Best Swimbait Reel 2019 [Buyer’s Guide]

Best Swimbait Reel

With the surge in popularity of large swimbait fishing fishermen need to up their tackle considerations when it comes to getting the best casting performance from their setup.

​Choosing the best swimbait reel for you rod requires that you understand the relationship between the size/weight of the lure and how that affects your casting and retrieval.

​Swimbait Reel Gear Ratio

​The best gear ratio for swimbaits is ​one that is matched to the size of the lure, a larger lure should have a lower gearing, and for a smaller lure you can use either low or a high gear ratio.

There is no "best"...

​So;

You need to match the gear ratio to the size of the swimbaits that you intend to use.

The larger the swimbait the harder it will be to pull through the water.

For example, if you are casting all day a higher gearing and large lure will become very tiring on your arm. And a high speed reel will tend to wear out a little quicker

A good rule of thumb is that larger the lure the lower the gear ratio should be.

​Size & Shape

​The most common sizes or swimbait reels are usually either a 300 or 400 sized baitcaster reel.

You can use a 200 but it will have reduced line capacity and larger lures need heavier line.

There are usually two types of reels used for swimbait fishing:

  • ​Old style rounded baitcaster
  • New style low-profile baitcaster

Just be aware that not all low-profile baitcasters are suitable. With a low profile reel the line will sit pretty close to both the handle and rod blank so just be sure that if your swimbait rod has a fore grip that the reel is not too low.

​A spinning reel is rarely used but if you are casting very small swimbaits then it can work quite well.

​Best Swimbait Reels 2019


The Okuma Citrix 350 is the best swimbait reel for the money.

It manages to combine silky smooth casting performance, big line capacity and a powerful drag system all at a really great price point.

​Gearing

The gear ratio on the Citrix is 6.4:1 which is neither low or high making the 350 usable with a wider range of lures.

You get about 31 inches of line retrieved per turn of the handle.

Sure you don't get the cranking power of a 5.3:1 like the Abu Garcia Toro S below nor the high speed of something like a Shimano Curado (also below) but I would consider those reels as a lot more specialized.

The Citrix is much more of a all-rounder and if you are just starting out with choosing your first swimbait reel then it's a solid choice. 

Bearings

​Okuma have engineered the Citrix with a massive 8 stainless steel ball bearings. 7 main bearings and 1 reverse helping the spool to run real smooth. The more bearings the better in my book.

Spool

The spool is one of the main components on a baitcaster that needs to have really tight engineering tolerances. And ​the Citrix it is made from anodized A6061-T6 machined aluminum making it super light weight and strong.

There is also a spool access port which allows you to easily adjust the 6-pin centrifugal braking system for better and more precise spool control.

It also allows you to easily swap out the spool. So, if you happen to use the Citrix on a number of different rods you can swap out a spare spool for one with a different line on it.

Drag

​Most high performance modern baitcaster will tend to use a multi-disc carbonite drag system and the Citrix is no exception. Carbonite drags tend to heat up less and still retain there stopping power under high loads.

Line Capacity

​One of the Citrix's main selling points is it's line capacity. It can hold a whopping 230 yards of 14 pound monofilament.

And if braid is your line of choice then you can hold the same 230 yards of 40 lbs braided fishing line.

Specifications:

  • ​6.4:1 gear ratio
  • 25 lb max drag
  • Retrieve per turn 31 inches
  • Multi-disc carbonite drag system
  • 8 stainless steel bearings

The​ Shimano Calcutta is an older style round baitcaster, this shape allows you to palm the reel as you retrieve.

Whether you like to palm the reel as your preferred grip is usually a personal preference, either way the Calcutta is one hell of a workhorse.

​There are two sizes commonly used in for swimbaits, the 200 for smaller applications and the 400 size which is suitable for throwing much larger lures.

The 400 packs a mean punch and although it has "only" 3 main bearings it is just as capable as casting heavy swimbaits as any ultra-modern low-profile reel. 

The body is built from forged aluminum frames and side plates giving a light yet super solid reel.

​It has a super smooth drag that tops out at around 17.5 lbs.

Where the Calcutta 400 really distinguishes itself is in how low the gearing is.

At 5.0:1 it is one of the lowest you will find. Gearing that low gives you a heck of a lot of cranking power, perfect for moving large swimbaits at a nice and steady slow speed.

Specifications:

  • ​​Low 5.0:1 gear ratio
  • Max drag 17.5 lbs
  • 24 inch retrieve per turn
  • 260 yards of 14 lbs mono
  • Forged aluminum frame and side plates

Th​e Shimano Tranx 300 and 400 are the smaller siblings to the much lauded Tranx 500. The 500 is an absolute beast if your aim is to throw really large lures a long way.

​Either of the Tranx 300 or 400 range has a great choice of either fast or slow retrieves depending on the gear ratio's.

Among the 300 and 400 the high gear models are denoted by a HG on the model number. For example the TRX300AHG is the High Gear model and the TRX300A is the lower geared one.

​For the larger 500 models they use either HG(high gear) or PG(power gear).

The Tranx comes with 5 main stainless steel bearings and one reverse bearing that are shielded on both sides by a stainless steel shield.

The breaking system utilizes a centrifugal force break as opposed to magnets as you will find on a lot of reels. This system greatly reduces backlashes as it applies just enough force to the spool during the initial stage of the cast. 

The drag uses carbon fiber washers which are positioned either side of the main gear resulting in even better pressure.

The internals of the Tranx line up are built with precision and are designed to reduce flex and friction. The result is a smooth turn on the crank even when under a really heavy load.

​The lower geared models come with a double handle. Each turn of the handle will take in 30 inches of line.

Whereas the higher geared models come with a single handle and will take in a shopping 40 inches per crank.

Specifications:

  • ​High and low geared models available
  • Hagene body body for stiffness
  • X-ship internal gears
  • Big line capacity
  • Single or double handles

​Lew's line of SD(super duty) reels are built for hauling big crankbaits and ​swimbaits at low speeds over long distances.

The lowest geared model ​in the line up has a 5.1:1 gear ratio and pulls line at 21 inches per turn of the handle.

​So if you are looking for a large capacity baitcasting reel with a gear ratio low enough to pull giant swimbaits then the Lew's Super Duty is a pretty solid choice.

The range does however go up to a 8.0:1 which is one of the highest gear ratio's you are likely to find.

Specifications:

  • ​One piece aluminum frame and side plate
  • 10 double shielded stainless steel bearings
  • High capacity braid ready spool
  • 5 different models available

​With the introduction of the Curado DC Shimano have finally placed some of their high end casting technology into a mid-priced reel.

​The Curado reel range has built a solid reputation as an everyday workhorse reel. They can take a lot of abuse and still perform day in day, whether that's for light inshore work or all day casting for bass.

​The DC in the name stands for Digital Control. During casting the spool is digitally controlled by an onboard computer chip to give the best distance and control possible whilst almost eliminating the chances of a backlash.

The DC is actually powered by the spools rotation, having a completely self powered system does away with ever needing to replace a battery.

​The previous models to get this feature such as the Calais DC had up to 8 different settings. To make things a little simpler and more affordable the Curado DC has 4 different settings or modes which allow you to tune how the microproccessor controls the spool during casting.

The different modes:

  • Mode 1 - Maximum casting distance(lowest amount of brake applied)
  • Mode 2 - Geared towards casting with braided line
  • Mode 3 - For flourocarbon line
  • Mode 4 - Highest braking level, sorter casts with better control

Specifications:

  • ​DC(Digital Control) electronic braking system 
  • 4 different casting modes
  • Reduce the risk of backlashes
  • Rigid Hagene body
  • 6 stainless steel bearings, 1 anti-reverse bearing

​Like all the models in the Abu Garcia Revo range the Toro S is built for power. These reels are big and sit well on a swimbait rod.

There are 4 models available, basically two different sizes an S50 and S60 in either a left or right hand variation.

​Everything component put into these reels is about handling maximum power, so if big swimbaits is the game you are playing then you'll have both the power and the line capacity for a heavy duty setup.

​They all share the same low 5.3:1 gear ratio and come with 4 HPCR bearings and a super strong Power Stack Carbon Matrix Drag that tops out at 25 lbs.

The S50 can handle 210 yards of 14 lb mono and has a retrieve rate of 26 inches per crank, whilst the S60 holds 250 yards of 14 lb mono and has a retrieve rate of 29 inches per turn of the handle.

Specifications:

  • ​Heavy duty baitcaster
  • ​Size 50 extended bent handle, 210 yards of 14 lbs mono
  • Size 60 casting power handle, 250 yards of 14 lbs mono
  • Carbon Matrix Drag
  • ​Alloy frame and side plates


The ​Luna is a replacement for the much loved Millionaire line of rounded baitcasters from Daiwa. It can be seen as a competitor to the Shimano Calcutta above.

Just like the Calcutta the Luna has a simple but very sturdy design.

​It is ​machined from solid aluminum which includes the frame and the side plates. This gives you a lot of strength and rigidity, unlike a lot of other reels were only the frame is machined and the rest of the housing is forged.

It has 5 Super Corrosion Resistant ball bearings and also one anti-reverse.

​The 300 size reel can hold 320 yards of 14 lbs monofilament fishing line. It has a 5.1:1 gear ratio for lots of low end power and will pull in 23.6 inches of line per handle turn.

Max drag is 15.4 pounds.  

Specifications:

  • ​Machines from aluminum bar stock
  • 5 stainless steel bearings
  • Free floating spool made from aircraft grade aluminum
  • Multi-disc rag with fiber composite and stainless washers

​Swimbait Reels

​Swimbaits reels are mostly about pulling power and line capacity. 

Pulling swimbaits all day does put a lot of pressure on the internal components of a reel so the tighter the tolerances and the higher the quality of the materials used the better.

​Size

​The first question you need to ask is:

What size swimbait reel do I need?

​The size of reel for swimbaits that you get will usually fall somewhere in the range of a 200 sized baitcaster up to a 400.

However I no a lot musky fishermen who swear by the likes of a Tranx 500 when throwing mammoth swimbaits and bucktails.

A 500 sized reel is a bit specialized not to mention expensive so for most people they will generally want something a little smaller.

If you need a swimbait reel for bass however you won't go far wrong with a 300.

​Gearing

​As we mentioned above gearing is one of the most debated aspects of choosing a baitcaster for swimbaits.

Large swimbait reels will have a low gear ratio unless they are specifically designed to be igh speed reels.

If you are a biginner then a reel somewhere in the middle, roughly 6.5:1 ratio is good.

For a big rod and reel that is targetting large fish with heavier lures then you may need to go as low as 5.1:1 ratio.

This lower gear ratio is best for very large swimbaits.

​Line Capacity

​This will mostly be determined by the size of reel you choose. However there are some large diameter reels that can hold a considerable amount of line.

You really need to ask yourself just how far will I be realistically casting and how much line could the fish that I am fighting possibly run out.

​Drag Rating

​Drag rating will also be related to the size of reel but even among the same size reels you can have a considerable difference in the amount of stopping power the drag has.

Larger reels that are intended for heavy use and bigger species of fish will have a drag rating of around 25 lbs on a 400 sized baitcaster.

On lighter reels you will usually see a reel rating of between 12 and 15 lbs.

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