Centrifugal Braking Systems

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Centrifugal Braking Systems

by Capt. Terry Rand

How does a centrifugal braking system work on a baitcasting reel?

Baitcasting reels and conventional reels use spool braking systems to control the speed at which the spool of the reel spins when the reel is in free spool mode. This is how the angler can minimize the chance of getting backlashes during the casting process. Both baitcasting and conventional reels use a tension brake that applies pressure to the spools axis to slow down its rotation. This brake is adjusted with a knob located under the reel handle.

Due to anglers needs to be able to make fine tuning adjustments to their braking systems to maximize casting distance, manufacturers have incorporated secondary braking systems in most new baitcasting reels and conventional reels that are also designed for casting. These secondary systems are adjusted after the main tension brake setting has been made on the reel. These braking systems come in two varieties. One works magnetically and the other type incorporates centrifugal force to slow the speed of the spools rotations. Let's talk about centrifugal braking systems.

Photo by: Author

To begin with, let's leave Isaac Newton out of the definition and discuss centrifugal force as the laymen we are. Centrifugal force is the energy that is exerted on an object when it is contained within another object that is rotating. Picture a roulette wheel. When the wheel is spun at a high speed, the tiny ball in the center of the wheel is forced to the rim of the wheel until the wheel stops turning. The force that causes the ball to ride along the perimeter of the wheel is centrifugal force.

Centrifugal brakes work in the same matter. Tiny, sliding weights mounted around the axis point of the spool are forced to the outside perimeter of the spool during the cast. The weight adds more mass to the perimeter of the spool, causing the spool to rotate more slowly during the cast. These weights can be locked into place at their axis point so they do not engage during the cast or they can be unlocked so they slide towards the outside of the spool during the cast, engaging the braking system.

This sideplate is easily removed by pressing the button and turning the dial.
Photo by: Author

To get an even better understanding, we need to access the brake system itself by unlocking the reels side plate opposite the handle. Depending on the manufacturer, the side plate can be unlocked by flipping a small switch, pressing a button or manually rotating the side plate. Once the side plate is removed we can gain access to the centrifugal brake system.

The brake system resides on the side of the spool and consists of six wire pins that look like wheel spokes. Each of these pins has a tiny weight mounted on them that can be unlocked from their axis location by sliding them away from the axis with the tip of your finger. Get a feel for how they work by unlocking them and sliding them along the pins.

Sideplate removed displying brake system. Note the six red sliding weights mounted around the axis point.
Photo by: Author

Setting the brake systems using the standard tension brake and the secondary centrifugal brake should be completed by following these steps:

1) Set your primary tension brake first as you normally would for whatever size lure you are using and give it a couple of casts to get a feel for how the brake is working.

2) Next, set the centrifugal brake by opening the reels side plate and moving two opposing weights into the unlocked position. Always unlock or lock opposing weights to keep the spool properly balanced.

3) Make a few more casts and notice the difference in the spool braking caused by the  centrifugal brake.

The centrifugal brake is a fantastic secondary braking system. Like a magnetic brake, it allows you to make incremental changes to the primary brake setting made with the tension brake. This will give you a wider range of braking adjustments which will assist in providing longer and more accurate casts than can be achieved with the tension brake alone.

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