It seems like we’re seeing a resurgence in the popularity of high speed reels in the bassin’ world. Better gearing, better technology, and new baits capable of handling high speeds, or techniques that are amenable to at least a portion of their retrieve ‘in the fast lane’ are probably some of the reasons for this.
Still, the old saying goes you can’t reel a bait fast enough to keep it away from an aggressive bass. But just how fast are we reeling, and how fast can a bass move?
The answers follow:
Most of a basses life is spent swimming along at a normal leisurely pace as he fins through the shallows or along a breakline. But bass can also give it the gas for very short periods of time, like when making a short chase after prey, or even to flee in panic from a situation. This faster, short term speed is referred to as “burst speed”.
The world’s fastest fish is the sailfish, capable of hauling water at 68 mph. Many other saltwater fish have considerable burst speeds well into the double digits. In freshwater, our favorite fish has a common cruising speed that might translate to around 3-4 mph. According to common belief, bass are capable of burst speeds around 12 mph. Still, in order to feed, a bass needs to have some aiming capability, as well as needing to time jaw opening and other feeding related mechanics, and so a more realistic feeding speed that I’ve seen published is in the range of 7 mph. Now for some fun math.
If you look at the chart, I’ve created a quick table showing a few common reels, their gear ratios and the amount of line each retrieves with a single rotation of the handle (inches per turn). I’ve then calculated out a couple common scenarios as to retrieve speed based around how fast we bassers crank our handles. In the first example, I’ve used 80 turns per minute, a fairly slow pace. I’ve also calculated out overall speeds at 150 turns per minute.
Even at that more speedier retrieve, our baits on the fastest reels are just approaching the 4 mph mark, barely half the speed a bass is capable of feeding at. So how fast would you need to turn that handle to garner the 7 mph feeding speed of a bass?
With a 7:1 gear ratio reel, you need to be cranking that sucker at about 245 revolutions per minute, or right around 4 cranks per second. If you’re going to try and actually outrun the bass, you better be speeding that retrieve up to about 300 cranks per minute, which puts you in the 8.5 mph range. Still not as fast as a bass can move, but probably fast enough that he won’t be able to actually grab your bait.
You up for the challenge?