Baitcast Reels

Why Use a Baitcast Reel?

There is no doubt in my mind that a baitcast reel is the most durable, versatile, and reliable reel ever made. If I am going to be making a thousand casts in a day, casting spinnerbaits and covering water fast, the baitcaster is the only choice.

Baitcast reels have come a long way since I bought my first one in 1974. Today’s reel are engineering marvels, offering an extensive range of options like

  • A wide range of gear ratios
  • Large spool capacity for heavy line
  • cast controls to prevent backlash
  • multi bearing construction for smooth winding
  • free floating spools for longer casts
  • Both left hand and right hand handle placement

With the range of options there is a tailor made reel for any fishing situation. All things considered why would you not be using a baitcast reel?

What Is A Baitcast Reel

To understand how to use a baitcast reel, or to know what reel to buy you first need to understand the parts of the reel and how to get the most out of it’s features. Casting a reel that is not adjusted properly can result in a condition called backlash, and this is the one thing that keeps many fishermen from ever learning to use the one tool that can take their fishing to the next level.

Let’s take a look at parts of a reel and how they can help you get the most out of using one.

Reel Handle

The handle on most baitcast reels are over-sized with large pads designed for power. On most models they are offset in towards the reel seat to improve balance. The handle can be located on either the right side or the left side of the reel.

Don’t try to use a left hand reel if you are dominant right hand. To choose the correct reel for you, hold the reel in the palm of your hand and turn the handle. If the reel or the handle feels awkward to you, you will not enjoy fishing with it. Choose one that feels good to you, and operates smoothly.


The drag is one of the most important functions of a reel. It allows the spool to slip while applying enough pressure to enable you to fight a fish without breaking the line. Too little pressure and and you will not be able to gain line while fighting a fish. Too much pressure and the fish will break your line.

When choosing a reel always check the drag for smooth operation. To do this, hold the reel in the palm of your hand with your thumb on the spool to hold it from turning. Turn the handle and add more and less drag tension, buy turning the star drag adjustment clockwise for more tension, and counter clockwise for less. If you feel anything other than smooth turns of the handle, under both low and high pressure, choose another reel

Spool Tensioner 

Another important feature, it it used for applying pressure to the spool. You adjust by turning clockwise for more pressure counter clockwise for less. This allows for adjustment to compensate for different weights of lures being cast.

To set the tension correctly mount the reel on a good rod, and spool the reel with line. Tie a weight on the end of the line. Disengage the spool and let the weight free fall from the end of the rod. Slowly tighten the tensioner until the weight falls slowly, and the spool does not backlash as the weight comes to a stop. Repeat this with different weights, until you learn to control the over run on the spool.

Spool Release Button

The spool release button disengages the spool allowing you to cast. The button should snap back into position when you turn the handle to engage the spool.

When casting rest your thumb on the release button and on the spool. Use your thumb to control the cast.


This may be the single most important feature on a baitcast reel. There are two different types of brakes, magnetic brakes and centrifugal brakes. The magnetic brake uses a magnet to apply varying magnetic force to the spool to keep the spool from running away at the end of a cast. Centrifugal brakes use a series of brake blocks to do the same.

Why is the brake so important?

Backlash is the single hardest aspect of a baitcast reel to control. It is also the one reason that some anglers never learn to use a baitcast reel. The brake when adjusted correctly will control and for the most part eliminate backlash, making your experience with the reel much more enjoyable.

Image result for baitcast reel parts

As you ca see in the image above, the Centrifugal brake requires that you remove the side plate cover to make adjustments, while the magnetic brake can be adjusted by turning a dial located on the exterior of the reel. For the beginning angler I suggest selecting the magnetic brake.

Tips for choosing a baitcast reel

Choosing your first reel can be intimidating, here are a few pointers to help you get started.

  • consider what you are fishing for: If you are going after large fish you may want to choose a traditional round reel, with extra line capacity for heavy line.
  • Low profile reels a often the best reels for bass, and repeated casts with bass lures.
  • Try  the reel you are considering on the rod you want to use before you buy. Don’t buy a heavy reel for a light rod, if the balance is off you will not enjoy it.
  • Pend enough money to get the best reel you can afford. The backlash control and smooth operation of high end reels, is worth the money you spend.
  • Ask about the gear ratio: As a general rule you don’t want a fast 7:1 gear ratio reel for finesse fishing and you don,t want a slow 4.6:1 gear ratio for burning spinnerbaits.
  • Buy a quality reel matched to the type of fishing you intend to do, and you will have a reel you enjoy fishing for a lifetime.

Tips for using a baitcast reel without making a mess

  • Choose the right rod reel combo: A reel that is too heavy or too light will feel awkward and will affect your casting
  • Choose the right line for the reel: heavy line on a small spool reel will not come off the reel correctly, small diameter line on a large spool will have more of a tendency to backlash
  • Make sure the drag tension is set correctly: you should be able to pull line off the reel by hand. Make sure there is plenty of tension but not so much that the line stretches or is at the point of breaking
  • Foll my suggestions to properly set spool tension and brake follow the walk through below:

Thread the line through the rod guides and tie a 1/2 to 1 ounce weight on the end. Start with the spool tensioner loose and the brake set on the lowest setting.  Hold the rod straight out and release the spool. As the weight moves down, tighten the spool tensioner until the weight moves slow and smooth at a controlled speed.

Next set the brake to it’s highest setting. Make a cast by smoothly bringing the rod forward releasing at about the 10:00 position. Don’t try to put too much arm into the cast, smooth and easy does it. You will notice the weight will not travel very far, but this is a good starting point as long there is no backlash.

Now try sever easy casts, loosening the brake in small increments each cast. Keep loosening in small increments until you can achieve the distance you desire. Always rest your thumb on the spool towards the end of the cast to control, spool run away and backlash

Remember to repeat reel adjustments when you change lure weights, and always start with more adjustment than you need and loosen as you go.


I have had people use a baitcast reel one time and give it to me, the reason: backlash. Take the time to apply the tips above and you will have a reel that you will enjoy using for a lifetime.

See my reviews on some of my top reels

Now is the time to by a new reel, most of my favorite retailers are running huge spring sales. To take advantage of these sales click on the Tackle and gear tab at the top of this page.

Don’t forget to leave me a comment and let me know what you think

Have a tip of your own share it in comments

4 thoughts on “Baitcast Reels

  1. You have a very nice site so far. I like the layout, and the content is very well written. Its a job well done and ai encourage you to keep adding quality content.

    1. Thanks Devin, check back often as I will be adding content on a regular basis, on a variety of subjects dealing with the outdoors.

  2. I am not a fishing person myself, but my brother loves fishing and his birthday is coming up soon. This will make a wonderful present as I know he has not got a bait cast reel in his collection.

    I am also bookmarking this article so that he will know how to use it correctly and avoid backlashing.

    Thank you for this article.

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