terms of speed is where you’ll find the best crankbait reels.

A ratio of 5.1:1 is the lowest a baitcasting reel can go, and it’s the best choice for crankbaits.  A slow, powerful retrieve is what you’re after, and a ratio of 5.1:1 provides that.

What Is The Best Gear Ratio For Fishing a Chatterbait?

Chatterbaits produce a lot of torque. A good choice is a medium reel in the 6.4:1 range, but you’re going to have a tired arm and sore wrist at the end of the day from all that extra resistance.

The best ratio most anglers have found with chatterbaits is the same as for crankbaits, a low and slow 5.1:1 works best. 

The added benefit of the lower ratio is that your arm won’t be tired at the end of the day.

What Is The Best Gear Ratio For Inshore Fishing?

Inshore fishing doesn’t bring in huge fish, but a good day on the water can have you wrangling with dozens of smaller species. 

There is so much variety with inshore fishing species that one gear ratio isn’t the end-all for this style of angling.

A low-speed reel remains the best if there is a lot of surface cover in your inshore area.

A high-speed reel works better if the inshore area covers a lot of water. Remember, more area, faster reel, and more bait exposure.

If you had to select a single reel for all inshore applications, it would have to be a medium-speed reel, simply because of its adaptability.

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Sean Ward

Sean Ward

Hey there, my name is Sean – OnTrack Fishing is my site. I’m based in the UK yet I’ve been fortunate enough to catch bass in the States, barramundi in Australia, trout here at home and carp on the Danube delta. If I’m not fishing, or talking about fishing, then….I’m probably asleep.

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