Baitcasting made easy

About the author

Kevin VanDam

Kevin VanDam

In the world of professional bass fishing, Kevin VanDam is at the pinnacle and arguably the best in the world.

While I was being filmed for a Bass Pro Shops commercial, local onlookers walked onto their docks and began asking me about the use of a baitcaster.

“I never could get the hang of how to use a baitcaster,” one man said. “How do you make it look so easy?”

It’s a comment I get at sport shows and public appearances. People say they can’t use baitcast gear and prefer spincast and spinning reels that are easier to use.

But baitcast gear gives you a mechanical advantage over other types of reels and the utmost control in making precision presentations.

You just have to give it a chance. With a proper setup and a little practice, modern baitcast technology delivers fewer backlashes than the reels we had four or five years ago.

Here’s how to overcome baitcasting problems and improve your casting:

Equip properly: Expensive reels cast easier because of their quality components. However, $100 can buy a good reel with adequate features.

Match your reel to a 6-6 or 6-10 medium heavy rod. It’s a versatile outfit and makes casting easier for beginners. In my fishing, a 6-10 medium heavy gets more use than any other rod I own.

Line matters, too. Baitcast reels were not designed for light line, so use 10 pound and above. Larger diameter lines come off the spool easier and are less likely to overrun. For learning purposes, use 17-pound monofilament because it handles so much easier.

Set your reel properly: Modern baitcasters have adjustable centrifugal braking systems on one side and a tension knob on the other, the latter of which is located under the reel handle.

Refer to your reel instructions on how to adjust the centrifugal brakes and set the brake to zero (no brakes on). Most retailers have demo reels and will show you how to do this.

Now, hold the rod at about 11 o’clock, depress the thumb bar and keep pressure on the line spool with your thumb. Loosen or tighten the tension knob to where the lure falls slowly and smoothly as you jiggle the rod tip.

Go back to the centrifugal brake setting and put it at about 75 percent. Some reels have adjustable dials while others require you to remove the side plate and adjust the brakes manually. The brake is designed to slow the spool rotation at the end of the cast, which reduces overruns when the bait hits the water.

Practice off the water: Before you take your new reel to the lake, tie on a 3/8-ounce chartreuse spinnerbait that is easy to see. Don’t use anything heavier or lighter than that.

When you attempt your first few casts in the backyard, do so sidearm. Lock your wrist, don’t try to throw far and maintain some pressure on the spool. As you gain confidence, relax the thumb pressure and increase your distance.

Once you’ve grown comfortable with the reel’s performance, move your arm position to overhand and get more aggressive, but remember to maintain some thumb pressure on the spool as the lure approaches the ground and follow through with the cast.

 When you get to the lake, reset the tension knob based upon the weight of your lure. Make a few easy casts until you’re comfortable.

It will become second nature before you know it and you’ll become a true believer in baitcast performance.

Remember, it’s all about the attitude!

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