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Having predominantly used spinning reels all of my fishing life, I find it second nature to be able to understand the various sizes and what each size is best used for.
But when I was researching a baitcaster reel to buy, I have to admit that I found it a lot more confusing to understand the difference in sizing, and what the various gear ratios were best suited to.
So, having been through all of that and now gaining a much better understanding of the different baitcaster reel sizes available, I thought I’d detail it all here as I’m sure there’s more of you that would like to see it all broken down so it is easier to understand before you go buying a baitcaster reel.
Before I get into explaining the different sizes of baitcasting reels, I want to go through a few other key design elements that will also play a part in your decision process.
Low profile vs round baitcaster reels
There are two main kinds of baitcaster reels. The low-profile design and the round design.
The low-profile baitcaster reels are mainly used for lighter fishing, where casting accuracy and frequency are important. Also, close-quarter fishing, where you don’t need to cast a mile, and frequent casting that will require the reel to be comfortable to hold and use.
Low profile reels are designed so they can be ‘palmed’ for comfort and ease of use. Their slim design allows for the palm of your hand to wrap around the body of the reel.
Due to their smaller design, the low-profile reels generally hold less line than their larger round shaped brothers.
You can get different spool sizes, so you do need to check the capacity before you buy to ensure the spool will hold plenty of line for the type of fishing you want to be doing.
Round baitcaster reels are bigger in design than the low-profile reels, so naturally they can accommodate more line.
The round baitcaster reels are generally used for heavier fishing than the low-profile ones. They can be used for trolling big lures or casting heavier baits out longer distances.
Due to their design you won’t be able to palm a round baitcaster reel, but that is not required for the type of fishing that you would use them for. They do provide a lot of power and often have really good drag systems as well.
It is important that you understand how much line a specific baitcaster reel can hold. If you are planning on using it for long range fishing, then you will want to ensure you buy a reel that has sufficient capacity on the reel.
The size of fish that you plan on fishing for should also come into the decision process as well, as if you are going to be targeting bigger fish that can potentially take more line from your reel, you want to make sure that you have plenty of line on there to play it with.
If you’re not sure, then it’s best to go a little bigger rather than smaller.
To give you a rough idea of line capacity: As a rule of thumb, the low profile baitcaster reels will have around 150 yards at 15lbs mono capacity, whereas with round baitcaster reels you can spool a lot more, starting at around 240 yards of 12lb mono – *NOTE* these numbers are very generalized averages and will vary depending on reel make and sizes
Gear ratios are important to understand, as the variations suit different types of fishing. Common gear ratios in baitcast reels are 5.4:1, 6.4:1, and 7.1:1.
The gear ratio tells you how fast the reel retrieves line. As an example, a 5.4:1 gear ratio means that the spool will rotate 5.4 times with 1 turn of the handle. 7.1:1 means the spool will rotate 7.1 times with 1 turn of the handle.
If you plan on using the baitcaster reel exclusively for throwing spinnerbaits, then you will want to look at a higher gear ratio, so a 7.1:1 would be the more efficient option.
But if you were going to fish crankbaits, then you’ll want to use a slower gear ratio, so a 5.4:1 may be the best option for you.
Inches per turn (IPT)
For reasons similar to gear ratios, its good to know what the IPT of a reel is. As it suggests, this number will tell you how many inches of line you will retrieve with one turn of the handle.
Baitcaster reel sizes
Now, getting onto the actual sizes you will find for baitcaster reels, and I have broken these down to look at low-profile and round reel sizes individually.
As with spinning reels, baitcaster reels use a similar naming convention to differentiate sizes. You will either see: 10, 100, or 1000 used (all three of these equate to the same size reel)
Low profile baitcaster reel sizes
In general, low profile baitcaster reels use the either the “10” or “100” sizing naming conventions.
Sizes range from 100 (smallest) up to around 400 as the largest, but you will see a lot of ranges of low-profile reels that don’t offer much variation in size.
The smaller reels will hold less line, and usually have a lower IPT ratio. Best suited for lighter lure, close quarter fishing.
Then as you need more line capacity, or the need to use heavier line, you should be looking at the bigger sizes.
Example of different reel sizes for low-profile reels:
Here’s a look at the Daiwa Lexa HD baitcast range, where you can see the different sizes on offer, and how the line capacity and IPT changes through the range.
Round baitcaster reel sizes
Many (not all) round baitcaster reels use the “1000” naming convention to detail their sizing.
Sizes again start at 1000 and can go all the way up to 12,000+ sometimes, so here you have a massive range of options as far as sizing goes.
This will accommodate a wide range of fishing types, from the freshwater crankbaits all the way up to deep sea trolling.
Example of different reel sizes for round baitcaster reels:
Here’s a look at the Abu Garcia Ambassadeur C3 round baitcasting reel range, where you can see how the line capacity increases with the different size reels:
Hopefully the above guide will help you understand how the sizing of baitcaster reels works, and also the other specifications you should look out for when you are buying a baitcaster reel.
As always, I would love to hear your thoughts on any of the above in the comments below or just any fishing related comments you may have.