Know Your Reels
Your reels are as important to your fishing as the fish you catch.
By Dorothy Philpott
Take the reels off the rods and place them on some newspaper on the kitchen table. Pick each one up, one at a time. Does the reel fit in your hand comfortably? Is it too large?
If the reel feels oversized, consider there are several smaller versions of those larger reels on the market today. The casting reel gear ratios are the same as their big brothers, and are easier for small hands to use. It is true that you can not put as much line on these smaller reels. However, you will fish more comfortably and cast more accurately if the reel fits your hand.
If you're like me, gear ratios were a bit confusing in the beginning. To explain it simply, the higher the ratio, the faster the retrieve of the bait becomes without racing the handle on the reel and wrenching your wrist.
The higher gear ratio reels are excellent if you are fishing a Rat-L-Trap in summer and fall. This is a time when the bass want faster moving baits. Lower gear ratio reels require less effort when fishing deep-diving crankbaits. The most often used gear ratios are 5.3 and 6.0 to 1. This means the spool turns 5.3 times every time you turn the handle of the reel 360 degrees (one time).
Setting the tension (drag) of the line on the reel is easy to do. Spinning reels are the simplest to adjust. Merely tighten or loosen the screw top holding the spool in place. The more you tighten, the harder it is to pull line off the spool when the bail is closed. Remember, the fish will fight against the line, so don't tighten the drag to the point where the line can easily break.
Before you tighten the drag, be sure to check the anti-reverse switch located at the bottom of the spinning reel. The switch stops the reel handle from going backward. When the handle goes backward, it allows the line to come off the spool. Some people use this switch when fighting fish rather than relying on the drag.
With spinning reels, you can change the handle to the right or left side by simply unscrewing and removing the handle from the reel. Unscrew the cap cover from the right side, place the handle in the opposing slot, and screw the cap cover into the left side. Be sure to check the cap cover from time to time, as they can become loose. It's very difficult to fish without a handle on your reel.
Casting reels have a star drag that looks like a wheel on the right hand side, attached to the handle. Turn the star clockwise and it tightens the line. Counter clockwise turns will of course loosen the line. If the line is too loose, you may not get the fish you catch into the boat.
Before you start fishing your chosen rig, check the drag system. Even though you may have checked it the night before, check it again before fishing. Sometimes the drag will be frozen. If not corrected, it can cost you a fish. Before making your first cast, put a finger or thumb on the line in the spool, holding it still, and turn the reel handle a little. This will loosen the reel for you first cast.
Under the star drag on the face of the reel, is a cast control knob. If you turn this knob counter clockwise it will loosen the spool and increase the distance of your cast by allowing the line to flow out through the guides on your rod more quickly. Be careful not to loosen this setting too much or you may have a large professional overrun (bird's nest) while trying to cast out your bait. Adjust this knob each time you change the type of bait you're fishing because some baits are heavier and pull the line out faster than others.
Have your reels cleaned at least once a year by a professional reel person. They can detect and repair any problems for you and keep the reels in good working condition.
By now you know which reels are the best for you. Put the rest in the garage sale and use the money for purchasing similar models. And don't forget, when in the store, put the new rod and reel together while there to make sure they are balanced correctly. I usually place my index finger about 1/4-inch down from the top of the rod handle and see if the combination of rod and reel remain level. If it does not I will select a different rod or reel.
Investigate the smaller selections of rods and reels available. I recommend the Pinnacle models. These can be found readily in most tackle shops. Good fishing and may your next bass be a large one.