Fishing

It’s Time to Give Baitcasting Reels Another Look

Fishing baitcaster

If you’re like me, your relationship with baitcasting reels has been hot and cold. All the excitement of setting up your first baitcaster rig was probably quickly followed with frustration over your first big bird’s nest.

Casting into or with the wind likely seemed impossible. It didn’t take me long to run screaming back to the safety and predictability of my spinning reel. How did those guys on the Bassmaster circuit use these things so easily?

If you have also shied away from baitcasting reels for quite a few years over the same frustration, it may be time to step back out of your comfort zone and give them another look. Reel technology has improved significantly and as a former doubter, I can honestly say that I absolutely LOVE my newest baitcasting reel.

In this post, I’ll go over some of these technological advances that make these reels easier to use than ever. But first, let’s talk about why a baitcasting rig should be a part of your fishing arsenal.

General Advantages of Baitcasting Reels

Baitcasting reel
Image from Gander Outdoors

One of the primary advantages of baitcasting reels is the ability to make particularly long casts. Longer casts mean that you can cover much more water and increase your efficiency in finding fish.

With a spinning reel, the spool is stationary and the line peels off with your lure’s momentum as it is sent into the air. For baitcasters, however, the spool itself is lubricated and spins to help unload the line as you cast. Your ability to control the tension on the spool allows you to optimize your reel for the weight of your lure and cast much farther than with a spinning reel.

Baitcasting rigs also offer more power to fight bigger fish and fight the weeds. This is because your spool is perpendicular to your retrieve, which allows more torque as you reel. Baitcasting rods are also oriented so that you fish with the eyelets up.

This way, the weight of the fish (or that dead tree branch) is on the backbone of the rod, rather than the much less sturdy eyelets of a spinning rod. Also, the self-spinning nature of the baitcasting spool makes using heaver line (e.g. 20 lb. vs. 8 lb. test) much easier.

If you love burning crankbaits in the shallows to find aggressive bass, it’s unlikely a spinning reel can keep up. This is due to the lower gear ratios of most spinning reels. Gear ratios indicate how many rotations of the spool are produced by one full turn of the reel handle.

For example, a gear ratio of 6.3:1 indicates that for every turn of the handle, the spool will make 6.3 spins. Most manufacturers don’t make spinning reels with ratios above 6.3:1, whereas baitcaster ratios can range from 5:1 all the way up to a blistering 9:1, or even higher.

Braking systems

Big Bass
Image from author

Perhaps the best thing about baitcasters these days is the braking system technology. Having brakes on your reel spool allows you to control how fast it spins when you cast. If it spins faster than your lure is taking the line out, that’s where you get the dreaded backlash.

When it spins more slowly, you can’t cast very far. A lot of factors influence how you might adjust the brakes including the weight of your lure, whether you are casting into or with the wind, and how far you are attempting to cast.

The braking systems around today are easily adjustable to help you fine-tune your reel for your casting needs. There are two main types of braking systems: centrifugal and magnetic.

centrifugal brake system
Image from: amateuranglers.wordpress.com

Centrifugal systems use small, adjustable pins that sit within the housing of the reel. If you have these brakes activated, the force of the cast that causes the spool to spin (which is why they’re ‘centrifugal’ brakes) forces these posts to make contact with the track in which they are housed, thereby slowing down the spool.

A main drawback to the centrifugal systems, however, is that the reel housing must be opened to adjust them. Even though it may be a pain to open your reel up to make adjustments, many seasoned anglers swear by centrifugal systems for their consistency.

These brakes are only activated at the highest spool speeds, which means they are only doing their job at the earliest part of your cast. This keeps the braking system from stealing valuable yards off your cast after it slows down the spool to a manageable speed.

Magnetic braking system
Image from: amateuranglers.wordpress.com

Magnetic braking systems, on the other hand, use a series of small magnets to slow down your spool. This is done with an easy turn of a dial on the side of the reel (as seen above). Higher braking settings move the magnets closer to the spool, providing more magnetic force to slow it down.

Compared to centrifugal brakes, magnetic brakes are active throughout the cast and many fishermen argue that they’re weaker, overall. There are advantages and drawbacks to each system, so some manufacturers have actually developed hybrid reel models that contain both.

To go one step further, the fanciest reels contain a micro-computer that adjusts braking systems in real-time to give you the smoothest casts! Depending on your fishing needs and the conditions of your favorite lake or reservoir, one system may be a more attractive choice than the other.

Drag Systems

Abu Garcia Revo X
Image from Gander Outdoors

The drag system on my first baitcaster was junk. Plain and simple. It let line out in an abrupt, jerking fashion that made it difficult to fight big fish. Newer drag systems are made with a variety of durable materials, including ceramic and carbon fiber, to provide a strong and smooth function.

In addition, these systems in newer reels are better protected from the elements, giving you peak performance for longer. Check out this Abu Garcia Revo X Low Profile Baitcaster that features their Carbon Matrix drag system which is made up of a variety of tough materials, including carbon fiber washers.

Traditional drag washers wear out over time because when you tighten your drag, you put significant pressure on them. Carbon fiber is very tough and will last a lot longer.

Lightweight, but durable frames

Lews carbon tournament baitcaster
Image from Gander Outdoors

Years ago, baitcasters were made with heavier metals that would wear you out after an hour of casting. Lightweight solutions often consisted of excessive plastic components that made the reel weak.

Today, reels are made with a variety of durable, but lightweight components. Depending on the price point, reels are available with aluminum, carbon fiber, or graphite materials, like this Lew’s Tournament Carbon Baitcast Reel. These newer designs allow you to have many more casts before you get tired.


Looking to get back into the baitcasting game? Check out our great selection of reels here!

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