So you are ready to purchase your first baitcasting reel and you cannot figure out what the gear ratio means. Don't feel alone, there are many fishermen who have used these great reels and never have figured what the gear ratio means or does. Hopefully I will answer that question for you in this guide.
We have baitcasting reels like the Diawa Steez 7.1:1 and 6.3:1, the Shimano Core with a 6.2:1 and the Pflueger President baitcaster boasting a 6.4:1. So what do all those numbers mean? Let me give you the simple explanation and then let you know what difference it makes.
We will use the Daiwa Steez 6.3:1 as the example reel. What this number means is that the Steez has a 6.3 to 1 gear ratio. In other words, every full turn of the handle crank results in the line spool rotating 6.3 times. If you can imagine a ten speed bike with the row of gears on the back tire and when you switch gears the peddling either gets harder or easier that is simply switching the gear ratio. The larger the gear the less you have to peddle to make the back tire go around one full turn. The baitcasting reel works on the same principle except you don't get to change the gearing on an individual reel instead you need to change the reel if you want fast or slower retrieves.
So what difference does this make? It all boils down to how much line do I take in on each turn of the reel handle. The two factors that determine that are gear ratio and the size of the line spool. The larger spool the more line that comes in on each crank of the handle. Basically this means that I can fish more territory with more casts if I use a 6.3 or better gear ratio than I can if I use under that, say on a reel like the Daiwa Sol 4.9 baitcasting reel. Someone has said that he can get 25 to 30 more casts in a day by using a 6.2:1 reel over a 5:1 or lower. That just might mean more fish in the boat.
There are times when you will want a slower reel retrieve, such as when you are using a crankbait or a slower motion bait, the slower retrieve will give more life like action. But for throwing a buzz-bait or waking spinner bait the faster the better. In fact a 7.1 works great for this. Remember it is much easier to slow down a faster reel than it is the speed up a slower one. Another reason for a faster reel would be to take up slack line quicker resulting in more hooked fish. When a fish runs to the boat after being hooked a fast retrieve can keep up with it keeping your line tight.