How To Set Up A Baitcasting Reel Like A Pro


One of the most challenging parts of using a baitcasting reel is the backlash, which happens when the spool whirls ever faster when the lure slows down after casting. Needless to say, this results in a tangled mess of lines known as a “bird’s nest”. However, this can be avoided with the proper bait caster setup. This is actually easier than most people imagined it to be and is actually an essential skill to learn if you are to grow efficiently in using your baitcasting reel. Below we outline the basic steps on how to set up a bait caster reel, as well as some tips on how to do each step to ensure that your baitcasting reel won’t fail you when you go out fishing.

1. Choose the Correct Line

There are several types of fishing lines that you can use along with your baitcasting reel, namely the monofilament line, the fluorocarbon line, and the braided line. Among all these, experts would generally agree that the best fishing line to use when learning how to cast a baitcasting gear is the monofilament line.

Using a fluorocarbon or braided line at this point will only make it more difficult to learn how to cast a baitcasting reel. This is mainly because fluorocarbon lines are generally stiffer and more unforgiving than a monofilament line. That said, it has a higher tendency of backlash occurrences as well as high cases of line breakage. And while braided lines are smooth, it can actually create worse backlashes, which then requires you to cut out a significant amount of lines (thus rendering them unusable) in the end.

All in all, using a 12-15 lbs. monofilament line would be the better choice for those who are learning to use a baitcasting reel. It should be good enough to help you when fishing for trout or bass but with fewer headaches and frustrations.

Many pros also advise that you fill your baitcasting reel up to a little under the edge of the spool as opposed to filling it up to the very max. Also, check that the reel safely positions to the bar and that the pole and reel setup is done neatly.

2. Set the Spoon Tension

A crucial step for ideal baitcasting reel setting and smooth and easy casting is getting the correct setting of the tension knob. To do this, you first need to hold your baitcasting rod up at a 2 o’clock angle. Then, reel the lure up until there is about 8-12 inches of line out. Next, turn up or tighten the tension knob until you feel a slight pressure building up, afterward you push the thumb bar and then let the lure fall. At this point, you should see the lure dropping very slowly. After that, slowly release the pressure on the tension knob so that the lure starts to fall to the ground on its own. Repeat this until the tension is set properly and you don’t get any line overruns when the lure falls.

Take note that you will have to do this step every time you change baits or lures. It may seem like a lot of work at first, but you should be able to do it much quicker once you’ve had enough practice.

3. Adjust the Brake System

There are typically three types of brake systems for a baitcasting reel: the magnetic brake, the hybrid brake, and the centrifugal brakes. The adjustments to be made will depend entirely on the type of brake system that you have. It can be a tricky task at first, especially when you consider that each reel manufacturer designs their product a little differently, and thus performs differently from another brand. This is why you’ll want to stick to only one brand of a baitcasting reel, though you’ll want to try several brands first (either by borrowing your friend’s gear or hiring a rod and reel set from an outdoor shop) to determine which particular brand you’re most comfortable with.

Centrifugal Brake

This brake system makes use of small weights locate on the inside of the side plate to activate the brake. This side plate is accessible via a dial to unscrew the side or a release-lever. To achieve balance, the adjustments should be made in a symmetrical pattern.

Magnetic Brake

Magnetic brake systems are easier to work with. It uses a dial on the outside of the side plate which allows you to adjust the brake strength. The dial is usually marked as ‘Min’ and ‘Max’ or one to ten.

For anglers new to baitcasting reels, it is recommended to start on the higher end of the setting. You can move towards the lower end of the spectrum once you get enough practice and experience.

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Hybrid Brake

The hybrid brake systems are basically what the name implies, a combination of the technologies found in both centrifugal and magnetic brake systems. The adjustments are pretty much done in the same way, though each should be set to a lower setting given that you’re new to using this type of reel.

Once you’ve made the necessary adjustments to the braking system, set the outward brake by turning the brake handle clockwise. Then, put the reel in free spool and relax the brake until the lure starts falling slowly to the ground.

4.  Setting the Drag


Perhaps the easiest part of setting up a baitcasting reel is adjusting the drag, which is done by first looking for that star-shaped dial between the reel handle and the body. Afterward, turn the star forward to tighten the drag and backward to loosen it. What you want to achieve here is a drag that is tight enough to prevent any slippage on the hookset, yet still loose enough so that it won’t give. Finding the right balance may take a bit of time, but as with all things related to the use of baitcasting reel, things will get easy after a while.

5. Make Some Cast Test

At this point, give your gear one final check to see if everything’s as it should be. Once you’re confident that everything’s properly set, you can start making some test casts and feel how the reel is working. Start slowly at first, increasing the strength of your casts as you grow more and more comfortable.

You may be disappointed with the limited distance, but don’t worry about that just yet. The point of the exercise is to check that you’re not getting any backlashes. If you haven’t had any backlash, you can start backing off the brakes and practice thumbing the spool. If everything’s working properly, you can start lowering the brakes and increasing your casting strength to create longer casts.

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Using a baitcasting reel can be challenging, but it does come with certain benefits that you won’t get from using other types of reels. However, this can only be true if your baitcasting reel is set up properly as using a poor baitcaster setup will only result in a disappointing and frustrating fishing experience. Fortunately, learning how to set up a baitcaster reel is relatively easy. Just follow the steps mentioned above and make little tweaks where necessary. It will take some work and time to get everything right, but with more practice and experience you should be able to use a baitcasting reel with ease and success.

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