what are baitcasting reels

What Are Bait Casting Reels – How to Cast, Clean and Use

Nothing is quite like that first cast into the unknown depths of the waters below, the thrill of the hunt and the chance to land that hog of a bigmouth bass on the other end of the line.

But before you go getting too far ahead of yourself, you’ll need to get some basics down with regards to that new baitcasting reel setup you’ve been dying to try out.

The Reel We Either Love or Hate

There are many anglers who grow up using spinning reels for most of their fishing. A lot of people ignore baitcasters, either due to the learning curve, lack of experience or intimidation factor.

Yet the rich mix of freshwater fishing, Gulf Coast inshore fishing and topwater-plug fishing have shown everyone that revolving-spool and star-drag reels can be very fun to use once you get the hang of them.

level wind baitcast reel
level wind baitcast reel

To use a baitcaster, you need to have a good sense of touch and feel when fishing. A skill that isn’t needed when you use other types of reels. Once you overcome that small learning curve, you’ll see that levelwind baitcasters are a great option when it comes to lure-casting distance, accuracy with lighter offerings, and lure retrievals that require jerking actions.

Small Feature Differences – Big Impact

When we discuss bait casting reels there are 2 different styles to choose from: low-profile or round. Each has its own place in your arsenal depending on what your day will entail.

Round Style Baitcaster

round style baitcast reel
round style baitcast reel

In general, if you are hunting for the biggest game or using a very heavy bait, you will want the round style baitcast reel. They are much larger and can hold more line, even the modern smaller style of round reel for casting all day. Another key feature is the “clicker” which allows a fish to grab the bait and run while making a clicking sound indicating a strike.

Another type of round style baitcaster is for trolling. These larger reels more often than not have a counter which helps fisherman know how far back or down their line is at all times. This makes it much easier to fish at different levels until finding fish and then moving all lines to match what is working.

Low-Profile Baitcaster

low profile baitcast reel
low profile baitcast reel

Compact baitcasting reels have some key features that differentiate them from spinners. These include levelwinds, lighter drags, spool-tension knobs, and braking systems. Right-handed people — or righties — tend to cast baitcasters with their right hand and then switch the rod to their left hand then proceed to crank using their right hand (not me though!).

We understand that this may sound like far too many motions after casting, but after even just a day of fishing, you should be able to perfect the actions needed to perform this sequence seamlessly. Also, these reels have high gear ratios meaning that they reel up a lot of line with every crank. You can really get a bait moving in a hurry!

Fine-tune Your Baitcaster

Reel manufacturers have made it easier than ever before to avoid the most feared aspect of baitcasters — the backlash. That said, anglers should still be familiar with the two main parts of the reel — the brake and spool-tension knob — to be able to efficiently fine-tune and adjust their casts.

The spool tension knob helps avoid overruns by applying pressure on both sides of the spool. Some anglers set the tension control by tightening the knob to the right point so that the lure falls slowly to the ground during free-spool. Casting lighter lures made out of soft plastics using a baitcast reel needs delicate handling and should be left to more experienced anglers.

The brakes of the reel have an even greater effect on cast control. The two most common braking systems for baitcasters are centrifugal and magnetic systems. Both of them behave in slightly different ways but ultimately, the two serve the same purpose. Centrifugal brakes rely on weights whereas magnetic brakes use electromagnetic force to function.

Regardless of which brake system you use, be it magnetic or centrifugal, one thing holds true — the faster your spool turns, the more pressure you’ll need to apply with the brakes to slow it down.

Now that you’ve got an idea of the basic principles when it comes to baitcasters, have a look at some of the different casts you will have to learn to master the reel.

Casting your Baitcaster Like a Pro

When it comes to casting a baitcast style reel there are a handful of options. Each will have its own level of practice required to master the technique.

Overhead Casting

Arguably the most common and useful type of cast you can make, overhead casting is generally employed when you need to hit a greater distance and have ample space overhead to swing the rod.

Forehand Casting

Energy-efficient, this technique involves minimal hand movement and rather a flick of the wrist.

Backhand Casting

Helpful when in a tight spot where the only space from which to cast is opposite the casting hand in question. When mastered, this technique is energy efficient and quite easy.


One of the lesser-used casting methods in your arsenal, the flip is an underhand toss that utilizes a pendulum effect with the rod to propel your bait/lure forward. All of this takes place by using your second hand on the line to determine distance and eliminating reeling altogether.


More often utilized, this technique is best suited for somewhat short ranges but can be one of the most accurate. This method is generally recommended for single hook applications vs trebled lures where the risk of actually hooking your hand is high and involves literally holding the lure. This type of cast also lands in the water softer than any other type of cast except the flip.

Basic Baitcasting Method

Step 1: Set the cast control brake

The cast control brake lets you fine-tune the reel’s performance to each individual lure. Once your lure has been secured to the end of your line, position it close to the rod tip. Hold the rod just slightly more inclined than horizontal to the ground and press down on the “thumb bar” allowing the lure to free fall to the ground.

If the brake is set properly, the lure will drop in a controlled manner with the spool ceasing to feed out additional line the very moment the lure hits the ground. If this does not happen, repeat the procedure, adjusting the brake until satisfied.

This calibration will need to be done for each lure you switch to.

Step 2: Friction Cast Control

This mechanism sets a variable amount of “load” on the spool during your cast. Generally, those just getting started with baitcasters should set this to “maximum”.

The higher the setting, the greater the reduction in cast distance…however, higher settings also reduce the risk of spool overrun and the dreaded “rats nest” (backlash) of tangled line.

Step 3: Casting (finally)

  1. Press down on the “thumb bar” and “thumb” the spool line as you get readied for the cast
  2. The starting point for a basic cast should begin with the rod back over your shoulder, at about the 2-O’clock position. The entirety of the “action” should take place from the elbow to the wrist in a short and snappy motion.
  3. The release point (i.e. the point at which you remove your thumb from holding the spool line in place) should take place at about the 10-O’clock point, allowing for an ached cast. Presuming proper brake settings, you should not have to “feather” or “thumb” the line as it propels forward.
  4. When your bait/lure makes initial contact with the water, place your thumb over the spool line in order to prevent “over-run”. Next, crank the reel’s handle in order to engage the retrieval mechanics.

And that’s it! Not too hard right? It’s truly amazing the advances that have been made in baitcasting technology. I mean, could you imagine trying to fish the way we do today with the reels of old? No thanks!

baitcaster history
a brief look at the history of baitcasters

Maintaining your Baitcaster


Before you clean your baitcaster, start by getting all the supplies ready so that you don’t have to break your focus every few minutes when you need to grab something from your garage.


We recommend that you use oil that is designed for our baitcasting model specifically. You can find the right type of oil for your model by reading the instruction manual. Some manufacturers include oil with the actual units.

Don’t use WD-40 oil, machine oil, olive oil, 3-in-1 oils, or any oils that are too thick/thin. If you don’t know what type of oil is designed for your baitcaster, just use the oil that is suitable for similar reel models.


While grease isn’t used as often as oil, it’s just as important. Grease is used for cleaning the internal gears. Be frugal with your grease usage and avoid putting too much on the main gear.

Alcohol (not the fun kind)

Rubbing alcohol — while not as fun as beer, whiskey, or tequila — is very useful for cleaning your reels.

Before applying it to your baitcaster, mix it with warm water to reduce the potency of the solution. You can apply it using a spray bottle or by pouring the alcohol on a cloth and wiping the reel with it.

Alcohol helps remove residue and stains as it is a powerful solvent. These are the main supplies that you’ll need when maintaining your baitcasting reel.

Other tools include towels, brushes, spray bottles, and q tips. Once you have everything you need, you can begin the maintenance process below.



Start by disassembling the entire reel and removing all the parts of your baitcaster. To pull out the side plate, remove the screw and release the spool. This is how to gain access to every part in the reel.


Always wipe your reel with a clean and soft cloth. Pour the diluted alcohol on the cloth then wipe each part carefully. You can also use the other method that we mentioned above which is using a spray bottle to spray the alcohol onto your reel and then wipe it off.


Take your preferred oil and get a small amount of it on a q tip. Rub the q tip on the brake, spool, housing, lines, and other parts of the reel. Once you’ve oiled it up, apply grease. You can start with either side of the reel and then move on to the next after applying a dab of grease.

Be sure to put grease on every slot. To spread the grease, you can crank the reel. Be sure to oil and wipe the tension knob as well.

You’ll find that your baitcaster will perform far better after cleaning. To increase performance and ensure longevity, conduct periodic maintenance

Closing Thoughts

round profile baitcast reel
round profile baitcast reel

With an abundance of high-quality baitcasters on the market and a newfound love in the angler community, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t be trying these reels out. The battle of spinning reels vs baitcasters will always be a hot debate, but trying out these amazing reels is an experience that you shouldn’t shy away from.

One of the greatest things about fishing is the fact that there are so many different ways to do it. You can switch around your reels and rods, hunt for different types of fish, and even use different techniques like bow fishing. However you fish and whatever you use, one thing’s for sure, the world of fishing will continue to grow for the foreseeable future. Happy casting!