What Does the Gear Ratio on a Fishing Reel Mean?

What Does the Gear Ratio on a Fishing Reel Mean

Buying a new reel can be stressful, especially for beginner anglers.

There are endless options to choose from and you must choose wisely to get the one that will be useful for your fishing technique.

There are different types and sizes of fishing reels, and among their features, there is the gear ratio too.

A lot of beginners frequently ask what does the gear ratio on a fishing reel mean, and which one to choose (Check >> Best Spinning Reels >> Here).

You should always pick the one that suits your needs, and here we are going to answer all the important questions about fishing reel gear ratio:



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What Does the Gear Ratio on a Fishing Reel Mean?

When choosing among different reel features, anglers must know what those features are. The definition of gear ratio is the following: gear ratio is a number that shows us how many times the spool turns for a single turn of a handle.

Here is one example: if a reel has a gear ratio 5.1:1, that means that the spool will turn 5.1 times for a single turn of a handle.

If you have a 7.1:1 ratio, that means that this reel is faster than the previous one, because the spool will turn 7.1 times for a single turn of a handle.

Another important feature you have to understand is Inches Per Turn (IPT). This will tell you how many inches of line is retrieved with one turn of a handle.

Sometimes, new anglers confuse this term and its meaning with gear ratio. IPT is influenced by spool size too, so faster reels may have the same, or even lower IPT, than some slower models. For example, 6.4:1 gear ratio reel can have higher IPT than 7.3:1 gear ratio reel.

Slow gear rations are the ones between 5.1:1 to 5.4:1, medium are the ones up to 6.4:1 and fast ones are those over 7.

All of them have certain advantages and disadvantages and they are used for different purpose. More about their usage we are going to mention later on.

Keep in mind that as a beginner, you should focus more on learning how to use your gear and less on fancy features that will cause nothing but trouble.

You can always upgrade when you gain some experience.

Gear ratio is important for both baitcasting and spinning reels (check comparison), and it shows you the same thing in both: how many times the spool will turn with a single turn of a handle.

Beginners should go for spinning reels, because those are easier to use than free-spool options.

Here you can check best spinning reels for catfishing.

What Gear Ratio is Best for Fishing? Low, Medium or Fast?

This question does not have a simple answer. It all depends on your experience level, targeted fish species and techniques you practice.

Most of the time, new anglers think that using a reel with fast gear is going to be the best option, however that’s incorrect.

Most common reels on the market are usually in the medium, 6,4:1 range.

High gear ratio enables you to retrieve the bait extremely fast and cast it again very quickly. This is important when fishing in locations with small strike zones. For this specific situation, nothing below 7.1:1 will work ...

Medium reels, if you know how to use them and adjust your retrieving speed can work well in a lot of situations, while slow ones are effective with certain lures (more about this will be mentioned later on).

It is hard to answer which one is the best for fishing, because they all have their advantages and disadvantages. For those who fish only in certain conditions, using specific baits, reel must meet their needs, weather it is a slow or fast reel.

Medium one has wide usage, it is popular among beginners, almost every angler has one, but being the most common does not mean it is the best. Experienced anglers prefer to use reels that are suitable for a given situation, not one reel for everything.

And what does the gear ration on a fishing reel mean when it comes to fish species?

Different species are caught with different lures/baits. So, you should choose accordingly. It is important to say that size of a reel has nothing to do with a gear ratio.

Having a medium gear ratio reel, together with a slow one, will satisfy the needs of most beginners and fishing for species like bass and carp can be done with those. High gear ratio reels should be left for anglers with certain experience.

What Does the Gear Ratio on a Fishing Reel Mean - for Carp Fishing

What Gear Ratio Should I Look/Choose for When Buying a Reel?

As already mentioned, you should pick the one that suits your needs.

Beginners should think about slow or medium gear ratio. Having a fast one will be a challenge when slow retrieving is necessary, and you can always turn the handle faster to speed up a little bit, but it is hard to be precise while trying to turn the handle extremely slow on the fast reel.

For those using crankbait in greater depths slow reels, around 5.1:1 are the ideal options.

Those fishing with buzzbaits should get faster ones, like 7.1:1. The reason for that is that slow reels are better for greater depths, while fast-ones are good for manoeuvring the bait closer to the surface.

Middle speed offers the best possibilities for those who are still learning. Using reels with gear ration around 6.0:1 enables you to fish with both slow moving baits like spinnerbait, or with faster lipless crankbaits. Those reels are also good when used with jerkbaits and swimming jigs.

Size of the bait is one of the most important factors when determining the necessary gear ratio, but details about this are mentioned in the next chapter.

Those who already have some experience can upgrade to fast ones. Using a fast reel enables high-speed techniques while surface fishing or working the bait through vegetation or wood.

While new anglers think the faster-the better, some old-school anglers say that fast reel don’t have enough strength and endurance for fighting a big fish.

That’s not true, because today, modern and fast reels are constructed much better than those 50 years ago.

So, if you are a beginner, go with a medium option and see how it works.

What Types of Lures Work Best with a High/Low Gear Ratio?

Except for lure type, lure size is also important. So, let’s see what to use to suit the specific reel.


Slow reels are made to be used with larger baits, and baits for great depth. Those baits apply a lot of pressure to your fishing line and operating slowly is the way to go. Retrieving will be easier as those reels are very powerful and have enough torque.

Lures to be used with slow reels are: deep cranckbaits, large swimbaits and deep-water spinnerbaits.

These slow reels are very good for keeping the bait within the bite area for longer time. Besides that, the movement of these baits will be more natural and it will not scare the fish. Spinning some baits too fast can be very counterproductive.


Medium reels are great for various baits and techniques.

A lot of bass anglers will tell you they are ideal for a bit less experienced anglers because they can be very effective.

Lures to be used with medium reel are: medium-depth crankbaits, shallow spinnerbaits, and squarebill crankbaits.

These reels are very common and you can even ty to use some slow or fast lures with those reels. You can control the retrieving speed by turning the handle faster or slower to get the best from both worlds.


These reels are great for some fast fishing actions. To use these reels properly, you will have to be very handy with your rod.

Lures to be used with fast reels are: topwater lures, lipless crankbaits, jigs and large worms, jerkbaits and shaky heads.

All those lures have one thing in common, they al require some fast movement to attract the fish. Quick action enables immediate reaction and necessary corrections. Manoeuvring through aquatic plants will be easier with fast reels.


Now when you know what does the gear ration on a fishing reel mean, you can choose the one you need.

Plan ahead and buy the one that goes with the lures and fish species you are planning to catch.

For all those who like to have a lot of options and frequently change lures and techniques, having a medium gear ratio reel is definitely the best option. However, very experienced anglers will often have both slow and fast reel, to always have the best possible option.

And no matter which real you decide to buy, always get a product made by a reputable manufacturer, made of durable materials, to get the best value for the money.

There is a lot more that makes a good reel, not just the gear ratio!

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