How to Set Up a Baitcasting Reel Properly

So, you are excited! You just purchased your very first rod and baitcaster reel combo and now it is time to get it ready for the upcoming fishing season. 

But where do you begin? 

Not to worry. In this article, we will explore the basics of the baitcasting reel, the fundamentals of properly setting up your new reel, and also identify some common challenges of using this type of reel. 

Baitcast reels have a lot to offer in comparison to other reel types when they are set up and used properly. 

Let us break it down for you and by the time you are finished reading this article, you will be ready to go out and set up your baitcast reel and rod combo.

Setting Up the Baitcasting Reel

Below are the first three most important steps that need to be done correctly to ensure a proper set up of your new baitcasting rod and reel combo. 

1. Feed the Line to the Reel

An easy first step. Simply feed the fishing line through each of the eyeholes of your rod starting at the tip of your rod and making your way down to the reel. 

The reel should be on the top side of your rod facing up with the eyeholes of the rod facing up as well. 

For a detailed video on how to set up a baitcast reel from scratch, check out this YouTube video below from our friend Robbie Alexander over at Robbie Fishing. 

2. Secure the Line to the Reel

The most critical step of setting up a baitcasting reel is securing the line to the reel. There should be a series of holes in the spool. 

Go ahead and place the end of the line into one of the holes and turn the crank handle once. It should wrap once and bring the tag end back to you. 

Now tie your favorite and most trustworthy knot before trimming the tag end down to around half an inch.

3. Load the Line onto the Reel

Once you know your knot is secure and that your line is fastened to the reel, it is time to load the line onto the reel from the spool. 

You will want to maintain tension on your fishing line the entire time you are loading the line onto the reel. 

An easy way to do this is to hold the spool between your feet squeezing your feet together gently onto the spool to slow down its rotation and to keep the line taut. 

We recommend you fill your reel 95% full. 

There is some debate among fishermen about whether they should have a full reel, a slightly full reel, or only put on a little more line than what will be needed. 

Why fill a reel full of a bunch of line that you will never use? It is argued that a reel that is 95% full casts better and operates smoother than a reel that is half full. 

To save money, it is suggested you fill the reel with some backing line then top off the reel with your more expensive line. 

People who argue that you only need to fill your reel with the amount of line that you will use, will not use backing line, and instead will just fill their reel halfway with the more expensive line they choose.

We prefer the 95% method, but honestly, it really is a matter of preference and there is not too much of a difference no matter which way you choose. 

We would rather be safe than sorry. If you hook a monster and they go for a run, you do not want to be close to the end of the line while battling a large fish. 

What kind of line should I use on my baitcasting reel?

There are three types of fishing line that work well on baitcast reels. They are monofilament, fluorocarbon, and braid. 

Fluorocarbon is much stiffer than monofilament, we recommend that only individuals that are experienced with baitcast reels use these types of fishing line. 

For the angler who is just starting to use a baitcast reel, we recommend that you use monofilament. 

Monofilament is easier to cast, and overall, it is easier to use, and there are fewer issues of entanglements and other potential headaches.

Like we talked about before, go ahead and fill your baitcasting reel about 95% full of a quality monofilament fishing line. 12 or 15-pound test should suffice. 

How to Make Adjustments

Once the fishing line has been secured and properly loaded onto the reel, there are a few adjustments that need to be made. Let us take a closer look at those adjustments.

Setting Spool Tension

Once you have your fishing line secured to your reel and your reel is 95% full, you will want to tie on a lure or jig of some sort. 

Remember baitcast reels need some weight on the end of the line to function properly. At a minimum, you will want a ¼ ounce jig or spinnerbait. 

The tension knob should be located on the reel near the handle and drag star. Tighten the tension knob and then hit the release button letting your lure down to hit the ground. 

You will want the lure to slowly go to the ground in about two to three seconds. If it hits the ground fast and the excess line spills out, your tension knob is too loose. 

If your lure does not fall at all, your tension knob is too tight. You will need to do this every time you change lures to ensure you have the proper tension. 

Brake System Adjustments

There is the centrifugal braking system and then there are magnetic brakes built inside of baitcasting reels. 

For the centrifugal braking system, you will need to remove the cover of the reel and identify the braking pegs. The pegs can be in the on or off position. 

The more you have turned on, the more powerful the braking system will be when you cast. Remember to turn on the brakes in a symmetrical pattern. 

Magnetic brakes are easier to use. There will be a dial on the outside of your reel that will have settings of 1 through 10. Simply increase and decrease the power of the magnetic braking system by turning that dial.

Setting the Drag

Setting your drag on a baitcast reel is super easy. Between your reel handle and the reel itself is a star-shaped dial. 

Simply turn the dial away from you to tighten your drag, and toward you to loosen it. You will want to find the right amount of drag by adjusting that dial. 

Also, be sure to remember you can adjust the drag when you have a fish on it. Depending on what you need to find the balance, you will need to adjust the drag to ensure that the line does not snap while still being able to reel in the fish. 

Challenges of Using Baitcast Reels

The biggest challenge people face when using a baitcast reel is when too much line goes out and it becomes loose on the reel, or worse, gets tangled. 

You can prevent this from happening by always making sure your tension is properly set and that you learn how to cast your baitcast reel properly. 

Once those are mastered, you should have no issues and you will find that using a baitcast reel is rather enjoyable. 

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