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Merwin: How to Clear a Backlash on a Baitcasting Reel

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November 09, 2009

Merwin: How to Clear a Backlash on a Baitcasting Reel

By John Merwin

Every baitcaster gets a backlash once in while. Untangling the line can be a real pain, and many resort to a knife or scissors to cut away the tangle in frustration. No more. This quick video tip for clearing backlash snarls will help.

Reeling forward slightly while pressing on the tangled line with your thumb smooths the snarl and pushes those overlapping line loops free. It’s not a new idea. I first heard of this in an article by bass pro Shaw Grigsby maybe 10 years ago. But the video here by Maryland bass-blogger Kevin Scarselli is the first live demonstration I’ve seen.

Yes, it works. At least it works most of the time. The main thing in clearing a backlash by this or any other method is ... ... patience. If you get angry and frustrated and start yanking on the line willy-nilly, you’ll just be making things worse.

If things are so bad that you do have to resort to cutting the line to clear a tangle, then be careful of this one thing: Make sure after cutting the tangle free that the remaining line is not wound under itself on the spool. Sometimes the newly cleared line end gets tucked under a slack coil on the reel. If this happens--and it can be hard to notice--line won’t pay freely off the reel, and you might be creating another tangle worse than the one you had in the first place.

Comments (18)

Top Rated
All Comments
from rjw wrote 4 years 23 weeks ago

Will have to make a short trip to the lake today and try that.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Scott in Ohio wrote 4 years 23 weeks ago

John,

This is a great tip. One that I’ve not heard about before but will be sure to remember.

I have an unrelated question related to level wind reels. I want to fill a Penn 209 with lead core line. I plan to use this for walleye and steelhead in Lake Erie. What should I add for backing, mono or braid? Do you have a recommendation for lb. test and anything else I should know?

Thanks John!

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from KJ wrote 4 years 23 weeks ago

I will have ample and multiple opportunities to try this out. Thanks for the video to demonstrate how to do it.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from buckhunter wrote 4 years 23 weeks ago

Just when I thought I knew it all...

I will be sure to give that tip to my often bird nested fishing partner called my son.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from johnmerwin wrote 4 years 23 weeks ago

Scott in Ohio:
Braid, for its smaller diameter (greater line capacity results) and low stretch. I'd use at least 30-pound to have enough diameter so it doesn't dig into itself on the spool. Other opinions might vary.
Good luck!

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from jbird wrote 4 years 23 weeks ago

THANK YOU! That's all I can say about that without embarrassing myself.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from Scott in Ohio wrote 4 years 23 weeks ago

Thanks John!!

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from senkoman12 wrote 4 years 23 weeks ago

ive been doing that for a while and i learned it from this same video

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from rabbitpolice88 wrote 4 years 23 weeks ago

I don't like that tip at all. I seldom have backlashes but when I do I only have maybe one small not to get out. In some cases you will reel line over the existing mess already there. Also you will crimp your line especially if you have high memory line. All I do when I come to a place where the line is over rapped is take the line that is underneath and pull it out, it is that simple.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from rabbitpolice88 wrote 4 years 23 weeks ago

Forgive my spelling it's knot not "not"

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from hawg daddy wrote 4 years 23 weeks ago

ive gottin good over the years to pick a birds nest out with my fingers but i think i will try this way next time i get one.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from bassman3-15 wrote 4 years 23 weeks ago

If you want to make it even easier, put a piece of electrical tape on top of your line on the spool. Cast out as far as you can and put the tape on the spool. This tape won't allow backlashes past this point, so even if you do get one they're easier to clear.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Ethan3 wrote 4 years 23 weeks ago

i have heard this tip before and ive tried it and it works great, and i do it every time i get backlash

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from oldboot wrote 4 years 22 weeks ago

Now if I can learn how to quickly get the lure unstuck from all the weeds at the bottom I'll be a happy man.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from earlyriser81 wrote 4 years 19 weeks ago

It is great to know that I don't have to cut the line when a backlash happens. I wish I had know this many backlashes and wasted line ago.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from JayAquino wrote 4 years 18 weeks ago

Thank you so much, you've probably saved me like$50 in line.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Brian Phipps wrote 4 years 14 weeks ago

I cant say that im looking forward to trying it but i will for sure give this a try next backlash I have. good tip

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Roofish wrote 4 years 11 weeks ago

I'm glad I saw this video, very helpful. I've tried this method before with not much success. After watching this video, however I realize what I was doing wrong. I would try this procedure and then keep pulling, now I know the trick is to repeat procedure until I'm fishing again

0 Good Comment? | | Report

Post a Comment

from jbird wrote 4 years 23 weeks ago

THANK YOU! That's all I can say about that without embarrassing myself.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from rjw wrote 4 years 23 weeks ago

Will have to make a short trip to the lake today and try that.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Scott in Ohio wrote 4 years 23 weeks ago

John,

This is a great tip. One that I’ve not heard about before but will be sure to remember.

I have an unrelated question related to level wind reels. I want to fill a Penn 209 with lead core line. I plan to use this for walleye and steelhead in Lake Erie. What should I add for backing, mono or braid? Do you have a recommendation for lb. test and anything else I should know?

Thanks John!

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from KJ wrote 4 years 23 weeks ago

I will have ample and multiple opportunities to try this out. Thanks for the video to demonstrate how to do it.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from johnmerwin wrote 4 years 23 weeks ago

Scott in Ohio:
Braid, for its smaller diameter (greater line capacity results) and low stretch. I'd use at least 30-pound to have enough diameter so it doesn't dig into itself on the spool. Other opinions might vary.
Good luck!

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Scott in Ohio wrote 4 years 23 weeks ago

Thanks John!!

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from senkoman12 wrote 4 years 23 weeks ago

ive been doing that for a while and i learned it from this same video

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from rabbitpolice88 wrote 4 years 23 weeks ago

I don't like that tip at all. I seldom have backlashes but when I do I only have maybe one small not to get out. In some cases you will reel line over the existing mess already there. Also you will crimp your line especially if you have high memory line. All I do when I come to a place where the line is over rapped is take the line that is underneath and pull it out, it is that simple.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from rabbitpolice88 wrote 4 years 23 weeks ago

Forgive my spelling it's knot not "not"

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from hawg daddy wrote 4 years 23 weeks ago

ive gottin good over the years to pick a birds nest out with my fingers but i think i will try this way next time i get one.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from bassman3-15 wrote 4 years 23 weeks ago

If you want to make it even easier, put a piece of electrical tape on top of your line on the spool. Cast out as far as you can and put the tape on the spool. This tape won't allow backlashes past this point, so even if you do get one they're easier to clear.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from buckhunter wrote 4 years 23 weeks ago

Just when I thought I knew it all...

I will be sure to give that tip to my often bird nested fishing partner called my son.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Ethan3 wrote 4 years 23 weeks ago

i have heard this tip before and ive tried it and it works great, and i do it every time i get backlash

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from oldboot wrote 4 years 22 weeks ago

Now if I can learn how to quickly get the lure unstuck from all the weeds at the bottom I'll be a happy man.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from earlyriser81 wrote 4 years 19 weeks ago

It is great to know that I don't have to cut the line when a backlash happens. I wish I had know this many backlashes and wasted line ago.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from JayAquino wrote 4 years 18 weeks ago

Thank you so much, you've probably saved me like$50 in line.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Brian Phipps wrote 4 years 14 weeks ago

I cant say that im looking forward to trying it but i will for sure give this a try next backlash I have. good tip

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Roofish wrote 4 years 11 weeks ago

I'm glad I saw this video, very helpful. I've tried this method before with not much success. After watching this video, however I realize what I was doing wrong. I would try this procedure and then keep pulling, now I know the trick is to repeat procedure until I'm fishing again

0 Good Comment? | | Report

Post a Comment

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