Baitcasting reels are designed for both salt and freshwater anglers. They usually have features such as braking systems to reduce backlash as well as wind leveling mechanisms, which provide greater frontal and backline control for the spool while reducing the need for anglers to depend on their thumbs. Additionally, the gear ratio and line speeds are much higher than standard spinning reels. Below is a list of the top 12 baitcasting reels for less than $100.
1. Piscifun Phantom Carbon Baitcasting Reel
This baitcasting reel weighs just 5.7 ounces and uses a carbon based body and frame, with an aluminum spool that is hollowed out with a handle made of carbon fiber. It has aluminum gears which are hardened and anodized along with a carbon based drag system that is seventeen pounds. It has a centrifugal brake that is six pin along with seven ball bearings and a ten magnetic brake setting.
The Piscifun Phantom is prized for its smooth casting and tight operation. Unlike the majority of composite reels which are noisy and sloppy, this model performs well both for roll casting near shallow cover and tossing larger baits within deep water.
- Dual braking system
- Robust thumb bar
- Smooth casting
- Light in weight yet durable
- Reel can be difficult to dial in
- Some screws might be loose
Full Review: Piscifun Phantom Carbon Baitcasting Reel
2. Cadence CB8 Baitcasting Reel
This baitcasting reel is made from graphite and aluminum and provides ambidextrous hand operation. The bearing material is constructed from robust stainless steel and it has a design which is both compact and ergonomic, making it easier to handle and transport. It has a weight of 6.7 ounces and uses a frame made from carbon fiber and the EVA based handle knobs will absorb sweat which will aid anglers even in the toughest fishing environments.
The bearings are exceptional in quality as they are made with stainless steel that is double shielded with a single anti-reverse type bearing. It also incorporates a Super Low Torque (SLT) mechanism which lowers the required casting effort while ensuring that every handle turn is both quiet and smooth. Both the braking and drag is precise, with a maximum 20 pound drag that will prevent most large fish from getting inside cover and escaping.
- Have external magnetic brakes which can be adjusted
- Simple to control and adjust
- Multiple baits can be used with minimal risk of backlash
- Too noisy for some
- Lacks internal adjustable brake
- Spool can’t be removed from reel
Full Review: Cadence CB8 Baitcasting Reel
3. Kastking Whitemax Baitcasting Reel
The Kastking Whitemax Baitcasting Reel is designed for right hand users and is made from aluminum. It weighs approximately 0.6 pounds and incorporates a low profile build with a gear ratio which provides greater cranking and torque. Its drag system consists of 4 disc carbon which can provide 17.5 pounds worth of drag with low maintenance requirements.
Because it uses an advanced dual brake system, it is considered tournament grade and has a centrifugal brake which is both reliable and finely tuned that is quick and simple to use, The aluminum used in this reel is anodized and forged with a whiffle based spool that is multi-ported and which provides tremendous strength without increasing the weight.
- Ball bearings are resistant to corrosion
- Uses a brake system with 7 magnets
- Has a low profile
- Light in weight
- Produces lots of metal shavings
- Gears can wear out rapidly
- Has a loud buzz
Full Review: Kastking Whitemax Baitcasting Reel
4. Abu Garcia Pro Max Baitcasting Reel
This baitcasting reel uses a foot which is recessed to aid in maintaining rod balance and alignment. It is light in weight and will fit snugly in the hands of most anglers. It uses a double arm based handle which is bent where its star drag sits in close proximity to its reel. This makes it easier to adjust than other reels and because of its paddleboat grip and EVA handles which are high density users will maintain a strong hold even in difficult situations.
While this isn’t the lightest reel on the list, it is certainly not the heaviest. It is low in profile and free of either indentations or unusual protrusions which might make users uncomfortable.
Aesthetically speaking, this reel is extremely attractive. The body is mostly black in color with a few golden parts which provide a nice balance. Both the spinning reel and bait cast is exceptional in quality. Its frame is constructed with graphite and features side plates that give it a nice feel. When studying the reels closely you’ll see the outstanding job Abu Garcia did in fitting each graphite piece together.
- Simple to adjust with a strong grip
- Brass based heavy duty construction
- Advanced magnetics braking system
- Greatly reduced backlash
- Some anglers find it noisy
- Excessive play within the handle
- Could having smoother handling
Full Review: Abu Garcia Pro Max Baitcasting Reel
5. Sougayilang Baitcasting Reel – Colorful Fishing Reel
This baitcasting reel from Sougayilang is designed for right handed users and is made with stainless steel. It has a fashionable appearance with a matte skin coating that feels great on the hands. It uses heavy duty type brass in the pinion and main gear which results in a longer service life, reduced noise and rapid operation. It has a speed ratio which is fast and its top configuration does a great job of helping anglers capture large fish (18 pounds maximum). Additionally, it is versatile and can be used in multiple complicated fishing scenarios.
Aside from its vibrant coloration, this reel is also distinct for its ceramic based line guide which is O-shaped that protects the line from damage. It is also equipped with nine ball bearings made from stainless steel which are shielded, along with a bearing that is anti-reverse. The magnetic based braking system uses ten magnets that will provide anglers with multiple spooling brake levels which eliminate aggravating overruns.
- Quick and effective performance
- Tournament grade and capable of capturing heavy fish
- Low noise level
- Its clear coat peels
- Some say the spool is too loud
Full Review: Sougayilang Baitcasting Reel – Colorful Fishing Reel
6. Sougayilang Warrior 4000 Baitcasting Reel
Sougayilang is a Chinese brand which continues to make a name for itself in the world of competitive fishing. This is perfectly manifested in the Sougayilang Warrior 4000, a reel which combines precision technology with great innovation. This particular rod is made for both amateur anglers as well as professionals that compete in tournaments.
It can be used for both salt and freshwater fishing and works best with 16, 12 and 14 pound testing lines. Those that enjoy capturing fish such as salmon, bass, catfish and pike will find this reel to be an outstanding piece of equipment. Unlike some reels, which are only designed for right hand users, the Sougayilang 4000 can used by those who are right or left handed. The package will include a single fishing reel, crank handle which is already assembled, and a spare graphite spool.
- Can be used by right or left handers
- Smooth handling
- Uses thirteen ball bearings
- Resistant to corrosion
- Some users say the reel seized up
- Catching large fish might break it
Full Review: Sougayilang Warrior 4000 Baitcasting Reel
7. Abu Garcia Revo X Baitcasting Reel
Many amateur fishermen lack the resources or inclination to buy different reels for every fish species or capture method. They instead desire a single affordable solution that is high in quality and which can be used in multiple scenarios. This is where the Abu Garcia Revo X Baitcasting Reel comes in. It is simple enough for beginners to learn how to use, yet advanced enough for intermediate and veteran fisherman to perform high level catches.
This reel is made with aluminum and has a weight of 7.9 ounces. It has eight bearings, which is important because in the world of fishing reels, more bearings equal smoother handling. It uses a magnetic brake system which is one of the key features which makes it well suited to beginners. It has a maximum drag of eighteen pounds. The frame is lightweight which means that it won’t tire your hands after extended use. However, it doesn’t sacrifice durability, and will last for years and is resistant to moisture, sun damage and corrosion.
- Designed for both beginner and experienced fishermen
- Can capture fish of all sizes
- Doesn’t tire out the hands even after prolonged use
- Dialing-in is simple and straightforward
- Some find the spinning too free
- The rod stretches and curves
- Plastic frame might not last long
Full Review: Abu Garcia Revo X Baitcasting Reel
8. KastKing Rover Round Baitcasting Reel
This amazing reel from Kastking is designed to catch a variety of fish, including striped bass, salmon and steelhead. It can be used for saltwater fishing and is considered one of the best fishing reels in the world due to its reinforced metallic body and incredible efficiency. It uses a carbon fiber based drag system which enables it to capture fish weighing as much as thirty pounds. Its ball bearings are made with stainless steel, which gives it advanced protection against corrosion while the aluminum based side plates are thick, hardened and anodized.
- Reinforced steel shaft
- Worm gear made from stainless steel
- Machined CNC spool
- Reliable level wind
- More expensive than other reels
Full Review: KastKing Rover Round Baitcasting Reel
9. Shimano SLX Baitcasting Reel
The Shimano SLX delivers baits efficiently through the usage of a proprietary VBS based centrifugal system. It is designed in such a way where it lowers spool friction on the shaft when casting and it can handle a wide variety of retrieving ratios. Tests conducted on this reel have found that it is capable of elevated speeds for both left and right hand retrievals. It can catch multiple species of fish at various weights which makes it the perfect multi-purpose rod. Although the SLX lacks micro gears which are commonly found in the more advanced Shimano models, it does have a main gear made with brass that is precision cut and exceptionally smooth. Its drag system uses a combination of steel and carbon.
- Has a beautiful dark matte finish
- The main gear is precise and durable
- It is very affordable
- Can capture heavier fish species
- Has an extended handle which provides lots of leverage
- The VBS cast controller has to be internally adjusted
- Lacks a micro module
Full Review: Shimano SLX Baitcasting Reel
10. Piscifun Torrent 18LB Baitcasting Reel
This flashy baitcasting reel from Piscifun is designed for right and left handed anglers and is comprised of stainless steel which is resistant to rust. It weighs eight ounces and provides a longer operational life with reduced noise and much greater speed. It uses a top configuration which will allow even amateur fishermen to tackle large fish with an eighteen pound maximum. Its superior design allows anglers of all skill levels to operate in a variety of environments, including the most challenging ones. It also has a robust line guide which will protect the fishing line from damage and wear.
It is essential for baitcasting reels to operate smoothly, and the Piscifun Torrent does an exemplary job. This is due to its 5+1 shield based bearings which are made from stainless steel, which work in conjunction with an extended handle. This combined with its brake mechanism provides multiple spool braking levels which will prevent costly overruns, so anglers can focus on capturing fish. The casts are extended, controlled and compatible with baits of multiple sizes.
- Handle is light weight, durable and slip resistant
- Highly efficient brake system
- Can capture fish weighing a maximum of 18 pounds
- Smooth handling and performance
- Doesn’t have any ball bearings
- The reel package doesn’t include oil
Full Review: Piscifun Torrent 18LB Baitcasting Reel
11. Kastking Royale Legend Baitcasting Reel
This particular product is slimmer than other reels offered by Kastking yet is just as efficient. As its name suggests, it is designed for the most experienced and elite anglers. It is a tournament grade reel which is ergonomically designed to deliver extreme performance in a low profile package. The Swing-Wide based side cover will open with ease and it also utilizes Ergo-Twist which is a release that ensures a constant connection to the rod.
Unlike other reels, the Kastking Royale Legend has gear ratios which are color coded, which allows fishermen to rapidly select their preferred gear ratios which include 8.1:1, 6.6:1, 5.3:1 or 7.3:1. Though this product has a higher price tag than much of the competition, it is worth every cent. It will fit comfortably in your hand and remain that way even after extended use. It has a smooth action, which is the result of each component functioning seamlessly in a way that allows anglers to get the most out of the product. The brakes used in this model are more advanced than those found in other Kastking reels.
Another advantage of this fishing reel is the multiple ratio options, four to be exact. This gives the angler more power to work with, and they can increase or lower the ratio as needed. It is comprised of ten bearings which are double shielded and made from stainless steel, with a main gear made from reinforced aluminum that is instant and anti-reverse.
- Light in weight yet durable
- Can be used in saltwater
- Has kick levers made from stainless steel
- Uses both worm drive and pinion gears
- Capable of capturing fish weighing a maximum of 18 pounds
- Drag not as strong as it could be
- Still not as powerful as other reels
Full Review: Kastking Royale Legend Baitcasting Reel
12. KastKing Crixus Baitcasting Reel
This is another reel that is designed for professional anglers. It is strong and durable yet flexible, and it offers the perfect grip, gear ratio, speed and smooth operation. Its low weight means that it won’t wear out your hands during prolonged use, yet its premium components make it a long lasting product. One of the key features that professionals look for in a fishing reel is a low profile.
The Kastking does well in this regard, since it only weighs 7.3 ounces. The reel also uses a 4 carbon based disc drag mechanism which boosts its power while making it remarkably smooth to handle. It is capable of stopping and dragging fishing weighing upwards of 17.6 pounds, and since the drag is adjustable, anglers can utilize lighter fishing lines with drag knobs made from aluminum. It is constructed with 7 ball bearings which are shielded and made from premium stainless steel, and its braking system is magnetic, and consists of 8 magnets which enable fishermen to prevent overruns.
- Has a magnetized brake system
- Can capture heavier fish
- Has more than a half dozen ball bearings
- Is constructed with tough yet lightweight aluminum
- Its spool size is small
- Some feel it’s retrieval is weak
Full Review: KastKing Crixus Baitcasting Reel
Why You Should Always Purchase a Quality Baitcasting Reel
Baitcasting reels are designed for serious fishermen who intend to use them in tournaments and to capture heavy and aggressive fish. They are distinct from standard fishing rods since they have braking mechanisms which lower the likelihood of backlash while also providing level wind.
Professional reels typically come with gear ratios and line speeds which are high when compared to standard spinning reels. This allows them to use diverse baits such as buzzbaits or crankbaits which attract larger species. While buzzbaits can technically be used in standard spinning reels, their exceptional speed demands will quickly exhaust it, which is why baitcasting reels are the preferred choice.
Expert fishermen also choose baitcasters for their substantial durability. These reels are made with materials such as composites, stainless steel or aluminum, materials which have high tensile strength and which can handle tremendous pressure without sustaining damage. These materials are also resistant to rust and corrosion.
The majority of baitcasting reels incorporate anti-reverse based handles which provide excellent drag and stability when capturing larger fish. The reel will apply a great deal of force and density to pull the line along its revolving spool, and will often work best with lures that are 1/3 ounces to maximize the casting distance.
What Is Level Wind?
When you hear professional anglers talk about baitcasting reels they will often use the term “level wind.” This is a mechanism which is designed to prevent lines from becoming caught beneath itself in the spool while retrieving its line and then opposing during subsequent casts. Baitcasting reels do not utilize permanent spools and since the entire reel is vertically installed on the rod’s peak the reel will be situated on top. The line then has the capacity to protrude outward along a direct path along the rod which allows for casting which have greater precision than is achievable with classical spinning reels.
What Is Backlash?
Also known as “birdnest,” backlash is another term that you’ll often hear anglers use when referring to fishing reels. It is a phenomenon where the lure’s movement slows down after it’s been cast. Simultaneously, a revolving spool’s speed will accelerate based on the casting rate, which causes the line to become a tangled mess.
One reason why baitcasting reels are so popular among experts is because they minimize the likelihood of this happening. Baitcasters are extremely accurate and provide tremendous power, which results in casts which are precise. Despite this, backlash can still occur even in high end baitcasting reels, and to prevent it there are a number of things you’ll want to do, which include:
Select the correct fishing line: Look for lines which are simple to untangle. The best are made with monofilament since it has reduced backlash and can be disentangled easier than lines which are braided or made with fluorocarbon.
Always thumb your spool while casting: This will require training your thumb, but once you master it you will rarely encounter backlash.
Purchase smaller rods: The smaller models usually come with moderate action which will aid you while casting the bait so that you have greater control and less likelihood of backlash.
Choose the proper lure: There is a large variety of lures that can be used with baitcasting reels. Generally speaking, bigger lures like crankbaits function quite well especially for beginners because they will stretch out the line inside the water almost instantly, while the lighter lures tend to follow the wind or line which increases the chance of backlash occurring.
Freshwater vs. Saltwater Reels
The aquatic environment where you intend to do your fishing should determine the type of reel you choose. Fresh and saltwater reels have different specifications that must be taken into consideration. For example, saltwater based baitcasters are usually designed with materials such as stainless steel, anodized aluminum or graphite which are highly resistant to corrosion. This is true both for the outer body and coating as well as the internal components.
As a consequence, saltwater based reels will usually be more expensive than their freshwater counterparts. Additionally, freshwater baitcasters are designed to capture fish which are smaller than species found in saltwater, which means that they tend to be lighter in weight which translates into less fatigue on the fishermen’s hands and wrist. Thus, the majority of freshwater baitcasters are designed with graphite, which is far more affordable than aluminum. Saltwater reels also make heavy use of steel based ball bearings, which provide smoother operation and corrosion resistance.
Both salt and freshwater reels are usually made with eight components, which are its spool release, adjustment drag, line guide, reel seat, handle, the brake, line spool and anti-reverse based switch. Regardless of what brand you purchase, it is essential to pay attention to the baitcaster profile.
Baitcaster profiles come in two types, which are round and low profile. Knowing the one which is best for you and your fishing habits is of great importance. Round baitcasting profiles are designed for anglers that need heavier lines that have higher capacity. They are designed for capturing large and aggressive fish that will fight hard to escape. The main benefits of round baitcasting profiles include:
- Heavy duty lines
- Can hold multiple lines
- Compatible with bigger baits
- Can be utilized during long runs
Round baitcasting profiles are designed for fish like pike, muskies, salmon and steelheads. Although low profile baitcasters lack the line capacity of their round profile counterparts, they are popular among anglers due to their comfort and cast control. Their greatest benefits include:
- Ease of use and wide availability
- Easier to control and carry
- Provides smooth handling
Low profile reels are best used when catching species such as crappie or bass. It is also important to consider the materials a reel is made from before purchasing it. The most commonly used materials are graphite and aluminum or a combination of each. Pure aluminum is considered superior to graphite and will not flex as much.
The advantage of graphite is that this material is lighter. Although freshwater baitcasting reels also use aluminum, graphite might sometimes be better in situations where you want to avoid abrasion. Amateur or beginner fishermen should probably choose a reel which is low in weight since their hands and wrists are not yet acclimated to the heavier reels. Once you become accustomed to using a lighter weight reel for extended periods of time, you can then transition to a heavier model.