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Last updated: November 06, 2022
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It’s no secret how fishing is one of the most relaxing hobbies. But this relaxation can only be possible if you use the right equipment—baitcasting reels included. The right casting reel will make your fishing expedition an enjoyable and successful one—but only if it functions effectively.
Thankfully, you don’t have to spend a fortune to own one. This is why we’ve decided to review the best baitcasting reels under $100 on the market. And to ensure that you don’t wind up with a low quality product, we took a look at the major features that make a high performance reel. Some of the features include the number of bearings and max drag. We also considered the gear ratio, the line capacity and the reel weight. All these features won’t only determine performance, but other factors such as durability, comfort and ease of operation. We compiled a list of 8 best models, and the Ardent Apex Tournament Baitcasting Reel just tops them all.
Extra features: adjustable 270-degree magnetic brake; 3-year warranty
This Ardent Apex Tournament Bait casting reel is the one to pick if you’re looking for a high performance but affordable product. Wondering why we’ve voted this unit our best all-round product? It’s one of the smoothest and most compact reels you’ll find on the market. And it helps that it has a black matte finish that makes it sleek and visually appealing.
The reel can be used by both left and right handed fishermen making it versatile.
How does it fare performance-wise? The Ardent Apex features a superior 9 ball bearing system. And as such you can expect smooth retrieval and a long casting distance with this reel.
The unit is both lightweight and durable thanks to the high strength aluminum frame. Weighing only 6.3oz, you can tell that it’s not on the heavy side.
This baitcasting reel uses magnetic brakes to enhance the performance where controlling the brake system is concerned.
Plan on fishing for hours? Then you’ll appreciate the swept-back aluminum handle which is designed for easier handling thanks to the EVA grip knobs.
But note that you might find the reel difficult to adjust. And it doesn’t help that the manufacturers didn’t include an instruction manual with the product.
Like most baitcasting reels, this model comes with a three year warranty which you’ll find useful.
Extra features: dual centrifugal and magnetic brakes; oversized titanium line guide
The Piscifun is our budget pick but its price is in no way a reflection of its quality. Not only is it one of the cheapest on our list, but also one of the lightest. And its light design is attributed to the feather light carbon fiber frame.
The body isn’t only super light, but also features a low profile design to provide you with increased comfort during a long fishing adventure.
Thanks to the unit’s high quality precise gears and stainless steel bearings, it’ll give you a smooth cast & exceptional retrieve performance.
Another feature you’ll find impressive is the dual brake system which is designed to allow anglers to easily adjust the reel for maximum casting performance.
The magnetic brake on the product also allows for precise adjustment depending on the bait, to avoid any backlash.
Because of the premium carbon fiber drag system, the casting reel provides a smooth and consistent drag.
The unit is designed to handle light lures better compared to the traditional sized reels. Though the product is generally a high quality unit, the same can’t be said about the frame screws as they’re not of the best quality.
And unfortunately this model doesn’t come with a user manual.
Extra features: Power Disk drag system; MagTrax brake system; strong and durable brass gear; instant anti-reverse
Any serious angler will appreciate the smooth drag and precise engineering that comes with this unit. As a result, the Abu Garcia PMAX is known to offer professional-grade performance. And you don’t have to break the bank to enjoy these benefits because the reel is very affordable.
Most of the features on this unit make it the ideal option for handling tough fishing applications.
The unit features a low-profile design and offers a customizable casting ability thanks to the powerful brake system. The same design also allows for an ergonomic feel, so that you can fish for hours without experiencing any discomfort.
This brake system is designed to exert consistent brake pressure which effectively boosts your cast range to increase accuracy.
The reel features a powerful disk drag system which will give you the smooth drag you need to tame hard-pulling fish.
A long lasting reel is always ideal. That’s what you’ll get if you pick this model which is designed to provide smooth operation despite years of use.
A few drawbacks associated with this unit include the fact that you’ll have to deal with a little noise when using it. Also, it’s really not the smoothest casting reel on the market. Still, for this price it’s worth the investment.
Extra features: includes Variable Brake System (VBS); stable spool design (S3D) reduces spool vibration
At a casual glance, this Shimano Caenan reel looks like any other reel. But what sets it apart from the rest is the high efficiency gear system that allows it to deliver superior strength compared to its counterparts. Thanks to the unit’s rigidity and reliability, you’ll be using this reel for years to come.
Another impressive system that makes up this reel is the Variable brake system which provides the unit with an outstanding casting performance. The Shimano Caenan casting reel also features a Stable spool design that significantly leads to a reduction in spooling vibration. This design effectively makes it the reel to pick if you want a noise free fishing experience.
Casting is made easier with this reel since it allows for an incredibly smooth feel. Retrieving lures is also hassle free when using this product.
It only features four ball bearings but it’s still one of the smoothest baitcasting reels you’ll find.
The only major problem you might encounter is figuring out how to adjust the centrifugal brakes because it’s not the easiest of tasks. And it can be a little rough during retrieving.
A few users have noted that it jammed up after a couple of uses. But if you experience the same problem, you can return it to the manufacturer because it has a three year warranty.
Extra features: aluminum frame; Magforce Z cast control; swept handle with weight-reducing cutouts
The Daiwa Fuego baitcasting reel is one of the most sought after reels on the market because of its impressive functionality. For such a reasonably priced unit, it has a few superior features that are likely to impress any angler.
First off, it has a precision machined aluminum frame which makes it a durable unit. Weighing only 7oz, you can see that it’s very lightweight. The 12 bearing system on the unit allows for smooth performance. And the swept handle with weight-reducing cutouts will ensure you experience minimal discomfort during your fishing expedition.
With the Daiwa Fuego reel, you’ll also enjoy long effortless casting thanks to the air rotation spool and cast control.
The 13.2 pound of drag gives the unit enough power to land bigger fish. With a standard speed of 100, you can enjoy a fast retrieval.
Note that only left hand users can use this baitcasting reel.
Unlike some reels that are designed to increase casting distance, this model isn’t. As a result, you won’t be able to cast as wide when compared to the other reels. If this isn’t one of your top priorities though, give it a try.
Extra features: ceramic drag system; titanium-coated line guide; continuous anti-reverse
Like the Ardent Apex baitcastng reel, this model also features a lightweight and low profile design. The black and white graphics that decorate the aluminum house also makes it a very sleek looking product.
Not only are the aesthetics impressive, but it’s also a high performing unit.
With the Quantam Accurist baitcasting real, you won’t have any problems adjusting it. The reel uses an internal ACS centrifugal cast control which allows you to adjust the reel settings depending on the lure size. The same feature also makes the product much easier to use regardless of extreme windy conditions.
The manufacturer included a few premium features to enhance the reel’s performance. The titanium-nitride line guide is one such impressive feature. You’ll find this reel easy to operate thanks to the flipping switch. But you’ll need a little practice before you can understand how to operate the switch. The Quantam has seven bearings making it a relatively smooth operating reel.
Power anglers will appreciate the intensity of the ceramic drag system, which allows you to access fish from under heavy covers.
A few users have reported that the drag won’t loosen entirely when backed all the way. Also, the spool is slightly stiff. You can consider oiling it but it’ll still be a little tight.
Extra features: twitchin’ bar; high-grade brass drive gear
What sets the Daiwa Megaforce THS baitcasting reel apart from the rest is its Twitchin’ bar, and here’s why: the bar is designed to let you pick up slack line almost immediately. As a result, this model is ideal for using on finicky fish. You’ll need a bit of time to understand how this bar works but once you’ve figured it out, you’ll appreciate this functionality especially for slow moving baits. This Clutch and twitchin’ mechanism is beefed up to handle a 7.3 speed per retrieve. And you’ll appreciate that it’s very easy to adjust when compared to other brands,
The unit features six ball bearings making it a relatively smooth performing unit. Like most casting reels reviewed above, it also features a swept handle for comfortable handling. Your handling comfort is further enhanced by the EVA double handle knob.
But by purchasing this model, you must be prepared to deal with some backlash. And it’s not the lightest baitcasting reel on the market as it’s on the heavier side. So remember that before purchasing a rod.
Unfortunately its casting performance isn’t perfect, regardless of how you set it up. A number of customers have reported that it tends to tangle if you try and cast it too wide.
However, made up of a high-grade brass gear and stainless steel pinion, this unit is built to last.
Extra features: graphite composite frame; tension-adjustment knob
Looking for a baitcasting reel that can detect even the lightest fish bites? You can opt for this Lew’s American hero rod and reel combo. And yes, it’s the only product on our list that comes with both a reel and a rod—at a similar price to our other products.
You can enjoy effective cast control thanks to the magnetic control system on the unit. The graphite composite frame makes this a lightweight product. And the spools are not only made of aluminum, but are also machine forged for added strength and durability.
Though the reel functions well, not all users are impressed with the rod as it may break after a short period of time. Perhaps the brand should improve the durability even more. Also note that you’ll need some time to learn how to use it. But it’s still packed with worthwhile features that make it a good buy.
The unit features a palming side plate that’s easily removable for easy spool access. With a durable drag system that provides up to 10lb of drag power, you can tell that it’s a high performance unit.
The rod handle features an EVA grip knob which isn’t only lightweight, but also slip-resistant. This means you can use the reel for long hours comfortably. You’ll also appreciate that this Lew’s American hero reel features a patented hook keeper designed to avoid interference with casts and retrieves.
What makes it stand out?
Which disadvantages must you keep in mind?
Rod durability questionable
Not as user-friendly as other options
Things to Consider
With so many baitcasting reels to pick from, how will you determine the best one for your needs? Have a look at our buyer’s guide below, as we give you pointers to aid you in your selection process.
Reasons to choose a top-quality baitcasting reel under $100
Based on our product reviews above, it’s clear to see that you don’t need to purchase the most expensive fishing reel on the market to get a high performance product. The trick is to buy a product that has features you need and will use.
Make sure you invest in a high quality model. And as a result not only will you save money, but you’ll also get a baitcasting reel under $100 or even under $50 that functions like the high end models by offering:
Exceptional drag power
Reasonable warranty periods
Ease of operation
Features to consider when choosing a baitcasting reel
Most of these nifty devices appear identical, save for the color and exterior design. Sure, aesthetics can be important, but not as crucial as performance. So you have to look beyond the fancy prints & graphic design and inspect features that’ll determine good functionality. We’ll list a few examples below.
Throughout the product reviews, you must have noticed how we specified the number of bearings on most models. The general misconception is that the more the bearings, the smoother the casting and retrieves. But actually the number has little to do with improving performance. For example the Shimano Caenan reel has only five bearings but is known as one of the smoothest performing units on the market.
What you will experience with a reel that has fewer bearings is increased backlash—especially if you’re a beginner.
What’s more important is setting the spool and brakes correctly.
The quality of the bearing is more important and can be determined by the material used in its construction. Opt for one made of stainless steel bearings like the Piscifun model for added durability.
Gear ratio refers to the number of times the bail rotates around the spool during one rotation. Why is this important? The gear ratio you need will largely depend on the type of fishing you want to do. For fast retrieves, you’ll need a baitcasting reel with a higher ratio. Generally a 6:1 ratio is considered faster than say a reel with a gear ratio of 4:1 so keep that in mind.
The drag system on your baitcasting reel will make the difference between a smooth performing unit and a rough one. Ideally you want your reel to have a powerful drag that allows you to let out your line in a seamless manner—free of pulls and jerks. Most of our products reviewed above, like the Quantum Accurist and Lew’s American Hero baitcasting reels offer impressive drag power.
The line capacity on your baitcasting reel will basically determine the casting distance and lures you can do. For a much heavier lure, you’ll need a reel with a longer leash; in other words with a larger line capacity. This way you can throw the line much farther and deeper. Both capabilities will allow you to stay in the strike zone for longer and this will definitely increase your chances of catching fish.
Reel handle position
Before investing in a baitcasting reel, it’s important to determine whether it’s designed for right or left handed users. Some reels are designed for right handed users only and the opposite is true. Make sure you pick the right reel handle position to suit your needs to avoid disappointment. Alternatively, you can purchase a model that allows for both left and right handed users, especially if you’re buying a rod the whole family would want to use.
Consider whether the braking system is magnetic or centrifugal. Wondering what’s the difference? First off, it’s important to note that the purpose of any brake system is to prevent or minimize backlash. This will often result in tangling of the line which is rather unpleasant; untangling the line is no easy task.
The braking system used on the reel will determine how easy it is to adjust the braking speed.
While the one you pick is a matter of preference, generally the centrifugal brakes are known to apply braking at highest speeds. A good example of a model which uses this system is the Quantum Accurist.
A lightweight casting reel is much easier to handle especially if you expect to be fishing for long periods of time. While you may not feel the impact of the weight immediately, the fatigue will start setting in as time passes. In this case, a lighter reel will prove to be a better option. A good example of a light baitcasting reel is the Piscifun model.
But it’s important to note that the reel weight you pick is also determined by the rod you’re going to use. Heavier reels will need a heavier rod and vice versa.
The retrieve rate of a reel will depend on the gear ratio. A higher gear ratio will mean a higher retrieve rate and the opposite is true too. The retrieve rate you want will depend on the type of fishing you want to do. If you plan on fishing in freshwater, then a reel with a slower retrieve, such as the Shimano Caenan A Freshwater Fishing Reel, will suffice.
All reels are housed in different types of frames. And the material used will determine how long the product will last. But the most common frame used on most baitcasting reels is aluminum, including in our top choice, the Ardent Apex Tournament baitcaster. We believe the material’s lightweight and durable properties serve users well.
How to get the most out of your baitcasting reel
We’ll quickly outline a few pointers you need to keep in mind to get the best out of your baitcasting reel. They include:
Always use the right rod for each fishing situation. This means the rod mustn’t be too heavy or too light.
Make it a habit of cleaning and lubricating the gears to minimize friction. Friction in the bearings is known to compromise on the casting distance.
While cleaning regularly is recommended, also make it a point to clean it after every use especially if you use it in salt water.
We strongly advise against using your reel in saltwater if it’s not designed to handle such conditions. For that purpose we recommed you buy a baitcasting reel for saltwater fishing. But, you can prevent damage by immediately rinsing the reel with fresh water after use. Afterwards you can wipe it down with a special solution.
From the products we’ve reviewed above, we’ve voted the Ardent Apex Tournament Baitcasting Reel as the best all round baitcaster. This is because it ticks all the right boxes where performance, affordability and durability are concerned. The reel is designed to produce a smooth drag and it helps that it’s visually appealing too.
Last but not least, we’re impressed with the Abu Garcia Pro Max Low Profile Baitcasting fishing reel. It’s built to last thanks to the sturdy construction. And the unit also provides smooth performance. It’s one of the best bait casting reels under $100 because it’s designed for comfortable handling.
Now the real question is: which one did you find impressive? Why not pick one and take your fishing adventures to the next level without ruining your budget?