Baitcasters generally have more line capacity than a spinning reel, so they can be a better choice for long casting or bottom fishing. Also, if you compare a round Baitcaster to a low profile Baitcaster, the round ones will hold more line and heavier line in comparison. When fishing in the surf, you’ll usually want to cast further to get beyond the breaking waves and you’ll want heavier line to withstand the tough conditions. For this reason, you’ll most commonly see the round style baitcasters used for longer casts in the surf and they’ll usually be paired with long surf casting rods.
However, if you’re casting into a shallow trough near shore over and over again, a low profile baitcaster would be a great choice and could be paired with a shorter rod, around 7-9 ft. Usually when I do surf fishing with baitcasters, I’m long casting with a round baitcaster and putting that rod into the sand spike, and then also palming a low profile baitcaster to work a lure nearshore. In this article, we’ll cover our top choices for round baitcasters for long casting into the surf. These round-style baitcasters are a unique mixture of castability, large line capacity, and heavy drag for fighting big fish. To learn about lightweight low profile baitcasters that you can use for casting hours into nearshore troughs, check out our other article on Saltwater Baitcaster Combos.
The Kastking Rover is a very affordable saltwater baitcasting reel. It's a great option for someone looking to try a Baitcaster without spending a lot of money. For surf casting, I would go with the Version 60 that holds 250 yards of 16 lb mono and 250 yards of 70 lb braid. My starting point would be using 20 lb mono for main line, so I would have about 200 yards of line which is plenty for the surf.
The gear ratio on Version 60 is 5.3:1 with a 25.9 inches per turn crank rate. 25.9 inches per turn is a good middle – of – the – road speed which will work well if you want to slow down the retrieve for a slow presentation of your lure and also works well for pulling in fish fast if you crank it faster. Technically speaking, 5.3:1 means the spool makes 5.3 complete turns for every one time your hands crank a turn. 5.3:1 is a moderate gear ratio for a baitcasting reel—not considered low and not considered high. This gear ratio will give you a good balance between power and speed. A lower gear ratio would give you more cranking power but a lower retrieve rate and a higher gear ratio would give you the opposite. The large handle also gives helps give you more power with less effort which will decrease your fatigue. The oversized EVA handles also feel comfortable even after hours of fishing.
Kastking also designed a comfortable thumb bar for engaging and disengaging freespool. When the thumb bar is pushed down, the pinion disengages from the spool shaft and the spool is in freespool for the cast. Once that thumb bar is pressed, you’ll need to keep your thumb on the spool to prevent the line from immediately coming out. As with nearly all baitcasters, your thumb will need to remain ready to be on the spool for the entire cast. You’ll learn over time when to put pressure on the spool and when to let go. It's a skill that depends on the weight of your lure and the conditions you’re fishing in. Once you begin to retrieve, the thumb bar snaps back and the pinion re-engages the spool shaft.
The Kastking Rover Version 60 features 20 lbs of drag with an audible clicker so you never question whether or not line is going out. This makes it a great option for surf fishing as you can cast it out, put it in your rod holder in the sand, and you can watch the rod tip or listen for the click to hear when you’ve got a fish on. Once the clicker is turned on, it’ll stay on during the retrieve, so simply turn it off as you’re reeling in. The drag system is made of carbon fiber and uses the “cymbal washer” system to improve smoothness while keeping the cost down. For a $60 reel, I’m pleasantly surprised that KastKing opted for a carbon fiber drag system. Carbon lasts longer than felt systems and carbon fiber has better heat dissipation which makes it able to handle more drag pressure.
The reel has a synchronized levelwind which helps distribute the line evenly along the reel during spooling, casting, and retrieving. This levelwind moves during the cast to minimize the friction a levelwind can add to the cast. This will help keep your casts long. Sometimes anglers feel levelwinds are not worth the headache because they can also be another mechanism that can break in a reel that’s subjected to harsh saltwater conditions. If you’d rather manually levelwind with your thumb, here’s a video on how to make a simple modification to remove the levelwind system.
The reel uses a centrifugal brake system. Centrifugal brakes are commonly used on saltwater reels because the alternative, magnetic brakes, are more prone to corrosion. Centrifugal brake systems tend to work best at the beginning of the cast to prevent the spool from reaching speeds too high and causing birds nests from overruns. There are two pins on this brake system and you must remove the sideplate to put the weights into place. This is typical for centrifugal brake systems. If you’re new to baitcasters, I’d recommend starting with both brake pins in place to give you the most brakes so you’re not immediately hung up with birds nests on every cast.
The reel has 6+1 shielded stainless steel ball bearings on Version 60. There is one on either side of the spool assembly, one on the cast control assembly, one on the spool tension assembly, one on the worm shaft and one on the pinion. The +1 is the roller bearing for the anti-reverse system. See the diagram below to see the ball bearings shown on the schematic.
2. Abu Garcia Ambassadeur 6500 C3 – $150
The gear ratio on the Ambassadeur C3 6500 baitcasting reel is 5.3:1. The line retrieve rate is 26 IPT. This is a common gear ratio for baitcasting reels as it provides a nice middle-ground for power and speed. If you want something much more powerful for bottom fishing or trolling offshore, you should go with a conventional reel which will generally have even more line capacity and lower gear ratios. The idea behind these round baitcasting reels in the surf is to give you great long distance castability with more cranking power than a spinning reel. The C3 reel comes in a few different sizes (4600, 5500, & 6500) and all of them have the same gear ratio.
The line capacity is 320 yards of 12 lb monofilament which will be plenty for a long cast and a big fish in the surf. If you’d like to opt for braid, you can fit 310 yards of 30 lb test braid. I will warn you against starting with braid on a baitcasting reel, especially if you’re new to them, since braid can be extremely difficult to untangle if you get a birds nest and costly to respool.
The reel weighs 9.2 oz which is pretty lightweight for a baitcaster of this size. This will help decrease fatigue from casting all day with it. The max drag comes in a little less than the Kastking Rover with 15 lbs. Although the max drag is lighter, its plenty for most of the fish you’ll be catching from the surf. The carbon matrix washers make for a very smooth feeling drag. Again, carbon fiber is a good choice for a high performing, yet low cost, drag system.
There are 3 stainless steel ball bearings on the Abu Garcia Ambassadeur 6500 C3. There are two on the spool assembly and 2 on the side plates, one of which is the anti-reverse clutch bearing. Although 4 bearings is a lower bearing count, the reel is still very smooth. The design of the C3 is very efficient, using very few parts in the design. If you’ve ever disassembled a reel and felt overwhelmed at the number of parts, you’ll be grateful for the simplicity of this design. Simplistic designs can be a big benefit when dealing with an environment such as the beach. The fewer parts, the less parts to clean and the less likely it is for your reel to be damaged beyond repair by the salt.
The Ambassadeur also features a synchronized levelwind. This means that the levelwind is moving with the line across the width of the spool during the cast and retrieve. Although some anglers prefer their beefy, round baitcasters with no levelwind, I have never had an issue with mine, so I like to see baitcasters with the levelwind. I would steer clear of a round baitcaster with a non-synchronized levelwind as that would definitely affect your casting distance.
The brakes on the Abu Garcia offer more customization than the Kastking Rover. The Rover has a 2 pin system, so there isn’t much variability in the amount of brakes. The Ambassadeur C3 has a 6 pin system, so you could more gradually reduce the brakes as you get better and better with a baitcaster.
The 6500 size has a clicker, so you’ll be able to hear when a fish has your bait. It's a great feature when you plan to set your reel in a rod holder, whether you’re trolling or putting it in a sand spike.
Shimano Calcutta 400B – $250
The Calcutta 400B has Anti-Rust Bearings (ARBs) that are a treated stainless steel for corrosion resistance. The bearings are 10x more corrosion resistant that untreated stainless steel bearings. This feature is one of the most critical for this reel’s performance in saltwater. The bearings will stay smooth for years with minimal maintenance. The 400B size has 3+1 bearings, 2 on either side of the spool, one in the pinion and an anti reverse roller bearing.
The reel body is what Shimano calls a “Hagane body” which is very rigid and eliminates flex in the body. The rigidity helps to target your efforts when fighting a fish towards the retrieval, instead of allowing power to be lost in a flexing body.
The super free spool is an interesting design feature. Some baitcasting reels do not have a bearing in the pinion gear, so when the thumb bar is pressed and the pinion disengaged, the pinion gear can sometimes rest on the spool shaft, putting friction on the shaft and decreasing your casting distance. The Super free spool adds a bearing to the pinion gear which supports the pinion gear when its disengaged, preventing it from touching the spool shaft and helping you get the most out of your cast.
The Calcutta 400B has a Variable Brake System (VBS) with centrifugal brakes. At the beginning of the cast, the brake weights move outward to slow the spool. Then as the RPMs drop, the weights move back inward. This is better than traditional centrifugal brake systems because the spool is no longer being slowed down at the end of the cast. This helps get you extra distance on your cast.
The reel holds 160 yards of 20 lb monofilament line. This is a good amount for this size reel and will let you cast as far as you can with line to spare for a fish fight. This reel weighs 11.7 oz which is lightweight enough, for the intended use. You probably won’t palm this reel all day. More likely, you’ll cast it out and put it in the rod holder and wait to hear the clicker or see the rod tip twitch.
The gear ratio on the Shimano Calcutta 400B is less than the Abu Garcia Ambassadeur C3 6500 and less than the KastKing Rover. The gear ratio of 5.0:1 gives you more power to reel in the big fish. With a lower gear ratio, the gear teeth are larger, which gives them the support to handle big pressure better. You can retrieve at a rate of 24 inches per turn which is quite good for the lower gear ratio. You’ll notice that the gear ratio on this reel is lower than the Kastking Rover (5.3:1) and lower than the Abu Garcia Ambassadeur C3 6500 (5.3:1), so it's expected for the inches per turn metric to be a little lower. If you’re looking for something with a little more power, I’d recommend opting for the Calcutta B. This reel has a max drag of 17 lbs. The Calcutta B’s drag washers are made of Dartanium, which is a type of carbon fiber so it performs similarly to carbon based drag systems. It resists warping by dissipating heat quickly. If you notice the drag performance worsening over time, you can disassemble and inspect the drag system, and buy replacement drag washers to keep your reel operating as designed for many, many years.
I hope this article helps you decide which baitcaster to try next. If you're a beginner, I would definitely recommend filling your spool with monofilament since its much easier to remove birds nests from mono than braid. While you're one our site, read through our article on the Top 10 Best Spinning Reels for Surf Fishing and Surf Fishing Light Tackle-Rods, Reels, Lines & Lures.