Anglers tend to buy lower-cost tackle to try something new. In the case of baitcast reels, this leads to a poorly performing reel. The low-price offerings lack good braking and bearings. Upgrading to a better baitcast reel is the only solution to get better performance. Buying a better baitcast reel does not need to be expensive. Going to the bargain bin is not the answer either.
In other words, plan on spending over one hundred dollars. This is the baseline price for good performance baitcast reels. The more you spend the higher the quality and performance. The higher cost reels have better bearings and braking. These are the two key features in performance with a reel.
Brakes On Baitcast Reels
The braking systems on reels have improved in the last few decades. These newer systems reduce backlash problems and increase casting ease and distance. There are several types that work in different ways. Knowing how the brakes work helps in choosing a reel.
Centrifugal brakes are also called pins. This braking uses weights that move out when the spool spins. This type of braking works at the beginning of the cast preventing overspin. As the spool slows the braking reduces. The thumb adds more control at the end of the cast. It is used on better quality round reels and with magnetic on some reels.
The magnetic brakes are found on low-profile reels. These brakes add resistance throughout the cast. Daiwa uses the Mag -Force system. It is an induction magnetic system. A cup slides in towards a magnetic field. The force of the cast increases the amount of resistance. The system also has the dial to adjust the range.
Shimano has a standard and DC (digital control) magnetic system. On these reels, the adjusting dial increases or decreases the force. The DC model has chip monitoring and making slight adjustments throughout the cast. The DC models are better than a standard model. It does carry a higher cost and is available in most Shimano models.
The majority of other reels use a standard magnetic braking system. This type of brake works mainly towards the end of the cast. The systems do help but require more thumb control, plus a smooth casting action. The thumb and casting action is needed with any reel. The amount of pressure used with the thumb increases with lower quality brakes.
A few higher cost reels use both centrifugal and magnetic brakes. First, set the pins to your ability. Then set the magnetic brakes to fine-tune. Changing lures or wind conditions are the primary reasons to fine-tune with the magnetic brakes.
The tension knob helps spool speed control on all types of brakes. Adjusting the knob needs to be done based on the amount of weight being cast. The exception is newer Daiwa reels with pre-set tension knobs. They set the knob at the factory requiring little or no adjustment. The braking system controls the spool speed if set properly.
The low profile reels from other manufacturers require some adjusting. Take care to not over tighten the tension knob. This will cause premature failure of the spool shaft and bearing. Tighten enough to maintain control when letting the lure fall. The spool should turn a few times when the lure stops but not backlash. A few loose loops are okay.
On the round reels, the tension knob helps with the end of the cast spool speed control. The spool should turn one turn or so when the lure stops. Do not rely on the knob for too much control to prevent damage. Set the other brakes for the main braking. The knob is set when it keeps side play out of the spool and minimal tension. Using a tighter setting means you have not adjusted the pins or dial correctly.
Bearings On Baitcast Reels
Bearings make a big difference in the quality of a reel. The quality of bearing is more important than the number of bearings. A few companies add bearings to increase the count. This does not always imply a better reel.
The bearings that matter are on the spool and cranking components. Bearings on a handle knob will make a slight difference in feeling smooth but little change in performance. This is done to increase the count of bearings.
A reel with better bearings will cost more, this is a simple truth. Compare the Shimano, Daiwa, and Abu Garcia reels to other makes. They tend to have fewer bearings but are top sellers. They use better quality bearings in the mid to high priced offerings.
Using better bearings increases casting and longevity. The higher quality bearings turn with less friction. Having less friction adds to casting distance. This makes the reels smoother also.
Body Materials and Construction
Manufacturers use a number of materials making reels. The use of metal alloys and plastic composites is common. These materials offer lighter weights and good strength. In addition, the way the reel is built matters. The one-piece frame or body is superior.
One-piece construction eliminates flexing and weak points. When working heavier or lures or fighting bigger fish, this is beneficial. A multiple piece frame will get looser with time. Leading to failures with bearings and performance. How you use the reel determines which type to buy.
The round reels used for live bait are typically multiple-piece construction. This type of reel sees less stress due to less casting and reeling in lures or fish. A low profile reel is under constant pressure from retrieving lures. Buying a low-profile reel, you should get a one-piece frame. They are sturdier and hold up under constant use.
The material used has an impact. The plastics and aluminum frames are softer materials. Magnesium and some graphites are stiff. Each has advantages and disadvantages. The stiffer materials provide a rigid frame and little or no flex. The softer materials allow some flex.
The material used on the frame and side-plates makes a difference in quality. The frame and crank side-plate must provide support. The side plate opposite the crank is only a cover for the braking system.
The stiff materials have better performance. They are better overall being lighter and holding everything in proper alignment. The downside is if abused by careless storage it is possible to crack the frame. These reels should not be stored in the back of a truck, dropped, or with items hitting them.
The softer materials have a little flex. This allows a little abuse with dropping or poor storage, but such conditions should be avoided. The softer materials tend to be used for lower-cost reels. They lack the sturdiness needed for the best performance.
The gear ratios affect how fast a lure travels through the water. Baitcast reels come in many ratios for specific presentations. The high-speed reels are for fast line pick up you need with bass rigs or spinners. A crankbait uses a slower retrieve. Fishing live bait an angler may want a reel with more power, so a very low ratio is best.
Think about what lures or how you fish. Do you need speed or power? Reels in the 5 to 1 range are good for live bait. Using crankbaits a reel between 6 to 1 up to 7 to one is best. Fishing rigs where slack line occurs use a 7 to one or higher ratio.
The best reels will offer three ratios for an angler to choose the best option. In doubt or want an overall reel. Choose a mid-range ratio of 6.5 to 1 or slightly higher. It will require adjusting cranking speed using different lures. This can lead to fatigue if you fish for hours daily. An avid angler is often better served with two ratios.
Having a reel suitable for crankbaits and higher speed use will prevent arm and wrist fatigue. A lower ratio has more cranking power for crankbaits or other bait with resistance when cranking. The high speed picks line up fast but sacrifices some power.
Choosing a good baitcast reel starts with looking at the construction, brakes, and bearings. These are the features that separate low quality from high-quality reels. The good to high-quality reels use better materials and components. The quality has an effect on performance. The better quality reels have fewer backlash issues, cast farther, and crank smoother.