Casting with Conventional Reels

Whether while sleeping or, heaven forbid, with fish around the boat … we’ve all had the nightmare. We go to cast out, the spool overruns and we are left with the proverbial “bird’s nest.” While, yes, it is horribly embarrassing, especially around other seasoned anglers, it also can kill your chances at getting a bite when fast-moving fish move on.

Some people are so daunted by the idea of casting with a conventional reel that they don’t even bother trying to learn it. Truth is, it’s really not that hard. All it takes to make long-distance casts with these reels is practice, and a desire to get it dialed in. And the way to do this is by applying light, varying amounts of THUMB pressure on the spool as the cast unfurls into the water. Most of the pressure is needed in the initial split second of the cast; once this pressure has been applied, it’s usually OK to back off and just let it flow till the bait or lure hits the water.

The fundamental idea of the conventional reel, especially in these modern times, is a free-spinning spool. In this regard, there are two basic designs that are focused primarily on how the drag is set up. These types include “star drag” and “lever drag.” 

Star drag reels are basically old-school, typical conventional reels. It has that star drag inside the handle that is used to tighten or loosen the drag. With star drag reels, the tightening of the drag tends not to influence the pressure on the spool when it’s free. These reels have only these settings: open and closed. When it’s open, it spins freely; when it’s closed, it does not.

But recently, lever drag reels have captured the market. These reels are more evolved in technology and allow for a lot more control over the speed of the spool. A point worth noting: All two-speed reels are lever drag, but not all lever drag reels are two speed. Two speed reels have a high gear and a low gear that allow the angler to reduce the number of revolutions for each turn of the handle. This is an important evolution in reels and a conversation for another time.

casting conventional reels

In relation to casting these reels, the most important thing you’ll notice is a drag knob (aka bearing tensioner) that allows the user to tighten or loosen the pressure on the spool, thereby slowing down the speed in which it spins freely. By controlling this knob, an angler can pinpoint the perfect amount of pressure for both drag and for casting.

As you start to cast with this kind of reel, you will find that as you tighten this knob, it will overrun less, but, in exchange, your casting distance will suffer. The key here is to pinpoint your perfect pressure amount to where you can cast as far as you like, while still managing to avoid the dreaded overrun backlash.

Over time, with practice, you’ll slowly be able to reduce the pressure on this knob and make more risky casts. Get this dialed in and you will be blown away at how far you can cast a properly weighted bait or jig.

These days, many companies are issuing very small conventional lever drag reels designed specifically for casting jigs and light bait in saltwater situations. Brands like Accurate, Shimano, Okuma and others all have their own version of the modern day jig casting reel. They aren’t cheap, but they can take your casting skills, and your overall fishing, to a whole new level. Next time you’re in the tackle store, be sure to check them out.