use baitcaster fishing reel

How to use a Baitcasting Reel

If you are using artificial lures for your fishing you should be using a baitcasting reel. They take a little practice but once you learn how to use a baitcasting fishing reel it will help you increase the number of fish you catch with artificial lures.

With practice, baitcasting reels will let you drop that lure right where you need it. You can put it right past that fish you’re targeting and present it across it’s field of view triggering the fish’s predatory instinct.

Steps to casting with a baitcast reel:

  1. Release the bail (click the button, releasing the line)
  2. Keep the spool from moving (use your thumb)
  3. Cast as you normally would, removing your thumb at the apex (top) of your cast
  4. Put your thumb back on the spool, just before it hits the water OR when you notice the momentum of the lure slowing

The Secret

There is no secret, it’s mostly physics. Objects in motion will stay in motion until something slows the object down. Or something like that. That applies to a baitcasting reel and some other stuff.

The spool spins freely, more or less, depending on what you have the braking system set at (more about the braking system later).

This is why you hold the spool with your thumb until you cast. No thumb or anything else to hold that spool in place after you cast and it will spin too much and create this lovely thing….

bird's nest baitcast reel
Image credit –

A Bird’s Nest

A bird’s nest rhymes with mess, which makes sense because it is a mess. It’s annoying and obviously a problem if you want to continue fishing.

Can You Fix It When It Happens?

There’s not a simple way to fix it. You can stand there and pull line out until you can clear it, like a massive knot in your shoelace. Or you can cut the line until you get down to good line.

Usually I try to pull line out until I can clear it. If you have a bad bird’s nest and decide to cut it, you run the risk of cutting off too much line and needing to respool the reel so you can keep on fishing.

Braking System

The braking system is nothing more than a few magnets or washers located in the reel housing.

Baitcasting reels have a braking system that will increase or decrease the speed the spool spins. Most will have a dial like the one pictured, where 0 is no brake and 9 is more.

When the dial is turned to 0 the spool will spin with complete freedom and makes for longer casts but harder to control and less accurate. At 9 the spool spins a little but doesn’t go very far. Most people should have this set somewhere in between 1 and 9.

How to use a baitcasting reel

The braking system is used to control the speed the spool lets fishing line out. You use your thumb or another finger to completely stop the spool from spinning.

That’s right – you have to use your thumb to stop the spool from spinning or you’ll wind up with a wonderful bird’s nest.

So what you do is use your thumb to stop the spinning of the spool just before it hits the water OR when the lure is losing momentum in the air. The water will also stop the momentum of the lure so if you don’t stop the spool with your thumb you will get the dreaded bird’s nest.

Typically, the heavier the lure is, the lower to 0 you can set the dial. A heavier lure will pull the line out at a steadier rate than a lighter lure so less braking is needed.

That is not to say a lighter lure cannot be used, you just need to adjust the braking system closer to 9. A lighter lure doesn’t go as far as a heavier lure.

So if you cast a light lure with the braking system near 0 the line won’t be pulled fast enough to match the release of the line from the spool and you will get the dreaded bird’s nest.

Some spinnerbaits weigh 1 ounce so the brake can be dialed down but if you like to free line a plastic swimming bait you would want to dial up.

It might take you a few casts to get the dial set just right for the lure you are using.

So that is how to use a baitcasting fishing reel

I might have left some things out. Because, it honestly feels like that ride a bike cliche – you never forget how to ride a bike. Well, its like that so I just do it without thinking about it.

And with a little practice and some time on the water perfecting your use of a baitcasting reel it will feel like that to you too!

Let me know your tips and experience with using a baitcasting reel below.

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