Looking for a baitcaster on a budget? We tested and reviewed all the best baitcasting reels under $100 for this year. Find our top picks below along with an in-depth buying guide.
If you’re targeting heavier fish and need a durable reel, a baitcasting reel is a great choice. These reels sit parallel on the top of your baitcasting rod, giving you longer casts and better precision control than other reels. Fishing equipment can be pricey, but thankfully, there are many high-quality and affordable options out there.
What are the best baitcasting reels under $100? In this article, we’ll dig into ten reels and break down buying considerations like construction and line capacity, as well as good reels for beginners and what you can expect from inexpensive reels.
You know what baitcasting reels are, but what other types of reels are out there?
If you’re looking for the best baitcasting reel for the money, here are ten great options.
This baitcaster reel is the first in a series of tournament-ready bass fishing reels from KastKing. It’s got a great compact, low profile design with a small frame made from high-grade aluminum. We’re impressed by the 10 double-shielded, stainless-steel ball bearings and instant anti-reverse. The gears are brass, while the kick levers and main shaft are stainless steel. Stainless steel is corrosion-resistant, which means you can use the reel for saltwater baitcaster fishing.
Choose from a variety of gear ratios, each marked with its own color. KastKing offers gears in 5:3:1, 6:6:1, 7:3:1, and 8:1:1. The carbon drag system gives 17.6 pounds. Like many affordable baitcasting reels, the braking system is magnetic. There are five element magnetic brakes with 10 adjustments, so you can control backlash. When you need to get to the spool, just use the patented “Ergo Twist” release switch. It’s attached to the frame, so you can’t lose it. The reel is designed for both left and right-handers.
You might be skeptical of a reel around $50, but Abu Garcia is a great brand. In our opinion, this is the best baitcasting reel for the money. The value is impressive. It’s made of a one-piece graphite frame and side plates with little to no flex. The grips are comfortable and reliable, so if your hands get slippery, you won’t lose the reel. There are five ball bearings, which may seem low, but four are made from high-quality stainless steel. There’s one roller bearing.
The Power Disk drag system (18 pounds) and MagTrax magnetic braking system also do their jobs well. The spool is made from machined aluminum. The gear ratio is 6.4:1. If you’re just learning to use a baitcaster, the BMAX 3 Low Profile is a good choice. You can get very long casts and any adjustments are easy to make.
Our pick for the best premium reel under $100 is sleek and compact. It’s 22% more compact than the Caenan Baitcaster. Despite its small size, it’s still strong and has a 150 PowerPro line capacity. The body is Shimano’s signature HAGENE metal, so it’s rigid and resistant to impact. If you like fishing for bass, this reel is a great choice for techniques like drop shotting and deep cranking. It has a four-bearing system with one reverse bearing. You can expect a maxim of 12 pounds of drag. It has a magnetic Variable Brake Adjustment system with six pins, which is great for eliminating backlashes.
This is a very comfortable reel to use. There’s a convenient drag tension adjuster and spool tension knob you can adjust with one hand. To adjust the brake, there isn’t a tuning adjustment, so you do have to flick a switch and pop the cap off to push the pieces. The reel is available in both right and left-handed models. Choose a regular gear (6.3:1), high gear (7.2:1), or extra-high gear (8.2:1).
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This is a very lightweight reel, making it perfect for ultralight rods. It weighs just 5.7 ounces, but it maintains its strength thanks to a premium carbon fiber frame and side plates. The main and pinion gear are double-hard anodized aircraft-grade aluminum. There are six anti-corrosion stainless steel ball bearings and a clutch bearing. The carbon drag system, which has four disc carbon fiber drag washers, provides 17 pounds of stopping power.
The dual braking system is a combination of centrifugal and magnetic. It has six pins. For the gear ratio, you’ll get a fast 7.0:1. This is good for long distances and accurate casting. To get the heavy fish, there’s a 105mm extended carbon crank handle. Don’t be fooled by this reel’s lightness. It’s still got power.
Smooth casting is a high priority when shopping for a low cost baitcasting reel. This reel from Plueger offers that with nine corrosion-resistant ball bearings and one roller bearing. You’re also getting more power and control, so it’s a great choice for surf fishing. There are other features to like, such as the magnetic braking system. Adjustments are easy, which helps reduce the amount of backlash you experience. The 7.3:1 gear ratio gives you a fast return but isn’t ideal for very heavy fish. The reel is fairly light at almost 7-ounces, so it pairs well with a lighter rod.
Holding the reel is comfortable with the soft-touch rubber knob. It provides great grip, too. The handle is aircraft-grade aluminum, so the reel is very durable and should last a while. If you’re worried that smooth casting is tricky to find with cheap reels, the Pfleuger President is a great option.
Light and fast, this reel has high strength, precision-cut solid brass Speed Gears. It’s a redesign of the original Speed Spool, so you can expect increased performance. The one-piece die-cast aluminum frame is very rigid, while the 10-piece bearing system is also extremely durable. More ball bearings don’t necessarily mean better performance, but the bearings on this reel are double-shielded stainless steel. You can trust the quality. The gear system also has Zero Reverse.
The magnetic braking system is easily adjustable. Cast control is also very good. The Rulon drag system offers 10 pounds, while you get great traction with the combat-style thumb bar and grip. For better alignment and stability, there’s a new P2 Super Pinion. This reel is available in both right and left-handed models. Gear ratios are 5.6:1, 6.8:1, and 7.5:1.
This is a reel built to last. It features brass gears, which are corrosion resistant, a one-piece graphite frame, and graphite side plates. The reel handle and spool use double anodized aluminum, which keeps things strong but still light. There is a compact bent handle and star drag, as well as a recessed reel foot. In tough conditions, you’ll appreciate the high-density EVA handles. All this great construction results in comfort and smoothness.
What about the magnetic brakes and Power Disk drag system? The brake adjustment is on the outside, so it’s very easy to make quick adjustments. Made with synthetic washers, the drag system offers up to 18 pounds of drag pressure. If you fish often, you’ll find that this baitcaster is up to the task.
The Daiwa CC80 is described as an “entry-level” baitcasting reel, and because of its size and weight, it’s a great choice for young anglers. The low price also makes it appealing. This reel has a reduced frame-to-spool ratio and weighs just 6.9 ounces, so it’s comfortable to use for hours. The frame is made from carbon composite, while the spool 32mm spool is double anodized aluminum. There’s magnetic cast control, so you can try out different techniques in a variety of fishing conditions.
There are four ball bearings and one roller bearing. Reels are available in both left-handed and right-handed retrievals. You can expect 15 pounds of drag pressure, which is impressive for a reel this compact and light. This is a great choice for baitcasting beginners no matter their age, but we think it’s especially great for young people.
This is an all-around good reel for the price. It features a compact, ergonomic design that’s comfortable for long fishing days. The big EVA handle knobs add comfort, too. The frame is made from carbon fiber, so it weighs just 6.7 ounces. For durability, the main gear and crankshaft are aviation class aluminum. This material is lighter than brass.
The bearing system has nine double-shielded stainless steel ball bearings and one instant anti reverse bearing. The magnetic brakes are easy to adjust and control. Made from carbon fiber, the drag system offers an impressive 20 pounds, so this is a good reel for going after bigger fish. The CB8 comes in three gear ratios: 5.6:1, 6.6:1, and 7.3:1.
Offering smoothness and durability, this reel from KastKing is on the higher end of the 'under $100'-range. The frame is pure aluminum, so it’s strong and rigid, while still remaining lightweight at just 6.8 ounces. Thanks to aluminum alloy main gear and brass pinion gear, anglers get smooth, fast casts. This is a great reel for most bass fishing techniques. The handle, which is aluminum, has slip-resistant Super Polymer grips.
There are nine shielded stainless-steel ball bearings and an instant anti-reverse bearing. The magnetic braking system has eight magnets. The carbon disc drag system offers four discs and a large aluminum star drag knob. Expect up to 17.6 pounds of drag power.
If you’re willing to pay more than $100 for a reel, check out our article here on the best baitcasting reels of 2020.
If you aren’t sure about any of the ten reels we described and want to do more research, what buying considerations should you keep in mind? These features help you understand what makes a good quality reel and what you should prioritize:
There are two types of baitcaster reel profiles: low profile and round profile. Things like gear ratio and line capacity are impacted by the profile, so it’s important to understand their differences. Low profiles are very popular with bass anglers and have a very natural feel. Round profiles are best if you’re looking for a very low gear ratio and big line capacity. They’re great for big baits and pulling in heavy fish.
The construction of a reel includes the frame, ball bearings, and handle. Frames typically come in either graphite or aluminum. Graphite is a lightweight material common for low cost baitcaster reels. On the downside, it’s less sturdy than aluminum. Ball bearings are the other construction part to look at. Their purpose is to speed up the reel and ensure it works smoothly, so they’re very important. Many inexpensive reels boast about how many ball bearings they have, but if they aren’t well-made, the number doesn’t really matter. Be on the lookout for words like “shielded” or “double-shielded.” These are of high quality.
Most baitcast reels come with aluminum spools. The more affordable ones are made from die-cast aluminum. Unless you get a really cheap reel, most spools have holes drilled into them, so they’re lighter and easier to start/stop spinning. As for the handle, many anglers like oversized knobs, which you can find on a variety of affordable reels.
Speaking of spools, they come in different sizes. If you’re fishing for big, strong fish, that means you’ll need a heavier line. Heavy lines take up more space on the spool. Line capacity refers to the maximum length of line the reel’s spool can hold without overloading it.
If your fishing mostly consists of conventional techniques for freshwater species, line capacity most likely won’t be a big concern. If you’re fishing for big fish like salmon or fishing in deep water, though, you’ll want a reel with a big line capacity.
When choosing a fishing line, what do all anglers need to know? Here’s an article explaining fishing line characteristics, as well as the different types.
All reels have a gear ratio, which describes the reel’s speed. Common ratios include 5.4:1 and 6.4:1. The first set of numbers describe how many revolutions the spool makes per turn of the reel handle. The higher the number, the more line you pull in per turn. For most people, 6.4:1 is the best ratio.
It’s versatile and fast, so it works unless you’re wanting to use specific techniques and applications. When selecting the gear ratio, your bait matters. For diving crankbaits and big spinnerbaits, a slow gear ratio (4.1) is good. For soft plastics, jigs, and Texas jigs, go with 5.1. Fast-acting lures need a reel that’s at least 6.1.
The braking system of a baitcaster reel adjusts and slows down the spool’s rotation during a cast. Without a braking system, your spool keeps revolving after the lure has stopped, causing a tangle of fishing line. The spool tension knob lets you adjust the spool speed.
You’ll want to tighten the knob as your lures get heavier. Centrifugal brakes, which are friction-based, use pins on the inside of the reel’s side plate. Pushing the pins outward engages the brakes. Magnetic brakes, which are also adjustable, use magnets to slow down the spool.
A reel’s drag system exists to tire out the fish you catch. It provides steady resistance, so the fish has to work hard to swim away. When it gets tired, it will turn back toward you, allowing you to crank it in.
Baitcasting reels traditionally use a star drag. You’ll want to know how much drag the reel has before buying. The construction matters, too. Drag systems consist of washers and discs. Carbon fiber drag systems are common.
The heaviness of your reel impacts the kind of rod you can pair it with. Because many affordable baitcasters use graphite, they tend to be pretty lightweight. You’ll want to use these light reels with a lightweight rod so the balance is even. If the reel is too heavy for the rod, it’ll be harder to cast.
The price will always be a consideration when buying a baitcaster. If your budget is less than $100, we’ve shown that there are good baitcasting reels out there. You should consider the value and how often you fish. If you fish a lot, it’s worth buying a reel on the higher end of your budget if it offers you better durability, smoothness, and other essentials.
Reels are not the kind of product where a higher price means they’ve just added unnecessary perks. Higher price nearly always means better quality materials and construction. If you don’t fish that often, an easy to use, cheap reel on the lower end will probably work out well.
You might be concerned about the quality of a budget-friendly reel. While in years past, it might have been challenging to find a good reel for cheap, technology and manufacturing processes have improved significantly.
It’s now much easier to find a quality reel that doesn’t cost hundreds of dollars. The first thing you should look at is the brand. If a cheap reel is coming from an obscure brand, it’s probably not going to be great.
Affordable reels from well-known brands like Abu Garcia and KastKing, however, are going to be good. To get an idea beyond the official description, check out baitcasting reel reviews from different websites and blogs.
Baitcasting reels are often used by experienced anglers, but that doesn’t mean a beginner can’t use one. As you learn to use heavier lines and lures, you’ll need an easy-to-use reel. Any of the ones on our top 10 are good choices because of their budget-friendly price range.
Look for a reel with a medium-fast gear ratio, like a 6:3:1 or 6:4:1. Low profile reels, which are the most common, are easy to use. For the braking system, magnetic braking systems are great for beginners.
The Pflueger President XT Low Profile, which we picked as the smoothest reel, is a good option if you’re just starting. It’s got a magnetic braking system, one roller bearing, and a long cast. The Daiwa CC80 is also a nice choice, especially for young anglers, thanks to how smooth and lightweight it is.
Monofilament line (abbreviated as mono) is known for its stretchiness. It’s easier to cast more accurately and with more control. If you do get a tangle in the line, mono is not difficult to unknot.
Mono is also the cheapest kind of fishing line. While we think mono is best for baitcasters, especially beginners, braided line does have some advantages. It’s much stronger than mono line and thinner, which means you can fit more line on your spool. Braid is also less stretchy, so you get much more sensitivity.
There’s also fluorocarbon line, but it isn’t the best choice for baitcasters, at least for your main line. Lighter fluorocarbon works better than heavy fluoro, but neither one seems to be better than mono or braid. Heavy fluorocarbon is hard to cast very far and often gets tangled.
Fluorocarbon is also the most expensive type of line. You’ll see a lot of anglers swearing by one fishing line or another, so start with monofilament and see if you like it. If not, you can try something new.
Baitcasting is all about getting longer, more accurate casts than casts with spinning reels. How much distance are we talking about? While baitcasters take some practice, extending your range by 10-15 yards is not too hard.
If you’re more experienced and you have a good reel, casts as far as 50-60 yards are possible. Distance depends on a number of factors and not just your reel. A longer rod makes longer casts easier. Using a thinner line also increases your distance, though depending on the weight of your lure, you’ll need a heavier line.
You can also get a longer cast by stepping into it. If you oil your reel, use only a small amount, or the reel can get sticky. With practice and the right tuning, you can significantly increase your casts.
So there we have it - the 10 best baitcasting reels under $100 for this year.
Baitcasters take a bit of practice to get used to, but they have benefits over spinning reels. The most notable is that baitcasters let you use heavier fishing line, which is necessary for certain types of bait and techniques.
You also get better line control and more accurate casts! In this article, we went through the best baitcasting reels under $100, showing that you can get good baitcasting reels on a budget. Whether you’re looking for an entry-level baitcaster, a very light baitcaster, or the best overall baitcaster at this price point, there are reels out there.
When shopping for a baitcasting reel, thinking about buying considerations will help you choose the right reel. Consider factors like the reel’s construction, the gear ratio options, the braking system, and the drag.
What kind of rod are you using? What conditions will you be fishing in? There are lots of great reels out there, but they won’t all be the right fit. For under $100, there will also be reels that aren’t well-made, but knowing what to look for and sticking to well-known brands ensures good quality!