If you have recently made the switch to or are trying out a baitcaster for the first time, I'm sure you have probably experienced the dreaded BACKLASH!
Backlashes occur when the spool is spinning faster than line that is coming through the guide. This causes the line to pile up on itself and overrun the spool making what is similar to a "birdsnest". Learning how to set up a baitcaster is easy and is an important step in becoming efficient in using them. To properly setup your new reel, let’s go over 4 key steps and choices you can make to make set up a breeze.
1.) Fishing Line Choice
The best line for learning how to cast baitcasting gear is going to be monofilament fishing line. Starting out with a braided fishing line or even a fluorocarbon line is only going to cause you problems at first.
Braided fishing line is smooth and it can actually create worse backlashes that require you to cut out and discard of large chunks of expensive line. Fluorocarbon is stiffer and more unforgiving than mono or braid line, and if you get backlashes where the line cuts into itself it can actually cause the line weaken and break later.
I recommend using 12 or 15lb mono line for learning to cast these baitcaster reels.
Fill your reel to just under the edge of the spool. You don’t want to fill the reel to or past the edge of the spool because it will overrun more easily at the outer layers of line. Now tie on a decent sized lure, something you use frequently like a 1/4 to 1/2oz jig or bass spinnerbait.
2.) Setting Spool Tension
The tension knob is the small dial on the side plate, usually on the same side as the handle and drag star. Getting this set up the right way is the first step to setting up a baitcaster to cast properly.
First, hold the fishing rod tip up and reel your lure up until there is about a foot of line out. Now tighten the tension knob so you feel some light pressure. Then push the thumb bar to let the lure fall. Your fishing lure should be dropping very slowly, or maybe not at all. Then you slowly loosen the tension knob until the lure starts to fall on its own. Reel it up and do it again until your lure can fall as fast as possible without overrunning the spool when it hits the ground.
You will need to repeat this process each time you change fishing baits and lures. It makes sense that a 1/2oz jig will need tighter tension control than a 1/4oz jerkbait. It only takes a couple of second to make this adjustment but will save you who knows how much time when you're not untangling birds nests every cast!
3.) Brake System Adjustments
Learning how to adjust the brakes can be the trickiest part of adjusting your baitcaster.
Centrifugal Brakes – This system uses small weights on the inside of the side plate to activate the braking. On most reels side plate is accessed using either a dial to unscrew the side, or a lever that releases the plate
When you get inside the plate you see an arrangement colored pegs. You can move these to the in or out position. The out position is on, meaning more weights toward the outside create more centrifugal forces on the braking system inside the spool causing it to slow down. Be sure to always have at least two pigs in the on position opposite of each other. You can do 2, 4, or 6 pegs on, you can also do 3 pegs if you do them in a triangular pattern. Turning pegs on in a even pattern will ensure that you were spool stays balanced. For virtually no breaking at all you could have all pegs off however I would not recommend this.
Magnetic Brakes – Magnetic brakes are a bit simpler and easier to understand and adjust. This brake system uses a dial on the outside of the reel side plate to adjust the brake strength. Just like on the centrifugal braking system, the higher the setting, the larger amount of braking will be applied to the spool. When starting out I would recommend setting the magnetic break at 60 to 90%. Once you are well practiced and more comfortable lower it to 20 to 40%.
Hybrid Brakes – Some bait casting reels have adopted a hybrid braking system that utilizes both magnetic and centrifugal brakes. The adjustments are made the same way, in theory you would want to start with your braking a little lower on each and make adjustments as needed. Hybrid brakes can be a little more complicated to setup but can also offer more fine-tuning for different fishing situations.
With time and practice you will find the sweet spot on all braking systems for every style of fishing whether it's flipping small jig's into tight cover or casting big heavy swim baits at monster pike!
4.) Setting the Drag
Setting the drag on a baitcasting reel is as simple as it gets. There is a big star shaped dial between the reel handle and the reel body. Turn it forward to tighten the drag or backwards to loosen. You want the drag to be tight enough that it won’t give on the hookset but not so tight that it won’t allow the fish to run.
Now that you have the four basic steps to setting up a baitcaster it's time to get out and practice. I would recommend starting out with a 1/2oz fishing lure. Start off with small short cast and work your way up.
Years ago when I started using a baitcaster I would set up targets in my backyard and practice casting and flipping to them. I believe this was instrumental in developing my casting skills. To this day I will still go outside and make a few cast in the yard, especially when trying a new reel for the first time.
Good luck and tight lines,
Author: Joey Willey