Parts Of A Baitcasting Reel Explained (Inc Diagram)

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If you are new to fishing, one of the most confusing things can be figuring out what all of the different parts of a fishing reel are. What is even more confusing is the fact that there are a few different types of fishing reels that you may come into contact with. One very common type of fishing reel that is often used by professional anglers is the baitcasting reel which has a lot of cool, and essential features. 

Today we are going to take a deep look into the various integral parts of a baitcasting fishing reel and what they do. Some of the components we will be discussing today include the foot and seat with drag control, the tension knob, the cast control knob, the handle, and more. There are quite a few important components on a baitcasting reel that you need to know about, so let’s get to it.


Parts Of A Baitcasting Reel: Helpful Guide

parts of a baitcasting reel

Let’s not waste any more time and take an in depth look at all of the most important components that you will find on your average baitcasting fishing reel.

Foot (& Seat)

The first component of the baitcasting reel that you need to know about is the foot.

The foot is the point where the rest of the reel attaches to the rod, and is shaped rectangularly, which fits into the frame on the rod, into the rod holder to be exact.

It is very important that the foot fits properly into the rod’s frame, so that it can deal with the pressures and impacts created by casting and retrieving.

Unlike a spinning reel, where the reel is fixed to the bottom of the rod, on a baitcasting reel, the foot and the rest of the reel are fixed to the top of the rod.

The other component to consider here is the reel seat, which is the component on the rod that holds the reel in place.

Generally speaking, this features a threaded keeper, or in other words, a circular component that can be loosened or tightened.

Making sure that the reel seat and the reel foot match up, in order to create a secure fit, is very important.

Always make sure that everything is tight before casting.

Drag Control

Yet another very important component on any baitcasting reel is the drag control, which can be a round knob, but may also be in the shape of a triangle, starfish, or any other such shape.

This drag control knob is usually always located close to the cast control knobs and the tension control knobs.

What is interesting to note is that just like with the brakes, the cast control knob, and the tension knob, the drag control is another aspect of a baitcasting reel that can help to control backlash, particularly when it comes to retrieving a fish.

Setting the proper drag level is very important when you are fighting a fish. Drag refers to how hard you have to pull on the fishing line in order to make it come off the spool while you are retrieving a fish.

So, when the fishing reel’s spool is locked so that it can only retrieve line instead of letting it go, if you have the drag set to 10 pounds, it means that a fish would have to exert 11 pounds of force in the other direction in order to cause line to come off the spool.

This is important because if you don’t use drag properly when a fish is hooked and fighting you, it may cause the line to snap.

Setting the drag high enough so that the fish has to fight, but not so high that the line will snap if it fights too hard, is a balance that you need to strike.

Simply put, it allows fish to pull a bit of line off the spool without snapping the line.

On the other hand, if the drag is not set high enough, a fish could pull so much line off the spool that it can cause issues with backlash.

baitcaster reel and rod


One very unique component that you will find on a baitcasting reel is the brake, or the brakes.

This is a very important feature that helps to control backlash when casting and retrieving. Backlash happens when the spool does not slow down its movement fast enough during the later parts of a cast, or when there is a lot of wind and your lure does not fly far enough in comparison to how fast the line is coming off the spool.

This problem of backlash is one of the main reasons why many newbies choose to stay away from using baitcasting reels.

These reel breaks are located on the side of the reel, which is designed so that an angler can easily access it during a cast.

It’s all about being able to slow down the initial spool speed to control that backlash. There are actually two separate braking components here.

Where is the initial brake, which is a lot larger and more adjustable, and there’s the deceleration brake, which is much smaller.

Keep in mind that there are two types of brakes that can be used here, which include centrifugal and magnetic brakes.

Centrifugal brakes are cheaper, but magnetic ones are easier to operate. This is why they are often the reel brake type of choice.

Centrifugal brakes use a variety of blocks located inside of a ring designed to reduce or increase friction, which means that the brake force is directly proportional to the square of the speed of the spool on the reel.

On the other hand, magnetic brakes use a series of electromagnetic forces and various moving magnets to slow down the speed of the spool.

Thumb Bar

The thumb bar is yet another crucial component of the baitcasting reel, one that is closely related to the spool.

The thumb bar is like a button that is located on the top of the spool. The thumb bar has to be pressed down on when you cast.

The point of the thumb bar is to unlock the spool so that it can spin and release line.

If you don’t press the thumb bar right as you cast, the line will not come off of the spool.

This is another reason why many beginners prefer starting with spinning reels, because the precise timing required to hit that button at the right time to make line come off the spool properly is no easy task.

This is something that can take quite a bit of practice to master.


The next baitcasting reel component that plays a very important role is the handle itself, which is of course the part of the reel that you turn in order to retrieve that lure, and hopefully a fish on it too.

How fast the spool will spin when the handle is turned depends on the size of the gears and the gear ratio which the reel in question features.

Most handles come complete with two points to hold them, one for the forefinger and one for the thumb.

Generally speaking, these will be made out of aluminum, although higher end reels will use reinforced metal.


Another very important component of the baitcasting reel is the spool, which is what actually holds the fishing line.

Unlike a spinning reel where the spool moves up and down, on a baitcasting reel, the whole spool actually spins in a circle.

Due to this special design, the spool of a baitcasting reel can handle a lot more pressure, thus making them better for larger lures, heavier lines, and bigger fish.

If you happen to be jigging and dragging lures across the bottom, it will pay to have a durable spool that can handle a good bit of punishment.

That being said, actually putting the line and affixing it to the spool of a baitcaster reel takes a good bit of practice, and if you don’t do it right, especially when it comes to tying the knot, it can cause serious issues.

Cast Control Knob AKA The Clutch

Closely related to the brakes of a baitcasting reel is the cast control knob or cast control system.

Ok, so whereas the brakes are designed to control the initial spool speed during a cast, the cast control knob or knobs are designed to adjust the speed of the line coming off of the spool, which therefore not only helps to control backlash, but can also help adjust the casting distance.

Whether there is one knob or several will depend on the model in question, as they can differ from one to another, but more often than not, this cast control knob is located right beside the handle of the reel.

These knobs can be adjusted to account for specific lures. These knobs generally come in shapes and colors that match the reel itself, and may even be interchangeable.

Just like with the breaks, turning the knob contraclockwise for a certain amount of time will allow you to remove this cast control knob.

Spool Tensioner & Spool Tensioner Knob

The spool tensioner and the tensioner knob are usually located on the bottom of the baitcasting reel’s body, and the point of it is to make sure that the spool stays secured to the body of the reel, and so that the line can move freely off of the spool.

Keep in mind that the spool tensioner knob is generally a bit smaller than the cast control knob, so don’t mix the two up.

It is recommended that you use a heavy lure or sinker to test the current tension on the spool, and then make adjustments as necessary.

This is extremely important to do if you want to avoid that horrible problem of baitcasting backlash.

Make sure that the sinker hits the bottom of the water without extra line coming off the spool once the lure hits the bottom.

Line Guide

The final component that we want to take a look at is the line guide, which is a little section right on the front of the baitcasting reel that controls the movement of the line.

In other words, it makes sure that the line casts and retrieves smoothly, and moreover so that the line is properly respooled during retrieval.

It is very important that the line does not spool or unspool irregularly because this can cause friction, line breakage, backlash, and line knotting.

This line guide shifts back and forth as the line is spooled or unspooled. The line guide moves in conjunction with the handle of the reel as it is turned.



What Is The Thing On The Side Of The Baitcaster?

Unfortunately, we cannot be more precise with our answer here because the simple reality is that the thing on the side of your baitcasting reel could be the handle, the tension control knob, the drag control knob, the brakes, or anything else of this sort. There are many things located on the side of a baitcasting reel.

How does a Baitcasting Fishing Reel Work?

In all reality, a baitcasting reel is very simple. When you go to cast, right when the rod reaches the right angle (the exact angle you choose to release the line at depends on the casting distance you hope to achieve), you have to press the thumb bar.

You must hold the thumb bar for the duration of the cast in order to allow the line to come off the spool.

Once the cast is complete, let go of the thumb bar, and then use the handle to reel in the lure, and hopefully a fish.

Of course, you do also need to master adjusting the brakes, the drag, the tension, and the cast control knob to match your style of fishing.

What do the dials on my Baitcaster do?

The dials on a baitcaster are parts of the various components that we talked about above, or in other words, they control the spool speed, the drag, and more.


There you have it folks, everything that you need to know about the vital components on a baitcasting reel.

Now that you know what these components are, you will be much more adept at successfully using a baitcasting reel.

Image credits;

User:xxrevsxx, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Wapster @ Flickr CC.

Jason Downs

I created Fishtackly to share my 30 years of fishing experience and knowledge with others with the aim to help, and hopefully get more people involved and educated in this fantastic hobby that I love.