Best Crankbait Reels Reviewed: When Slower is Better!

Written by: John Baltes
Last Updated:
We may earn a commission from products listed on this page.

Take a look at new baitcasting reels these days, and you'll see that high speed is all the rage. 

That’s great if you’re working a worm all day and need to pick it up quickly to cast again. But for crankbaits, slower is better - and slow, high-torque reels are in relatively short supply.

Here at USAngler, we love crankbaits - and I bet you do, too.

But to get the most from them, especially deep-divers, they need to be worked slowly, demanding reels that have gear ratios in the neighborhood of 5:1, if you can find them. Barring that, you’re looking for retrieval rates around 22 inches per turn, far slower than the majority of baitcasters you’ll find for sale.

If you’re in the market for a dedicated crankbait reel, we’re here to help.

Below, you’ll find reviews of some of the best crankbait reels on the market, as well as a complete buying guide to get you up to speed on what to look for:

Related:

Best Crankbait Reel Reviewed

KastKing Kapstan Elite - Best Crankbait Reel for Inshore Fishing

KastKing Kapstan Elite Baitcasting Fishing Reel,Size 300,Right Handed Reel

Amazon 

Maximum drag: 35 lbs.
Gear ratio: 5.4:1 (26” per turn)
Capacity: 14/230 (mono); 60/230 (braid)
Weight: 10.8 oz.
Bearings: 8+1

KastKing was once known for affordable, effective reels, but as their experience has grown, so too has their ability to compete with the big names. The Kapstan Elite was designed around the needs of anglers chasing big fish like steelhead, salmon, stripers, snook, and redfish, and from a gargantuan spool to a monster drag, it’s fight-ready!

Dedicated crankbait reels need slow, high-torque gearing, and you just can’t get that from plastic or aluminum. KastKing is well aware of that, and supplies the Kapstan Elite with a solid brass main and pinion gear.

You can really feel that when you give the Kapstan Elite a crank or two.

KastKing chose a 5.4:1 gear ratio for this reel, which in conjunction with the spool, delivers 26 inches per turn of the handle. That’s a great retrieve for crankbaits, and your deep divers won’t be ripped to the surface when you start to work them. Instead, they’ll stay down deep where they belong.

It’s just as effective with mid-depth and shallow crankbaits, as well, and you can feel the torque these gears deliver as they translate into very nice feel and low-effort retrieving.

The Kapstan Elite casts well, relying on a centrifugal braking system that’s easy to adjust for different weights.

KastKing uses a triple-disc carbon fiber drag system to deliver an incredible 35 pounds of maximum drag. It releases with smooth consistency, and while I wouldn’t recommend dialing it all the way up, when you tie into a big steelhead or massive snook, you’ll be happy with what it does to cushion your 60-pound braid.

As you’d expect on a reel designed for inshore fishing, its spool is simply huge. This 300-size baitcaster can hold 230 yards of 60-pound Sufix 832 or PowerPro, and you’ll want that capacity for hard flights and cutting and retying when necessary.

Overall, if you’re looking for a crankbait reel for inshore fishing, the KastKing Kapstan Elite is a very hard reel to beat.

Pros:

  • Designed around the needs of inshore fishing
  • Solid brass gears
  • Slow retrieve that’s perfect for crankbaits
  • Lots of torque
  • Excellent drag
  • Huge spool

Cons:

  • Even with the graphite body, this is a big, heavy reel.

Abu Garcia REVO Winch - Best Dedicated Crankbait Reel for Bass Fishing

Abu Garcia Revo Winch Low Profile Baitcast Reel, Size LP (1430443), 8 Stainless Steel Ball Bearings + 1 DuraClutch Roller Bearing, Strong and Lightweight

Amazon 

Maximum drag: 24 lbs.
Gear ratio: 5.4:1 (22” per turn)
Capacity: 235/20, 180/30, 125/50 (braid)
Weight: ?
Bearings: 8+1

Among crankbait fanatics, Abu Garcia’s Revo Winch gets a lot of love. A close look reveals why, and it’s clear that this Abu is almost in a class of its own. 

Abu Garcia’s Revo Winch cranks like its namesake: slowly, but with unstoppable power. Its solid-brass, precision-machined gears mesh perfectly, delivering smooth torque like nothing else.

Geared for a 5.4:1 ratio, in concert with its spool, the Revo Winch picks up just 22 inches of line per turn, making it the slowest reel on our shortlist. For deep divers, it’s just magic, keeping them deep and allowing you to hit the bottom and strike rocks, stumps, logs, and other cover way down in the water column.

Its torque delivery is second to none, and you can really feel the pull those gears provide.

Abu supplies the Revo Winch with an excellent carbon fiber drag system capable of 24 pounds of maximum pressure. That allows anglers to run heavy braid as main line, and in combination with the torque it delivers, you can literally winch big bass out of the depths and away from cover.

The clutch bearing in the Revo Winch allows for hard, instantaneous hooksets, too.

Its capacity is excellent with braid, and 235 yards of 20-pound line is plenty for anyone.

If you’re a crankbait fanatic, the Abu Garcia Revo Winch may be the best dedicated crankbait reel money can buy.

Pros:

  • Designed around crankbaits
  • Solid-brass, precision-cut gears
  • Very slow retrieve that’s perfect for deep divers
  • Lots of torque
  • Excellent drag
  • Great capacity

Cons:

  • ???

Daiwa Tatula 150P

Daiwa, Tatula Casting Reel, 150, 5.4:1 Gear Ratio, 7BB, 1RB Bearings, 23.60' Retrieve, Right Hand

Amazon 

Maximum drag: 13.2 lbs.
Gear ratio: 5.4:1 (23.3” per turn)
Capacity: 30/140, 40/105 (braid)
Weight: 7.9 oz.
Bearings: 7+1

Daiwa delivers awesome reels with cutting-edge tech, and though they have models that will burn a worm back to your boat or sizzle a buzzbait down a bank, they know that dedicated crankbait reels need slow gearing and massive torque.

The Daiwa Tatula 150P is offered in a 5.4:1 gear ratio, delivering 23.3 inches per turn on the crank. That’s an excellent retrieval rate for crankbaits, and it’ll definitely keep deep divers running in the depths.

Daiwa runs a brass main gear in the Tatula series, but the pinion gear is made from another material, as far as we can tell. Personally, I think the Abu Garcia Revo Winch is smoother, and I think it delivers a more solid, torque-y feel.

That’s not to say that the Tatula 150P can’t deliver the goods - it can and does.

Daiwa equips the Tatula 150P with a smooth, consistent drag system that delivers 13.2 pounds at its maximum setting. This allows you to run 20-pound braid without a sweat, though here, too, I think the Revo Winch takes the top place.

The 150P offers plenty of capacity, though I think the drag can’t support the 30- and 40-pound braid Daiwa uses as its standard. With more sensible tests, you’ll have more than enough line.

One place where Daiwa really shines is the T-wing level wind used on this reel. It lays line back on the spool really well, enabling great casting. You can count me as impressed. And in conjunction with an effective braking system, the Tatula 150P is definitely a reel to be reckoned with.

Pros:

  • Designed around crankbaits
  • Solid-brass main gear
  • Slow retrieve that’s perfect for deep divers
  • Lots of torque
  • Very good drag
  • Great capacity

Cons:

  • The pinion gear isn’t brass, and you can feel the difference when compared to the Abu Garcia Revo Winch
  • The drag system, while good, can’t match the Abu Garcia or Shimano

Shimano Curado DC

SHIMANO Baitcasting CURADO DC

Amazon 

Maximum drag: 11 lbs.
Gear ratio: 6.2:1 (26” per turn)
Capacity: 20/150, 30/135, 40/105 (braid)
Weight: 7.8 oz.
Bearings: 6+1

In many ways, Shimano sets the standard by which all other reels are judged, and they’re well known for exceptionally smooth, reliable performance.

Shimano doesn’t have a dedicated crankbait reel in its lineup, but the Curado DC can work in that role. Running a gear ratio of 6.2:1, and retrieving just 26 inches of line per turn of the crank, it’s a bit faster than the Daiwa and quite a bit quicker than the Abu Garcia. It’s still slow enough for crankbaits, but it probably wouldn’t be my first choice for really deep divers.

That said, just a slightly slower cadence will easily match the speeds of these slower reels, and if you’re a big fan of Shimano - and many anglers are - it’s good to know there’s an option out there for crankbaits.

And there are a lot of reasons to love the Curado DC.

Shimano equips the Curado DC with precision-machined Micro Module gears. Sporting tiny teeth, they mesh perfectly, offering unrivaled smoothness and plenty of torque. Of course, they’re made from solid brass, and it’s hard to find a reel that spins as smoothly as the Curado.

Casting is simply excellent with this reel as Shimano has done everything technologically possible to enhance it. That includes smoothing the performance of the pinion gear and adding a chip-assisted smart braking system that measures the spool as it spins and adjusts braking automatically.

That’s simply awesome, and no one else comes close to this tech.

And Shimano’s cross-carbon drag system is legendary for its smoothness. It’s simply amazing, as you probably already know. Offering an 11-pound maximum, you probably can’t run braid heavier than 30-pound test, no matter what Shimano says about capacity - you just won’t have enough drag to make 40-pound test work as it should. Even 30-pound braid is pushing it, requiring that you dial the drag to near maximum.

If you’re a fan of Shimano, and nearly everyone is, the Curado DC is a great reel for fishing crankbaits. And while in some senses it outperforms the Abu Garcia Revo Winch, the more powerful drag, higher torque, and slower speed of the AG win me over.

Pros:

  • An excellent general-purpose reel that works well with crankbaits
  • Solid-brass main gear that’s as smooth as they come
  • Relatively slow retrieve
  • Plenty of torque
  • Excellent drag

Cons:

  • The gear ratio is a bit fast for deep divers
  • The maximum drag limits you to 20- to 30-pound braid

Lew's BB1 Pro Speed Spool

Lew's BB1 Pro Speed Spool

Bass Pro

Maximum drag: 20 lbs.
Gear ratio: 6.2:1 (25” per turn)
Capacity: 50/160 (braid)
Weight: 6.7 oz.
Bearings: 10

Don’t let the “Speed Spool” name on this reel scare you off - Lew’s BB1 is a great workhorse baitcaster with slow enough gearing to effective fish crankbaits.

In my opinion, Lews doesn’t quite match the high-end performance of Abu Garcia, Shimano, and Daiwa, but that doesn’t mean that its reels aren’t good buys. 

To explain what I mean, let’s take a closer look.

Lews skips solid brass gearing, opting instead for anodized aluminum. That cuts down weight, prevents corrosion, and results in arguably harder and stronger gears. But aluminum gears aren’t self-lubricating in the way that leaded brass is, and over time, you’ll notice the difference. 

Simply put, stronger and lighter aren’t always better.

Built with a gear ratio of 6.2:1, these gears and the spool generate 25 inches of retrieve per turn. That’s only a few inches faster than the Revo Winch, and easy enough to compensate for, just as with the Shimano.

And while probably not ideal for deep-diving crankbaits, slowing your cadence will work pretty well. 

As well as the Revo Winch?

Probably not.

Lew’s delivers an excellent centrifugal braking system that’s easy to adjust and works well across a wide variety of weights, often without the need for fiddling with it at all. The pinion gear and spool spin really smoothly, and casting distance is exceptional.

The carbon fiber drag system on the Pro Speed School is well executed, delivering 20 pounds of maximum tension. This allows you to run heavy braid without any problems, up to about 40-pound test should you wish.

But at roughly the same price point as the Abu Garcia, it’s hard to choose this all-arounder as a dedicated crankbait reel instead.

Pros:

  • An excellent general-purpose reel that works well with crankbaits
  • Anodized aluminum gears reduce weight and increase strength
  • Relatively slow retrieve
  • Plenty of torque
  • Excellent drag

Cons:

  • The gear ratio is a bit fast for deep divers
  • Over time, anodized aluminum gears will not feel as smooth as precision-cut brass

Buying Guide: What You Should Look for in a Dedicated Crankbait Reel

Crankbait reels are a breed apart, and what makes them tick isn’t what’s marketed to bass anglers.

Gear ratio and speed

Texas and Carolina rigs are undeniably popular - as well they should be. Simply deadly techniques to present soft plastics of all kinds, they’re murder on bass and a staple on the tournament trail.

Reels designed around the needs of worm anglers need high gear ratios and blazing speed for two reasons.

First, you’ll spend a lot of time retrieving worms to re-cast. Every second lost in the retrieve counts against the tournament clock, so you want a reel that can pick that rig up right now.

Second, when you’re pitching or flipping a Texas-rigged creature into heavy cover, you need a reel that can outpace a big fish running straight at your boat. And to keep your line tight - and to keep that hook where it should be - you need your reel to be blazing fast.

By contrast, if you work a crankbait with a fast reel, it will tend to pull it toward the surface, even when it has a huge bill to drive it deep. At 30 inches per turn, deep divers are simply going to run shallow, and shallow runners are going to become topwater lures.

Instead, dedicated crankbait rods need to be slow.

Gear ratio describes the relationship between the crank and the spool, telling you how many revolutions of the spool one turn of the crank creates. Thus, a gear ratio of 5:1 means that one turn of the crank spins the spool five times.

But gear ratios alone don’t determine a reel’s speed.

The size of the spool matters, too.

Two reels with equal gear ratios might have very different size spools. And though both of those spools might spin at exactly the same rate, the larger of the two will retrieve more line.

That’s why it’s important to look at both gear ratio and actual retrieve numbers expressed as inches per turn (IPT).

Ideal crankbait reels are picking up about 22 inches per turn, with 25 inches per turn being about as fast as you want for deep-diving performance.

Torque

Torque is a measure of the power of a rotational force.

A reel with more torque can pull harder, and torque-y gears deliver more force at the line with less effort at the crank.

All other things being equal, slower gears deliver greater torque; faster gears deliver less torque.

Now it used to be the case that fast reels just couldn’t deliver much torque at all, but as tech has improved, so has the torque delivery of high gear ratios.

But that said, slower ratios - especially when they’re driving precision-machined, solid-brass gears, really deliver more torque.

That matters in two situations.

First, when you’re running a big crankbait, the water resistance created by its wobble is considerable. And that constant stress on the gears matters over time. Torque-y, brass gears in a low gear ratio can handle that stress season after season with little to no wear.

That’s not as true of anodized aluminum, despite it being very hard and wear-resistant.

If you don’t believe me, ask a reel tech; they’ll tell you the same story.

Second, bass anglers running heavy braid have a bad habit of using the reel, rather than the rod, to fight fish. They’ll crank away, demanding that the gears get the job done more or less on their own.

More torque - and tougher gears - really pay off over time.

Smoothness

Smoothness is a big deal, and from excessive vibration to rough - even locking - gears, you want smooth cranking every time you hit the water.

Manufacturers can deliver that performance by paying close attention to details. 

For instance, precision-machining rather than casting, increasing the number and decreasing the size of teeth, stabilizing the pinion gear, and using higher-quality bearings all increase the smoothness of cranking and casting.

But these improvements add up to higher costs, and it’s simply a matter of math. Typically, you pay more for a smoother reel.

Drag

A good drag system is essential, and without one, nothing else matters.

The smoothest, longest-casting, torquiest reel ever with a weak or ineffective drag is worthless.

Your drag acts to cushion your line, offering much-needed protection for sudden shocks. And when a monster bass or steelhead decides to make a run for it, you’re going to want a good drag system that can keep it in check.

The drag also limits the test strength of the line you can use. Typically, you want your drag set for roughly ⅓ of your line’s strength, and you don’t want to crank your drag down all the way unless you can help it.

It’s easy to figure out what the maximum test you can use is by looking at the drag’s maximum tension. 

Casting

Crankbait reels need to be capable of casting a country mile. 

Ideal for covering lots of water, and at their best in long, deflected runs, crankbaits demand reels that have slick-turning spools and excellent braking systems.

A Word About Braid

Braid is stronger, diameter to diameter, than mono or fluorocarbon. It also stretches much less, offering better hooksets with single-hooked presentations like worms. And if that weren’t enough, it’s also more sensitive and casts farther, too.

That makes braid an excellent - even ideal - choice for a variety of techniques, and from Texas and Carolina rigs to swimbaits to finesse techniques like Ned rigs, it’s easily the best choice.

But with treble-hooked crankbaits, some of these strengths become weaknesses.

When a bass hits a crankbait, you really want it to engulf the lure and snag itself on as many hooks as possible. A hard hookset with very little “give” can rip that crankbait free in an instant.

Similarly, when a bass leaps and shakes its head, trying to throw your crankbait clear, a little cushion and stretch in your line go a long way toward keeping those hooks locked right where they are.

That makes mono and fluorocarbon a much better choice for crankbait fishing, and the vast majority of anglers, weekenders and pros alike, agree.

Final Thoughts

If you’re an inshore angler who loves throwing crankbaits to steelhead, redfish, snook, and the like, there’s probably no better choice than the KastKing Kapstan Elite.

Designed specifically for your needs, this big, 300-size reel has the gearing to keep your crankbaits down deep and the torque to fight big crankbaits through hard currents. Supported by a monster drag and a hug spool, you’ll be able to run miles of heavy braid or plenty of tough mono. And for the money, this is just a fantastic dedicated saltwater crankbait reel.

For bass anglers looking for a dedicated crankbait reel, the Abu Garcia REVO Winch is unbeatable. 

Geared specifically for crankbaits, its solid brass guts deliver smooth cranking and enviable torque. Backed by a drag that allows for heavy braid if necessary, you can count on this reel to deliver excellent casting distances and plenty of fight when you tie into a monster.

We hope that this article has helped you choose your next dedicated crankbait reel, and if it has, we’d love to hear from you!

Please leave a comment below.

About The Author
John Baltes
Chief Editor & Contributor
If it has fins, John has probably tried to catch it from a kayak. A native of Louisiana, he now lives in Sarajevo, where he's adjusting to life in the mountains. From the rivers of Bosnia to the coast of Croatia, you can find him fishing when he's not camping, hiking, or hunting.
Comments
Subscribe
Notify of
guest

0 Comments
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *