So, you want to learn how to use a baitcaster reel? You’re in the right place. Here, we will talk about the fundamentals of using a baitcasting rod, how you can practice, and things to watch out for as you get started.
Baitcaster Reel: Three Fundamental Steps
When you cast with a baitcaster, you do it in three steps. So, it is important to get a good understanding of how it works. It is not like a spinning reel- in that particular machine, the bait is pulling the line off a spool of fishing line.
On a baitcaster, once the spool is moving, it feeds line to the bait as it moves through the air.
Next, gravity, the resistance of the wind, or water will slow down the bait, but the spool will keep on feeding line at about the same speed as it did when the cast was first made.
If you don’t slow down the spool as the lure continues its path of travel, you will overrun the line, and this is referred to as backlash.
Step 1 of Baitcasting
The first portion of a cast like this is the launching of the bait from the tip of the rod. You, the angler, takes their thumb off the spool and lets the bait carry the line and begin the spinning of the spool. This is why the spool control knob settings matter.
Step 2 of Baitcasting
At this point, the bait is moving through the air. Gravity and resistance from the wind are going to slow it down. At this stage is where your braking mechanism is most important.
Step 3 of Baitcasting
This last part is when we notice the bait coming down and making its descent. We see it make contact with the water. You have to have a “Trained Thumb” at this stage.
The biggest secret to casting successfully is handling these changes in momentum using the components that are part of your baitcasting reel, as well as your own knowledge of fishing and timing.
Using Your Baitcaster: Tuning
Spool Control- If the knob that controls your spool is excessively loose, you will experience backlash early on during your cast. Before doing anything else, make sure the spool control knob is tightened down as far as it will go by turning it toward you.
Next, bring your lure to eye level. Press down on the clutch bar, and if your spool control is tightened all the way, you will notice the bait hang there for a brief moment before it goes down toward the ground.
Regardless of how slow that bait descends, the spool is going to give you backlash when the downward motion of the bait comes to a stop, so do your best to press the spool before your lure hits the ground.
The term for this is active braking, and your goal is to stop the spool at the precise moment the downward motion of the lure comes to a halt.
The next step is to lower the tension on the spool control mechanism until the bait freefalls onto the ground. You also want to keep it at such a pace that you can take control of the backlash with little active braking.
If your casting control knob is too loose, it is going to be hard to prevent backlash. If the spool is too tightly set, casting is going to be impossible for any distance. Your best bet is to find the happy medium.
Understanding The Braking System
Once you have set up the casting control knob, you will be able to make adjustments to your braking system. Begin by putting it on the max setting, as this will help you create an understanding of how this system impacts your cast .
The braking mechanism aids in controlling the spool’s turns while the lure travels through the air at high speed. Braking allows the bait to travel naturally through the air but disallows the spool speed to dole out more line than the lure takes.
You can practice this in your backyard. Set a target up, such a trash can, about 10 to 15 feet away from you. The first casts you do are to be little flips. Create motion akin to that of a pendulum and a quick drop of your line.
Make sure your braking system is set to maximum. If you can’t seem to reach your target, this is because the braking system is set much too high and impedes the spool’s rotation, which slows the forward motion of the lure during the second part of casting.
If you cannot reach the target, it is tempting to be more forceful with the cast, but this creates large amounts of forward motion in the early stages of your cast that your braking system guards against during the second part of the cast, which leads to backlash.
So, reduce your braking, one bite at a time, until you reach a stage where the lure moves forward naturally through the air without too much impedance from the braking system. Your goal here is to get to a place where you are able to cast comfortably with minimal effort.
The idea here is for braking to be almost unnoticeable. You should feel like it’s not even there, even though you know it is doing its function. If the braking is correctly set, you will not get backlash during the stage of casting where the lure goes upward or forward.
The Trained Thumb
Still having trouble with your backlash after the landing of the lure? This is because you are pressing, or thumbing, the spool far too late in the third stage of casting. Focus on the lure’s trajectory.
You will see that there is a brief time in which the lure stalls or floats at the uppermost point of its travel. It is at this moment you should feather the spool using your thumb to slow it down as it descends into the water.
Once your lure touches water, it is stopped short. This interruption in its travel must be handled properly via active braking. Your spool should be brought to an easy stop as the bait makes contact with water.
Should you brake too quickly, you lose valuable distance. But if braking happens too late, we experience backlash. So, keep in mind that the forward motion of the lure and the spool should be in sync so as to prevent backlash.
“Sweet Spot,” And Why it Matters
When you hear someone talking about the sweet spot, they are referring to a moving target that requires you to adjust to suit the needs of the bait’s weight you will be using and the conditions in which you are casting.
Every time you alter the bait weight, begin with figuring out a nice fall speed with your spool control and then remove or add some braking to locate your own sweet spot for casting. Remember, wind and other weather can affect your cast, so do adjust baitcaster settings accordingly.
Bear in mind that if you are accustomed to casting using a spinning reel as many of us are/were, the way a baitcaster works is much different. When we do baitcasting, we are moving the rod with a nice and easy wrist turn.
If you use those sharp and quick flicks as we do with a saltwater spinning reel, you will notice it leads to problems fast with baitcasting.
That Dreaded Bird’s Nest
Tangles. We all hate them, and there’s no better way to make an angler frustrated. Your best bet is to watch the spool close. Make sure you notice and fix any irregularities or loops on the spool’s middle or outer edges, and make sure you don’t have lumps or bumps in your line.
If a backlash happens, do not fret. And most of all, don’t get frustrated- fishing is meant for fun, and you should think of this as a learning experience.
Instead, stop the spool using your thumb and pull that line forward. You will notice that most of the time, the backlash untangles itself as you pull that line out.
The reason we call it a bird’s nest is because if a tangle happens, the spool locks into place, and the reel actually looks like a bird nest. Many anglers think this means the line is knotted beyond repair and has to be chopped off the reel.
This is unlikely and easy to handle once you practice a few times.
Do these practice casts in your backyard- not on the water. It’s easier to do it this way because you can have the privacy to mess up and perfect your skill without getting ribbed by your buddies, and you can really get the feel of the reel without constantly getting distracted by fish or other environmental factors.
Use the lures you plan to use on the water, so you get the feel.
My last advice before we close will be about helping you handle backlash. If it’s happening early on during the cast and your lure is moving quickly, then you need greater tension on your spool control.
If it happens in the midpoint of your cast, during upward and forward travel, you should make adjustments to the centrifugal or magnetic braking. If it happens late or just prior to the bait touching down, you are likely forgetting to thumb the spool at the right time.
With practice, you can do this- just keep at it, and eventually it will be second nature to use a baitcaster reel.