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Understanding Reel Gear Ratios & Why They Are Important

Updated on April 1, 2013
Large & Small Pinion Gears
Large & Small Pinion Gears

How Numerical Gear Ratios Are Determined

The numerical gear ratios you see listed on today's reels (7.1:1, 5.3:1, 5.4:1, 6.4:1, etc) are determined by the number of "teeth" on the large and small pinion gears of your reel. If you were to count the number of teeth on the large drive gear, and divide it by the number of teeth on the smaller gear, you will have that reels gear ratio. Here is an example... if you count 72 teeth on your large pinion gear, and 12 teeth on the smaller pinion gear, then divide - you will come up with a gear ratio of 6:1, or six-to-one.

So what does that mean?

This really means that when the larger pinion drive gear is turned one full turn or revolution, the smaller pinion gear (which is directly connected to your reels spool), will turn 6 times. Obviously, the more times the small pinion gear turns, the "faster" the reel will be. This will be important when determining which is reel is best for your type of fishing, as speed plays an important part of your presentations.

Note: The first number in the gear ratio always refers to the small pinion drive gear, and the number of revolutions it spins, with one turn of the reels handle.

IPT Chart For Popular Reel Manufacturers
IPT Chart For Popular Reel Manufacturers

More Than Just About "Gears"

In addition to the gear ratio of your fishing reel, you use also be aware of another critical measurement or determination of speed - called the IPT or Inches Per Turn measurement. This number refers to how many inches of line are recovered with each full turn of your reels handle. This number varies, with each different reel, and their manufacturer. In other words, two reels with the same gear ratio but spools of different circumferences will recover line at different rates.

Why Is All This Important?

These speed measurement and gear ratios are all very important because they directly affect your style of fishing and the speed of your lure presentations. If you are fishing bucktails, in-line spinners, crankbaits, or swimbaits - you will most likely turn to a higher gear ratio and IPT rate, allowing you to retrieve your baits quickly. It would be very difficult to "burn" a bucktail, or "race" a crankbait with a 4:1 gear ration.

Likewise, it would be difficult to have a slow presentation with a topwater or jig bait, with a higher gear ratio and higher IPT rate. So always be thinking about the application you'll be using your particular reel for, when purchasing.


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