Each baitcasting reel has a specific gear ratio, which translates to how many times the spool turns when compared to the number of times the handle cranks. A numeric value expresses the ratio. For instance, in a 5.4:1 reel, the spool turns 5.4 times for every turn of the handle. Each ratio serves a specific style of fishing that depends of whether power or speed is more important.
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For conditions that require power rather than speed, gear ratios of around 4:1 work well. This is especially true when fighting big fish on heavy gear. For this reason, many saltwater fishing reels are set around this ratio. This lower ratio transmits much more torque from the handle to the spool, which offers the fisherman more cranking power to muscle in larger and harder-fighting fish. If a large fish makes a run for the boat, however, it might take considerably more cranking effort to take up slack and keep a taut line.
The 5.4:1 gear ratio is good for all-around fishing and is standard on many baitcasting reels. This ratio has a relatively balanced rate of retrieve that works well for a range of fishing conditions. All 5.4:1 ratio reels can handle the slower speeds that live bait fishing requires and also work well with slower moving crank and stick baits. At the same time, they can handle the speeds that spinner baits and other faster moving lures require. These reels are quick enough to prevent slack line that can help a fish to throw the hook, yet still provide enough power to handle larger fish.
Super High-Speed Retrieve
Bait casting reels with with gear ratios above 7.1:1 are considered super high-speed reels. These reels provide a high level of control over the retrieval speed of a specific lure. The faster retrieve rates of 7.1:1 reels are popular in "Run and Gun" tournament style fishing, where it is important to get the fish to the boat as fast as possible. These reels can quickly work fast-moving lures, such as spinner baits and soft plastic worms, through the water to draw out game fish. Faster line retrieves on casts also means more casts per day, which translates to more opportunities for a strike.