Brad Harvey: Battling the bait caster

June 25, 2013 

Fishermen have always disagreed on which is better — bait casting or spinning reels?

This week, we’ll take a hard look at the bait caster and next week we’ll attack the spinning reel.

Most anglers use one or the other because that’s all they know. Learning to use a bait caster takes time and most would rather spend what time they have actually fishing as opposed to learning how to use something new.

I understand that mindset, but the sacrifice of a little time to learn how to use a casting reel is worth the effort if you truly love to fish.

I can remember the first bait caster I ever owned. It was a round-bodied reel made by Garcia. That old Ambassador 5600CA was a beauty, despite not having all of the refinements of today’s modern bait casters. On it you could adjust the spool tension and that was about it.

The reels I’m fishing with today? These babies have all sorts of new technology. They’re smooth as silk, with more ball bearings that we ever imagined fitting into a reel back when I was learning to use them, and they have magnetic spool management, which cuts down on the amount of thumbing the angler has to do to keep from backlashing the thing.

We have low-profile bodies that rest easy in the hand, and a plethora of gear ratios to choose between, which allow us to pick the perfect reel for the perfect application.

Slower gear ratios (around 5:1 or lower) are ideal for fishing crank baits as they’ll help you get them to their maximum depth.

Mid-range ratios of around 6:1 are most common and considered a good all-around choice but faster models (7:1) can do many of the same tasks, such as fishing spinner baits, top waters and jerk baits, while excelling at fishing worms and jigs or in tighter quarters such as when flippin’ or pitchin,’ which I’ll get into in a minute.

Another major upside to bait casters is that they give an angler more control of their lure placement when making a cast. Once you’ve mastered it you can eye a spot, let’s say a hole in a large mat of hydrilla, and drop your offering right into it.

With those refinements, learning to use a baitcaster is much easier now. The first thing anyone needs to know is how to set the most basic of backlash controls before attempting a cast.

Usually found on the same side of the reel as the cranking handle, there’s a small round knob that adjusts the spool tension. With a lure tied to the line, hold the rod straight out in front of you then raise the tip to about the 2 o’clock position. Push the free spool button on the reel and adjust this knob until the lure slowly drops from the tip to the ground.

If you’re a complete novice with this style of reel, it makes sense to tighten the spool tension a little more than this until you become more comfortable with your casts.

More fine tuning of your spool can be made on the side of the reel opposite the handle.

Here you will typically see a large circular adjustment which controls how much of the internal magnetic or centrifugal brake is applied as the spool spins and line leaves the reel.

Those with little to no experience should begin by cranking the adjustment to its greatest setting. As you practice making casts you can ease off on this braking system incrementally until you find a comfortable spot that works well with the size lure you’re using and allows you the greatest casting distance while not backlashing.

Even with all of these newfangled backlash controls, thumbing of the spool remains a necessity for complete control but getting a feel for it comes much quicker now.

As a kid, we were all about casting distance. We would stand on the bank of a pond or on a dock and try to cast as far as we could because it simply made sense to us that the more water we covered, the higher our odds of catching a fish were. The crazy part of that is, as we retrieved our lure, we removed it from the water at the point where the fish actually were – right in front of us, up close and personal.

You see, fish hold to structure which includes brush along the banks and docks that jut out into the water. As fishermen learned this they began to come up with ways to easily and accurately make lure presentations within these areas of close proximity. This is when the art of flippin’ and pitchin’ was born.

Perfectly suited for bait casting set-ups with heavy lines, these types of casts are pretty similar.

Pitchin’ is what you would expect by its name. The lure is released from the angler’s hand. To do it, you pull out line from the tip of the rod down to where the lure is easily held in the free hand at about the same distance from the rod tip that the reel sits. As the rod is swept forward, the lure leaves the hand and line is released.

Flippin’ is performed in much the same manner but, instead of holding the lure itself, you hold the slack line between the reel and the first guide on the rod.

To learn these techniques, there are some great videos on You Tube.

Anyone that’s serious about fishing is already using casting equipment when on the water.

If you’ll put forth just a tad bit of effort, those of you who aren’t will quickly see the advantages they bring to the table and find a whole new level of success.

Brad Harvey is a freelance writer in Clover. Visit his website at bradharveyoutdoors.com or follow on Twitter @BHarveyOutdoors.

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