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How to Get Better Casting Distance from Bait Casting Reels

Article and photo by John Strenk, The Reel Tech
As a reel technician, I get lots of customers who are wishing to achieve better casting distance or better “free spool” from their bait casting reels. When I receive the reels, during my troubleshooting, I notice that the reels are not adjusted properly to maximize the casting performance of the reel. The extensive cleaning and proper lubrication the reels are to be given will certainly improve every aspect of the reels performance. A good cleaning and lubrication, coupled with proper adjustments on the reel, will deliver all the desired free spool the customer could want.

How to Get Better Casting Distance from Bait Casting Reels, Reel-Tech, John Strenk,,recipe for a professional overlay
Shown here is the cast control knob on the side of the reel which adjusts the free spool capability of your casting reels.

The common misconception regarding the cast control knob is that if backing off on it is supposed to increase the free spool, the more you back it off, the more freely the spool will spin. This is not the case.

To properly adjust the reel for the most optimum free spool, you need to first depress the thumb bar, or disengage the reel as if you were to make a cast. Place your thumb on the spool. Wiggle your thumb from left to right while depressing on the spool. There will likely be “knocking” sound as you move your thumb left to right. This noise is caused by the ends of the spool shaft knocking against the shims that lay under the bearings inside the side plate on both sides of the reel. Slowly tighten down the cast control knob while moving the spool back and forth with your thumb. The side to side movement of the spool will diminish as you tighten down the cast control knob.

The idea is to tighten to the point where there is just the slightest movement back and forth, you will barely be able to hear any more knocking as you move the spool under your thumb. THIS is the setting where your reel will have its greatest free spool performance. Further adjustments can be made by turning off the centrifugal casting pins on the spool, or turning the magnetic backlash control to the “off” or “0" position.

Further tightening of the cast control knob beyond the optimal point will result in more pressure on the tips of the spool shaft, and slow down the spool. Further loosening of the cast control knob beyond the optimal point will result in the spool knocking back and forth during the cast as the line is coming off of the spool. This will also slow down the spool and adversely affect casting distance.

Give it a try on your reels at home and see what you have been missing.

John Strenk is the owner of The Reel Tech and specializes in expert fishing reel and fishing rod repair, as well as beautiful hand crafted custom fishing rods. John is an avid outdoorsman; fishing and hunting are his passions. He has experience in long range offshore fishing, tournament fishing, freshwater fishing, and everything in between. His love for the gear we use, and his attention to detail shines through in the work he does. He resides in Medford, OR, in the beautiful Rogue Valley with his lovely wife Jennifer.

Visit John’s website and blog or give him a call at 541-324-0346 if you need reel repair or a new fishing rod.

[Editor's Note: Please share with our readers what you know that will enhance the experience of fishing in Northern California or Southern Oregon. What have you learned? Your expertise, no matter where you fish (fresh or saltwater) or what species you target, could be invaluable to other anglers. What not to do is just as important as what to do. Please send your strategies, ideas, tips, techniques and personal experiences to Please include your name and hometown.]

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