The world of fishing gear can be an intimidating place. There are rod powers, rod lengths, rod actions, casting reels, spinning reels, soft baits, hard baits, live baits... the list goes on...
One corner of the fishing gear landscape we will shed some light on today is reel gear ratios. We will mainly discuss baitcasting reels as they have a bit broader variation in gearing.
Before we get started, one preconceived notion when it comes to gear ratios is “oh I can always retrieve a little slower with a fast reel if I need to.” Now, while this may be true, it takes more skill and focus than a lot of people would like to believe. In my opinion, getting the correct reel for specific techniques is the way to go.
Modern fishing reel gear ratios range anywhere from around the high 4s all the way up into the 10s. The ratio reflects how many times the spool rotates with one full turn of the handle. For instance, an 8.3:1 gear ratio (pronounced “8.3 to 1”) means that the spool spins 8.3 times per turn of the handle. Higher gear ratios take up line quicker, whereas lower gear ratios are slower but provide more cranking power.
Now while the speedsters of the reel world like the Abu Garcia® Revo® Rocket casting reel tend to steal the spotlight, lower gear ratio reels still have their place.
One is a hot race car, nice to have for Sunday drives and to scratch that adrenaline itch. Others are your daily drivers, and some are your pickup trucks. All have an equally important purpose.
I could stretch this vehicle analogy all day, I'm a pickup hauling a motorcycle kind of guy myself, but I digress. The point is each reel ratio has unique strengths that will help you depending on your technique.
Since I have already mentioned their current hot streak in the market, let's start with the hot rods.
It wasn’t that long ago that a 7.3:1 gear ratio reel was one of the fastest kids on the block. Nowadays that would be considered... kind of fast. More like the slowest kid on the track team. They may not be the fastest, but hey, they’re still on the team.
Currently, 8:1 ratio reels have become a go to for a “faster” reel with the 10s being your scorchers. These reels are mainly used with techniques where most, if not all, of your bait/lure's action is caused by the rod. Think Texas rigs, frogs, and jigs. Any situation where you may need to take up slack in a hurry. In addition, if you only want to fish your lure for a few feet by a dock or tree and then race it back in to cast to another target, a fast reel allows for a lot more casts in a given day.
One key detail to look for when shopping for a fast real is IPT, or inches per turn. This is ultimately what determines how fast the reel actually is. In the arena of high speed fishing reels there is also a great contender from the spinning reel side of the tracks. . The Abu Garcia Revo Rocket spinning reel which boasts a blistering 7.6:1 gear ratio.
Your mid gear ratio reels are going to land anywhere in the 6s. Maybe even inching their way into the low 7s. This may be the most versatile gear ratio.
This gear ratio range is going to be your go to when fishing reaction baits like lipless crankbaits, squarebills, bladed jigs, and spinnerbaits. But like I said this is probably the most versatile gear ratio so don’t be afraid to use a mid-range reel for more finesse applications. They may not be best option available, but they can still get the job done. A great option here is the Abu Garcia Revo STX casting reel.
Last but not least, we have the torque monsters, the grunts, low gear ratio reels. We are talking reels with a gear ratio in the 5s. While they may not garner the same attention as their much faster brethren, low gear ratio reels will always have a part to play in the successful angler's arsenal.
These reels shine when pulling big baits and retrieving deep divers. The lower gear ratio allows you to exert less effort on the actual turning of the handle and save that energy for when it's needed, fighting the fish. A low gear ratio is key when throwing deep diving crankbaits, swimbaits, and large spinnerbaits.
The Abu Garcia Revo Winch casting reel comes to mind. These reels have the added benefit of keeping lures in the strike zone longer and we can all agree, that is a good thing. Especially on days when the bite is tough or during those colder months.
Well, I hope you have learned a thing or two about fishing reel gear ratios and what you'll need to make your next trip a success. I said it up above and I'll say it again. I know it seems like it would be easy to just get a faster reel, slow your retrieve, and bam, 2 birds one stone. But trust me, do yourself a favor and get the right speed reel for the job. Instead of just thinking you are retrieving your lure correctly, you'll know. The fish will know too. And if they doubt it, feel free to show them the reel after you take them off the hook.
Shawn Smith is a native of Northwest Georgia and a graduate of the University of Georgia. An avid outdoorsman, he was introduced to fishing as a child and has spent the better part of the last 25 years with a rod in hand while venturing throughout the United States. As the Ecommerce Marketing Manager for Pure Fishing, Shawn is able to put his passion into practice while sharing his knowledge and love for the sport with others.
Find Shawn on LinkedIn