Baitcasting Without the Birds Nestby Capt. Terry Rand
Baitcasting reels are a huge asset to your fishing arsenal especially if you’re using lures larger that ¼ oz. – 3/8 oz. But, in the northern reaches of the country most anglers do not grow up using baitcasting reels. One reason may be that northern anglers target trout more so than southern anglers and most trout applications require the use of very light line which baitcast reels do not handle very well. Many are wary of using a baitcasting reel due to its tendency to backlash or create a “birds nest” when casting. This is something that can be easily overcome with proper instruction and a little backyard practice casting.
To begin with, baitcasting reels work on the principal of a revolving spool. That is, when you cast a lure using a baitcast reel the spool revolves forward, feeding out line until the lure hits the water. The weight of the lure and the force of the cast will determine how fast the spool spins. The common problem is that after the lure hits the water the spool continues to spin, laying out line at an accelerated speed. As the line lays out, without any tension from the lure (because it has already hit the water) the spool over runs and the line bunches up around the spool creating a nasty knot call the “birds nest”. This issue can be remedied by following these simple steps:
1) Choose a quality baitcasting reel. The least expensive baitcasters I would recommend learning with would be a reel that starts around $75.00. Most reels under that price range are just not built very well and the spools do not revolve smoothly. Using a good quality reel will make your learning experience much more productive and enjoyable.
2) I recommend spooling up your reel with 12 lb. – 17 lb. test monofilament line. Baitcasters handle heavier diameter lines better than light diameter lines. Leave the light lines to the spinning reels.
3) Tie on your lure of choice. Raise your rod tip in front of you to about the ten o’clock position. Press the free spool button to release the line and let the lure fall to the floor (or water). Ideally, when the lure hits the floor the spool should stop revolving. If the spool does not stop revolving when the lure hits the floor:
Adjust the spool brake knob on the right side of your reel. It is the small circular knob on the right sideplate. Turn it clockwise just slightly to increase the brake tension on the spool. Repeat step 3 until you get the spool to stop revolving after the lure contacts the floor.
4) You are now ready to make your first cast. Use a simple overhead casting technique and attempt to make a nice long cast but do not overpower it. If your cast falls short of your expected distance, slightly loosen the brake mechanism and repeat. Once you nearly achieve the expected casting distance you can loosen the brake ever so slightly and during your next casting attempt use your thumb to feather the spool as it is revolving during the cast. When your lure hits the water depress your thumb on the spool to fully stop the spool from revolving. At this point you should be able to continue your practice casting and get a feel for how the reel should operate. Here are a few more tips to help you continue to fine tune your casting abilities with a baitcaster.
Depending on the model of your reel you may have a secondary brake system to make use of. The most popular of these two secondary brake systems is a magnetic brake system sometimes referred to as magnetic cast control. It uses a series of internal magnets to slow down the speed of the spool as it revolves. The other brake system is referred to as centrifugal brake system. This system works on a series of small pins that are attached to the lip of the spool (internally) and they can be adjusted to slow down or speed up the rotation of the spool. Whichever brake system you have, I like to think of them as a fine tuning brake system, meaning they should be adjusted after you have adjusted the main braking system. Instead of making added adjustments to the main brake you can simply fine tune using the secondary brake system.
When first learning to cast with a baitcaster you are best off throwing a lure that has some weight to it. A ½ oz. jig or spinnerbait is ideal for learning. Or, simply tie on a ½ oz. sinker and practice in your back yard.
Stick with it! Using a baitcaster may seem frustrating at first but, with practice, it will become second nature to you. Plus, there are a number of different casting presentations to use including overhead casts, side arm casts, flipping and pitching.
So in closing, learning to use a baitcasting reel is well worth the effort. So get out there and fish like the pros do. Learn to handle a baitcaster.