Properly Adjusting Your Reel

One of the biggest problems people have when learning how to fish with a baitcasting reel is getting all the settings right.  If you don't set the reel correctly, you'll most likely get frustrated by a lot of backlashes.  But if you follow these steps, you'll be casting successfully in no time.

Before we go over the steps to properly adjusting a baitcaster, I want to talk about fishing line for a bit.  When learning to use a baitcaster, no matter how well it is adjusted, you're going to get some backlashes.  Because of this, I never recommend using a fluorocarbon (FC) line when learning to fish with a baitcaster. If you’re wondering why, tt's because most FC lines will be damaged when a bad backlash occurs. You may not even know it and on the next cast, you're lure goes flying.  I have had this happen to be with a brand new spool of FC line and trust me, it sucks.  While braid will not be damaged by most backlashes, if a serious one occurs, it may need to be cut out and replaced. With braid, this can become costly quite fast.  So, when learning on to fish a baitcaster, use mono.  It can stand the abuse of backlashes without serious damage, and if you need to cut it out and replace it, it's relatively inexpensive.

The first step in properly adjusting a baitcaster is setting the spool tension.  The spool tension knob is located on the same side of the reel as the handle, normally right behind the star drag.  To set this, reel your bait almost to the tip of your rod (within a couple inches). Hold your rod up at a 45 degree angle to the ground.  Push the thumb bar and let the reel free spool.  Make sure you stop the bait before it hits the ground.  If the bait falls quickly, tighten the knob slightly. Repeat this process until the bait falls very slowly or won’t start falling unless you give the rod a little shake. A good rule of thumb if the bait should take around 5-6 seconds to reach the ground.  When tightening the spool tension knob, a little turn goes a long way.  You’ll need to do this almost every time you switch lures, especially when the weight changes a lot.

Next up are the brakes. There are three different types of brakes, and I’ll cover all three and how to set them.

First are Magnetic Brakes.  Magnetic brakes work just like the name implies. Magnets are used to keep the spool’s speed in check. Daiwa makes use of magnetic brakes in their reels, as do some Abu Garcia’s.  All magnetic braking reels have a dial of some sort on the opposite side of the reel as the handle.  These dials can be numbered, from 0-10 or labeled “MIN” to “MAX”.  Either way, it’s the same concept.  For beginners to, I suggest starting with your magnetic brake turn on to about 70%. So number 7 on a 0-10 or OFF-10 dial. When you get good at casting like this and you feel confident enough, you can back it down to about 60%. When learning I went down 5-10% each time I felt comfortable enough. I am currently casting at about 25-40%

Next are Centrifugal Brakes.  These brakes make use of “pins” attached to the spool that apply pressure as the spool spins faster to slow it down.  Shimano, some Abu Garcia reels, and others make use of centrifugal brakes.  The adjustment of most centrifugal brakes requires you to take the side plate off your reel. Abu Garcia reels require you to unscrew a little screw and twist the side plate while some of the newer Shimano’s have a little handle like device that you turn to open the side plate.  Refer to your owner’s manual for directions on removing the side plate.  Once inside, you’ll notice the 6 “pins” I referred to earlier.  All reels pins are built different, but again, it’s the same concept.  It’s important to remember that these pins must be set SYMETRICALLY, if they are not, they will not work correctly.  This means you have fewer options with these brakes than you do with magnetic brakes.  You can have no pins on, 2 on, 4on, or all 6 on.  So, if you turn one pin on, the one across from it must be turned on.  You can also turn on three by alternating every other one.  To turn each pin on, push it out. To turn it off, push it in until it clicks.  I remember this by a simple trick.  “I fish often” The word OFTEN sounds like the words OFF and IN, therefore, you’ll remember the brakes are OFF when they’re pushed IN.  To start, I’d use all six or four of them.  Right now, I use 2 or 3 depending on the reel I’m fishing with.

Finally, you have Dual Brakes.  Again, exactly what it sounds like. This is a combination of Magnetic and Centrifugal brakes.  Bass Pro Shops reels, Pflueger, and some of the newer Abu Garcia reels use this technology.  Setting these brakes is exactly the same as stated above, except, when used in combination, you don’t have to set them as high.  To start, I’d set the magnetic brake to 50% and the centrifugal to 3-4 pins on. Currently, I have the magnetic brake on 10-20% and 2 pins on with the centrifugal brake.

One thing I can’t stress enough about the brakes as a beginner, and even when you get really good, is turn the brake up slightly when fishing in strong wind. I learned this lesson the hard way with some serious backlashes.  I hope these tips help you become better at fishing with a baitcaster, but remember, the best thing you can do to get better is spend time on the water!