How to Cast a Spinning Reel in 8 Easy Steps

By Sonnox | Fishing Advice

how to cast a spinning reel
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If you are new to fishing and have just gotten your first spinning reel, it is common to have questions on how to set it up and, ultimately, how to cast a spinning reel. While it may look too complex, it is really not as hard as it looks.

Setting up and learning how to cast your new spinning rod and reel can be a tedious and frustrating process. However, once set up, you can be sure that it will enhance your angler skills and give you the ability to catch almost any kind of fish you like.

How to Cast a Spinning Reel

At first, you can expect to take up to 30 minutes to set up a new spinning rod and reel. After you’ve gained some experience, it will go down to just 10 minutes. Below are the eight basic steps you can follow.

Step 1: Gather the Basic Equipment You Will Need

First, you will need to gather all the equipment you’d need, such as the spinning rod, spinning reel, fishing line, hook or lure, scissors, and bait.

1. Spinning Rod

Many times, spinning rods go with a particular spinning reel. Other times, you can mix and match. To be sure, ask a professional fisherman or go to a fishing store and ask the salesman which rod you should purchase or if the rod and reel you have are a good match.

2. Spinning Reel

Then, you should research what kind of reel you need. Choosing a reel for the first time can be a daunting decision. Here are some tips for your consideration:

  • Strength and Weight

Reel bodies are usually made from aluminum, graphite, or both. Aluminum is stronger but heavier and has a smaller level of flex than graphite. Graphite spinning reels are more corrosion-resistant and lighter to hold. Higher-quality freshwater reels are usually made of aluminum.

  • Spinning Reel Size

The size of your spinning reel coincides with the weight of your fishing line. The lighter the line you use, the lighter the reel should be. A 10-pound test line is the heaviest line that should be used on a spinning reel.

A medium-sized spinning reel is ideal for six to eight-pound lines. This is a good weight to catch average-sized smallmouth bass. To ensure that the reel you are purchasing is rated according to the weight of line you want to use, check the line-weight information usually stamped on the side of the spool.

  • Reel Gear Ratio

The spool on a spinning reel is immobile and uses a bail to wrap the line around the spool as you crank the handle. Therefore, the gear ratio is the number of times the bail moves around the spool with every single spin of the reel’s handle.

To understand better, a reel with a four-to-one gear ratio, considered a slow-speed reel, is where the bail moves around the spool four times for every one turn of the reel’s handle. The advantage is it offers more torque for reeling in larger fish. A six-to-one ratio is considered a high-speed spinning reel.

A low-, medium-, or high-speed reel should be considered by the kind of fishing you’re doing. If you are not sure, go with a medium-speed spinning reel. A five-to-one gear ratio should suffice to cover most situations.

  • Drag System

The drag system is in control of applying tension to a fish that has been hooked. The drag lets out line while you are reeling in the fish, so your line does not snap under pressure. A low-quality drag system can result in snapped lines and lost fish. Therefore, be sure to test the drag system of your reel.

While pulling on the line, it should smoothly pull out instead of snap. You can set the tension of the drag depending on your situation. Basically, two types of drag systems are available on reels for you to consider. Depending on the control’s location, they are called front and rear drag systems.

Front drag systems have more drag washers that increase performance and overall durability. Rear drag systems are easier to use, have fewer washers, but offer less resistance while fighting big fish.

  • Ball Bearings

Spinning reels use bushings or ball bearings positioned inside the body. They are placed for support, stability, and smoothness. Many reels also contain a roller bearing, which is found within the line roller.

Generally, the greater the number of bearings a spinning reel has, the better the reel will perform. However, more ball bearings mean more money. So, choosing a spinning reel with more ball bearings is better. You should use a spinning reel with at least four ball bearings.

  • Spools

The spool on your reel plays a significant role. It not only holds the line but also casts your line. You want to aim for a smooth cast at the farthest distance possible.

Most spools are constructed with graphite or anodized aluminum. Aluminum spools provide better rigidity and strength under pressure and are more used for freshwater fishing.

  • Anti-Reverse Handles

Another requirement when choosing your new spinning reel is anti-reverse handles. This special function stops the handle from spinning backward, allowing the hook to set powerfully and accurately. If your spinning reel has any backward motion, it’s advised to choose another model.

3. Fishing Line

You will choose a fishing line based on the size of the fish you plan to catch. A good rule of thumb is to choose a line between six and 10 pounds for a spinning reel.

Remember, the size of your spinning reel coincides with the weight of your fishing line. The lighter the line you intend to use, the lighter the reel should be. To ensure that the reel you are purchasing is rated for the pound-test line you intend to use, check the line capacity information found on the spool of the reel.

4. Hook

The size and type of hook you use will depend on the size and type of fish you want to catch. 4/0 represents the size of a hook. Manufacturers size their hooks on a scale of 1/0 to 6/0. A 4/0 EWG hook is one of the most common hook sizes for bass fishing and is used in many other applications. EWG stands for “extra-wide gap.”

You can use this type of hook for largemouth bass and other fish with wider lips. You can use a standard hook for other types of fish, such as perch and crappy. Wait to tie your hook to your line until after you put your rod together.

how to cast a spinning reel

Step 2: Connect Your Spinning Reel to Your Spinning Rod

This is a pretty simple process. First, find and loosen the reel seat on the rod. Ensure the seat is big enough so that the reel foot can easily slide inside.

Next, place the reel foot into the reel seat and tighten the reel seat. Make sure the spinning reel doesn’t wobble in the reel fastener. If it does, repeat these steps until the reel is sturdy.

Step 3: Spool Your Spinning Reel

Putting the fishing line on the reel is called spooling your reel. Be extra careful when doing this, though, as it can lead to frustration and difficulties if not done properly.

First, open the bail on your spinner. Place the line around the reel once. This should result in two pieces of lines that are still connected around the reel. Next, tie a standard knot with these two pieces of lines.

Tie a second knot with the resulting pieces of line. After that, cut the extra piece of line approximately ¼-inch away from the reel. Close the bail and tightly hold the line a foot away from the reel with your fingers. This will prevent the line from getting tangled while the line is being spun onto the reel. Spin the reel until the desired amount of line is achieved.

The amount of line needed depends on what kind of reel you have, as well as what kind of line you are using. Many reels have a line cap marker on the side telling you the maximum amount of line for that reel.

Step 4: String the Rod

Clutch the tip of the line with one hand while opening the bail with the other hand. Pull the line and string it through each of the rod guides, starting at the bottom guide and ending at the tip. Don’t let go of the line, or it will fall back through the guides.

Step 5: Tie Your Hook and Add any Weights (Sinkers)

If you have never tied a fishing hook before, to learn how to properly tie a hook, it’s best to watch a YouTube video. Several kinds of knots are recommended. If you are fishing in water with a strong current, it might be good to use a heavier weight.

The more weight you add to your line, the farther you can cast a spinning reel. However, if you are fishing on the ground, there are more chances to get stuck on something as you drag your bait under the water.

Step 6: Set the Drag

To tighten the drag, turn the drag knob clockwise on your spinning rod. To loosen, turn the drag knob counterclockwise. Pull the line from your reel to determine how the drag is working. Pretend you are a fish pulling on the line. Keep turning the knob until your drag is set at the desired setting.

It takes experience to determine what to set your drag to. We suggest that you set your drag on the loose side, as setting it too tight can cause the line to break when reeling in a fish. If necessary, you can change the drag while fishing. If you realize the drag is too loose or too tight, simply adjust the knob while reeling in the fish.

If the drag is set too loose, the fish will easily take line from the reel, and the hook will have little tension in the fish's mouth. This will allow the fish to spit the hook out, which is why you must tighten your drag.

While reeling in a bigger fish, note that the fish should be able to take line from the reel. If the drag is set too tight, you will notice the rod bending a lot. Again, if the fish can’t pull any line from your reel, your rod or line can snap from the tension.

Step 7: Casting

To do this, hold the rod with the hand you will reel the line in with. Loosen or pull on your line to allow about one foot of line to hang from the tip of the rod. When you are ready, use one finger on your right hand to hold onto the line against your rod so that the hook doesn’t fall to the ground when you open your bail.

Next, open the bail with your free hand while still holding onto the line with your other hand. If the hook falls to the ground, you are not holding onto the line tight enough. Reel in your line and start over.

Once you got your line securely hanging at about one foot from the tip of your rod, and you have the bail opened, lean the rod backward away from the water. You can either swing your rod from the side to avoid overhead vegetation or wires or position it straight over your head if you have space.

Finally, quickly swing the rod toward your target and release your finger from the line so that it can cast freely from the spinning reel. While casting, be sure to hold onto your rod tightly with your right hand. If not, you might just cast your entire rod and reel into the water!

If your bait lands two feet in front of you, don't worry; just reel it in and try again. It is a part of learning how to cast and happens to the best of us. Keep practicing, and you will master casting in no time!

Step 8: Reel in the Line

After you cast your line to the desired position in the water, you would want to lock your bail again. With your free hand, swing the bail back to a locked position. Now, you are ready to catch a fish! Once ready, reel in your line by turning the spinning handle.

There are many ways that you can reel in your line. You can allow your bait to sit while slowly reeling it in occasionally to reposition it, or you can reel quickly or slowly at a constant speed, or even jerk the bait in fast and slow intervals to move it in the water to attract fish.

There are many variables to this process. Factors that determine what the fish want are the type of bait you are using, the water temperature, the time of day, the weather, many other factors.

When you feel a tug, pull back on your rod to set the hook! How hard you pull depends on what kind of fish you are fishing for. This will come with practice, along with setting your drag and casting your line.

Final Thoughts

Fishing is an entertaining pastime and an awesome family activity! Mastering how to cast a spinning reel will come with practice and more practice! Most importantly, remember to get outside and have fun!

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