cover photo cred: Project Z-man

What Type of Reel is Best for Bass Fishing?

Which reel is the best to hook your personal best, monster largemouth bass? I hope that my experience can help you figure out your choice.

There are three categories of reels primarily used in bass fishing spincasting reel, spinning reels, and baitcasting reels. Hmmmm… spincast reels vs. spinning reels vs. baitcasting reels?!  Sounds complicated!

For now, we will break down the basic reel types and reasons to use them.

fishing grass

Anatomy of a Reel

As you can guess the anatomy of any specific reel will vary from style to style. However, most will have some of the same basic parts:

Line Pickup – This either winds/wraps the line over the spool.

Spool – A sprocket-like structure on which the line is wrapped around.

Engager/Disengager – This is a mechanism that allows the line to come off the spool or locks it the line in place.

Drag Component – This slows the line coming off the reel.

Handle – This helps turn the internal gears to retrieve the line back onto the spool.

Reel Seat – The section there the reel rests on the fishing rod.

Break System – Advanced system on baitcasting rods to help slow the spin of the spool after your lure hits the water.

Spincast Reels

Invented in the 1940’s and constantly improved in the 1950’s most say first spincast reel was conceived of by a company called Zero Hour Bomb Company.  This company released the reel that nearly all of us anglers know as the good ol’ Zebco.

Housed inside a cylinder shaped cap the spincast reel works by keeping all the line inside of the housing unit which prevents line tangles.

Casting a spincast reel is easy and quick to learn.  All you need to do is simply push and hold the button down which releases an internal holding-pin and allows the line to come off the spool.  Start to cast out your lure and about mid cast take your thumb off the button and your lure will propelled to its target.

To retrieve your lure, turn the hand and a small guide pin will grab onto your fishing line and neatly lay it back onto the spool.   

Are spincast reels any good?

Yes, spincast reels are good, especially when starting out!

Here are some positive traits of a spincast reel:

  • Spincast reels are simple, easy to learn for any newbie angler.
  • This type of reel is great for small kids getting into fishing because it has such a low learning curve.
  • Spincast reels are widely available and cheaper than most other styles of fishing reels.
  • Most spincast reels offer smooth stainless steel bearings and most offer an anti-reverse clutch.
  • Some manufacturers will actually put fishing line on spool for you.

  • Finally, most spincast reels are made from aluminum. Which makes them very light weight!

Some negatives traits of spincast reels are:

  • Shorter casting distance.
  • Weaker drag when compared to other bass fishing reels.
  • Slow gear ratios. means the reel will bring in less line per turn when compared to other reels.
  • Smaller line capacity. The spool does not allow for a ton of line.

Spinning Reels

Photo by: Project Z-Man

Most beginner bass anglers should stick to the spinning reel, as they are easier to fish with and less options and specifics to decide on.

Spinning reels have a fixed, open-faced spool positioned in line with the rod. The spool is stationary and a rotor/line guide revolves or spins around the fixed spool.

This type of reel is to mount below the rod.  

Photo by: Clark Young

You can find these reels at any store that sells fishing equipment, and believe me when I say overwhelming amount will be an understatement.

There are many different species of fish from bluegills all the way to giant tarpon in South Florida that anglers target with spinning reels.  

In the bass fishing universe, spinning reels are mostly used for the lighter, softer style of finesse fishing.  Some anglers will use spinning reels for much more, but overall there design and ease of use are to help get that lightweight lure out to where those giant bass are hiding.  

What is the best spinning reel for bass fishing?

What really separates all the spinning reels from each other?  

The first thing to consider before purchasing the reel is the size of reel you will like and need for the type of fishing you are doing.

Spinning reel sizes

Most spinning reels manufacturers use a simple number to tell the angler what size reel it is.  They start with the smallest size, which is typically a 1000, or small variation of like a 1100, 1200, or 1500.  

The next size reel will commonly start with a 2000 or similar number, then 3000, 4000 and upwards.  This number denotes a few things the actual size, the weight, and how much line can fit on the spool.  

The smaller reels can primarily be used for smaller species of fish like bluegills or trout; however, they will still catch bass and be used by bass anglers.  

I prefer the 2500 series with most manufacturers, I feel it fits in my hand, does not weigh too much and has plenty of line storage on the spool for my application.  

Next, you will want to look at the gear ratio.

Gear Ratio

Gear ratio is a term used to define the number of times the line goes around the spool per handle turn.  

For example, a 4:1 gear ratio means that the line goes around the spool four times for everyone complete handle turn.  

Different ratios are for different techniques, but for the most part, it is all about how long you can keep the bait in the “strike zone” or where the fish is.  

The ratio chosen depends on the application or bait you are using.  I personally, use a higher gear ratio (6:1 or higher) when fishing with spinning reels because I use it primarily for finesse fishing and use the rod to move the bait more than the reel to move it.  

The most important part of a spinning reel is the drag.

Spinning Reel Drag

When asked, most pro anglers stated that drag is the most important function to consider on any reel.  

Regardless of the brand of spinning reel you use, all drag systems are plus or minus the same thing.

Most spinning reel makers use a series of disks or washers connected to the spool. When a fish is hooked and makes its run, the washers rub together causing friction and it slows the spool.  This will, in turn, apply pressure and slow down the movement of the fish without breaking the line.

To adjust the drag it will be found on the spool. And just remember the spool is found on the spindle. To loosen or tighten the drag on your spinning reel all you need to do is turn the drag-screw right or left.  Does this phrase ring a bell… “righty-tighty or lefty loose-y”? Hahaha.

When bass fishing most fishing line on any given spinning reel will be less than 10lb strength.

You want the drag to allow the fish to pull line off the reel while still keeping the line tight to keep the hook in the mouth. I, myself and many anglers I know have lost fish because the drag was either set too tight and broke the line or too loose and the fish just got slack and shook off.

Regardless of which reel you choose make sure you learn how to increase or decrease the drag on it to prevent losing your personal best bass.  This sums up the spinning reels, now onto the bait casting reels.

How to Cast A Spinning Reel

Video by: Flukemaster

To cast a spinning reel you first pinch the line to the rod just above the reel with the line pick up on the bail parallel to the rod.

Then fold the bail up sideways to open it. Keep holding the line on your index finger as you go back with the rod. Then as you release forward, you will let the line off of your finger. Obviously it takes practice, but it becomes second nature after just a few outings.

Baitcasting Reels

Versatility of baitcasting reels

Baitcasting reels are a staple in any pro bass angler’s arsenal and we will definitely delve deep into them later on in this article.  

Bait casting reels or casting reels look and work a little different from spinning reels; they also take a little more effort to use.  

The mounted reel is on top of the rod and have a spool that is perpendicular to the rod.  

If you remember, the spinning reel spool is stationary, but in a baitcasting reel, the spool actually spins to allow line on or off.  

It takes some time working with these to avoid the oft happened “bird’s nest” or tangle of line.  

Baitcasting reels do allow for better control and comfort when fishing.  

Bass fishing requires you to be versatile and you must have the ability to change baits at a moment’s notice. Baitcasting reels are great because the can be used for many different applications and have special designs for just that case.  

A few things, size and gear ratio can break them down.  


While most bass fishing setups come with a “100”, size or “150” size reel, which is expected, for throwing baits less than 2 ounces, there are a few other options.  

Since the fishing line does not require it to be “twisted on” a spool that is fixed, it’s wound on much like you would see on a winch on a jeep.

The end result is that you can use a stronger/heavier line and cast out must farther distances.

If you are one of the anglers who enjoy throwing large swimbaits or glide baits (3-5 ounces), you must make sure you are using a baitcasting reel that has a 300 or 400 spool.  They are a little bigger to hold the thicker or stronger line and more of it, and for using larger, heavier baits.

Less Line Twist

One of my biggest pet peeves with spinning reels is the line twist!  Line twists can ruin what would be an otherwise perfect cast.

Since baitcasting reels wind the line perpendicular on the spool, there is will be a very low chance of any line twist.

Speed or Gear Ratio

Photo by: KastKing

Like discussed earlier the gear ratio is the amount of times the line goes around the spool per handle revolution.  The difference with baitcasting reels is the spool actually makes a revolution to put the line on it. This is crucial for a baitcasting reel, it helps dictate the reel you will use more often than not.  

The different speeds will help dictate the baits thrown with each reel, for instance, a speed or ratio of 5.4:1 would be a great reel for deep crankbaits.  

We can break gear ratios down into three main categories; slow (5.9:1 or lower), moderate (6:1 thru 7.2:1), and fast (7.3:1+).  

Most circumstances, “slow” baitcasting reels (5.9:1 or lower) are for used wakebaits and crankbaits as it gives the bait its necessary action and allows the bait to remain in the strike zone longer or allow the bait to dive and not hurry back to the boat.

Moderate speed baitcasting reels (6:1 thru 7.2:1) are suited for many other applications, such as jerk baits, spinner blades, swim jigs and other moving baits.

Lastly, fast gear ratio (7.3:1+) baitcasting reels are best suited for jigs, flipping, worming, and punching in order to get the slack reeled in and move those fish out of the cover in hurry.   

Since the spools move on casting reels, they have a braking system to stop them and avoid backlashes or “bird nesting”.

Braking System

The braking system applies tension to the spool to slow it down and stop it after the lure has hit the water and stopped taking line out.  

This prevents the line from coming off the spool inside the reel and making a tangled mess. There is a spool tension knob found on the reel handle side, this is your beginning defense to prevent a tangled mess.  

You can add tension to the spool by tightening this knob, but be careful, too tight and it will not cast far at all.  

There are two main types of brake systems, centrifugal brakes, and magnetic brakes.  Centrifugal brakes utilize friction to slow down the spool. There are some pins that you can engage or disengage. They are located inside the reel on the opposite side of the handle (read your instruction manual for more details).  Magnetic brakes use magnets to slow down the spool and can be adjusted.

Some reels try to simplify this by putting a small numbered dial on the outside of the reel that the angler can adjust.  

Maybe now you can see why most beginners just choose the spinning reels.


Using a baitcasting reel gives most bass angler’s an incredible amount of confidence. When compared to a spinning reel, the angler can slow down the bait by applying pressure to the spinning spool with his/her thumb.  

This provides an insane amount of accuracy to put your lure on “the spot-on-the-spot”!

Tune Your Baitcasting Reel.

First, adjust the tension knob. The tension knob controls how fast the “rate of fall” your bait will be.

You can adjust the tension knob by first tightening down the knob all the way first. reel the bait up to the tip of the rod.  Then disengage the reel. The bait should NOT move from the rod tip.

Then slowly loosen the tension knob. Once the bait falls to the ground you need to keep the tension knob at that setting.

Then you need to adjust the braking system.

Again wind up the lure to the rod tip and disengage the lure. Let it drop the ground and if the braking system is on a small number 1-3 you’ll notice the spool will continue spinning after the lure hits the ground.

Your goal is to adjust the braking system until the spool stops spinning once it hits the ground. This helps prevent the “backlash” or “birds nest” that every bass angler hates.

Backlashes are caused by the spool spinning faster than the amount of line coming off the spool.

Consider wind conditions. Tighten the braking system (higher the number = tighter it is) the stronger the wind you’re casting into.

If the wind is strong, then tighten it all the way down, especially when you have a lightweight lure. You’ll thank me later.

Then tighten the start drag all the way down until snug (but not so tight you can’t loosen the drag) and then loosen about half a turn.

How To Cast Baitcasting Reel - The Overhead Cast

Video by: FLAIR

I know a lot of anglers who own baitcasting reels but don’t have confidence in them.  In this section, you’re going to learn how to cast a baitcasting reel (and how not to get the dreaded backlash).

Practice at home in the backyard or at a local pond.

Hold your rod at a 45-deg angle pointing up.

Chose a bait that is ½-ounce or more and tie it on.

Wind in the bait to the tip of the rod.

Practice Using Thumb:  Disengage the baitcasting reel and using your thumb to stop the fall of the bait before it hits the ground.  Reel it back up and repeat several times until you feel comfortable.

Step 1:   Time to cast your lure. Press the disengaging button to unlock the spool and make sure you keep your thumb on the spool so the bait stays close to the rod tip.

Step 2:  Bring the tip of the rod up and over your shoulder about 45-degrees and start to cast forward (in the same motion you chop wood) still keeping your thumb on the spool.

Step 3:  As you’re casting forward slightly raise your thumb off the spool allowing the momentum to cast your lure forward.

Step 4: Before your lure hits the ground your water, you MUST press back down on the spinning spool with your thumb. This will prevent any backlashes!

Whalla!  You’re casting a baitcasting reel now!  Congratulations!

Best Bass Fishing Reel - Conclusion

As you can see, fishing reels have many intricate details to consider when making your next purchase.  

There are many different brands out there some costing more than others are, as with most things, you get what you pay for.  

I personally feel you can get very good quality in a reel for the $100 to $150 price point.  I recommend going down to your local tackle shop and ask to check out the reels, place them in your hand and see what feels good for you, from there you can look into the other specifications talked about in this article.  

Now that we have a rod, and a reel, our next step is to put some line on your awesome new setup, but that is a completely different article coming soon. 

Until then, good luck out there and remember there is no substitute for gaining fishing knowledge other than spending time on the water.  

>>>  Best Bass Rods for Beginners – CLICK HERE

Wether you’re fishing with a spincast reel, spinning reel or a baitcasting reel I hope you found this article helpful. Good Luck on the water! 


About The Author – A newly married paramedic by trade loves to spend his free time fishing and filming for this YouTube Channel Loud Mouth Bassin’. Jason has been fishing for over 30 years thanks to his father. Jason is also a dedicated tournament angler fishing with several bass club.  Holding nothing back, Jason loves to share all of his tips and lessons to make you more successful on the water.

Check out his channel here:  Loud Mouth Bassin’.

Jason Stanton


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