Baitcasting is the term used when you’re casting a fishing rod using a baitcasting reel.
A baitcasting reel sits on top of the rod so the spool is parallel to the rod, rather than perpendicular like the spin-cast reel.
Baitcasting reels provide a more accurate cast and a longer distance.
Many people opt for a baitcasting reel as they’re fairly lightweight, certainly in comparison to spinning reels.
Before you venture into the world of baitcasting, you’re going to need to understand how they work and what the different components do.
Learning about the parts of the reel will allow you to take full advantage of the benefits of baitcasting.
In this article, we’ll guide you through the key components of a baitcasting reel, how they function to benefit you, and what to look for in a good quality reel.
Parts of a Baitcasting Reel
There are 10 key components that make up a baitcasting reel.
Here’s what they are and what they do to improve your fishing experience:
This helps you to retrieve your lure as it spools the line onto the reel. This differs significantly from a spinning reel, which involves a bail arm wrapping around a spool that doesn’t rotate.
When baitcasting, you’re going to need to know how to control the rotation of your spool as you cast. The rotation of the spool is caused by the weight of your lure.
2. Thumb Bar
The thumb bar releases line when you cast your lure. When you press down the thumb bar, you put the reel into free rotation by disengaging the gears from the spool.
Your reactions need to be fast, as you’ll need to press the thumb bar at the precise moment you want the line to release.
Thumb bars are positioned conveniently close to the spool. This allows you to slow down the spool rotation manually while casting.
3. Drag System
With baitcasters, you’ll find the drag control next to the handle. It’ll resemble a star and will be nestled in between the reel and the handle.
This setup allows you to adjust drag pressure whenever you please, making them super convenient. This is why you may also hear this component is called a “star drag.”
They’re come in handy when you’re trying to catch a particularly strong fish. Be careful not to set your drag system too loose as this gives fish the ability to pull line off your reel.
On the other hand, if you’re drag isn’t loose enough, the tension may allow the line to be broken by a strong fish.
Some anglers like setting it very tight so they can concentrate on setting hooks during a take without worrying about the line slipping from the spool.
Alternatively, anglers might set the drag slightly lighter and use their thumb on the spool to stop line slipping during a hook set.
4. Reel Foot
You’ll find a baitcasting reel is attached to the rod via its foot. Low profile baitcasters feature a reel that’s nestled on top of the rod itself.
This creates an ergonomic feel and provides comfort while fishing over long periods of time.
Baitcast reels differ from spinning reels as they face the angler as they cast. Before you begin fishing, be sure to remember to tightly fasten the reel foot to the reel socket.
5. Braking System
As obvious as it may seem, some people still aren’t aware of the function of the brake on their baitcaster.
The braking system is incredibly important as it helps to slow down the rotation speed of the spool.
This is particularly useful when trying to avoid backlash. You’ll come across two key types of baitcaster brakes; centrifugal and magnetic. Modern models will likely have both.
Both centrifugal and magnetic braking systems slow down the spool rotation at the start of your cast.
For beginners, it’s best to set your centrifugal brakes to the maximum. You can do this by taking the side panel off the reel before you begin fishing.
It’s common for baitcasters to feature 6 centrifugal brakes. When dealing with magnetic brakes, you’ll need to adjust them by using a dial on the side of the frame.
6. Cast Control Knob
Cast control knobs are similar to reel brakes in the sense that they’re a must-have if you’re wanting a smooth cast with little to no backlash.
The purpose of cast control knobs is to control the speed that the line that comes off the spool.
You’ll typically find your cast control knob next to the reel handle. The cast control knob is also often referred to as the “spool tension knob.” You simply use your fingers to adjust the speed for your specific lure.
These come in a variety of different color options and designs to suit anglers’ preferences.
To remove the cast control knob, continually rotate it until it’s completely loosened.
7. Spool Tension Knob
An alternative way to adjust the speed of spool rotation is to utilize the baitcaster spool tension knob.
This is essentially just a round knob that you’ll find next to the reel handle.
The spool tensioner is used near the end of the case when the lure is just about to hit the water, unlike centrifugal and magnetic brakes.
You should adjust your brakes before adjusting your spool tensioner, as it is great at perfecting the spool rotation speed.
As lures come in all different weights and sizes, you’ll need to adjust your spool tension appropriately every time you change your lure.
8. Reel Handle
The reel handle of a baitcaster is not the same as the reel handle on a spinning reel. This is because a baitcaster reel has two knobs instead of just one.
The handle is typically a lot bigger than the body of the reel and they’re usually constructed from ergonomic foam or plastic.
Baitcasters are known and well-loved for their comfortable feel and ergonomic design, this is particularly the case with low profile baitcasters.
Large reel handles with thick knobs are comfortable to hold, even over long periods of time.
9. Line Guide
The line guide is pretty self-explanatory- it moves back and forth from one end of the spool to the other as you turn the handle, so you can ensure that the line is spooled evenly onto the baitcaster every time.
Remember to thread the line through the line guide before you thread it through the guides of your baitcasting rod.
10. Gear System
The gears of a baitcaster are housed inside the reel body and serve to translate rotation of the handle into rotation of the spool.
One advantage of baitcasters is that they tend to have higher gear ratios than spinning reels, which means you can retrieve the line more quickly.
Any gear ratio above 7 is considered to be on the fast. Fast reels can be advantageous to pull strong fish away from cover before they can get snagged.
If you’re not sure if you’ll need a super-fast reel, go for a gear ratio around 7.0:1, since this is in the middle of the range.
Slow reels have more torque, which can be helpful when you’re fighting big, strong fish.
Because of this, big game reels (which are basically supersized baitcasters), have two gears: a high gear for retrieving the lure, and a low gear for fighting the fish.
What is meant by “backlash?”
A backlash or a bird’s nest is something you want to avoid and can result in a big, tangled mess of line.
While the line is wanting to come off the spool while it’s still spinning, it ends up staying on the reel, creating an overrun of line that gets tangled.
Just like with a ball of yarn, if you pull one end and don’t control the rest of the line, the rest of it is bound to get tangled up in a big mess.
Consider taking a camping multi-tool with you, for any repairs or cutting tasks.
What happens if I overfill the spool?
You should always avoid overfilling your spool wherever possible.
Fortunately, to keep accidents at bay most modern baitcasters come with a tapered edge on the spool which acts as a guide for line filling.
If yours doesn’t come with one of these, not to worry. Instead, fill it up to one-eighth of an inch below the spool.
Overfilling the spool will see the spooled line hitting the reel seat due to not enough clearance.