Baitcasting reels - Opinions

Anyone here fish freshwater with light equipment? I’m in the market for a good quality but reasonably priced ($100 or under) baitcasting reel for flipping unweighted plastics. It must be able to cast well with very little weight on the end, as the lakes I fish are 1-5’ in depth. If anyone has a used reel for sale that is in perfect working order, I’d condsider that as well. Thanks - Craig

Light tackle is tough
I’ve found that it take quite a bit of practice to cast light lures with a bait caster. Currently I use a shimano cardiff. It’s a bit heavy for light tackle. The next bait caster I am considering would be a shimano curado, or a quantum acs. All are around 100. Be prepaired for much frustration and carry a set of figernail clippers. Light tackle tends to make bird habitat.

It is tough to cast light lures with those.It is possible but you will have to experiment with the mag setting and extra care in thumb control on the spool.You shouldnt have any problem finding a good one in that price range.I paid around 40 years back for my Daiwa and a bit less for the Berkley Lightning rod it went on.Good luck!

Practice = light lure castability
I must say, I am not an expert with a baitcaster. However, I can cast an 1/8 ounce jig far enough to keep myself happy, assuming I have plenty of room to cast. If there are any obstructions to the side or behind me, all bets are off.

The trick is finding the setting on your reel that allows you the balance between distance and a backlash. Technically, the best “brake” setting is no brake at all–you use your thumb and experience to slow the lure down. However, I’m not that good with light lures. My two baitcasters are pretty different:

My first reel is/was a Quantum 300CX–pretty inexpensive, but offers a standard centrifugal brake and a magnetic dial. For light lures, I set the centrifugal brake so that the lure just barely free falls when the button is pushed. Then I experiment with the magnetic brake until I am backlash-free. When I’m feeling lucky, I hit the “pitching” switch (no brake) and just use my thumb.

My second reel is/was an Abu Garcia; this is the standard old high-speed, stainless steel baitcaster. It has only the centrifugal brake, but the gearing and machining seems to be much superior to the Quantum. It will cast farther with light lures on the right setting, but I have to be much more careful not to overpower the cast.

There are tons of great-quality reels out there, but I’m not sure that any baitcaster is the magic solution to light lures (otherwise the pros would throw away their one spinning rod they use for light jigs and drop-shotting).

Another two ideas:

For lighter lures, a lighter-action rod is much more helpful. I even pulled the Quantum off its Gander Mountain series rod and threw it on a $10 Eagle Claw rod meant for a cheap spincasting reel–it threw lighter lures 10 feet farther because it was whippy and helped the cast. I wouldn’t keep it on that rod because it has a narrow range of use, but it proved to me that most standard medium-action graphite and composite rods are too stiff for light lures to be cast effectively.

Line is the second, minor consideration. I think a limper line helps cast light lures better because the tensile forces and less memory of limp line interfere less with rod guides and the lure’s flight. I could be wrong on the terms here, but they cast better for me anyway. When all monofiliment was stiff as it got heavier, this meant “use light line.” Now that we have limp grades of heavy monofiliment, flourocarbon, braided lines, and fused lines, there are a lot of choices that help cast light lures farther.

Good luck and tell us what you find if you can!

I say use a light tipped rod as long as possible to give you more controll and casting distance. I personally use a curado(shimano) for light work. I found them for a hundred bucks a few years back but they are 120 now. I recently bought a Pinacle Carrera for 80 bucks at Dicks. I put it on a 6 and a half foot light action All star for throwing small poppers and crappie crankbaits fishing for bass. They both work well. However sometimes it is just easier to use spinning gear.

Some thoughts and the traditional view
I’m not as up-to-date on modern baitcasters as some are, so my comments are limited to my experience. First, years ago, baitcasting reels were used for basic fishing in preference to spinning reels especially when their cranking power and durability relative to the size of the reel was an advantage (no discussion here of various other situations where the baitcaster works better). I think there is still a lot of merit to the old idea, so if you are using light lines and light lures to begin with, why not go with a reel design that didn’t need to go through 30 years of high-tech evolution just to become only moderately capable of handling light lines and lures? In other words, why not just use a spinning reel in the first place? I love my old baitcaster, but spinning reels are just a must-have for some situations. By the way, if you really want good casting distance, stay away from modern spinning reels which have become extremely small and light. An old-fashioned spinning reel or any modern spinning reel that is moderately heavy-duty (these will have a much larger-than-normal spool) will cast much, much farther than any lightweight reel you can buy (and get a good rod to go with it that has BIG, functional gathering guides, not the more popular, good-looking-but-useless gathering guides which are way too small).

Thanks to all for the replys, I’ll tell you my thoughts:

I lost my most recent baitcasting combo out at sea a few weeks ago. I was fishing a reef a few miles offshore, and put my rod in the boat, yet my bait fell in the water unbeknownst to yours truly. When my Dad and his buddy started pulling sea bass off the wreck, a dog shark in the three foot class followed them up, grabbed my bait and took off with me halfway across the boat. That little f&*% took my Shimano Jimmy Houston rod and my Shimano Calcutta 251. Not a happy camper.

I’ve been experimenting with my Abu Garcia Ambassadeur Vantage VXL 5000C, my old Shimano Bantam Mag 10X SG, Shimano Calcutta 300, and my Pop has a number of different sized Calcuttas in righty versions, as well as a TICA and several older Penn’s and one Okuma.

I think the advice on the spinning reels are correct, for the weight I’m tossing, they are doing the trick, I just really like casting a baitcasting reel. However, my freshwater lakes can’t be effectively fished with lures over 1/16th of an ounce. The fish spook and you don’t need the weight.

I have been casting 4" power worms texas rigged to bass in the pads with zero issues.

At this point, I’ll gladly take any new, high quality light spin reel recommendations. Thanks to all who responded, this is a cool forum.

Cheers - Craig

I’m right hand but a lefty calcutta
Is what I use for light salt, but i keep it in hand. sorry to hear 'bout yours.

I also have a curado and several abu’s. they are each rigged for different purposes.

Definitly am not an expert with baitcasters and all the above advice is good stuff. proper setup

and practice,practice,practice is all I can offer

paddle on. Ed

Ed - I am a righty who prefers lefty reels as well. That Calcutta was easily good for 200 feet with a 1/2 - 1 oz jig. I’ll miss her…

cheap stuff
truthfully I use cheap Bass Pro Shops $29 to $49 dollar reels… The ones I have now are made for BPS by Quantum, and are all cheap plastic on the outside. They work well enough, cheap enough to replace if lost or broken and because they are mostly plastic they hold up decent in salt water without having to spend hundreds on fancy stainless steel reels. The one I have now is the cheapest I could find that was left hand. I have one that is 9 years old and it is on it’s second rod (brok the handle off the first rod bringing in a 3lb flounder.) I fish mostly Bass fresh water and flounder in salt water.

baitcasters for light lures
Check out the Abu Garcia 1600 series. I think FFO has some in left-handed that are in your price range. I have an old black-max model that casts light lures great.

Abu Garcia
I have 2 Abu Garcias, a 1501 and a 1600. I like both. I think the ability to cast light lures is more related to the rod than the reel. Get a long, limber rod and you shouldn’t have any problems. Jim

Baitcasting Reels
Walmart has Quantum spinning reel and rod for under $30 with four lb test that will handle most freshwater situations. I also have Abu Garcia 3500 coupled with a 10.5 feet Lamiglas for 5 times the money that casts as well. I now only use the baitcasting rig for summer run steelhead. For trolling for trout in the Sierra in the summer and the Sacramento Valley in the winter the spinning combo can’t be beat for dollar invested and fish landed. Try a four lb test with streamer flys and you will catch fish.

Light Baitcaster
I actually have found the inexpensive Shakespeare xterra Combo (28.00 from Walmart) to be very reliable and accurate. It uses magnets vs weights to control spin. I have fished for several hours at a time casting with NO tangles or birds nest. I cast from a Canoe in some pretty tight spots an have been satisfied with accuracy. I am sure the more expensive reels are fine. I have used a friend’s high end reel and have found very little difference. If you find it’s not for you, very little investment lost.

Happy fishing.

A best-seller
The guy who owns the local tackle shop swears by the Pflueger Trion baitcast reel. They perform as well as the Curados (with 6 ball bearings and either 6.3:1 or 4.3:1) at a much lower price.

I spoke with one of the Shakespeare-Pflueger reps at the 2003 Bassmaster Classic in New Orleans, and he said they have really been selling well.

It might be worth looking at.

Reels vs Rod???
Just about any baitcasting reel has the same components that limit the ability to cast extreme distances. Higher priced ones have better components, but are still limited. To throw unweighted plastics as you first mentioned I believe, you need to lighten your line, go to a smaller diameter, and then lenghten your rod and lighten the action from a heavy or medium heavy to a medium light to light action. A large fish can be landed on light tackle. I know rarely used a rod bait casting or spinning that is not at least 6.5 or 7 feet long. Makes throwing light weight plastics farther a lot easier…


Hi all, I see an old thread has resurfaced. I just went with a spin combo for unweighted plastics, and relegated the baitcaster to saltwater duty. Thanks