Customer to fishing department associate: “I want a spinning reel that doesn’t twist my line.”
Intelligent fishing associate’s answer: “Sorry sir, but there is no such thing.”
And then the customer walked out.
The sad thing is that the associate is correct. There are spinning reels with features that help reduce line twist, but by their fundamental design, line twist is part of the deal. Anytime you wrap any filament around a spool of any sort at a 90 degree angle to said spool’s axis, you will twist said filament. Don’t believe me? Try it with your garden hose wall hanger. If you don’t manually twist the hose as you wrap, it will not cooperate with your desire for nice, smooth wraps.
The problem of line twist can be managed for sure, mostly by avoiding retrieving slack line at all costs and by using one of today’s superlines like Berkley’s NanoFil. Superlines have less torsional rigidity, meaning they are less likely to cause problems when twisted, and they have almost no memory. Most of my spinning reels are spooled with some sort of superline for these reasons, and because I can use much heavier pound test line and still cast it on average sized reels.
However, what if I want to use something like heavy fluorocarbon or monofilament? Or what about heavy lures? Geez, what if I want to operate my reel with only one hand so I can be speedy and efficient? That, my friends, calls for level-wind casting reels!
I know, I know, you tried a casting reel once and got the dreaded backlash right off the bat. On the shelf it went, and out came the spin pole. Or you never even tried one because you‘ve heard the horror stories. Whatever your reason for not using casting gear in some situations, you’re missing out on a very effective tool.
Casting tackle (like any other tool) has its limitations. It’s not good for very light lures or line, and I admit it takes a bit to get proficient with. However, it is very good at presenting heavier lures or heavy line, and since the reel requires only one hand it is very quick cast-to-cast. Lure distance during the cast is also controlled via the thumb, which is the most major key to accuracy, line control, and a subtle water entry. You can feather the lure to stop at the desired point with your thumb on the spool.
The basic concept of a casting reel is that the spool itself spins, allowing line to pay out linearly, rather than at a 90 degree angle like a spinning reel’s stationary spool. This means that it works more like a winch for power and creates no twist which is imperative with heavy line. It also means that if the spool spins even fractionally faster than the lure is pulling line out, you will get a “professional over-run”. But have no fear, the symptom can be controlled.
Any decent casting reel will have a braking system to help control spool speed. Good reels like the Abu Garcia Revo will have two separate systems built in; one for controlling the spool at high rotational speeds, the other at slower speeds. The former utilizes centrifugal force, the latter is a magnetic spool brake. Both are easily adjustable for specific casting strokes and lure weights, respectively.
Let’s say you’re going to learn casting tackle. First, before you cast at all, push the spool release button set the rod down and walk away holding the lure. Walk only as far as you plan to cast, then drop the lure and walk back to the reel. Take a small piece of electrical tape and place it directly on the line where it’s coming off the spool and then reel the line back in on top of it. This will completely eliminate the possibility of a backlash any deeper than the tape. You can screw up as many casts as you want during practice without consequence. Also note that heavier monofilament is easier to learn on (something in the 12-17# range is good) and the same holds true for the lure weight. Make sure that the line and lure weights are within those specified on your rod, which is another way of saying choose your rod to match your intended lure and line weights.
Now set the brakes. The low speed brake is found on the same side of the reel as the handle. Tighten it until the lure won’t fall with the spool released and no thumb pressure on the line, then slowly loosen it until the lure falls to the ground. When correctly set, the lure should hit the ground and the spool should turn about ¼ turn and no more with no thumb pressure. Set the centrifugal brake located on the opposite side from the handle in the middle of its adjustment range. With these starting settings backed up by your tape trick, you can then get the feel for casting.
Begin with lobbing your lure, then work up to a crisper stroke, always focusing on feathering the spool with your thumb. With a little practice, you’ll see that it is not as hard to master as some would have you believe. Once you have a feel for feathering, try pitching underhand or side arm casts. Experiment with how much line is left dangling off the rod tip, too. In short order, you’ll look like a pro. More importantly, you’ll completely avoid line twist and you’ll be quick on the cast!
When do I grab casting gear? Here’s a couple of scenarios; any crankbait, topwater, soft plastic, or jig exceeding 1/4oz in weight, anytime I need fluoro or mono exceeding 12# test, or any time I need big time accuracy, especially at close range. That’s a lot of scenarios!
One word of caution: don’t skimp on your casting reel. That brake system is complex; buying a cheap casting reel can lead to a crappy brake system, which will lead to your frustration. Invest up front and you’ll be happier in the long haul. Want the easy answer? Get a Revo.
Casting gear ain’t just for bassers, it’s for anyone desiring efficiency with heavy tackle. An open mind and a little prep and practice with it will go a long way to advancing your angling!