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Enjoying Baitcasting Finally!

by Lesley Albjerg

First fish on my new outfit!

First fish on my new outfit!

I think I have bait casting figured out! I had a great day on Tuesday up in the mountains. I fished a spring creek and a freestone creek and as Chris would say, I had a "many" fish day! That said, well over 300 casts and I only had 3 minor bird's nests. Two were caused by me mistiming my release and the third was due to a very sloppy cast.

I caught my first fish on my Tenyru Rayz RZ4102B-UL and the Shimano Adlebaran BFS XG. Chris is out of my favorite line right now, but the Sunline Area Meister runs a close second. This is a very forgiving set-up. So here is what I've learned. This is my theory, so if you disagree that is fine.

A bait casting reel is a precision tool that has to be adjusted. There is a fine dance that has to take place between spool tension and the brake. Getting your setup dialed in before fishing leads to very enjoyable fishing! The first thing you want to do is set the spool tension and then the brake. The guys on YouTube that have an ego problem, advocate no tension and just no side to side movement. I don't like riding the edge of having a bird's nest. I don't need those extra 5 yards casting in a creek or river!

I don't think it matters where the brake is set when you set the tension on the spool. The fall of the line and lure is so slow that I don't think the brake is very activated. So you want the lure to fall and hit the water with just a little bit of over-run. This sets the spool tension. With the 1.9 gram plug I am amazed at how light the spool tension is! I can't believe how well behaved the spool is once you are in the sweet spot! I was well over 2 hours into my session before having my first bird's nest. I was beginning to think it couldn't happen! Over confidence! Actually I am convinced that the brake isn't near as fussy as the spool tension. The amount of brake has a lot to do with the profile of the rod too. If you want to squeeze an extra 5-10 yards out of a cast, yes you want to ride the edge of overruns. When one uses too much brake, your overcasting the rod to overcome the resistance of the brakes. Here is what I am convinced of after the last two weeks. Getting the brake dialed into the rod, allows the reel to maximize the inherent power of the rod. When you think about it, the Bait Caster reel is the only one that really works in concert with the rod. A fly reel and a spinning reel are really only line holders.

So here is my theory of what is happening with BFS adjustments. You set the spool tension as the adjustment for balancing the reel to the lure being used. You set the brake to maximize the power in the rod. If the brake is too light, the power of the rod over powers the reel allowing the spool to turn too fast. If the brake is too strong, the power of the reel over powers the rod. Last but not least, you may have to tweak the spool tension just a touch one way or the other due to the aerodynamics of the lure. Spoons are more aerodynamic than plugs and spinners are in between. The weight of the spool and the line limits the weight of the lure that the system will cast well. Since we are going for the lighter lures, we want a light spool and line set-up. Good bearings minimizes internal drag allowing the brake and tension to be at maximum efficiency.

To set the brake, you should begin with more brake than you need and work your way down. The goal is to have the line come straight from the rod. If you have to release early to hit your target the brake is too light. If you have to release late to hit your target the brake is too heavy. When you are in the sweet spot the line comes out straight.

Since I was in the sweet spot of the Tenyru rod once I got the brake set to just a hair over 4, I could change lures without having to adjust the brake. It is also a testament to the latitude built into this rod. I have another casting rod with a very fast action. It is very fussy. I also have found that my slow action Cardiff to be fussy. I also wasn't going for maximum distance but smoothness and accuracy. Most of the stuff I have read or seen on video is all about distance. I'm concerned about accuracy. On Tuesday I was making accurate casts with a 2.5 gram spoon out to 20 yards. More than enough!

So how was fishing? Fantastic. On the spring creek, I caught several nice brook trout, bull trout, and cutthroats. The area I was fishing was artificial lures barbless hooks only. I was upset when I hooked a nice cutthroat that had a worm hook in its lip! and left the spring creek to the freestone creek early. I was planning on fishing the upstream worm method with my Tenkara rod in this stream. Since the Tenyru - Shimano baitcaster was rigged up and ready to go with the Alexandra 1.9 gram Flatside Twitching minnow, I gave it a try. I caught 3 nice fish on the first 5 casts! I went and got my pack and never did get out my fixed line rig! What a joy, dropping the lure into the exact spot I wanted! The advantages of a baitcaster are they are very accurate and you can almost immediately begin your retrieve as soon as the lure hits the water. Being able to feather the line with your thumb gives awesome control. One other bit of advice, if you are left handed get a reel with the handle on the right. If you are right handed get a reel with the handle on the left. It makes no sense to be moving the rod back and forth between your hands. You lose too much time! There is no way I could have used anything else to get a lure into most of the places I wanted. I fished plugs, spinners, and spoons. They all worked. I caught 9 fish from under one log! A gentle underhand cast did the trick! The fish ran from 3 inches to 14 inches. I caught rainbows and cutthroats. All were native fish. A burn had gone through this area several years ago, and I think it had increased the nutrients in the stream. It was one of my best afternoons fishing!

I will confess, I bought a cheap Chinese BFS outfit and it was a horrific experience. Don't waste your money. Get a balanced outfit from Finesse Fishing. What is your time worth? What is your time on the water worth? Tuesday was a joyous day that will be remembered for a long time!

Comments for Enjoying Baitcasting Finally!

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Jul 10, 2020
Good Article
by: Farmer

Good article Les. More insight into the illusive art of BFS. Your thoughts on matching the reel to the rod are spot on.

Jul 10, 2020
by: Lesley Albjerg

I have it backwards in my article. You have to release early if the brake is set too strong and you have to release late if the brake is set too weak. Get it right in the middle and this becomes addictive fishing instead of frustration!

I was out this morning and enjoyed some more bait casting at my local "area." pond. I fished the Abu 2500c this morning. One cannot turn old technology into new. Having the release on the thumb bar on the newer reels is just too nice! The engagement of the gears once you start reeling is so much slower than on the new reels. All the other changes does make it a true BFS reel. My friend Jose was at the Springs this morning and his Shimano Calcutta Conquest is what a round reel should be! That said, I'm really loving the Adlebaran! It is light, fast, and feels good in the hand!

I did some back to back fishing with my spinning gear, and the precision of baitcasting is really winning me over.

Jul 22, 2020
Thumb Down!
by: Les Albjerg

Yes, maybe I'm showing what a true beginner I really am! I've been fishing with my thumb on the spool like 80-95% of the time. Just the lightest touch keeps things under control! A couple of folks that give instruction say you should always be in contact with the spool! Instinctively, I'm not there yet. Bad habits are hard to break. I pay a price when I go back to my old bad habits. Using the thumb right, I have been able to really back down on the brake and slightly loosen the spool tension. I'm getting longer, more consistent, and accurate too.

The other big lesson is, Don't over spool! Too much line on the spool is the biggest enemy of BFS. It bothers me to have at the most 40 yards of line on my reel. That said, I caught a 19 inch Rainbow in the trophy pond at Wilson Springs. It was about a 20 yard cast and I had maybe reeled in 2 yards when she slammed the 3.5 gram Anres Thumb Shad. The Thumb Shad is one of my favorite and effective plugs. The fish seemed to take a lot of line, but when I looked down at the spool, I noticed I still had plenty left! I hope these insights help.

Jul 29, 2020
BFS usage
by: Kelly Peterson southern Illinois

I can clearly see the benefits of using BFS reels for ultralight fishing but they are driving me nuts. Chris posted a video on the Finesse Fishing Facebook page today and it clearly shows the benefits of using these reels. They make it look so easy but I can't seem to get them to work unless a harder break is used and an oversized(heavier than normal lure) is used to load the rod.

But I don't use 3.5-7 gram lures, way too heavy for my style of fishing. Most of the lures I use are 1.5 gram and less. My favorite is the .7 gram and 1 gram Cultiva JH-85 jigs tipped with 2" or less plastics. Guess I have to stay with spinning reels but haven't figured out how to do the low level cast like are done with BFS.

Anyone ever use a Spin casting(closed faced spinning reel) instead? I'm going to try some loaded with 2#( .006 really 4#) mono to see if I can throw my preferred light jigs.

Jul 29, 2020
Spin cast reels
by: Christopher

Kelly, a closed face reel (spincast) makes the line bend around the small opening in the face of the reel. That will severely cut your casting distance with the light lures you like to use. By all means try it, but I don't think you are going to like the results.

I think you should be able to make a cast with the exact same trajectory using either a spinning rod or a baitcaster.

You don't absolutely have to use heavy lures with a baitcaster. I had a great time on my last trip with 2g Smith AR-S spinners designed for Area use. It takes a lot of practice, and I still need lots of practice, but it can be done. For ultra light lures, you may have to rely on your thumb more than the spool tension and brakes, but that requires even more practice.

From a practical standpoint, for lures as light as you like to use, spinning gear does make the most sense.

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The hooks are sharp.
The coffee's hot.
The fish are slippery when wet.