Anglers need gear with power and durability to fight fish. The reel is perhaps the most central tool, and baitcasting reels are essential for maximum control over casting and reeling. There's no need to spend tons of money to get the best baitcaster reel. Read on to find out what kind of baitcaster you can get for less than $50.
Why Choose a Baitcaster Over a Spinning Reel
Even though spinning reels are easier to use, baitcasters offer more accuracy in the cast, control over settings, and power in the drag system. The dreaded backlash is easily avoidable with enough practice. Baitcasters also have much longer casting distances, but you will have to know how to calibrate the braking system.
Spinning reels have smaller and narrower spools, which doesn't allow them to hold a line that's as heavy as a baitcaster can handle. For bass anglers, not to mention catfishers or muskie hunters, the necessity of heavier test means the baitcaster is the way to go.
Buying Considerations for Cheap Baitcaster Reels
Type of Fish & Environment
Common knowledge says spinning reels are for saltwater, and baitcasters are for freshwater. That's not always the case, although it's mostly true. Round baitcasters often work better than spinning reels in the saltwater.
Baitcasters are better with a heavier line, which means they're better for catching bigger fish. Bass fishers love 14-pound test and even heavier, while lures that work best on bass and catfish require landing bait and moving it in a certain way. For that kind of control, baitcasters are better by far.
Baitcaster spools are larger to hold a larger line. That means their bodies are generally larger overall, although low-profile models are becoming more and more popular. It's essential to make sure that you don't get a reel that's too heavy since that can throw off the balance of your whole rod.
The body should also be really tough to ensure that the reel will last many seasons. We’ll talk about gear ratio more later on, but suffice it to say you generally need a ratio between 6.4:1 and 7.1:1, although there are times for other ratios.
Drag System (front and rear drag)
Drag is essential but not always well understood. It should be able to stop fish, but that doesn't mean it should be at its strongest setting. It should never be fully set, or else the line will break. It's a delicate balance to get to the right setting that will allow the fish to go on a run and get tired but still have enough stopping power to reel it in. A rear drag dial is often used to make last-minute adjustments to the drag, and a drag on the front is used to set a general drag level.
Ball bearings are used inside a reel to reduce friction between moving pieces, generally in the handle and around gears. The best friction reduction comes from bearings that support the pinion gear. These bearings are often made of stainless steel, although the quality of that stainless steel varies, and other materials are sometimes used.
Bearings are often shielded or double-shielded to keep corrosive elements from gumming them up. The number of bearings shouldn't be the only thing you look at since fewer well-placed ones can make a reel work more smoothly just as well as tons of bearings can.
The brake system keeps tension on the line to make sure it doesn’t go into complete free-spin and fly off the reel, creating awful backlash and knots in the line. This is usually done with a magnet system that can be adjusted by pressing in buttons, thereby activating whatever number of magnets to create more or less tension on the line.
Like drag, you don't want the line to be completely seized up. Calibrating the brake system is pretty easily done by measuring the effectiveness of certain tension on the line with the lure you’ll use attached.
Handle Size & Orientation
A larger handle is generally more comfortable to grip. A longer one, or one that's pulled a little bit away from the reel body, can give the angler more torque, helping them have enough power to turn the reel against a fighting fish. Grips on the handle tips can also help add grip and help the angler keep going against a struggling target.
Some reels only come in right-handed models, but that's slowly changing. Many anglers don't reel with their dominant hand but prefer to switch the rod after the cast, or simply to reel with their less-dominant hand.
The amount of line that can fit onto a reel’s spool changes with the size of the reel and the diameter of the line. Baitcasters are better-suited to hold more line, but that doesn’t mean the heaviest line should always be used. Plenty of anglers have figured out and made instructions for how to use braided line on a baitcaster to catch bass and other species. It’s best not to fill the reel completely, but rather to leave about 10 or 15 yards free to make sure line doesn’t overrun the spool and freeze up the reel.
Price & Warranty
This guide is all about finding the right baitcaster for under $50, but even in that range, there are differences in price. Reels for around $30 with plastic elements are great starters and usually still perform well, but are less rugged than all-metal reels.
Closer to the fifty mark, you can find reels that are meant to be used for big targets and last a long time. Most reels (all the ones in this guide) come with a 1-year limited warranty that promises buyers can have errors from the manufacturing process fixed for free up to one year after purchase.
5 Best Baitcasting Reels Under $50 Reviewed
1. Abu Garcia Black Max Low Profile
Our Top Pick!
We hesitate to say perfect, but if you’re looking for a reel you can pair with any rod or if you’re looking for an inexpensive way to break into baitcasting reels, this Abu Garcia is just what you need. The slimmer shape is extremely palmable and comfortable to use, not to mention it looks pretty stylish for a budget reel.
Many other baitcasting reels of this size tend to fall short on their power and line capacity, but that’s not the case with this Abu Garcia model. It can handle about 25 more yards of 12-pound test than standard competing reels can. The star drag system has a bit more stopping power than comparable reels as well.
If you’re eyeballing the gear ratio and feeling like it’s a bit lackluster, rest assured that it’s a mid-range ratio that’s perfectly suitable for a wide variety of fishing scenarios. It’ll keep you from having to crank the reel handle over and over again but still allows enough line retrieval to get lures and fish up to the boat quickly.
The magnet braking system allows for a controlled cast that can soar a long distance and only rarely has any backlash, giving beginning baitcasting anglers the ability to get much-needed practice in and seasoned anglers freedom from those annoying knots in the line.
Why Is the Abu Garcia our #1 choice?
The single-piece graphite body, solid castability, and power of the Abu Garcia Black Max make it a fantastic reel for any angler. It's better than a spincaster for learning because it functions just the same as any other baitcaster does, so learning on it is less like using training reels than it is like just hopping on the bike.
If you were shocked there were baitcasters under $50, you'll be even more surprised when you give this one a try; all the features not only perform well, but they’re easy to set too. The star drag and the braking system both adjust with simple dials.
The handle is bent for extra torque and super comfortable to use thanks to the 5 stainless steel bearings inside. Between the comfort of the handle and the strength of the body of this reel, using it for many hours or even a full day of fishing is no problem.
2. Shakespeare Agility
Best Freshwater Baitcasting Reel Under $50
160/10, 130/12, 110/14
Defying expectations for the best freshwater baitcasting reel under $50, this Shakespeare Agility baitcaster pleasantly surprises with its ability to work for a full fishing day of flipping into vegetation, casting weightless jigs, or just about anything else you want to do. It's got a low profile just like the Abu Garcia, but it doesn't quite stack up to the durable feel.
Rather than a single-piece reel, this one is made up of a few pieces, and some of them have an almost plastic kind of feel. While it doesn't feel cheap, it also doesn't feel like a tank, even if it performs like one.
There are fewer bearings in this reel, which is probably one of the ways they were able to keep the price so low. It doesn’t add too much noise or wreck the winding of the handle. That could be because of the brass drive and pinion gears, which seem to move smoothly together.
The handle also has specialized grips and cranks pretty effortlessly (unless you’ve hooked a big fish, of course). This reel holds a bit less line and doesn’t perform as well with heavier line, but if you’re just headed out on a brief fishing trip for a few hours and aren’t trying to pull Nessie out of the Loch, you'll have a great time with this real and some 10- or 12-pound test.
Why Is the Shakespeare Agility a Good Reel?
Even if you lose a little bit on the gear ratio, line capacity, and durability, this reel is still a quality one, if only because it works so consistently and comfortably. However, the line capacity of this Shakespeare reel might stack up against the competition; it still holds plenty for both trolling and casting.
Your target fish is going to determine whether this reel is a winner for you in the end. If you're going out for huge fish, you might benefit from heavier gear than this slim reel. But if you just want to try your hand at three- and four-pound smallies, largemouth bass, and the like, this reel delivers some fun fishing.
3. KastKing Royale Legend/Whitemax
Best Value for Money
Mono 125/10, 100/12, 85/15
Braided 125/40, 100/50, 85/65
11 + 1
For a reel with precise attention to detail and sophisticated design details included in just about every piece, this Kastking gives a lot for the price. Somehow they've managed to make a reel that's just as affordable without all the shortfalls normal budget reels have.
The stopping power from the drag system is one of the highest you can find at this price point or even in reels that cost twice as much. The whole thing works together with an extremely smooth action due to the large number of ball bearings inside. It is almost always virtually soundless when you cast it or crank the handle. The graphite frame feels sturdy in hand and suits the overall strength of the reel.
The braking system on this reel is more involved than on similar models, which allows for better, further casting with less chance of experiencing backlash. The gear ratio is also higher than other models, and the line retrieval rate is larger, giving anglers the ability to pull fish further faster.
The operation of the reel is great in terms of adjusting the spool tension and getting the line spooled. One drawback is the sensitive plastic parts included in the design of this reel. The thumb rest is plastic all or in part, and even though it works just fine, it's more likely to break down over time because of its construction.
Why Is the KastKing Royale Good Reel?
The performance is great, especially for the price, and the solid construction requires little maintenance. It can handle general abuse from everyday fishing, but some of those plastic parts might break if you bang it around too much.
Something about the braking system and the weight of this reel make it challenging to cast super light lures like weightless Senkos. But it is nonetheless a comfortable reel to use, and it's easy to catch lots of fish without bothering too much calibrating the reel, provided you aren't trying to cast light lures.
If you’re trying to fish finesse rigs that are really lightweight and involved, or if you tend to fish more than once or twice a week, you might want a reel more tailored to your specific needs. But if you're just starting with baitcasters and don't want to invest too much in a reel right away, this is definitely one of the best values for the money.
4. Piscifun Torrent
Best Baitcasting Reel Under $50 for Bass Fishing
5 + 1
If you dabble in bass fishing from time to time, and especially if you’re a real aficionado, the additional power you need in the drag system and the usefulness of more torque in the reel handle will come as no surprise. The Torrent has both of those features and quite a few more that make it the perfect choice for bass fishing if your budget is $50 or less.
Piscifun cranked up the gear ratio on this reel to give more retrieval power than most competing models. That gear ratio also allows the angler to really slow down whatever is on the end of their line, which is a great trick to have up your sleeve if you’re fishing for more languid bass in the wintertime.
The line is supported by both sides of the reel body with something called double line winding shafts. This makes the line stable throughout the use of the reel. The brass used on the internal gears is really high-quality and feels that way.
One of the nicest things about this reel is that it has a port for adding in additional oil or other lubrication so you can keep it operating smoothly with minimal effort. A secondary advantage is that you won’t risk losing parts because you don’t have to take the whole thing apart to lubricate it.
Is the Piscifun Torrent a Good Reel?
The Piscifun Torrent performs excellent with all the lures and baits you're most likely to use for bass like chatterbait and crankbait. It can also handle just about any kind of line you'd like to use, mono or braid. You can cast a long distance and use the strong drag to fight fish.
Even in all the cover and underwater vegetation where bass like to hide, linebreaks and bird's nests are rare if you know how to use this reel and pair it with the right bass fishing rod. If you're a beginner, don't worry about the learning curve. Once you get the hang of it, this reel is great for pulling bass up out of the water. It's even built to be corrosion-resistant, so it'll also work in saltwater.
5. KastKing Rover Round
Best for Saltwater Fishing
6 + 1
Unlike the other reels on this list, the KastKing Rover is a round reel, as you may have guessed from the name. Round reels are great for fishing in saltwater because they're easier to rinse off, and the way they operate generally makes them better for catching larger fish.
Round reels usually have more durable drag systems, and the KastKing Rover is no exception, packing a whopping 30-pound maximum drag in the smaller models. They also have larger sizes like the 70 and the 90 that cost a bit more but have even more stopping power in their drag systems.
This reel also has hardened, reinforced aluminum sideplates and all metal parts from the alloy in the levelwind to the brass and stainless steel in the gears. That makes it really tough. Beginners will love the levelwind for keeping their line in order and reducing backlash, even if some more experienced anglers prefer to go without it to keep their cast uninterrupted.
The line capacity is higher on this round baitcasting reel, which makes it optimal for trolling or casting heavier lures on heavier test line. The lower gear ratio is better for using heavier jigs on larger fish because you don’t have to spin the handle a ton to get the line in.
Is the Rover Round a Good Reel?
The Rover is an amazingly versatile round baitcasting reel that will work great for trolling, casting or bottom-fishing in saltwater or freshwater sources. It's built to handle heavier lines and lures than the other baitcasters under $50 on this list.
Round reels are different from standard baitcasters and may not be the best choice for everyone, but if you want a reel that you can use in tons of different ways, this is the one for you. If you're planning on learning how to work on your reel (i.e., lubricating, cleaning, etc.), which you really should, then this reel is easy to take apart and maintain over many seasons.
The drag system is super strong, and the braking system allows you to cast line off this reel like you could with any other baitcaster. It can handle anything on the water and the occasional accidental drop on land. It’s one of the most dependable saltwater fishing reels you can find, and with its under $50 price tag, it will suit just about any angler, no matter the target.
Quick Guide to Fishing Reel Gear Ratio
Baitcasting Reel Sizing Guide
While it’s not smart to get the biggest and heaviest reel, anglers who want to use heavier bait and larger line will want to make sure they get a reel big enough to accommodate what they want.
Some reels have sizes in the tens and some in the thousands, but they're usually comparable, e.g., a 10 size vs. a 70 and a 1000 size vs. a 7000 is the same difference. Make sure you get a reel that's the proper size for your rod. If you aren't sure, consider going with a combo.
How to Use a Baitcaster (Beginner’s Guide)
Most beginners are too daunted to try a baitcaster, but using one is not too hard to get good at. Putting line on a baitcaster can be difficult, but once that's done, you can cast one in a few easy steps.
- 1Adjust tension until the lure falls slowly.
- 2Turn magnets (brakes) up all the way.
- 3Feather the spool by keeping a light touch on it with your thumb.
- 4Cast from about 11 o'clock to about 3 o'clock.
- 5When the lure hits the water, put your thumb on it to stop the spool from spinning.
People Also Ask (FAQs)
Are there any special care and maintenance steps for baitcasting reels?
Always wash your reel after use, especially in saltwater. Take it apart for a deep cleaning every week or two, depending on how often you go fishing. There are many clever ways to store a reel without removing the line, but the important thing is to make sure it's stored right-side-up and secured on a level surface. Add oil as necessary but not too often, probably not more than once a season.
What should I do to prevent backlash when throwing a baitcasting reel?
Beginners should leave their braking system up really high as they get used to casting. Learning how to properly feather the line by keeping a light touch on the spool with your thumb is essential, as is learning the timing of when to press down firmly on the spool when the lure hits the water. Spooling the line correctly can also help reduce backlash. The best thing to remember is that you'll never get rid of backlash 100%, so don't get frustrated when it happens. Experience is the best teacher!
What are the steps for spooling a braided line on a baitcaster?
Thread the line through the guides on your rod, then the one on the reel or levelwind on the reel. Tie the line to secure it to the spool. Once it's tight, get a friend to hold the factory spool on a pencil with both hands. Reel backward until your reel spool is full enough with line. Repeat twice if you’re using a mono backing, and make sure you secure the mono and the braid with the right knot.
Check out this video for more tips!
How do I choose a suitable line?
Your target and type of lure will determine what line you should use, but so will the line capacity of your reel. If you want to go trolling, it's not going to be much fun with a low line capacity and a reel full of heavy test line. You can't always take the heaviest line. In clear water, you might want a thin braided line that the fish won't be able to see. If that's the case, learn how to tie a leader and use one to get the strength of heavy line with the low visibility of low test.
What are the main difference between cheap (under $50) & expensive models?
Performance-wise, most amateur anglers aren’t going to notice much of a difference. Baitcasters under $50 are a great way to learn and stay in the sport with minimal investment. More expensive models might have more ball bearings or ceramic ones. They can also have more metal parts, be larger, more weather-treated, and pack more stopping power in the drag system. However, any angler can still have plenty of fun fishing with an inexpensive baitcasting reel.
For learning how to baitcast or staying involved in fishing during a hectic period, baitcasters under $50 are absolutely ideal. They're often compared to more expensive models, the way the Abu Garcia Black Max can be just as good as a Shimano in a hobbyist angler’s hands. It’s easy to go fishing from time to time with quality inexpensive reels.