How to Set up a Bait Caster Like a Professional

baitcasting reel fishing set up

If you’re reading this, it’s highly likely that you’re having casting issues when using your new reel. Those who are new to using baitcasting reels will quickly find that the most complicated thing is dealing with backlashes, which occur when a spool is going faster than a line that is stretched through a guide.

While switching from a spinning reel to a baitcasting reel can be a little challenging, that doesn’t mean it isn’t worthwhile. Baitcaster reels are the best option for a comfortable and accurate fishing experience. It takes experience to become skilled at using this type of reel but having some tips on how to set up your baitcaster is a good place to start.

Choosing the Appropriate Line

You have a choice between a braided line or a monofilament line for your reel. Fluorocarbon is typically not recommended for baitcasting because it is stiffer than monofilament. This can lead to more back backlashing and increases the chance that your line will break.

The most efficient line is going to be a 12- or 15-pound monofilament line, especially for someone who is new to the sport. Fluorocarbon isn’t going to lead to catching more fish and will be harder to use, so it’s best to save that until later if you want to try it when you are more skilled.

The first thing you want to do is be certain your reel is positioned safely on your fishing pole. Look over the reel and pole to be sure things are safe and neat.

How to Set Spool Tension

The next step is to spool your reel with a brand-new line. Hold up your reel and reel the lure up until around a foot of line is out. At that point you want to tighten your tension knob, but only until you feel a light tension. The tension knob can be found on the side plate, often near the handle.

After you feel that pressure, it’s time to push on the thumb bar and let go of the reel. What you want to see is the lure not dropping or dropping slowly. At that point, you release pressure on the knob until the lure begins to drop on its own.

At that point, do the same thing a time or two more until the lure will fall to the ground slowly over the course of a few seconds. Once you have the proper tension set, this will prevent line overruns when the lure hits bottom.

This is something you have to repeat every time you go to a new bait, since they range in size and weight.

Making Brake System Adjustments

One of the most complicated parts of adjusting a baitcasting reel relates to brake adjustments. While there are only two types of brakes, manufacturers design them differently. This is one of the reasons some people use a single brand of reel even if they have a few of them to switch between.

Centrifugal Brakes

This brake system uses small weight to active braking. To get inside of the side plate where the weights are located, there will be a level to release it or you may have to use a dial to unscrew it. Once inside, you’ll see colored pegs that can be placed in the in or out position. “Out” means on, so the weight offers additional force to slow down the spool while “in” is the opposite. You want to turn them on and off symmetrically, so the reel remains balanced.

Magnetic Brakes 

If you have magnetic plates, you’re in luck because they are much easier to adjust. The outside of the side plate will have a dial that adjusts the strength of the brake. The higher the setting you choose, the more braking force that is applied. Beginners may want to start at the high end of the dial and then scale back over time.

Hybrid Brakes

Hybrid brakes are also a new option on some baitcasting reels and are made the same exact way. However, adjustments will be set a bit lower than normal. This can be complicated and may take some time to get used to, so beginners may want to stick with a strictly magnetic or centrifugal system for their reel brakes.

The Process of Setting the Drag

One of the easiest adjustments to make is setting the drag on your baitcasting reel. You will find a large dial between the body or your reel and the handle of your reel that is shaped like a star. What you need to do is pull the star dial toward you to loosen the drag and away from you to tighten the drag. The drag should be fairly tight to avoid slipping but not tight enough that you have no give. You can tug on the line and click the wheel down until your line takes a bit of effort to pull away from the spool.

Making Other Adjustments

Now that you have made your initial adjustments, you want to start making a few test casts to check how everything is working. Be sure you have already set your brakes and spool tension the way we walked you through earlier in this article. The next thing you want to do is toss out a few casts and feel how the reel is doing. Once you become more comfortable with how the reel works, you can increase the strength and get more distance.

At first, it’s not uncommon for the distance to be a bit disappointing. However, what you want to notice is that you shouldn’t have any issues with backlashing. At this point, you can back off of the brakes while you continue practicing by thumbing the spool. Once you begin to get better at this part, you can lower your brakes and start to get those long crazy casts that you’re probably excited for.

Another tip that can be helpful is remembering to make adjustments when you are somewhere that is windy. You want to turn up the brakes in this sort of situation. If you shoot off a large cast into the wind but your brakes aren’t property set, this is the best way to end up with a massive backlash. Turn up your braking and do your best to roll your casts to avoid the chance of being overrun by the wind.

Challenges of Using Baitcast Reels 

The biggest challenge you will have is avoiding backlash, which we’ve prepared you for in the above tips. As long as you can manage to handle this problem, you can easily use a baitcaster reel. Take the time to go through all of the adjustments we mentioned to have the best chance of success. Once you get used to using this type of reel, you may never go back to any other type of reel.

Sure, this is a more complex reel but it’s also well-known for being needed to do bass fishing. This is the reel that seasoned anglers often prefer, but it can seem a bit overwhelming for a beginner who is just getting started with fishing. This is largely because most people believe they are far too difficult to use.

Don’t let that thought keep you away from trying something new. You can learn to use a baitcaster reel and have a great time catching some huge fish. Give it a shot and let us know how it goes!

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