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How to Adjust a Baitcasting Reel

by Mendel Yano 29 Sep 2022

Adjusting a baitcasting reel is one of those things that people just don’t always realize they need to do. Unlike a spinning reel, a baitcaster takes a bit more planning and understanding to use or else you surely suffer the consequences of a bird’s nest on the spool. Not familiar with the term? A bird’s nest is what anglers call a mass of line that comes off the spool normally caused by poor tension on the spool when casting. The line either pulls off too fast and thus spins the spool fast. This is normally caused by jerking or casting too hard for the line and weight at the end of the line. What happens is that the spool then continues to unwind and does not slow down at the end of the cast. A bunch of excess line comes off the spool anc causes knots. Another cause is if you cast too slow and the bait or jig you are using hits the water and just stops, but the spool just keeps going. Anyone using one of these reels should know that this phenomenon does not just happen to a new user. Even very experienced users have had this happen to them a number of times. Shoot I have even coughed once as I was casting, jerked the rod and blam-o! Huge nest of knots in the spool. While I can’t ever promise that proper adjustments will eliminate this from happening to you, I believe there are some helpful tips I can impart that may be beneficial.

First off, we need to know what your reel has as far as features for adjustment. As I know it, there are only three ways that your reel can effectively help you cast and reduce the opportunity for nesting. Let’s start with the most basic that most all reels are equipped with. Immediately next to the handle on your reel there is a knob present. This knob is unique to baitcasters and is called a tension adjustment. What it basically does is press against the end of the spool axle and adjusts ability of the spool to spin. This is a basic adjustment but one that many forget to actually do. Simply, depending on whatever bait you are using click down on the spool release and have the line pull through your rod with the bait or jig at the end. If the line does not come down, loosen the tension knob. If it comes off as a free fall, tighten the knob. You are looking for a nice, even drop that is controlled and smooth. Not in free fall, but where you can see and feel that there is contact. Where many anglers forget is that as you are switching bait or lures you should be adjusting this tension each time to assure your reel is properly adjusted.

Tension Knob

 baitcasting reel

The next most prevalent adjustment is magnetic cast control. This handy feature is a knob that is normally at the end of the reel that you click adjust from a scale of level 1-10. One of the ends has the most magnet interaction and the other, the least. Based on the brand of reel you are using, this number sequencing varies. How you tell is by cranking the knob to 10, click the spool release and spin the spool with your finger and time the quantity of seconds before the spool stops spinning. Then crank the adjustment to 1 and do the same experiment. You should notice a difference. What is happening is that there are magnets that are slowing down the spool when it is spinning based on the adjustment. The idea is that the magnets will have less of an effect on the spool at first cast but as the spool slows down a touch the magnets will slow the spool. This helps in ensuring there are some brakes on the spool that does not inhibit the cast but will effectively slow down the line at the end of the cast.

Magnetic Cast Control Knob

baitcasting reels

Another feature that some reels have is a “pin” or centrifugal control. There are normally four little pins that are pushing against a circular band inside the reel. The pins either are on or off and are adjusted by just clicking them down and not allowing the spring to press the pin to the ring. Based on the quantity of pins you have engaged the more tension the pins have to slow the spool. This type of brake is used for casters who jerk their line a bit and slow down the spool at the start of the cast. The faster the spin the more pressure the pins exert on the internal ring. The pin heads push against the brake ring faster at initial cast where the spool is expected to spin the fastest and then lighten up to just the spring pressure at the end of the cast.

Working together, this would mean that a reel equipped with both types of cast control would have the centrifugal brakes engage at the start of the cast and the magnetic control take over when the spool is slowing down. This type of transition allows for reels to really maximize the power of the cast and reduce the opportunity for backlashing at the start or end of the cast where the chance of a blow up is highest.

The last type of adjustment is not just for baitcasters but really for all reels. The drag adjustment is normally on a baitcaster as a star that is immediately next to the handle of the reel. I have to say “normally” now since KastKing just introduced the new Deadbolt reel that has no drag on it to prevent losing a fish because of not managing your drag. When setting your drag you want to try and set it to about ¼ to ⅓ of the poundage of the line. If you were to just pull on it to test you definitely want to feel the drag engage and feel pretty tight but not to the point where it does not move at all. Adjust as you feel is necessary for the type of fish you are fishing for but whatever you do, don’t leave it loose.

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