Peek into the rod box of a tournament pro and you may find upwards of 20 outfits, one for just about every application. The average angler doesn’t need that many, of course, but there are some things we can learn from the variety.
One key distinction is retrieve ratio: How many revolutions of the spool for each crank of the handle. Bassmaster Elite Series pro Ish Monroe suggests two ratios will cover just about anything you want to do in Florida waters:
6.3:1 — Monroe, who notched a 2012 Elite win on Lake Okeechobee, said this medium speed is ideal for reaction baits like spinnerbaits, swimbaits, topwaters and bladed swim jigs. This provides sufficient speed to move those baits rapidly enough to entice strikes; even with the “burning” technique often used for tempting bass that are schooling on bait.
7.3:1 — This is your choice for those soft plastics you’ll pitch, flip or punch into Florida’s abundant vegetation, either Texas-rigged or on the back of a jig. Now, high-speed reels of yesteryear lacked the torque to separate fish from cover, but today’s models, like Monroe’s Daiwa Tatulas and other repu- table brands, offer reasonably high gear ratio with the best of both worlds.
“That 7.3:1 is going to be fast enough for you to keep up with the fish, but strong enough to pull a fish out of heavy cover,” Monroe said. “You don’t want to go too fast, like I’ve seen guys use 8 or 9:1 gear ratios and they can’t get those big fish out of the heavy cover.
“It’s kind of like riding a bike; you want the slower gear ratios for going uphill, which is like having a lot of grass on your line, and you want a faster gear ratio when you’re going downhill, which is when you’re fishing open water.”
As Monroe explains, using areel that’s too fast risks pulling the bait away from the fish, whereas a reel that’s too slow prevents you from working the bait effectively.
GOING TO EXTREMES
If you’re tempted to go outside these suggested reel speeds, consider Monroe’s insights:
Ride the Brakes: If you’re slow-rolling a spinnerbait or creeping a swimbait, a 5:1 reel will keep you at a glacial pace.
Speed Kills: Some like super-fast reels in that 8:1 or higher range for topwaters or ripping lipless crankbaits out of hydrilla (killer prespawn tech- nique). However, Monroe said these gear ratios work the baits too fast for Sunshine State fish. “The one thing about Florida fish that I’ve learned is that it’s better to slow down than to speed up,” he said. FS