The gear ratio is one of the least understood aspects of selecting a fishing reel. However, it can also be one of the most important. Select a reel with the wrong gear ratio and you will fail to achieve the correct action from your lures or find yourself on the losing end of every big bass fight. There are specific gear ratios that work best for different species or even individual techniques – today we will discuss how to select the best gear ratio for pitching & flipping.
What is a gear ratio?
In the simplest terms a reel’s gear ratio is an expression of how many times the reel spool turns with each single rotation of the reel handle. Gear ratio is expressed in two number sequence with reel spool followed by handle rotation, separated by a colon. For example, a ratio of 5.8:1 means the spool turns 5.8 times for each rotation of the handle.
When it comes to categorizing gear ratios, they are generally divided into three classifications: fast, medium and slow. While these classifications are generalizations, and subject to change as new technologies advance reel capabilities, here is what most manufacturers understand each to be:
- Fast – anything above 7:1
- Medium- between 6:1 and 7:1
- Slow- below 6:1
(Photo: Piscifun Phantom X Casting Reel 3 Gear Ratios for Various Fishing Techniques)
What is pitching & flipping?
The terms pitching and flipping are often used interchangeably, although incorrect as each is a different technique, there are some shared characteristics. For example, both are close in techniques where the angler is right on top of or only a few feet from the intended target.
Pitching – this technique involves short, precise casts to nearby targets. Often this target is structure or small openings in cover along the bank.
Flipping – unlike pitching this technique does not involve actually casting, instead the angler uses a swinging motion and slacked line to drop the lure into nearby targets. Again, these targets include structure or small openings in cover along the bank.
How to put the two together
The question becomes which gear ratio is best for pitching (or flipping)? The answer depends on who you ask and when they started fishing.
In the early days of tournament fishing, and beginning popularity of pitching, the thought was that medium gear ratios were best. Some anglers even chose to go with slow ratios. The problem is that this selection was not made due to these slower reels being the best tool for the job, it was because they were the best tool available.
Modern anglers will find the higher gear ratios are much better suited for the job. Why? Simple- you need the ability to take in a lot of line fast. Once the lure lands, there will be a large amount of slack laying on the surface. Therefore, should a fish take the lure immediately, you risk being unable to set the hook properly. Likewise, should the fish take a fast run at the boat the ability to quickly take in line will help prevent the hook being thrown.
The tough part comes when asked “what gear ratio should I buy?” Only a season or two ago the answer would have been 8.5:1 or higher. The problem is that technology continues to change, and the ceiling keeps rising. By today’s standards 9.1:1 is worth consideration and there are several new reels with ratios above 10:1.
Good Luck and Good Fishing!
Article by Joshua Taylor