How to Use a Baitcasting Rod

You’ve done a lot of research and read many posts on this blog, and you ultimately selected a baitcasting rod, aka a baitcaster. You’ll admit that you’re new to this style of fishing, but you have a fishing trip planned next weekend with your buddies. You want to look like a pro, so how do you use a baitcasting rod?

Here’s how to use a baitcasting rod:

  • Reel in your line
  • Release the reel spool
  • Angle your favored casting arm
  • Sweep your rod at 30 degrees
  • Push on the reel spool
  • Reel ‘er in

There’s a lot more nuance to using a baitcasting rod, and we’re going to explain everything you need to know in this guide. You’ll learn how to spool your line, how to fish with a baitcaster, and the ideal fishing locations to choose. Keep reading!

The Parts of a Baitcaster

Becoming a good angler requires you to understand your baitcaster inside and out. That’s why we thought we’d start by going over the various parts of your baitcasting rod.


This is where your inactive hand will rest when using a baitcasting rod. The handle has internal gears that rotate when you turn the handle. Designed for comfort through and through, your baitcasting handle will feature at least two knobs. One is for your forefinger and the other for your thumb.

The handle is usually made of metal for durability, either reinforced metal or lightweight aluminum. 

Line Guide

The line guide is what sends your fishing line into the water when you cast it. Then, when you reel in your catch or retrieve the line, the line guide pulls the line in. All along, the line guide is supposed to keep your line intact so it doesn’t get knotted or tangled. 


One of the most critical components of a baitcaster is the spool. The spool will rotate when in use so it can handle the pressure of a major catch. The spool should always be kept parallel to your baitcasting rod.

When the reel line exits, it does so off the spool. You can alter the tension of the spool with your thumb or index finger, which we’ll talk more about shortly. 

Drag Control

The drag control is a knob or button that’s star-shaped. You can find it on the reel’s right side near the friction control buttons like the cast control knob and the spool tensioner. Thanks to the drag control, you can reduce your risk of backlash.

This is when the spool keeps going even when your line is out and the fishing line ends up hopelessly tangled into a bird’s nest. 

You have the freedom to select the degree of drag setting when using the drag control. The less drag on the line, the likelier the line is to snap. 

Spool Tensioner

Next is the spool tensioner, which keeps the spool attached to the reel body even when line is rotating off the spool. The tensioner is lower on the reel towards the bottom. It looks like the cast control knob, which we’ll talk about next, but these two components are not the same.

Cast Control Knob

Okay, so what is the cast control knob? This knob or series of knobs prevent line backlash as well. You can use your hands to select the speed of the knob, which you’ll alter depending on the lure weight you use. 

Most cast control knobs are made of durable metal and are available in various sizes. 


The pawl is an extended gear underneath the reel that’s about as long as the reel itself is. The pawl will move the line to ensure the distribution of the fishing line on your spool remains even. 

Spooling Your Baitcasting Rod Step by Step

Now that you better understand the parts of your baitcaster, it’s time to delve into how to spool your rod. Then you’ll be ready to use it!

Step 1

Before you can spool the baitcaster, you need fishing line. If you walk into any fishing supply store or browse around online, you can easily find yourself overwhelmed by the sheer multitude of fishing line options.

Fortunately, you don’t have to browse each one and compare them. Many anglers swear by braided line, and we recommend you use it too. You might branch out into other types of fishing line once you gain more experience, but starting with braided line puts you ahead of the pack.

Braided line can improve your accuracy, allow you to cast further, and give you more line to work with. The strength of braided line is another selling point, as is the reduced friction on the line due to the reduced diameter.

Step 2

With your braided line ready, begin threading it through every guide you see on the rod. As you do this, you’ll eventually reach the level wind guide of your baitcasting reel. Continue to thread your braided line through the guide as well. 

Step 3

Thread the line further, pulling it around the spool. Once you reach this point, it’s time to stop threading and tie off the end of the line. You’ll need to tie an Albright knot, which is recommended for braided fishing line as well as fluorocarbon and heavier monofilament line.

With your braided line in hand, make a loop. Then send the tag end of the line into the loop. Send the tag end beyond the loop. From the base of your loop, create a series of turns. These turns should be tightly-wound, and you should have 10 in all.

Then send the remaining tag end of your line through that loop as you did before. Next, take the opposite ends of the line and pull them tight to strengthen your knot. 

When you’ve tied the Albright knot, wet it so it’s heavier. Then cut the ends, taking care not to leave loose ends if you can help it.

Step 4

Take the area of line near the spool and fasten it. You want the line in the direction of the spool.

Step 5

With your forefinger and thumb, apply pressure on the line to ensure the spool is properly tensioned. Then reel the rest of your line onto the spool. You want enough line that it’s 1/8th inches from the spool’s top.

How to Use Your Baitcasting Rod

Woohoo! With your line threaded, it’s now time to fish. Per the intro, here is how to use a baitcasting rod for angling success. 

Step 1

Begin by putting out your line on the rod. You want your lure or bait to be at least six inches from the top of the rod. If you want, you can double this so it’s 12 inches. That’s a good rule of thumb for bobbers and sinkers as well.

Step 2

Position your hand on the reel to ensure you’ve got the correct handling. Your hand should be firmly on the handle of your baitcaster and your thumb on the reel spool but not applying pressure. 

The handle of the reels should be upward so that casting is more in the wrist than the rest of your arm. The exception is when you cast in your non-dominant hand. Then you want to angle the handle downward instead.

Step 3

Now it’s time to press on the spool release button. 

Step 4

Next, begin to angle your casting arm. You want the arm bent precisely at your elbow, almost making a 90-degree angle. With your arm in this position, lift your baitcasting rod. Its tip should be vertical or very close to it. 

Step 5

It’s time for the moment you’ve been waiting for, casting time! You want to sweep your baitcasting rod 30 degrees higher than its horizontal positioning. The best way to envision this is in the 10 o’clock position or at eye level.

Now release your thumb from the spool so the weight of your lure or bait can release extra line from the spool. 

Step 6

Use your thumb to apply pressure to the reel spool. This will prevent the bait or lure from pulling out too much braided line. You only need as much line as is required to send the bait to the targeted area. 

You probably won’t master this timing the first time around, but it’s worth practicing. After all, releasing too much line will make the line tangle into a bird’s nest.

Step 7

Now it’s all about playing the waiting game. If you selected the right lure and the correct location for fishing, then it should only be a matter of time before you begin to feel a tug on your line. This is likely a fish!

Step 8

Time is of the essence here. As soon as you feel a tug on your line, you need to be ready to turn your handle so you can reel in your (hopefully) big catch. 

Baitcasting Success Tips

Baitcasting isn’t an easy method of fishing, especially for beginners. That said, it is doable if you’re willing to put in the time. These tips will help you master your baitcasting rod.

Select the Right Fishing Spot

Brush and baitcasting rods do not get along. You don’t want your braided line to get tangled in the bushes, after all. Don’t just worry about the brush on the surface of the water, by the way, but that which is overhead as well.

Avoid the Crowds

Baitcasting, compared to other angling methods, requires a lot of space to do the technique correctly. If you’re on a cramped boat with another person or two, then maybe using a baitcasting rod isn’t the best idea.

That’s also true if you’re in a crowded fishing environment. You don’t want to bump elbows with a stranger when baitcasting. You could upset them!

Buy High-Quality Equipment

Although beginners usually aren’t sure if they’re going to stick with a hobby, we’d still suggest splurging on a baitcasting rod and reel as well as your fishing line. After all, cheap materials are going to make baitcasting much more difficult. 

You’ll want to quit because you’re tired of your line snapping or tangling. With a quality braided line and a good spool, you should reduce the risk of bird’s nesting. 

For the Best Baitcasting Reels, click here!

For the Best Baitcasting Rods, click here!

Learn Short-Distance Casting First, Then Go Longer Distances

You might have seen baitcasting pros on television or on YouTube who make using a baitcasting rod look effortless. Then you try fishing with your own baitcasting rod, and you fumble every step of the way. 

That’s going to happen. As we said before, baitcasting is not exactly beginner-friendly. To make it easier on yourself, start by casting your line very short distances. This will help you get used to when to apply pressure on the spool and when not to. 

Once you master short-distance casting, gradually increase your casting distance.

Practice, Practice, Practice

The only way to get good at anything is to commit to it, and that includes baitcasting as well. Whenever you get the chance, visit your favorite local lake or stream and practice. You’re not trying to catch any fish, per se, just get used to the equipment of your baitcasting reel and how everything works.

If you catch a fish or several along the way, then that’s great! It’s an added bonus that can fuel you to continue practicing and perfecting your baitcasting. 

Final Thoughts 

Using a baitcasting rod is not the most beginner-friendly angling activity, but that’s not to dissuade you from trying. The information in this guide should help you familiarize yourself with your rod and reel so you can begin catching more fish. Good luck!

Geoff Southworth

I am a California native and I enjoy all the outdoors has to offer. My latest adventures have been taking the family camping, hiking and surfing.

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