How to Adjust a Baitcaster

Last Updated: 13.08.20


Your success when fishing depends on a variety of factors ranging from the weather conditions to the gear you use. Even if your equipment includes quality Abu Garcia baitcasters, learning how to set up, adjust, and use baitcasting reels plays an important role in how your fishing sessions end.

If you’re new to fishing and you’re interested in finding out more on how a baitcaster works and how you should use it for the best results, this post might be of interest as we’ve highlighted below the do’s and don’ts of baitcaster use.


How baitcasting reels work

More often than not, anglers find baitcast reels quite intimidating and this has something to do with their complexity. When compared to spinning and spincast reels, baitcasters are indeed a bit more difficult to use and more complex yet mastering them is easier if you learn the basics of baitcasting reels as well as a few adjustments to make in order to get the best out of them.

Backlashes are the reason why many anglers tend to avoid the use of a baitcaster but once you understand the mechanism of this tool and what its components do, then you will also know why backlashes occur.

A baitcaster includes a tension knob designed to apply tension to the spool in order to prevent it from spinning or let it spin. It also features a centrifugal or magnetic brake that works during the cast.

When the spool overruns the cast, you get a backlash. Such events can occur even when the wind is strong and thus provides resistance. However, with a few adjustments, you can prevent that from happening.

Line options

Before getting to the adjustment part, you need to make sure you use the right gear, lines included. Professional anglers recommend the use of monofilament when learning how to use and cast baitcasting reels.

You will see that users will also go for fluorocarbon or braid lines to cast yet both of them may create even worse backlashes than mono does. Therefore, if you’re a beginner, it is best to stick to a 12 or 15-lb monofilament line in order to make your learning process easier. Just make sure that you don’t fill your reel up to the max to avoid overrunning.


Adjusting the spool tension

As we’ve said before, the baitcaster comes with a tension knob that is usually placed near the handle or somewhere on the same side. Adjusting the spool tension is the first thing you need to do to if you want to enjoy smooth and successful casting.

Make sure you hold your rod up at 2 o’clock and then reel the bait up until the line going out is somewhere between 8-12 inches. Tighten the tension knob until you feel a bit of pressure and then let the bait go by pushing the thumb bar.

The bait should drop slowly and the pressure on the tension knob should be released until the bait falls on its own. You should adjust the tension until it takes 2-3 seconds for the lure to hit the ground. If the tension is the right one, that should happen without line overruns.

Although it may be a bit of a challenge at first, practice makes perfect and after you’ve done this a few times, adjusting the spool tension shouldn’t take more than a couple of seconds. Keep in mind that the tension should be adjusted every time you change the lure.

Adjusting the brake system

The most difficult part when it comes to adjusting a baitcaster is actually related to the brake system adjustment and that’s because each manufacturer comes with a different design.

Even if the differences between the brake systems are not great and thus adjusting brakes from different brands should mainly be the same, there are models that perform differently and thus need different adjustment.

You will find two brake styles: centrifugal and magnetic brakes. While some users say that it is best to start with a centrifugal brake since it seems to be easier to use, backlash problems may still occur if you don’t set the brake properly, be it a magnetic or centrifugal one.

When it comes to centrifugal brakes, the way they work is quite simple. The tricky part related to their adjustment is finding them. In order to gain access to them, you will have to remove the side plate and this may differ from one brand to another. The instructions that come with the reel should help you learn how to do that easily.

As far as the mechanism of a centrifugal brake is concerned, there’s nothing complicated. Simply put, the spool spins faster when the brakes are closer to the center and slows down when the brakes are away from the center.

Once you remove the side plate, you should see a few pegs that will help you adjust the brake according to your needs. Since a brake system may be different from brand to brand, the adjustment may be so, too. Therefore, check the instructions of the item you purchased in order to adjust it properly.

Magnetic brakes are also a popular choice and that’s because they are easier to adjust. They feature a dial that is placed on the outside of the side plate that you can access without removing the plate as it happens with centrifugal brakes.

Depending on the model you use, the dial can read 1 to 10 or MIN to MAX. If you want to apply more break, then you will have to go for a higher setting and the other way round. The market also offers hybrid brakes that combine the two brake systems described above.

Even if adjusting such a brake system is done the same way, some users find it a bit complicated. It is best to try out several brakes to see which one works for you. After all, it depends on one’s preferences and skills and what works in some cases may fail to do so in others.

Once you’ve adjusted the knob tension and the brake system, you will also have to set the drag which is nothing complicated. You should see a star-shaped dial placed between the body of the reel and its handle. If you want to tighten the drag, you will have to turn this dial forward. If, on the contrary, you want to loosen it, then make sure you turn it toward you.


Practice the cast

Now that you know the basics, you can practice your cast. Make sure the spool tension and brake systems are adjusted correctly and start with a few short casts. Watch and feel the reel while doing so. You will thus be able to make a few more adjustments if it feels like the line will backlash.

You can use your backyard to practice casting. Be patient. It may take some time before you get the hang of it and you may need to do lots of adjustments before you find the one you feel most comfortable with but you learn to do by doing.



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