High-Speed vs Low-Speed Reels: Which One to Choose

Whether your fishing expedition will be disheartening or successful depends largely on your understanding of the fishing reels and especially the gear ratio. It determines whether a particular reel is a high-speed or a low-speed one. They both have their pros and cons.

This blog post will set aside the jargon and explore the differences between high-speed and low-speed reels in a comprehensive yet easy-to-understand manner. Options are abundant when it comes to buying spinning, baitcaster, or any other type of reels; choosing the right one means making an informed decision.

What is the Gear Ratio on Fishing Reels?

You probably have heard the term gear ratio many times while buying different kinds of fishing reels. You need to understand the meaning because the speed of a reel depends on the gear ratio.

When you turn the handle of the reel, the spool also turns. In very simple terms, the gear ratio will tell you how many times the spool will rotate with respect to a simultaneous turning of the reel handle.

So, let us say you notice a spinning reel listed on a website with the gear ratio mentioned as 5.2:1. What does this mean? It means that for every turn of the handle, the spool will turn 5.2 times. That numbers are really important because they determine how fast the line will spool off. The higher the number, the faster you can retrieve the line.

What is a High-Speed Fishing Reel?

A high-speed fishing reel is one where the gear ratio is 7.1:1 or above. But this is not applicable for spinning reels. High-speed spinning reels are usually defined as anything with a gear ratio of 5:1 or higher.

Some reels might even go up to as much as 8:1 or 10:1 gear ratios. But here’s the catch – most of the reels with such exceptionally high ratios also have a much smaller spool.

Pros of High-Speed Reels

When the water condition is excellent and clear, high-speed reels are going to be your best friend. Some of the other pros of these reels are as follows:

  • These are the best choice when you are using a bass fishing lure. The high-speed reels have what it takes to fight a big bass. Your aim should be to quickly retrieve the bass before there are any hazards with your fishing line.
  • Suppose a fish is coming towards you after hitting the lure, then you can get a good hook set on the fish with a high-speed reel by getting tension on it
  • If you have already cast the line but then notice that a fish is swimming past on the other side, you can quickly retrieve the line with a high-speed reel. And then, you can cast at your desired spot. Thanks to the modern days fishing reel ball bearings which makes the task smoother.

Cons of High-Speed Reels

Now, there are some disadvantages of a high-speed reel:

  • The most important of which is sometimes, the retrieval is too fast and not suitable for the conditions you are fishing in.
  • Fighting bigger fish is somewhat difficult with them as you need to apply more power to turn the handle

What is a Low-Speed Fishing Reel?

A low-speed fishing reel is one where the gear ratio is anything less than 6-to-1. This is applicable for all the types of reels expect spinning reels. The gear ratio of anything less than 5:1 is considered as low -speed spinning reels.

These reels are used in situations where your main aim is not line retrieval but pulling power. They are also used in surface casting or heavy jigging. Slow reeling is often preferred when the water conditions are not quite good, and you need to retrieve your line slowly. A very common example of when slow reeling is chosen is when you are teaching someone how to fish. But if you are participating in some tournament, low-speed reeling might not be the best option for you.

Pros of Low-Speed Reels

If you are fishing with big baits that will keep tugging at the line with full power, then the low-speed reels are your best bet. Some of the advantages of using these reels are as follows:

  • Low-speed reels offer extra cranking power. So fighting with big fish is easier with them.
  • Slowly retrieving your lure is easier. If you are fishing in the wintertime, the water conditions are not always ideal, and slow line retrieval is necessary. In that case, these reels will serve you better. More suitable for fighting with fast-moving fish species like blackfin tuna, redfish, etc.
  • Moreover, with a low-speed reel, you will be able to keep the bigger baits in the strike zone for a more extended time. You might be wondering how this is helpful for you. But if you are fishing in deep water with a moving bait, this quality will prove invaluable for you.

Cons of Low-Speed Reels

  • The most crucial disadvantage of this type of reel is that if you need to retrieve the line quickly, the low-speed spinning reel will not support you.

Which One Should You Choose?

The decision of whether you should use a high-speed reel or a low-speed one mostly depends on your application, as you must have understood by now. For example, right after the hookset, if you want to get the fish to open water, a high-speed spinning reel is what you need.

They are useful in situations where there is a chance of the bait being ripped quickly. Some widespread bait examples for a high-speed reel are Texas rigs, big worms, jigs, lipless crankbaits, jerk baits, and Carolina rigs.

Similarly, if you are using big swimbaits, slow-rolled spinnerbaits, or deep-diving crankbaits, then the low-speed spinning reel will prove to be more helpful. In these situations, slower retrieval of the line is what you need because you are fishing in the strike zone in most of these cases, and the low-speed spinning reel will allow the bait to go deeper in the water column.

You will be able to turn the reel at your own pace in a comfortable way. Moreover, once the fishing phase is over in these baits, your bait is mostly somewhere close to the boat. So, the lower gear ratio doesn’t delay your casting time that much.


If you take fishing seriously, it is essential that you judge your fishing style carefully and then choose a reel with an appropriate gear ratio. If the reel ratio you select is correct for you, you will spend much less time and effort on each cast.

In the beginning, it might be intimidating and confusing to choose a reel from the high-speed and low-speed ones that are available in the market today. But we hope this blog helped you in some way. So, when you purchase your next reel, try to remember this guide. The right choice will make fishing even more enjoyable for you!

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