A look at 4 Affordable Baitcasting Reels
Baitcasting reels play an important role in sportfishing despite the popularity and proliferation of spinning reels. They are the go-to choice for anglers who need or want more control over the reel, better casting accuracy/distance with heavier lines and lures, higher gearing and more cranking power.
You may disagree on some of the above points and, I’m sure some of you are already doing an internal baitcasting reel vs spinning reel debate, but the main point here is that baitcast reels let you do things with them that can’t be done with other reels.
They are the ideal reel for high-speed presentations as when working lures like spinnerbaits, buzz baits, lipless crankbaits, Carolina rigs, Texas rigs and others. They have certainly earned their place with both freshwater and saltwater anglers through the years.
Baitcast reels come in essentially 2 designs, round and low-profile. However, for most freshwater anglers today, low-profile baitcast reels have become the preferred choice – and for good reasons. They are compact, ergonomic, ultra-lightweight (with many now weighing less than 6 ounces), durable and come with higher gear ratios for super fast retrievals.
That means longer outings on the water without fatigue and more casts covering more water for more hookups. You can crank em’, buzz baits, apply the brakes whenever needed and do a lot of other stuff that would have been next to impossible with other reels.
Premium Baitcast Reel Performance on a Budget
For this review, we’ll look at 4 top-rated, affordable low-profile baitcasting reels that will let you fish like a pro (well, almost) without putting a big dent in your wallet. These low-profilers, while not in the same league as some of the more expensive high-end models on the market, are some of the best baitcasting reels for the money, deliver more quality and performance than one would normally expect from budget-type reels.
And remember, the fish don’t care how much you spent on your reel, anyway! So let’s get started.
This ultralight reel from Piscifun (just 5.7 oz.) is no one-hit wonder – this is as solid a reel as you’ll find in this price range, does many things well and can be fished by casters of various skill levels. With the right technique, you can easily target freshwater and small to medium size saltwater fish with this reel without breaking a sweat.
Available in both right and left-handed configurations, the reel features a lightweight yet strong carbon fiber (body, side plate, and crank handle) construction.
High-grade anodized aluminum main and pinion gears, as well as a 105 mm long carbon fiber handle, make it easier to pull fish out of heavy cover. Four Carbon fiber drag washers apply 17 lbs of smooth, powerful drag force to hard-fighting fish, making the Phantom ideal for most situations.
The Piscifun Phantom low-profile baitcaster also comes with 6 shielded SS anti-corrosion bearings and a clutch ball bearing for smooth performance and extended durability.
Phantom Key Highlights:
- Lightest baitcasting reel in our review and one of the lightest on the market – weighs just 5.7 ounces!
- Dual brake design consisting of external magnetic and internal centrifugal brakes for easy casting distance adjustments and reduced backlashes
- 6 +1 Stainless steel shielded ball bearing anti-corrosion design
- Strong, lightweight CNC Duralumin spool construction for faster spool acceleration – great for bass fishing presentations
- High performance 7.0:1 gear ratio for casting precision/distance and high-speed presentations
- 1-Year Warranty
Reel Thoughts: A concern that some may have is that Piscifun is a relatively new brand and is not as well-known as the others here. But the company is quickly earning fans, and this is a well-made, extremely light-weight and inexpensive low-profile baitcaster reel featuring a powerful drag for its diminutive size. What’s not to like?
Bottom Line: If you are looking for a good value in a featherweight, high-speed baitcaster with loads of drag and other advanced features, the Piscifun Phantom is for you.
If maximizing the number of casts or covering more area is your goal, then this high-speed baitcasting reel is for you. KastKing designed the Speed Demon with advanced-level users in mind – typically folks who require higher ratios and the ability to work baits/lures at blazing speeds and fish greater swaths of water fast. This is a good reel for topwater baits as well as pitching/flipping.
The graphite bodied, low-profile Speed Demon, launched in early 2017, lives up to its name. With 9.3:1 precision brass gearing it may very well be the fastest baitcast reel currently on the market. Speed vs speed this reel even outgears the Abu Garcia REVO Rocket (9.0:1 gear ratio), a premium low-profile model that costs 3 times more and not long ago laid claim to being the world’s fastest baitcaster.
But breaking speed limits on the water aside, this reel shines on other many other fronts. For example, it also boasts having more ball bearing than the competition: 12 + 1 corrosion-resistant shielded bearings for smooth performance and durability.
The 3 aluminum disc, 3 carbon fiber washer star-type drag system while not overpowering is more than sufficient for this reel at 13.2 lbs (6 Kg).
Backlashes are kept to a minimum by utilizing a lightweight, cross-drilled aluminum spool with a “trilateral” magnetic braking system that uses 3 sets of magnets to distribute force evenly to 3 points/sides on the spool instead of just one (hence, trilateral). I like this feature a lot!
Another key feature of this reel is the oversized 115-millimeter graphite handle with EVA knobs for more torque/cranking power, especially when trying to pull big fish out of heavy cover. Love the extra leverage this handle provides.
The speedy baitcaster reel comes in right-hand and left-hand retrieve models.
Speed Demon Key Highlights:
- Super high-speed gear ratio of 9.3:1 – fastest baitcaster on the market currently
- Trilateral braking applies force evenly to spool for better control/fewer backlashes/bird’s nests
- Oversized crank handle gives you more leverage/power
- Drag handles up to 13.2 Lbs. of drag force – great baitcaster for trout, crappie and bass (small & largemouth) fishing
- Lightweight graphite construction – weighs 8.3 oz/235 g
- One-Year Warranty
Reel Thoughts: In all, it looks like KastKing has another winner on its hands with the Speed Demon low-profile baitcast reel. This is a reel that should cost more than it does, given its ridiculously fast 9.3:1 gearing, solid build, and performance features not found in many baitcasters in this price range.
One possible knock on the reel is some folks are not crazy about the EVA knobs (they’d prefer something more rigid). I happen to like them, especially since they keep my fingers comfortable when fishing all day.
Bottom Line: If you’re looking for a feature-loaded, extreme-speed burner on a budget, the KastKing Speed Demon is the best way to go.
Shimano products some of my personal favorites and because the company is heavily into research and innovation, I know I can always count on a good dose of some of that cutting-edge technology trickling down, even to their budget low-profile baitcasting reels.
The redesigned Caenan is a sleek and attractive (black, red-accented) but relatively spartan reel, in terms of features, compared to the other baitcasters in this review. It comes with just 4 +1 ball bearings, the gear ratios are in line with the rest of the crowd, and drag force is the lowest of the reels in our lineup at 11 lbs.
So, first impressions may beg the question, “why are we even talking about this reel?” First impressions can sometimes be misleading as we all know. That is the case with the Shimano Caenan. Don’t be fooled by the no-frills design – they are very good bait caster reels despite their lack of eye-popping specs.
While this reel may not stand out in any one particular department, what I like about it and why it is a candidate (along with the others in this review) for the best budget baitcasting reel currently on the market is that it is a quality, lightweight and extremely ergonomic reel that is as solid and durable a performer as you’re going to find in this price range.
Performance and durability are at the heart of this small baitcasting reel. Nowhere is that more apparent than in the reel’s rigid one-piece graphite frame, powerful anodized aluminum handle, and large main and pinion gears.
This design not only makes it lightweight but also boosts stiffness throughout the reel, practically eliminating flex under heavy loads while greatly increasing strength and cranking power.
Despite having only 4 ball bearings (with 1 roller bearing), the Caenan is as smooth, if not smoother, than many of the other baitcasters in its class, thanks in part to Shimano’s High-Efficiency Gears (HEG). Keep in mind too that more ball bearings don’t always equate to better performance (it is often better to prioritize quality over quantity, reels included!)
Casting distance, accuracy, and retrieval are all enhanced and made smoother by Shimano’s S3D design that greatly reduces spool vibration. In fact, casting performance is often cited as one of the reel’s top attributes by bass fishermen and other anglers.
Braking is handled by Shimano’s VBS (Variable Braking System) system that relies on centrifugal instead of magnetic force to control the cast. While I’m not a big fan of centrifugal-only systems, the Caenan’s works well. Making adjustments casting, however, as you will see below, could be more convenient.
The reel comes in 3 configurations. The standard Caenan, both right and left-hand models (CAE150A & CAE151A), come with 6.3:1 gear ratios while the high-speed CAE150AHG baitcaster (right-hand retrieve only) has 7.2:1 gearing.
Lastly, the Shimano Caenan is the second lightest reel in our review (after the Piscifun Phantom) at 7.2 oz. for the 151A and HG models and just 6.5 oz. for the 150A standard right-hand offering.
Caenan Key Highlights:
- Comes in 3 lightweight models and 2 gear ratio options to fit a range of fishing styles
- Large, durable HEG drive gear and pinion gear for less flex and more cranking power
- Ergonomic design makes it easy to palm/thumb
- S3D spool construction help make this a smooth, long casting baitcaster
- One-Year Warranty
Reel Thoughts: The Caenan’s braking system could be improved with regards to convenience, not so much performance. There is no external dial for adjustability, so you have to take off the sticky/not so easy to remove side brake cover to make adjustments. Perhaps Shimano will address this shortcoming in the reel’s next revision, hopefully.
Other than that, this is a durable, well-built, and very comfortable low-profile baitcast reel that won’t break the bank and will give you years of enjoyment.
Bottom Line: This is a good-looking, sleek baitcaster reel without a lot of frills but definitely not lacking where it counts – in quality and performance. The Shimano Caenan is an ideal reel for beginners or experienced anglers who want an outstanding and reliable baitcasting reel that can fish a variety of baits, lures and environments.
Last but not the least, there’s the attractive matte black/pearl white Quantum Accurist PT (Performance Tuned) baitcast reel. This reel is currently a little more expensive than the others on our list, but to be fair it is well worth the cost of a few extra coins because it is at the high-end of the budget low-profile baitcasting category in terms of quality of components and performance features.
Let’s start with the reel’s core – its body. Whereas most other reels in this price range opt for graphite for weight-savings as well as cost-savings, the Quantum Accurist gives us a one-piece anodized aluminum frame that is not only lightweight but also rigid enough to keep its gears perfectly aligned even when fighting big, aggressive fish.
The spool, crank handle and gear sideplate are also made of lightweight anodized aluminum. The handle is 80 mm long and has small rubber knobs.
The Accurist PT uses CAD-designed drive train gears for ultra-smooth, precision gearing and years of reliability performance. Paired with its sturdy one-piece aluminum body, the Accurist’s solid gearing gives us a reel that can be fished hard for a long time.
The Accurist comes with 6 hybrid SS PT Speed Bearings and an SS clutch bearing (Continuous Anti-Reverse) for all-around smooth performance, corrosion resistance, improved casting and less back-play for powerful hooksets.
Another welcome performance upgrade comes by way the reel’s Zero Friction Design that isolates the pinion gear with 2 ball bearings to eliminate contact with the spool shaft during casting. This innovation results in virtually frictionless, more accurate and longer casts
This reel uses a dual centrifugal force/magnetic braking system (CentriMag) to control casting. An external magnetic adjustment dial makes fine tuning your cast control quick and easy – nice time-saving feature. The reel also lets you make internal centrifugal adjustments, giving you even more granular control should you need it.
An innovative hybrid drag system uses a combination of carbon fiber and ceramic washers to put out 12 lbs of smooth, fish-stopping power. Additionally, the use of ceramic material will increase the drag’s long-term durability by dissipating heat more efficiently during those long, hard battles.
Other useful performance features include a “Flippin’ Switch” to make flipping for bass and other targets easier (also convenient for walleye anglers when back-trolling). Rounding things out, an easy removal side-cover to access spool and/or perform maintenance, and a “Saltguard Protection” anti-corrosive finish make the Accurist good saltwater baitcasting reels.
Something else to like about this reel is its warranty. All Quantum PT reels come with a standard 1-year warranty; but if you register your Accurist PT within 60 days of purchase, you’ll get an additional 2 years for a total of 3 years of warranty protection!
Accurist PT Key Highlights:
- One-piece anodized aluminum body for maximum strength/flex control
- CAD designed drive-train provides higher tolerances for maximum smoothness and durability
- 6+1 SS bearings for smoothness and longevity even after repeated punishment
- No contact between pinion gear and spool shaft means frictionless, incredibly long casts
- Dual centrifugal/magnetic braking system with convenient external adjustment dial
- Hybrid ceramic-carbon fiber drag for reliable heat dissipation and power (12 lbs of drag)
- “Flippin’ Switch” adds ease and convenience for flipping and back-trolling presentations
- 3-Year Extended Warranty (when registered within 60 days of reel purchase)
Reel Thoughts: There isn’t much to complain about with this reel. I suppose the 80 mm handle, with its smallish rubber knobs, could be considered short and less than ergonomic by some people, especially when compared with the likes of the Speed Demon’s oversized 115 mm arm and large EVA knobs.
I wouldn’t consider that a deal-breaker, however, as this reel offers so much value.
Bottom Line: The Quantum Accurist PT’s aluminum frame, CAD-designed gears and use of ceramic drag washers immediately set it apart from other offerings in the affordable baitcaster reel category.
Premium features such as a dual braking system with external an adjustment dial, frictionless long- distance casting, and a “Flippin’ Switch” are just a few of the innovations that give anglers more control, convenience, and versatility while on the water with this baitcaster.
In my opinion, the Accurist is the best low-profile baitcaster in this review and certainly one of the best baitcasting reels for the money around today.