Certain trends in bass fishing reels never change. Reels are always getting lighter, stronger, smoother and faster. Those are the constants since Kentucky watchmakers starting building casting reels around 1810.
All of these trends are good and ultimately work to the advantage of the angler, but it may be that reel speed is the most important and valuable of the group.
To be sure, there are times you need a “slow” reel — one that picks up less than 25 inches of line per turn. Slow reels are great for getting the maximum depth out of a crankbait, for effectively working a lure all the way back to the boat, to match the fish’s metabolism in cold weather and generally to force you to slow down.
But the rest of the time, a truly “fast” reel — one that brings in more than 30 inches of line per crank of the handle — is your best option and will help you catch more bass.
Here are three common fishing situations where there’s a real need for speed.
(1) When you need a fast lure to trigger a bite, you need a fast reel.
Let’s face it. Most of the time we're on the water, the bass are not actively feeding. To catch them, we need to do something that triggers a strike. That usually means one of two things. Either we create a directional change by deflecting a lure off of cover or structure or we use speed and erratic movement to generate a “reaction strike.”
The former can be accomplished using a reel of any speed, but the latter requires a high gear ratio like that found in the Abu Garcia Revo Rocket. At 10.1:1 and pulling in a greedy 41 inches of line per turn of the handle, the Rocket will not be outrun. A few quick spins of the handle and any fish near your lure will react instinctively to the attempted getaway.
Here, speed is a trigger.
(2) When you have to “catch up” to a fish, you need a fast reel.
Ever had a bass pick up your lure and swim with it in your direction? Of course you have … but if you answered “no,” it’s only because you never felt the bite and didn’t have adequate reel speed to catch up to the fish and set the hook. By the time you got there with a “slow” reel, the bass had dropped the lure and headed for parts unknown.
When a bass has your lure and comes back to you with it — as they often do when you’re casting toward the shallows and your boat is in deeper water — there’s no substitute for reel speed. You either catch up with a few rapid cranks of the handle or hope and pray that the fish hangs on for far longer than most bass do.
Here, speed is a safeguard.
(3) When you’re fishing a slow, methodical technique and want to be efficient, you need a fast reel.
Perhaps ironically, the slower the method you’re fishing, the faster your reel should be.
A couple of examples will help to explain that. Imagine you’re Flippin’ and pitching your way down a row of boat docks. Each dock might earn five or six presentations, all looking more or less the same. You swing your underhanded pitch toward a piling. Your jig and trailer falls to the bottom, you lift and drop it once, twice, then you wind the bait back in to do it all over again at the next piling.
Or maybe you’re casting a Texas- or Carolina-rigged worm to a deep creek channel or across a point. It takes several seconds for the bait to reach bottom, you hop or drag it several feet, and then you reel it in for another cast.
These “slow” presentations demand a fast reel because much of your retrieve is spent in dead, unproductive water. A fast reel gets you through the dead zone quickly so you can make another cast and get back to the spot where you can reasonably expect a bite.
Here, speed is efficiency.