What Are Fishing Reel Gear Ratios?

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Hey there fellow fishing enthusiasts. For many of us, purchasing a new reel can be a lot of fun, and of course an absolute necessity regardless of how many you have. And today we are going to discuss one aspect to consider when we are looking to make that purchase, gear ratios. So what are fishing reel gear ratios? Let’s check it all out below…

What is a fishing reel gear ratio?

In short, gear ratios are the number of times the spool will turn on one complete revolution of the handle. For example, if a gear ratio of 5.0:1 means that for every complete turn of the handle, the spool will rotate five times. In general, fishing reel ratios will range from around the 5.0:1 mark right up to around 9.1.1.

For most day to day fishing with either live bait or lures, I would recommend a middle of the range ratio of around 6.0:1. However, for more experienced fishers, you may want to consider the following:

  • If you are doing any fishing where you want to retrieve baits or lures quickly – such as crankbaits or swimmer bait lures – then the higher the ratio the better. It is also easier to slow a lure down with a higher ratio than to try and speed one up a lower setting.
  • Alternatively – big game, or deep sea fishing reels tend use much lower ratios (my Spinfisher IV 9500 reel for example is 4.2:1) as the focus here is on keeping large baits or lures in the ‘strike zone’ and being able to handle larger fish with the drag (see below). In these settings, higher ratios have a tendency move the baits around (or up off the floor) too fast as the handle is turned.
Fishing Reel Gear Ratios

How important is it?

Look, to be honest, I have only really taken a lot of notice of gear ratios recently when I was chatting to the guy at the local tackle shop as I purchased my Battle III. He suggested it over another option due to the slightly higher ratio as I could keep the bigger fish on whilst still retrieving with speed if need be.

Until then, for me the ratio was something that just came with the reel size – they are inherently lower for larger reels purely due to the size of the spool. As with anything, if you have a hook in the water then the ratio is probably not going to stop then biting however if you are constantly losing fish to line breakage or finding it hard to get a lure moving, then it is maybe something to check out.

Again, for most fishing (such as chasing Bass or fishing in the surf), anything around 5 – 6:1 will do the trick 9 times out of 10!

Gear ratios and drag systems

The drag system of a fishing reel is its ability to release a little bit of line when a fish strikes or is being pulled in. This is in place to reduce the chances of a bigger fish snapping the line as it fights. When you crank on a fish, the drag system slows the spool from rotating as quickly as it would with no pressure, allowing line to be reeled in.

In order to make the drag more effective, it’s important to match the gear ratio of a reel to the size and strength of fish that you’re most likely to catch. As above, lower gear ratio allows for more power in reeling in larger, stronger fish as the spool will not turn as much allowing the drag to really do its thing.

For most other fishing where the species being chased are generally not large enough to break the line, then higher ratios allow for faster retrieval – especially if you need to stop them sneaking back under structure such as tree branches or rocks.

Gear ratios and line capacity

The gear ratio of a fishing reel is also important in determining the line capacity. A large spool obviously means more line can be held on the reel. Lower ratios then mean that if you have a lot of line out, then it is going to take a lot longer to wind in.

The more line you have then, the higher the ratio I would recommend if you can – this will not only allow you to get your line in faster, but can also lessen fatigue as well.


So there you have it – a quick explanation in regards to fishing reel ratios. As mentioned above, this is not always something you really need to worry about however there are some definite advantages to choosing the right option as you shop for reels.

I hope it has been helpful and as usual, please let me know of your experiences with ratios or if there is anything else you look for.

Also, please do not hesitate to comment below if you have any questions, concerns, corrections, or would like me to check anything else out for you.

Until next time

Have fun


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Hi, I'm Paul

I am a passionate fishing, camping and four wheeled driving hobbyist who researches, tests and educates around issues and equipment relevant to them.

I am by no means a professional however my passion is to assist you in making informed decisions about buying and using awesome gear that will give you the best chance of success at whatever you are doing for the best price.

Please get in touch if you have any questions.