What Does Gear Ratio Mean On A Fishing Reel

Disclosure: As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. more info

To be a good fisherman, not only do you need the right gear, but you need to know what it does too, the ins and outs of it. Today we are here to talk about what does gear ratio mean on a fishing reel.

If you do not know what the gear ratio is or what it does, you are about to find out. After today, you should be an expert on fishing reels and what this gear ration is all about.

The short answer is gear ratio means how many times the spool is spinning per full turn of the handle of the fishing spinning reel. Keep reading to find out more details on the different types of ratios and what works best for each style of fishing.


What Is The Gear Ratio On A Fishing Reel?

Perhaps one of the most important parts of any fishing reel, whether a baitcaster or a spinning reel, is the gears. The gears of a fishing reel connect the handle or crank with the spool of fishing line. When you spin the crank, the gears turn, thus spinning the spool.

The gears which connect the two determine who much the spool moves with every revolution of the crank. You have probably seen fishing reels advertised with a certain gear ratio, which could be 4:1. 5:1. 6.4:1, 7.1:1, lower, higher, or more or less anything in between.

Different fishing reels, especially baitcasting reels and spinning reels, have different gear ratios, thus making them ideal for different purposes. To be clear, the first number there, the one before the “:”, stands for the amount of times the spool will spin with each full revolution of the crank. The second number, the one after the “:”, stands for each manual revolution of the crank.

An Example..

Therefore, as an example, if your fishing reel has a gear ratio of 7.1:1, it means that for each time you fully spin the handle, the spool of line will turn 7.1 times. In other words, the higher the gear ratio of the reel in question, the less times you will have to turn the crank to achieve the same rate of retrieval as a reel with a lower gear ratio.

For example, a reel with a 5:1 gear ratio will pull in roughly 20 inches of line for each revolution of the crank, whereas a reel with a 7:1 gear ratio will retrieve around 30 inches of line for each revolution of the crank. Now, you might think that a higher gear ratio is always better, but this is not always the case, so let us explain in a little more detail right now.

Why Use A Fishing Reel With A Low Gear Ratio

Now, like we just said, having a fishing reel with a very high gear ratio is not always ideal. There are times when you want to use a fishing reel that has a fairly low gear ratio. For the purposes here, a low gear ratio would be anything between 5:1 to 5.4:1. Yes, there are indeed times where a lower gear ratio will most likely prove to be beneficial to your end game.

For instance, big baits and heavy baits are the prime candidates to be used with a low gear ratio Fishing reel. More or less, really big and heavy baits, as well as ones used in deep water fishing will work the best with a low gear ratio. The reason here, for one, is because big and heavy baits have a lot of water resistance.

Therefore, the faster you reel them in, the more pressure they put on the line, which can of course be a bad thing and cause the line to snap. Thus, using a lower gear ratio will help slow down the speed at which you retrieve them because it takes some pressure off of the line.

Furthermore, big baits that roll, ones such as swimbaits and spinnerbaits, also do not require a very high gear ratio to function properly. These baits that spin, sure, they need to spin, but not too quickly or else you will confuse fish and scare them away. A reel with a lower gear ratio will do just fine at reeling these baits in without making them spin way too fast.

A slow gear ratio is also ideal when you are hunting for fish that do not move very fast. If you use a reel with a gear ratio that is too high, slow moving fish might not go for the bait. Allowing your bait to stay in the so called strike zone for a prolonged period of time is a big advantage that comes with using a low gear ratio fishing reel.

Fishing that does not require much in terms of quick movements and jerky actions, such as with jigging, are all ideal candidates for low gear ratio fishing reels. Just to recap, large swimbaits, deep water spinnerbaits, and deep water crankbaits are all good baits to use with this kind of gear ratio.

Why Use A Fishing Reel With A High Gear Ratio

Of course, sometimes you need a lot of power and a high gear ratio. For the purposes of this article today, a high gear ratio is anything from 7:1 to 8.1:1. Generally speaking, you usually will not find fishing reels with gear ratios over 8.1:1, but it is definitely possible, but rare. At any rate, this is the kind of gear ratio that is ideal for quick movements, jerky actions, and precise control over how much tension is on the line.

Because a high gear ratio fishing reel pulls in a lot more line per revolution than a low gear ratio reel, quickly hooking a fish is much easier done with a high gear ratio reel. It allows you to quickly embed the hook into the mouth of the fish and it allows you to execute quick and precise movements of the line.

Getting a very quick hook set, quickly reeling in fish, and having precise control are all benefits that you get with high gear ratio spinning reels. It also means that you can quickly retrieve your line and cast it again, much faster than you could with a low gear ratio.

Baits For High Gear Ratio Reel

In terms of what kinds of baits are best used for a high gear ratio spinning reel, there are quite a few. Generally speaking, most kinds of smaller baits, ones used in waters that are not too deep, and ones that require quick action and precise control are all ideally used with high gear ratio fishing reels.

For instance, some of the types of bait best used here include top water baits, Texas rigs, Shaky heads, jigs, big worms, jerkbaits, lipless crankbaits, Carolina rigs, and a couple of others too. This is a high speed option meant for quick reeling, quick recasting, fast fish, and a multitude of bait types.

A Quick Word On Reels With Medium Gear Ratios

Now, fishing reels with medium gear ratios can be good for some things. However, what most people would agree on is that you should go for either a higher or lower gear ratio. Medium gear ratio fishing reels are kind of like all-season tires.

They do fine in every situation, but they do not excel at anything at all. To be clear, when we are talking about a medium gear ratio, we are talking about anything between 6:1 and 6.4:1.

Yes, this kind of gear ratio comes with some of the benefits of high and low gear ratio reels, but also comes with their drawbacks. This is a good option to go with for beginners who do not really know what they are doing and who will be using the same rod for many purposes.

Ideally, if you know what fish you are going for, the bait you will be using, and the conditions you will be fishing in, you are best off going with a high or low gear ratio. A medium gear ratio fishing reel is fine, but that is it, it is just fine.


There you have it, more or less everything you need to know about gear ratios in relation to fishing reels. Remember folks, different gear ratios excel at different things, so be sure to get this right before you decide on which kind of fish you want to go for, as well as the type of bait you will be using. Having a fishing reel with the right gear ratio can make all of the difference between a super boring day and one that ends with more fish on the BBQ than you can handle.

Jason Downs

I created Fishtackly to share my 30 years of fishing experience and knowledge with others with the aim to help, and hopefully get more people involved and educated in this fantastic hobby that I love.

Add comment