The Best Gear Ratio for Spinnerbaits: Goldilocks Gears Explained

Written by: John Baltes
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Anytime the light is disrupted, say on an overcast, windy day - spinnerbaits can be magical. And because you have so many choices of color, blade shape, and even trailer, they’re amazingly versatile, wherever and whenever you fish.

But to get the most from your spinnerbaits, whether you want to buzz them just under the surface or let them spin away down deep, you need the right reel.

Too fast and your spinnerbaits will rise far higher than you intend in the water column; too slow, and they’ll run deeper than you want.

So what’s the right “Goldilocks” gear ratio for spinnerbaits?

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Gear Ratio and Speed Demystified

Gear ratios are just numbers representing how many turns of the spool are created by one turn of the crank.

Thus, a 5.1:1 ratio means that one turn of the handle will spin the spool exactly 5.1 times.

And all other things being equal, the higher the gear ratio, the faster the reel will pick up line.

But of course, all other things aren’t equal.

best gear ratio for spinnerbait

Look at the difference in spool size between these two baitcasting reels. Do you think gear ratio alone will tell you which is faster?

Two reels with the same gear ratio can vary quite a bit in speed. That’s because, when you’re talking about retrieval speed, the final metric is how much line is picked up per crank, not how fast the spool spins.

For instance, a larger spool spun five times may pick up more line than a smaller spool spun six times.

So to know how fast a reel is, you need to look at more than just gear ratio and consider how many inches of line per turn it can pick up.

What the Pros Say

Pretty much everyone agrees that spinnerbaits should be paired with workhorse, general-purpose reels in the neighborhood of 6.1:1. Good for nearly anything, but not ideal for retrieving a worm for your next cast or running a wriggling crankbait, these medium-ratio reels shine with everything else, especially spinnerbaits.

As Marty Robinson, two-time Bassmaster Classic qualifier, explains, “When I’m spinnerbaiting, for example, 5:1 is just too slow for anything but slow-rolling, and 7:1 is too fast — you have to slow down just to keep your bait in the water. A medium gear ratio is just right.”

Getting It Just Right

6.1:1 is a guideline and nothing more.

For instance, the heavier your spinnerbait, and the more resistance it creates as you retrieve it, the more torque you’re going to want from your reel. And if you throw particularly large spinnerbaits, you might want to run a slower gear ratio than 6.1:1.

But remember - speed is a function of more than your reel’s gear ratio. You need to fine-tune your tackle and know exactly how your reel performs with your spinnerbaits.

It’s not enough to select the ideal reel based on just its gear ratio: you need to know how quickly it picks up line. And the best way to know if a reel has the right speed for your spinnerbaits is to pick one with a medium gear ratio and moderate retrieval speed - avoiding the fast and the slow - and give it a try.

Does your spinner run at the depth you want it to? How much effort does it require to crank?

When you have the answers you want, you know you found the right reel.

Final Thoughts

Selecting the right gear ratio for spinnerbaits demands that you know how fast your reel retrieves line. But a good starting point is to choose a reel in the mid-range, near 6.1:1 as a starting point.

That Goldilocks gear ratio hits the sweet spot between fast and slow, and it’ll help you get the best performance from your spinnerbaits.

As always, we’re here to answer any questions you might have, so 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.
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