Venturing into Baitcasting!

by Les Albjerg
(Caldwell, Idaho)

Up until now, I have resisted the temptation to get into fishing with an ultralight baitcasting set-up for stream fishing. One of the things holding me back is my history. My first rod was a bait caster. As a 6 year old, the memories of spending hours untangling the rat's nests after a poor cast leave a memory that is never forgotten. That old Pflueger reel and metal rod is what my first fish was caught with.

Fast forward to now! I have several of the very nice WooDream lures that Chris sells. They have not been fished as much as I like because I just can't cast as accurately as I would like with my spinning outfits. A couple of weeks ago, I took out the lightest weight casting outfit I inherited from my Dad, with 4 pound test line and realized that even with an outfit that was too heavy for such a light lure, I could really place the lure much more accurately as well as stop it on a dime with just my thumb. Thus the desire for a baitcaster was kindled.

With cabin fever, and enjoying YouTube, I was directed to a website that blew me away on several different levels. Since Chris doesn't want embedded URL's in our blog, I will tell you how to get there. Go to YouTube. Type in the Search Bar, "Enjoy Fishing Channel." Check out any of the videos, but I would encourage you to find the one with Calcutta Conquest BFS HG in the title. Yes, it is in Japanese, but the language of fishing is universal. By the way Chris sells the Calcutta Conquest BFS HG when he can get them! Watch the poetry in motion!

I then watched a couple of more of Angler Saito's videos, and he loves the Abu Garcia Ambassadeur 2500c. I have two of them that I got from my Dad! Hey, I have a great reel for stream fishing and I didn't even know it. I also discovered that my Vintage Shimano Bantam 100 is prized for ultra-light bait casting. This reel was new in the box. My Dad never used it! So now I have to get a rod!

Angler Saito, the guy in the videos, got me really pumped. I was having a discussion with Chris, and really wanted a fiberglass rod, but they just aren't available for less than about $700.00. So my next thought was, "I will build one."

I have had the itch to build a rod again for about two years. To make a long story short, when I was in graduate school I built my first steelhead rod and two fly-rods. It was the only way I could afford a quality rod. I had a friend who owned a custom fly shop and made rods. He was overwhelmed with orders and I built about 50 custom fly-rods for him and it was very profitable for both of us! Over the years I have continued to dabble in rod building. I have not had to order stuff for a long time.

So, the long and the short of it is I ordered everything I needed to build a premium rod, and experienced sticker shock! Just the cost of the top of the line guides is over $55.00. Since I have all of the tools and miscellaneous items, I saved a lot. The bottom line is if my time is worth anything, the Tenyru Rayz RZ53UL-BC would have been less expensive! That isn't to say I am not excited about my build! What I am saying is the price of the Tenyru is very reasonable once you price out high quality components.

I am very excited about this build! I am going to get the grip I want. I will be able to use my favorite purple color for my guide wraps! I have several other unique accents that will make it truly a one of a kind rod!

Don't even ask! I am not going into the rod making business. I've been down that rabbit hole and don't care to enter it again! However, I will give updates along the way!

Comments for Venturing into Baitcasting!

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Feb 08, 2019
FBC question
by: Kelly Peterson (northern Wisconsin)

Hi Les or Chris,

Difference between LH or RH baitcasting reels is which hand you crank with I assume? That said, which is which? If the crank is on the right side is that a RH?

If so, then with a LH and the crank being on the left side which way does the handle go to wind up line? Same direction that a spinning reel goes?

Have watched some of this guys videos before-couple years ago and marvel at his ability. Is he using a fiberglass rod because of its flexibility to load the rod tip with light lures in order to underhand flip cast?

Thanks, Kelly

Feb 08, 2019
by: Craig

Just wait till you get into tweaking the Abu 2500 for BFS use, would love to tweak one but the cost of buying a new one old stock one then modifying makes it easier to just buy a reel all ready to go.

Feb 08, 2019
Response for Kelly
by: Craig

Yes, RH and LH refers to the side of the reel the handle is on. It is normal that many US reels are only in RH where most Japanese Reels seem to offer both RH and LH or only LH options.

They both reel forward like a spinning reel but unlike a spinning reel you cannot change the side you reel on by swapping handle sides.

Feb 08, 2019
Right and left hand reels
by: Chris Stewart

You reel a right hand baitcaster with the right hand and you reel a left hand baitcaster with the left hand. The reeling direction is exactly the same as with a spinning reel (push over the top and pull back underneath).

My guess, and truly it is only a guess, is that he is using a glass rod at least in part because the extreme rod bend he gets looks really cool when filmed in slow motion. There is no question that he recognizes and appreciates quality, but it is also evident that style and appearance are very important to him.

And you know, the deep bend when casting is exactly why I wish I had (and could offer) a quality glass rod!

Feb 08, 2019
reason for my question
by: Kelly Peterson (northern Wisconsin)

is I'm real comfortable reeling a spinning reel with my left hand, casting with my right. So figure I would be able to adapt to the left hand reel because of the actions the same as spinning.

That said the bait casting reel/rod setup I have now I cast with right hand, then switch rod to left hand so I crank with right. I can see when fishing in fast moving water that the switching of the rod to different hand takes too much time and the lure sinks to the bottom before cranking.

Appreciate your thoughts on this matter.

Oh, do these BFS reels have the thumb bar for releasing the line to cast or the push tab on top side of the reel like the Abu Garcia 2500C?

Agree he is all about style and appearance with everything he does including his clothes and other non fishing gear.

Feb 08, 2019
Parts are ordered !
by: Les Albjerg

Craig - I already have parts ordered to make the 2500c more friendly for ultra light casting! I also have the 3 pound JDM line I am going to use sitting on my fishing shelf! Lucky for me it already has the high speed gearing! That is when it gets real expensive. Since I am left handed and have always cast with my left hand, having a right hand retrieve is just what I wanted.

Feb 08, 2019
Don't switch hands!
by: Chris Stewart

If you want to cast with your right hand, by all means, get a left handed baitcasting reel. You want to be able to set the hook when fish hit the lure as soon as it hits the water - which does happen, and also as you say, to start the lure moving so that it doesn't fall to the bottom and get stuck in rocks.

As far as I know, all modern baitcasting reels have a thumb bar rather than the button on the side like the Abu Garcia 2500C.

Trom releasing the button to applying your thumb to the spool to stop a cast or slow it down, you almost don't have to move your thumb at all.

Feb 08, 2019
Thumb bar
by: Craig

I don’t remove my thumb from the bar/ spool when fishing, this keeps constant connection with the reel, spool and line. Easy to add extra pressure or release pressure on the spool as needed when casting.

Feb 08, 2019
Les pictures please...
by: Craig

Les, I hope you share some pictures when you are done with both your builds. I’ve found one series of rods that act similar to glass in both flex and give.

Feb 09, 2019
Custom bfs rod
by: Rivk

Hi I have built a lot of fly and spinning rods . I build 2 up bfs rods from fly blanks . Both 2 WT. One on a 3 pice 5'6" custom carbon blank and one on a high end American made custom fiberglass blank. I am not an expert caster , not even a very good one . I like the rods , but I don't think the tapper is right for a casting rod . Hope your rods worked well for you if you build one . Have fun building and fishing .

Feb 09, 2019
Finesse Fishing has the Rods!
by: Les Albjerg

I spent hours looking for the proper blank that met the perimeters of Finesse Bait Casting fishing. There just aren't that many blanks available out there! I built two very nice ultra light casters about 30 years ago on 5 foot 2 inch Lamiglas S-glass blanks. My kids caught lots of fish with those rods. I often took one out fishing as they were wonderful rods even with the closed face reels I had lots of fun with those rods and so did my children. We actually wore them out! I wish I had bought a few more of those blanks. I did build a couple of spinning rods on fly blanks. Rivk, I built mine on a 3 weight blank. I have a 3 weight blank, and thought about using it. I think I have found a good blank, only time will tell! As I said, I am excited about doing a build, but the rods available (at least most of the time) on this website are well worth the price considering the quality of the build.

I really have my eye on the Daiwa Wise Stream 45ULB-3 as my next bait caster if I really enjoy this type of fishing over spinning. I love spinning with the spoons, but not so much with the plugs. Chris is offering a wide selection of rods at a nice spread of price points!

Another thing that has amazed me is the size of the fish that Angler Saito catches with his plugs. I am amazed at both ends of the spectrum! He catches some very large fish and also fish that are not much bigger than the plug he is fishing!

Craig, I will be taking pictures. I'm doing the before pictures on the reel today.

Feb 11, 2019
Good to know I'm not the only one
by: Greg D

Say yes to BFS! I've always preferred baitcasters over spin gear for many reasons. I was fishing ultralight BC for bass long before I ever heard of BFS. So as soon as I heard BFS for trout I was hooked. I bought the Tenyru Rayz 5'3" from Chris about a year ago. It's a sweet rod. I'm also into rod building, So my goal became can I build a BFS rod that can compare to the Tenyru.

It's been a tough challenge and I've learned alot. Currently I'm on build number 5 with a number 6 in planning stage. What I'm learning is you can pretty easy match the performance as long as you stick to a one piece rod blank. My first build is on a MHX 5' ultralight spin blank. It turned out very good. 2nd build I used a MHX 6' 3 pc travel blank that I cut the butt to create a 5' rod. Good but a little stiff. It will make a nice river bass stick. Next I built a fiberglass rod from a Janns Netcraft 5' blank which by the way is a Rainshadow. While it certainly loads deeper with more flex it's my least favorite. Sorry, glass is just too slow for me. Build #4 is a St. Croix SCIII Avid 5'6" 2pc spin blank. Not a Tenyru but for a multi piece this has been my favorite thus far. Build #5 is an American Tackle Matrix 5'6" 2pc and currently in the works being followed up by build #6 being also being an American Tackle, 5'3" 1pc Bushido rod blank. I think it will prove that the smoothest action comes form a one piece.

I believe this is where the Tenyru has a big advantage with the spigoted ferrules system. It's clear to see the flat spot in integrated ferrules.

One day I'll get all the rods together for a picture and make a post. On the note of reels I prefer modern low profile Shimanos. I started with an old Core 50 I've had for years and eventually moved into an Alderbaran BFS and a Scorpion BFS. Not sure which one I like better. It's a toss up.

Line could be the toughest challenge. Regardless of pound rating I've settled on 0.007". I find this size to be a good compromise betweeen stealth and manageability. Varivas Dead or Alive or Sunline Troutist Darkness hasve been very good. A good backyard practice line is good old Stren Crappie in 4lb. The gold color really let's you sight your cast but I don't like to fish with this line because of that. I'm happy to share more details of these builds to any that are interested. It's good to know I'm not alone. Tight lines, Greg

Feb 11, 2019
Shortest baitcasting rod
by: Kelly Peterson (northern Wisconsin)

Anyone know of a shorter baitcasting rod than the Diawa Wise Stream 45ulb?

Like does Tenyru make the Rayz 39ul in a bait casting model? That would be an ideal one for me in following these thin blue lines here that are alder choked both bankside and overhead.

Or can one take a spinning rod and make it into a baitcaster with some sort of add on finger grip?

Feb 11, 2019
Shorter Rod
by: Craig

Smith makes a 4’3" in there BST (Be Sticky Trout) series, I have both the 4’3" and the 4’7" in the series.

Feb 11, 2019
Thanks Greg
by: Les Albjerg

Love the dialogue going on. I would love to see some pictures of you rods. Kelly, Chis is going to have to answer that question.

I'm seriously thinking about making my own lures. The WooDreams are really nice, and I have caught two nice fish on one model so far, but at the price point it bring on a little bit of a pucker when the fish heads into the riffles. A fifteen inch trout isn't that big! The Nabe Minnows retail for $34.00 in Japan, so the WooDreams are reasonably priced. I don't see Chris getting rich off of them! Again, I am a lucky guy with a fairly well stocked shop.

Feb 11, 2019
Shorter Baitcasters
by: Chris Stewart

Tenryu does not make a baitcaster shorter than 5'3". The shortest one I know of is a Smith Be Sticky 4'3" model. A friend has one and likes it. I plan on ordering a few for the shop, but be advised that they are much more expensive than the Tenryu rods. The Daiwa 45ULB-3 is only 2 inches longer and more than $200 cheaper, but it isn't as nice as the Smith rods.

I have frequently put a baitcasting reel on the Tenryu Rayz Integral RZI50UL-4 rod - just because the 4-piece rod is so convenient to carry if you want to have more than one rod with you.

I have also fished the Tenryu Rayz RZ39LL with a baitcasting reel. The grip behind the reel seat is just a bit shorter than you would like, but the rod never slipped out of my grip. I have been laid up following knee surgery, but next time I can get out I plan on trying it again with a small loop of parachute cord around the front of the reel foot that would be just large enough to hold with my finger under the grip just the way I do with the trigger on a baitcasting rod.

A purist would be horrified that the guide spacing would be all wrong for a baitcaster, but I've caught both trout and bass into the mid teens with baitcasting reels on Tenryu spinning rods and there was never any problem. I have asked Tenryu to make a 4-piece baitcaster. They haven't said no but they haven't said yes, either.

Feb 11, 2019
Build idea
by: Greg D

Chris, Sorry to hear about your knee. I wish you total healing. I got a laugh when you said "purist" and "baitcaster" in same sentence, lol. Watch that talk if around the fly community.
For you rod builders out there I think a worthy try would be the shortest st.croix scII. It's 4'6" 1pc and would be the blank to a premier spin rod. It's a moderate action and if you wanted to you could cut the butt back a few inches to make it even shorter without much if any effect. Like I commented earlier I believe to achieve action similar to the precision jdm rods in an american rod blank it's going to have to be 1pc blank. Japan has mastered multi piece rods for sure.
Les, I will get a post together with pictures after I get through these two builds. Thanks for your interest.

Feb 11, 2019
by: Chris Stewart

Greg, actually, some time ago I had mentioned it to a guy I know who said he could never do it because the guides aren't "right." The stripper guide on the Tenryu spinning rods is low enough that it actually works quite well. I do miss the trigger, though.

Feb 13, 2019
Baitcasting handle ?
by: Kelly Peterson

Have a really good custom rod maker 15 miles from me. He’s made me many from "Nightcrawler Secrets" 8 foot to 4.5 foot ultralight spinning rods for me. I really like them-they compare favorably with the JDM rods I bought from Chris so was thinking about him making a BFS baitcasting shorty for me use on one of my favorite brook trout thin blue lines.

This is where I use the Tenryu Rayz 39 l rod because of the alder choked overhead and backside cover. So today after removing the 14" of snow we got yesterday, think I’ll head north to Elk River Customs Rods and discuss the workings of a 4 foot or shorter BFS baitcasting rod.

My main question for you all more experienced users which handle do you prefer, the straight all cork or the slightly curved, sort of finger gripped plastic one? The majority of casts I will have to make with this rod will be underhand flip or side arm. In watching Angler Saito videos he uses these type cast most of the time even tho he doesn’t have overhead cover.

Does one handle type work better than the other?

Mind you all of my custom rods I’ve had made lately have the shortest handles possible. I hate all that handle behind the reel that is just wasted length-really it’s the distance from reel to tip that counts anyway, the rest just gets in the way as far as i’m concerned! I’ve even cut a section of the longer cork handles away, inserted a dowel plug and reglued the butt end piece back on. This makes for a shorter rod, albeit a few inches but in case of my old Cabelas five foot ultralight spinning rod it now is four foot six.

This type of fishing, ie baitcasting is so new to me and we are still deep in Winter for another two months at least you guys and videos on the net are the things keeping me sane right now.

Feb 13, 2019
Custom means "My Way"
by: Les Albjerg

In my opinion, Kelly the handle should be what you like. Since I come from a shooting background, I love a good pistol grip. That is what is going on my new rod.

In the 1980's and 90's there seemed to be a lot more blanks available. Those small blank companies have either died off or have been bought out by bigger companies. G. Loomis is now owned by Shimano.

I'm exploring the nuances of the Tenryu Lunakia LK610S-MLT spinning rod. This is a rod designed for Salt Water fish that run from 8-14 inches. However, I have been seeing bigger fish caught by the Ajing fisherman on YouTube. I mention this rod, because it seems as if rod design and exploration is alive and well in Japan. I watch Shimano TV just for the great cinematography and fishing action. My word!, how many rods do they make?

The blank I am doing my build on is the Phenix Mirage Ultra Light 5' 2pc 1-5# B.276 T3.5. Phenix is a small rod company out of California.

Chris has brought us some of the best cutting edge products, but they come at a price. Check out my article on "The Mighty Mite." My friend Jose's outfit cost less than the JDM line on my Shimano Cardiff reel! For most American fisherman, cheaper is always better. Maybe because it costs a lot to fish in Japan they are more concerned about having great equipment to increase their odds of catching fish. I read about one popular stream in Japan where you pay $40.00 to fish for a half a day or 10 catch and releases, and you are done whether you like it or not! We are spoiled. I like being spoiled.

So we get these great sensitive highly precise fishing instruments through Chris that allows us to not only enjoy fishing more, but also catch a lot more fish! The only downside, it costs more. However my in-state fishing license and out-of-state Oregon license allows me to fish without spending much money! In Japan both are expensive!

Feb 20, 2019
Enjoy Fishing Channel
by: James

Les, that channel was the first one I saw that got me into finesse baitcasting. The casting accuracy with those ambassadors is insane. Glad to hear another angler finding these wonderful resources, just be sure to get a shallow spool for it.

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