Fishing Reel Gear Ratios Explained

If you’ve ever shopped online for a fishing reel, you’ve likely come across a product description for a specific model you’re interested in. That description contained a reference to the model’s gear ratio. A specification expressed using three numbers. For instance, 7.0:1, and 6.3:1, are examples of fishing reel gear ratios. One of our goals at Live to Fish, is helping you understand anything and everything about fishing, the gear, tactics, etc. After reading what follows, you’ll never wonder what those figures mean again. When you turn the handle on a fishing reel, you’re engaging gears inside the reel. Those internal gears are what turn the spool. As you know, the spool of a fishing reel refers to the part of the reel that holds your fishing line. Understanding what those numbers mean is easy.  The number before the colon denotes the rotations the spool makes per one complete turn of the reel’s handle. So, a 6.3:1 ratio means the spool revolves 6.3 times with each (1) handle turn. Larger numbers in the first section means that more line is retrieved each time you turn the reel handle because the spool is turning that much faster. See how easy that was?  That’s another thing you’ll come to know about us – we’ll always give you the advice and information you need straight up. As you know, there are spinning reels and casting reels.  Other terms for casting reels are conventional reels and bait casting reels.   Whether you’re shopping for a spinning reel or a casting / conventional reel, the gear ratio explained above will always be expressed in the same manner and have the same meaning.

Technically Speaking
For those who would like more technical specificity in understanding fishing reel gear ratios, this next paragraph is for you. Turning the handle on a fishing reel engages a flat, circular shaped spur gear. This spur gear is located on the internal shaft of the handle. Teeth on the spur gear are precisely machined to interact with a smaller gear that resides on the center shaft of the reel spool. In most reels this is called a helical gear.  This helical gear is shaped like a small barrel. Turning the handle engages these gears which rotate together and turn your spool. How smooth your reel feels when turning the handle is largely a result of how finely these gears match up inside your reel. Some other factors that contribute to the smooth feel and durability are how exact the specifications and tolerances are between these gears, and what type of metal the gears are made of. When you cast a bait casting reel, your spool is spinning freely. The spool’s ability to spin freely is the result of the disengagement of the gears. When casting a bait casting reel, you push down on the thumb bar; also, called the spool release button. With the thumb bar down, the gears are disengaged and you’re able to cast. When you turn the handle after making your cast, you hear the same click encountered when you first pushed the thumb bar down. That audible, “click,” is the sound of the gears re-engaging. For a spinning reel, casts are possible when you flip the bail wire over. That allows your line to flow freely off the spool. The spool itself doesn’t spin like it does on a bait casting reel when you cast.  For anyone who has used both kinds of reels, you know that without the spool spinning on a spinning reel during the cast, you don’t end up with the dreaded, “backlash,” “bird’s nest,” or, “professional overrun.” The foregoing are all terms used to describe the tangle of line that ends up on your spool when a cast goes awry with a bait casting reel.

Low Gear Ratio Reels vs. High Gear Ratio Reels
The lower the gear ration, the more torque the reel provides. However, the downside is less line is recovered with each turn of the handle. The higher the gear ratio, the more line you’ll recover with turn of the handle; but the disadvantage is often a loss in power necessary to subdue large fish. Determining the proper gear ratio is done by considering the species you’re after and the fight you expect to encounter. Just like a golfer doesn’t take to the golf course with just one club, most experienced fisherman don’t head out to go fishing with just one rod and reel combo. A selection of rod and reel combinations accompany fisherman serious about getting as many fish on the line as possible. The selection contains rods capable of handling different size lures or baits and reels with varying gear ratios and line capacities. Certain lures are better fished with a lower gear ratio. Big crank baits that swim deep benefit from the additional torque. More torque from a lower gear ratio means that reeling this lures in requires less effort; as does fighting the fish you hook up with. Another scenario that favors low gear ratios is when fishing in cold weather with low water temperatures. In Florida, when the water temperature is in the 70’s; and certainly below, baits and lures need to be fished more slowly. A slow retrieve matches the generally lethargic behavior exhibited by fish in colder conditions. Working your lure too fast in cold water yanks the lure out of the water column that would encompass the strike zone. The strike zone in colder water is smaller than in warmer temperatures. Moreover, fish are less willing to travel to feed. A slow retrieve and accompanying presentation will result in more strikes.

Pairing Gear Ratios with Lure Types
If using fishing reels with a high gear ratio, you can gobble up more line with each turn of the handle. High gear ratio reels are also called, “high-speed,” reels as a reference to how many revolutions the spool makes. For example, the Abu Garcia Revo Rocket has a gear ratio of 9.0:1. The result is a recovery of 36.5” inches of line per turn. Examples of a high gear ratio are those above 7.1:1. Types of fishing best done with a high gear ratio reel involve fishing with jigs, large jerk baits, large worms, Texas and Carolina rigs, top-water lures, and any lipless crankbaits. In summary, you’ll benefit from a high-speed reel any time you’re fishing a lure that requires you to use your rod to achieve the desired action.  Fishing the types of lures mentioned above creates slack in your line. Especially when working a top-water lure. Slack line can cause problems when a fish strikes. Without tension on the line, you either won’t notice the bite or you won’t be able to properly set the hook. Lastly, if fishing an area exhibiting numerous means through which the fish could break free, a high-speed retrieve is beneficial. Such areas would be docks, bridges, mangrove shorelines, and weeds or lily pads.  Getting the fish away from structure in a hurry increases your chances of landing the fish rather than losing both the fish and your lure in the process.

When you get into fishing offshore, on reefs or other deep-water structures, the definition of high-speed changes based on the different dimensions of the reels. Bigger, heavier, fish tend to live in deeper water. Bigger, heavier, fishing gear is used to bring these fish up from the depths, or otherwise counter their power. Fishing gear rated for offshore use will have the necessary combination of both speed and power. Some offshore gamefish reels have spools that when filled to capacity with line, boast a circumference measuring approximately 8” inches. The recovery rate when reeling in is a whopping of 4’ feet, or 1.33 yards of line with each turn of the handle. Blue Marlin, Sailfish, Bluefin Tuna, Yellowfin Tuna, and Dorado are some examples of popular off-shore gamefish species. Stories of a large Blue Marlin making a run towards the boat are not unheard of. The ability to quickly recover line and take up slack is critical.  One of the reasons large fish are lost is due to a suddenly slack line. The slack line means the tension on the hook is lost; causing loss of the fish.

We’ve Got What You’re Looking For
Our fishing tackle at Live to Fish contains conventional fishing combinations suitable for offshore fishing. In addition, you’ll find rods and reels suited for pursuing inshore gamefish and freshwater species. We want you to have the right gear for whatever you’re after, so we’re happy to answer any questions you may have. Don’t hesitate to contact us if you have questions about the appropriate gear, or any of the items we sell.

By: Josh Stewart

 

 

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