How to Adjust a Baitcaster: A Detailed Guide

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When you first acquire your baitcaster, you need to adjust it lest it gives you problems when fishing. Baitcasters can be quite intimidating if not repaired. You’re likely to experience backlashes, which can frustrate your baitcasting experience.

Backlashes happen when the spool spins faster than the line comes through the guide. Consequently, the line piles up, overruns itself, and results in a nasty tangle. Once you learn how to adjust a baitcaster, you'll become more efficient at using it.

Here’s a guide on how to adjust a baitcaster but first, a look into how the components of a baitcaster work.

Tension Knob

The tension knob is located on the side plate and looks like a small dial. It serves as a precast adjustment that helps make the casting smooth. It also provides tension to the spool to make it spin or prevent it from spinning.


Brakes are either magnetic or centrifugal, depending on the model. They are usually in play during the cast. You’ll find it easier to work with different reels from the same brand than moving from one brand to another.

If the brakes don’t work as they should, they can also cause the lines to tangle.

Adjusting the Reel

Start with adjusting the tension knob, something you should do each time you tie new lures. Hold it at a 10 o’clock or 2 o’clock angle and reel the lure for between 8 and 12 inches of line. Tighten the knob until you feel some light pressure.

Let the lure go down slowly to the ground as you push the thumb bar. Move it back one click and shake it gently to push the drop from the rod. In turn, the tension will automatically be set after this adjustment to prevent an overrun.


The next thing is to adjust the brakes. Most high-end reels come with centrifugal brakes, which are easier to adjust than their magnetic counterparts. On the other hand, magnetic brakes are less expensive and ideal for beginners.

If using centrifugal brakes, adjust them by pushing them in and out to distribute the pressure evenly. Inside the plate of the brakes, you'll see an arrangement of evenly spaced colored pegs. When the brakes are in the “out” position, more weights towards the outside will create more centrifugal forces.

The force on the inside of the spool will cause it to slow down. Ensure you turn the plates in a symmetrical pattern, as this is the only way to balance them. To achieve proportional adjustment, if you turn one brake on, ensure you turn on the one directly across from it.

Magnetic Brakes

For magnetic brakes, their system uses a dial on the outside of the reel plate. The dial helps adjust the strength of the brake. Both the centrifugal and magnetic brake systems have a setting of 1 to 10. The higher the setting, the more braking will be enabled in your casting.

However, only set the brakes at the level that feels comfortable for you. If you have some experience at thumbing, you can use this technique to slow down the spool. This way, you’ll need to use the brakes less often.

Setting the Drag

The process of setting the drag shouldn’t be complicated. Between the reel handle and the reel body is a big star-shaped dial. If you wish to tighten the drag, move this star forward or toward you to make it loose.

The drag should be tight enough to prevent it from slipping on the hookset. On the other hand, it shouldn’t be too tight so that it fails to give at all. Tug at the line and click the star wheel down.

This should require some effort to pull off the spool.

After Adjustment

After you’ve adjusted the tension knob and the brakes, you need to practice your casts. Start with short ones to determine if you’re getting the response you desire. Observe how the spool behaves as you cast out.

If it looks like the line is about to backlash, it means the adjustments need to be done again. Keep casting and making adjustments until you achieve the desired alignment. You can practice with short casts in your backyard to work on achieving the highest level of control.

As you practice, consider using an actual lure without the hooks. Alternatively, you can tie on a nut if you have any lying idle in the garage. You can also buy casting plugs so that you can practice with a specific weight identical to that of the lures you want to use.

Final Thoughts

If you want to have a pleasant fishing experience, ensure you learn how to adjust a baitcaster before using it. Proper adjustment of the parts prevents you from having backlashes as you cast. Adjust the tension knob and brakes while ensuring their level of adjustment is comfortable for you.

Don’t forget to set the drag in position. After all these adjustments, practice with your baitcaster before going out for your activities.

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