What is the Best Gear Ratio for Fishing Reels?

Every fishing reel has a gear ratio and the marketing makes a big deal about it. But what is the best gear ratio and why does it matter?

Picking the correct gear ratio for your needs will go a long way to help you catch more fish and enjoy your fishing.

Different gear ratios impact on the speed of retrieve and the reel’s torque – so you want to have a clear view of what type of fish species you are targeting and what type of bait/lure you will be using. If you intend to catch multiple species then you may want to consider getting several different reels or selecting a more versatile gear ratio.

Let’s dive in!

What is the Gear Ratio of a Fishing Reel?

The gear ratio is used to judge the retrieval rate and how much effort the fisherman needs to put into turning the handle to retrieve their bait.

For everyone one revolution of the handle, the spool will spin by multiple times. So for a gear ratio of 6.0:1, this means that for one revolution of the handle the spool will spin 6 times.

The typical gear ratios for all fishing reels can be split into a few categories:

  • Low Gear Ratio – 4.0:1 to 6.0:1
  • Medium Gear Ratio – 6.0:1 to 8.0:1
  • High Gear Ratio – 8.0:1 to 10.0:1

Low Gear Ratio

You will want a lower gear ratio for slower retrieves such as live bait or deep diving crankbaits.

You will also need a lower gear ratio for fishing reels that provide a lot of torque, like a big gamefishing conventional reel.

Low gear ratio reels have the most torque and are perfect for slow heavy baits that require a lot of effort to retrieve.

Medium Gear Ratio

Medium gear ratios are the most common you will find on popular fishing reels. They are the most versatile – you can always slow down or speed up your retrieve to give similar results to the other reels.

They are ideal for medium depth crankbaits, spinnerbaits with smaller blades, and castable umbrella rigs.

High Gear Ratio

You will want a higher gear ratio when you want a faster retrieve such as a spinner bait. They are also useful when you need to retrieve your line in a hurry, such as moving over sea beds or low resistance lures.

They are perfect for topwater lures, jigs, and lipless crankbaits. High speed reels are becoming more and more popular among bass anglers as the technology keeps advancing.

Gear Ratio Video

Bass Resource has put together this informative video explaining gear ratios:

Best Gear Ratio for Spinning Reels

This is a difficult question to answer – spinning reels are famous for being versatile and they are available in almost all gear ratios.

From my point of view spinning reels are the workhorse of the fishing reel world, and because of this you should select a gear ratio that is also a workhorse.

The best gear ratio for spinning reels is a 6.0:1.

This allows you to use this reel in a variety of applications from anything from spinnerbaits, jerkbaits, topwater lures, and even jigging.

If you are intending on fishing for a very specific species or lure type then you may want to focus more intently on that requirement.

If you ask some anglers they will say that any spinning reel with a gear ratio higher than 7.0:1 will not have enough torque to handle large fish, but this is no longer true with newer technology and designs available.

Best Gear Ratio for Baitcasting Reels

Baitcasting reels tend to have a much higher gear ratio than spinning reels and there is a simple reason for this – they have a smaller diameter spool. If you consider the different in diameter spools, you will realize that a single turn of a baitcasting spool will retrieve significantly less fishing line than a spinning reel.

This is why baitcasting reels can have such high gear ratios.

The best gear ratio for baitcasting reels is a 6.4:1.

This is the most common gear ratio available on the market, and as with above it gives you the most versatility in lure types and presentation options.

Best Gear Ratio for Conventional Reels

I personally use conventional reels most often when I have target big gamefish such as sailfish or marlin. This requires a very large and specialized reel.

These type of reels have a very large diameter spool and can retrieve a lot of line in a single revolution.

Biggame specialist reels like a Shimano Tyrnos often come with a two speed gearing system with a 5.0:1 for general retrieval and a high power 2.0:1 for when you are fighting monsters.

If you are chasing smaller but still extremely fast saltwater species like mackerel or barracuda, then you will want a much higher gear ratio like a 7.0:1.

From my point of view the best gear ratio for a conventional reel is a 5.0:1, with a two speed gearing option if you are hunting gamefish.

Best Gear Ratio for Bass

The most common gear ratio on the market is a 6.4:1, particularly for baitcasting reels which have become the primary type of fishing reel among bass anglers.

If you are going to be fishing with buzzbait or over seabeds and structure that you need to retrieve extremely quickly then you will want to increase this to a 7.1:1 gear ratio.

There are even newer bass reels on the market with gear ratios over 9.0:1.

Best Gear Ratio for Trout

For trout I would recommend looking at a high gear ratio of 8.0:1.

This gives you a lot more control during your retrieve. If you are using a topwater lure and you need to retrieve the slack quickly in between rod twitches then the high speed gear ratio is a big advantage.

You may also want to take a more workhorse all purpose gear ratio in the 6:1 to 7:1 range for other lure retrieval speeds.

Best Gear Ratio for Redfish

The best gear ratio for redfish is a 6:1. This gives the most versatility and widest range in lure options.

If you are going to be jigging or sight fishing for red drum, then this reel gear ratio will be ideal.

You could consider a higher range gear ratio but this will prevent you from using too many deep diving crankbait or large blade spinnerbaits.

Best Gear Ratio for Walleye

If you are jigging for walleye then a lower gear ratio from 4:1 to 5:1 would be ideal.

Walleye can be timid so you don’t need to be retrieving a super fast buzzbait past them.

For walleye the drag and the anti-reversing features are more important than the gear ratio, so I wouldn’t spend too much time focusing on this as long as you are in the general ball park range.

Best Gear Ratio for Crappie

The best gear ratio for crappie fishing is a 5.2:1.

Crappie fishing uses very light fishing line, similar to other panfish. This often means that the reels are extremely small is size – this also results in smaller internal gearing. This reduces the complexity that is an option within a small reel body and normally comes with lower gear ratios.

A gear ratio of mid 5:1 is more than enough to handle anything a crappie can throw at you, so I wouldn’t have any hesitation in selecting this specification.

Best Gear Ratio for Spinnerbaits

The best gear ratio for spinnerbaits is a medium range of 6.3:1.

This allows for both small and large blades to be retrieved without needing to speed up or slow down too significantly.

There are a wide range of spinnerbaits available all of which come with different water resistance and target retrieval speeds, so please use your own judgement about what is right for your own needs.

Best Gear Ratio for Crankbaits

The best gear ratio for crankbaits is 5.0:1.

This is a lower speed gear ratio than a lot of other applications.

Deep diving crankbaits have very large nose lips to get the lure down far enough – this lip also put a lot of water resistance against the lure during the retrieve.

To handle this you will need to retrieve the lure more slowly and have a reel with more torque through a lower gear ratio.

Conclusion

Gear ratios may seem confusing, but they don’t have to be. You can always speed up and slow down your retrieve slightly depending on what lure you are retrieving. I hope we have helped to explain what gear ratio you may be interested in buying.

If you want some more information, Wired2Fish also have a good article for anglers.

If you have any thoughts of your own or questions to share, then please leave a comment below.

Happy fishing!

Russ Egan
 

Russ is an avid angler. He has fished all over the world, primarily for Saltwater game fish but also for local prize fish. Russ writes reviews for all of his fishing gear to help others achieve their own fishing goals. His favorite reel is a Shimano Tyrnos for an overhead reel or a Shimano Curado for a baitcaster. His dream is to catch a Black Marlin.

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