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What You Need to Know About Gear Ratio

You can improve a lure's effectiveness with the right reel speed.

Note: This article, originally posted in 2018, has been updated with video and new info.

Abu Garcia raised eyebrows at ICAST a couple years back when it released the Revo Rocket baitcasting reel, with a jaw-droopingly fast 10.1:1 gear ratio. So, how important is gear ratio for your fishing?

With new cutting-edge, high gear ratio reels like Abu Garcia's ultra-fast Revo Rocket hitting the market, it's a good time to review how to choose the best ratio for your style of fishing.

Technological advances in baitcasting reels are opening up some newly fine-tuned options for serious anglers to present and retrieve baits with maximum efficiency.

Case in point: Revo Rocket, a baitcaster that has an astonishing 10.1:1 gear ratio. It's not that no one figured out how to build gears with a 10:1 ratio before this century. But to make those gears tough enough and to build a reel around them that handles the strain and keeps working is new.

But to get the most out of baitcaster options, it's a good idea to step back and review what gear ratios do for you when you fish.

What Gear Ratios Tell You

Gear ratios in reels are simply an expression of how many times the reel spool turns each time you turn the reel handle.

So a 6.4:1 ratio means that for every one revolution of the reel handle, the spool turns 6.4 times. The Revo Rocket's spool revolves 10.1 times for every time you turn the handle.

Obviously, a faster gear ratio retrieves line faster, but two reels with the same gear ratio can retrieve slightly different amounts of actual line-per-reel turn based on the size of the spool and how much line is on the reel. Bigger spools with more line on them are bigger around, and therefore return more line per turn.

One thing new technology has allowed is for lower profile reels to be extremely fast, because before that technology the easiest way to make a reel with a faster retrieve was to make the spool big (and hence the reel larger).

Today's low-profile reels are more ergonomic and can, in the right application, reduce fatigue and improve your fishing efficiency.

Gear Ratios and Choosing the Right Tool for the Job

The quest for faster gear ratios might make you think that faster is always better. But faster is better only when the fishing application calls for it.


Hammers are what you need to drive nails, but they don't do much if you're trying to loosen a screw.

Anglers typically divide gear ratios into three categories: slow, medium and fast.

Roughly speaking, "slow" reels have ratios below 6:1; medium reels are 6 to just under 7:1 and fast reels are 7:1 or faster.

In the early days of tournament fishing, 7:1 reels were not sturdy enough to stand up to long-term serious fishing, but today they are. Not surprisingly, all of these reels have their place, but all reels work best if you match them correctly to the kind of bait you are fishing.

Low Gear Ratio Applications

Slow reels in the 5:1 range are often the top choice for anglers fishing deep-diving crankbaits, slow-rolled spinnerbaits and big swimbaits.

The slower uptake makes sense in these applications because they allow the bait to get down in the water column and because during most of the retrieve these baits are fishing in the strike zone (or at least what you hope is the strike zone).

The gear ratio allows you to turn the reel at a comfortable rate, and coupled with these baits, keeps your offering in the strike zone the entire retrieve. Generally with these baits, when the fishing part of the cast is done, the bait is close to the boat, and therefore the slow ratio does not delay the next cast much.

Medium Gear Ratio Applications

Medium reels are often referred to as the "workhorses" of bass anglers. Ratios of around 6:1 or 6:4 present a wide variety of baits and are often used with shallow spinnerbait presentations, square-billed crankbaits, medium-depth cranks in general, and castable umbrella rigs.

Again, turning the reel at a comfortable rate naturally presents these baits at the depth they are usually most effective. Many reels in this range are also quite capable of presenting not only baits listed in the "medium" category, but also in the slow and fast category – perhaps with slightly less efficiency or more work, but they can get the job done.

Fast Gear Ratio Applications

Fast gear ratio reels are the most efficient choice for anglers who are presenting baits at relatively defined target areas, or are fishing a bait primarily worked by moving the rod tip, or fishing baits that are being "ripped" quickly, or using baits that are fished in heavy cover where getting the fish into open water immediately upon hookset is helpful.

Some examples of baits that match well to a fast gear ratio are jigs, big worms, Texas rigs, Carolina rigs, jerkbaits, lipless crankbaits, and topwaters.

The extremely fast line uptake of fast reels does three things for anglers.

In the case of worm anglers who may be fishing cover or structure at some distance from the boat, once the bait has been fished through the area that a strike is likely to occur, the bait can be reeled in very quickly, and hence the next cast can be made quickly. Over the course of the day, that can greatly increase the amount of time your bait spends effectively fishing.

In the case of baits that are jerked or otherwise fished in short movements with a twitch of the rod, the fast reel allows instant slack uptake, not only allowing for better contact with the bait, but a better chance to get a firm hookset.

Finally, for flipping, pitching and other heavy-cover applications, extremely fast reels are very helpful in horsing bass out of the brush. The Revo Rocket, for example, brings in 41 inches of line in one turn of the reel. Between rod movement on the hookset and the first turn of the reel handle, that bass has got to move and move right now.

Leverage Your Strengths

For anglers who take their recreational fishing seriously, it can pay to use the best reel type for your style of fishing. You might not need every reel ever made, but you will catch more fish with less effort if you make an effort to match reel ratio to the kind of fishing you love to do.

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