Best Baitcasting Reels Under $100 in 2020 – Buyer’s Guide

Baitcasting reels are heavy-duty pieces. They have quite the learning curve but are extremely rewarding. They offer you a lot of strength, torque, and sturdiness to chase bigger scale fish species. Moreover, they offer you versatility, as they come in two types. 

The first one, being the low profile, is designed to relieve a lot of pressure off your wrists and forearms through allowing you to palm it. It also boosts your sensitivity by keeping your index finger on the line to feel all that’s happening underwater. 

On the other hand, the second type is the round reel, which are reels that can go the extra mile. They can take quite the beating for prolonged periods as they work with heavier lines in longer lengths due to their high line-capacity. 

When you are making the switch or starting to learn how to baitcast, surely you wouldn’t want to spend an arm and a leg on a reel as they can easily reach $400. We’ve compiled a list for you consisting of the six best baitcasting reels under $100.

At a Glance:

  1. Abu Garcia Black Max – Best Overall
  2. Abu Garcia Pro Max – Runner-Up
  3. Piscifun Phantom – Best Brake System 
  4. Abu Garcia Silver Max – Best Spool
  5. Daiwa Fuego CT – Best Smoothness
  6. Daiwa Megaforce THS – Best Strength

Comparison Table:

Reel

DragGear RatioBall Bearings

Line Capacity

Abu Garcia Black Max

18 lbs.6.4:14+1

Mono: 145 yds – 12 lbs

Braided: 140 yds – 30 lbs

Abu Garcia Pro Max

18 lbs.7.1:17+1Mono: 145 yds – 12 lbs

Braided: 140 yds – 30 lbs

Piscifun Phantom

17 lbs.7.0:16+1

Mono: 120 yds – 10 lbs

Braided: 120 yds – 30 lbs

Abu Garcia Silver Max

18 lbs.6.4:15+1

Mono:145 yds – 12 lbs

Braided: 140 yds – 30 lbs

Daiwa Fuego CT

13.2 lbs.7.3:15+1

Mono: 120 yds – 14 lbs/ 100 yds – 16 lbs

Braided: 130 yds – 30 lbs/ 100 yds – 40 lbs

Daiwa Megaforce THS

8.8 lbs.7.3:16+2

Mono: 150 yds – 12 lbs/ 125 yds – 14 lbs

Braided: 130 yds – 30 lbs/ 100 yds – 40 lbs

The 6 Best Baitcasting Reels Under $100 in 2020

1. Abu Garcia Black Max

Abu Garcia Black Max

Abu Garcia has proven time and time again that they do have it all. If you’re looking for a baitcasting reel under $100, then the Abu Garcia Black Max will never disappoint you. 

Thanks to its graphite frame, and machined aluminum spool, it combines a lot of flexibility, corrosion-resistance, durability, and lightweightness in a compact, utterly palmable device. 

The Duragear brass gearing system allows it to have a gear ratio of 6.4:1, and with the help of the 4+1 stainless steel ball bearings, the sailing is incredibly smooth. 

Moreover, it is designed with magnetic cast control and the MagTrax brake system, which boost sensitivity through increasing the control that anglers have on their lines as they cast. Therefore, the efficiency of each cast shoots sky-high. 

Furthermore, you can count on the Power Strike drag system to give you up to 18 lbs of power, which is very impressive for such a small device. 

Now that we have mentioned that the spool is made out of machined aluminum, that’s not the whole deal, though, as it’s as sturdy as it’s capacious. It has a line capacity of 145 yds/12 lbs for monofilament lines and 140yds/30lbs for braided lines. 

Lastly, the ergonomically designed bent handle provides loads of comfort for all anglers.

Unfortunately, the gearing system gets kind of noisy when going gets tough.

Pros:

  • Lightweight
  • Strong, capacious spool
  • Affordable 
  • Comfortable 

Cons:

  • Noisy under pressure 

Final Verdict

The greatest thing about this reel is that you can use it in any shape or form; as your main reel, your starting reel, and backup reel. The gearing and drag systems are both heavy-duty pieces that will weather many storms. Also, the price point at which it comes undoubtedly makes it a win-win situation.

2. Abu Garcia Pro Max 

Abu Garcia Pro Max

Our second reel is also by Abu Garcia and enjoys a lot of the same qualities as the Abu Garcia Black Max Low Profile. 

It’s small, compact, sturdy, and lightweight since it’s a one-piece graphite frame with side plates. So, there’s a unity to this reel that gives a sense of security to anglers. 

The spool here is made out of machine double anodized aluminum with a capacity of 150 yds/12 lbs – 125 yds/14 lbs for monofilament lines, and 130 yds/30 lbs – 100 yds/40 lbs for braided lines. 

The Duragear brass gear system allows for an impressive gear ratio of 7.1:1. Add to that 7+1 stainless steel ball bearings with the roller bearing being an instant anti-reverse one, and you’ll understand why working with this reel is a breath of fresh air. 

Strength has not been overlooked with this reel as it has a MagTrax brake system, plus a powered disk drive system capable of pulling 18 lbs out of the water without any trouble. This expands the lifespan of your reel in specific and your other gear in general. 

Finally, the handle is made out of EVA to grant fishers maximum comfort on any waterfront. 

Sadly, this reel comes with the same downside as the previous one, a noisy gearing system when the pressure rises. That sometimes might lead to a not-so-smooth performance.

Pros:

  • Affordable 
  • Durable
  • MagTrax brake system
  • Instant anti-reverse
  • Ergonomically designed

Cons:

  • Noisy
  • Not so smooth

Final Verdict

If you need a higher gear ratio and more ball bearings, then this reel is the one for you. It is more fit for scanning vast areas and quicker casts.

3. Piscifun Phantom 

Piscifun Phantom 

This reel has so many advantages, from its featherlight weight to the strength of its gearing system, to the superiority of the drag system, all the way to the design of the handle. Each aspect has been taken care of down to the very last detail. 

Hence, let’s start with its structure as it is made out of premium carbon fiber, which includes the frame, side plates, and handle. What carbon fiber does is reduce the reel’s weight beyond measure while maintaining stability and durability.

The spool here is impressive as it can take 120 yds/10 lbs of monofilament lines and 120 yds/30 lbs of braided lines. 

The reel’s internal structure has been designed out of double hard-anodized, aircraft-grade aluminum, which includes the main and pinion gears. This works towards providing a ratio of 7.0:1.

Another factor that adds to your process’s smoothness will have to be the 6+1 stainless steel anti-corrosion bearings, which provide high precision due to the instant hook set feature. 

Furthermore, the drag system is a four-disc carbon fiber washer, one with an impressive power of 17 lbs. The star of the show will have to be the brake system as Piscifun wasn’t satisfied with just one system, so they added a second one. 

The Piscifun Phantom has been designed with a dual brake system: the Dynamic 6-Pin Centrifugal brake, plus a magnetic brake, which eliminates backlashes and tangles, totally changing the flow of your trip to the better. 

Lastly, the 105 mm extended carbon crank handle gives fisherman extra torque and a superior grip. 

The downside that comes with this reel is flimsy screws, which can prove to be quite tiresome.

Pros:

  • Lightweight 
  • Durable
  • 4 washer drag system
  • Dual brake system

Cons:

  • Flimsy screws

Final Verdict

This reel is an excellent find for anyone who’s going after trophy catches. The internal structure here has been significantly serviced; you will have a robust drag system, a superior gearing system, and an unbeatable brake system. 

4. Abu Garcia Silver Max 

Abu Garcia Silver Max 

Another fantastic reel by Abu Garcia is made out of one piece graphite frame, which allows for sturdiness, flexibility, and lightweight. 

It has a machined aluminum spool, which is pretty standard until now. The thing is, this spool has been designed with a Rocket-Clutch mechanism, which allows you to deal with the spool single-handedly. 

You can control your casts and retrievals without the need to switch hands and all that hassle. Of course, this leads to better precision and eliminates lots of wind knots and tangles. 

Plus, it’s a line capacity of 145 yds/12 lbs for monofilament lines and 140 yds/30 lbs for braided lines. 

Additionally, it has a Power Disk drag system with a maximum of 18 lbs. On the other hand, the gearing system includes a Dura Gear brads gear and 5+1 stainless steel ball bearings. When these two work together, they create a balanced gear ratio of 6.4:1. Such a ratio will allow you to do both scanning and trophy fishing in equal measures. 

The brake system is also a MagTrax one, while the handles are made out of EVA. The defect of this reel is the quality of its construction, which can be faulty at times.

Pros:

  • Rocket-Clutch mechanism
  • MagTrax brake system
  • Power disk drag system
  • Affordable 

Cons:

  • Poor construction 

Final Verdict

This reel is great to use in difficult situations where you need to maneuver your gear easier than average. It is comfortable to hold and is designed with mechanisms that facilitate your fishing experience.

5. Daiwa Fuego CT

Daiwa Fuego CT

Whenever you decide to cast with this reel, you’ll experience unprecedented smoothness in all its aspects. 

Firstly, the aluminum CT frame and body give you a high-quality, sturdy, strong feel. And although the  Daiwa Fuego CT is a bit larger than its peers on this list, it’s still very comfortable to hold snuggly in your hands. 

The spool is quite robust and will hold plenty of line; 120 yds/14 lbs – 100 yds/16 lbs for monofilament lines, and 130 yds/30 lbs – 100 yds/40 lbs for braided lines. 

Moreover, it has a U.T drag system, Ultimate Tournament Carbon Drag, an oversized carbon drag washer with a maximum of 13.2 lbs. 

The braking system here is magnetic; the MagForce to be specific, which allows you to cast long and wide with incredible precision due to its efficient free-spool. 

The gearing system here allows for a gear ratio of 7.3:1, and along with the 5 ball bearings and the instant anti-reverse bearing, you can see where the mentioned smoothness comes from. 

Lastly, this machinery is designed to allow airflow and rotation through it in an efficient way; it expels the heat caused by the friction; therefore, it maintains the device.

Still, it comes with some quality control issues as some clients have received their reels banged or broken.

Pros:

  • Aluminum CT body
  • Lightweight 
  • Smooth

Cons:

  • Quality control 

Final Verdict

This Daiwa Fuego Ct reel is the epitome of fluid performance. You have a MagForce brake system and a U.T drag system supporting your free spool, so it is a great choice.

6. Daiwa Megaforce THS

Daiwa Megaforce THS

Our second reel by Daiwa is the Megaforce THS. What it does is that it allows you to deliver an immaculate performance, as it is chock-full of features and technologies that help you achieve such a goal. 

First of all, this reel is a solid one piece of aluminum, making it both lightweight and sturdy at the same time. It boasts a micro-click drag adjustment with a maximum of 8.8 lbs. Although it is not the highest maximum drag power that we have seen, it’s precise adjustment and consistency improve its standing massively. 

The gearing system includes high-grade brass drive gear, 6 stainless steel ball bearings, plus 2 roller bearings, and a stainless steel pinion gear. These three factors make your casts on-point in smoothness and accuracy and give you a gear ratio of 7.3:1.

Moreover, backlash and wind knots have decreased significantly due to the MagForce Z brake system, which allows the spool to spin faster, and of course, the Twitchin’ bar. 

What a twitchin bar does is that it allows you to pick up on any slack line immediately, so your experience is immaculate and hassle-free. 

Additionally, this device has been designed with a lightweight, free-floating, drilled aluminum spool, which can take 150 yds/12 lbs – 125 yds/14 lbs of monofilament line, and 130 yds/30 lbs – 100 yds/40 lbs of braided lines. 

Of course, the comfort of anglers has not been forgotten as these handles are swept with EVA knobs. The only downside to this reel is its small casting distance.

Pros:

  • Strong
  • Twitchin’ bar
  • MagForce Z
  • Floating spool 

Cons:

  • Small casting distance 

Final Verdict

If your primary concern with purchasing a baitcasting reel is a secure hassle-free experience with high precision and accuracy, Daiwa’s reel is the one for you.

What to Expect from a $100 Baitcasting Reel

$100 isn’t a meager sum of money. When you pay $100, you’d expect quality. Hence, excellent structure, graphite, aluminum, magnesium, or ceramic construction, high-quality ball bearings, and a strong drag system are what you should expect. 

Additionally, if you dig, you’ll find a reel with more options, such as a level wind system, anti-reverse, and different technologies.

What to Look for When Buying a Budget Baitcasting Reel

1. Build

As we have mentioned before, baitcasters are the next step after spinning reels, when you decide that you’re going for more massive trophy catches that will need a lot of torque. 

Although they can be used on any waterfront, salt or freshwater, they are mainly designed for saltwater. It is the natural habitat of the majority of the large species. 

You’ll find that the best baitcasting reels are made of high-quality materials such as manganese, aluminum, titanium, and ceramic. Some of these elements can be quite expensive, but others remain within budget.

2. Spool

When you’re going for a trophy catch, you’ll need a strong fishing line and a strong reel, which’s why people lean towards braided lines more than anything else. 

Also, you have to go for a large spool that can take a significant length of line. Plus, it has to be braid-ready so that your line doesn’t slip left and right. 

Lastly, the spool is an exposed part of the reel, so it has to be made out of the same robust, corrosion-resistant materials as the rest of the device.

3. Brake System

What the brake system does in a reel is that it prevents the spool from rotating more or less than needed. If the brakes fail, the line will create bird nests and backlash. 

When your line hits the water, the spool is supposed to stop immediately; otherwise, it lets on more than needed line into the water. There are two types of brake systems: the magnetic one and the centrifugal one. 

An advantage that some companies offer is a double brake system, which includes both the mentioned types. This, of course, allows for an even greater level of control and, therefore, higher efficiency.

Magnetic 

As the name implies, this system operates through the power of attraction and repulsion caused by magnetic fields. It consists of two sets of magnets, one on each side of the spool. The distance between these two sets of magnets increase and decrease according to the current need.

Centrifugal 

Centrifugal force is the type of energy created through the inertia of the object as it revolves in a circular path. That’s why it is created when you cast. However, when the cast ends, this force also ends. This prevents the spool from continuous rotation the moment your line hits the surface of the water.

4. Ball Bearings 

Quality will always rule supreme over quantity when it comes to ball bearings. 

It’s ten-times better for you to own a low number of high-quality ceramic or stainless steel ball bearings that are completely shielded and sealed to prevent saltwater damage than to have a high number of low-quality unshielded bearings that will rust and hinder the smoothness of your process.

Also, try to steer clear from brushers as they are even weaker than ball bearings, and they do not do the job as needed.

5. Gear Ratio 

The numbers of the ratio stand for the count of whole spins that your spool does per one full crank of the handle. So, it controls the speed at which you retrieve your line. 

There are different ranges for a gear ratio. If you go for a lower one like 4.0 and lower, it will give you enough torque and strength to pull a prideful catch out of the sea slowly but firmly. 

On the other side, if you are scanning broad areas of your waterfront fast, then a higher gear ratio of 7.0 and above will suit you more.

6. Drag System

If you want an on-point drag system, it should have a maximum of about 20-30% of your line’s breaking strength. Such force for a drag system will tire your catch over a reasonable period, while still being able to reel it in without difficulty or damage to your gear.

Still, the maximum drag is not the only aspect of a drag system; the type is essential as well. We would mostly advise you to go for a carbon fiber drag system with oversized oil-felt washers which do incredibly well. 

Lastly, always go for an adjustable one and try to adjust according to your target fish before you cast to prevent any awkwardness during your fishing process.

7. Design

One of the most important aspects of any fishing gear is your comfort when fishing, as it takes a lot of time. You’ll be holding your reel and rod for prolonged periods, so we need to make sure that palming your reel is pleasant to you. 

The handle should be at a suitable distance from the reel and the rod so that you can move it without difficulty. It is also preferable for the handle to be made out of EVA rather than any other material. 

Finally, you should know that baitcasters aren’t made ambidextrous, so you have to know which hand you are going to cast and with which hand you will retrieve to make an informed decision.

Final Thoughts

One of the many draws of baitcasting, in general, has to be the smoothness by which your line hits the surface of the water without spooking any of the surrounding fish. 

One of the best baitcasting reels under $100 is the Abu Garcia Black Max Low Profile Reel, as it hits all the features that you’d want in a baitcaster for an affordable price. 

Our runner-up, the Abu Garcia Pro Max Low Profile, is also a great choice. It’s actually so much alike the Black Max yet still worlds apart, making it incredibly strong yet unique.

If you intend to spend your water-time by going through vast areas and exploring what your waterfront has to offer, then you will need something with significant line capacity. In this case, we would recommend the as it can take 150 yds/12 lbs – 125 yds – 14 lbs for monofilament line and 130 yds/30 lbs – 100 yds – 40 lbs for braided line.