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Merwin: Righty or Lefty for Baitcasting?

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August 23, 2010

Merwin: Righty or Lefty for Baitcasting?

By John Merwin

Here’s a question for you baitcasting-reel fans: right-handed or left-handed?

Most such reels traditionally have the handle on the right side. That means a right-handed caster will make a cast and then switch the rod to the left hand so the reel can be cranked with the right hand. That sounds cumbersome, but long-time baitcasters know that it’s quick and simple once you get used to it.

But now there are increasing numbers of new reels available as left-handed versions, meaning the reel handle is on the left side (as the reel faces forward). The Shimano reel shown in the photo is a lefty, for example.

In that case, a right-handed caster casts with his right hand (or both hands with the right hand dominant) and reels with his left. This is not the traditional approach, but it might make more sense. There’s no need to switch hands after a cast is made. Contact with the lure is never lost, and if a fish hits just as the lure lands there’s no delay in hook-setting.

I admit the logic, but have trouble in the application. I first learned to baitcast more then 50 years ago when left-handed reels were, as far as I know, unheard of. So I’ve spent decades casting right-handed and then switching the rod so I could reel right-handed also.

Of course back then most freshwater baitcasters didn’t have an anti-reverse, there was no free-spool, and no star-drag either. Yes-siree, back when men were men. Take that, you whippersnappers.

But seriously, I’ve tried left-handed baitcasters recently and haven’t stuck with them. Despite all common sense, it just seemed too awkward on the water. But maybe I should put more effort into making it work.

So I’m curious to know...are you reeling right? Or reeling left?

Comments (22)

Top Rated
All Comments
from Dcast wrote 3 years 34 weeks ago

I tried a lefty at Gander Mountain, and it felt awkward to say the least. This whippersnapper is sticking with the righties!

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Koldkut wrote 3 years 34 weeks ago

I'm reeling left. Since I've gotten into rod building, I've decided to build some decent rods and learn to use a baitcaster. I picked up a used citica right hander and I got to practicing with it out in the hard with various weights and such with cats(zonker flies with hooks cut off). I practiced A-LOT, got very comfortable with it. I had no problems casting and switching hands out on the water. What got me was my hook setting arm. I've been a righty spin fisher since forever, and I ended up trading my righty citica for a lefty model and since I've gotten my hook setting arm back, the fishing has been more successful. If I had gotten a start earlier in life with it, I could probably be a perfectly good switch hitter on the baitcaster. Since there are loads of options out there, I feel no ill effects, except for a little bit of ribbing from the rightys on occasion.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from jcarlin wrote 3 years 34 weeks ago

Being a righty who grew up (and still mostly)used spinning tackle. I was suprised when I opened my first baitcaster through the mail and some moron seemed to have put the handle on the wrong side. I tried dealing with it, but it seems silly to change hands to me, I couldn't get used to casting as a "lefty" and since then all baitcasters in my possession have been left-handed as baitcasters are considered. I never understood why the convention seemed to be backwards from spinning reels, but I think the spinners have it right.. I mean correctly.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from lovetohunt wrote 3 years 34 weeks ago

Hey thats my reel!

Im right handed and I reel left. I bought my reel in the spring as my first baitcaster. It did not seem awkward to me because I was learning the baitcasting skill for the first time.

I love not swithching the rod between hands. You can cast a lot faster and it is good for all the reasons you said.

I highly recomend making the switch.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Bernie wrote 3 years 34 weeks ago

I use bait reels and reel with my right hand. Switching to a spinning outfit occasionally during the day gives my right hand a rest because with the spinning outfit I am reeling with my left hand. That may not make sense to young guys, but when you get old and arthritic it helps!

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Micropterus24 wrote 3 years 34 weeks ago

I bought my righty quantum a few years back and it took some getting used to but I really don't have any trouble with the hand switching. My friend just got a lefty and I tried it out I think it would be pretty easy to switch, but I just like the feel of my righty more.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from buckhunter wrote 3 years 34 weeks ago

I switched to the darkside back in the 80's because witching the rod into the other hand after each cast never made sense to me. It was a little awkward at first but has paid good dividends over the last 3 decades.

Today I can use both left or right baitcasters with equal ease.

While trolling for muskies I like the handles to face up to make it easier to get it out of the rod holder. On the right side of the boat I will have a left hand retrieve Abu G. 5501 C3. On the left side I have a Abu G. 5500 C3. It's like having a match set. Knowing how to use both comfortably comes in handy.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from senkoman12 wrote 3 years 34 weeks ago

i use leftys, i fished spinning reels for years before baitcasters and now all i use is leftys

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from santa wrote 3 years 34 weeks ago

OK folks, please read. I have taught baitcasting since 1974. When you do it correctly, you actually have to change hands. Let me first state that you hold a spinning rig somewhere around the center of the of the weight of the reel with the stem of the reel foot between your fingers. This is natural and necessary to cast. This is also the best position to hold the rod while fishing. There is no need to move your hands to change from casting position to fishing position.

BUT with a baitcast reel, you hold the rod behind the reel so that you can "thumb" the spool. This puts your hand behind the center of the weight of the reel and in a very awkard place to work the lure and fight the fish. Your best position for working the rod is by palming the reel. I palm the reel and wrap one finger around to the front so I can feel the line. If you do not change hands and use a left hand reel, you will probably find yourself moving your hand from a casting position to a fishing position anyway.

Now for the proper method to cast. Think of sitting with a baseball glove on your left hand and just pitching a ball from your right hand to it. The motion is a smooth one where the ball just ends up in the palm of your left hand. Now take and hold a reel on a handle and try a casting motion with the left hand just comjng up and ending catching the reel in the palm. You have changed hands with one continuous smooth motion. The reel was cast with the right hand and and ended up in the palm of your left hand. Done correctly there is a moment when both hands are in contact with the reel. This comes at the end of the cast when you should be taking your thumb from the spool. You move your right hand to the crank as you release it from the handle. No motion is lost or wasted. No stopping and then changing hands.

As a bass fisherman fishing in the seventies with Lew Childre (inventor and father of the first completely disengaging levelwind Speed Spool reel) I had a counter mounted on my wrist and recorded over 2,000 casts in just one long day of fishing. I have studied video's for hours and have done a lot of research about baitcasting and the reels involved. I have used left hand and right hand reels and I can cast both left handed and right handed.

In conclusion, You are the fisherman and you can do what feels best to you, but the most efficient and proper way to baitcast for right handed people is with a right hand reel and left hand reel for left handed porple.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from santa wrote 3 years 34 weeks ago

By the way, I too have been using baitcast reels for more than fifty rears. (sorry about some of my spelling and grammer in my last post). My first reel was a South Bend. I stepped up to Pflugers and an OceanCity 1600. Then I got my first real reel, a ABU Ambassabeur 5000. I was Hired by Lew Childre during his Speed Spool project. I met Bob Baenziger while working for Lew and he gave me a Heddon mark IV reel. I got serial #6 Speed Spool when it first came in from Shimano. I think that I have studied this subject as well as anybody else. And on a side note, I also have fished the new simi-barbless hooks from the icast show, I loved them. Thank you and just keep up the good blog.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from jbird wrote 3 years 34 weeks ago

I'm strictly a righty. Tried reeling left, just can't do it.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Puffy wrote 3 years 34 weeks ago

I (right handed) grew up under the tutelage of my father (also right handed), who came from an age where there were no LHR (left hand retrieve) baitcasters. After graduating from spinning reel to baitcaster myself, I managed to special order a LHR model (there were few being made at that time) to my father’s chagrin. He argued up and down with me about it being “wrong” and was ardent about baitcasters being Right Hand Retrieve. We ended agreeing to disagree. After leaving home for a military career I eventually returned to find he had put quite a few miles on my LHR baitcaster. He now only buys LHR models…..and has trouble admitting I was right….err left….you know what I mean.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Sayfu wrote 3 years 34 weeks ago

I liked the analysis by Santa. I am a long time baitcasting, driftfishing steelheader, and in a days time you make many, many casts fishing for steelhead. I switch just as Santa suggests, casting right, and reeling right without ever losing a stroke. Set the hook on a fish, drop the rod tip picking up the line changing hands at the same time..no lost time. The reason I did not reel left was a fish that can run right at you on the take...you needed to reel up line as fast as you could keeping a tight line. Your coordinated hand can reel faster than your uncoordinated hand. Spinning reel fisherman can cast right reel left because the circle turn with the reel handle on a spinning reel is larger..on a baitcaster it is a smaller, circular turn, and harder to do fast. Another aspect is if you do a lot of casting with the right hand it is better playing the fish with the rested, other arm. It seems very un-natural to play a fish with my right arm, and I am right handed. BUT...it is all what you get use to as well.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from countitandone wrote 3 years 34 weeks ago

Yes sir...cast, thumb control, switch, reel in that bad boy. It's natural, it's what I do and apparently most of the rest of the known world...with, of course my Ambassadeur 5500 C series.

Unlike buck, however, my purchase in the early 80's of a beautiful black and silver 5501 C series, is still collecting dust on the shelf in it's original box. e-bay?

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Sayfu wrote 3 years 34 weeks ago

count, I was a "D" Ambassadeur guy. I liked the direct drives..the Green reels, and there was a 4000 D that was the same as the 5000 only didn't have a click feature. You still had a drag, but you had the feature of being able to retrieve line regardless of the drag setting. A steelhead could be close to net, and if your drag was somewhat tight, and if it dove, or took off, you could lighten up on the thumb, and let him run. They were called "knuckle busters", but you could always get your hand off the handle if a fish ran.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Cgull wrote 3 years 34 weeks ago

I've been saying this for years. I use both left and right handed baitcasters, switching when my arms tire from fighting 28+ inch reds and trout. Realy helps when I'm tournament fishing to divide the cast between arms. Kinda silly to throw with one arm and then switch hands. Use the strong/dominant arm to fight and cast, while useing the untrained arm/side to do the dainty work, cranking or reeling.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from countitandone wrote 3 years 34 weeks ago

Sayfu ~ thanks for the walk down memory lane.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from countitandone wrote 3 years 34 weeks ago

Cgull ~ guess I'm just one of the silly ones.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Tim Platt wrote 3 years 34 weeks ago

This is funny to me. I learned to fish with Johnson Century's and Zebco 33's so I always cast two handed and reeled with my right hand. When I switched to open face reels I would put the handle on the other side and everyone said I was doing it backwards... backwards, what do you mean? My Ambassadeur 5000's all have the handle on the right, my spincasting reels all have handles on the right, these open faced reels are the ones that are backwards...

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from fisherman wrote 3 years 32 weeks ago

I have always reeled righty, even on my spinning rigs. It makes much more sense to have your dominant hand doing the often complex work of the retrieve while your left does the relatively simple work of fighting the fish.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from 35wailin wrote 3 years 32 weeks ago

I started out many moons ago trying to cast an old Pflueger direct drive right hand crank. Tried for the better part of a fishing season but couldn't quite stomach the old cast and switch hands routine. I bought an Abu-Garcia 5??? left crank about five years ago. I still have a harder time directing my cast and hitting my target, but I get a few more casts in at the end of the day. More casts = more fish right? In thoery, anyway.

I, personally wouldn't go back to a right hand baitcaster.

My father-in-law, who is right handed, uses a spinning reel with a right hand crank and casts with his right and switches to reel. He tried to teach my nephew, a lefty, to use a spinning reel with a left crank and do the same as him. I showed him both methods( cast with strong side and reel with the other, which I use and the other method my father-in-law uses, and he has followed my method because it just feels natural.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from john111 wrote 3 years 32 weeks ago

Holy cow those are some beautiful salmon, I didn’t realize how big they get . The salmon in our local cold water river are small and we catch them with tiny marshmallows.
Android phone dealas

0 Good Comment? | | Report

Post a Comment

from lovetohunt wrote 3 years 34 weeks ago

Hey thats my reel!

Im right handed and I reel left. I bought my reel in the spring as my first baitcaster. It did not seem awkward to me because I was learning the baitcasting skill for the first time.

I love not swithching the rod between hands. You can cast a lot faster and it is good for all the reasons you said.

I highly recomend making the switch.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Bernie wrote 3 years 34 weeks ago

I use bait reels and reel with my right hand. Switching to a spinning outfit occasionally during the day gives my right hand a rest because with the spinning outfit I am reeling with my left hand. That may not make sense to young guys, but when you get old and arthritic it helps!

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from buckhunter wrote 3 years 34 weeks ago

I switched to the darkside back in the 80's because witching the rod into the other hand after each cast never made sense to me. It was a little awkward at first but has paid good dividends over the last 3 decades.

Today I can use both left or right baitcasters with equal ease.

While trolling for muskies I like the handles to face up to make it easier to get it out of the rod holder. On the right side of the boat I will have a left hand retrieve Abu G. 5501 C3. On the left side I have a Abu G. 5500 C3. It's like having a match set. Knowing how to use both comfortably comes in handy.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from senkoman12 wrote 3 years 34 weeks ago

i use leftys, i fished spinning reels for years before baitcasters and now all i use is leftys

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Puffy wrote 3 years 34 weeks ago

I (right handed) grew up under the tutelage of my father (also right handed), who came from an age where there were no LHR (left hand retrieve) baitcasters. After graduating from spinning reel to baitcaster myself, I managed to special order a LHR model (there were few being made at that time) to my father’s chagrin. He argued up and down with me about it being “wrong” and was ardent about baitcasters being Right Hand Retrieve. We ended agreeing to disagree. After leaving home for a military career I eventually returned to find he had put quite a few miles on my LHR baitcaster. He now only buys LHR models…..and has trouble admitting I was right….err left….you know what I mean.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Sayfu wrote 3 years 34 weeks ago

I liked the analysis by Santa. I am a long time baitcasting, driftfishing steelheader, and in a days time you make many, many casts fishing for steelhead. I switch just as Santa suggests, casting right, and reeling right without ever losing a stroke. Set the hook on a fish, drop the rod tip picking up the line changing hands at the same time..no lost time. The reason I did not reel left was a fish that can run right at you on the take...you needed to reel up line as fast as you could keeping a tight line. Your coordinated hand can reel faster than your uncoordinated hand. Spinning reel fisherman can cast right reel left because the circle turn with the reel handle on a spinning reel is larger..on a baitcaster it is a smaller, circular turn, and harder to do fast. Another aspect is if you do a lot of casting with the right hand it is better playing the fish with the rested, other arm. It seems very un-natural to play a fish with my right arm, and I am right handed. BUT...it is all what you get use to as well.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Dcast wrote 3 years 34 weeks ago

I tried a lefty at Gander Mountain, and it felt awkward to say the least. This whippersnapper is sticking with the righties!

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Koldkut wrote 3 years 34 weeks ago

I'm reeling left. Since I've gotten into rod building, I've decided to build some decent rods and learn to use a baitcaster. I picked up a used citica right hander and I got to practicing with it out in the hard with various weights and such with cats(zonker flies with hooks cut off). I practiced A-LOT, got very comfortable with it. I had no problems casting and switching hands out on the water. What got me was my hook setting arm. I've been a righty spin fisher since forever, and I ended up trading my righty citica for a lefty model and since I've gotten my hook setting arm back, the fishing has been more successful. If I had gotten a start earlier in life with it, I could probably be a perfectly good switch hitter on the baitcaster. Since there are loads of options out there, I feel no ill effects, except for a little bit of ribbing from the rightys on occasion.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from jcarlin wrote 3 years 34 weeks ago

Being a righty who grew up (and still mostly)used spinning tackle. I was suprised when I opened my first baitcaster through the mail and some moron seemed to have put the handle on the wrong side. I tried dealing with it, but it seems silly to change hands to me, I couldn't get used to casting as a "lefty" and since then all baitcasters in my possession have been left-handed as baitcasters are considered. I never understood why the convention seemed to be backwards from spinning reels, but I think the spinners have it right.. I mean correctly.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Micropterus24 wrote 3 years 34 weeks ago

I bought my righty quantum a few years back and it took some getting used to but I really don't have any trouble with the hand switching. My friend just got a lefty and I tried it out I think it would be pretty easy to switch, but I just like the feel of my righty more.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from santa wrote 3 years 34 weeks ago

OK folks, please read. I have taught baitcasting since 1974. When you do it correctly, you actually have to change hands. Let me first state that you hold a spinning rig somewhere around the center of the of the weight of the reel with the stem of the reel foot between your fingers. This is natural and necessary to cast. This is also the best position to hold the rod while fishing. There is no need to move your hands to change from casting position to fishing position.

BUT with a baitcast reel, you hold the rod behind the reel so that you can "thumb" the spool. This puts your hand behind the center of the weight of the reel and in a very awkard place to work the lure and fight the fish. Your best position for working the rod is by palming the reel. I palm the reel and wrap one finger around to the front so I can feel the line. If you do not change hands and use a left hand reel, you will probably find yourself moving your hand from a casting position to a fishing position anyway.

Now for the proper method to cast. Think of sitting with a baseball glove on your left hand and just pitching a ball from your right hand to it. The motion is a smooth one where the ball just ends up in the palm of your left hand. Now take and hold a reel on a handle and try a casting motion with the left hand just comjng up and ending catching the reel in the palm. You have changed hands with one continuous smooth motion. The reel was cast with the right hand and and ended up in the palm of your left hand. Done correctly there is a moment when both hands are in contact with the reel. This comes at the end of the cast when you should be taking your thumb from the spool. You move your right hand to the crank as you release it from the handle. No motion is lost or wasted. No stopping and then changing hands.

As a bass fisherman fishing in the seventies with Lew Childre (inventor and father of the first completely disengaging levelwind Speed Spool reel) I had a counter mounted on my wrist and recorded over 2,000 casts in just one long day of fishing. I have studied video's for hours and have done a lot of research about baitcasting and the reels involved. I have used left hand and right hand reels and I can cast both left handed and right handed.

In conclusion, You are the fisherman and you can do what feels best to you, but the most efficient and proper way to baitcast for right handed people is with a right hand reel and left hand reel for left handed porple.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from santa wrote 3 years 34 weeks ago

By the way, I too have been using baitcast reels for more than fifty rears. (sorry about some of my spelling and grammer in my last post). My first reel was a South Bend. I stepped up to Pflugers and an OceanCity 1600. Then I got my first real reel, a ABU Ambassabeur 5000. I was Hired by Lew Childre during his Speed Spool project. I met Bob Baenziger while working for Lew and he gave me a Heddon mark IV reel. I got serial #6 Speed Spool when it first came in from Shimano. I think that I have studied this subject as well as anybody else. And on a side note, I also have fished the new simi-barbless hooks from the icast show, I loved them. Thank you and just keep up the good blog.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from jbird wrote 3 years 34 weeks ago

I'm strictly a righty. Tried reeling left, just can't do it.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from countitandone wrote 3 years 34 weeks ago

Yes sir...cast, thumb control, switch, reel in that bad boy. It's natural, it's what I do and apparently most of the rest of the known world...with, of course my Ambassadeur 5500 C series.

Unlike buck, however, my purchase in the early 80's of a beautiful black and silver 5501 C series, is still collecting dust on the shelf in it's original box. e-bay?

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Sayfu wrote 3 years 34 weeks ago

count, I was a "D" Ambassadeur guy. I liked the direct drives..the Green reels, and there was a 4000 D that was the same as the 5000 only didn't have a click feature. You still had a drag, but you had the feature of being able to retrieve line regardless of the drag setting. A steelhead could be close to net, and if your drag was somewhat tight, and if it dove, or took off, you could lighten up on the thumb, and let him run. They were called "knuckle busters", but you could always get your hand off the handle if a fish ran.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Cgull wrote 3 years 34 weeks ago

I've been saying this for years. I use both left and right handed baitcasters, switching when my arms tire from fighting 28+ inch reds and trout. Realy helps when I'm tournament fishing to divide the cast between arms. Kinda silly to throw with one arm and then switch hands. Use the strong/dominant arm to fight and cast, while useing the untrained arm/side to do the dainty work, cranking or reeling.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from countitandone wrote 3 years 34 weeks ago

Sayfu ~ thanks for the walk down memory lane.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from countitandone wrote 3 years 34 weeks ago

Cgull ~ guess I'm just one of the silly ones.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Tim Platt wrote 3 years 34 weeks ago

This is funny to me. I learned to fish with Johnson Century's and Zebco 33's so I always cast two handed and reeled with my right hand. When I switched to open face reels I would put the handle on the other side and everyone said I was doing it backwards... backwards, what do you mean? My Ambassadeur 5000's all have the handle on the right, my spincasting reels all have handles on the right, these open faced reels are the ones that are backwards...

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from fisherman wrote 3 years 32 weeks ago

I have always reeled righty, even on my spinning rigs. It makes much more sense to have your dominant hand doing the often complex work of the retrieve while your left does the relatively simple work of fighting the fish.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from 35wailin wrote 3 years 32 weeks ago

I started out many moons ago trying to cast an old Pflueger direct drive right hand crank. Tried for the better part of a fishing season but couldn't quite stomach the old cast and switch hands routine. I bought an Abu-Garcia 5??? left crank about five years ago. I still have a harder time directing my cast and hitting my target, but I get a few more casts in at the end of the day. More casts = more fish right? In thoery, anyway.

I, personally wouldn't go back to a right hand baitcaster.

My father-in-law, who is right handed, uses a spinning reel with a right hand crank and casts with his right and switches to reel. He tried to teach my nephew, a lefty, to use a spinning reel with a left crank and do the same as him. I showed him both methods( cast with strong side and reel with the other, which I use and the other method my father-in-law uses, and he has followed my method because it just feels natural.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from john111 wrote 3 years 32 weeks ago

Holy cow those are some beautiful salmon, I didn’t realize how big they get . The salmon in our local cold water river are small and we catch them with tiny marshmallows.
Android phone dealas

0 Good Comment? | | Report

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