Baitcaster Gear Ratio Explained: How To Choose The Right Ratio?

Baitcaster Gear Ratio Explained

Choosing the right baitcaster for specific fishing purposes might be a daunting task to some anglers. Thanks to the abundance of reel models out there, it might take you some time to pick out the most suitable one. In addition, there exists the concept baitcaster gear ratio, which only muddies the waters further.

Yet, the right ratio or speed of your equipment will help improve the efficiency of your cast. This can translate to less elbow grease on your part and more successful catches at the end of the day. 

This article will break down into detail about the main categories of baitcaster gear ratio and which types of applications they are used for to help you make the right decision.

Baitcaster Gear Ratio Explained

The gear ratio shows the number of times the spool turns with a single rotation of the handle. For example, fishing reels with a gear ratio of 7.5:1 means that the spool turns 7.5 times for each reel handle turn.  

Therefore, you’ll retrieve the reel faster with the higher gear ratio and vice versa. The concept is quite similar to spinning reels. However, baitcaster reels feature a wider range of gear ratios and are often faster than their spinning counterparts.

Spinning reels’ gear ratio typically falls anywhere between 5.1:1 to 6.5:1 (although some reels with a gear ratio of 7.0:1 are specifically designed for bass fishing).

Baitcasters, on the other hand, start from 5.5:1 and reach up to 9.3:1. 

Professional anglers often refer to fast baitcasters (with a high gear ratio from 7.1:1 to 9.1:1) for almost all applications.

This is because it takes less effort to slow down a retrieve with a high-speed baitcaster than to crank it up with a slow-speed one. 

While a higher gear ratio allows you to retrieve lines more quickly, you may retrieve different quantities of line-per-reel turn with two baitcasters of the same gear ratio. 

The size of the spool plays a role in this case; a big spool will retrieve more lines than a small spool turning at the same speed. 

Baitcaster Gear Ratio Chart

Baitcaster gear ratio ranges from 5.5:1 and 9.3:1 and is divided into three categories: low, medium, and high. Each category is suitable for different applications, types of baits used, and fishing styles.

So check them out in more detail to choose for yourself the correct ratio.

Baitcaster gear ratio chart:

CategoryBaitcaster Gear RatioRetrieve RateRecommended Applications
Low Speed5.5:1 - 6.6:123” - 27”Heavy lures such as big crankbaits or swimbaits
Medium Speed6.7:1 - 7.9:128” - 33”Spinner baits, plastic worms, swimbaits, bottom bouncing rigs, etc.
High Speed8.1:1 - 9.3:134” - 39”Long casting
Open water fishing
Flipping and pitching when boat fishing
Bass fishing in or close to cover

Low-speed baitcaster

Slow-speed baitcasters go from 5.5:1 – 6.6:1 and are ideal for targeting large classes of fish, thanks to their superior cranking power. 

Lures with high resistance or heavy lures used in long-distance castings, such as large rigs, deep-diving crankbaits, and big swimbaits, are highly recommended for this range of retrieval speed.  In exchange for the slow speed, you can benefit from a lot of torque generated when the handle rotates. It means that you can use big, heavy baits with less effort and thus less fatigue at the end of the day. 

Medium speed baitcaster

Medium-speed baitcasters have gear ratios from 7.1:1 to 7.9:1. They are used for the broadest range of applications compared to the other two categories. For anglers searching for a universal gear ratio that can be used for virtually anything, medium-speed baitcasters are the way to go. 

The gear ratio shows the number of times the spool turns with a single rotation of the handle

Baitcasters of this speed range are suitable for fishing with chatter baits, spinnerbaits, and shallow diving crankbaits. They are also the right choice for bottom bouncing rigs such as jigs, worms, and Carolina rigs. 

High-speed baitcaster

Upon the higher end of the scale, we have a quick baitcaster gear ratio, which starts from 8.1:1 and goes all the way up to 9.3:1. There are also ultra-high-speed baitcasting reels, with a gear ratio of 10.1:1.  High-speed baitcaster

There are various situations where speed is the order of the day, and that’s when you need a fast or very fast reel. 

  • Fishing in open water can be tricky. The fish can immediately swim to a different spot once you make a cast. A high-speed reel lets you whip in a lure and whip it out faster, so you can make another cast in the new spot as fast as you can. 
  • When fishing from a drifting boat, speed also matters. You only make 1 or 2 casts in each fishing spot, so there is no time in your hands to waste. 

When the first cast is a miss, a fast baitcaster allows you to retrieve more quickly. So there is a higher chance of hitting the strike zone before you’re drifting out of the spot. 

  • A higher gear ratio also comes in handy when you’re catching fish in the proximity of cover. When the hook is set, how fast you can get it away from the cover might either land or lose your fish. A fast-speed baitcaster is what you need to winch your trophy out of the danger zones. 
  • A fast ratio would fit the bill when you’re fishing deep. You will find yourself turning the reel faster to retrieve from hefty depths. 
  • The last case where speed can make a difference is when you’re casting long distances. Once you reach the strike zone that’s quite far away, a fast reel enables you to reel it in faster before you can make the next cast. 

What Is The Best Gear Ratio For Baitcaster? 

There is no single answer to this question, as the best gear ratio is what can match your application.  For those not sure where to start, we highly recommend a medium-speed gear ratio, from 6.7:1 to 7.9:1, as they can cover multiple applications and targets. 

These general-purpose reels also allow you to wind faster or slower with more ease, so it’s suited for beginning anglers.

See also: Which reel is the most commonly used reel for beginners?

Unfortunately, this speed range also holds the greatest variety of models across brands, so you’re spoiled by choice.  However, to boost efficiency when fishing, choosing the correct ratio for specific tactics and applications is best, which we’ve covered in the chart above. 

In general, the low-speed category makes it easy for you to reel in line fishing large, heavy casts. So it is when torque matters more than the speed of the retrieve. 

Meanwhile, many applications call for medium-speed reels, including spinnerbaits, plastic worms, swimbaits, bottom bouncing rigs, etc. 

In circumstances where speed is essential, such as cutting down on the amount of time between the casts or when moving the fish away from the danger zones, go fast.

Hence, the gear ratio chart can give you a good start while choosing a baitcasting reel. 

Although some manufacturers offer ultra-fast baitcasters, we find the fast gear ratio is more than enough for virtually all high-speed applications. 

Braking Systems On Fishing Reels

The braking system on baitcasting reels controls the spool’s rotation during a cast. Without this feature, you cannot avoid the dreaded backlash or the big bird nest when the spool keeps rotating after the lure has stopped moving forward.  Braking Systems On Baitcasting Reel Regardless of the type of braking system you have, start with more brakes on to feel the reel if you’re new to baitcasters.

Once you get used to your gear, you can experiment with longer casts by letting up on the brakes.  There are three main types of braking systems on baitcasting reels:

  • Manual: The manual brake is your thumb. You need to gently feather the line using your thumb when the lure hangs in the air. Once it nearly lands in the water, it pays to exert more pressure. More pressure will be needed on the spool when the lure reaches the water to stop the spinning and the line stops revolving. 
  • Magnetic: The magnetic system on baitcasting reels is based on the concept of Lenz’s law. It makes use of the opposing forces of the spinning reels and the magnets. 

The system typically contains several magnetic rounds placed on the side plate. You can regulate the magnetic force to be weaker or stronger by adjusting the dial outside of the side plate.  

Although magnetic brakes are very effective to use and control, the downside is that you can never turn them off completely.

It means there are always magnetic forces even when you use the weakest setting, which can be a nuisance to more experienced anglers. 

  • Centrifugal: Centrifugal systems are a series of braking pads located inside the plate, which generate pressure on a brake ring to slow down the speed of the spool. You can adjust these brakes in different ways, either on the outside or inside of the side plate. 

Unlike their magnetic counterparts, centrifugal can be stopped completely, which gives you total control over the braking system whenever you want.


Higher gear ratios give you more speed but less power. As mentioned, it depends on your application to determine whether you need to go higher or not. Reeling heavy fish is tricky with a fast baitcaster, whereas you’ll find it more beneficial while catching small species because of the increased speed.
Interestingly, like swimbaits, crankbaits prefer slower speeds. Low 5’s to low 6’s are the ideal ranges for crankbaits. We don’t recommend the higher spectrum of medium ratio and high ratio unless you already have some experience under your belt and know the techniques.

The Bottom Line

We hope you know all the basics about the baitcaster gear ratio to choose the right one for your needs. Medium-speed baitcasters are usually the sweet spot for many people as they cover the greatest range of applications.

However, you may want to consider the lower or higher end of the gear ratio, as they are there for good reasons.  See you on the water!

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