Baitcasting reels are the original, conventional style fishing reel. Casting reels were the only ones available to anglers for many years before the spinning reel came around. While baitcasters may be the standard, traditional reel, they have evolved with technology to be even better and more advanced in terms of materials and performance.
Professional anglers use both styles, but generally, tend to prefer baitcasting reels for their power and control. Baitcasting reels are harder to master, however, and a poor set up can result in backlashes, tangles, and frustration. Learn how to set up your baitcasting reel like a pro so that you can cast and retrieve and make your next great catch.
Choose Your Line
To set up your baitcasting reel, you must first choose your line. If you’re new to baitcasters, use monofilament. It is the most forgiving and the least likely to damage itself if a backlash does occur. Braided line can cause worse backlashes and damage itself, and fluorocarbon is stiffer and harder to handle and can also cut itself when it backlashes.
We recommend 12 to 15 lb test monofilament. Spool it onto your reel, but don’t go all the way to the edge of your spool: fill it a little less than capacity. Spooling all the way to the edge can result in the outer layers of line overrunning, which can hurt your cast and retrieve. Once your line is spooled, attach whatever lures, bait or rig works best for your location and target fish.
Set the Spool Tension
This is one of the most critical steps for properly setting up a baitcaster. If your tension is off, smooth casting will be difficult and you’re more likely to run into issues like backlash and tangling. Adjust the spool tension anytime you put on a new lure or rig, as different weights need different tensions.
The tension knob on your reel can be found on the side plate on the same side as your reel’s handle. At the correct tension, you should be able to push the thumb bar and let your lure fall slowly to the ground, without any slack line after it hits the ground.
To set your spool tension properly, have your tackle all set up with about a foot or less of the line leading from your rod to the end of your lure. Turn the tension up to a little until you feel the pressure. Push the thumb bar to let the lure go, and it should not move much or should drop very slowly. Slowly release the pressure on the tension knob until the lure starts to fall on its own. Reel the lure back up if necessary, and repeat this step with the tension knob until the lure can fall on its own to the ground without extra line running out when it hits the ground.
Adjust Your Brakes
The brakes are the other main component to setting up your spinning reel the right way. There are two types of brakes for baitcasters: centrifugal brakes and magnetic brakes. Each braking system is a little different by brand and model, however.
Centrifugal brakes are usually found on higher end reels, although both braking styles can be found on high quality and lesser quality reels. To set up centrifugal brakes, open up the side plate of your reel and you’ll see an assortment of colored pegs. These are the individual brakes. Push the tabs out to turn the brakes on or in to turn them off. Your reel must be balanced, so if you turn one brake on, you should turn on the brake directly opposite to that one. Some anglers do a set of 3 brakes turned on in a triangle for balance. Depending on how much braking strength you want, adjust for your comfort.
Magnetic brakes are more simple to set up. These use a dial on the side of the plate, usually with a minimum and maximum setting on a scale of 1 to 10. The higher you turn it up, the more braking you allow when you cast. Start high, like at 70 or 80% brake as a beginner. Experienced anglers can pull back to 20 to 30%.
Set Your Drag
Setting the drag on your reel is pretty simple. The drag should be tight enough that it won’t release hooksets, but not so tight that there is no give in your line.
To adjust the drag on your reel, use the star-shaped dial between your reel body and handle. Pull on your line and then tighten this dial slowly until it takes some pressure to pull the line from the spool.
Once you’ve spooled your line, set the spool tension, and adjusted brakes and drag, start making some test casts to see how your reel feels. Beginners with the brakes set high won’t be able to cast far at first, but it’s best to practice like this to get used to casting and prevent backlashes. Once you’ve gotten the hang of it, release the brakes and learn to use your thumb on the spool more.
Adjust each setting as needed for smoother casting; with some practice, you’ll be able to feel what needs to be adjusted in your reel. Baitcasting reels take time to master, but with practice can be your preferred reel for smooth, long casting and control on the water.