9 Best Baitcaster Combos Reviewed

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Best Baitcaster Combos

Hello there, welcome to my review of the best baitcaster combos.

Despite being harder to master than spinning gear, baitcasting gear is much more compatible with heavy lines and lures. You’ll also get better casting accuracy with baitcasters, assuming you’re casting with proper technique. But enough said. I’m sure you already know all these, which is why you’re here in the first place. 

We spent close to 13 hours sorting through all the baitcaster combos on the market to find the best ones. We assessed them based on the smoothness of the reel, overall durability, overall weight, overall power, and rod sensitivity. In the end, only these 9 made it through.

In case you’re in a rush and don’t have time to read through, I recommend getting either the Lew’s Mach Smash SLP for a magnetic braking system, or the Lew’s Mach 1 Speed Spool for a centrifugal braking system. Both baitcasting combos are light, robust, cast wonderfully, and come with a smooth reel and responsive rod.

Don’t worry if those weren’t quite what you were looking for though, that’s what the 7 other baitcaster combos are for. Whether you’re looking for something more affordable or portable, we’ve got you covered.

Let’s begin!

Our Top 9 Picks

  1. Lew’s Mach Smash SLP Baitcast Combo (Best Overall Magnetic)
  2. Lew’s Mach 1 Speed Spool Baitcast Combo (Best Overall Centrifugal)
  3. Abu Garcia Revo X Baitcast Combo (Best Splurge)
  4. Abu Garcia Black Max Combo (Best For Casual Anglers)
  5. KastKing Crixus Baitcasting Combo (Best For Beginners)
  6. Ugly Stik Elite Baitcast Combo (Best Crixus Alternative)
  7. Sougayilang Baitcaster Combo (Best For Travelling)
  8. Shakespeare Alpha Baitcast Combo (Best Budget)
  9. Zebco Roam Baitcast Combo (Best Budget Lightness)

Things To Consider When Choosing A Baitcaster Combo

Before we get into it, here’s the complete list of factors to take into account when you’re buying a baitcaster combo. 

While we chose these 9 based on the criteria we mentioned earlier, there were quite a few evenly matched combos. When we encountered such cases, these were the factors we looked at to break the tie.

Reel Brake Type

There are two types of reel brakes – magnetic and centrifugal. 

With magnetic brakes, your line will leave the spool faster initially and then slow down. This makes them great for casting against wind. 

With centrifugal brakes, your casting distance won’t change much regardless of how much force you cast with, unless you change the brake force.

Both brake types have their uses, and neither is better than the other. Nevertheless, I’ve found that magnetic brakes are much easier to adjust. You also tend to get a wider range of adjustable brake forces.

As such, if you prefer consistent casting distances, you’ll want to go with a centrifugal braking system. But if you’re always fishing in windy spots or just want an easier braking system to use, then your reel should have a magnetic braking system.

Reel Gear Ratio

Gear ratio is a measure of how many times your spool rotates per handle turn. For instance, a gear ratio of 5.2:1 means your spool will rotate 5.2 rounds for every turn of the handle.

Naturally, the higher your gear ratio, the more line you’ll retrieve per turn, and the faster your retrieval rate. This also means higher gear ratios will require less effort from you when reeling in fishes.

Having said that, you can’t be lazy and just get the highest gear ratio available so you’ll have an easier time reeling in fish. You’ll need to factor in the lures you’re using. Lures that have to be fished slowly will call for lower gear ratios, and vice versa for faster lures.

For baitcasting reels, I like to go with 6-6.5:1. That gives me the flexibility to fish both slow and fast lures.

Reel Bearings

More ball bearings is always good, as it means a smoother reel. However, more important than the number of ball bearings is their quality. 

4+1 high-quality ball bearings can outperform 9+1 low-quality ones. That’s why you should always value quality over quantity when it comes to bearings (and quite often many things in life too). Look out for ceramic or stainless steel ones as these are the best materials for ball bearings.

As for how many to get, while 5+1 bearings are usually enough, 4+1 bearings can work too, as long as they’re of good quality.

Drag System

The drag system in a reel refers to the steel plates that stop line from coming out.

The heavier you set the drag to, the stronger a fish will need to be to overcome it. Once the fish’s pulling force is higher than the drag, the spool releases line to prevent it from snapping.

For bass fishing, 15 pounds of drag is more than enough.

Whatever line you’re using, your drag should be set to 1/3 or 1/4 of the line’s pound test. For example, if you’re using a 24-pound line, you should set your drag to 6 or 8 pounds.

Line Capacity

You’ll notice that quite a few baitcaster combos only come in one reel size. The reel size is also usually not stated, only the line capacity. This is because the line capacity needed for the different baitcasting applications doesn’t vary much.

Fret not though, baitcaster manufacturers know how much line capacity is needed. They’ll make their baitcaster reels accordingly, so you won’t have to worry about line capacity.

Rod Material

The 3 main fishing rod materials are carbon fiber, aka graphite, fiberglass, and composite.

Carbon fiber is the lightest and most sensitive. Fiberglass is the strongest and most durable. Composite is a blend of both.

You won’t be fishing for very big fish with baitcasters. As such, carbon rods are ideal due to their lightness.

Rod Length

While you’ll see a wider range of spinning rod lengths, most casting rods only range from 6-8 ft. That’s because 6-8 ft already includes all the lengths needed for the different baitcasting applications.

The shorter your fishing rod, the more accurate your casts will be, but the less casting distance you’ll have. Likewise, the longer your fishing rod, the farther you can cast, but the less accuracy you’ll have.

I personally use a 7 ft rod as it can accommodate any fishing technique. You should consider how much distance and accuracy you need with your casts and decide on your rod length accordingly.

Rod Action And Power

As mentioned above, you won’t be going after anything gigantic with baitcasting reels. This means you won’t need that much power. Medium heavy will suffice for bass fishing. Medium rod power is also viable, although with only medium power, you won’t be able to take on the larger species.

For action, go with a fast action rod, as you’ll miss the bites of the smaller species if your rod isn’t responsive enough. A moderate fast action rod is still functional too, just note that you won’t be able to detect any tugs from the smaller fishes.

The 9 Best Baitcaster Combos

Now that you know how to judge a baitcaster combo, you’ll be able to better decide the right baitcasting combo to get for you. 

Before we get started with the reviews though, note that the “Best Overall Magnetic” and “Best Overall Centrifugal” refer to the type of reel brake.

Also, all the combos employ magnetic brakes, except the Lew’s Mach 1 Speed Spool and the Shakespeare Alpha.

Now that we’ve cleared those up, let’s jump right into it!


Best Overall Magnetic

1. Lew’s Mach Smash SLP Baitcast Combo

  • Power: Medium Heavy
  • Guides: Stainless Steel
  • Ball Bearings: 7+1
  • Gear Ratio: 7.5:1
  • Max Drag Weight: 15 pounds

The first baitcaster combo on the list is the Lew’s Mach Smash SLP. This baitcaster combo passed every criteria with flying colours.

Outfitted with 7+1 bearings, this baitcasting combo’s reel is extremely smooth. The bearings are also stainless steel and double-shielded to keep sand and water out. This, together with the durable guides, translates to a long lifespan. As long as you take proper care, this baitasting combo will last for years to come.

On top of that, weighing in at a mere 12 ounces, you’ll find fishing with this baitcasting combo a breeze.

Then, to seal the deal, medium heavy power and 15 pounds of drag ensure you’re ready for even the largest bass. 

It’s totally fine if you’re going for something smaller though. Thanks to the IM6 graphite blank that provides amazing sensitivity, this fast action rod can feel the softest pulls from tiny fish.

I’m sure by now it’s obvious why this is our best overall baitcaster combo when it comes to magnetic brakes. But nothing in this world is perfect, and this combo is no exception. 

I really didn’t like how Lew’s sent over this combo to me with no bubble wrap at all. It was simply put into the box, and came to me with the reel handle bent. Thankfully, Lew’s did send me a new one, which goes to show they do care about their customers.

That aside, this baitcasting rod and reel combo is flawless. If you’re looking for a first-rate baitcaster combo with magnetic brakes that you can use for all baitcaster applications, look no further.


Best Overall Centrifugal

2. Lew’s Mach 1 Speed Spool Baitcast Combo

  • Power: Medium Heavy
  • Guides: Stainless Steel
  • Ball Bearings: 7+1
  • Gear Ratio: 7.5:1
  • Max Drag Weight: 15 pounds

Next up is the mirror image of the Lew’s Mach Smash SLP – the Lew’s Mach 1 Speed Spool. Both combos are alike in every way, except this one uses a centrifugal braking system and is slightly lighter.

Let’s start with the similarities.

Number one, both combos have identical 7+1 double-shielded bearings.

Number two, both combos’ bearings and guides are stainless steel. This makes them both equally tough.

Number three, both combos have the same sturdiness, consisting of a medium heavy baitcasting rod and a reel with a maximum drag of 15 pounds.

And finally, both combos have an equally sensitive fast action rod.

Both combos are strikingly similar. But there are two key differences – the Lew’s Mach 1 Speed Spool is about 2 ounces lighter, and uses a centrifugal braking system. 

Given the 2 ounces less weight, you might believe this combo to be better than the Mach Smash SLP, but I beg to differ. I’d say the centrifugal braking system that’s harder to use cancels out the 2 ounces less weight, so both combos are evenly matched.

One thing I wish this combo did differently though is the packaging. Unfortunately, it shares the same poor packaging as the Mach Smash SLP too.

Apart from that, the Lew’s Mach 1 Speed Spool is without fault. If you’re looking for the best baitcaster combo with centrifugal brakes, this is it.


Best Splurge

3. Abu Garcia Revo X Baitcast Combo

  • Power: Medium Heavy
  • Guides: Stainless Steel
  • Ball Bearings: 7+1
  • Gear Ratio: 6.6:1
  • Max Drag Weight: 18 pounds

This next baitcaster combo is all about lightness. The Abu Garcia Revo X Baitcast Combo is in a class of its own when it comes to being light. This incredible baitcasting rod and reel combo is unbelievably light. That’s not the only reason to buy it though. It’s also exceptionally smooth, durable, strong, and sensitive.

Equipped with 7+1 bearings, the reel is remarkably smooth.

Armed with stainless steel guides and bearings, the Abu Garcia Revo X is also outstandingly durable. In fact, its durability matches that of the last two combos. The same goes for its sensitivity too, with its fast action rod.

Here’s what sets this combo apart from the past two though – it weighs just a measly 7 ounces. There’s no question that the previous two combos are light, but this combo is on a whole other level. In fact, it’s not just the previous two combos, there’s no combo out there that can match this one’s lightness. With this lightweight rod and reel combo, you’ll feel fresh even after a whole day of fishing.

Furthermore, this lightweight combo comes with a medium heavy rod and a reel that can generate a whopping 18 pounds of stopping force. These make the Abu Garcia Revo X one of the strongest baitcasting combos on the market. This strength also makes it a versatile combo that’s able to take on a wide range of fish.

All in all, the Abu Garcia Revo X excels in every aspect and has no equal. If you’re looking for the best of the best and won’t settle for anything less, this is the baitcaster combo for you.

P.S. Make sure to get the black option and not the silver LTD option because the limited edition option is a lot heavier.


Best For Casual Anglers

4. Abu Garcia Black Max Combo

  • Power: Medium Heavy
  • Guides: Stainless Steel
  • Ball Bearings: 4+1
  • Gear Ratio: 6.4:1
  • Max Drag Weight: 15 pounds

Coming in at number 4, the Abu Garcia Black Max Combo is a well-rounded combo that delivers just the right amount on all fronts.

For smoothness, 4+1 bearings are just enough for the baitcast reel to operate at a high level.

For overall hardiness, you’ll have bearings and guides made with stainless steel.

For overall weight, the Abu Garcia Black Max Combo stands at 14.4 ounces. It’s nowhere near the combos before this, but it is lightweight enough to fish with for long periods of time.

For power, a medium heavy quality rod and 15 pounds of drag will allow you to fish bass of any size.

As for sensitivity, a fast action rating guarantees that no fish will go undetected.

In short, the Abu Garcia Max X won’t be turning many heads with its specs, but it gets the job done, and it does it well. Casual anglers who don’t need anything as high-end and impressive as the past few combos can opt for this fishing rod combo that’s more affordable instead.


Best For Beginners

5. KastKing Crixus Baitcasting Combo

  • Power: Ranges from Medium to Medium Heavy
  • Guides: Stainless Steel
  • Ball Bearings: 7+1
  • Gear Ratio: 6.5:1
  • Max Drag Weight: 17.6 pounds

Designed purely for performance, the KastKing Crixus is the most affordable high-performance baitcasting combo available.

First off, the 7+1 double-shielded bearings make for a pretty smooth baitcast reel. And coupled with the hardy guides, the result is a long-lasting combo that can withstand harsh elements.

Next, in terms of muscle, the medium heavy power and max drag of 17.6 pounds put it above most other baitcaster combos in strength. You’ll also be glad to hear that the KastKing Crixus fishing rod is sensitive, with fast action.

There’s just one problem with this fishing rod combo though – its weight. It isn’t heavy, but because of how light all the other combos on this list are, its average weight pales in comparison.

There’s no denying that the KastKing Crixus has got it all though. Notwithstanding the mediocre lightness, this rod and reel combo isn’t lacking in any area, whether it’s ruggedness, smoothness, or responsiveness. 

This combo was designed with the sole purpose of fulfilling all your baitcasting needs, not comfort. As such, new anglers who don’t want to splurge needlessly on more expensive combos just for some added comfort may want to give this combo a shot.


Best Crixus Alternative

6. Ugly Stik Elite Baitcast Combo

  • Power: Medium Heavy
  • Guides: Stainless Steel
  • Ball Bearings: 2+1
  • Gear Ratio: 6.2:1
  • Max Drag Weight: 12 pounds

On to the next combo, we chose the Ugly Stik Elite Baitcast Combo as an alternative to the KastKing Crixus because of its lighter weight.

Durability-wise, besides the sturdy guides, the Ugly Tech Construction also helps boost toughness. Since Ugly Stik rods are known for being unbreakable, this is one aspect you won’t have to worry about.

Strength-wise, although the rod has a medium heavy backbone, you’re limited by the max drag of 12 pounds. You’ll still be able to fish most baitcasting techniques, but you’ll have a hard time if you’re going large bass fishing. That said, you’ll have no trouble with smaller fish, as the Ugly Stik Clear Tip gives this rod fast action.

Weight-wise, at 15.8 ounces, this baitcaster combo is lighter than average. It’s also quite a bit lighter than the KastKing Crixus.

So far so good, but here’s where things start to go downhill.

Smoothness-wise, 2+1 bearings leaves a lot to be desired. To make matters worse, I had to spend quite a while trying to find out the material of the bearings, to no avail. I also couldn’t tell what they were made of even after scrutinising them with a torchlight. After reeling in a couple of fish, I’d say the Ugly Stik Elite isn’t too bad for a baitcast reel with only 2+1 bearings. Don’t expect buttery smooth operation from it though.

To sum it up, although this beginner baitcaster combo won’t be winning any awards for smoothness, it’s lightweight and can be used for most baitcasting applications. For beginners who value lightness more than performance, this is a great alternative to the KastKing Crixus.


Best For Travelling

7. Sougayilang Baitcaster Combo

  • Power: Medium
  • Guides: Ceramic
  • Ball Bearings: 9+1
  • Gear Ratio: 7.0:1
  • Max Drag Weight: 18 pounds

Portable and functional, the Sougayilang Baitcaster Combo is the best baitcasting rod and reel combo for travelling.

By now, you should be familiar with how to judge a combo with the listed specs, so I shan’t get into them. 

There are some things you should know about this combo though.

For starters, although there are 9+1 bearings, they aren’t very high-quality, because the reel didn’t feel any different from a reel with 4+1 bearings. The material of the bearings isn’t stated either. In addition, as mentioned above, medium power won’t be enough for the biggest bass.

Also, the action wasn’t listed anywhere. I was able to catch some panfish with this combo though, so the action isn’t too slow.

As you go through its features, you should be able to tell that this is a solid baitcaster combo. It’s no Revo X, but you won’t find a better telescopic baitcasting combo.


Best Budget

8. Shakespeare Alpha Baitcast Combo

  • Power: Medium
  • Guides: Stainless Steel
  • Ball Bearings: 1
  • Gear Ratio: 3.1:1
  • Max Drag Weight: 15 pounds

If you still haven’t found a combo to your liking, I’m guessing it’s a matter of price. That’s why I included this baitcaster combo.

As a glance at the features would tell you, the Shakespeare Alpha only has a gear ratio of 3.1:1. This means you’ll have to work really hard to reel in fish.

The 1 ball bearing is also pathetically sad. This is without a doubt one of the choppiest reels I’ve ever used.

The thing is, this combo is yours for the price of only a few cups of coffee. And in spite of its disappointing specifications, it’s actually usable as a baitcasting combo. That’s more than I can say for any other baitcasting combo below $50. 

In essence, this is the only serviceable baitcaster combo you can get on a shoestring budget.


Best Budget Lightness

9. Zebco Roam Baitcast Combo

  • Power: Medium Heavy
  • Guides: Shock-Ring
  • Ball Bearings: 4+1
  • Gear Ratio: 6.1:1
  • Max Drag Weight: 15 pounds

Another wallet-friendly pick, this baitcasting combo was made for those who want something light, but are on a tight budget.

Measuring a grand total of 10 ounces, other than the Revo X, the Zebco Roam is second to none in lightness.

The best part though, is its price. This phenomenal lightness will cost you only a little more than 60 bucks.

As with the Shakespeare Alpha, the Zebco Roam is lacking in some parts, such as the bearings. However, since it costs roughly 15 dollars more, its overall quality is still fairly satisfactory.


Frequently Asked Questions

At this point, we’ve covered whatever you came here for (the reviews and buying guide). Nonetheless, if you still have further questions, see if you can find the answers here.

Is Mono Or Braided Line Better For Baitcasters?

Braided lines have smaller diameters and are less prone to snapping. They also allow for longer casting distances and are less prone to tangles.

The catch is that braided lines are opaque and more easily spotted by fishes. Monofilament lines are also easier to use and cheaper.

Essentially, you’re choosing between better performance and ease of use. I use braided line most of the time for my baitcasting reels. Hence, I cannot in good conscience say mono and braided fishing line are equal, even though that’s the general consensus. When it comes to baitcasters, braided line is the way to go.

What Line Works Best On Baitcasters For Beginners?

I stand by my point that braided line is superior for baitcasters. 

Be that as it may, since monofilament line is easier to use, beginners may want to use it to practise casting. 

Once you’re past that stage, you can then decide whether to move on to braided line.

Why Are Baitcasters Better Than Spinning Gear?

Certain fishing styles will call for heavier lines and lures. You’ll also need to use heavier lines and lures for larger fish (obviously).

With baitcasters, you can cast farther with heavy tackle than spinning gear. 

Another advantage that baitcasters have is casting accuracy. With the right technique, you can place your lure pretty much anywhere you want it to go.

Even so, I wouldn’t say a baitcasting reel is better than a spinning reel. It really depends on the gear you’re using.

For lighter tackle, a spinning reel would be better. But if you’re using heavy lures and lines, baitcasters are undoubtedly better.

Do keep in mind though, that baitcasters are harder to use than spinning reels. Still, an experienced angler should have no issue, as mastering baitcasters is something that comes with fishing experience. As such, it’s better to start on baitcasters early on in your fishing journey.

What Is The Easiest Baitcaster To Cast?

The hardest part of casting with a baitcasting reel is backlash. That issue is completely eliminated with digital chip (DC) reels.

With DC reels, the digital chip will keep a close tab on the spool and apply the exact amount of brake needed to prevent backlash. With DC reels, smooth casting is a given. The problem is, a DC reel will cost you no less than $150. In fact, most DC reels cost upwards of $200. You’ll also be depriving yourself of the chance to learn how to cast without the help of a digital chip. 

Still, if you’re just looking to have fun with fishing, a DC reel is the fastest and easiest way to get started with baitcasters. In my opinion, the best DC reel, and the easiest baitcasting reel to cast with, is the Shimano Curado DC.

What Is The Best Baitcaster Combo For Beginners?

We chose the KastKing Crixus to be our beginner baitcaster combo because of its balance of affordability and performance. 

Depending on what you’re looking for though, the best baitcasting rod and reel combo for you will vary.

For example, if price isn’t a factor, then the best baitcasting combo, even for a beginner, would be the Abu Garcia Revo X.

I’m assuming this question is asking for the most user-friendly baitcaster though. If that’s the case, anything with a magnetic braking system will do the trick.

What Is The Best Baitcaster For Saltwater Fishing?

To go saltwater fishing, you’ll need gear that can resist corrosion. This isn’t to say that you won’t need corrosion-resistant gear for freshwater fishing, but saltwater angling calls for tougher tackle.

This means stainless steel guides and bearings. And ideally, your ball bearings should be shielded.

Some combos that fit that bill are the Lew’s Mach Smash SLP and the Lew’s Mach 1 Speed Spool.

What is the Best Baitcaster Combo?

From an economic standpoint, you’ll already have everything you need in the Abu Garcia Black Max Combo.

For those who don’t mind paying more for the cream of the crop though, the Abu Garcia Revo X is the best baitcasting combo money can get.

My Verdict

Rod and reel combos ensure that your fishing rod and reel will work well together. They’re also cheaper than buying a fishing rod and reel individually.

With so many baitcaster combos out there though, it can be hard to make a choice. That’s why we helped you narrow them down to the 9 best baitcasting combos.

If that still wasn’t enough and you still can’t make a choice, I recommend getting the Mach Smash SLP for magnetic brakes and the Mach 1 Speed Spool for centrifugal brakes.

Also, in case you need any other fishing gear, here are our other fishing gear recommendations.

With that, happy fishing!

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AUTHOR

Reuben went on his first fishing trip when he was 9. That's when he fell in love with fishing. When he's not fishing, he's searching for new gear and ways to fish better.