Musky fishing is a tough and demanding sport, so there's no need to make it any harder than it has to be. My name is Riley Simmons, and I'm a full-time fishing guide based out of Minocqua, WI, who specializes in muskies. With Piscifun upping their game in their casting reels, I mainly run the Alijoz 300 and 400-size reels for all of my set-ups. These cover just about all the needs that musky fishing demands. This includes reel size, durability, line capacity, drag, bait clickers, line pick-up, and, most importantly, gear ratio.
The equipment, specifically casting reels with different gear ratios, has changed and evolved so much that there's no reason not to take every advantage that they have to offer. In this article, I'll define the significance of gear ratios and understand how to effectively use them to enhance your musky angling experience.
What is Gear Ratio?
First, let's break down and understand exactly what gear ratios are. Gear ratio refers to the number of revolutions the spool makes for every full turn of the reel handle. You've probably already experienced the phenomenon of gear ratios while riding a bike. You're peddling, come to an incline, and need to "down-shift" to make pedaling easier. When downshifting, you're essentially reducing your gear ratio, which reduces the distance the bike travels with each turn of the pedal. This, in turn reduces resistance and makes peddling much easier. This applies directly to casting reels and bait selection.
A high gear ratio reel will be advantageous for baits that you want to cover a lot of water with and move fast. A low-gear ratio reel will save your arm and wrist by reducing the resistance on hard-pulling baits but forfeit some speed in the process.
Casting Reels Recommendations for Different Gear Ratios
I primarily use Piscifun Alijoz casting reels in my boat for myself and my clients. The Alijoz 300 comes in three gear ratios: high 8.1:1, medium 6.6:1, and low 5.9:1. Each ratio has a time and place where it shines. The Alijoz 400 currently comes in a high and medium gear ratio and has been a workhorse in my boat, casting lures weighing over a pound. I'm looking forward to seeing the other ratios the 400 size will come in!
High-gear Ratio Casting Reel
I prefer a high-gear ratio reel when looking for speed and/or quick-line pickup. Small bucktails such as Rizzo tails or small Mepps bucktails that have little resistance in the water and are typically reeled very fast over the tops of weeds right below the surface are paired perfectly with a high gear ratio reel. Large rubber baits, such as Medussas from Chaos Tackle, are worked with fast and long sweeping motions of the rod. This makes a high-gear reel ideal for reeling in the slack created between each pump, sweep, or rip of the rod.
Medium Ratio Casting Reels
Medium ratio casting reels are great all-around reels. If you're just getting into musky fishing or looking at owning just one reel, a medium gear ratio is the way to go. I like to utilize a medium gear ratio reel in my set-up when throwing crankbaits, glides, and dive and rise baits. Any of your sub-surface hard-bodied baits will pair great with a mid-gear ratio reel. Mid-range gears are ideal with these styles of baits because of the pause with these baits. Small taps of the rod make these styles of lures 'dance' with side-to-side, dive and rise, and erratic action. You'll want enough line pickup to reel in the slack in between rod taps but not too much where the reel pickup overcompensates and takes away from the rod movements that are key for these baits. Too low of gear ratio equates to not enough line pick up in between rod taps and likely losing action on the lures.
Low-gear Ratio Casting Reels
Lastly, the primary use of low-gear ratio casting reels will be for large-bladed bucktails. Your wrist and forearm will thank you immensely if you plan to throw large-bladed baits all day! While speed is lost with the lower gear ratio, the resistance will be much easier, just like the example we used before when downshifting on a bike. I often find myself handing this set-up to clients frequently when using topwater lures and large rubber swimbaits. People tend to reel these two styles of bait in way too fast. It's easy to do. By giving them a lower gear reel, they think they're reeling in faster than they actually are. Then we're able to get the action and speed we're looking for in paddle tails and topwater lures, which is typically a slower cadence to get the nice "plop, plop, plop" of a topwater and a nice tail thump with a paddle tail swimbait.
Tips for First Musky Reel
Whether you're selecting your first musky reel or have been chasing these toothy critters for years, it's paramount to consider the factors that ensure a successful angling experience. Make sure to choose a gear ratio that suits the fishing style your gear demands. Choosing the right gear ratio is an easy step that, when combined with effective casting techniques, retrieve styles, bait choices, and other factors, will increase your chances of hooking and landing that musky trophy!