Best Gear Ratio for Fishing Soft Plastics – By Presentation

A 6.2:1 gear ratio is ideal for soft plastics fished horizontally. A higher speed, like 8.2:1, is perfect for flipping and pitching presentations.

In this article, you will find a specific breakdown of what gear ratios work well for a variety of soft plastic presentations.

The Idea of What a “high-speed” Gear Ratio is Keeps Changing

It wasn’t that many years ago a reel around the 6.2:1 gear ratio was considered high-speed. 

Then reels offering options in that 7.2:1 range were considered “burner” reels. We had never seen anything that fast. Well, now we have reels in that 8+ arena. 

The below table will help us understand common gear ratios and their inches of line recovery per turn.

Gear RatioInches of Recovery Per Turn (RPT)
Spool Diameter Makes a Difference in Recovery Rate

Breaking Down Soft Plastic Presentations

All of bass fishing can be split into two types of presentations.

Horizontal and vertical.

Soft plastics that swim through the water column fall into that horizontal category. Think of things like swimbaits, soft jerkbaits, grubs, swimming worms, etc.

Plastic lures that are used on the drop and then bounced where the bait lands are in the vertical presentation category. Texas-rigged creature baits, shaky heads, ned rigs, and weightless wacky rigs all fall into this realm. Most often anglers using soft plastics like this are either flipping or pitching close to visible cover.

These two very different presentation styles are each best suited to their own gear ratio.

This largemouth attacked a swimbait presented horizontally in the water column.

6.2:1 Gear Ratio and Horizontally Presented Soft Plastic Lures

Of course, any gear ratio in the 6’s will work fine here, but a slower speed is crucial.

As anglers, we tend to fish and move our baits way too much. There are times when burning lures and ripping jerkbaits to elicit reaction strikes are perfect. I use them a lot, but most of the time we are fishing much, much, too fast.

A slower gear ratio reel will keep our lures looking the most natural.

Think about a school of bluegills, shad, or minnows. Most of the time, they are moving about quite slow or even sitting still. 

Our goal as an angler is to present these lures in a natural manner that offers bass such an easy meal they cannot resist. 

I am big into mental imagery when bass fishing. 

Picturing a bluegill that is haphazardly and carelessly swimming along and not alert to danger is what I want my lure to look like. 

A gear ratio in that 6.2:1 range helps me to achieve that. In fact, if you have a reel that is 5.2:1, I would use that one as well.

Fishing a Texas-rigged worm on the drop or in heavy cover is perfect for a high-speed reel.

8.2:1 Gear Ratio and Vertically Presented Lures

The last decade has seen reels get faster and faster. 

When I work events around the country, many consumers make a beeline for that latest and greatest reel and ask about the speed. They want fast and then faster.

I ask them what lures they plan to throw on that high-speed reel and most often they are not sure, but just want speed.

This thought process will actually hurt their bass fishing more than help it unless the reason for needing a high-speed reel is understood.

Reels with gear ratios at the fast end should be thought about as recovering line after the presentation is over and/or when pulling bass from heavy cover.

Line Recovery After a Presentation

Let’s use flipping a Texas-rigged creature bait around docks for an example.

The lure is most effective when falling vertically right along a dock post or piling. Then we will hop it a time or two on the bottom. Once that presentation is done, getting the lure back as fast as possible to make another cast is important.

At the end of a day of fishing, that accounts for more casts made and more chances for a bite.

Wrestling Bass Out of Heavy Cover

This is where high-speed reels shine and are a must.

When bass anglers are fishing around the thickest vegetation or the heaviest brush, the last thing we want is to get a bite and let that bass turn its head and dive deeper into the cover.

A high-speed reel matched with the proper rod will keep the head of the bass coming right at the angler and not allow them to bury up and pull off.

Using a high-speed gear ratio in these situations and with those types of vertical presentations is a win-win.

Pulling bass from deep inside brush requires a high-speed reel.

Carolina Rigs with High-Speed Reels

Carolina rigs paired with soft plastic lures are effective and efficient.

Even though I would consider this a horizontal presentation, this is one exception to the lower gear-ratio reel. 

For some reason, bass that pick up a Carolina Rig like to come at the boat. The long casts that are common with this technique, as well as the fish heading to deeper water, mean picking up a lot of line quickly is important.

There have even been times that I can barely catch up to the bass with a high-speed reel. That big lunker largemouth often puts a lot of slack in the line as it swims at us.

Drop Shotting Soft Plastics and High-Speed Reels?

I am often asked what reel I would like to use on a drop shot rig.

Most of the time, this effective presentation is best suited with spinning gear. Most spinning reels top out in the 6.2:1 range. 

There are models that go lower than that, but not many that are above it.  

Often drop shot rigs are used with light line, small lures, and tiny hooks. Wrestling a bass caught on a drop shot rig isn’t the best idea.

Now, with that said, I have fished a drop shot on baitcast equipment before. Certain situations are suited to big hooks and bigger lures. When that is the case, then I will use a higher-speed reel.

As an example, I have caught many smallmouth on Lake Champlain with 5/0 hooks and big soft jerkbaits in watermelon with a chartreuse dipped tail. The goal was to mimic the larger perch in those waters. The smallmouth loved them and using baitcast gear was wonderful. That doesn’t happen all the time. 99% of my drop shot fishing is done with spinning gear.

(Here are some articles on gear ratios and bladed jigs, crankbaits, and standard jigs.)

Final Thoughts

When you are on the water, always be thinking about horizontal and vertical presentations. Match the gear ratio as we discussed earlier and your soft plastic fishing will be in good shape.

Tight lines. Be safe and make sure to encourage someone today. You never know how you may change their life forever.

Isaiah 6:8

Steve Rogers

Steve spends his time filming and writing about bass fishing. You may even see him in your area. If so, stop and say "hi."

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