While many fishermen today use either a spincasting or a spinning reel, baitcasting reels are still the choice of many diehard anglers who prefer the precise control they offer to those with sufficiently skilled thumbs. Advances in technology offer faster retrieve ratios, as well as braking systems that reduce the likelihood of a backlash, overrun or "bird's nest."
Choosing Your Equipment
Purchase a reel with a magnetic braking system. Magnetic braking systems are superior to the centrifugal braking systems found on older reels.
Load the reel with enough line to pay it out when fighting a lunker fish, but not so much that it routinely slips behind the spool into the gears. Fill the reel to no more than an 1/8-inch from the spool's edge, and for beginners, 1/4 to 1/2 an inch is better.
Use lures of sufficient weight. Baitcasting reels do not cast lures weighing less than a quarter-ounce well; better to cast lightweight lures with spinning or spincasting gear.
Choose a rod of the right length. For most lure weights, a rod of 6 to 6-1/2 feet is the right length. Use a shorter rod if you cast lighter lures and a longer rod if you cast heavier lures.
Before You Cast
Set the reel drag tight enough so that it will offer resistance when a big fish pulls out line but not so tight that it offers no give. You should not have to readjust the drag while fishing.
Attach the lure you plan to cast to your line.
Set the line brake as high as it will go.
Hold the rod and reel in front of you, parallel to the ground. Click the line release button so that the lure starts falling to the ground.
Adjust the line brake tension so that the lure slowly falls to the ground and your line stops paying out once it hits the ground. You will have to readjust this setting when you switch to a lure of a different weight.
Hold the rod in your hand with the handles pointing up (down if you cast left-handed with a right-handed reel).
Place your thumb on the spool while you click the line release button.
Cast your lure, keeping your thumb clamped on the spool on your backcast and releasing it as you begin your forward cast. Make sure your casting power comes from your wrist.
Hold your thumb lightly on the spool during your forward cast to "feather" the line while watching your lure travel toward its target. When it reaches its target, clamp down on the spool with your thumb to stop the lure's forward motion.
- On newer reels, the line release button is situated such that your thumb rests on it when it rests on the spooled line. On older reels, the line release button is on the handle side of the reel.
- Practice your casting in an open field until you become proficient in thumbing the reel spool. Use a dipsey sinker or practice plug when practice casting. Work on accuracy, not distance; don't try to throw your arm out with the lure.
- When first fishing with a baitcasting reel, have another kind of reel along with you, preferably a spincasting reel, as the techniques used to cast with both kinds are similar.
- Keep a small crochet needle or bent paper clip in your tackle box to untangle bird's nests.
- Maintain your reel properly. Follow the maintenance directions that came with it and replace the line periodically or when it starts to show wear.
- When untangling a backlash, pull loose line loops toward you while turning the reel backward, then find the main line and pull out the slack. Pulling hard on the line will turn the bird's nest into a Gordian knot.