Bass anglers make up a sizable portion of the international sport and recreational fishing community. If you also want to be a part of this group, and you want to start fishing, you might need some help figuring out the best equipment to use for the job, which is why we wrote this article. In this one, the central question is: what size reel is best for bass fishing?
Reels between the sizes 1000 (10) and 3500 (35) cover the entire spectrum of bass fish sizes, meaning they all work well. According to consensus, a 2000 (20) or 2500 (25) reel is best for bass fishing.
As with everything in fishing, however, the specifics and personal taste dictate much of the decision-making. In this article, we will look at the utility of separate reel sizes and talk about how you should choose your reel and fit it with the rod and line you are using. If you want to find out more about bass reels, read on!
Types of Reels
First, we have to specify the types of reels we are going to discuss. There are three types of reels used most often in the fishing community: the spinning reel, the baitcasting/baitcaster reel, and the spincaster reel.
For bass fishing, baitcasting reels and spinning reels are most often used, so we will go over the pros and cons of those two and leave out the spincaster reel so you can make a better-informed decision about which category to choose from.
First, the spinning reel. It is arguably the most widely-known reel in the world. Even people who haven’t held a rod in their life will recognize this piece of equipment for its unique design and widespread use.
A spinning reel is attached to the bottom of a fishing rod, one of the major distinctions from a baitcaster. Instead of the spool itself spinning to retrieve the line, there is a bail arm that rotates around the spool, thus spinning the line onto the spool.
The most important pros of spinning reels are affordability, ease of use, and ease of maintenance. These are some of the best reels out there for value for money, which is why they are also the most widespread reel types.
They are really easy to learn how to use, which makes them perfect for beginners. However, it doesn’t mean only beginners can use it since there is a lot of ground you can cover with a spinning reel in terms of learning.
The spool and line are both easy to change on a spinning reel, which is a major argument in favor of the group through a convenience issue only. They are also easily maintained, which makes these the ultimate versatile reel.
However, they have an issue when it comes to long-distance lure casting and accuracy, and also when it comes to larger fish. Spinning reels are much rather the type of reels you would use for your everyday fishing, may that be a pond, river, or seashore. If you are looking for larger, perhaps game fish, spinning reels will not serve you too well.
Baitcasting reels, though not the most popular reels in general, are growing in popularity steadily. These, contrary to common belief, can be dated back way longer than spinning reels. The design can be led back to the 17th century or perhaps the end of the 1800s at a minimum, whereas spinning reels popped up around the 1930s.
They are less well-known than spinning reels because of their price, which tends to be higher than that of spinning reels.
Baitcasting reels are situated on the top of a rod, facing the angler. In contrast to spinning reels, on which the spool is parallel with the rod, the spool of a baitcaster is perpendicular to it, which is one of the main reasons these reels are great for casting long distances, as a result of the lower amounts of friction.
The main pros of baitcasting reels are long-distance casting capability, accuracy, durability, higher line capacity (on given models), and the ability to cast larger lures and catch larger fish.
Their accuracy and higher line capacity are often what drive people to purchase these reels, or perhaps the intention of going out to see to catch some larger fish, in which case it is by far the best type to use.
The position of the reel on the rod and the direction of the spool’s rotation make long-distance casting and accuracy a lot easier to achieve, which is the main advantage of baitcasting reels.
Also, due to the different build, baitcasting reels can have much larger spools and thus house much more or thicker lines, which makes them perfect for heavy-duty fishing tasks or long-distance or deep fishing activities.
The main drawback of baitcasting reels is their price. A decent baitcaster will cost you around 25%< more than a spinning reel of similar quality and size.
The other reason people stick with spinning reels is that baitcasters are significantly harder to master. When casting with a baitcasting reel, the moment the line hits the water’s surface, there can be a kickback or backlash, which can cause a bird’s nest at the spool.
This can make learning more difficult, as it takes time to learn how to use spool tension (done by a magnetic spool tension system) to counter backlash without decreasing casting distance and accuracy. Another way to deal with this issue is to keep your thumb on the spool when casting and regulate its rotation speed, but this also takes time to master.
All-in-all, baitcasting reels are beloved by many people and can be learned, but if you are a beginner, you might want to start with a classic spinning reel, not only because of the learning curve but also the cost.
Which One to Use for Bass Fishing?
After discussing the type of reels there are, and more precisely, the ones being used in the bass fishing sphere, it is time to discuss which one you should use for the task.
We like using baitcasting reels most of the time. We like how it feels since we have quite some experience with it, and we love the range we have with it and the adaptability. However, for different people and in different areas, different reels would serve better.
If you are a beginner fisherman (or woman, of course) looking for something to start with, a spinning reel will do a better job. Not only will it be easier to handle and learn, but it will also cost you less, which is great if you don’t have the fortune to spend on your fishing hobby.
Also, if you fish in areas where there isn’t too much underwater vegetation, as the waters are quite clear, spinning reels will be more than enough. In these places, you don’t need the range or the accuracy you might want out of a baitcaster and can have a great time fishing for bass with a classical spinning reel.
On the other hand, if you have the money to spare and also the time to learn, a baitcasting reel will give you an incredible experience. Though it can be challenging to learn to use, it is also very rewarding.
Another circumstance that can make it more productive to use baitcasting reels is if you live in an area or fish in an area with bodies of water that have vegetation in them. Baitcasting reels are more accurate, meaning that once you have learned how to use them, it is a lot easier to aim for the side of the shore, under a pier, or in general, anywhere you think fish might be.
In such situations, where there might be many plants or objects obstructing the waters, a baitcasting reel with a braided line will be the best possible matchup.
We will assume that most people reading this article are beginners since pros already have their reels of choice, so our general recommendation, which is aimed mostly at beginners, is to get spinning reels for bass fishing, as they are perhaps the ultimate beginner’s reel which is still versatile and enjoyable to use.
What are the Different Reel Sizes?
Okay, now over to the reel sizes. In the beginning, we mentioned how any reel size between 10 and 35 (1000 and 3500) would be great for catching bass. In the way we wrote it, you can see two different ways different brands signify size.
These two methods, one of them being two-digit numbers (10,15, 35…) and the other one being four-digit numbers (1000, 1500, 3500…). This isn’t something you need to watch out for, since they mean the same thing, and basically, the two 0-s at the end of the four-digit variants don’t add any meaning.
In short, 10 is the same as 1000, 20 is the same as 2000, etc. These numbers represent the size of the reel, so the larger the number, the larger the reel as well. These numbers stand for the diameter of the spool, so the larger the spool, the larger the type of line, and the amount of line you can use with it.
There are three categories of reel sizes, the small category, the medium, and the large category. We will quickly go through these to give you an idea of how the sizing scales up to use.
Small Reel Sizes
Small reels are reels from 1000 to 3500. These are the reels used for catching small fish and are also the category most often used by hobby fishermen and fisherwomen. In short, it is the most commonly used category.
The smaller end, the 1000 reels, is used for really small fish and finesse fishing. Though they could be used for bass and similar fish, they aren’t recommended as the lines they hold are generally not strong enough to withstand a fish like bass, or at least not confidently.
Between 1500 and 2500 are the reels generally used for bass fishing, even though many people swear by larger reels as well, namely the ones that go into the 3000+ zone. We would fall into the category of people who recommend the somewhat larger ones, but the consensus is around 2000 or 2500.
The 3000 and 3500 size reels are for somewhat larger lines and fish, but they can still catch bass. These reels are often considered unnecessarily large or heavy for fishing such large fish, and with experienced anglers, efficiency is key.
YOu will find that most experienced recreational anglers will try to find the smallest reel they can get away with, purely out of convenience and personal choice.
However, for a more sturdy build, which we recommend for beginners who are just learning, we would recommend a 2500 or 3000 spinning reel.
Medium Reel Sizes
Medium reel sizes are between size 4000 and 5500 or 6000 (though 6000 is generally considered part of the large reel category). These are the ones you would start going to saltwater with. You can’t do it with smaller ones if the fish you are aiming for is small, but this is the category most often used for saltwater fishing.
Exactly because of its size and workload, this category is unnecessarily large for fishing for bass, unless you are going for striped saltwater bass, which can grow up to an immense 70 pounds. Aside from that, bass fishing is the job of the smaller reels.
The medium reel category is the one that hosts reels used for fishing species like catfish, snook, or perhaps redfish.
Large Reel Sizes
The large reel category houses all reels above 5500 or 6000. This range is the largest one since the sky’s the limit with both the size of fish in the sea and oceans and the size of the reels needed to catch them.
The end of the large spectrum is 30000, which is used for some of the largest fish in deep-sea fishing and large gamefish fishing. These reels can be used to catch some of the largest fish, like Goliath Groupers, and different types of sharks.
They can also house up to 900 yards of a 65-pound test line, and these line lengths are necessary if one is looking to catch real big fish, which live in colder, darker waters.
From 6000 to 30000, you have a bunch of different sizes, which are all great for certain types of fish and terrain, but we won’t dive deeper into that, as it is irrelevant in fishing for bass.
Best Reel Sizes for Bass Fishing
So, we have established that while both baitcasting reels and spinning reels are great for bass fishing, we would recommend that most people start with a decent spinning reel. It is reliable, cheaper than baitcasting reels, and great fun to use, so let’s look at what size of spinning reel you should purchase for the best bass fishing experience.
1500 Size Spinning Reel
So, as mentioned, 1500 is the bottom end of the acceptable reel size for bass fishing. It will be easy to use, lightweight, and won’t hold a lot of lines, so you would probably want to fish from the shore of a smaller pond, or perhaps in a boat on a smaller lake.
One of the issues with smaller reels, aside from the strength you can generate with them while retrieving the line or reeling the fish in, is that they can hold less line of the same thickness than larger reels can. This means that if you want to use a 12 pound-test line or a 15-pound test line, you will have drastically reduced the length of it due to the small capacity of the reel.
This is the major drawback of 1500-sized reels for bass fishing. You have to get closer to the place you think the fish might be in to be able to catch them effectively, but then you risk scaring them away, thus making it somewhat of a more difficult job. It can still be used effectively and efficiently but is just not the optimal one to use.
2000 Size Spinning Reel
A 2000-size spinning reel is what we would personally think of as the smallest effective bass fishing reel. A standard 2000-size reel can hold around 200-215 yards of 10-pound monofilament line, which is a lot better in terms of what you need for bass fishing. Even if you use a 12-pound line, you can have around 150-180 yards of it at one time.
One hundred seventy-five yards, for example, of 12-pound test monofilament line is a great setup for freshwater bass fishing, especially in clearer waters where there isn’t so much vegetation.
It is important to note that bass, as mentioned before, do enjoy vegetation, and all fishermen know that vegetation isn’t good friends with monofilament lines. The issue is that out of almost all line types, monofilament is the easiest to break and is the least abrasion-resistant.
So, if you plan to fish in more cloudy waters, which are full of grass and plants, you should look at braided lines. They are the most abrasion-resistant lines out there and are perfect for this very job.
The great thing about braided lines is that they take up less space per pound test. This means that thinner braided lines can easily outperform thicker monofilament lines when it comes to pound-testing, and thus more of it can be stored on a spool.
On a 2000-size reel, for example, as we mentioned, you can have up to 170 yards of 12-pound test monofilament line, but you can have a whopping 390 yards of 20-pound-test braided line. Now, a 20 pound-test might be overkill for bass fishing, but the difference between the two is visible.
This is the reason we consider 2000-size reels to be the best entry-size for bass fishing, especially if you don’t fish in clear waters.
2500 Size Spinning Reel
These are the ones we would think of as the ultimate bass-fishing reels, even though we prefer 3000s. 2500 is the perfect size for storing great lengths of mono or braided line. They are sturdy and large enough to be very easy and enjoyable to use and are also not very expensive. They are the best well-rounded bass fishing reels.
Though the amount of lines these can hold isn’t significantly larger, the difference is enough to give the 2500s an edge over the 2000s.
3000 Size Spinning Reel
Though in much of the bass-fishing community, 3000 is considered to be too large, it is our personal favorite, seeing as we love going out on large lakes in a boat to fish and then casting the lure far away. We also love the speed at which 3000s can retrieve the line faster than smaller ones, as is always the case with reels.
The larger the diameter of the reel and thus the size, the more line you can retrieve with one crank. Size 3000 hits the sweet spot of power and speed for us and for a sizeable portion of bass anglers who hunt for larger bass.
Getting into the specifics of gear ratios and the gears’ mechanism is a job for intermediate fishermen and above, or enthusiasts. It isn’t too important to think of initially, but we will go through the basics.
Basically, the gears on your fishing reel work the same way as the ones on your bicycle or in your car do. They change the power output of one crank (like one pedal rotation or one rotation of a car’s crankshaft) on the reel, and can thus influence the speed at which you retrieve your line and the force you exert onto it.
Switching to lower gears will allow you to exert tremendous force, but will slow down the line’s movement while retrieving, whereas higher gears (like 5 or 7) will allow you to reel the line back in a lot faster, but you won’t exert as much power.
Most beginner and intermediate reels do not have adjustable gears, however. It is much more likely that you will first buy a reel with a fixed gear ratio since they are a lot more affordable and also widespread.
One of the most common gear ratios is 6.2:1, which means that for every turn of the crank, the spool rotates 6.2 times. This is a balanced gear ratio that will allow you to fish a lot of small and even medium-sized fish with ease. It is also the most commonly used ratio for bass fishing.
Some manufacturers do however make reels with a gear ratio specifically designed for certain types of bass fishing, where the angler might want to quickly retrieve the line. This ratio is 7.0:1. This means that the spool rotates 7 times for every crank, making line retrieval significantly faster.
Conclusion and My Recommendation
To summarize, there is a range of reel sizes that all work perfectly well for bass fishing, and the specific size to use will always be the decision of the person fishing since everyone has a different taste and different requirements.
However, the most widely-used reels for bass fishing are either size 2000 or 2500. These provide a perfect balance of lightness, affordability, ease of use, casting accuracy, and distance.
They are generally beloved by the community, and even though there are many people who swear on larger and smaller reels, the average angler uses these sizes.
As for gear ratios, we think most people should start out with the standard 6.2:1 ratio, as it is the most balanced and arguably most versatile gear ratio to use. Reels of this gear ratio are also very common and thus affordable.
If you are looking for a 2000-size spinning reel with a 6.2:1 ratio under 100 bucks which will serve you well and last you a long time, we can recommend the Cadence CS7-2000. It has been one of our most reliable and long-lasting reels.
However, if you don’t want to spend that much, Sougayilang Spinning Fishing Reel is another great option, our under $50 recommendation. It is great to start catching some bass and has also been a part of our set for a long time.