Bass Fishing Gear Ratios [Ultimate Reel Guide]

Texas Rig Rods and Reels

An essential but often overlooked aspect of bass fishing equipment is the gear ratio on your baitcast reels and spinning reels. Using the correct gear ratio on your fishing reels will allow you to fish different baits, lures, and techniques effectively and efficiently. It may seem like a minor thing, but it can end up making a huge difference in your fishing.

If you are looking at buying a new fishing reel you might be wondering what’s the best gear ratio to use on your bass fishing reels. This is an important question, and the answer may vary depending upon a few different factors.

The best overall bass fishing gear ratio is a 6:1 or 7:1. They are the most versatile gear ratios and will allow you to fish most of your lures and baits fast or slow. When fishing with baits that generate a lot of resistance a lower speed reel like a 5:1 will make things a lot easier. If you are punching or throwing bottom baits like a Jig or Carolina Rig a faster gear ratio like an 8:1 is best.

With that being said each bass fishing technique, bait, and rig may call for a different type of real and gear ratio. For this reason, I have put a ton of time putting this bass fishing gear ratio guide together for you to help make sure you select and fish with the right gear ratio in each bass fishing scenario.

Let’s get started.

What is a Gear Ratio on a Fishing Reel?

First things first, what exactly is a gear ratio on a fishing reel? A gear ratio on a fishing reel is simply a way to measure how many times the reel spool turns each time you turn the reel handle. Or in other words it’s a number that tells you the speed of your fishing reel.

The gear ratio or speed of a reel is measured with three different numbers (7:3:1) and can typically be found somewhere on your fishing reel. The first number is the most important number and is the only one that you really need to pay attention to. This will tell you how many times the spool will turn per 1 complete handle turn of the reel.

Meaning that if you have a reel that is listed as 7:4:1 for every complete turn of the reel handle, the spool turns 7:4 times. The higher the number a gear ratio is the more times the spool will spin and the more line that will be retrieved by turning the reel handle. The lower the number the less turns the spool will make. The last number of the gear ratio will always be a 1 signifying it takes 1 full 360-degree handle turn for the spool to spin that many times.

Bass Fishing Gear Ratio’s Breakdown

Best Gear Ratio for Bass Fishing

When I first started learning about fishing reels and gear ratios, I would often ask myself why do I need different gear ratios and why can’t I just stick with one? What I learned over time was that a different power and speed or reel was needed for each bait, lures, and technique. Matching the right gear ratio to the right technique allowed me to be way more efficient and catch a lot more fish.

There are three basic gear ratio categories: low, medium, and high geared fishing reels. With each category having its own applications, strengths, and weaknesses.  

Let’s break down each one.

Low Gear Ratio (4-5)

Best for: deep diving crankbaits, big swimbaits, Alabama rigs, big spinnerbaits

Fishing reels that have a lower gear ratio will turn the spool less per handle turn and are built more for power rather than speed. I would consider any gear ratio that is between 4 or 5 to be in the lower gear ratio category.

In bass fishing lower gear ratio reels are best for throwing baits that generate a lot of torque or have resistance like deep diving crankbaits and big spinnerbaits. They are also ideal for throwing large baits and rigs like a big swimbait or an Alabama Rig.

The slower speed helps keep these baits in the strike zone for a longer period of time and are much easier on the angler turning the reel. You can throw deep diving crankbaits on a higher gear ratio reel but it’s not ideal.  

Medium Gear Ratio (6-7)

Best for: Most versatile gear ratio that can be used for pretty much anything in bass fishing

What I consider to be a mid-ranged or moderate fast reel is anything between a 6 to 7. This is typically the middle ground for most reel manufacturers. A moderate reel speed will pretty much allow you to do most everything in bass fishing.

It’s a great speed for throwing moving baits like a crankbait or chatterbait, but you can also use it for your bottom contact presentations like a jig or Carolina rig. If I could only have one reel to fish with I’d make sure it had a 6 or 7 gear ratio.

High Gear Ratio (8-9)

Best for: Texas rigs, punch rigs, frog, pitching and flipping

A super high-speed reel like an 8 or 9 gear ratio really shines when you need to cover water quickly or when pulling fish out of cover.

When you are throwing a frog or are pitching or flipping a lot of the time your bait will be out of the strike zone and you’ll need to quickly reel it and get ready for your next cast. A higher speed gear ratio makes this a lot easier, and you can go much faster and cover water.  

The other advantage a high-speed reel will give you is that you’ll be able to quickly catch up to any bass and get them out of dangerous cover where you could break off.

Most professional bass fishing anglers will use a 7:1 to 9:1 gear ratio for most applications, because they know how much more efficient they can be, and they can always slow down how fast they crank the reel.

Baitcasting Reel Gear Ratios

Baitcasting reels are the most popular reel to use in bass fishing and come in a wide range of gear ratios. Gear ratios on most brands can range from 5:0:1 to 9:1:1.

The best casting reel gear ratio really depends on the baits, lures, and techniques you are using and some personal preference as well.

The majority of professional bass fishing anglers tend to use high speed reels (7:1:1 to 9:1:1) for most techniques. This is because they know it’s easier to slow down a retrieve with a fast reel than it is to speed up with a low speed.

If you are new to bass fishing, I’d recommend using something in the middle like a 6:1 or 7:1. This is a great medium speed that will allow you to do most everything in bass fishing. From there you can expand your reel arsenal and pair them to specific baits and techniques you want to fish.

Spinning Reel Gear Ratios

Baitcasting reels typically come with more gear ratio options when compared to spinning reels. You’ll find most manufacturers make either a 5:2:1, 6:2:1, or sometimes even a 7:0:1.

The best spinning reel gear ratio to use really depends on the baits and lures you are using and personal preference. When most bass fisherman or fisherwoman use a spinning reel, they are fishing in clear open water and are using finesse presentations like a drop shot or ned rig.

In my opinion the gear ratio doesn’t make a huge difference in these types of situations. This is because you are fishing with light line and need to take your time and finesse them. If not, you’ll end up breaking off in a lot of cases.

However, I do tend to always lean to a faster speed reel and prefer to use a 6:2:1 spinning reel gear ratio but a 5:2:1 can work just as well. I would recommend using a faster spinning reel when fishing around cover or when making long casts. The extra speed will help you keep the bass hooked and keep you out of trouble.

Bass Fishing Reel Gear Ratio Chart

Bass Fishing Lures & TechniquesBest Gear Ratios
Top Water6:1 to 8:1
Buzz baits6:1 to 7:1
Alabama Rigs5:1
Chatterbaits6:1 to 7:1
Spinnerbaits5:1 to 7:1
Swimbaits5:1 to 6:1
Jerkbaits6:1 to 7:1
Jigs7:1 to 8:1
Soft Plastics7:1 to 8:1
Texas Rig7:1 to 8:1
Flipping & Pitching8:1 to 9:1
Punching8:1 to 9:1
Senko’s6:1 to 7:1
Keep in mind this is only to be used as a general guide to help get you started.

Best Gear Ratio for Crankbaits

Having the right real and gear ratio for your crankbait fishing setup is crucial and can make a big difference. When cranking the best gear ratio to use may vary a little bit depending upon the size and type of crankbait you are using as well as how reactive/aggressive you want to be.

In general, the best overall gear ratio for crankbaits is a 6:4:1 reel. This gear ratio will allow you to throw most any crankbait effectively and is great for baits that trigger a reaction strike. From there if you want to fine tune your crankbait setup, you’ll want to pair your gear ratio with the size and type of crankbait you are using.

When throwing big or deep diving crankbaits you’ll want to use a lower gear ratio like a 5:1 or 6:1. These baits create a lot of resistance and effort as they are retrieved. A lower gear ratio will make reeling these baits in a lot easier and will allow your lure to be in the strike zone for a longer period of time.

For crankbaits that don’t have a lot of torque and are typically reeled in faster like lipless crankbait I like using a higher speed gear ratio like a 7:1. This allows me to retrieve the lure quickly and cover water.

For shallow diving crankbaits like a square-bill I like using a medium speed reel like a 6:1. I feel like it’s a good balance of speed and power and it helps me from going too fast down the bank. I can always slow down if I need to.

Here are the gear ratios that I would recommend for each style of crankbait:

Crankbait Gear Ratio Guide

CrankbaitGear Ratio
Square Bill5:1 to 7:1
Medium Diving Crankbait5:1 to 6:1
Deep Diving Crankbait5:1
Lipless Crankbait6:1 to 8:1

Best Gear Ratio for Topwater Lures

One of my favorite ways to catch bass is with topwater lures, but I’ve learned you’ll end up losing a lot of fish if you aren’t fishing with the right reel.

When throwing topwater most lures are primarily worked with your rod and in some cases, you’ll even have a slackline. As a result, the best gear ratio to use for topwater lures is a high-speed reel like a 7:1:1 or 8:1:1. This higher gear ratio will allow you to pick up your slack line quickly and get a good hook set before it’s too late.

However, if you are throwing slow moving topwater baits like a buzzbait or whopper plopper that require a straight retrieve, a medium gear ratio like a 6:3:1 or 7:1:1 is best. If you do have a higher speed reel you can always just turn the handle slower, and it will work just fine.

Best Gear Ratio for Soft Plastic Baits

Using soft plastic baits on a baitcasting reel like a Texas or Carolina rig is a popular and effective way to catch bass. When fishing soft plastic baits like these the best gear ratio to use is a medium to high-speed reel like a 7:1, 8:1, or even a higher gear ratio.  

Most soft plastic baits are worked in by dragging the bait with your rod and aren’t really retrieved with your reel. Where the higher speed reels like this become an advantage is when you hook into a fish, and you have a lot of line out. It will allow you to quickly catch up to the bass as they take off with it.

If you are finesse fishing soft plastic baits with a spinning reel the best gear ratio to use in my opinion is either a 5:1 or 6:1. If you are fishing around, the higher the gear ratio the better. However, the speed of a spinning reel isn’t as important, because you are trying to slow play or finesse the fish as you reel them in.

Best Gear Ratio for Chatterbaits

A chatterbait or vibrating jig is in its own unique bait category. Most anglers will either slow roll them on the bottom or fish them fast around grass and structure. In my experience the best gear ratio reel to use is either a 6:1 or 7:1. I prefer to use the 7:1, because I feel like I can always slow down with my reel turns. This reel speed allows me to cover water and mix up the speeds as I need to.

Best Gear Ratio for Spinnerbaits

Spinnerbaits are designed to generate a lot of flash and vibration and excel at getting a reaction strike out of any nearby bass. This vibration tends to cause a lot of resistance and can wear you out over time.

As a result, the best gear ratio to use for spinnerbaits is a low-speed reel. I prefer to use a 5:1 or 6:1 when throwing a spinner bait. The slower speed provides more power and allows you to fish slow enough to get the spinnerbaits blades running just right.

This is especially helpful when fishing spinnerbaits that have big blades. If you are burning a spinner bait on top, I like to use a 6:1. I feel like it’s a good mix of speed and power.

Best Gear Ratio for Swimbaits

The swimbait category has become a huge category in bass fishing and there are now more sizes, styles, and baits than ever before. The best gear ratio for a swimbait will depend on the type and size and how fast you are planning on fishing with it. The best overall swimbait gear ratio in my opinion is a 5:1 or 6:1 speed.

In most swimbait fishing situations, you’ll be throwing a large swimbait on the bottom like Huddleston. The lower gear ratio will give you the power you need to throw big baits and will help you slow down your retrieval.

If you are throwing glide baits or more reactive style swimbaits, I like to use a little faster speed like a 6:1 or 7:1. I feel the extra speed helps me, take up the slack line and give me a better chance at a good hook set. When throwing small finesse swimbaits on a spinning reel I like to use a 6:2, but I don’t think the speed matters as much unless you are fishing around cover.

When using big swimbaits like a Huddleston the best gear ratio to use is a 5:1 or 6:1. It will give you the power and drag needed for these big baits and will keep your bait running at the right speed.

Best Gear Ratio for Senkos

There are a lot of different ways a Senko can be used to catch bass. You can wacky rig a senko, fish it on a Texas Rig or set it up on a Neko Rig. All of these can be great ways to catch bass. Many anglers often ask what gear ratio of reel should be used when fishing with a senko.

In general, the best gear ratio to use while fishing with a senko is either a 6:1 or 7:1. Not only are these gear ratios versatile, but they have the right combination of speed and power required for any senko fishing situation.   

Best Gear Ratio for Frogs

One of my favorite ways to catch a bass is with a top water frog. There is nothing like seeing a big bass come up and inhale your frog. For this bass fishing technique, the best gear ratio reel to use is either a 7:1 or 8:1.

You can get away with fishing a frog with a reel that has a lower speed and be just fine. However, I prefer the faster speed because I can reel in my frog faster when it’s out of the strike zone. This allows me to cover more water, make longer casts, and be much more efficient.

Best Gear Ratio for Flipping

When flipping and pitching for bass it’s all about covering water and maximizing each cast. In most situations you’ll be pitching and flipping around vegetation or heavy cover. For this reason, the best gear ratio to use for flipping is a high-speed reel like an 8:1 or 9:1.

A high-speed reel with these gear ratios will allow you to reel in your bait more quickly after each pitch making it easier to cover water and be more efficient. A faster speed reel is also ideal when you hook into a bass and need to get them away from the structure before it’s too late.

Related Fishing Resources

Final Thoughts

Selecting the right gear ratio for your reels is a crucial aspect of your fishing setup and can play a major role in determining how successfully you’ll be at catching and landing fish.

Fishing with the right gear ratio will allow you to fish your baits and lures more effectively and ensure you get the right presentation each time without wearing yourself out.

Before heading out on your next bass fishing adventure make sure you’re fishing with the right gear ratio for each bass fishing technique so you can confidently and effectively catch and land your fish.

Aaron Warner

Aaron Warner is an avid angler with over 15 years of experience. He has participated and won fishing tournaments all over the country and enjoys fishing for bass, trout, walleye and other species.

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