A successful journalist and news reporter in the past, George is now focused on freelance work to be able to dedicate more time to the most important things in his life: family, friends, his dogs, and fishing.
John is an avid traveler, hiker, and RVer. Moreover, it seems like he knows everything when it comes to fishing and hunting: his father started sharing all the tips and tricks he knew when John was a kid. No wonder we trust his opinion every time a new article is being created.
Last updated: June 14, 2021
Outdoorsly is reader-supported. We may earn a commission through products purchased using links on this page. Learn more about our process here
Finding the best baitcasting reel under $50 can really help to kick your fishing into the next level. If you are used to a spinning reel then a baitcaster can give you an extra level of accuracy, power and capacity and even a more professional feel to your fishing. If you want to fish for catfish or other large fish then they might even be totally necessary. These types of reels can also often be a lot quicker and allow you to react faster by controlling with your thumb when wrestling with a big fish, or by offering quick retrieval once the line has been cast.
In our reviews, we’ve looked at the key features of baitcasting reels (and, indeed, any type of fishing reel) including bearings, the gear ratio on offer, the drag rating (or the level of resistance the fish feels). Reel weight and also the capacity of the line used with this reel are also considered in our reviews.
Our team has spent a huge amount of time researching top sources including professional fishermen, fishing blogs, YouTubers and manufacturer information to ensure we provide the highest level of detail possible to allow you to make the right choice for you. Our article is presented as a simple-to-view table as well as detailed reviews of individual reels and then a buying guide to help you understand some of the terminology and features of a baitcasting reel. This will allow you to make the right choice for your own needs rather than just choosing a random product which is highly rated.
In our search for the best baitcasting reel under $50 reviews, a name which kept cropping up was the Abu Garcia Silver Max Low Profile SMAX3. Though no baitcasting reel is really built for total beginners, this is a good option for those who are looking to graduate onto a baitcasting reel from a spinning reel under $50 which they may have already used. Features the brand have offered includes a power disk drag system which feels smooth and offers plenty of resistance, which can be altered based on your needs. Drag power is usually one of the things which makes a baitcasting reel expensive so getting good drag under $50 is a bonus. The spool is also made from a clever machined aluminum material, which means that you are able to get more strength and sturdiness with less weight. The Magtrax brake System gives further control and allows you to use your thumb to set the braking in action. This has proved to be a popular choice among beginners and more experienced fishermen alike. People praise the sturdiness and also the smooth feel that comes from the included roller bearing which sits along the other five bearings within this reel. Some people have described this reel as being as smooth as baitcasting reels which cost five or six times as much, which is some compliment.
What are its best features?
Excellent build quality, comparable to much more expensive reels
Sturdy yet still lightweight
Easy to control with Magtrax brake system
What could be improved?
Less bearings than many competitors though this doesn’t seem to impact the smoothness or spinning motion
The second of our top two is from an identical brand as the first, the Abu Garcia Black Max Low Profile Baitcasting Fishing Reel. Though this has less bearings than the number one choice and is not quite as smooth in its operation, it makes up for this by feeling incredibly nice and simple to use.
The reel features an aluminum spool, and though there’s nothing special about this in general, it comes with an ergonomic handle. This means that even if you are out on a fishing trip and using your baitcasting reel all day long, it is likely to remain comfortable to use and not start to cause issues for your hands. This is backed up by the fact that there is a recessed foot on this reel which keeps it low in profile and comfortable to use.
The power drag is the same as it’s sibling product, too, and this means that heavy fish which are likely to try and pull away are easier to catch. On top of this, a MagTrax brake system gives a good amount of control over the braking pressure of your reel, meaning you can be accurate pretty much every time, even at some range. Like the other products in this range, it is built to last and competes in terms of quality with some models which are far more pricy.
Abu Garcia brand reels are hard to argue with if you’re looking for reliable quality under $50. If you’ve got a model currently which is uncomfortable on your hands, this can offer a good ergonomic solution.
Why did it make our list?
Clever drag system allows taming of heavier fish
Ergonomic design remains comfortable even if you are using for a long time
Brass gears are highly durable
What is not ideal about it?
Not as smooth spinning as its sibling product due to less bearings
If smooth and quiet is the route you want to take with your baitcasting reel, the Kastking could well be an option worth exploring. It has a brilliant level of performance provided by 11 bearings which provides smooth and quiet casting.
This is another low profile model which is comfortable on you hands, it has a brilliant moisture-wicking material on the handle which means even if your reel gets wet (this is a likely issue) then you will still be able to get the most out of it, and you won’t end up losing a fish because of it.
Comfort isn’t the only priority here, though. The bass structure is good quality and it provides up to 8kg of drag to deal with heavier fish. The control which comes from the braking system is also excellent, with 10 levels giving the ultimate feeling of control. A seven magnet brake which is adjustable means that you can control the casting like you may never have been able to before.
The brand claims that this baitcaster is a good option for professionals and can even be used in tournaments. The KastKing Royale Legend Low Profile Baitcasting Fishing Reel is certainly a good upgrade from most beginner rigs, though it does occasionally cause issues when throwing certain weights.
What are its best features?
Very smooth, simple and quiet operation
Accurate, with great control over the braking system
Good level of drag making it easier to catch heavier fish
What could be improved?
When throwing lighter weights this has been known to ‘birds nest’ and the line can get tangled
The NOEBY Low Profile Baitcasting Fishing Reel is another which has 11 bearings which makes it a very smooth baitcaster. It is built with a good amount of quality and the brass gears are hard-wearing.
If you are happy fishing for medium and lightweight fish varieties then this is likely to be fine, but heavier and stronger fish might be able to get away or at least cause issues for the fisherman due to the fact this only has a max drag of 11 lbs compared to some others which are has high as 17.5 lbs.
In spite of this, it is still a good budget option and has some clever features such as a magnetic braking system to avoid backlash or birds nesting on your line, which can be very frustrating when you are fishing.
It is certainly lightweight and relatively high quality, and if you are just starting out using baitcasters then something like this can be good value and a pretty decent place to start. However, if you are looking for the very best baitcasting reel under $50 then it might be worth looking at some of the models slightly higher up on the list which are even better in terms of quality.
What makes it special?
11 bearings for smooth and quiet casting
Well-built with a quality brass gear system
Lightweight so doesn’t add too much to the equipment you have to take with you
What cons did we find?
Some users have reported that you need to adjust the tension a lot for each time you change your lure
Not as much drag as some of the other reels on the list
We always like to include an option for those who are on a budget. Not everyone is in a position to spend a lot on fishing, which can be an expensive hobby if you keep buying equipment.
The Shakespeare fishing reel is a very cheap alternative to the rest of the options on the list, and is good for the fisherman who is trying to keep costs down and also for those who aren’t 100% sure they want to make the investment in a baitcasting reel.
Magnetic cast control gives you some level of stability and accuracy, though this isn’t as high as the competing options. The Machined aluminum ported spool means it is relatively stable and sturdy in spite of being lightweight and affordable.
Incredibly, this brand’s history is over 100 years, and many people use a lot of Shakespeare gear for the cost effectiveness.
If you are looking for super smooth and fast operation, this may not be for you. It only has three bearings. If you don’t mind this, though, it can save you a fair bit of money.
What makes it special?
An affordable baitcaster
Magnetic cast control and an aluminum spool for sturdiness and control
Durable brass gears
What cons did we find?
Only three bearings means it is definitely not the smoothest on the list
Some users have reported it not lasting as long as they hoped
Can struggle with stronger and more agitated fish
Things to Consider
If you’ve never bought a baitcasting reel then it can be a little confusing to know what to look for and even what style of reel or lure to use along with your baitcaster. Finding the right model to start with is vital. Our buying guide is designed to help you understand more about baitcasting reels and what features you should be considering.
Reasons to get a quality baitcasting reel under $50
Buying a baitcasting reel which is not up to standard is simply not worthwhile. If you find yourself with a low-quality baitcaster then you may as well not have one at all. In fact, poor quality can lead to backlash and birds nesting of your reel among other issues, which make your fishing experience far worse instead of being better.
Fortunately, there are plenty of reels which are available under the $50 price point we have set. Make the right choice and the accuracy of your fishing will improve hugely. In fact, you can quickly and easily stop the cast whenever you need to by using your thumb.
Features to consider when choosing a baitcasting reel
The following are the features which we’ve considered in our best baitcasting reel reviews. They’re the key things you should be looking out for, and making your decision based on if you plan to buy a reel like this. When you are buying a baitcaster under $50 or under $100, there are many different features to understand. So, taking the time to read up on them and compare this to the product listings will ensure you make the right choice.
The bearings are key with the casting of the reel, and the more bearings (assuming they’re all good quality) the smoother and quieter the cast should be. There is a huge amount of variation in the bearings on this list. While some of the models have just three bearings, this can lead to a slower and less smooth cast.
However, more bearings don’t mean anything if they’re poor quality.
Many of the best bearings in baitcasting reels are made of sturdy and durable brass. Keep an eye on what the bearings are made out of before you purchase, and ensure they are well-made. Don’t just focus on the number.
On each of the products on our list, we’ve included the gear ratio. If you are new to fishing or to baitcasting reels then this can be one of the terms you need to get your head around first and foremost.
The number which comes first is the number of rotations made per turn of the handle (using your hand to spin the handle). For instance, a 7.3:1 ratio means that the spool within can turn 7.3 rotations each full 360 degree turn of the handle. The higher the number before the colon, the more of the line is able to be quickly returned with every crank of the handle.
So, an example of one of the highest ratios available under the $50 mark is the Abu Garcia Silver Max Low Profile SMAX3. In fact, both of the Abu Garcia products on the list have a 6.4:1 ratio, whereas some of the other reels are closer to 5:1.
Drag is a term most fishing enthusiasts know all too well. The drag is the resistance that a fish feels, and is something that can be set before you cast. The maximum drag means the higher the level of resistance you can create for the fish once it has been hooked.
The option to have a higher drag is useful, especially for catching bigger fish. The idea is that you want enough resistance so that the fish can get tired and easier to reel in, but if you set it too highly, then the fish pulling against it can break the line.
The line capacity is simply the amount of room the reel has for line length. The rating on the product description will show how much fishing line you can use, based on the thickness of the wire (thinner wires can get more wrapped around, of course). If you plan to cast a long way, opt for a bigger line capacity.
Reel handle position
This is one of the simpler features to wrap your head around! The handle position should be on the side that suits you. If you’re left handed, get one with a handle on the left, and if you’re right handed, the handle should be too. This seems incredibly simple (and it is) but it is easy to order the wrong model if you forget to check.
Different reels use different braking systems. This is the system which stops backlash and avoids the awful and annoying birds-nesting effect on the reel. Some of the braking systems are magnetic while others are centrifugal in their technology, but the key thing is to check reviews for reliability and quality with a braking system.
You will have some idea of the weight of your rod and need to match the reel to this, to some extent, to keep it balanced. In general, all of the reels on this list are very lightweight and won’t cause uneven rods or extra gear to lug around.
Tips on using and caring for your baitcasting reel
Choose the right lure based on your baitcasting reel. A heavier lure will be far easier to cast if you’re using a baitcaster, especially if you are a beginner.
Always clean after use, especially if you have used it in saltwater as this will mean it is more likely to get grimy and corrode over time.
Make sure you regularly lubricate the gears so the reel doesn’t become clunky and difficult to use.
Spend time getting your casting motion right for a higher level of success and further casting.
Not necessarily. More ball bearings can mean that your baitcaster is smoother and easy to cast long distances, but this depends on the quality of the ball bearings. If they aren’t good quality, there is no real benefit to having more bearings.
Most of the time, baitcasting reels are okay to use in saltwater, it is just a matter of personal preference. Just be sure to clean it afterward if you’re returning to freshwater. If you do a lot of saltwater fishing, we recommend you buy specially designed baitcasting reels for saltwater.
Choose a line based on the capacity and material. Fluorocarbon, Monofilament, Braided and Fusion lines are all fine for use within baitcasting reels.
The Abu Garcia range is certainly one which has impressed within this price range. The Abu Garcia Silver Max Low Profile SMAX3 is our highest rated product on this list at 9.8. It has a brilliant drag system allowing up to 18 lbs of drag, a MagTrax brake system, and a good build quality as well as six great bearings. This means that it is very difficult to find fault with.