The Best Gear Ratio for Bass Fishing Situations: A Beginners Guide

Wesley Littlefield

When I first began bass fishing, I didn’t realize that the details mattered as much as they do. I would use any rod, reel, and lure combination.

I often wondered why I was struggling to catch fish.

As I learned from more experienced anglers, I realized how little details like knowing the best gear ratio for each situation mattered.

The best gear ratio for bass fishing is 6:1 because it’s a medium gear ratio reel that covers the widest variety of techniques.

Once I began using the right gear ratio, I started consistently catching more bass.

The following is what I’ve learned regarding gear ratios through trial and error and from other bass anglers.

Learn what the best gear ratio for bass fishing is in this YouTube video by Community Coordinator Wesley Littlefield!

What Does the Gear Ratio Mean on a Fishing Reel?

The gear ratio on a reel confused me at first. There were numbers and dots, and I didn’t know what they meant.

However, I was making it more complicated than it needed to be.

For instance, a reel with a gear ratio of 6:1 means the spool goes around six times for every turn of the handle.

6:4:1 gear ratio reels turn the spool 6.4 times with one turn of the reel handle.

There is a broad spectrum of fishing reel gear ratios, and each has its place.

What is the Best Gear Ratio for Every Bass Fishing Situation?

Choosing the best gear ratio ultimately comes down to the presentation or lure you’re using.

Some techniques require a slower reel, and other presentations need a faster gear ratio.

Best Gear Ratio for Crankbaits

A slow gear ratio reel is best for shallow and deep diving crankbaits. I tend to use a 6:1 or 5:1 reel for two reasons.

The first reason is that the crankbait does most of the work, and you only need to get it to run along the bottom. In most cases, you don’t need a fast gear ratio for that.

The second reason you want a lower gear ratio is, so you have more cranking power. A slow gear ratio reel makes it easier to retrieve lures with a lot of drag, like crankbaits.

However, when fishing with lipless crankbaits, a fast reel such as an 8:1 works best because they don’t require as much torque to retrieve.

Best Gear Ratio for Spinnerbaits

The best gear ratio for spinnerbaits is 7:1 or 8:1. Most of the time, spinnerbaits are fished quickly, so you want a reel that can get your lure back to you as fast as possible.

If you’re fishing with a low gear ratio reel, the fish has longer to look at the lure and decide if it wants to bite.

Whereas if you’re moving the spinnerbait quickly through the water with a high gear ratio reel, the fish has to react before it’s gone. This causes more reaction strikes.

Best Gear Ratio for Topwater

Choosing a gear ratio for a topwater is a little different because we have to decide what topwater we’re throwing.

When throwing a spook or popper, a medium-speed reel works great, so something in the 6:1 range.

However, when throwing a buzzbait, frog, or Whopper Plopper style lure, you need a high-speed reel to keep it on top of the water and moving. This is why most anglers prefer an 8:1 or 10:1 gear ratio reel when fishing a buzzbait.

Best Gear Ratio for Swimbaits

You don’t want most swimbaits to come in contact with the bottom, so a 7:1 reel will be the best option for most swimbaits.

A fast reel keeps the swimbait off the bottom and in the strike zone longer, which means more chances for a bite.

Best Gear Ratio for Soft Plastics

When fishing with soft plastics, it’s often best to move the lure with the rod instead of the reel. Which might cause most anglers to assume reel speed doesn’t matter.

However, that’s not true because you will need a high-speed reel to quickly take up the slack in the line to get a solid hook set when you get a bite.

For most bottom baits, a high gear ratio fishing reel is the best option, so stick with an 8:1 or even 10:1.

Best Gear Ratio for Jerkbaits

Jerkbait fishing is best with a medium gear ratio fishing reel. I prefer the higher end of medium-speed reels, which is a 7:1, in my opinion.

This is because you work a jerk bait with the fishing rod more than the reel, but you need to be able to reel up slack when you get a bite.

Best Gear Ratio for Flipping

When pitching and flipping jigs around light cover, you need a high-speed 8:1 or 10:1 reel to make more casts in a shorter amount of time.

However, when you’re around heavy cover, I recommend stepping down to a 7:1 fishing reel to help you winch the fish out of the cover.

When flipping a jig in heavy cover, you’re looking for that one big bass, and the low-speed reel helps when fighting big fish.

Best Gear Ratio for Texas Rig

Like most other soft plastic bass fishing techniques, Texas Rigs and Carolina Rigs are intended to be fished along the bottom and moved with your fishing pole.

So a high-speed gear ratio reel is the best option in these instances.

Best Gear Ratio for Spinning Reel Techniques

Typically, when you’re using a spinning rod and reel, you’re finesse fishing.

These styles of bass fishing don’t require a higher gear ratio reel.

Most spinning reels are either 5:1 or 6:1, and a few manufacturers make a 7:1 gear ratio reel. So you can’t go wrong no matter which one you’re using.

Best Gear Ratio for Baitcaster Techniques

A casting reel is used for a wider variety of techniques than a spinning reel, so there are more options for gear ratios.

As I previously mentioned, I tend to use a 6:1 reel the most, simply because I can use it with more techniques.

When to Use a Fast Gear Ratio Reel

There are certain situations when a fast reel is the best choice. When I say fast reel, I mean an 8:1 or 10:1 gear ratio.

  • Fishing warm water, and you want the fishing lure moving fast
  • The angler needs to make a lot of casts
  • Techniques that put a lot of slack in the line and need it quickly reeled up

When to Use a Medium Gear Ratio Reel

I consider a medium-speed reel a 6:1 or 7:1 gear ratio; here’s when you should use these ratios.

  • When fishing in warming water, such as during the spring
  • When fishing heavy cover but you still need to make a lot of casts
  • When you don’t have the money to buy a reel for every technique
  • Use a medium speed when you don’t know which reel to use

When to Use a Slow Gear Ratio Reel

A slow reel is a 4:1 or 5:1. Most people don’t use a 4:1 reel, so here are the instances when it’s best to use a 5:1 reel.

  • When using a crankbait
  • When fishing in cold water and you don’t want to move the lure too fast

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a 7.1 1 gear ratio good for?

The 7.1 1 gear ratio is good for an all-around reel. It’s excellent for swimbaits, jerkbaits, soft plastics, flipping, and pitching.

What gear ratio is best for fishing?

The best gear ratio for fishing is 6:1 because you can use it for many fishing techniques.

What is a 6.2 1 gear ratio good for?

A 6.2 1 gear ratio is good for throwing spinnerbaits, swim jigs, lipless crankbaits, swimbaits, umbrella rigs, and many other techniques.

That’s why I consider it the best gear ratio for bass fishing.

Last Cast

Unless you’re a tournament angler, you don’t need to go out and purchase several different reels in different gear ratios.

The best gear ratio for bass fishing for the average angler is 6:1. With this ratio, you can effectively cover every technique with great success.

I’d love to hear your favorite gear ratio in the comment section.

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