38 CLASS ROOM
“The Reel Deal” It is said that a craftsman is only as good as his tools or that a poor craftsman will always blame his tools, and while I not in a position to confirm or deny the truth behind these statements I can, with certainty say, tools make the job easier! – Dewald Viljoen
It is said that a craftsman is only as good as his tools or that a poor craftsman will always blame his tools, and while I not in a position to confirm or deny the truth behind these statements I can, with certainty say, tools make the job easier!
In our arsenal of tools as anglers there are few things that anglers fight about as passionately as their fishing reels. The ups and downs of every brand and model are discussed in detail on Facebook pages and internet forums to the point of death, and yet, in my experience most anglers understand the workings of their hi-tech fishfinders better than that of their fishing reels! So I took it upon myself this month to clarify a few things regarding fishing reels, and since this is a bass magazine I want discuss some points surrounding baitcasters.
The first point I like to address concerns gear ratios. To explain gear ratios in layman’s terms, think of the gearbox on your car. The lower gears (first and second) give you torque and power for pulling away and pulling your boat out the water, etc. Mid range gears (third and fourth) are for general driving, over taking and it is probably where your car will spend most of its time working. High gears (fifth and sixth) is for high speed cruising and is great for covering distance.
To apply this to fishing reels let’s start with the low gear ratios. Since every brand is a little different I will stick in a general spectrum to simplify,
5:1 – These low ratios are for the hard work. This is the ratio you want to use for drag around crankbaits and for any application where brute power is required, such as extreme cover, or extreme sized fish. This is the strongest and most durable gear ratios.
6:1 – The mid range ratios are the best ratios for general fishing purposes and even though their popularity has waned a little in recent years it is the best ratio for anglers who want to get away with as few setups as possible. A 6:1 ratio will have approximately 20% shorter lifespan than a 5:1 under normal use.
7:1 and up – The high range ratios are for scenarios where contact with the lure or a high work rate is required. Applications like jerkbaits and short range pitching suites these high ratio reels perfectly. Heavy crank baiting and regularly fighting oversized fish will wear high ratio gears out very quickly and you will only get around half the lifespan of a 5:1 out of them.
The next thing that most anglers pay little attention to the drag systems on their reels. The purpose of a drag system is to slip! On a bass reel the drag is not so much to prevent line breaks or to tire out the fish, as it is to protect the mechanics of your reel. A locked down drag will put enormous strain on the contact areas of the gears in your reel, every time you fight a fish. It is better to put your thumb on the spool if you want to stop a fish or break a snag than to lock down the drag. This is something to be especially wary of when fishing with high breaking strain braids. Most manufacturers’ maximum line recommendations and maximum drag figures are within a few pounds of each other for this very reason. I see more catastrophic reel failures because of locked down drags than of all other reasons combined.
Finally the relationship between bearings, durability and casting performance. First off, any modern baitcaster should have at least five bearings including the anti reverse bearing. Three of these should support the main spool shaft and pinion gear. The fourth should be at the base of the drive shaft. This is pretty much standard on every major brand and you need not worry about it if you are buying a well known brand. If it is an unknown brand check the reel diagram in the box for bearing placements. If there is no diagram, don’t bother buying it! When it comes to bearings and casting performance there are a lot of myths out there. The reality is this: just upgrading the bearings in your reel is unlikely to improve the performance of a good reel. In an entry level reel it might upgrade the performance but is it worth the money to put an expensive bearing in a low quality frame? When you Google “world record casting” you will find several interviews and discussions around casting distance. What is interesting is that many of these specialists recommend a good reel, but most of them will tell you that the right rod and good technique are far more important than the reel. It will be worth your while to rig your reel on every rod you own and compare casting performance that way to get maximum efficiency out of every setup you own.
In a future article we will discuss how to get maximum distance out of different reels and baits and how to spool and set up your reels for different scenarios. Until then, watch out for that over wind!
Some basic parts of a baitcasting reel