Making Sense of Gear Ratios | Here's What You Really Need to Know About Your Reel

Over the past few years, fishing reel manufacturers have felt the need for speed and now offer blazing fast retrieves. They have also incorporated more choices that range from slow to mid-range to fast and ultra-fast. It can be somewhat confusing to decide which to use for each situation and Bassmaster Elite Series pros Brandon Card and Josh Bertrand are here to help. They shared which retrieves they use for different techniques and more importantly why they choose them.


One of the fastest reels on the market, the Abu Garcia Revo Rocket clocks in at 9.0:1. Card says the speedy reel helps him in two specific situations.

“When I am flipping and pitching I can get it back quickly and make another pitch. Over the course of the day that leads to many more presentations,” he says.

The other time Card uses this reel is for throwing a frog. While many anglers opt for something with a slow gear ratio and more cranking power to get fish out of cover, Card likes it fast.

“The biggest thing is I can get it back very quickly if a fish blows up and misses the bait. I can make another cast with the frog or grab a rod that is rigged with a follow-up bait to throw,” he shares.

Bertrand looks at it slightly different and prefers the Rocket for football jigs and Carolina-rigs. “

For one, you can catch up on a fish quickly to set the hook when they are far away. I can also get it back in really quickly and those five seconds at a time all add up,” he says.

The Rocket is also available in a spinning model that is much faster than a standard spinning reel (7.0:1) and Card says it is great to have when vertically fishing with a drop-shot.

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“During the summer, every fish wants to come up quick from deep water to jump and you need a fast reel to catch up to them and stay in control.”


By most angler's standards, anything over a 7.0:1 gear ratio is considered fast. Abu Garcia and other manufacturer’s have several in the 7’s and also in the 8’s when it comes to gear ratios. 

Bertrand is a big fan of the 8.0:1 STX. “It is very versatile and I would say this is my go-to fast reel. I use it for all of my shallow water stuff from swim jigs to flipping, pitching, and topwaters,” he says.

For the 8.0:1 gear ratio, Card likes to use an Abu Garcia Revo MGX for his topwaters and an STX for spinnerbaits.

“The lighter MGX is just more comfortable all day working a topwater,” he says. “I also like an 8.0:1 STX for all of my bottom techniques like jigs and worms that I am using fluorocarbon for.”

6’s and 7’s

Just about every reel on the market comes in a gear ratio in this range and sometimes there are multiple to choose from. Bertrand thinks a 7.3:1 is the perfect all-around gear ratio.

If someone was going to just get one reel speed this would be it. It is a reel speed that can really work for just about everything,” he says.

While many like to crank with slow retrieves, a 6.6:1 and 7.3:1 Revo STX are Card’s favorites for cranking. “I burn a squarebill a lot and for that I’ll use the 7.3:1. It’s also a great choice for ChatterBaits and swimbaits,” he shares.

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Slow Retrieves

The sub-6.0:1 gear ratios are best for deep cranking and when torque is needed. The Revo Winch is a 5.4:1 gear ratio and is both Card and Bertrand’s pick for big crankbaits.

“Any time you are really deep with a big plug you need to have that power. It is also a must if you are long-lining and have tons of line out,” says Card.

Bertrand echoed those words.

“When you are using a crankbait that dives 15-feet or more it is almost impossible to use anything faster or you will wear yourself out. The only exception is some deep crankbaits like the Berkley Dredger that do not pull as hard,” he says.

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Real World Scenario

If you are starting to get overload from all of the different gear ratios available, here is a great real-world scenario that shows how you can mix up your speeds to catch more fish.

“When I am fishing offshore and cranking around schools of bass I have multiple reels ready and make sure they are different speeds,” says Card. “Even if you are using the same exact crankbait you can change the look by just using a different reel. The fish get conditioned to seeing the same bait at the same speed cast over and over and you can get more bites by mixing it up.”

Bertrand has a similar approach and says, “There are times when you want a faster reel to crank very fast to trigger pressured and bass that are not very aggressive.”

Both Bertrand and Card have a place for each of the many gear ratios available in today’s reels. They see each of them as tools for a specific job and have learned that how fast your reel can translate into better lure presentations.