The Right Reel Can Make All the DifferenceThe Right Reel Can Make All the Difference Proper reel choice is imperative to a successful day on the water. The key is knowing what will work best for your style of fishing. Here's how.
By Beckie Gaskill
In reels, there is no “one size fits all.” Of course, it is possible to use the same reel for a variety of applications, but to get the best results, using specific reels for specific techniques is the best idea. Anglers should also keep in mind that what is “perfect” for their buddy may not be the best reel for them for any given technique.
For instance, I do not use a high speed reel when cranking. I prefer a low-speed reel in most situations. If you look at the KastKing Speed Demon, it has a 9.3:1 gear ratio. That means with each turn of the handle, you are taking up 37.1 inches of line (IPT rating is 37.1). When you compare that to an Assassin, for instance, at 6.3:1 you are bringing in over 10 more inches of line per handle turn. While this may seem great on the surface, and you would be able to cover a ton of water with it.— a word of caution. If you are not incredibly conscious of your retrieve speed, meaning you have to be sure to slow your retrieve speed down substantially, it is likely your crank bait is not performing how it normally would. Some crank baits, especially if they are not tuned perfectly, will roll over when retrieved at a very high speed. Also, it can be tempting to use a high-speed gear ratio to get the lure down to the depth you want it at quickly, but at the same time, it is creating an unnatural pendulum at the beginning of the case, actually bringing the bait farther back to the boat than an angler might think. To me, this limits the amount of time the lure is at the proper depth rather than lengthening that amount of time. A reel such as the Speed Demon has definite strengths, which I will get to shortly. It has many perfect applications. Just, to me, cranking is not one of them.
Using a rod and reel set up that allows for the longest possible casts is more important. For me, 6.3:1 is about as fast as I want to go for a cranking reel. The Assassin or the Royale from KastKing are both great for this application. The Royale has 11 pounds of drag, (their Royale Legend has 17.5 and a 7.0:1 ratio) where the Assassin has 16.5. Their IPT rating is right around 26-27inches.
My favorite cranking reel, however, is the White Max. It has a 5.3:1 gear ration. This allows me to really control the speed of my retrieve when I am cranking. It is also good for slow-rolling swim baits. I have confidence in a lower gear ratio for cranking because it allows me to bump the lure along the bottom and it causes less fatigue for me over the course of a tournament day when deep cranking.
Now, for pitching and flipping techniques, that is where I want a high speed reel. I want high speed for two reasons. First of all, when I am pitching to cover, I want to be able to make a pitch and get the lure back in quickly if I do not get a bite. That helps me to cover a lot of water when using a technique that could take a good amount of time off the tournament clock.
The other reason I want the high speed is, once I get a fish to bite, I want to get him out of the cover as quickly as possible. The higher IPT of these high speed reels allows me to get the fish turned and coming toward the boat quickly, minimizing the chances of him wrapping me up around some wood or a dock near which he may have been hiding.
Drag is very important when pitching and flipping, too. The Speed Demon has 13.3 pounds of drag, which makes it a pretty stout choice. With a 9.3:1 gear ratio, it is a perfect pitching and flipping choice. It is also great for any application for which I am looking to cover a lot of water quickly. The MJ rig, swim baits and sometimes even grubs, will catch a lot of fish for me on an ultra-high-speed reel. With grubs, especially. This gives me the option to burn the bait over vegetation, for instance, and quickly stop it in a hole, allowing it to flutter down to where a fish may be waiting to ambush some prey. The Speed Demon at 9.3:1 is also great for baits such as spinner baits and buzz baits. It takes far less effort to get these types of baits moving properly with a high-speed reel. And, for me at least, the vibration of these lures makes it easy to know when I may be reeling too fast. I can expend the same energy as I would when slow-rolling a spinner bait, but it will be moving much faster, bringing reaction bites.
The other high speed reels I like are the Stealth and the Royale Legend. These are both 7.0:1 gear ratios. While they are not as fast as the Speed Demon, it was only a few short years ago when anglers were shocked at the speed of reels in this category — it was a game-changer at the time. Many times, 7.0:1 is enough, and if I get a little excited after catching a few fish and speed up my retrieve with a search bait, it is not a deal-breaker in most instances. When we look at the drag of these two 7.0:1 reels, the Stealth has 16.5 pounds and the Royale Legend has 17.5 pounds. Both of these reels are new and improved for the 2017 season and they are a great addition to my cache of reels. Pair either of them with a medium heavy flipping rod and you have the perfect set up to get fish out of heavy cover.
There are a few techniques for which a spinning set up is much better suited. One of those is skipping docks. I do know people who can skip with a bait caster, but I have to say that the only time I have done it myself was shear luck. Skipping under docks or overhanging trees with a spinning reel is much easier to learn and do successfully. Skipping with weightless worms, to me, is best done with a spinning reel.
That being said, the reel needs to be smooth and the drag needs to work well. I want to be able to get the fish out before they pull me around the dock or get down into some cover under the overhanging tree.
Most spinning reels are going to have slower gear ratios than most bait casters. That is, it will be bringing in less line per turn of the handle. That is not necessarily a bad thing. In the instance of drop-shotting, for example, you do not need a jaw-ripping hookset and you do not need a high-speed reel. But, when you are drop-shotting four-pound smallmouth in 25 feet of water, you need a good, smooth reel that you can count on. Most spinning reels come in a 4.8:1 to 5.2:1. Those speeds are great for spinning reel applications. For the most part, I use spinning reels for finesse techniques. With these techniques – the drop shot, shakey head and Ned rig, for instance – you do not want the bait to move a great deal. You want to be able to move it without moving it completely away from the fish.
Spinning set ups are also great for fishing small tubes. When the fish get finicky and I must downsize my bait, I will turn to a spinning reel. Also, when the wind picks up and it gets more difficult to fish, even though I have a definite affinity for the bait caster, I will put it down and pick up a spinning reel. Even small, light crank baits work well on a spinning set up. And, because I use a slower gear ratio with cranking anyway, it fits my style well. The Summer as well as the Mela and Sharky III are both great choices for any of these applications. While the Kodiak is a salt-water approved reel, I believe it has many fresh water uses as well. With a super-stout 39.5 pounds of drag, that reel will bring in even the biggest fish. It is not often, though, that I crank the drag down on the Kodiak. I just do not get in those situations too often. But when I do, it is good to know I am holding a reel that can handle it.
Overall, proper reel choice is imperative to a successful day on the water. We have all heard the old adage of “the right tool for the right job,” and that could not be more true in reel selection. Reel selection is also a very personal thing, as I have alluded to. Some anglers prefer to crank with a high speed reel, while others prefer a low-speed option. Some will use a spinning reel for a specific technique while others opt for a bait caster. The key is knowing what will work best for your style of fishing.
Beckie Gaskill is an award-winng outdoor writer, life-long avid angler, and serves as a tournament director at several events in her home state of Wisconsin.
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