Choosing the Right Gear Ratio Reel for Bass Fishing

Choosing the Right Gear Ratio Reel for Bass Fishing

Gear Ratio Reel

Which Gear Ratio Reel Is Right For You?

Choosing the right gear ratio for a baitcaster reel is often overlooked by many anglers. The speed of your reel may not seem important, however, it can drastically change the amount of control you have over your lure.

Understanding Gear Ratio Numbers

Some reels display the gear ratio number directly on the reel itself. If this isn’t the case, you can always check the specifications on the box. The most common gear ratio numbers you’ll see include 7.1:1, 6.4:1 and 5.1:1. What does this all mean? It’s quite simple, actually.

The gear ratio number displays how many times the spool turns per one crank of the handle. This means a 7.1:1 gear ratio reel will turn 7.1 times per crank, a 6.4:1 reel will turn 6.4 times per crank, so on so forth. Each gear ratio has its own specific uses, which I’ll explain below.

Low Gear Ratio Reel

Slow Gear Ratio ReelA low gear ratio reel includes any speed between 4.8:1 and 5.4:1. Why is such a slow reel necessary? Think of going uphill with a bicycle on low gear. Less speed but more torque.

Uses for Low Gear Ratio Reels

Deep Cranking

Deep-diving crankbaits place lots of resistance on your setup, making a low gear ratio reel ideal for eliminating such a hard pull. The increased torque a low gear provides will reduce the strain on your wrist, saving you from hours of pain. Since the gear is smaller you can also crank the handle faster, avoiding a painstakingly slow retrieve and allowing you to feel more comfortable while reeling.

Swimbaits, Deep Spinnerbaits & Chatterbaits

Most swimbaits require a slow, steady retrieve to achieve the proper action. The same goes for deeper spinnerbait and chatterbait situations. This would usually be a pain for faster gear ratio reels because you would have to slow your reeling to a crawl, but with a low gear ratio reel you can turn the handle faster and more comfortably while still maintaining a slow speed. The added torque also helps you winch on the fish without straining too hard, and keeps you in control instead of the other way around.

Medium Gear Ratio ReelMedium Gear Ratio Reel

This is your all-around workhorse reel. A medium gear ratio reel includes any speed between 6.1:1 and 6.4:1. This makes it perfect for throwing most reaction baits that a low gear ratio would be too slow to fish properly. If you need a versatile reel for many different situations, medium gear ratio reels are perfect for the job.

Uses for Low Gear Ratio Reels

Square Bill & Medium-Diving Crankbaits

A medium gear ratio reel provides the perfect combo of torque and speed to toss a shallow to medium-diving crankbait. The slower retrieve speed helps you keep the bait in contact with bottom while moving it fast enough to dive the desired depth.


Spinnerbaits can be thrown with a high gear ratio reel as well, but the medium speed gives you more control and comfort during the retrieve. The reduced speed gives you extra torque to counteract the pull of the bait while maintaining the proper sensitivity to feel the blades vibrating.

Alabama/Umbrella Rigs

Alabama Rigs (or “A-Rigs”) can be quite heavy, so the added torque that a medium gear ratio provides can save your arms from fatigue throughout the day. The reduced speed will allow you to retrieve at any rate without turning the handle too slowly, making for a more comfortable retrieve.

Small Paddle Tail Swimbaits

Most soft plastic swimbaits will lose action if retrieved too fast or too slow, so a medium gear ratio allows you to fish these baits the most effectively.

Fast Gear Ratio ReelFast Gear Ratio Reel  

Fulfill your need for speed. Fast gear ratio reels can range anywhere from 7:1.1 to a whopping 9.0:1, but most reels will fall in the 7.1:1 to 8.1:1 speeds. Whether you’re ripping your lure through grass or picking up slack line as fast as possible, fast gear ratio reels are absolutely necessary.

Uses for Fast Gear Ratio Reels

Topwater Lures

The second your topwater lure explodes you need to pick up that slack line ASAP. Any delay in the hookset can cause you to lose the fish, resulting in much cursing and stomping around. Fast gear ratio reels also help to pick up slack between twitches for walking topwater baits, helping you control the retrieve better.  

Jigs, Carolina Rigs, Texas Rigs

When your jig, Carolina rig or Texas rig gets sucked off the bottom, picking up slack line is crucial to landing the fish especially if you get bit at the end of a long cast.

Rip Baits & Jerkbaits

When fishing jerkbaits it’s important to pick up slack line fast between twitches. A fast gear ratio will help you fish the bait more erratically for the best possible action.

Lipless Crankbaits

Lipless crank are meant to be burned at a fast pace and ripped through thick vegetation, making a fast gear ratio crucial to achieve the right action. Whether you’re tearing through grass or need to pick up slack during a yo-yo retrieve, a quick retrieve speed can work in your favor.

I hope this helped you narrow down your reel choices! It may seem confusing at first but after breaking it down into three simple categories it’s fairly easy to understand. Let us know if you need help with recommendations before you purchase a reel, we’ll be glad to help you out. Tight lines!



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