How to use a baitcast reel is a skill people need to learn when they buy one. These reels need adjusting and techniques you likely do not have if you never used one of the reels. The reels are not hard to use with proper techniques. Learning the basics is a fundamental step in being proficient. Focus on the basics and you will master the use of the baitcast reel.
Table of Contents
- Choose the Right Line
- Using Braided Fishing Line
- How to Adjust the Tension Knob on a Baitcast Reel
- Brake Adjustment on a Baitcast Reel
- How to Cast a Baitcast Reel
Estimated reading time: 10 minutes, 16 seconds. Contains 2124 words
The first important issue with a baitcast reel is buying the right reel. The low-cost models have poor braking and lack good cast control. You will have a longer learning curve with a cheap model. These models need to use the tension knob to control spool speed. The lack of good brakes places control on the tension knob. Reels with good brakes make the tension knob need adjusting less often.
In general, a reel in the $100 range is suitable. The reels at this price or higher perform better. This results in easier use, plus faster learning. Experienced anglers prefer Shimano, Daiwa, and Abu-Garcia baitcast reels. They have better brakes in most models. A fifty or sixty-dollar reel will not have good brakes. The Daiwa Fuego CT is the lowest cost reel worth buying.
As a beginner at using baitcast reels, you will have backlashes. These go beyond being a nuisance picking out. They damage the line also. I recommend starting with a monofilament line. The Berkley Big Game is a good choice. This line is inexpensive in a 1/4 pound spool. You can change the line several times when it becomes damaged. General fishing uses a 12 lb. test line. Going for larger fish uses a heavier line suited for the species.
You may also have to cut the line to remove a backlash. This usually makes respooling needed. Regardless of the reason, the line will need to change often for a beginner. Check the line regularly for a rough feeling. This is damage from backlashes. Once you get better with the reel resulting in few and slight backlashes. A braided line of 40 lb. test strength is good for many purposes.
A braided line must be a heavier weight to achieve the proper diameter. The thin lines will dig into the line on the spool. You will not be able to cast and the line will be ruined. The 40 lb. braid is similar in diameter to 10-12 lb. monofilament. This prevents the line from digging down into the line on the spool.
Spooling braid requires a monofilament backing. This prevents the line from slipping on the spool. Braided lines have a slick coating that will not hold on to the spool allowing the line to slip around. You only need 15-20 yards of monofilament line for backing. Then use a connecting knot to tie the braid and monofilament together. Some people use electrical tape on the spool. I avoid this method since it leaves a sticky residue on the spool.
All lines need proper tension when placed on a reel. Have someone assist or get a line tensioning tool. You can get it done at a tackle shop also. Improper tension on the spool is a leading cause of line problems on all reels.
Before doing any adjustments turn magnetic brakes completely to the off position. You do not want the brakes working during tension knob adjustments. The brakes are for use during casting. A few reels have internal settings and can stay set.
Adjusting the tension knob will vary with a few reels. The Daiwa reels have the knob adjusted at the factory. The spool will have little or no play side to side.
Shimano reels use different braking on their reels. The knob needs adjusting for the weight being cast. When the release is pushed. The lure should fall under control. When the lure hits the ground a few loops will appear on the spool. Having the knob tighter is going to damage the reel. The brakes will control the spool during the cast.
Abu-Garcia uses magnetic and centrifugal braking on reels. Check before buying as it makes a difference in use. The magnetic brake models are set as the Shimano reels. Adjust the tension knob and turn the brakes on for casting.
All reels have small variations to set the brakes. Read the manual that comes with the reel. The following steps are general guidelines to adjust the brakes. There may be small differences with the reel you own.
The options in baitcast reels include magnetic or centrifugal brakes on most reels. Some reels are designed for trolling and do not have a braking system. There are a few level-wind models without braking also. Catfish anglers tend to use these reels with larger weights.
Daiwa reels use Mag-Force braking that works very well controlling spool speed. There will be sometimes a small adjustment of the tension knob needed, but rarely. A beginner should set the brakes high or at maximum to start. Then turn down the brakes a few clicks each cast. When you begin to have light backlashes, turn the brakes up one or two clicks.
Shimano offers the DC system on many of its reels. The DC system uses a computer chip to track spool speed. This system makes continuous changes to the brake force during a cast. The spool spinning powers the chip, no batteries are required. These reels have a setting inside the cover plate. Read the user manual since it differs slightly between models.
After setting the internal system if it applies use the brake adjustment dial on the outside. Use the same method explained under the Daiwa models.
Abu-Garcia has magnetic on a few reels. You set the tension knob and use the brakes the same as with other reels. Abu has reels with centrifugal braking requiring a more involved set-up. This braking system does have advantages. It keeps more force at the beginning of the cast and lessens towards the end.
The models with centrifugal braking involve opening the reel to set pins. These are small weights that can be engaged to slide out during a cast. It is recommended to have all pins on for beginners. This is explained in the owner’s manual. Usually, you push on the weights to release them for cast control.
When you have learned to use a reel with centrifugal braking, turn off one or two pins at a time. Use the reel for a while to get the feel of less braking. Then disengage more pins if desired. The fewer pins engaged allow further casting. But you do need experience using the reel.
Once you have set the reel it is time to learn how to cast. You do not cast a baitcast reel the same as other types. These reels require a smooth controlled casting motion. The biggest mistake is casting too hard. Beginners tend to try to make long casts starting. You need to learn the proper casting form first.
A good technique will provide accuracy and longer distances in your casts. People using spinning reels tend to have a snap or jerky motion in the cast. This leads to backlashing issues.
People new to these reels will find a sidearm cast easier to start. After getting a feel for the casting motion switching to overhead is fine. The overhead method will allow longer casts. But if you release late, the lures hit the water fast and you have a nasty backlash. Using the sidearm method eliminates this problem while learning.
Training the Thumb
Your thumb needs some training to control the spool also. Anglers that are good at using baitcast reels. Know the thumb prevents more backlashes than the brakes. At the end of a cast, the thumb stops the spool. This prevents backlashing when the lure hits the water. The thumb is a controlling factor during the cast also.
During a cast, the thumb in the correct position will allow you to feel the line lifting off the spool. Applying slight pressure to slow down the line coming off will stop a backlash. This takes time and practice to learn. In many instances, having the thumb in the correct position will slow down the line lift. It does not take much pressure.
The thumb needs to only be a sixteenth of an inch away from the spool. In other words, have the thumb as close as possible without touching the spool. It is likely your instincts will have you apply pressure if the line starts to lift.
The Casting Motion
Experienced anglers make casting look easy. They have years of experience to achieve the level of casting performance. As a beginner, you need to take time to have the experience. Focus on making a smooth motion throughout the cast. Having poor casting form is the leading cause of backlashes. Along with brakes not adjusted correctly.
Feel the rod load on the backswing. If you whip the rod back and forward it will cause problems. Use a controlled motion and feel the rod load. Then swing the rod forward under control. Feeling the rod load gives a feel for the motion, plus will add distance. In a short time, you will begin to cast farther and accurately.
Practice before fishing with a new reel. Take your rod and reel to an open area. Practice casting for a half hour or longer. Do this several times before going fishing. Use buckets of small hoops for targets. The targets build accuracy and control. Which builds muscle memory for when you go fishing. As a result, backlashes will be less of an issue.
Removing a Backlash
Everyone gets a few backlashes with these reels. Inexperienced anglers tend to have worse backlashes. You will need to learn how to remove a backlash. In some cases, simply pulling the line is enough. These are minor backlashes and occur a few times every outing. They are common with experienced anglers.
The more severe backlash will need a different approach. There are two techniques to remove a severe backlash. The first method is to place your thumb firmly on the spool and crank in some line. Make 3-4 turns of the cranking handle. Pull on the line easily and remove all the backlash. Pay attention since a knot may be hidden and catch. This technique may require 3-4 tries to work for you.
If a braided line is backlashed severely skip the thumb technique. You will have to use the picking out the line method. This is another reason, I recommend monofilament for inexperienced anglers. when starting to use a baitcast reel. Wait until you only have a few and slight backlash problems before using a braided fishing line.
If the thumb and crank method fails. You need to pick out the garbled sections of the line. This can be tedious. Look for line crisscrossing and pull out the line to remove affected areas. Tweezers help with braided lines when picking out a backlash. There will be loops, line crisscrossing, and sometimes buried into the spool. You need to pay attention and pick out all the messed-up sections. This can take 15-20 minutes with a very severe backlash.
The only way to learn these skills is with experience. It can be frustrating and difficult at times. On rare occasions, the line will need cutting to remove part of a backlash. This is the last resort option. If you need to cut the line, cut as little as possible. Using care and caution will allow you to save enough line to keep fishing.
Use a Baitcast Reel Conclusion
Starting out with a baitcast reel seems hard. Taking the time to learn how to set the reel and cast properly will eliminate many problems. Choose a monofilament line to practice with to learn. The monofilament line tends to be easier to get backlashes out and is low-cost.
A backlash damages the line so check for damage while learning. Change the line when it is damaged. After developing good skills, switch to braid if you have a valid reason. The braid will get expensive if you need to change it often due to backlashes.