A question we at King of the Catch get asked all the time is about the quality of lower priced baitcasting reels. Buyers want the highest quality possible but prefer not to pay top dollar for it. Understandable, but that also makes the best baitcasting reels under $100 category the trickiest one to navigate when making a purchase.
Let me explain to you why.
Best Baitcasting Reel Under $100 – We tested quality Vs. price.
Over the last two decades, baitcasting reels under $100 have made a rapid development based quality, design and user-friendliness. The type of high-quality reels you can buy these days for 100 bucks or less is amazing!
But there is a catch. It ain’t all sunshine and rainbows..
As this price range is very popular amongst beginners, it also creates opportunities for dodgy companies that mass produce low quality reels under flashy brand names.
Most of them don’t even operating more than a year or two before disappearing completly off the radar. The result? You can kiss that warranty goodbye. 🙁
So, for this review we let our own experience and the opinion of 89 other season anglers (by poll) decide which brands and models we would use for our test.
Interested to find out which baitcaster made the cut? Keep reading!
A quick overview of our top baitcasting reels under $100:
Who is this review for?
For anybody that is interested in purchasing an affordable and high-quality baitcasting reel under $100. Does this mean this is review is aimed towards beginners? No! Even our most seasoned anglers on the King of the Catch review team had great success with baitcasters in this prince range.
So, in order to make your next purchase as easy as possible we bought three of the most popular (see next chapter how we picked our top 3) our baitcasting reels under $100 on the market today and made sure we tested those babies good!
When you have time you can also check out our reviews for the best baitcaster reels under $200 and for fishing on pike!
Why you should trust me
Because we did the work ourselves! That is right. Yours truly, Mike, Arthur and Tom (two other experienced anglers and my dad) set out on a quest to find the best baitcasting reels under a hundred bucks that get the job done!
We have more than 50 combined years of fishing experience in Europe and the United States of America. We also talked to ambassadors and sales managers of both Abu Garcia and Shimano and let 89 experienced anglers help us out as well!
How we picked?
For this review the King of the Catch review team tested, compared and reviewed 3 baitcaster reels of the brands Abu Garcia, Pflueger and Shimano. How did we select these specific baitcaster reels?
So, we posted polls in 5 different Facebook Groups (Baitcasting in the UK, Abu Garcia Reels & Tournaments, Pike Fishing Worldwide, Kentucky Bass Fishing, Catfish Fishing USA & UK) and 6 popular fishing forums (Catfish1, Texas Fishing Forum, Bass Resource, Pike Fishing Forum, Musky Hunter, Ultimate Bass) to see which of our 3 > $100 baitcasters they (89 experienced anglers responded on this category) had the best experiences with and why.
The third reel (the Shimano SLX) was not on the original list of reels. It is actually one of Tom’s favorite reels and he wanted dearly wanted us to give a shout out to Shimano.
So, as the good colleagues that we are (including a couple of Papa John’s pizza’s + a few buds), we decided to let Tom write his review on the Shimano SLX. 😉
How did we test?
The King of the Catch Review Team used a seven-criteria matrix for evaluating each baitcaster reel and matching rod:
- Durability: Which stayed most functional during the test period?
- User-friendliness: Can a beginner use it without getting in trouble?
- Materials: How is the overall quality?
- Looks: Because the eyes also want something!
- Design: Old Vs. New features
- Value: Comparing price, features and performance
- Reviews: What did other fishing experts have to say?
Scores were added up after each testing period. In this article you will see the winner, the runner-up and other recommendations regarding other fishing tackle that we have used in the past or that are recommended by other anglers which we respect and trust.
Does the saying “Cheap is expensive” applies to cheaper baitcasting reels?
Our answer is simple: No, as long as you buy from a brand/store with a good reputation. If you are planning to buy a cheap real from AliExpress just to save a dollar or two, you are not going to be happy with the quality.
Buying a baitcaster from an US or European based company comes with a one-to-two-year warranty. Also, you won’t have to wait for a month before the reel is delivered to your doorstep and you support your local business.
Winner: Abu Garcia Revo X
What is the final score? The Abu Garcia Revo X scored 8,6 out of 10!
Father and son duo and predator fishing experts Niels Thomas (me) & Arthur tested the Abu Garcia Revo X for 3 weeks in different fishing conditions, including large lakes, tricky channels, and fast-flowing rivers.
The goal? To really put this fourth-generation Revo X baitcaster to the test and see what all the online fuss is about. In the three-weeks period (25 hours of fishing in total) that they used the Revo X, 12 pikes were caught with an average length of 76 cm (2,5 feet).
What does the team think?
Great retrieval, good braking system and of course (as always with Abu Garcia) top quality. I try to clean and lubricate my reels every month (depending on the usage) but after three months my Revo X is still running smoothly. I am impressed! One remark: The handle is a bit long though so you might need some time to get used to it.
I understand what Niels Thomas is talking about when mentioning the long handle but I really like it. The large grip and handle give me that extra leverage for larger baits and quick retrieval. Overall a very smooth reel and once you set the drag and brakes you will not spend a minute fixing backlashes. I love it!
|Reviews of others||9|
|Final score||8,6 out of 10|
Runner up: Pflueger President XT
What is the final score? The Pflueger President XT scored 8,4 out of 10!
A close second to the Abu Garcia Revo X is the Pflueger President XT. It’s made of a rugged, one-piece aircraft-grade aluminum frame for prolonged service life. Additionally, the design comprises an aluminum side plate handle with soft-touch knobs that protect your thumbs while thumbing the line.
Much like the Revo X, this reel also has 9-double-shielded stainless steel ball bearings, meant to offer smooth operation while fishing. Another point of similarity is the 6-pin centrifugal braking system, which can be adjusted as per the convenience of the user.
Owing to its low stress and easy functionality, the Pflueger President XT is a good choice for light-duty fishing, even in saltwater. That said, some users have faced slight issues with the casting, but nothing that can’t be overcome.
What does the team think?
I have been a fishing guide for over twenty years, and I have gone through all types of reels from almost every brand. And let me tell you, I am stoked about this one! I used a 40lb test braid and the casting is an absolute joy. Bass, northern pike, musky and perch, the President XT works like a charm. I purchased a second one for my 10-yeard old son. I put it in the same quality range as Shimano and Abu Garcia.
Yeah – I totally agree with Mike. During the test period I only focused on some Basszilla’s. I used a 25 lb braided line which was perfect for the lighter lures. I agree with other anglers that the caulk knob edge does feel a bit sharp at the beginning. It took about 3 sessions for the sharpness to disappear.
|Reviews of others||8|
|Final score||8,4 out of 10|
Also good: Shimano SLX
The SHIMANO SLX Baitcasting line of reels has 3 levels: the SLX ST with enhanced SVS Infinity braking system, the SLX DC with digital casting system, and the standard SVS model. Starting with the SVS model, it’s something that you’d want to try if you’re just venturing into baitcasting.
It has a thumb bar on the top of the spool, which doesn’t require you to open and close the bail when casting. It’s 20% more compact than some of its popular competitors. Moreover, the Hagane body offers optimum durability and minimizes flexing.
It uses a centrifugal force as opposed to magnets for improved casting. Plus, the flexible braking system reduces backlash for extending the casting distance and enhances smoothness.
The SLX XT model has upgraded to the Infinity Braking System, allowing anglers to make adjustments via an external dial to promote a wide range of lures. In short, it puts the angler in total control of the entire operation.
What does the team think?
As per my request, I would also like to give an honorable mention to the Shimano SLX. It was not part of this test but I have been using this reel for Bass for years. And guess what? It is right up there with Pflueger and Abu Garica. Combined with the SLX rod (medium/medium heavy) and it’s a match made in heaven. Interested in focusing on light baits? Go for a medium/medium light rod. People say they are worried about the smoothness with a 3+1 bearing system but trust me when I quote singer Sade and say that this reel is in fact… a smooth operator!
Niels Thomas is a wildlife expert and fishing fanatic that works with major fishing brands like Deeper Sonar, Abu Garcia, Berkley, PENN, BassPro and Pure Fishing. Through sharing the best fishing tips, tricks, gear reviews, locations and much more he hopes to inspire fishing fanatics to start their own journey towards becoming the King of the Catch!