Top 5 Baitcasting Reels on the Market: Trophy Lake Test

Keith Lusher


We independently research, test, and recommend the best products; you can learn more about our review process here.

Baitcasting reels have come a long way in the last decade. There are a ton of new advancements and the competition in the casting reel space has become fierce. 

Having a lot of choices is great, but It can also be a little overwhelming.  

Being an insider in the baitcasting industry has allowed me to be able to spot the difference between a company cutting corners and delivering a quality product.

In this best baitcasting reel guide I’ll help you maneuver the different reel terminology and help point you to what I think are the best reels on the market.

I’ve set aside a week-long fishing trip on a stocked trophy bass lake to match the newer reels on the market against some of my all-time favorites.

Top 3 Baitcasting Reels on the Market

As a quick summary, here are my top three choices for best baitcasting reels based on my research and testing. 

Daiwa Tatula SV TW Baitcast Reel
Best Baitcasting Reel Overall
Daiwa Tatula SV TW Baitcast Reel
Daiwa Tatula Elite Baitcast Reel
Best Tournament Grade Baitcasting Reel
Daiwa Tatula Elite Baitcast Reel
KastKing Royale Legend ll
Best Budget Baitcasting Reel
KastKing Royale Legend ll


Testing Procedure 

Since one of the most important features of a baitcasting reel is how the reel performs under pressure, I wanted to fish a location where I would be able to catch big bass. 

I headed to a private trophy bass lake located in Alabama. 

The lake comes complete with various types of structure and depths. But more importantly, it has some real hawgs that can help me weed out the weaker reels and hone in on the studs. 

During my time on the water I specifically focused on the following qualities that each reel possessed:

  • Construction:  Bells and whistles are great, but finding a reel that’s going to last is as important as owning a tricked out reel.

    During my test I examined each reel and ranked each one according to how well the reel is put together and the material used to make it.
  • Drag System: The improvements in the drag system of spinning reels in the last decade have been amazing. Not only does a quality drag help with reduced line breakage, it also gives the fisherman an advantage when tiring out those lunker fish.

    During my weekend I kept a keen eye (and ear) on the drag systems, especially when those big fish made hard runs. 
  • Gear Ratio: Spinning reels are used for all kinds of fish so having the right gear ratio is important.  During my test I tried out these reels to see if their retrieve speeds held up to the manufacturers claim.
  • Ball Bearings: How many ball bearings a reel has is one of the most important factors to look at when it comes to choosing the perfect baitcasting reel.

    Smooth retrieves and casts is what it’s all about, and having high-quality ceramic bearings or stainless steel inside the reel can make a big difference in overall performance. 

Best Baitcasting Reel Overall

Daiwa Tatula SV TW Baitcast Reel

Daiwa Tatula SV TW Baitcast Reel

Specs

  • Type: Casting
  • Gear Ratio: 6.3:1, 7.3:1, 8.1:1 
  • Weight: 7.2
  • Bearings: 7+1
  • Line Capacity: 14/100

Pros

Stress-free Vertical (SV) technology reduces backlashes 
T-Wing levelwind system for longer casts
Ultimate Tournament Carbon Drag for up to 13.2 pounds of max drag power
Wobble-reducing 90mm Swept Handle 
Versatile with 3 reel speeds 

Cons

Line-against-line jams occur along spool wall about every 1,000 casts

Why We Chose It

The Tatula SV TW leads the pack as far as versatility. It’s the #1 reason why we gave it the title of best overall bass fishing reel.

I’ve used this reel on numerous bass fishing trips from trophy trips in a boat to walking a river bank in search of smaller spotted bass. 

It comes in three models with gear ratios of 6.3:1, 7.3:1, and 8.1:1 

It’s also available in right hand or left hand retrieval.

During my test the first thing that stood out to me was the casting ability. 

I was throwing a Strike King 3XD crankbait and barely had to touch my thumb to the spool when casting. I was actually expecting a backlash but the reel self corrected. 

I wanted to push the limit on this reel so I made a full-strength bomb cast and glanced down at the spool while the line was flowing off. 

The line flowed smoothly and came to a stop with only soft pressure from my thumb. 

The T-Wing System is what makes this possible because of the wider spool which allows for less bouncing back and forth of the line. 

This reel has a lot of cut-outs which makes it very light coming in at 7.2 oz. 

I was able to use this reel all morning and it remained comfortable even after throwing some heavier swimbaits for over an hour. 

During my test I caught four bass with the biggest being 3.5 pounds. 

The biggest bass came on a very long bomb cast which was good because I was able to gauge how the reel performed from the hook-set to the boat. 

It was like there was some sort of autopilot in this reel and it braked when it needed to brake and sped up as the bass tired. 

I would highly recommend this reel for not only pro tournament guys but beginners as well as its strength is backlash-free casting. It’s like having an auto-pilot built into the reel! 

The only downside I can see is if you’ve never used a baitcaster and are just starting out with this reel; you may not get the proper training on thumb-braking as you would with a standard baitcaster. 

If you’ve ever used the Daiwa Tatula 100, this is a souped up version of that but with virtually no backlashes!

If you’re looking for a reel that covers all the bases as far as being able to cast heavy lures down to light lures, this is the reel that checks all the boxes. 

Get this reel and let us know what you think! So far it’s the most complete baitcaster I’ve used and I find it hard to find a flaw in it. 

Best Budget Baitcasting Reel

KastKing Royale Legend ll

KastKing Royale Legend ll

Specs

  • Type: Casting
  • Gear Ratio: 5.5:1, 7.2:1
  • Weight: 7.2 oz
  • Bearings: 5+1
  • Line Capacity: 10/130, 12/110, 14/90

Pros

5 + 1 Double Shielded Stainless Steel Bearings for smooth retrieves 
8 cross-fire magnets for superior casting control and braking efficiency 
Grand Touch handle grips for added comfort

Cons

Braking System has learning curve of about a day

Why We Chose It

Choosing a baitcaster that is built with quality material and performs well is a chore. But finding one that costs less than 50 bucks is almost impossible. 

I can honestly say that this reel shined in numerous categories.

It’s got six bearings which is more than I expected with the price being under 60 bucks. 

The casts were smooth and the retrieve was quiet. 

Another thing that stood out to me was the smooth casts I was able to make. 

The reel has a braking system that has a magnetic brake and a centrifugal brake, in addition to the spool tension knob which is noticeable when casting. 

My casts were long and accurate even when using smaller, lightweight lures. 

During my trip I was able to test the drag system on this reel when a hawg blew up on my top-water popper and made a run.

I can vouch for the 17.5 pounds of force that the reel claims to have as it handled beautifully and in the end I landed my biggest bass of the day: a 6.4 pound bass. 

The drag was quiet and the pull was smooth without any short bursts of line pulling off of the spool at random times. (Most cheap reels perform this way)

This is one heck of a baitcaster for the price! Plus it comes in two models with gear ratios of 5.5:1 and 7.2:1. It’s also available in right hand or left hand retrieval.

There were a few downsides however, the reel material is awfully lightweight which could spell durability issues. 

Also, I struggled throwing a weightless fluke and had to adjust the braking system more than I’d like but within a few hours I got up to speed. 

In all honesty this reel felt very similar to the more KastKing’s more expensive Royale Legend Elite reel but is considerably cheaper

All-in-all, this reel overachieved for a budget reel and delivered where it needed to. It makes for a great starter reel for someone who is just starting out in the bass fishing world. 

Don’t miss this YouTube video where Anglers.com Content Creator Wes Littlefield tested out the KastKing Speed Demon Elite, the World’s Fastest Fishing Reel!

Best Tournament Grade Baitcasting Reel 

Daiwa Tatula Elite Baitcast Reel

Daiwa Tatula Elite Baitcast Reel

Specs

  • Type: Casting
  • Gear Ratio: 6.3:1, 8.1:1 
  • Weight: 6.7
  • Bearings: 7+1
  • Line Capacity: 14/125

Pros

Magforce braking system uses magnetic force to adjust each cast reducing backlashes
Zero Adjuster lets anglers make precise adjustments to the braking force to achieve optimal control over their casts
T-Wing levelwind system for longer casts
Ultimate Tournament Carbon Drag for up to 13.2 pounds of max drag power
Wobble-reducing 90mm Swept Handle 

Cons

Zero Adjuster takes a trip or two to get the hang of

Why We Chose It

From light lures to heavy, The Daiwa Tatula Elite Baitcasting Reel can handle them all! Daiwa’s Magforce Braking System is an innovative new feature that uses magnetic force to adjust each cast. 

During my test this allowed me to make smooth effortless casts without much effort on my end. It was like the reel had an autopilot mode.

Also, the Zero Adjuster is a sort of “fine tuning” feature which allows you to adjust the reel based on specific casting situations like wind and lure weight in order to maximize your casting distance without backlashes.  

I was a big fan of the Daiwa Tatula SV TW Reel but after using this “souped up” version of that reel I had to give the nod to this reel as the Best tournament grade rod. 

One of the biggest improvements with the Tatula Elite is the cut-outs which drop the overall weight to 6.7 oz. which is a really light reel. 

Also, the Elite holds 50 yards more line than the Tatula SV TW.

During my test I was throwing a swimbait with this reel and it was casting up to 60 yards. 

I then wanted to test it on lighter lures so I switched over to a 3” Zoom Tiny Fluke without a weight just to push the envelope. 

I turned the Zero Adjuster knob to account for a lighter lure and was able to whip the Fluke under a dock with ease. 

The reel comes in two models with gear ratios of 6.3:1 and 8.1:1, and is available in right hand or left hand retrieval.

This reel will amaze even the tournament guys but I would also recommend it for beginners. You will be making pro-casts within a few days. 

If you’re a beginner this reel will help you jump right into the action without any of the hard knocks that I had to go through through the years learning how to cast a baitcast reel. 

However, It does take a few hours to get used to the Zero Adjuster but put in the time and you will be rewarded!

If you’re looking for a lightweight, high-end  reel that excels with casting accuracy and distance, the Daiwa Tatula Elite Baitcasting Reel is the reel to go with. I have no regrets with this purchase! 

Most Versatile Baitcasting Reel

13 Fishing Concept Z Slide Baitcast Reel

13 Fishing Concept Z Slide Baitcast Reel

Specs

  • Type: Baitcasting 
  • Gear Ratio: 7.5:1, 6.8:1, 8.3:1
  • Weight: 6.7
  • Bearings: 6+1
  • Line Capacity: 12/125

Pros

SLIDE magnetic cast control system for situation specific casting 
Cast-Iron Carbon frame and side plates for lifetime durability 
7 Zero-Corrosion CZB ball bearings for smooth retrieves and casts
Advanced Polymer Drag system for high-end drag pull

Cons

A bit on the expensive side coming in at a little under $300

Why We Chose It

Right out of the box I could tell that the folks at 13 Fishing created a masterpiece with the Z Slide Baitcaster

This beautiful reel has an edgy look which I really liked. The bright orange handle adds a nice touch and is somewhat expected as 13 Fishing prides themselves on carving their own path in the reel world. 

This sleek baitcaster comes in three models with gear ratios of 7.5:1, 6.3:1, 8.3:1.

The reel is available in right hand or left hand retrieval.

I paired this reel with a Shimano Zodias Casting Rod and it slayed in the casting department. I started with a chatterbait and then moved to a lightweight Beetle Spin which 

I was able to switch the SLIDE cast control to the lightweight lure setting and I was able to cast it about 40 yards, which is quite an achievement for a lure weighing only ⅛ oz. lure.

13 Fishing’s SLIDE Control is the real deal as it is the reason why we gave this reel the title of most versatile. It’s a magnetized control system that’s located on the reel near the spool. 

It’s located close enough to my thumb that I was able to easily adjust it between casts. 

So whether I needed to cast into the wind, or pitch a finesse jig, the spool was dialed in and ready to assist with what kind of cast I was about to make. 

One thing to note is that it takes a little time to get used to switching the knob over to what cast you’re planning to make. I’d say a few hours at least. 

This reel was a very strong contender for best overall bass fishing reel but it just couldn’t top the Daiwa Tatula SV TW  when it comes to controlling backlashes. 

In the end it’s a very, very solid baitcasting reel when it comes to material makeup, casting distance, and accuracy. 

I highly recommend the 13 Fishing Concept Z Slide Baitcast Reel to add to your collection if you’re looking for a baitcasting reel that can handle lightweight lures up to heavyweight swimbaits, this is the rod you’re looking for! 

Get it and use it for every bass fishing trip you’ll ever make! 

Fastest Baitcast Reel

Abu Garcia Revo 5 Rocket Baitcast Reel

Abu Garcia Revo 5 Rocket Baitcast Reel

Specs

  • Type: Casting
  • Gear Ratio: 10:1
  • Weight: 7.58 oz.
  • Bearings: 10+1
  • Line Capacity: 12/130

Pros

Stress-free Vertical (SV) technology reduces backlashes 
10+1 stainless steel ball bearing system for ultra-smooth casts
95mm straight carbon handle with oversized knobs for “bully mode” strength 
Carbon Matrix drag system provides as much as 18 lbs. of fish pulling power
 IVCB-6 centrifugal brake system that adds casting control to reduce backlashes

Cons

Only one model to choose from

Why We Chose It

The Revo 5 Rocket is specifically designed for pulling fish out of heavy cover and that’s exactly what it did during my test. 

Its 10:1 gear ratio allowed for some amazingly quick retrieves after the hookset. This is one of the main reasons we gave it the title of “Fastest Baitcaster.” 

When you’re fishing heavy structure you want a reel that isn’t going to play! I loaded this bad boy with Power Pro Braided line and never looked back. 

The reel made beautiful casts and was self correcting in some instances  as the  IVCB-6 centrifugal brake system saved a few of my casts from backlashing. 

The Abu Garcia Revo 5 Rocket Baitcasting Reel is available in one model with an amazing gear ratio of 10:1.

The reel comes in right hand or left hand retrieval.

This reel reminded me of the Daiwa Tatula Elite Baitcast Reel which uses something called Magforce Braking that autocorrects casts when they go rogue. 

This saved me a ton of time that I would have normally had to use to untangle a birdnest. 

The Revo 5 Rocket is the perfect fit for those fisherman who use Texas rigs, Carolina rigs, or use a punching technique as it rips the fish out of grass at lightning speed. 

On a side note, this real is only available in one size so it’s specifically meant for the techniques that I just mentioned. 

So if you’re looking for a tough reel to flip, pitch, and punch jigs in heavy cover, the Revo 5 Rocket is the baitcaster to get the job done. 

After testing this reel I would say it’s definitely the new “bully on the block” when it comes to workhorse baitcasters. 

How to Choose the Best Baitcasting Reel

13 Fishing Concept Z Slide Baitcast Reel

Baitcasting reels have gotten ultra-technique specific in the last decade. Choosing the right reel depends on many components. Take a look at a few factors to consider when choosing your next baitcasting reel. 

Gear Ratio 

The gear ratio refers to how many times the spool turns per revolution of the handle. The higher the gear ratio, the faster the reel will retrieve line. 

This is a personal preference for the angler. Typically a high gear ratio like 9:1 or over is going to be used for jigging in heavy structure; when that fish hits, you need to rip them out quickly. 

Reels with a slower gear ratio are often used for throwing crankbaits and swimbaits. 

The size of the spool will determine how much line you can fit on the reel before you start reaching the backing. 

If you do a lot of pitching or flipping, you don’t need a large spool because you’re not casting long distances. 

Spool Size

For the most part, many spool sizes are standard and there isn’t too much variation between how much line you can fit on all of them. 

This information will apply most for sea anglers who are fishing for much larger offshore fish where they’re taking the line out really far and battling for 10-15 minutes at times. 

Braking System

testing a baitcast fishing reel

The braking system may be one of the most important components of a baitcasting reel. This is one thing that is primarily different from the spinning rod and reel combo. 

With a baitcaster, you have a tension knob that controls the amount of tension on your line at the beginning of the cast. 

The braking system will control the tension at the end of the cast. Without the right amount of tension, wind will start to impact your cast. 

It will slow down your lure. But, that wind is not slowing down the spool which will keep spinning at the same velocity until that lure hits the water. 

Bearings 

bearing sign on a baitcast reel

You’ll want to take a look at the reels bearing system. It’s a really simple equation that you need to keep in mind when selecting a reel. 

For the most part, the more bearings in the reel means the smoother the retrieve is going to be. 

Also you’ll want to take a look at what material the bearings are made of. Stainless steel, Corrosion-resistant bearings are best because they don’t wear down over time. 

If you maintain the reel properly, you won’t have to worry about the dirt and debris getting inside and causing the bearings to corrode.

Final Thoughts

My “Trophy Lake Test” certainly made things a lot clearer when it comes to selecting the best baitcasting reel.

And while there were some hard decisions to make, I feel our choices should be able to direct you to the perfect reel for your bass fishing situation. 

So let’s review our top pick!

For the bass fishing reel overall, I choose the Daiwa Tatula SV TW Baitcast Reel. It was a phenomenal reel and the lack of backlashes was the main thing that stood out to me.

While the Tatula SV TW won overall, you really can’t go wrong with all the reels mentioned in this Best Baitcasting Guide that I’ve put together. 

Give them a try and tell us what you think! We’d love to hear from you!

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