Bigger baitcast spools matter, too

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Kevin VanDam

Kevin VanDam

In the world of professional bass fishing, Kevin VanDam is at the pinnacle and arguably the best in the world.

Faster doesn’t always mean better when choosing a baitcast reel.

Don’t get me wrong – I use high-speed reels for several techniques, but not all of them. You shouldn’t be too infatuated with gear ratio alone.

Gear ratio determines the amount of times a spool will turn with each crank of the handle. Naturally, a 6.3:1 reel, which turns the spool 6.3 times with each handle revolution, is going to move a bait faster than one geared at 5.3:1.

But one aspect anglers overlook is a reel’s spool size. I discussed that in a recent blog about spinning reels, and it’s equally important in baitcast selection.

Quantum just introduced sizes 200 and 300 in its lightweight EXO series to complement the smaller 150 size the company rolled out last year. I prefer the 200 series because it offers a bigger spool which translates to more line capacity and more inches of line per turn of the handle.

Equally important is that they made the reel lighter without sacrificing guts or power. I’ve been fishing big crankbaits with this reel and really notice the weight difference. Paired with my 7-10 KVD Tour Rod, the deep diving crankbait is easier to fish, and because of the lighter weight, I can feel the bait better.

The 200 holds 175 yards of 14-pound fluorocarbon and is offered in gear ratios of 7.3, 6.6 and 5.3. The 300 is considerable larger and more suitable for fishing for muskies and salmon where trolling or deep water fishing requires more line.

Lightweight is a bonus, but only if you don’t sacrifice spool size. Spool up a small spool reel with heavy line, make a long cast with a big crankbait or Alabama rig, and you can cast it to the bare spool!

Furthermore, when you diminish line capacity on a smaller spool – such as on a long cast – you lose lure speed because it takes longer to take up line when the spool is near empty of half full.

When cranking big crankbaits or spinnerbaits, I prefer the 5.3:1-geared 200 model because it gives me good speed – because of the line capacity – and great power. It takes less effort to wind a Strike King 6XD with the slower-geared reel than it does with higher geared reels.

Speed isn’t as big of factor with crankbaits like it is with other presentations. With a faster reel, you have to force yourself to slow down to fish crankbaits effectively.

Now, if fishing a swim jig, burning a spinnerbait for smallmouth or other baits like that, I prefer the 6.6:1.

For lures like Carolina rigs, worms, football jigs, pitching, flipping and topwaters, I like the “Burner” (7:1) reels for picking up line quicker. With those lures, you’re not moving the bait with the reel, you’re moving it with the rod.

Other cases for a fast reel are when you’re “target fishing,” such as fishing a spinnerbait or an Ocho Stick Worm around bushes. You hit the target, work the bait a couple of feet, then wind in fast to hit another target. You save time and make more casts in a day.

So, think about all of that when pairing up rods and reels. Matching them appropriately will make you more efficient.

Remember, it’s all about the attitude!

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