Figuring Out Gear Ratios for Reels

I have been asked by beginner-fisherman probably a thousand times which gear ratio they should buy to get started in bass fishing. This is a kind of controversial topic between different anglers, but, in this article, I will break down exactly what you need to know to get you started.

First of all, what are the gear ratios in a reel? The gear ratios determine how quickly you will be able to bring your bait back to the boat (or bank), and how fast your retrieval speed is in general. The way the gear ratios are measured is by measuring the amount of times the spool in your reel turns when the handle of the reel is turned one time. For example, if a 7.5:1 gear ratio reel’s handle is turned one time, the spool of the reel will have turned 7.5 times. This would also mean that the number of inches of line you bring in per handle turn would be higher in a high gear ratio reel, which is usually labeled as ‘inches-per-turn’.

High Gear Ratios: When I am talking about higher gear ratios, I’m talking about any reel that has a gear ratio of 7.0:1 or higher. As previously stated, this means that the spool in the reel spins 7.0 times when the handle of the reel is turned once, which also coincides with a higher number of inches-per-turn. Some lures I use in which I prefer to use a high gear ratio are topwaters (like frogs, walking baits, and poppers), jigs, Texas-rigs, Carolina-rigs, jerkbaits, and any other lure where you are using the rod to do most of the work for you. For instance, when fishing a jig, you use the rod to create the action of a jig by shaking the rod tip or maybe even dragging it, and the only thing you use the reel for is to pick up the slack line after you have moved the bait, so are able to pick up slack line much more efficiently with faster reel. Another advantage of a higher gear ratio is being able to catch up to the fish once it hits the lure. If a fish hits the jig from behind and continues swimming forward (towards you), there will be slack in the line. In this situation, whether or not you are able to catch up to and hook that fish is crucial in determining whether or not you end up landing that fish, and having that higher gear ratio is essential in a situation like this. The higher gear ratio is also important when flipping and pitching jigs or throwing topwaters because once your bait is out of the main ‘strike zone’, that cast is basically over with. So with that faster reel, you’re able to bring that bait back in and get another cast out there quickly.

Medium Gear Ratios: Anything that has a 6.0:1 gear ratio to a 6.9:1 gear ratio is what I consider a medium gear ratio. This is the gear ratio I use for my reels that I throw my spinnerbaits, chatterbaits, and squarebill (or shallow) crankbaits on. I have a tendency to have trouble slowing down my retrieval speed when it’s needed, which has cost me some fish in the past. Because I can’t make myself slow down, I have reels that do it for me. When you fish a lure like a chatterbait, you are mostly just reeling it straight in. Now, obviously you can pause it and things like that, but it’s mostly just reeling for the majority of the cast. Because you are just reeling, a chatterbait continues to rise towards the surface the faster you reel because of its blade. I used to get extremely frustrated when I would fish a chatterbait because I couldn’t keep it at the depth I wanted it to be at, until I bought a lower gear ratio reel. Since these reels are a bit slower, they bring in the bait a little slower, causing the bait to have a little more time to sink and stay lower in the water column. While I prefer a medium gear ratio reel for the applications mentioned above, they are a very versatile reel.

Low Gear Ratios: Last but not least, we have our slower reels. I consider any reel that has a 5.9:1 or lower gear ratio to be a low gear ratio reel. Though it may sound like the other reels are the way to go, slower reels definitely have their place in the bass fishing world. I use my slower gear ratio reels for lures like my medium to deep-diving crankbaits and big swimbaits, but I also know it’s pretty common for people to throw their deeper-water spinnerbaits on a slower reel as well. What these reels lack in speed, they more than make up for in torque. Because of the power in these reels, you will be much less fatigued after throwing a big crankbait all day compared to if you were throwing it on a higher speed reel. Also, since the reel is slower, it helps keep your lure in the prime ‘strike zone’ for a longer period of time rather than just zipping the bait past the fish’s face.

Overall, I think every gear ratio of reel has it’s place in the industry; however, if I could only pick one reel that I had to throw all my lures on, I would choose a medium gear ratio reel (somewhere in the vicinity of a 6.4:1 ratio). Though it wouldn’t be ideal to throw things like big crankbaits or jigs, you could definitely make it work for those applications and not lose too many fish. If you went with the slower reel, you wouldn’t be able to catch up with fish if it’s swimming towards you very well at all, and if you went the faster reel to try and throw all of your lures, you could be pulling the lure out of the strike zone too fast for a fish to even realize what had happened. This is why I believe the medium gear ratio reel is the perfect balance between the three.

I hope that this article helped you understand the different gear ratios and the uses for these different gear ratios in a more simple way. Feel free to leave a comment or shoot me an e-mail with questions or remarks regarding this topic (or others). Also, if you liked this article, don’t forget to subscribe to our page free of charge for more helpful articles like this one! Thank you!

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