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Gear Ratios 101: Breaking Down And Explaining Fishing Reels

Gear Ratios 101: Breaking Down And Explaining Fishing Reels

Whether you have a need for speed or want the power to go deep, choosing a fishing reel with the right gear ratio will help you achieve your goal.

Gear ratios determine the speed at which a reel picks up line. Fishing reels with a gear ratio of 6.3:1 means the spool rotates 6.3 times for every 360-degree turn of the reel handle. Baitcast reels offer a wider range of gear ratios than spinning models for spinning rods. Most spinning reels feature a gear ratio of 5.2:1 to 6.2:1 although some manufacturers are now offering models with a 7.0:1 gear ratio for bass anglers who want to quickly retrieve drop shot rigs or tube baits when fishing in deep water.

The Wide Range Of Reel Options

Casting Reels can house larger diameter lines than a spinning reel.

Gear ratios on most brands of baitcast reels range from 5.0:1 to 9.1:1. The pros use high speed models (7.1:1 to 9.1:1) for most applications because they know it is easier to slow down a retrieve with a fast reel than it is to crank faster with a low-speed model.

Bass fishing anglers are gearing their tackle so much to their lures so there is a demand for a wider range of gear ratios for baitcast reels now. Crankbait specialists like the power of a low-speed reel such as a 5.0:1 model for winching deep-diving crankbaits to their maximum depths. Whereas guys who like to rip lipless crankbaits through vegetation or keep a buzz bait skittering across the surface prefer reels with 7.1:1 or higher gear ratios.

The Beginner's Guide To Baitcasters

The 13 Fishing Inception is affordable and functional making it the ideal first baitcaster for new anglers.

Beginning anglers should select a lower gear ratio baitcaster for slow-rolling spinnerbaits and any other presentations requiring a snail-like retrieve. It takes experience to fish slowly with a high-speed reel so buying a middle-speed model in the 5.4:1 to 6.2:1 range allows novices to fish both slow- and fast-moving baits easier. They can wind the reel slow enough to slow-roll a spinnerbait or run a deep-diving crankbait without overworking the lure. The middle-speed reel also allows them to crank fast enough to get good performances from buzz baits or lipless crankbaits.

Casting Reels

End Things On A High Note

Once you gain experience with the lower speed reels you can graduate to the higher gear ratio models to get the best results for high-speed tactics such as burning buzz baits along the surface, ripping lipless crankbaits through vegetation or crashing square-bill crankbaits into wood cover. Then you can also work on that special touch the pros have for employing a slower retrieve on a high-speed reel.

Spinning Reels

Even though spinning reels offer less of a gear ratio range than are available for baitcast reels, it is still important to pick a spinning reel with the right gear ratio for your favorite style of fishing. If you want to throw artificial lures on lighter spinning reels, your best option is a higher gear ratio reel such as a 6.2:1 or 7.0:1. I prefer a higher speed spinning reel so I can reel in slack line faster and set the hook faster when I am fishing finesse tactics such as wacky worming or jigworming for bass.

A low-speed spinning reel with a 4.9:1 gear ratio is the best bet for fishing with live or dead bait. This type of fishing requires heavy line and a reel with lots of power. The lower gear ratio provides the torque required for winching in a heavyweight catfish or striped bass or a wide variety of saltwater surf behemoths.

Spinning reels with 5.2:1 gear ratios are recommended for most ice fishing presentations. Even though the reel might be filled with lighter line of 2- to 4-pound test, the power provided by the low-speed reel will allow you to fight and pull a heavyweight walleye or northern pike through the ice.

Gear ratios for spincast reels are pretty limited (3.1:1 to 5.1:1) because these reels are used mainly by novices for live or dead bait fishing. Spincast reels in the 3.0:1 to 4.0:1 gear ratio range are great for bait fishing or slow-moving bass tactics such as worm or jig fishing and the reels with a 5.1:1 gear ratio can handle most bass fishing applications except are too slow for high-speed techniques such as buzzing a buzzbait, waking a spinnerbait or burning square-bill crankbaits.

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Updated April 19th, 2022 at 6:40 AM CT