Merwin: Getting in Tune with Your Baitcasting Reel

It seems that whenever I write here about baitcasting tackle, as I did last week, there are always a few … Continued

Tune your baitcasting reel to cast farther and better.
Tune your baitcasting reel to cast farther and better. Field & Stream Online Editors

It seems that whenever I write here about baitcasting tackle, as I did last week, there are always a few comments from readers about all the difficulty they have in dealing with baitcasting reels. So here are a few tips to help you set up your reel in the first place and also to help keep you backlash-free.

In general, spinning versus baitcasting gear means lighter lures and line (spinning) versus heavier lures and line (baitcasting). For baitcasters, I usually suggest monofilament lines no lighter than 12-pound-test and lures no lighter than three-eighths ounce. For practice baitcasting with typical mid-weight, freshwater tackle, heavier lures cast more easily and with fewer tangles than lighter ones. Start with casting weights from one-half-ounce to as much as one-ounce. Spool your reel with 14- or 17-pound-test mono.

Before you cast, tighten the reel’s cast-control knob by turning it clockwise as shown in the photo. On a right-handed reel, that knob is on the right sideplate underneath the handle. According to the brief directions supplied with most new reels, that knob should be tightened to the point at which the lure’s weight will cause it to drop very slowly when the reel is in free-spool. Trouble is that for most beginners that’s not tight enough to prevent backlash tangles. So tighten the cast-control knob even further, or approximately one-half turn more.

Now make a gentle cast without thumbing the spool. The lure won’t go very far–because of the cast control’s tight setting–but the reel shouldn’t backlash either. If the reel does backlash slightly, untangle it and then tighten the cast-control knob a little more. Cast again, and again gently and without thumbing the spool, and there should be no backlash.

As you practice casting from this point, try loosening the cast control slightly and using your thumb to control the spool. In fairly short order, you’ll be casting to fishable distances without backlashing the reel as you learn to gradually decrease the mechanical cast control while gradually increasing your thumb control. Some time back, I wrote a full article on developing that particular touch, which you can read here.

Try to remember that you’re doing this for fun. There is no need to get all stressed over your baitcasting. If the reel tangles, just patiently untangle it, tighten the cast control knob, and try again.

Eventually, you’ll be an accomplished baitcaster and with the cast-control knob on your reel dialed almost all the way off. You’ll be using the reel’s other brake adjustments (on the left sideplate usually) to compensate for changing conditions like headwinds or different lure weights, but most of all relying on your newly educated casting thumb to keep you out of backlash trouble.