There are as many reels out there to choose from for bass fishing as there are types of bass. Just in America there are largemouth, smallmouth, spotted, white bass, and many more varieties.
And depending on who you ask, whether it’s a tournament angler or a weekend warrior, you’ll get a different answer as to what works best as a reel for bass fishing.
I’ve done my share of bass fishing and I’ve got to admit, it’s one of my favorite types of fish to go for. I love going after any kind of bass, whether it’s the acrobatic and nimble smallmouth, the lunker largemouth, or the agile white bass.
But not every reel is the same when going after bass. It’s important to use the right tool for the job, and so I put together this roundup of the best bass fishing reels on the market.
Top Pick - Bass Fishing Reel
The SHIMANO Sahara FI spinning reel is my top pick for a go-to spinning reel for bass fishing. What’s not to love? It’s priced right, the specs are on point, it’s lightweight, and it performs like the best.Check Today's Price
The first thing that I noticed about this SHIMANO Sahara reel is how it casts. Not only does it achieve distance, but it feels good, too. The body of the reel is large but still lightweight, coming in at just about a half pound, so it won’t tire you out after a day of casting.
That doesn’t mean this reel is weak. It packs a punch with drag up to 20 pounds, and it’s fitted with a 4 & 1 ball bearing system. The handle and bearings are aluminum. The spool holds a respectable 170 yards for 8 pound braided line.
SHIMANO is known for its quality reels. Some will cost more than others, but this Sahara FI model delivers on SHIMANO’s quality at a fair price, and that’s why it’s my top pick for spinning reels.
Best Premium - Bass Fishing Reel
The Pflueger President spinning reel has gravitas. It’s a beautiful gray and blue reel with gold embellishments and its performance matches its good-looks. This thing is built to last with a graphite body and stainless steel ball bearings. But most important, it gets the job done when fishing for bass.Check Today's Price
It’s always a good idea to focus on quality when choosing fishing tackle. The last thing I want is to be out on the water and have something go wrong. It can waste a ton of time in the best case scenario, and in the worst case scenario it can lose you a fish! That’s why this Pflueger President reel sticks out above the rest. It is built with quality from head to toe.
There are five size options in this Pflueger model that you can choose from, so it offers a little something for every situation. Every size after the smallest is fitted with 10 stainless steel ball bearings. That means there will be less friction when casting and will have smooth motion and top-notch speed when retrieving the line.
But even the smallest model, the Pflueger President 20, offers 7 ball bearings. This will be suitable for lighter bass, like white bass or smallmouth. If going for anything bigger like largemouth then one of the mid-range models will do just fine.
Best for Larger Bass - Spinning Reel
The KastKing Sharky III is a hulk of a spinning reel. This model comes in five different sizes with max drag ranging from 33 to 39.5 pounds. Even though these are big reels they aren't super heavy, but it’s the reel I would choose when going after largemouth and bigger bass.Check Today's Price
This is the reel that can handle a lunker largemouth. The KastKing Sharky III is one of the most solid, biggest spinning reels I’ve come across. And the best part? It won’t break the bank. It’s one of those quality reels that you can pick up that will hold its own against whatever kind of bass you put it up against.
The body of these KastKing reels are made from graphite, which reduces their total weight. That means you can cast just as well with this big reel as you would with smaller reels without tiring out your arms and wrist. This reel will hold its own against any bass along with most other fishing even on saltwater. It’s also fitted with manganese brass alloy gears that will stay smooth and functional for years. The spool on this reel, made with aluminum, will also give you ample line capacity.
Top Pick - Baitcast Reel for Bass Fishing
The Abu Garcia Max Pro is my top pick for a baitcasting reel for bass fishing. It checks all the boxes I look for in a reel from its construction, specs, smoothness, and reliability.Check Today's Price
This Abu Garcia baitcast reel is built different. This isn’t the baitcast reel your grandpa probably used. The first thing I noticed about it is that it’s built with comfort in mind. That’s important because when I choose a reel, I look for one that I can use for hours at a time for several days in a row. Hey, when I fish, I like to fish, what can I say?
It’s a reel that’s easy on the eyes and nice to hold, but it’s also tough as nails. It’s built with an aluminum spool, stainless steel ball bearings, and a graphite frame that will hold up with years of use. It also boasts of 18 pounds of drag, so it’s good to go when setting the hook on a lunker. Most importantly, this is a baitcast reel that is suitable for beginners and pros alike.
Best for Budget - Baitcast Reel for Bass Fishing
The KastKing Royale Legend II is a baitcaster that is easy on the wallet. It offers a perfect option if you want to add a baitcaster to your tackle for a second rod.Check Today's Price
This baitcaster from KastKing won’t bust your wallet but more importantly it’s a pretty good baitcaster that holds its own against the competition.
It has a nice, modern design that is comfortable to hold and use even after a lot of casting. The material that goes into the reel is solid with a brass main gear, aluminum spool, and a handle knobs that are designed with a nice grip especially when you’ve got a big bass on the line.
Spinning Reels for Bass Fishing
Spinning reels offer a few key advantages over baitcasters. They are generally perceived as being more beginner friendly, and if I’m honest, I learned to fish on a spinning reel and it wasn’t until much later in my angler journey that I picked up a baitcaster (see also best baitcasting reels). Here are a few advantages of spinning reels:
- The first advantage is that in windy conditions, a spinning reel will be easier to use when casting into the wind.
- If you’re fishing around docks or in the weeds or trees, then a spinning reel will allow you to skip lures along the water to avoid hazards.
- The drag can be adjusted very easily when fighting a fish. This is an often overlooked feature but comes in handy when you’ve got a bigger than anticipated fish on the line.
- Finally, you can typically cast lighter lures a greater distance.
Baitcast Reels for Bass Fishing
There are a few direct benefits of a baitcasting reel when bass fishing.
- The first is that it gives you better control over your line, which allows you to cast with more precision.
- It also gives you the crank power you need for baits like spinnerbaits and crankbaits. You can spool heavier line than you can with spinning reels that are the same size.
- And maybe most importantly when bass fishing, you can control how the lure goes into the water, which helps when you don’t want to scare away fish that might be hiding in the weeds.
The main drawback that some anglers mention when talking about baitcast reels is that they are a bit trickier to set up and use than a spinning reel. Like with anything in life hard things take time and attention, but the rewards are many. The same applies to baitcast reels, and when you’re going after bass, it can be a useful tool in your tackle box.
Buyer’s Guide for Best Bass Fishing Reels
A respectable largemouth bass is going to weigh in at about 10 pounds, and a smallmouth will come in around 5 or 6. They can get bigger, of course. The American record for a largemouth bass catch is from 1932 down in Georgia, where a man pulled in a catch weighing 22 pounds 4 ounces. The smaller, but still fun to catch, white bass averages about 1 pound or so.
As you can see, there’s a ton of variety out there in terms of bass fishing.
No matter if you’re going for a largemouth, smallmouth, white bass, striped, spotted, or black bass, there’s a reel that’s best suited for the task. Just remember to lubricate fishing reels using gun oil or any other lubricants.
Here’s a brief overview of the most important features that I’ll be looking at when reviewing the best bass fishing reels on the market:
- Reel Weight & Durability: The weight of the reel can have an effect on how you balance your rod and the impact and strain it has on your arm, wrists, and hands. A lighter reel can be handled with ease but you might give up strength in the line test. Luckily, most spinning reels can handle a solid 8 to 10 pound test line, which should suffice for most casual bass fishing. Remember, reel weight also relates to durability, as the material will vary between graphite or various alloys.
- Drag: Most reels built these days can handle serious drag, typically up to 8 pounds. This is a setting on your reel you don’t need to overdo. Some anglers set the drag as light as possible, just to set the hook. A fair balance for bass fishing will be a drag setting between 4 and 6 pounds. Every angler has a different preference here and will depend on what kind of bass you’re going for and the conditions you’re fishing in, like in heavy weeds or in clear and open waters.
- Line Capacity: Are you going to be using a monofilament or braided fishing line? Will you be fishing from shore, or on a boat? How strong do you need the line to be (see also how long does fishing line last)? All of these factors will impact the amount of line you can put on your reel and how much line you’ll need. For bass fishing, there is no set rule for how much line you will want to spool, but it’s good to think about how you will typically be fishing, choose the right reel for line capacity, and have the best fishing line for a baitcasting reel. Also, make sure to use the right fishing bait when bass fishing.
- Gear ratio: Some anglers say the gear ratio isn’t a large concern because it boils down to how fast you can crank your reel. The trend is to use faster reels generally. As a rule of thumb when you’re out bass fishing you can use these ratios: 7:1 for jigs and topwaters; 6:1 for spinnerbaits; 5:1 for crank and swimbaits
The first thing I think about when looking at a reel for bass fishing is what kind of bass I’m going for, how often I’ll be fishing, and the conditions I’ll be fishing in. These are all important factors that influence the decision on the type of reel I’ll bring out with me on the waters.
One thing I’ve noticed over the years is that reels have consistently improved specs and quality in key areas. There’s a lot of versatility in most reels where you can use a single reel in different conditions and for different types of fish.
At the end of the day, bass fishing is one of my favorite pastimes. When I think about fishing I think about bass, and that’s why I’ve put a fair share of thought into the different reels that are on the market. I want the best tool for the job when I’ve got a big bass on the line.
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