I remember how difficult it was for me to decide which reel to use when I first started angling for bass. Years later, I think the best bass fishing reels are spinning or baitcast reels.
I say this because reels from both categories allow you to adjust to different fishing locations, so finding a suitable saltwater spinning reel shouldn’t be too difficult if you’re into offshore bass angling.
On the other hand, plenty of baitcast reel models deliver lots of drag power and sufficient line capacity, which makes them perfect for freshwater and saltwater bass species.
Except for the location, other factors, such as your fishing style or angling skill level, might prompt you to opt for one bass fishing reel type or the other.
I’ve handpicked some of the bass fishing reels on the market to help you choose the model that meets and exceeds your needs.
Bottom Line Up Front
Depending on their specifications, bass fishing reels are also suitable for other fish species, such as flounder, crappie, walleye, or trout.
Penn Authority is among the best top-of-the-shelf bass fishing reels, but its high price makes it only a good option for seasoned anglers who intend to make the most of its high-end features.
I suggest testing the Daiwa Regal LT spinning reel if you’re new to bass angling and don’t want to spend a small fortune on your first reel for bass fishing.
My Top Picks at a Glance
|Model||Reel type||Max Drag||Price Range|
|Daiwa Regal LT||Spinning reel||11lbs to 22lbs||$$|
|Lew’s Custom XP||Baitcast reel||15lbs||$$$|
|Quantum PT Smoke S3||Inshore spinning reel||20lbs to 22lbs||$$$|
|Shimano TranX 300/400||Saltwater baitcast reel||18lbs to 22lbs||$$$$|
|Penn Authority||Spinning reel||30lbs to 60lbs||$$$$$|
The Key Factors to Consider When Choosing a Bass Fishing Reel
Did you know that largemouth and smallmouth bass are among the most fished species in North America? They’re equally popular among novice and experienced anglers because they’re relatively easy to catch, and targeting bass is fun.
You don’t need professional angling gear to reel in bass since a simple setup like a St. Croix Mojo rod paired with an affordable spinning reel such as the Daiwa BG SW is sufficient for most bass fishing situations.
Nonetheless, the location, weather conditions, and other factors can affect which reel type you should use when angling for bass.
Ideally, a reel for bass fishing should offer plenty of drag power and enable you to use relatively heavy artificial lures. Most anglers use spinning or baitcasting reels to target bass, but in some contexts, you can even use a fly fishing rod and reel to catch certain bass species.
Here are a few more aspects you should consider when choosing a bass fishing reel:
- The reel’s drag: Bass usually puts up a fight after it takes a lure, so opting for a reel with a reliable drag system and optimal drag capacity is paramount.
- Casting accuracy: Getting a reel that lets you cast with a high degree of accuracy can increase your chances of catching bass.
- Line capacity: Braided line support and the casting distance are among the reel’s features you should check.
- The model’s gear ratio: How quickly you can retrieve a bass once hooked depends on the reel’s gear ratio.
The Main Advantages of Using Spinning and Baitcast Reels for Bass Fishing
The heaviest largemouth bass ever caught weighed 22 lbs, 4oz. Still, most freshwater and freshwater bass are considerably smaller, as their weight rarely exceeds 12 lbs.
Consequently, most spinning and baitcast reels provide more than enough drag power to reel in even the most stubborn bass species.
Getting a spinning reel is arguably a better option if you’re new to bass fishing because you won’t need much time to learn how to use it. In addition, you’ll have a wide selection of models to choose from, so finding the reel that fits your budget and requirements shouldn’t take long.
Baitcast reels give you complete control over the cast and recovery, but they’re difficult to master due to backlashes and other issues.
Still, this reel type may not be the right solution for you if you prefer using lightweight lures to catch bass, since you may find it challenging to present the bait to the fish.
I had to consider a broad spectrum of factors ranging from the reel type to the model’s price tier while selecting the best bass fishing reels.
Moreover, I also dedicated a lot of attention to the locations where you might use a bass reel, which is why the final selection contains saltwater and freshwater reel models.
All the reels you’ll find in this article are produced by industry-leading brands famous for the quality of their products. Here are some of the key criteria I used to pick the best bass fishing reels:
- Reel type: Spinning and baitcasting reels are widely accepted as the best for bass fishing, which is why all models featured in this article come from these two reel categories.
- Drag capacity: I made sure that each reel I included in the final selection had sufficient drag capacity to handle all sizes of bass.
- Reel’s price: I utilized this parameter to pinpoint the best models in different price tiers.
Top 5 Bass Fishing Reels
Daiwa Regal LT – The Most Affordable Bass Fishing Reel
Good news for the value-conscious angler! The popular Daiwa® Regal LT Spinning Reel is a lighter, more technical version of its former self, yet remains the workhorse choice for anglers of all skill levels.
As a member of Daiwa's LT (Light but Tough) lineup, the redesigned Regal is built on a true carbon frame that provides maximum rigidity keeping the weight down.
I think that the Daiwa Regal LT spinning reel has much more to offer than its price indicates. Like all models from Daiwa’s Light and Tough (LT) series, this spinning reel is lightweight, as its weight ranges from 6.7oz to 7.6oz, depending on the size.
The model has an incredibly sturdy true carbon frame, and the Air Bail system features a hollow steel bail that improves its strength.
The Daiwa Regal LT is equipped with an ATD drag that contains disks impregnated with a unique grease that maximizes the drag’s energy field. As a result, the reel automatically adjusts to the intensity of the fight and keeps the chances of line breaking at a minimum.
The model’s drag capacity varies by size, so if you opt for the 1000-size version of the reel, you’ll get 11 lbs of drag, while the maximum drag on all other size options is 22 lbs.
Take a look at our Daiwa Exceler LT Spinning Reel review if you’d like to explore other models from the brand’s Light and Tough series.
- The reel has 9+1 ball bearings for smooth operation.
- The model’s drag capacity is ideal for bass fishing.
- Excellent line and braid capacity
- The low learning curve for inexperienced bass anglers
- Its casting accuracy is far from impressive.
- You can’t use this reel for saltwater fishing.
Lew’s Custom XP – The Best Entry-Level Baitcast Reel for Bass Fishing
With its range of quality features and smooth performance, Lew's® Custom XP Baitcast Reel gives you a versatile reel that can easily handle the challenges you'll face, in fresh- or saltwater.
You'll find it light in the hand and comfortable to use; the Custom XP is built on a 1-piece Super Low Profile frame with removable palming sideplate and a double-anodized machined-aluminum U-spool. Its precision Multi-Setting Brake utilizes both magnetic and centrifugal braking to reduce backlashes.
I recommend trying an inexpensive baitcast reel for bass fishing, like Lew’s Custom XP, if you’re still learning to use baitcasters.
The model’s super low-profile frame features a removable sideplate and a double-anodized aluminum spool. In addition, its Rulon drag system and click-star drag adjustment give you complete control over the pressure you’re applying to the line while reeling in a bass.
This baitcast reel utilizes both a magnetic and centrifugal breaking system that minimizes backlashes and ensures you can accurately cast the lure.
The 10-ball bearing system features a zero-reverse, one-way clutch bearing that prevents the spool from turning uncontrollably. The reel’s stainless steel ball bearings are corrosion-resistant, which enables you to use it for saltwater and freshwater bass fishing.
Please read our Lew’s Mach Crush baitcast reel review to learn more about other brands’ models you can use to catch bass.
- The reel weighs only 6.9 oz.
- A high gear ratio enables you to retrieve a lure quickly.
- It’s great for anglers who have never used a baitcast reel before.
- You can use this reel at different fishing locations.
- It’s not as durable as baitcast reels with aluminum bodies.
- The model’s drag capacity may be insufficient for large bass.
Quantum PT Smoke S3 – The Best Inshore Spinning Reel for Bas Fishing
Saltwater bass species usually live close to the shore and often migrate to shallow waters during the summer. Hence, an inshore spinning reel like the Quantum PT Smoke S3 can be a perfect choice for bass anglers who prefer to fish relatively close to the shore.
Its aluminum body has SaltGuard protection. In addition, the reel’s 11+1 ball bearing system is equipped with anti-corrosion features and ensures the reel’s durability even when it is frequently exposed to salty water.
The Quantum’s model is available in three sizes, which is why its drag capacity ranges from 20 to 22 lbs. All variants of this spinning reel utilize the sealed CSC carbon and ceramic drag system, which prevents you from putting too much pressure on the line.
Still, this spinning reel will provide you with enough drag power to catch most saltwater bass, regardless of the size option you pick.
Check out our Quantum PR Smoke S3 review for more information about this inshore spinning reel.
- The reel has an advanced line management system.
- Remarkable stability due to the foot-forward design
- It can recover up to 38 inches of line per turn.
- The reel performs equally well in freshwater and saltwater conditions.
- The bail doesn’t always tip automatically.
- Only one gear ratio option is available.
Shimano TranX 300/400 – The Best Saltwater Baitcast Reel for Bass Fishing
If you're serious about winning those epic battles yet to come, put a Shimano® TranX® 300/400 Baitcast Reel in your hands. This is a tank of a reel, built for big baits and big fish, with the strength to subdue almost anything that swims and the durability to keep coming back for more.
Its rigid diecast aluminum Hagane body, oversized HEG Gearing, and X-Ship internal support combine for massive cranking power; the advanced Coreprotect sealing system keeps water away from the internals, so every retrieve feels almost effortless.
Throughout the years, I’ve used more than a few Shimano baitcast reels to target bass, but the Shimano TranX 300/400 is probably one of the brand’s best models in my reel collection.
What I like the most about this model is its durability, since its rigid diecast Hagane aluminum body withstands heavy-duty usage for years. The reel’s Coreprotect sealing keeps the water away from the 5+1 S-ARB ball-bearing system.
The Cross Carbon drag system allows for effortless line pressure control and provides up to 22 lbs of drag capacity, enabling you to fight even a stubborn bruiser.
The TranX model is a relatively fast baitcast reel that lets you recover the bait quickly, but you can also opt for a version of this reel with a lower gear ratio if you favor torque over speed.
Here’s our Shimano TranX 500 review if the TranX 300/400 model doesn’t meet your requirements.
- X-Ship technology and HEG gearing provide plenty of cranking power.
- The reel has a highly efficient braking system.
- It requires minimum upkeep.
- Excellent braided line capacity
- Casting lightweight lures with this reel can be difficult.
- All versions of this reel weigh over 10 oz.
Penn Authority – The Best High-End Spinning Reel for Bass Fishing
Don’t miss out on the Penn Authority spinning reel if you’re searching for a top-of-the-shelf reel you can use to catch bass and various other freshwater and saltwater fish species.
Its metal body and side plate, sealed Slammer drag system with Dura-Drag material, and 12+1 stainless steel ball bearing system are some of the features that make this reel so awesome.
To make things even better, the model is available in multiple sizes, so you can pick the 3500 size if you plan to use it primarily for bass fishing or get a 10500 size if you want to angle for fish larger than bass.
The reel’s drag capacity depends on its size, so smaller variants offer 30 lbs of drag, while opting for one of the Pen Authority’s larger sizes can get you between 40 lbs and 60 lbs of drag power.
Check out our Penn Slammer III review if you’re interested in the brand’s more affordable spinning reels you can use to angle for bass.
- The reel has an IPX8 waterproof rating.
- State-of-the-art drag system with high drag capacity
- The phenolic bonding agent prolongs the Dura-Drag material’s lifespan.
- The reel comes with an extra Hypalon handle knob.
- It’s heavier than most spinning reels.
- This Penn’s model is expensive.
Frequently Asked Questions
How Much Drag Capacity Should a Bass Fishing Reel Have?
The average weight of largemouth bass is around 12 pounds, which means that you won’t need a reel with more than 15 pounds to catch an adult bass. Other black bass species usually weigh less than largemouth bass, so you don’t need a reel with 20 pounds or more of drag to catch them.
What is the Best Spinning Reel Size for Bass Fishing?
Most anglers use a 3000 reel size when targeting bass, but you can also use 4500 or larger sizes for this type of fish.
Which Line Should I Use for Bass Fishing?
An 8-pound test fluorocarbon line is strong enough for most bass species. Moreover, spooling this line on a spinning or baitcasting reel is easy.
My Verdict: How to Know Which Bass Fishing Reel is the Best
Getting a bass fishing reel and a matching rod is just the beginning because you’ll have to spend some time learning how bass behave during different seasons and which lures work best in hot or cold weather to start reeling in trophy-sized bass.
I don’t recommend spending hundreds of dollars on a reel if you’re new to bass fishing because there are so many affordable models you can use to catch your first bass.
The Daiwa Regal LT is among my favorite entry-level spinning reels for bass fishing because it delivers plenty of value for its price.