If you’re hoping to cast long and controlled casts to catch bass, walleye or trout, then you’re looking for a baitcasting reel. They’re known by anglers alike for their exceptional casts and smooth performance with heavier lures like crankbaits, spinnerbaits, and much, much more.
All About Baitcasting Reels
Baitcasting reels are one of the two most used reels. The other type of reel anglers tend to go for is the spin casting reel (also known as a spinning reel). A baitcasting reel sits on top of the rod, so the spool is parallel from above, rather than perpendicular like the spincast reel.
This means that the line on a baitcaster reel comes off the spool directly in-line with the rod. Baitcaster combos are entirely in line to help this process go smoothly. On a spin casting reel, the line is let off away from the rod and then has to turn to follow the length of the rod.
A baitcasting reel works well with monofilament, fluorocarbon and braid line types and tends to hold bigger lures easier. Anglers have to master the art of using a baitcasting reel as they are a little trickier than your average spin casting reel.
The spool moves once you cast the line, so it requires an experienced angler to keep things under control. Practise makes perfect when it comes to baitcasting reels, but the reward could be catching striped sea bass. Experienced baitcasting anglers haven't looked back once they've mastered the baitcasting reel, and you won't either. They're smooth, efficient, and work well in almost any fishing environment.
Things To Look For In Baitcasting Reels Under $200
Type of Fish & Environment
When it comes to baitcasting reels, many are used for both freshwater and saltwater applications. Some will be better suited for freshwater only as they don't have anti-corrosion properties, so wear and tear will happen quickly over time. Be sure to check if the reel you desire suits your fishing environment and are built to last against different waterways.
They’re specifically great for deep water or heavy-duty fishing environments as they’re strong and durable. They support a ton of different lures, too. From crankbaits to jerk baits and all the way to live lures, baitcasters can be used with these lures to fish for trout, catfish, or most commonly known for baitcasters, the bass fish.
Baitcasters have a ton of features to look out for, even if they’re lower in price. They can be heavy to help balance or lightweight to suit featherweight lures. Their size can be larger so they can hold large lines easily or they can be small and sleek, so they don't wear out anglers using them all day. New materials and technologies are released for new or improved reel models to help with efficiency, yet keeping them low in weight and smaller in size.
Some other features to look out for are the spool size, gear ratio, and grips. The gear ratio indicates whether lots of cranking will be needed to get the line moving on retrieval or not. The spool size is essential as it indicates the amount of line that will fit on the spool and which line is best suited for it. A round spool can have an opened frame so it can help with maintenance, whereas low profile spools are great to spool a line on quickly.
The drag refers to the resistance of a reel when fishing large species that are trying to get away. You can adjust the drag through either a front or a rear dial or a star-shaped one on the side of the reel.
Front rear drag is more commonly associated with spinning reels. It’s located just above the spool and allows you to change the drag settings before or while you’re fishing. Rear drag, however, is an adjustable screw on the back of the reel along with a separate lever to activate its use. Reels with this drag type are also known as 'Bait Runners' or 'Bait Feeders.'
Larger reels have larger drag systems, but the design of a reel’s interior gears can affect the drag level as well.
Reels move in several different ways, and what helps everything run smoothly and with ease- the ball bearings. They reduce friction between moving parts throughout the whole reel. While the number of ball bearing may vary from reel to reel, there is almost always one (written +1) that works as an anti-reverse. This is to keep the reel from moving backward.
It’s not essential to have a ton of ball bearings, but some reels use them to help the components of the reel operate fully and smoothly. They are sometimes shielded or double-shielded to prevent damage from outside debris. And some are made with stainless steel, so they're great for easy cleaning and maintenance.
The brake system is important for controlling the speed of the spool when it’s in a free spin motion during casting. They can range from a basic braking system to a highly sophisticated system specifically made by manufacturers. Almost all braking systems are adjustable to suit different preferences and fishing environments.
In terms of the best braking system for baitcasting reels, centrifugal brakes work like a dream. The brakes give anglers a lot of control when the line is feeding off of the spool at the same rate of speed as the cast. As the spool spins, gravity will make the centrifugal brakes extend from the center of the spool, and it will run along a shelf inside the side panel of the reel.
Handle Size & Orientation
The handles on a reel are important, but having the correct hand orientation is number one in terms of comfortability and longevity of use. There are increasing numbers of new reels available as left-handed versions, meaning the reel handle is on the left side (as the reel faces forward). Likewise, a right-handed caster casts with his right hand (or both hands with the right hand dominant) and reels with his left.
As for handle types and what they’re composed of, most brands stick with EVA foam grips, cork handles, or simply plastic tabs. Make sure you choose a handle and grip that feels comfortable for you as you could be using it for hours on end.
The line capacity of a reel is the maximum length of line that the spool can hold without overloading the reel. If a reel has numbers like 160/30, this means it can hold 160 yards of 30-pound. Different lines have thicker consistencies, so this number may change depending on the line.
Some good lines to use with a baitcasting reel are monofilament, braided and fluorocarbon. There are pluses and minuses for each line type, and there are many fans of each. A good rule of thumb is to always leave some space (about an ⅛ of the spool) free.
Price & Warranty
Warranties and prices differ from reel to reel and from brand to brand. Some brands will have cheap reels without a warranty, and others will have a perfect baitcasting reel that's covered from defects for life. It's good to purchase from reputable brands as many can offer warranties on parts for 1 to 5 years. Yet some companies can offer lifetime warranties on their rods and reels, like Shimano, for example. This gives anglers peace of mind when they're out by the water.
It's important to remember; there's a fine line between a cheap reel and a reel that's genuinely good value for money. As mentioned before, we've compiled a list of our 6 best baitcasting reels that are great on value and performance. So, continue reading to see our top picks, and be sure to check if it's cover under a manufacturer's warranty.
6 Best Baitcasting Reels Under $200 Reviewed
1. Lew's Fishing Team Lew's LS
Our Top Pick!
10BB + 1RB
The Lew's Team Lite Speed Spool Casting Reel is our top pick for all the right reasons. If you’re looking for a well-rounded reel that’s lightweight but delivers premium performance, you’ve found the perfect reel for you. This reel weighs a total of 0.35 lbs and is packed with the latest Lew’s technologies in materials and features.
The Lews LS spool casting reel is a one-piece with a die-cast aluminum frame. This kind of aluminum metal is molted under high pressure in the mold cavities. In the die casting process, the metal hardens, and the desired shape is made.
So the reel is a great size and shape to compliment many casting rods. To help reduce the weight, it’s composed of lightweight carbon C45 side plates that provide a sturdy but lightweight base. Its aircraft-grade Duralumin drilled U-shape spool, drive gear, and crankshaft that helps reduce weight as well.
In terms of long casts and smoothness, you'll be in for a treat. Eleven premium double-shielded stainless steel ball bearings keep cast's function in the smoothness manner. The reel also features a Zero-Reverse anti-reverse for strong hook sets with zero back reel.
Not to mention, you’ll be able to do quick and controlled casts with the help of the external and adjustable 6-pin, 27-position SpeedCast adjustable centrifugal braking system. Anglers who have mastered the act of the braking system rave about its efficiency and has anglers catching species in less time.
This top of the line reel will have any angler casting lures from top to bottom of waterways. And just to help a little more, the rugged carbon composite drag system dishes out 14lbs of max drag to tame even the largest beasts. Lew’s Fishing Team really put a lot of thought into its performance and features, making this reel our top pick for anglers at every level.
2. KastKing Bassinator Elite
When it comes to quality at a reasonable price, the KastKing Bassinator Elite baitcasting reel is designed to give bass fishing anglers more advantage on the water! It has high-end recreational features specifically for bass fishing at a tournament level, so this baitcasting reel may be low in price but not in quality.
This beautiful baitcasting reel has an aluminum alloy frame, with carbon fiber side plates for weight reduction. Its frame and side plates are light yet durable and extremely tough, even when tugging a striper bass fish from the water.
The hardened aluminum main gear and shaft also helps with its lightweight feel but are specially heat-treated to increase strength and durability. KastKing uses outstanding materials for their handles and grips on this reel. They’re composed of carbon fiber handles and AAA cork grips that feel like the perfect size and are made with premium materials. They might just be the most comfortable grips you’ve ever used!
Another fantastic feature of this "classic version" reel is the double shielded, stainless-steel ball bearings (10+1) that significantly reduce noise and increases the performance for longer casts. The ball bearing also includes two free-spin super speed bearings on either side of its CNC aluminum spool.
And to make sure every angler uses the reel with ease, KastKing has also sported powerful carbon disc drag washers to eliminate frustrating and erratic drag tension, delivering a smooth maximum drag power of 17.6 lbs.
This baitcasting reel is one of two models. There's this one "the classic version," and another- "the ninja version." The classic version here is finished with a silver aluminum frame and looks very professional and sleek. The "ninja version" is neon green and has more of a sporty feel.
The KastKing Bassinator Elite Ninja baitcaster may not perform as well as the classic version, but it’s a great reel at a lower price. So it might be even better for your budget. The ninja version has an aluminum handle, EVA grips, a 6.6:1 gear ratio with 27.8 IPT. And, all models have a line capacity of 130 yards of 12lb test monofilament, and the metric line capacity is 0.285mm/ 120 meters.
3. SHIMANO Curado K
Best Left-Handed Baitcasting Reel under $200
Many reputable brands release multiple reels specifically for right-handed anglers and release only one for left-handers. Well, left-handed anglers fish, too, and the Shimano Curado K reel is the best baitcasting reel for the specs and the money.
The Shimano baitcasting range of reels has been a staple of many anglers in both fresh and saltwater for many years. The brand has used its 25 years of experience to make each reel more distinctive with better features. The Curado K reel has a larger handle, smaller body, larger spool open, and improved breaking to offer a smooth experience through and through in comparison to the previously released model, the Curado I.
The new and improved technology in the Curado K makes it easy to use and smooth to operate. It has a compact design (10% smaller than previous models). But, don’t let that fool you, it’s as tough as ever. With a HAGANE Body, that’s composed of premium metal, it gives the reel a high level of rigidity and stiffness that is great for impact resistance.
The side plates are made from Shimano CI4 material. This material is lightweight yet durable, offering both strength and rigidity right through to the pin and spring side plates. As for spools and gears, you’re in for a treat. The Curado K’s S3D Stable spool system offers a very smooth feeling when casting or retrieving lures.
There's zero vibration on even heavier lures, making it a dream to cast with. For the best baitcasting reel, we've chosen the gear ratio of 6:2:1, but there are 3 gear ratios to choose from. The three gear ratios offered 6.2:1, 7.4:1, and 8.5:1 will cover almost every situation from flipping and pitching lightweight lures and jigs to getting that high speed retrieve with your favorite crankbaits.
And in terms of braking power, Shimano has outdone themselves again. They’ve enhanced their wide-ranging SVS infinity brake system for improved braking control under every weather condition. The SVS braking system uses weights designed for inner friction against the raceway during your cast. The system controls the spool speed for the precision you need when using lighter lures. This reel has a lot of added features and benefits, and it's perfect for anglers looking for a quality left-handed reel.
4. Lew's BB1 Speed Spool
Best Baitcasting Reel for the Money
If you’re on a budget and you’re looking for a reel that’s not going to burn a hole in your pocket, then why not consider Lew’s BB1 Speed Spool Reel. More and more anglers are demanding better performance reels at affordable prices. So, Lew’s uses its years of knowledge and focuses on not only improving their products but focusing on using technology to lower costs for producing them and for their customers
The BB1 is the heart of Lew's baitcasting reels, and it was well sought after by many anglers for it to be redesigned or revamped. The original BB1 was a great reel that pioneered and changed the perception of what a low profile baitcaster could be. Decades later, this new BB1 reel channels that same forward-thinking, yet they have infused it with modern-day design and technology. To begin with, the new BB1 reel is smaller in size. This is so anglers will feel comfortable having it sit in their hands for long periods.
The new BB1 reels come in two styles, a modern-day instant anti-reverse, and (just like the original BB1) a zero anti-reverse. Either model features a one-piece die-cast aluminum frame and composite side plates. So for a low-cost reel, you won't have to jeopardize on quality or style as this reel is finished in a beautiful piano black finish. In terms of durability, you'll be happy to know that this reel is known for performing exceptionally well while casting larger sized baits.
Lew’s considered this by placing the oversized titanium line guide further away from the spool to minimize line friction and maximize casting performance. In terms of lures for this reel, anything down to 1/4oz is where this reel does exceptionally well, lighter than that, and you need to move to a lighter line and compensate with a light action rod.
It has a gear ratio of 6:4:1 and sports premium a 9+1 bearing system with double-shielded ball bearings. Top it all off with high strength, solid brass speed gears cut with precision that ensures longer gear life, and you have got a reel that's built to last. Overall the reel both looks and feels quite high quality, and the piano black finish is easy to match up with just about any rod out there.
5. Abu Garcia Ambassadeur
Best Baitcasting Reel for Under $150
Baitcasting reels can start at $50 and can reach thousands. If you're trying to add a smooth, powerful, and superbly built reel to your collection (and at a low price), then the Ambassadeur baitcasting reel could be your reel of choice. It is designed for effortless casting and can be easily used for catfishing or bait fishing with mono or braid. The 6500 C3 model is still the top-selling reel for salmon fishing, and for good reason - it is smooth, reliable, hard-working, and a great price.
The 6-pin centrifugal brake system applies consistent pressure for ultimate control during each cast. Between that and the carbon drag, there aren’t many times you feel like you're losing control of the line with this reel if you use it the right way.
And don't worry about losing gip either; the handle is considered very comfortable even though it may not look like it. The bent handle with power knobs works with the drag system to give you some torque on retrieval. So, fighting off those striped sea basses will be no problem for the reel.
This 6500 size reel has 3 stainless steel ball bearings and one on the anti-retrieve, which is considerably lower than our other baitcasting reels on our list. But as it's quite open, it gives anglers plenty of room to reach in and detangle knots if you need to. The 7000 size has one less ball bearing, but both still operate very smoothly.
Round baitcasting reels also hold more line, and this one is no exception. It has a line capacity of 190/20 lbs/yds, which is considerably higher than enclosed reels here on our list. There are some other added benefits of having around, open baitcasting reel, too.
This one is especially simple in its design, and maintenance can be easier, too. Traditionally, smaller sized reels of this kind are often used for bass or predator fishing. Larger round reels suit trolling or jigging the best.
6. Okuma Komodo SS Large
Best Reel for Heavy Duty Use Under $200
290/14, 220/20, 130/30 lbs/yds
One of the ultimate tests for any heavy-duty baitcasting reels would be taking on bluefin tuna or wrestling a sea bass. This Komodo SS large baitcasting reel could do these and more with many favored large baits.
If you don’t have the right reel for heavy-duty fishing, it can create problems with wear and tear and even failure. But just because it can put up with a lot of hardship, it doesn’t mean its higher in price. The Komodo SS is less than $200 and is considered a beast compared to its competitors at this price point.
The construction of the reel is designed to be durable that will last many fishing excursions. You can tell from the machined aluminum frame and side plates, and the stainless steel main and pinion gears were well-considered in the Okuma drawing-room.
Seven ball bearings and one anti-reverse one helps to make the reeling action on the Komodo SS is smooth with little to no friction. The main goal with this reel seems to be to get all the strength and stopping power they possibly can into the sleek and closed design.
Not to mention, it's very versatile when it comes to different fishing environments. It was designed for saltwater, but all the power in the drag can be used in freshwater as well. What they call a Velocity Cast Control System is pretty much just a standard brake system that controls the speed of the spool when it’s free, but it does a great job doing so.
It can be a little trickier to use, but with a few practice runs for an intermediate or professional angler will have them water-ready. Overall for power, castability, versatility, and performance in general, this reel is sure to please anglers with intermediate to professional levels of experience in all kinds of different locales with just about any target fish they can think of.
Quick Guide to Fishing Reel Gear Ratio
Baitcasting Reel Sizing Explained
When it comes to size, it really does matter when choosing your new baitcasting reel. You should match the size of the reel with the size of the fish you wish to catch. If you want to throw out some big bait on a heavy braided line in open water, a large reel if for you.
For finesse jigging, try a smaller one. If you’re looking at a reel that’s more multi-purposeful of your fishing excursions, then those mid-size reels are going to be your best bet.
How to Use a Baitcaster Reel (Beginner’s Guide)
If you’re new to the game of bait cast fishing, then welcome! You’re probably thinking setting up and using your reel for the first time might be a fun (or daunting) task. Nevertheless, here are some simple tips and tricks that will help set up your baitcasting rod and reel.
People Also Ask (FAQs)
Are baitcasters hard to use?
Baitcasters tend to be a little trickier to get the hang of over spinning reels, but with practice comes skill. One rule of thumb that can help any angler ant any level is to thumb the spool, not the line. There's usually a little natural slack in the line when it is normally just wound on the spool. This little bit of slack is what makes the reel cast well in the first place, but it can also help to cause a backlash and creates a birdnest in the reel. With a little bit of practice, you’ll be a pro at using a reel that is suited for almost any type of fishing.
How much line does a baitcaster need?
When spooling a line onto a baitcasting rod, you should put enough so that there’s a 1/8 inch gap between the line and the top of the spool. You don't want to fill it up completely because you'll never really use all of it. If you put too little, it could jeopardize you from doing a long cast. The sweet spot could be anything between 100-120 yards, but that depends on the size of your new baitcasting reel.
How to prevent backlash on a baitcaster?
If you’re new to fishing, then it's almost certain you'll experience your line backlashing or over-running at some point. There are ways to prevent it, but don't be disheartened if it happens to you, most anglers experience it.
By adjusting the brake system and spool tension, you’ll have a lot more control before you cast. Try to practice over shorter distances and always do a test cast. Once you’re out on the water, try to use the wind to your advantage and cast with it, not against it. And remember, practice makes perfect.
How do I choose between a baitcaster vs. spinning reel?
It’s not an easy choice to make when you’re deciding between a baitcaster or a spinning reel. Usually, novice anglers tend to start with spinning reels as they’re a little easier to set up and use. You won’t have to worry about backlashes or bird nests in the spool.
On the other hand, baitcasters are loved by many anglers as they can cast incredible distance with just some good old practice. For you to make the smartest choice, narrow down what type of fishing you’re hoping to catch and which environments you’ll most likely fish at.
What are the main differences between reels under $200 and reels in other price ranges?
When it comes to price, the higher the price doesn’t always mean the higher the quality. From our list, you can see a great range of reels lower than $200 that perform at tournament levels. More expensive reels may have new technologies or could be finished with higher-priced materials. Higher priced reels may be lighter in weight or smaller in size, too. But a good quality $200 reel may outperform a $500 reel if it’s not easy to use or suited by the angler using it. So make sure you choose wisely.
What are the best baitcasting reel brands?
There are a ton of reputable brands in the fishing industry. Some are even working on state of the art technologies and materials to set them apart. Daiwa and Shimano are some of the higher-end reels with some reasonably-priced models available, too. For the most dependable reels, Penn and Lew’s are great companies with excellent warranties. Some other brands to note that have created some killer reels are Abu Garcia and KastKing.
Where is the best place to buy these baitcasting fishing reels?
Thanks to the internet, you have access to any reel you desire from our list on Amazon or directly from the website themselves. You’ll have a chance to read other anglers’ opinions and ask questions on numerous online fishing forums. Otherwise, your local tackle shop could be a great way to support your local community.
From gears, lines, drag systems, and ball bearings. You've all the information you'll need to choose your perfect baitcasting reel. Our top pick, Lew's Fishing Team baitcasting reel, is the ideal all-rounder and will guide you to do quick and controlled casts in no time. It’s small but strong and extremely lightweight so you can bring it on a long-distance trip with ease.