When curiosity got the better of me, I decided to try baitcasting. Here are some thoughts one season later.

I'd often heard plug makers and baitcasters talk of slowing the lure presentation to catch larger fish. This is especially true when fishing at night. An owner of a well known plug company once told me to retrieve his lures at a rate of 6 ft. per minute. This is difficult to do with a spinning reel, especially large reels designed for long casts. Line memory on spinning reels tend to corkscrew the line when it's limp, losing control of a plug. Spinning reels designed with sufficient drags for large fish retrieve a lot of line per crank of the handle. Baitcasters are easier to slowdown lures when fishing for large stripers.
I knew nothing about baitcasting except they backlashed and that they were used by anglers who consistently talked of catching large stripers. Baitcasting benefits include more control of your lure and longer casts than spinning combos.
First step was the internet to see what reel would be best to learn. Web sites recommend using combos designated for Salmon & Steelheads when targeting Stripers from a kayak or the shore. Smaller combos with lighter line to cast lighter lures and vice versa. I picked a left handed model, the same as my spinning reels. The reel would be for learning and afterwards, with a better understanding, upgrade.

Rod lengths depend on a few factors. Is it long enough to get the line around the bow of the yak while being able to bring the fish next to you for release. Also, it should be strong enough to pull a fish out of obstructions such as rocks, pilings, lobster pots, etc. Add a tip soft enough to feel the lure and, well, rod mfgs. need to make sticks for kayaks! The length of the rod butt may need to be customized (shortened) for comfort with a PFD and proper fit in a rod holder.

After following the reel's instructions, I adjusted the reel to reduce backlash. Learning on land before use in the yak was the plan. The first cast was at the local park and anything but impressive. But it did give an idea of how and when to thumb the spool.

My first massive backlash occurred on the ocean beach while trying to throw a light lure a short distance into bass busting in the surf. It was the first blitz of the year and the excitement of catching the first fish on a baitcaster had my blood pumping. I didn't thumb the spool all the way thru the cast, picking my thumb up for a split second. That was all it took. 35 minutes later, the snarl was out. Two people were there that morning, myself and a living legend sharpie. I laughed and he snickered as he walked away, stalking the fish. He was out of sight when I was done straightening the mess. The backlashes aren't much of a problem now.

As the season continued, I learned the benefits of using the reel and stayed with it. It all came together when catching a personal best while playing a super spook super slow with the baitcaster / 7ft. combo in my kayak. Reeling it in when it turned and ran to me was nerve racking, but my cranking hand was up to the task with the help of adrenaline! I was glad I kept the original small, quick retrieve handle.

Constant attention during the casting sequence was necessary or a backlash will occur. I'd always thought of a casting sequence as starting with throwing the lure. With baitcasting, the sequence starts immediately after the lure hits the water. Keeping line tension while retrieving is paramount or a backlash will occur on the following throw. Knowing where your lure is during the cast is very important. If your spool hasn't stopped before the lure hits the water, well, another backlash. Don't blink. Throwing at night requires thumbing the spool constantly. Make sure your thumb has stopped the spool before you make a move to engage the spool. Ending the cast with the rod in a comfortable position to begin retrieving is helpful.
Don't put too much line on the reel (pictured, 3/16~1/4" clearance). While casting, if the unwinding line touches the reel frame or thumbar, a backlash usually happens. For me, most backlashes occur at the very beginning of the cast or the end of the cast. A smooth motion is very important and will give the farthest and most accurate cast.

Thumbing a spool can create problems. The spool will spin in relation to the line. This creates a loose, soft line core. If the core becomes soft, the outer line will dig in and create a backlash. Be aware of this after fighting a fish. If the reel has a levelwind and the line on the spool don't line up after a cast and before retrieving, the spool has spun in relation to the core line (pictured). The only way to remedy the problem is to let out all the line and rewind tight. Now, I rewind after 4 trips.

Baitcasters require cleaning after every outing with at least a spraydown and wipe dry. If the small moving parts become coated with salt, problems will occur. I still bring a spinning combo as a backup.

If you haven't tried baitcasting, consider it this year. It may increase your number of tows. It did for me.

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