Bait-casting reels are often called casting reels and they're well suited for a lot of different kinds of fishing tasks. They sit on top of the rod and the line comes off a revolving spool. Bait-casters are a little more difficult to learn to cast and are famous for getting backlash, or a bird's nest, in the line. Prices range from very cheap to extremely expensive but there are a lot of moderately priced bait-casting reels that will last a long time.
A bait-casting reel.
How a Bait-Casting Reel Works
The spool on a bait-casting reel turns as you turn the handle, winding the line back on. A release button on the reel disengages the gears inside from the spool, allowing it to spin freely. After pushing the button to release the spool, you place your thumb on the spool to hold it in place while casting.
Keeping your thumb on the spool during the cast allows you to control the line flow precisely and make accurate casts. At the end of the cast you turn the handle to engage the gears between the handle and the spool, causing it to revolve and wind in the line. A line guide goes back and forth across the spool, laying the line evenly on the spool.
The drag system on a bait-casting reel is internal and engages the spool. It's usually made up of washers of different materials that rub together to cause friction to slow the turn of the spool. It can be very smooth and accurate, giving you a lot of control when you also use your thumb on the spool to add to the drag.
Putting Line on a Bait-Casting Reel
Line goes onto a bait-casting reel differently since the spool revolves. Run the new line from the tip of the rod through the rod guides and through the level wind guide on the reel. Tie the line to the spool and hold the rod between the first guide and the reel. Run the line between your fingers to keep it tight.
Stick a pencil through the hole in the filler spool and have someone hold it, or place it between your feet. Have the person holding the spool put some pressure on the spool, or let it rub on the floor as line comes off to keep it from spinning too fast. If the line is winding onto the reel spool over the top, make sure it's coming off the filler spool from the top, too. Wind the line on until the spool is filled to one-eighth of an inch from the top.
Reels often hold more line than you want to use. You can save money and use less line to fill the spool by using backing under the good line. Pull off as much of the old line as you want to replace and tie the new line to it. Then fill the spool from that point with new line.
Bait-Casting Reel Quality and Drag
High-end bait-casting reels are made with frames of composite material to make them light, and the gears are hardened metal to make them last. The gears are especially important because they engage and disengage to cast, so they must mesh repeatedly without being damaged. Cheaper reels will strip gears and not last long.
Drag systems on bait-casting reels are layers of different materials that rub against each other to produce friction. They can be some of the smoothest in any kind of reel. Since you can use your thumb to add drag when a fish is fighting, you can set the drag initially to a lighter setting. That helps with fish that make long runs because less line on the spool means more drag. It is easier to add drag with your thumb than to adjust to reduce it while fighting a fish.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Bait-Casting Reels
These are some advantages to using bait-casting reels:
Work better with heavier line
More control while casting
More control while fighting a fish
Less line twist during normal use
More power fighting strong fish
These are two disadvantages to using bait-casting reels:
More difficult to learn to use
More expensive than most other kinds of reels
Although you probably won't start out with a bait-casting reel, it's a good idea to get one and learn to use it. You should definitely have at least one bait-casting reel if you have more than one reel.
Bait-casting reels are harder to learn to use but give you the most control of any reels. You can use your thumb to control the line going out on a cast and to control the drag. It is worth the extra time it takes to learn to use a bait-casting reel for the added control it gives.