9 Best Baitcasting Reels For The Money in 2020 – Reviews

Baitcasting reels have become more user-friendly in the past few years and have now moved out of the pros-only space into the hands of everyday anglers. If you have watched tournament bass fishermen on TV, you have seen baitcasters in action. Baitcasting reels can handle the heavier lures and lines that are crucial for catching larger fish, and these reels come with very powerful gearing designed for hauling in big fish fast.

You may have to spend some time mastering a baitcasting reel, but once you have put in the practice time needed, a good baitcasting reel will offer you unparalleled precision and excellent distance on your casts.

By controlling the free spin of the reel, you can drop your bait or lure with pin-point accuracy. Overall, casting with this type of reel is more efficient than dealing with the bail and line on a spinning reel, and that is why you see the pros flipping and retrieving so many casts in such a short periods of time. 

9 Best Baitcasting Reels - Comparisons 

From freshwater to saltwater, there are a lot of great baitcasting reels hitting the market now, and they come in two main styles – round and low-profile oval – and a broad price range.

We will take look at some low-profile and round reels here, and cover prices and features at the high, middle, and value price points. Check out our reviews of some of the best bait casting reels and get ready to up your casting game.

9 Best Baitcasting Reels - Reviews

Shimano Calcutta Conque​​st 400 Right

Shimano is a proven producer of great fishing reels and their Calcutta line has been setting the industry standard for round bait casting reels since 1991. The Conquest continues the heritage of the round reel as a true precision fishing machine. This compact round reel comes in at the top of the price range, but these reels are often referred to in angling publications as works of art and that description is not far off.

The reel is beautiful to look at, built in gold metal with a series of drill-outs that cut weight, allow drainage, and look very cool. But it is also tough enough to spool 140 yards of 80lb test Superline, with a completely rigid frame that eliminates flex and transfers all energy to the crank.

Micro Module Gear technology uses more and smaller gear teeth to create efficiency and an ultra-smooth feel. The pinion gear is supported with 6 ball bearings on each end to maintain alignment under the heaviest loads and cut friction between the spool shaft and the gear on the cast.

The reel is small enough to be palmed and feels great in your hand, with a thick, cold-forged handle that is perfectly curved to clear the star drag wheel as it turns the 5.6:1 gear ratio and gives you exacting control over retrieve speed. A stainless steel knob lets you adjust the 20-point cast-control system for precision with any lure or in any condition. The anti-reverse uses a one-way roller bearing that eliminates all back-play to give instant hook setting power.

The attention to detail on this reel is incredible, and every piece on it says high quality. This is a high-performance instrument that takes some practice to master, but it is the number one freshwater baitcasting reel in our test series.

What we liked

  • Gem-like finish
  • Sturdy build with beautiful details
  • Extremely smooth casts and retrieves
  • Shimano quality

What we didn't like

  • Finish is prone to scratching
  • High price point
Abu Garcia Ambassadeur Mörrum ZX

The Ambassadeur Morrum ZX-3600 is a best-in-class round bait casting reel by Abu Garcia and one of their few reels that is still made in Sweden. The price point is high on this reel, but you can feel the quality when you pick it up. Made with bass fisherman in mind, the Morrum takes 135 yards of 12lb mono or 30lb braid on its aluminum spool and sends it far out on incredibly smooth, silent casts under the precise control of Abu’s Infinitely Variable Centrifugal Brake system.

The reel frame and side plates are machined aluminum and they give superior strength and help keep the weight down to a light 7.3 ounces. They also make the reel look very handsome. Ten stainless steel bearings and a 6.3:1 gear ratio give smooth, fast retrieves while still providing enough torque for the size of fish the reel is designed to handle. The carbon fiber drag can apply 15lbs of pressure, and it has a very smooth action.

We liked the details on this reel, for example the deep-set brake control dial and fine machining and knurling on the other adjustment knobs and parts. It would be nice to see hardened stainless steel on the thumb bar since it is a part that takes a lot of direct wear in hard fishing conditions, but this is a tiny detail.

The Abu Garcia Ambassadeur Morrum ZX-3600 offers quality that makes the higher price an investment rather than a cost, and it is one of the best medium-duty reels out there. The Morrum takes second place in our review.

What we liked

  • Traditional Abu Garcia quality
  • Classic looks in a sturdy build
  • Smooth profile

What we didn't like

  • Finish on thumb plate can wear
  • High price point
Daiwa Zillion TWS 5.5:1 Baitcast Reel

The Daiwa Zillion TWS baitcasting reel comes in 4 speeds: 9.1:1 Super Extra Hyper Speed, 7.3:1 Hyper Speed, 6.3:1 High Speed, and 5.5:1 Power Speed, and silly names aside we appreciate the selection and the many innovative details that Diawa has put into these reels. We checked out the TWS 7.3:1 and found that it had the quality and detailing that you expect from Daiwa.

One feature that we noticed right away on picking up this reel was the T-Wing System that lets the line ride out through a wide opening on the cast then pulls it down into a narrow slot for a level rewind. It makes sense that line running out through a small opening as on most reels would pick up a lot of friction, and when this wide-open slot works together with Daiwa’s free-floating spool that separates from the gear train during the cast, you get some crazy long casts.

We did find that extra care was needed to control backlash on the unexpectedly free-wheeling spool, but once you get the hang of it, throwing a light lure long distances is a snap. This reel is built for bass with a 100-yard line capacity in 16lb mono or 55lb braid and a max drag setting of 13lbs. It is made of light, strong aluminum, with a Zaion side plate and an A7075 aluminum alloy spool. The handle is large and powerful, and it is cut out to save weight.

The magnetic cast control system is easy to use and allowed us to be placing long casts well after just a few minutes of practice. The Daiwa Zillion has been very well-received on the market, and it is a great buy at the mid-price range for the number of features it offers so we rank it at number 4.

What we liked

  • Innovative casting system
  • Many features for the price
  • Casts really far
  • Small and light

What we didn't like

  • Hard to grip the adjustment knobs
  • Brake knob is tucked in behind the drag star
SHIMANO Curado K Baitcast Reel

The Shimano Curado 200XG K is another high quality baitcasting reel with an oval frame and spool made from aluminum. The spool can take 110 yards of 14lb mono or 80 yards of 65lb PowerPro braid. Retrieve rate on the 200XG is 36 inches per crank and the line comes through a titanium line guide and lays up perfectly. The 200XG features 4 (+2) bearings, and a powerful 8.5:1 gear ratio. The Curado line also features reels with 7.2:1, 6.3:1, or slower 5.5:1 gearing to allow for fine-tuning to lure type and fishing style.

All the Curado reels offer some unique high-tech features like the “SVS Infinity” adjustable braking system that allows precise adjustment of casting resistance according to lure size. Brake adjustment is simple with an easily-accessible knob on the reel side plate. Shimano’s X-Ship technology helps the reel last for many years by protecting the gears. With most reels, the pinion gear is only supported on one end. This leads to stress and wear on the gear train. X-Ship technology puts support on both ends for the pinion gear, adding to durability and increasing power and torque.

Finally, the Curado’s perfectly balanced Super Free spool gives you smooth, long casts by removing spool shaft friction. In regular baitcasting reels, the pinion gear is freed when the clutch bar is pressed, and the gear then drags on the spool shaft. This results in friction that can shorten casting distance. The Super Free spool uses a ball bearing to support the pinion gear, keeping the gear and the spool shaft perfectly aligned when the clutch is disengaged and reducing the friction to zero.

The Curado line lets you get into Shimano quality at a mid-price point that is easy to handle. The 200XG is our fifth pick for a good baitcasting reel.

What we liked

  • Very light weight at about 7.4 ounces
  • Extremely well-made and durable
  • Very smooth drag and casting operations
  • Precision braking adjustment increases casting distance and minimizes backlash

What we didn't like

  • Drag maxs out at 11lbs
  • Line capacity is on the low side
Abu Garcia Revo SX Low-Profile Baitcast Fishing Reel

If you don’t quite need the beast factor offered by Revo Toro and are looking for a friendlier price-point, the Abu Garcia Revo SX is well worth considering. This is a premium low-profile baitcasting reel and an excellent example of the kind of performance found nowadays in the mid-price ranges.

This baitcasting reel showcases excellent design and a good set of features as well as following the Revo line trend of cutting weight to the minimum. The X2-Craftic alloy frame fights corrosion while the C6 Carbon for the side plates shave the ounces off. The weight of the SX-HS model we tested is amazingly low at a mere 6.7 ounces, and it is a surprisingly compact reel. The low profile makes it ergonomic and comfortable in the hand, and casting all day long is not a problem at all.

Ten stainless steel bearing make the reel run as smooth as silk, and the titanium line guide cuts friction on the cast. A curved power handle increase leverage during the fight, and makes fast retrieves effortless. The machined aluminum spool is designed to handle heavy lines and the loads that happen when the maximum 20lbs of drag braking is in effect. As in the other Daiwa reels, the Magforce-X magnetic casting brake makes it easy to master precision distance casting.

Whether you fish topwater lures, spinnerbaits, or crankbaits, there is a Revo SX that can dial in perfectly for you. It’s a great little reel for the money that earns sixth place in our review.

What we liked

  • Strong yet extremely lightweight
  • Powerful drag for a compact reel
  • Magnetic braking makes learning this reel easier
  • Very smooth spool action

What we didn't like

  • Some people might not like the large gear box
  • Not recommended for salt water
Daiwa Tatula CT Type-R Baitcast Fishing Reels

The Daiwa Tatula line of baitcasting reels offers high-quality and precision build at a value price point. The Tatula Reels is available in different gear ratios, including 6.3:1, 7.3:1, and 8.3:1 gear ratios and left and right-handed versions. We checked out the R100H, a medium-weight reel that features 7 stainless steel bearings +1 roller bearing and a 13.2lb Tournament Carbon Drag system.

All the Tatula reels are built from machined aluminum for strength and light weight. The Daiwa Magforce-X magnetic casting brake is smooth and precise, and the T-Wing casting system cuts line drag for ultimate distance on the cast. The T-Wing line guide flips up into the casting position, presenting a T-shaped opening instead of a small hole for the line to run through. Distance and accuracy are both increased, and when the T-Wings close for retrieve, the line lays onto the spool through a narrow groove that ensures a perfect, even wind.

The Tatula is compact and palmable, yet all the controls are easy to operate. We like the large star drag wheel and the burly crank handle. There is great value for the money in this feature-packed reel, placing it seventh in our baitcasting line up.

What we liked

  • Compact yet sturdy
  • Good selection of gear ratios available
  • Very smooth on both cast and retrieve
  • T-wing system really makes a difference

What we didn't like

  • Crank handle may feel too short for large hands
  • Anodizing details are not perfect
Abu Garcia 1129943 Ambassadeur 6500 C3 CT Mag Hi Speed Reel - 6.3: 1 Gear Ratio

Fishermen looking for a good trolling or bottom-fishing reel can not go wrong with the time-tested Abu Garcia Ambassadeur C3. It’s a classic and one of the best-selling reels of all time. With a 320 yard 12lb mono line capacity and 6.3:1 gearing, this winch of a reel is made for pulling big fish up out of deep water. The C3 comes in smaller sizes but we tested the big boy and loved the business-like look and feel of this reel.

The centrifugally-braked C3 does not cast as far as some of the little magnetic cast low-profile reels, but you are not likely to see them going up against big striped bass or blue catfish. This reel puts the heavy cranking power of the Abu Duragear system together with a smooth 15lb carbon matrix drag to generate some real torque. The massive star drag wheel and old-school metal level wind system add to the bomb-proof appearance of the C3.

Sometimes a big open-face reel like this one is the best way to go. The C3 is far less sensitive and tangle-prone than the newer low-profile reels and much easier to work on in the field. If you fish deep water, drop off of piers, or troll big baits, you need one of these reels in your collection. The price point is really good for a reel that will last for years and the C3 scores 8th place in our review.

What we liked

  • Firm, strong feel with heavy weights and baits
  • Classic styling and controls
  • Excellent level wind system
  • Solid mount on the rod

What we didn't like

  • Heavy at nearly 10 ounces
  • Centrifugal braking takes some getting used to
Okuma Citrix Low Profile Baitcasting Reel with Grear Ratio 5.4:1

For a light-weight, light-duty, low-cost reel, the Okuma Citrix comes in with a good package of quality details. A diecast aluminum frame gives rigidity to the reel while graphite side plates cut the weight. A 10-bearing drive system produces a surprisingly smooth mechanical action for a reel at this price point. This high-speed machine weighs in at a mere 7.2 ounces but the reel still spools 130 yards of 12lb test line and pulls it in at 31 inches per crank with a 7.3:1 gear ratio.

You can put on 11lbs of force with the multi-disc carbon drag system. We found the brake setting dial a bit hard to get a grip on and nearly impossible with gloves, but the knurled knob works out ok once you get used to it, and the reel is very easy to cast. The magnetic adjustment lets the beginner find the right setting quickly. The micro-click star drag operates smoothly, and the rounded ends on the star wheel are good for keeping things snag-free.

One thing that stands out about this reel is the handle size, which seems large in comparison to the reel body. However, it is very comfortable to use. On the downside, the anodizing on the crank nut showed scarring after one removal of the handle. Stainless steel would be better there. But for the price, the overall fit and finish on the reel is good, and this smooth-rolling, long-casting reel fills our number 9 slot.

What we liked

  • Smooth, fast retrieve for a sub-$200 reel
  • Easy to get the feel of the casting brake system
  • Oversize handle was comfortable for use with gloves

What we didn't like

  • Casting brake dial was hard to grip
  • Anodizing scuffs easily
Abu Garcia Black Max Low Profile Baitcasting Fishing Reel

If you are looking for a way to get into an Abu Garcia reel at a low price, the Black Max has what you need. It is a compact, lightweight 6.4:1 ratio baitcaster that offers Abu reliability and performance and comes at a price point that makes it perfect for beginners or as a backup reel.

This is 4 ball bearing reel that is smooth and crisp; with a sensitive feel that is perfect for smaller bass and panfish. The reel can spool up 130 yards of 30lb braid or 145 yards of 12lb mono. Magnetic cast control lets new baitcasters get a feel for it without massive backlash and tangles. The star drag is easy to operate and features the very smooth, Power Disk drag system ready to lay on 18lbs of fighting power.

The Black Max is built around the same Duragear brass gear train as the more expensive Abu Garcia reels, and offers the same extended lifespan. Thanks to a graphite frame and sideplates, the reel weighs only 7.3 ounces – pretty impressive considering the line capacity and drag power it has.

We like the beefy handle on this little reel, and were impressed at what you can get at the bargain basement price in baitcasting reels. If you need a backup reel, want to set up several rods for the kids, or simple want a good deal, take the Black Max, our number ten pick.

What we liked

  • Comfortable for all-day use
  • Light but not flimsy
  • Strong drag for a small reel
  • Extremely affordable

What we didn't like

  • Corrosion-resistance is questionable
  • Gears get a bit noisy under heavy load

The Best Baitcasting Reel 

We looked at ten beautiful reels here, and of the whole bunch, there is no question that the Shimano Calcutta stands out as an amazing machine. However, it belongs in a glass showcase and the price does reflect that.

We have turned up plenty of more cost-effective options for you, and every reel on this list will provide solid fishing fun. Shortlist your favorites then try to get your hands on some for a few test-casts before zeroing in on your own best baitcasting reel.

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David Valle

I started this blog to provide advanced material, guiding you towards a better and more comfortable fishing experience. I deliver more than fishing gear guides, and motivate people to hit the water!