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How to Setting up a Baitcaster Reel? Explained in 4 Easy Steps

setting up a baitcaster reel
Written by Immanuel Baranov
Last Update: July 24, 2023

Baitcaster reels are said to be the best option for fishing large fish as they use heavier lines and lures. If you know this, you might have already gotten yourself the best baitcaster reel. But before you enjoy casting with it, it is necessary to know how to adjust a baitcaster reel. Backlashes make your baitcasting experience more complicated and this may lead to overrun, causing a tangle.

So, to know and adjust a baitcaster reel you should learn how baitcaster reel works, what its components are, and how to set it up. Let us have a look at the instructions given below:

Setting up a Baitcaster Reel Components and How It Works

1. Tension knob

Tension knob is small dial on the side plate. It is the precast adjustment that makes casting smooth. The spool tension knob is used to provide tension to the spool to let it spin or prevent it from spinning.

spool-tension knob

2. Brake

Brakes can be centrifugal or magnetic. They vary significantly from model to model. It is easier to work with different reels of one type or brand than moving from one brand to another as it can get you in having trouble with brake. Brake is in play during the cast.


Backlash takes place when spool runs faster than line comes through the guide. Wind can be a reason to tangle it also. So, to adjust a baitcaster reel you have to:

Adjust The Baitcaster Reel

1. Spool tension

The tension knob has to be adjusted each time you tie new lures. So, before you set hold it at 10 o’clock or 2 o’clock angle. Reel the lure up until 8-12 inches of lines out form. As you tighten the knob, you would feel light pressure. Pushing thumb bar let the lure go slowly to the ground. Then move it back just a click. Shake it softly to lure the drop from the tip of the rod. The tension is set after this adjustment and would prevent overrun also.

adjust a spool tension

2. Brake

As mentioned before, there are either centrifugal or magnetic brakes in baitcasters. Although centrifugal ones are easier to adjust, magnetic brakes would be good for beginners as they are less expensive than centrifugal.

adjust reel brake

3. Centrifugal

In order to adjust the centrifugal brake, push the brakes in and it should be set to distribute the pressure evenly. It means, turning one on requires turning on the one directly across from it. You can also create and turn on a triangle by using three. Keep this in mind to adjust the brake considering the comfort level. If thumbing the spool slows it, we would suggest you to start with 4 as you need less brakes in this case.

Baitcaster Centrifugal Brakes

4. Magnetic

Magnetic brakes are easier to understand. They use a dial on the outside of the reel side plate for adjusting the strength. Examples of magnetic brakes are: Abu Garcia and Daiwa. Their dial can read Min and Max, 1 to 10. For beginners, it would be appropriate to start high, like 70 to 80 percent.

Baitcaster Magnetic Brake

As the adjustment is done, the drag needs to be set. The big star shaped dial is located in between the reel handle and body. For tightening it, turn the star forward and backward to loosen it. But, make sure to tighten it appropriately to prevent slipping on the hookset.

We would also suggest you to practice on the ground before you start using your baitcaster in the water. We wish we have successfully provided you enough information to deal with the adjustment and use your baitcasting reel to have a pleasant fishing experience.


What is the best gear ratio for Baitcasters?

Ans. 6.4:1 is the gear ratio you will see on the most common reels in the market. This allows you to work on both slow and fast-moving presentations. You do need high and low gear ratios for specific techniques and applications. For example, a 7.1:1 reel is the best option when you want to burn a buzzbait or spinnerbait.

Q. What gear ratio is best for topwater?

Ans. 7.1 and higher gear ratios are the best for topwater fishing. This allows for a faster retrieve and quick line pick-up so that fish can’t go down into the wood.

Q. How much drag is enough for a baitcaster reel?

Ans. 5lbs of drag is enough to pull out the line directly from the reel. You will use this method to catch 60lbs and bigger Cobias and still be fine.

About the author

Immanuel Baranov

My life is pretty much defined by my avid outdoor activities. I’m generally obsessed with fishing, skiing and occasional hunting and whitewater paddling. I’ve been active since my early years. I inherited my passion for fishing from my father who made frequent family trips to the banks of Sacramento River. Growing up, I did a lot of fishing in the vicinity. Now that I have two sons, our weekends are full of fishing activities. I would say, you need good spots where you can go out a lot for the thing you love. I had the privilege to grow up near numerous water bodies and I’m proud to say that I made good use of them. It’s also great to do something with kids that helps them learn patience, endurance and preciseness.

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