Bait Casting 101
Teaching a Skill That Will Last a Lifetime
article and photos by Dan Chason
Idon’t think a person exists who cannot appreciate the excitement of bass fishing. A bass is a very aggressive creature and is not as hard to catch as most think. One of the biggest issues in bass fishing is fishing equipment not suited for the hard pull and violent strikes of a largemouth bass.
I started bass fishing early in life. There was a family in our church who had a private lake stocked with bass, and I was invited to fish it “anytime I wanted.” Most afternoons after chores were completed, you could find this 8-year-old kid on my bicycle with a Zebco 33 strapped to the handlebars, headed to the bass lake with my 11-year-old brother. The bug had bitten me hard to bass fish, after spending a week in southern Georgia with my “Pop” who was a formidable angler. One lure that my Pop had taught me to fish was a pre-rigged Crème worm with two hooks already inserted. You have to remember, I was born the son of a professional perch jerker. I didn’t understand that bass fishing and bream/crappie fishing were very different. But it was a stocked pond, and it didn’t take Roland Martin ability to catch a bass. My brother and I spent a lot of days on that pond and ponds to come. We were competitive, but my brother just didn’t have the knack or patience to stay with it. I would fish until the Alabama sun was well close to the horizon, while my brother would be chunking rocks or whittling sticks with his always-present pocket knife.
I fished with that Zebco 33 well into my teens, when we moved to Louisiana. We graduated to fishing from a boat, when my brother got his driver’s license and spent a lot of time exploring the waters of Spring Bayou or any other lake that had a ramp. Those were some great times, as our Dad knew he had trained us to be safety minded and always let us operate the boat when he was with us. I made lots of friends, when the land owner owned a pond and carried that well into adulthood. I would offer to do some maintenance or offer a mess of fish for the rights to chase my prey. That all changed in 1977, when I met Jon Miller. Jon was my best buddy and loved to fish. We would spend hours after school and work in the waters of Bayou DeSiard and Bussey Brake. Jon fished a bait casting reel, and I hung with my faithful Zebco. That was until I met my first 8 pound bass who stripped my reel clean and got away. It was time to graduate.
I went down to Gene’s Sporting Goods and bought the exact reel that Jon had: An Ambassador 5000C. It was getting dark, as we launched into Bayou DeSiard for our nightly jaunt. After 199 back lashes and having to re-spool with fresh line twice, I finally mastered the bait caster.
Those old bait casters were not a lot of fun. They were as strong as a winch, but compared to today’s models left a lot to be desired. I have taught many anglers how to overcome the dreaded back lash, but honestly never really enjoyed it until this week. That is when I was approached by two of my grandsons, John Thomas and Cade, who asked me to teach them to bass fish. I have to admit, it made my chest poke out a little.
Using a bait casting reel comes down to the basics of physics. First, assure that the rod and reel are matched to the size lure or practice plug used. 3/8 is about the right size, as a heavier lure causes the spool to release faster, causing back lashes. Understanding a back lash or over-spooling means that the spool, is spinning faster than the line can unwind, causing tangles. Here is how to fix it, first time: On the right side of the bait casting reel is the magnetic spool control. This function works by tightening the spool where the magnets inside slow the rate of spin. Take the rod and hold it at the 12 o’clock position. Tighten the spool control down until the lure cannot fall. Mash the release button and hold your thumb on the spool. Slowly loosen the spool control, until the bait/lure/plug SLOWLY falls. Do it a second time, and on the left side of the reel, put the anti-reverse gear on 5 (the middle number). If you change lures, do this procedure again. This is very important. Do not try to cast the lure. Put the lure in your hand, and pitch the lure by swinging the lure as you release the button and POINT your rod at the target. With my grandsons, we put an object out at a distance of 10, 15 then 20 feet. The trick to making this all work is to understand that the force is in the wrist, not the hand or arm.
This method works on all bait casting equipment. Spinning gear is different, but the concept is the same. The pitching method, especially when teaching kids, is a sure way to build confidence and accuracy. The main reason to utilize bait casting gear is the fact that you can have much better accuracy, stay away from getting hung in branches, trees or bushes and most importantly has the gears and ratio to battle a big bass.
Never try to fish a bait casting rig with heavy line, if you are beginner. The heaviest line you should use is 14lb. test. Heavier line is easy to back lash and does not come off of the spool as fast as light line. For the best results, spend a little more money and spool up with fluorocarbon line. It is coated and does not have the tendency to “gum up” or degrade due to use or heat. By all means ,do not use cheap line. It is cheap for a reason.
I will long remember the first day practicing with the boys. The competitive nature of brothers and the mere fact of sharing knowledge and skills to them is something they will carry forever. It goes back to the desire to teach the ones to follow us a skill that will follow them for a lifetime. Feed a boy fish and he eats for today, but teach him to fish and he eats for a lifetime.