Like most everything in life, it's a balance. Gear ratio in and of itself is meaningless until you pair it with a spool filled with line. The reel's spool is a simple mechanism, a pulley (that changes in diameter as line is let out from the reel). The gear ratio and spool diameter together determine your retrieve ratio (when the reel is full to capacity). Retrieve ratio is a meaningful number that allows you to compare the performance of one reel vs another. Gear ratio is a sexier term than retrieve ratio, and it allows more opportunities for "creative advertising" so it often gets reported on the reel box and often as one of the reel's first few stats. Retrieve ratio is often buried deep somewhere on the reel parts list or in the owner's manual.
Another factor in the equation is the distance between the crank stem and handle. This distance forms a lever, another simple mechanism which is part of the equation.
Ultimately, you turn the crank and line comes in. But keep in mind you're turning a lever, which turns gears, which turns a pulley with a variable diameter. As line is let out and the spool diameter decreases, the retrieve ratio also decreases. And because of variables is spool design, spool shape and size is also a variable from reel to reel.
So with all these variables, is there something meaningful to fisherman that we can use that is universally true from reel to reel? Yes. When comparing retrieve ratios of reels this will always be true. Reels with higher retrieve ratios will rewind line easier under light loads, and reels with lower retrieve ratios will rewind line easier under heavy loads. If you've ever cranked up a boat on a trailer with a manual winch, you should understand this concept well - a winch has an extremely low line retrieval rate with lots of torque to pull a boat up on a trailer.
So here's my take on it:
Because torque goes down as retrieve ratio goes up, somewhere in the middle is the sweet spot where the reel works well for bringing in lines under light loads (for lure changes, weed checks, clearing lines, etc.) and for landing large fish.
Reels with high retrieve ratios will be better suited for frequent lure changing where you are bringing the line in under light load, because they have the advantage at speed at the cost of torque.
Reels with lower retrieve ratios will land fish easier but require more time to operate because they have the advantage of higher torque at the expense of speed.
So, before buying new reels, find the retrieve ratio of your old reels first. Then use that as a baseline to find the reel that has the retrieve ratio that makes sense to you with the physical qualities that suit your needs.
Sent from my iPhone using Lake Ontario United