How to Cast a Baitcaster
Expert tips on how to set up—and cast—your first baitcasting reel
Learning how to cast baitcaster while bass fishing is a great way to level up your skill set and access a whole other realm of bass fishing presentations. Though you can do a lot with spinning gear, there are just some baits like big spinnerbaits, buzzbaits, jigs, chatterbaits, and frogs that are better suited for a beefier baitcasting reel.
But baitcasters can be a little intimidating for beginners. While the best spinning reels are pretty user friendly for beginner anglers, there’s the ever-present opportunity to backlash a baitcaster beyond all hope on any given cast. But if you’re wanting to broaden your capabilities, knowing how to throw a baitcaster doesn’t have to be scary. Here’s how to do it.
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Understanding the Basic Parts of a Baitcaster
It’s best to accept that learning to how to cast a baitcaster the right way will take a little time. But it’s something that almost any angler could pickup in a day or two on the water. The key is starting slow. There are three basic variables that we can control on almost every baitcaster: drag, spool tension, and braking.
Drag on a Baitcaster
The drag control is shaped like a starfish and found on the handle side of the reel. It doesn’t have much to do with casting a baitcaster, but instead is used to adjust how much resistance is needed to pull the line off your reel when it’s engaged. In other words, drag determines how easy it is for a fish to pull line off your reel while you’re reeling it in. This is critical when fighting a fish, and varies based on line size. Rotate the drag forward (away from your body when holding the reel) for more resistance and backwards (toward your body) for less.
Spool Tension on a Baitcaster
The spool-tension knob and braking system are the two key controls to regulate casting a baitcaster. The spool-tension knob is about the size of a dime, and, like the drag, it’s found on the handle side of the reel.
Braking System on a Baitcaster
The braking system is usually exposed and always on the side of the reel opposite the handle. On certain reels the braking system can’t be seen and is internal, only accessible by removing the side plate. We’ll stick with the more common exposed braking systems for the purposes of this piece.
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How to Set Up a Baitcaster
The braking system is what controls the rate at which the spool will stop spinning at the end of a cast; think of applying brakes to stop a car. The spool tension controls how much force is needed to start the spool to spinning.
It’s best to adjust the braking system first and then really fine-tune things with the spool-tension knob. Most braking systems have some sort of indicator similar to More and Less. Many have a range from 1 to 10. Moving the dial toward More (or a higher number) applies more braking. It’s best to start here with your braking system a little above the midway point, then back off slightly as you get more comfortable.
The spool-tension knob has no real clear dial indicator. The more you roll it forward, the tighter the actual knob will get. This indicates that you’re applying more tension to the spool. Backing off of the knob will loosen it up and apply less tension. Though the setting of the dial is hard to gauge by the naked eye, there’s a simple trick to set the spool tension for each bait.
Tie on a lure and tighten your spool-tension knob until it’s snug. Hold your rod tip straight out in front of you with your rod parallel to the ground. Then click the thumb-bar to disengage the reel. Now you want to loosen off of the spool-tension knob slowly, until the bait starts to fall to the ground under its own weight. This is where you’ll want your spool tension knob once you get comfortable. But in the meantime, tighten your spool-tension knob back up a quarter turn. Then turn your reel handle until your reel engages.
Finally, Here’s How to Cast a Baitcaster
With the braking system and spool tension knob set, you’re now ready to learn how to cast a baitcasater. Use your thumb to push down the thumb bar on your reel, keeping you thumb on the spool to keep it from spinning. You’ll want about a foot of line between your bait and your rod tip. Now bring the rod tip behind your head and then bring it quickly forward while simultaneously raising your thumb slightly off the spool.
Hopefully this results in your bait going out a decent distance in front of you, and not in a backlash. If your spool does overrun a little, carefully pull the backlash out, tighten your spool tension knob a little and try again. With a little practice, you should be able to repeat this process until you get the hang of making a cast without backlashing.
Once you start getting more comfortable, begin slowly backing off of the spool tension knob to increase your casting distance. You can do the same with your braking system, but you will never really need to go below 40 percent here.
Final Thoughts on How to Cast a Baitcaster
Although learning how to cast a baitcaster can be a intimidating at first, keeping a few basic things in mind should simplify the process. Start by tightening your reel up, setting the braking system at 50 percent or a little more, and snugging up the spool tension knob. Test the tension by dropping your bait in front of you, understanding that the heavier baits will require more tension and lighter baits will require less.
Then make a cast. And continue making casts until you start getting comfortable. Slowly start backing off the spool tension knob and feel free to adjust the braking system slightly. Following these simple steps will have you casting like a pro in no time.