When it comes to choosing the right gear ratio for fishing it is all about choosing what works in your environment and bait choice. I will be the first to say that when walking at a park or seeing the serious anglers with so many rods and reels it can be very intimidating. As a kid I remember asking myself what could all those setups be used for? I set out to learn as much as I could about how to choose the right reel so I could learn myself and with any luck, help others with their decision. I have some good news for others though, when you realize that it all just makes sense and there is really no sorcery involved.
First off, consider the conditions you will be fishing in. Are you in thick cover or in an area with much undergrowth and weeds? You may want to slow down the retrieval of the bait by using a lower gear ratio reel a bit. Perhaps the water you are fishing is very cold and you feel the fish are slower to respond and are lethargic. That slow and low finesse type fishing might be the key and lowering the gear ratio might help you get there. Are you in clear water with no obstacles and want to get that reaction bite from that waiting bass? Let’s step it up a bit and get a faster retrieval and go for those 8:1 – 10.1:1 reels that boast that super speed. After you consider your environment, you need to think about the bait you plan on using and adjust accordingly.
Baits that dive like crankbaits or have action on them like swim baits would benefit from low gear ratio. Why? It allows the angler more time to adjust the depth of the bait and to allow the bait to have the action you are looking for. You may want to use a reel that is not as fast to help the baits work their best. Along with the action as mentioned before, the lower the gear ratio the easier the angler will have to control the bait and to feel the bait through rough coverage or to control the motion and depth of a bait to avoid getting snagged by the bottom cover. Reels in this category are roughly in the 5.0:1 – 6.6:1 area.
The medium gear ratio reels are the most versatile reels and often the most popular. They produce a speed that is good enough for most types of fishing while still maintain a great balance of feel for the angler to control their bait. These reels are normally classified in the 6.7 to 7.9:1. They have the torque needed to pull in most fish without too much strain for an angler and by simply cranking faster or slower the control of the bait is easy to adjust. Standard applications for such used for crankbaits that do not have too much depth or action. Depending on how you are fishing them, baits like chatter baits, bottom bouncing, Texas rigs, Senko worms or any other plastic may suit this gear ratio category. Basically, a nice retrieve with very little twitching or jigging may be best felt with this ratio. The action imparted on the bait though may have you thinking about the next step.
Bladed jigs such as these may be best suited for a lower gear ratio reel to get the most action out of them
When thinking about a high gear ratio it is important to understand that this type of gear speed will produce a very fast retrieve but perhaps not the same amount of torque as a low speed reel. Meaning it will be more difficult for an angler to reel in a larger fish. Reels in this range are generally about 8:1 – 10.1:1. One thing to consider is how you will be fishing your bait. Consider flipping, pitching or frogging your baits. If you are using a large twitching and action, every time you pull in with the rod you are creating slack in the line. If you happen to get bit right then you want to be able to reel in your line as quickly as possible to catch up to the fish to set the hook before they spit your bait. Another application is for jigs that ride on the top of the water and you are looking to get that reaction bite where the fish just see the bait and bite it before they take a closer look. An area that people not think about so much is where the fish is located at. A high speed reel is often also used when you are in areas where the fish may seek cover at the fist sign of a danger. This happens often in the case of Spotted Bay Bass where the fish are close to pylons and rock caves. Once a fish is hooked they turn and head right into cover and can wedge themselves until you break your line. A high speed reel is used to be able to turn their head and prevent them from seeking that cover as soon as possible.
At 7.2:1 The KastKing Zephyr is considered a medium gear ratio, finesse baitcaster. Best for imparting the action you want on light baits
Overall people will normally go with what is most comfortable, obtainable and within their budget when buying their next reel. If you are interested and have the understanding on how to make the reel work the best for your application and environment these tips could help you add a few more hook ups.