Fisherman using a baitcasting rod. and holding it in the right hand.

Learning how to use a baitcasting rod is essential to catching very big fish. They are big fish rods. They can be used for a variety of situations including both freshwater and saltwater. Baitcasting gear allows you to cast your lure with pinpoint accuracy and precision. Baitcasters are much harder to master, however, often deterring new anglers from giving them a try. I do not recommend missing out on them. They may be harder to use, but the initial learning curve that is required is well worth the investment in time. This is a lesson on how to use a baitcasting rod.

Its about how to use one properly and effectively. It is a slightly different method than traditional spinning tackle. For that tutorial, click here. Follow these tips and you should be able to figure out how to use the best rod for big fish without any issues. Baitcasting rods are some of the best pieces of fishing equipment the angler can use. This is very true for those who want to catch big fish. They just handle casting big lures and fighting big fish so much better than spinning rods.

Learning The Reel Is Your Mechanical Advantage

Baitcasting reel parts labeled and isolated on a white background.

The internal organs of the average baitcasting reel are simple in nature yet complicated in design. Knowing how all the parts work together will help you get the most out of your reel. Like a spinning reel, the reel itself is mounted on the rod via an indented slot called the reel seat. Very easy. Unlike on a spinning reel, the reel goes on the top of the rod instead of the bottom. On the back of the reel, the reel seat is what fits into this slot and connects the reel to the rod.

The reel handle will be fastened on one side or the other. It is the metal device that you reel with. Beside that is a piece of equipment that somewhat resembles a star in appearance. This is the drag knob. Mounted in the middle of the reel is the spool. It is the horizontal, cylinder with holes in it. It is what the line wraps around. On the top of the reel is a tiny eyelet called the line guide. After your reel has the fishing line on it, the line goes through this tiny eyelet.

It keeps the line on the spool even when you are reeling it in. On the same side as the reel handle, exists the tension knob. It is a mechanism that prevents the spool from turning once the lure has hit the water. On the opposite side of the reel handle is the braking system. It keeps the spool from rotating to quickly during the cast. On the front face of the reel, on the bottom of it, and below the spool is the thumb bar. It is basically a button that allows the line to come off of the spool when pressed. When you start reeling, this disengages and the line is retrieved once more. There mechanics are simple to understand but you must study them well to learn them.

Decide What Species You Want To Fish For First

Angler holding a trophy largemouth bass by the mouth in the woods.

Now that you have a basic concept of how a baitcasting reel works, next comes the fun part. You want to decide what species a fish that you want to catch and you have to do it before you do anything else. If on the question of why this is so important, understand that the species of fish you want to go after will have a heavy influence on a few different factors. For example, largemouth bass can be caught on many different setups with many different lures. The lure you throw has to balance well with not only your reel but your fishing line. The size of bait matters.

With this, receive casting distance, accuracy, more efficiency, and a whole lot fewer problems with backlash, tangles, and knots in your line, which is common to new users. If you want to throw hollow-body frogs over some grass or trees for huge spawning largemouth, then you need a very good braided fishing line so you can drive those hooks into that fish. If you’re going for standard size largemouth and you plan to catch them on crankbaits, a nice fluorocarbon line will do nicely because it sinks and helps the bait dive deeper than monofilament or braid.

These examples just cover largemouth bass. If you were going after some smallmouth, catfish, and others, you need to decide what fishing line and hooks will balance well with your reel as well as your rod. You will need different reels and different line options depending on what species you want to catch. This means you should make sure you have the species of fish picked out before you go fishing. This will help you choose the right rod and reel for your situation.

1. Setting The Reel’s Drag System Accurately

Before one begins, it is essential to set the drag on the reel first. This will aid in preventing big fish from breaking your line. As mentioned earlier, this is controlled by the knob that resembles a star in appearance. I recommend using a scale if you are just getting started. Generally speaking, the drag performs the best when it is set at approximately twenty percent of the strength of your line. If you have a ten pound line on your reel, you want the line to come off of the spool using two pounds of pressure. If you have a twenty pound line, the drag should be set to four pounds. Setting the drag perfectly is only going to help you catch more fish.

If the line is a one hundred pound line, make sure the line comes off of the reel at twenty pounds. Take your scale, get a partner to hold it for you, tie the end of the line to the scale and put a bend in the rod while pulling. If your drag is not tight enough, the line will come off before it reaches 20%. In this case, reel back in and tighten it gradually. If you hit twenty percent and no line is coming off, hold this same position and slowly turn the drag knob until the line comes off.

2. Tie On The Preferred Fishing Lure

This may sound counter-intuitive, but the very first step in baitcasting after setting the drag revolves around the lure you have chosen. Without a lure on your rod, it is impossible to use it correctly and you will receive very little success if any. Instead, choose a lure first. If you are uncertain about which lure to tie on, make sure it is the one you are wanting to fish with.

Make sure the lure isn’t a small crappie jig or micro lure too. If you want to throw those, you should use spinning tackle instead. The one you should tie on should vary greatly depending on what line you have set up on the reel as well as what fish species you are fishing for. For common fish like smallmouth and largemouth bass, the amount of tackle available for you to use is just staggering on the high end. Try not to overthink it. Select one and move on.

After you have identified what lure you want to fish with and have tied it on, you are ready to continue adjusting your fishing reel to that fishing lure’s exact specifications. Remember how we mentioned earlier that baitcasting rods generally have more of a learning curve associated with their use as a beginner? Well, surprise surprise, you actually have to adjust your reel differently every single time you put another bait on. If you want to throw hundreds of lures, sorry.

That’s right. That sounds complex, doesn’t it? Try not to concern yourself too much. It does have to happen but once you get the hang of it you can have another one tied on and be in the water again in less than thirty seconds. That is why professional bass fishermen that compete at the pro level like to carry multiple rods and reels. Its for this reason. Its more time wetting lines.

3. Adjust The Reel’s Braking System

The next thing that needs to be adjusted is the brakes. Much the same way a car has brakes to slow it down, this style of fishing reel does too. They are used to prevent the spool from spinning to fast upon casting. If you were to cast your rod without any brakes applied, the spool would spin to many times causing a backlash. For this reason, modern rods contain braking systems that will help counter this effect. Please do not just skip this step. It is important.

If you are just starting off, I suggest turning on all the brakes. With this, you sacrifice casting distance but also receive zero backlashes. As you use your rod more and more, you can remove a few of the brakes and get much greater distance on your casts because you will learn how to avoid backlashes without them. Generally, fewer brakes mean more casting distance.

4. Adjust The Reel’s Tension Knob

The tension knob is an extremely important feature and the one you will be messing with constantly every time you change baits. As far as setting your tension knob properly, it varies depending on your lure selection So this is exactly why we suggested that you choose it first. You will be rotating this particular knob most of the time so get used to touching it and rotating it. Make it a priority to become familiar with this one.

To set it properly, you must make the lure fall slowly from your rod tip. To accomplish this, start off by tightening down the knob all the way. Take the knob all the way to the right. Under the tension, you should be able to press your spool release button and the bait stays put. If you can press the button at all and it starts to fall, at any rate, it is not tight enough. Tighten it some more until the line doesn’t move when you press the spool release. That is only the first step.

After that is done and everything remains stationary, make sure to reel your line in until you have about four to seven inches a fishing line between your fishing lure and rod tip. After that, hold the rod in your hands above the ground and slowly loosen the tension knob. Do it extremely slowly. How you tightened it in reverse. Slowly turn that knob loose. At some point, your fishing lure should slowly start to fall to the ground. Once it does, immediately take your hand off of the tension knob and just leave it. It’s now perfect and you can fish with it. It needs to be slow though. Make sure that it doesn’t fall very fast at all.

5. Learn How to Cast It Correctly

Baitcasters are aptly named. They work very well at casting baits. To cast a baitcasting reel properly, have your line anywhere from 6 inches to 12 inches from the top of the rod with the reel facing upwards. Press the thumb bar while also putting force on the line with your thumb. This is so your lure does not fall to the ground when the bar is pressed down.

The bar will put the reel in free spool allowing the line to come off. To make an overhead cast, bring the rod behind you over your shoulder at about 45 degrees. Perform a swift movement forward towards the water while releasing the thumb bar and line at the same time. Your lure or bait will now start flying towards the water. Right as your lure hits the water and maybe a split second before, put your thumb back on the spool just like before. Start your retrieve from here.

Fishing and Retrieving With A Baitcaster The Easy Way

If a person is right-handed, the traditional way to hold the rod is with the left hand and opposite for left-handed individuals. For many people who grew up with spinning rods, it may feel cumbersome and redundant. This is understandable. Do not worry about it. It happens. If you are one of these, consider purchasing a left-handed reel from the start so you can operate the rod with your dominant hand. This will not affect your ability to fish with it at all. The fish do not see what hand you reel with. You can reel with your dominant hand or the opposite hand.

Just be aware beforehand that left-handed baitcasting reels can sometimes be harder to find. When you get a bite, depending on your type of lure, set the hook by performing a sudden jerk with the rod. If the lure is a frog or another weedless bait, wait about five extra seconds before setting that hook and set it hard. If it has treble hooks, you can set it right away most of the time without losing the fish. Many times, fish will hit these lures hard enough to hook themselves.

The Conclusion Is This – You Should Use Them Yourself

Baitcasters really are an amazing invention. They provide anglers with a great tool that has proven themselves time and time again on the water to catch huge fish. Regardless of your skill level regarding their use, I believe everyone can benefit from figuring out how to use a baitcasting rod properly and effectively. They are specifically designed to help you catch bigger fish. If you have never given one a try, I highly recommend that you try them out.

They may be harder to use than spinning or fly tackle, but what you invest in time is made up for in the number of fish you catch. I believe this certain type of rod should always remain in your arsenal of fish catching equipment. What are your thoughts on baitcasting rods? Do you like them? Do you hate them? What kinds of fish have you caught using them? We want to know. Leave a comment below so we can hear what you have to say! Your comment helps out others.

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  1. Melinda Carter says:

    Thanks for the post. I have been using spinning rods for most of my life and am just starting the baitcaster out now. Why is it so hard to use? My line keeps tangling up!!! HELP!

    1. David Moore says:

      Spinning rods are versatile too. What part of your line keeps tangling? There could be a few different reasons for that. What line are you using and are your breaks set right for the lure you are throwing?

  2. Romona Brock says:

    Yeah I was looking for a tutorial on how to use a casting rod but none of them made sense the way yours did! Can you recommend something like a product that would let me spool my line up without tangles?

  3. Is there a good way to reduce loops forming on the spool during retrieve of the lure? Do you keep a thumb on the spool when you do stop/start retrieve?


    1. David Moore says:

      Yes George. Try slowing your cast down near the end by gently touching the spool with your thumb. This is called feathering. The thumb helps keep the line straight before you reel it in. Also, reel in right before your bait hits the water.

  4. Hey i’ve read your content and it’s just amazing specially the part where you explain “The easy way to retrive” Thanks for sharing much informative post.

    1. David Moore says:

      Thank you for the kind feedback George and we hope that you will stick around in the future for more content. We are nothing without our readers! If you have any questions, let us know.

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