Fishing with Capt. Gus: Bait casting reels work best with light line

Published 12:00 am Friday, January 19, 2007

The ever popular spinning reel works best in open water with light line and a small lure.

When fishing brush piles, stump fields, rocky bottoms and boat docks, a bait casting reel loaded with 12 to 20 pound test is recommended.

A beginner’s experience with a bait casting reel often results in total frustration. Backlashes, tangles, hang ups and missed fish opportunities are all part of the learning process. Practice makes perfect, so cast and cast some more until you master the revolving spool reel. You will eventually be rewarded for your efforts by a higher degree of casting accuracy and lots of reel power to retrieve large baits and trophy fish.

For the first-time bait caster, an ideal outfit is a 6-to-7-foot casting rod and a lightweight, medium priced casting reel, loaded with 17- pound test monofilament line.

A dock, open field or lawn is a perfect place to learn to cast.

Tie a 3/8-ounce practice plug (hookless) to the line and allow it to hang four to six inches from the rod tip. Adjust the knob under the star drag located on the side plate. The plug should barely pull line. Right handed anglers should hold the rod with the reel handle facing upward at a slight angle. Left handers, tilt the reel handle downward. Place the thumb of your casting hand lightly against the side of the spool; bring the rod back to the 2 o’clock position and then cast immediately forward without stopping. When the rod tip is at 11 o’clock, release your thumb to allow the cast. As the lure moves toward the target, avoid the chance of a backlash by applying light pressure on the line with your thumb. Then, apply more thumb pressure to stop the spool as the bait hits the water.

If your first cast produces a backlash, untangle it and try again. Before attempting another cast, tighten the tension knob slightly. In the beginning, don’t concern yourself with distance.

As your competence level improves, loosen the knob ever so slightly until the practice plug can be thrown a reasonable distance and with some degree of accuracy. You will then be ready to replace the practice plug with a lure and begin fishing. Use lures that provide little wind resistance and weigh slightly more than those you would use with spinning tackle. Casting with the wind minimizes backlashes. Effortless casts with no backlashes are usually achieved after several fishing trips and thousands of casts.

When frustrated, place your new bait casting outfit aside and go back to your old spinning reel. The next time you use the bait caster, you will notice an improvement. Distance and accuracy should improve with each fishing trip.

When all else fails, go back to the tackle shop where the outfit was purchased. Store personnel can usually coach you through most casting problems.

Upcoming events: On Jan. 17, at 6:30 p.m. Capt. Gus Gustafson will be at the Bass Pro Shops, Concord Mills Mall, to teach folks how to catch white perch. For fast action and good eating, the schooling white perch is hard to beat. This 90-minute seminar is free and open to the public. Call 704-979-2200 for more information.

n The Lake Norman Striper Swipers Open Winter Classic Tournament is scheduled for Saturday, Jan. 27. Guaranteed first place prize is $1,500. This biggest one-day striper fishing event of the season will be at Queen’s Landing, N.C. 150 in Mooresville. For more information, visit or call Tommy Messick at 704-634-6410.

n Lake Norman fishing guides Capt. Craig Price and Mac Byrum will conduct a seminar on “How to catch LKN Stripers and Catfish” at Gander Mountain, Exit 36, Mooresville, on Saturday, Feb. 3, at 3 p.m. This 90-minute discussion is free and open to the public. Call 704-658-0827 for more information.

Fishing tips: Casting is a function of timing and finesse, not power. Let your wrist do the work; the less arm and elbow movement, the better.

Recent hot spot: Bass and striper reports are coming from both sides of the N.C. 150 Bridge. A lot of activity is in Mountain Creek to the south, and in Rocky Creek a mile, or so, north of the bridge. Bass are along the steeper banks. Stripers are chasing baitfish in water 20 to 40 feet deep. The lake level is 98.9 or 1.1 feet below full pond and the water surface temperature is in the mid 50s.


Visit or call Gus Gustafson at 704-489-0763, or e-mail him at