VBS signals end to backlashes

Editor's Note: This story is part of a larger package on Shimano gear. Click here to see more.

Baitcasting reels are infamous for backlashes. With hundreds of casts, an angler can train his thumb to touch the spool at just the right times to achieve maximum distance and no backlashes on a baitcaster. Shimano has created a quick and easy solution to backlashes. It’s called VBS – variable braking system.


As Marc Mills watched an angler pick out a backlash, then crank down on the spool tension knob located on the handle-side of the reel, he stepped in with some instruction.

Mills, a regional sales manager for Shimano, has seen this repeated over and over again. And the result of tightening the tension on the reel spool is inevitably a shorter cast, in the effort to eliminate backlashes.

Mills popped open the side panel of the Shimano reel, opposite the handle, to reveal a wheel with six arrow-shaped pins surrounding it. These are called break weights. By simply pulling two of those pins into the “out” position, the backlashing problem was eliminated.

Shimano invented this system of centrifugal braking on baitcasting reels. It has since been copied by other manufacturers. But no one does this better than Shimano.

Before VBS, all baitcasting reels relied on a system of magnets to help prevent backlashes. But, by design, a magnetic system shortens casting distance. It is slowing down the speed of the line spool from the beginning to the end of a cast. With VBS, centrifugal force works to create friction and prevent the spool from over-running. And it is only comes into effect when spool speed threatens to overrun.

“Ideally, you want zero resistance on the spool to get the longest cast,” Mills said. “With VBS, you get that for the majority of a cast. It creates a much more consistent spool speed that is easier to manage and takes advantage of the reel’s maximum casting distance.”

VBS can be adjusted quickly as lure sizes and fishing conditions change. With no brake weights in the out position, you get a true free spool effect. When high winds create difficult conditions for a baitcaster, all six weights can be shifted out for maximum cast control.

With backlashes cut to a minimum, VBS is just one more way Shimano helps you take maximum advantage of a day on the water.