What Are The Parts Of A Baitcaster Reel, And What Do They Do?

What Are The Parts Of A Baitcaster Reel, And What Do They Do?

Are you considering purchasing a baitcasting reel but have no idea how they work? Perhaps you want to understand more about the reel parts before you make your purchase and don’t know where to turn.

Whatever your reason might be, we have the answer for you! 

We know how stressful it can be to find out more about these popular reels, especially if you are new to fishing.

You find yourself lost in a sea of parts and different uses, unsure where to turn or who to believe. Before you know it, you are overwhelmed and nowhere closer to purchasing your baitcaster. 

Well, no more! Today we are here with all the answers you need. Keep reading to find out what the parts of a baitcaster reel are and what they do!

We also have some handy buying tips coming up to help you find your new reel with ease, so be sure to stick around. 

Baitcaster reel parts explained.

parts of baitcasting reel
Source: https://biggamelogic.com/fishing/reels/baitcasting/parts/

Let’s get right into it and explore the different parts of the baitcaster reel! As you can see from the image below, the baitcaster is made up of several key components. Each of these components performs a task that allows the baitcaster to cast your line quickly! 

Now that we can see the parts of the baitcaster and where they are, let’s move on to look at them in closer detail, exploring what they do! 


Start with double overhand knot

First up, we have the spool, a vital part of the reel. The spool is where the fishing line is held and stored and is typically housed inside the reel frame. Usually, the spool can open in the middle too. 

One feature that sets a baitcasting reel spool apart is that it rotates when you turn the handle, which puts the spool line onto the reel, allowing you to retrieve your lure.

Here, the spool works differently from spinning reels where a bail arm wraps the line around a non-rotating spool. If you are ever unsure about the reel you have, looking at the spool and how it works is a great way to tell them apart. 

When it comes to your baitcasting reel, mastering its spool rotation is essential. Failing to do so can leave you with all sorts of problems that will ruin your fishing trip! When you cast a baitcasting reel, the weight of the lure will cause your spool to rotate, unwinding the line during the cast. 

But if the spool rotates too quickly, even as the lure slows down and hits the water, it can cause backlash and birds’ nests!

These leave you with a severely tangled line that can take ages to rectify. Don’t worry; we have some tips on how you can control spool rotation coming up below! The best way to avoid backlash, though, is to ensure that your spool is spooled correctly.

If you aren’t sure how to do this, there are plenty of online tutorials you can follow, or be sure to ask an experienced angler for some assistance. 

Reel foot

Fishing with baitcasting reel

Next, we have the reel foot, which sits on the reel, attaching it to the rod. If you have a low-profile baitcaster, the foot will be recessed with the reel body sitting at the top of the rod and not sticking out.

This design makes the reel more ergonomic and is easier to handle during longer fishing periods. 

The baitcaster reel sits on top of the rod facing you (the angler) during the cast. This is different from spinning reels and another great way to tell the reels apart.

Check the reel foot is tightly fastened to the reel socket or reel seat before you start fishing to prevent any disasters! 

Star drag

Star drag

Star drag is another component to be aware of. It sits next to the handle and is a star-shaped knob. You can usually find it between the handle and the reel body in a very convenient place!

You can adjust your drag pressure easily when needed, coming in handy when fighting a strong fish! 

Be mindful of setting your drag system correctly, though. If it is set too loose, the fish will pull the line off your reel quite easily, which can be an issue if you try to steer them away from cover.

Alternatively, if the drag is set too tight, a strong fish could break the line! You must learn how to use and adjust the drag pressure when needed. 

If you need assistance, there are plenty of tutorials online that you can watch or seek the help of more experienced anglers. 

Braking system

Magnetic brakes on baitcasting reel

Your braking system is an essential component to master. It works to help slow down spool rotation when casting and avoid backlash, so be sure to master your braking system when you get your baitcaster! 

With your baitcaster, there are two types of brake systems: centrifugal and magnetic. Most models will come with both braking systems, but older models might only have one or the other.

Be sure to check what your model has before making your purchase! 

Both the centrifugal and magnetic brakes will help slow down spool rotation in the initial part of your cast, helping to avoid backlash. So how do you adjust them?

For centrifugal brakes, you will have to remove the side panel of the reel, and it’s best to do this before you start fishing!

For the beginners in the room, it’s best to set the centrifugal brakes to maximum. Most baitcasters will come with six centrifugal brakes.

Set all of these to maximum by sliding all six into their active position and see how that works. You can always adjust it if need be. 

For those with magnetic brakes, you can usually adjust these externally. There is normally a dial on the side of the frame for you to use, and it’s usually on the opposite side to the handle, but be sure to check on your reel if you are unsure.

You can also use the user manual that came with your baitcasting line to find out more about the parts and how to adjust them

We recommend turning the dial halfway for beginners in the room and testing how that works with your magnetic brakes. From there, you can adjust if need be to find the right speed for you. 

Spool tension knob

Spool tension knob by the handle

Another way to adjust the speed of your spool rotation is with the tension knob. This round knob can be found on the same side as your reel handle and works to slow down the spool rotation toward the end of the cast.

You can expect to use this when the lure is about to hit the water and works to stop pulling the line off the spool. 

So what does it do? The spool tensioner works to adjust the spool rotation speed. Start with your brakes first and then move on to the tensioner for best results. When it comes to your spool tension, you will need to adjust it every time you change a lure.

This is because every lure has a different weight that will perform differently depending on the tension. As soon as you change your lure, adjust the tension for the best results! 

Line guide

What Are The Parts Of A Baitcaster Reel, And What Do They Do? 1

Your line guide helps spool the line onto the baitcaster spool evenly, and it moves back and forth from one end of the spool to the other as you turn the handle.

You will want to thread your line through the line guide before you thread it through the guides of your baitcasting rod

Thumb bar

Thumb release clutch

The thumb bar or clutch releases the line when you cast your lure. When you press the thumb bar down, it puts the reel into the free rotation, disengaging the gears from the spool. 

Now, this can get a little tricky, as you need to press the thumb bar at the precise moment when you want to release the line during the casting process.

Thankfully, it positions your thumb very close to the spool, so you can slow down the spool rotation manually when casting if needed! 

Gear system

Baitcaster reel gears

Your gear system is housed inside the reel body and works to translate the rotation of the handle to the spool.

We have some more information about your gear system and the all-important gear ratio coming up, so be sure to stick around to find out more! 

Reel handle

Baitcaster reel handle with two knobs

The reel handle on a baitcaster is different from those on a spinning reel and has two knobs instead of one. These knobs are generally made from EVA foam or hard plastic.

Usually, the handle is large compared to the size of the reel body.

Baitcasters tend to be built for highly ergonomic handling and comfort of use, especially low-profile baitcasters. They also tend to be lightweight reels, making them ideal for longer fishing periods. 

What should you look for in a baitcaster?

Now that we have covered the parts of a baitcaster, you might be wondering what you should consider when making your purchase.

You should look for some features when making your purchase, and you should also consider the type of fishing you will be doing. 

For example, you want a low-profile and lightweight baitcaster with a fairly high-speed gear ratio if you like to do lure casting for bass.

Ideally, you will want the reel to be made of graphite, ensuring that you get a nice and lightweight reel. 

So let’s take a look at the features you should look for when selecting your baitcaster. We’ve divided it into handy sections for you to navigate with ease. 

Low profile vs. round baitcaster

Low profile vs. round baitcaster

Before we dive in, let’s clear up the differences between low-profile and round baitcasters to help you decide which is the right one for you. 

Low profile baitcasters – have a small spool that nestles on top of the handle of the rod. These models tend to be far lighter than other baitcasters too.

They are ideal for extended periods of casting, making them popular for bass fishing. These reels are known for their comfort and lightweight nature. 

Round baitcasters – tend to be far heavier than low profile baitcasters. They have a round spool that protrudes from the rod, more noticeable than low-profile reels.

The round spool comes with a larger line capacity, making them a great choice for those after long-distance casting, like surf fishing. They work well with stronger pound test lines, making them ideal for catching bigger fish like catfish. 

Consider the type of fishing you want to do and how important the reel’s weight is before deciding. 

Reel material

Catfish caught with baitcasting reel

The material of your reel is also another factor to consider. Usually, baitcasters are made out of two types of material: aluminum or graphite.

Some reels will use one material, whereas others will use a combination of the two.

Be sure to check which material your reel is made of before making your choice. It’s worth noting that aluminum is more durable than graphite but tends to be heavier. 

While graphite is a lighter option, some reports show that graphite reels can break under extreme stress.

This isn’t a common occurrence but one that it’s worth being aware of. This still hasn’t stopped many anglers from choosing graphite, thanks to its lightweight design. 

For those planning to use a baitcaster for saltwater fishing, be sure to look for a strong aluminum reel that has been treated.

You will want a treated reel resistant to saltwater corrosion to ensure the longevity of the reel. 

Gear ratio

Gear ratio on baitcaster reel

Your gear ratio describes how many times the spool rotates when you turn the handle once. We usually see this number displayed as 8.1:1.

The number left of the colon shows how many times the spool rotates for every turn of the handle. So, in this case, the spool rotates 8.1 times when you turn the handle once. 

Baitcasters usually come with higher gear ratios than spinning reels, allowing you to retrieve the line more quickly.

Any gear ratio over seven is considered a fast reel, and fast reels are fantastic for pulling strong fish from cover before getting snagged. 

If you aren’t sure if you need a fast reel, opt for a gear ratio around 7.0:1, as these are viewed as a middle-of-the-range reel.

Slow reels will come with more torque, helping you to fight big and strong fish. This is why big game reels will have two gears, a high gear for retrieving the lure and a low gear for fighting the fish.

These reels are often known as supersized baitcasters

Brake system

Brakes on baitcaster reel

As we mentioned earlier, some older model baitcasters will only have one braking system instead of both centrifugal and magnetic brakes.

It’s best to opt for a baitcaster with both a centrifugal and magnetic brake that you can adjust externally on the side of the reel frame.

Having both offers you the maximum braking effect and the best scope for adjusting the braking system. The combination of these should help avoid backlash while casting. 

Drag force

The drag of a baitcaster allows the line to be pulled off the spool when a strong fish makes a powerful run, helping to avoid line breakage.

The drag power refers to how much weight the drag can hold and still function smoothly. In most cases, a drag force of 7-12 pounds is more than enough. 

Some reels will come with extra powerful drags of up to 25 pounds drag force, which is only needed when battling very big fish. Consider the type of fish you want to catch before settling on a drag force. 

Final thoughts

And there you have it, the parts of a baitcaster reel and what they do!

They can seem a little tricky at first, but once you understand how the parts work, it will become easier, and you will choose the best reel for you!

Be sure to consider the factors we mentioned above and use them to help you find the right baitcasting reel for you. 


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