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3 Of The Best Reels for Swimbaits (Reviews & Guide)

Looking for the Best Reel for Swimbaits? Here Are 3 You Don’t Want to Miss

Swimbaits are really starting to catch on across America. What was once mostly seen on the West Coast has migrated to the East Coast, and beyond. However, there’s still a lot of folks out there that aren’t very familiar with what swimbaits are and how they can really open up a whole new fishing technique to them. 

In short, swimbaits are specific types of fishing lures that imitate the look and swimming style of other fish. They typically feature rubber tails that manufacturers refer to as “paddle tails.” The tails mimic the tail flutters of a real fish that’s swiming as you reel in the swimbait, hence the name “swim-bait”.

Best Swimbait Fishing Reel (Quick List)

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Swimbaits also come in a variety of sizes that range from 4 to 8 inches long. The size that you choose depends heavily on the size of fish that you hope to catch. With that said, I’ve found that swimbaits are perfect for catching large fish such as striped and largemouth bass.

And swimbaits aren’t just for freshwater either. Swimbaits are hugely popular among the saltwater fishing crowd as well. And when it comes to saltwater swimbaits, the size of these baits can get quite large.

The thing about swimbaits, however, is that to use them correctly…to really get them to mimic the swimming action of the baitfish they’re supposed copy, you have to retrieve them at a specific speed. Too fast or too slow and they’ll just look like a piece of plastic moving through the water. But at the right speed, and they’ll take on a life of their own that looks just like the tempting swimming action of a baitfish. 

That’s where the kind of reel you use comes into play. If you plan on fishing with swimbaits, you’ll need to use a reel that’s designed with that kind of retrieval speed in mind. 

And that’s exactly what I’ve done in this post. I’ve found the best reels for swimbaits based off their gear ratio, retrieval speed, quality and affordability. Keep reading to learn more about these top reels.  Then don’t miss the section below where I go into detail explaining what to look for in a swimbait fishing reel. 

Best Reels for Swimbaits (Reviews)

1.Shimano Tranx Baitcasting Reel(Top Pick)

When it comes to reliable and functional fishing reels, few names are better regarded than Shimano. There are numerous models to choose from, and all of them feature different gear ratios. For swimbait, you want the low gear ratio of the TRX300A or TRX400A.

Shimano Tranx reels are powerful, which is perfect for tackling large saltwater and freshwater fish. This power comes from the HEG and X-Ship technology that Shimano builds into its reels.

It provides smooth, yet powerful, cranking power that not only gives you the perfect cast with large bait but also helps reel in big catches.

Another benefit of choosing a Shimano Tranx, LowProfile Baitcasting Fishing Reel is its durability. The reel has CoreProtect water-resistant technology that protects the inside components even while fishing in the toughest of environments.

In addition, you can count on your Shimano Tranx reel to stand up to the test of time thanks to its cold forged Hagane construction. The metal body provides bulletproof protection and the impact resistance and stiffness that you need to guard the gears while reeling in large fish.

The Hagane body is made of magnesium and aluminum. It makes the casing lightweight while still eliminating flexing and warping while catching big fish. Without distortion, you don’t lose any power as you reel in.

The Shimano Tranx, LowProfile Baitcasting Fishing Reel features a maximum drag of 22 pounds. This makes it a good option for using swimbaits.

The biggest drawback is that there’s no clicker alarm to warn you when you’re running low on line. This might be a slight drawback for novice fishermen.


  • Contains HEG and X-Ship technology that provides power and stability
  • Hagane construction
  • CoreProtect water-resistant technology
  • Lightweight design


  • No clicker alarm

2. Daiwa Lexa​​ 400 

If comfort is what you seek, the Daiwa Lexa 400 is perfect for you. In fact, comfort is the area where the Lexa series of reels really shines. Despite that, extreme comfort isn’t the only thing that it has to offer.

The Daiwa Lexa 400 offers a custom blue Winn grip handle that matches the other blue accents on the reel casing. This handle also gives you more control over your rod, which comes in handy when you’re trying to land large fish.

This specific Daiwa Lexa also has a low gear ratio, which makes it perfect for catching large fish and handling large bait. It’s one reason why the Daiwa Lexa 400 is an ideal option for an affordable reel for fishing with swimbaits. In order to get the best performance out of the Daiwa Lexa 400, you need to stick to lures that weigh around 3 to 8 ounces.

Do you have trouble casting reels that are designed for swimbaits? If so, the Daiwa Lexa 400 is a great choice thanks to MagForce cast control. MagForce technology uses magnets to make the Daiwa Lexa 400 just as easy to cast as the smaller reels that Daiwa makes.

The Daiwa Lexa 400 features a large dial that makes adjusting the cast a snap. Because of that, you can use this reel for more than just swimbaits by making a few simple adjustments.

The Daiwa Lexa 400 has a carbon drag rating of 25 pounds. It prevents line breakage when you catch large fish.

The biggest drawback to the Daiwa Lexa 400 is that it’s a heavyweight reel. It’s made for swimbaits. Beyond that, you won’t have much luck with any lures that weigh less than 3 ounces.


  • Custom Winn grip handle.
  • Drag rating of 25 pounds.
  • Features MagForce technology for easy casting control.


  • Heavyweight reel that doesn’t work well with lures under 3 ounces.

3. Shimano Calcutta 400B 

Once again, Shimano makes the list with its Shimano Calcutta 400B reel. In fact, the Calcutta series is one of its flagship reels. They’re very dependable, versatile and feature high-quality parts.

The Shimano Calcutta 400B features anti-rust bearings. The A-RBs make the reel perfect for both freshwater and saltwater fishing. Compared to other reels in its class, the Calcutta 400B is very lightweight thanks to an aluminum cold forged spool.

The reel itself features all-metal construction to keep everything in precise alignment while you fish big game. In short, it can stand up to the test of time.

Shimano is a company that believes in making the outside of its reels as beautiful and durable as the inside. That’s why the Calcutta 400B features anodized plating and a durable finish. Speaking of the finish, the Calcutta 400B has a gold finish that makes it stand out.

In terms of casting control, the Calcutta 400B doesn’t use magnets. Instead, it uses centrifugal force. When you start your cast, the individual weights move outward at the point where backlash usually occurs. This reduces the speed of the spool.

As the speed of the spool slows and you start to cast your line, the pressure of the weights lessens. This allows the spool to continue to spin, giving you a nearly perfect cast every time.

The Calcutta 400B also features Super Stopper technology. The Super Stopper is made up of a one-way, anti-reverse steel roller bearing. This bearing eliminates back-play and gives you more hook-setting power.

The biggest drawback to the Calcutta 400B is that it only has a maximum drag of 17.5 pounds. That places it well below the maximum drag of other reels used for swimbaits, including the Daiwa Lexa 400.


  • Features Super Stopper technology.
  • Uses centrifugal force for casting control.
  • Lightweight thanks to its cold forged housing.


  • Low maximum drag compared to other swimbait reels.

What’s the Best Gear Ratio for a Swimbait Reel?

It’s important to understand what the term “gear ratio” means when talking about fishing reels. Basically, the gear ratio is a measurement of how many times that the spool turns for each turn of the reel handle.

For example, let’s say that you have a reel with a 6.4:1 ratio. This means that every time you make a full turn of the reel handle, the spool inside turns 6.4 times. While it might seem like a high gear ratio is the way to go, that isn’t the case for all fishing.

When it comes to a swimbait reel, you want a low gear ratio. Try to find one that runs between 5.1:1 to 5.4:1. These are perfect for big bait fishing such as with swimbaits.

Of course, you can also use low gear ratio reels for other fishing. Deep crankbaits and deep water spinnerbaits benefit from a reel with a low gear ratio as well. A high gear ratio is better when you use big worms or topwater lures.

Inches Per Turn

Another element that you should understand is the inches per turn of the reel. As the name suggests, the IPT is a measurement of how much line that your reel retrieves per handle turn.

Knowing the IPT will help you when you buy any fishing reel. The reason is that the gear ratio isn’t the only thing that affects the IPT. The spool size, width and depth of the reel affects it too.

For example, just because a reel has an 8:1 gear ratio doesn’t necessarily mean that it has a higher IPT than a reel with a 7.3:1 gear ratio. That’s because the size of the reel and line affect how much line is retrieved per turn.

Features to Look For in a Swimbait Reel

With so many different reels out there, how do you know what to look for when picking out a swimbait reel? Of course, picking the right reel starts with picking the right rod. You need one that’s rated to handle the weight of the bait that you’ll use. If you’re using 8-ounce bait, for instance, you want a rod that’s rated to handle it.

In terms of the reel itself, you want one with a low gear ratio. The main reason is that it will help the lure achieve the desired motion to lure in fish. A gear ratio that’s too high will make the lure move unnaturally.

The low gear ratio will also keep you from reeling in a fish too quickly. When you reel in big fish too quickly, you run the risk of pulling the hook from their mouths. You also risk bringing the fish to the surface of the water, where it can jump out and wiggle free from the hook.

In addition, pay close attention to reels that have smooth casting. Using a reel that doesn’t aid your cast is a quick way to wear yourself out.

Lastly, pay attention to if you’re fishing on a boat or on land. On a boat, you might need a higher gear ratio because you have to make up for the movement of the boat. You want to keep the bait moving at the same speed despite the boat drifting or moving.

Final Thoughts

All of these reels are great in their own right. After all, that’s why they made it onto this list of the top three reels for swimbait. However, our pick for the best is the Shimano Tranx Low Profile Baitcasting Fishing Reel.

Despite not having a clicker alarm, the Shimano Tranx features everything that you need to make swimbait fishing a breeze. Since it’s a Shimano product, you know that you’re buying quality.  

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Written by Don

When I'm not bass fishing or looking for steelhead in my home state of Oregon I can be found working on house projects dreaming of my next fishing adventure.

I started this website to share just some of the things I've learned along my fishing journey, and the many things I'm still learning. Enjoy!

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