Gear Ratio

By Kurt Dove

Select your fishing reel gear ratio by your specific type of fishing.

Photo of Bass Elite Pro Kurt Dove fishing

There are so many types of reels these days…with all the new technology it has become difficult to understand what reel to buy when looking at a new purchase. Most importantly what reel and gear ratio do you need to best suit the specialized technique-specific rods of the new generation? I will try to simplify what the gear ratio means and what reels are best for specific techniques of bass fishing.

What Is Gear Ratio?

Gear ratio is the amount of turns a reel spool goes around a full revolution with one rotation of the reel handle. This is directly correlated with how much line is recovered with each rotation of the reel handle as well. For instance a 5:1 ratio reel will turn the spool around five full times with 1 rotation of the handle. 6:1 and 7:1 ratio would do the same as compared to their ratios. This is very important to understand as it dictates the movement of our lures at the end of the line we are recovering with rotations of the reel handle.

The reason we need different ratio reels for different techniques are to make our lures react correctly and to give us an advantage in different on the water situations we encounter throughout our fishing days. Here are some of my preferred ratios for specific techniques and why.

The Right Reel For The Right Situation

In nearly all cases I like to use a 5:1 gear ratio reel for swimbaits. This slow retrieve reel enables me to have a slow, subtle and realistic movement with these lifelike lures. Some would say 'well just get a faster 7:1 gear ratio reel and wind it slower'. After years of fishing I understand, and you will too, that it's just not the same.

I really favor the 6:1 gear ratio reels for frog fishing. It has the perfect combination of speed to work the lure properly, and wrenching power to hoist big bass through heavy cover.

In most bottom bouncing lure presentations like Texas rig fishing I use the 7:1 gear ratio reels. Since I do most of my lure movement with my rod tip the faster line recovery allows me to take slack out of line quickly once I detect the strike and it allows for good hook sets. Another advantage it that I can keep good pressure on a fast moving fish once I have surprised it with my hook set.

One technique when you may want a slow speed retrieve at times and fast other times, is using crankbaits. In some instances the faster retrieve reels will help generate quick reaction strikes and can be very effective when deflecting crankbait off of cover the bass maybe relating to. The slower speed reels can be a huge advantage when the need for a subtle presentation is working best.

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