Like most things in life, there’s two ways to explain how to use a baitcaster. There’s the basic version that tells you how to cast and retrieve your baitcaster. Nothing’s wrong with the short lesson, as it works for those starting out. Once you have down the basics of a baitcasting reel you’ll want to become familiar with its other functions. Many have spool brake systems that will make learning how to cast a baitcaster much easier. Dialing in the drag to the proper setting is also a part of using a baitcaster, and helps ensure you land more fish. Dig in to the following article starting with the simple, and continuing into a more detailed course on how to use a baitcaster.
Learning How To Use A Baitcaster – Basic & Detailed Accounts
How To Use A Baitcaster: The Basic Technique
When you begin learning how to use a baitcaster, everything centers around your thumb. Whether you’re right or left handed doesn’t matter. What does matter is that you keep your thumb on the spool of the baitcaster. Get a feel for it because your thumb will be on the spool quite often. In fact, the only times your thumb won’t be on the spool is when you’re retrieving line or battling a fish.
How To Cast Your Baitcaster
Picking up your baitcaster rod and reel, the first thing to do is put your thumb on the spool. It should be the thumb of your dominant hand, the hand you’ll use on the reel handle. Note that there is a decent selection of left handed baitcasters available. Once your thumb is on the spool, flip the bail lever which takes the reel out of gear. Now if you remove your thumb, the spool will spin freely in either direction.
With the reel in free spool, you’re ready to cast. The casting action of a baitcasting rod is the same as that of a spinning rod. It takes coordination to build up rod power behind you, and know the precise moment to release as you’re driving that power forward. With a spinning reel, however, the casting technique ends once the angler lets go of the line.
Using a baitcaster, the angler releases the line by removing his thumb then must immediately bring his thumb back to bear on the line. Not to stop it, but with just enough of a touch to slow the spool. The reason? If the angler doesn’t do this the spool will spin faster than the release of line. This will cause the line to backlash, putting over wraps, under wraps, and knots throughout your spool. The minimum effect of backlash is a temporary halt to fishing. Worst case scenarios require a new spool of line.
Ending Your Cast
From the moment you let your line fly to the second it hits the water, your thumb must control the speed of the spool. Some baitcasters offer cast control systems. These claim to allow casting with no need for thumb to line control. Most baitcasters require at least some bit of thumb work while casting, even if it’s only to slow the spool on its initial burst of speed.
Follow your line with your thumb until it hits the water. Taking it off even a second too soon will also result in backlash. When your lure or weight hits the water, stop the spool from spinning with a strong touch of your thumb. Flip the bail lever back or simply start reeling the baitcaster to put it back in gear.
Baitcaster Line Retrieval – Level Line Or Open Face Reel?
Most baitcasters come equipped with a level line system, but not all. The level line guides your line back and forth upon retrieve so that it doesn’t build up in one spot on the spool. It lays your line level on the spool. Baitcasters with an open face frame do without the level line system, forcing the angler to guide the line back on the spool while retrieving.
Finer Points Of How To Use A Baitcaster: Knowing The Mechanics
With an understanding of the basics of casting and retrieving baitcasters, it’s time to move on to their finer mechanical systems. Systems like the drag, cast control, and gear ratio make a big difference on how a baitcaster fishes. They also aid in the basic actions of casting and retrieval.
Cast Control Systems – Magnetic, Centrifugal, Or Both?
The majority of newer baitcasters come with some sort of cast control system. Be it magnetic, centrifugal, or a baitcaster that employs both systems. They also have a dial that sets spool tension in free mode. Set the dial by turning it until your line drops easily with the weight you have on. Take a look at how the two cast control systems work.
Magnetic Cast Control – Uses small magnets that activate as the spool gains speed. The magnets act against the spool, slowing it down and keeping it from spinning too fast.
Centrifugal Cast Control – Small tabs inside the spool use the outward push of centrifugal force to activate. They touch and rub, using friction to slow the spool.
Some anglers love the ease of casting that these systems offer while others feel they limit their casting range. At minimum, cast control systems help the beginner learn how to use a baitcaster.
Setting The Drag – Star Drag Or Lever?
Drag is another important setting to be aware of. It’s proper use will make the difference between landing or losing nicer size fish. Drag is the amount of force it takes upon your line for the reel to release and allow it to come out. The force upon line that’s releasing is constant and dependent on how an angler sets the reel drag.
As you inspect a baitcaster, it will give you a maximum drag specification. This number tells you the highest amount of force the drag system can put against the spool. Anglers typically fish between half and ¾ of that number. The higher the max drag, the more force you will be able to place against pulling fish. To set the drag, you either turn a star dial or push a lever.
Star Drag Baitcasters – It’s easy to tell a star drag baitcaster by looking at the reel. You’ll see the star dial just under the base of the reel handle. Righty tighty, lefty loosy is the rule to dial in your star drag.
Lever Drag Baitcasters – Instead of using the star dial, these baitcasters have a lever on the outside of the reel frame. Lever drags will first push to the strike setting, then all the way down to the max setting. They do usually have a dial for fine adjustment. The bonus of a lever drag is it sets in an instant by simply pushing the lever. As you push the lever, it should gradually gain resistance all the way up to strike and then again up to max.
Gear Ratio – Low Speed, High Speed, Or Two Speed?
Another factor that will determine how your baitcaster performs is its gearing. Gear ratio tells an angler how many times the spool turns per one turn of the handle. The specification always puts the spool number first, then a colon, then the number 1 to represent the turn of the handle. For example, 6.2:1 means the spool turns 6.2 times with each full turn of the handle.
Low Speed Baitcasters – 4.0:1 is right in the middle of gear ratios. Anything less than that is a baitcaster with a low gear ratio. The disadvantage of lower gear ratios is that the reel doesn’t retrieve as fast. The benefit is that they generally offer more power to reel up heavier fish.
High Speed Baitcasters – Anything over 5.0:1 is starting to get pretty fast. Some baitcasters go way up in gear ratio, making speed the selling feature. They’re great when you need fast action to get fish to bite, but they don’t give much reel power with a fish on.
2 Speed Baitcasters – Less common in smaller baitcasters, two speed gearing is a design more frequent to larger conventional reels. Still, a baitcaster with two speeds gives an angler a fast retrieve and a power option when a larger fish is on. Simply switch the reel into its lower gear.
Final Thoughts About Learning How To Use A Baitcaster
As you can see, there’s much more that goes into learning how to use a baitcaster than meets the eye. Start with the fundamentals of casting and retrieving, but be aware of a baitcaster’s finer nuances. The mechanical systems of a baitcaster also determine how they perform. The best bet for a beginner is to go with a cast control system. It’ll make learning how to use a baitcaster so much easier, taking time away from frustration and using it to learn the other systems.