What Are The Parts Of A Baitcaster Reel, And What Do They Do?

Have you recently purchased a baitcaster and have no idea what the different parts of the reel do?

Perhaps you need to make adjustments but don’t know where to start? Or maybe you are considering purchasing a baitcaster and aren’t sure if it's right for you? 

Have you recently purchased a baitcaster and have no idea what the different parts of the reel do?

Perhaps you need to make adjustments but don’t know where to start? Or maybe you are considering purchasing a baitcaster and aren’t sure if it's right for you? 

Have you recently purchased a baitcaster and have no idea what the different parts of the reel do?

Perhaps you need to make adjustments but don’t know where to start? Or maybe you are considering purchasing a baitcaster and aren’t sure if it's right for you? 

Whatever your reason might be, we have the answer for you!

We know how difficult it can be to find your perfect rod and how much harder it is to adjust it too!

With so many different components and features, you can quickly become overwhelmed and unsure how best to use your rod. 

Before you know it, your new baitcaster is gathering dust in the corner of the room. 

Well, no more! Today we are here to help! Keep reading to find out what the different parts of a baitcaster reel are and their uses.

We have also included some helpful features to consider when purchasing your baitcaster so you can become an expert and buy your new rod today. 

Baitcaster Reel Parts Explained

To help you understand your baitcaster reel better, let's take a closer look at the different parts of the reel and what they do.

The reel can seem complicated, but once you understand the different components, it becomes far easier! 


First, we have the spool located inside the reel frame and is open in the middle. The spool rotates while you turn the handle, one of the key features of a baitcasting reel. 

So what does it do? The spool serves the line on the reel and helps you retrieve your lure. 

It's different from the spinning reels, where a bail arm wraps a line around a spool that doesn’t rotate.

Looking at the spool and how it works is often an easy way to differentiate between spinning and baitcast reels. 

The spool is an essential part of the reel that you will need to master. When you cast a baitcasting reel, the weight of your lure will cause the spool to rotate, unwinding the line during the cast.

This can cause issues, especially when it comes to controlling the speed of this unwinding! 

If your spool rotates too quickly, even after the lure slows down and hits the water, you can end up with backlash and a bird's nest.

Not good! Thankfully there are a few ways to control your spool rotation, the main being to spool a baitcaster line correctly, and doing so can help avoid backlash and ensure that you enjoy your fishing experience. 

Reel Foot

The reel foot attaches your baitcasting reel to the rood. In low-profile baitcasters, the foot is recessed, leaving the reel body to nestle on top of the rod without sticking out.

Doing so allows for an ergonomic reel that is easy to handle, even when you are casting for long periods. 

Star Drag

Next, we have the star drag, which is located next to the handle of the rod. It's a star-shaped knob that sits between the handle and the reel body (hence its name) and is responsible for the drag control of your line. 

It's placed in a convenient location and is super easy to use. You can adjust the drag pressure where necessary, which comes in handy when fighting a strong fish! 

You must adjust your drag pressure where necessary when fishing. It's worth checking the pressure before you cast your line to avoid any disasters while you are trying to enjoy yourself!

If the drag system is too loose, for example, fish will be able to pull the line off your reel easily. On the other hand, if the pressure is too tight, a strong fish could break the line if there’s too much pressure. 

Take some time to familiarize yourself with your drag system and ensure that you have the right pressure for the task at hand. 

Braking System 

Next, we have the braking system. Often people find themselves wondering what the brake does on a baitcaster.

The essential feature works to slow down spool rotation when casting to help you avoid the backlash we mentioned earlier! 

Braking systems for baitcaster come in two different types: magnetic and centrifugal.

These days, baitcasters come with both options allowing you to slow down the spool rotation when you initially cast your line. 

To adjust your magnetic brakes, use the external dial on the side of the frame. It will be on the opposite side to the handle of your reel, and it should be easy enough to adjust.

For beginners, we recommend that you turn the dial roughly halfway and test it. 

If that works for you, great. If not, you can continue to adjust the brakes by turning the dial until you find the right setting for you. 

To adjust centrifugal brakes, you will need to remove the side panel of the reel. It's best to do this before you start fishing; otherwise, you can end up creating more work for yourself!

For beginners, try setting your centrifugal brakes to maximum. 

Usually, baitcasters have six centrifugal brakes, and to set them all to six, you will need to slide them into their active position. 

Spool Tension Knob

Here we have another component that can adjust the speed of spool rotation. The spool tension knob is a round knob located on the same side as the reel handle.

This works differently from the brakes by slowing down the spool rotation near the end of the cast. It works just as the lure is about to hit the water and stops pulling the line off the spool. 

The spool tension knob's role is to fine-tune the spool rotation speed, so you should adjust the brakes first and then the spool tensioner.

It's worth noting that different lures will perform thanks to their different weights. Every time you change a lure, you will need to re-adjust the spool tension to ensure it works properly. 

Line Guide 

Your line guide works to ensure the line is spooled onto the spool evenly. It moves back and forth from one end to the other as you turn the handle.

You will need to thread the line through the line guide before you thread it through the guides on your baitcasting rod.

Beginners might find it useful to watch some online tutorials before attempting to do it themselves.

Clutch (Thumb Bar)

The clutch, or thumb bar, is used to release your line when you cast your lure. Your reel will be put into free rotation by pressing the thumb bar down, and the gears will be disengaged from the spool. 

So when do you press the thumb bar? Well, you will want to do it at the exact moment you want to release your line when casting.

Thankfully doing so positions your thumb close to the spool, making it easier to slow down spool rotation manually during the cast if needed. 

Gear System

Your gear system is in the inside of the reel body. Their job is to translate the rotation of the handle into the rotation of the spool, allowing the line to move with ease. 

Reel Handle

The reel handle on a baitcaster differs from a spinning reel as it has two knobs instead of one. Usually, these handles are quite large compared to the reel body and will feature knobs made of either ergonomic EVA foam or hard plastic. 

When it comes to ergonomic handling and comfortable use, a baitcaster is the best option, especially low-profile baitcasters.

These lightweight reels will sit on the top of the rod handle, and the large knobs are easy and comfortable to hold. Even if you are out all day, you should find them comfortable! 

And there you have it, all the parts of the baitcaster reel and their function! Once you have explored your baitcaster and played around with these features, you are sure to understand the rod more.

You should also find that it's easier to use, and when you make the adjustments, your performance should improve! 

For those looking for a new baitcaster or their first rod, let's look at what you should be keeping an eye out for! 

What to Look for in a Baitcaster?

When purchasing a baitcaster, you will want to look at its parts and performance to see if they will work for your intended uses.

For example, if you plan to lure cast for bass, you will want a low-profile baitcaster with a high-speed gear ratio and made of a durable material like graphite. 

But for other fishing, you might want to opt for heavier aluminum instead.

To help you narrow your search, we have a list of the main features you should look for when purchasing your baitcaster.

These are relevant to the parts we have just looked at and should help you determine what you need from your new baitcasting rod! 

Low Profile vs. Round Baitcaster - What's The Difference?

First, you will need to choose between a low-profile or round baitcaster. If you don’t know the difference between the two, we have included a brief description below for you to use. 

Low-profile baitcasters are built with comfort in mind! These are lightweight and will feature a small spool that sits on top of the rod’s handle.

These models tend to be lighter than other baitcasters, making them ideal for long hours of casting. Typically, these are used for bass fishing. 

Round baitcasters feature a large spool that will stick out from the rod more than low profile reels helping you tell the two apart. Round baitcasters tend to be heavier and come with a much bigger line capacity.

These rods are well suited to long-distance catching, like surf fishing, and can help you catch bigger fish like catfish. 


Baitcasters are typically made from two types of materials, graphite or aluminum. Some of these reels use both materials, just in different proportions.

It's worth noting that while aluminum is more durable than graphite, it is heavier, and you should consider the weight of these materials when making your choice. 

Some reports of graphite baitcasting reels can break under extreme stress, but these reports are few and far between! As graphite is lighter than aluminum, it's the perfect choice for those casting for long periods. 

For those using baitcasters for saltwater fishing, opt for strong aluminum reels. Look out for reels that have been treated with saltwater corrosion resistance.

This will ensure that your reel lasts and doesn’t end up damaged and in need of replacing after a few uses!

Gear Ratio

The gear ratio shows how many times the spool rotates when you turn the handle once. You will see the numbers presented like 6.1:1.

The first number tells you how many times the spool rotates every turn the handle makes. So a 6.1:1 ratio means the spool rotates 6.1 times when the handle is turned once. 

Baitcasters tend to have higher gear ratios than spinning reels, allowing you to retrieve the line more quickly. As a rule of thumb, any gear ratio higher than seven is considered to be fast. 

Fast reels allow you to pull strong fish away before they can get snagged. If you usually fish with strong fish, then you will want a higher rate than seven.

For those that aren’t sure if they need that kind of speed, opt for a gear ratio around 7.0.1 as this is considered middle of the range. 

This speed doesn’t mean we should rule out slower reels, though! They will have more torque that can be helpful when you are fighting big and strong fish.

This is why big game reels (essential super-sized baitcasters) will have two gears. You will have a high gear for retrieving the lure and a low gear for fighting the fish.

If you usually fight with big and strong fish, you might want to consider a big game reel instead. 

Brake System

As we mentioned earlier, newer baitcaster models will come with both a centrifugal and magnetic brake system. Older models will tend just to have one of these two systems.

We think it's best to look for a newer model that offers both brake systems, allowing you to adjust the brakes externally using a dial on the side of the frame. 

Both systems allow you to maximize your braking effect and offer you fantastic scope for adjusting your braking system if you want to avoid backlash during your casting. 

Drag Force

Finally, drag force is a feature to keep your eye out for. The drag of a baitcaster allows the line to be pulled off the spool when a strong fish makes a powerful run. This can help avoid line breakage! The drag power will tell you how much weight the drag can hold and still function properly. 

In most cases, a drag force of 7-12lbs is plenty. You will see other reels available with up to 25lbs of drag force! These are worth considering if you are planning on battling very big fish; otherwise, the extra force isn’t needed. 

Final Word

And there you have it, all the different parts of a baitcaster and how they work! Hopefully, you can use this to understand better how a baitcaster works and buy the right rod for you.

Remember to use our factors to consider sections to help narrow your choices when searching and finding your new rod today!

Don’t forget to check out online tutorials if you encounter issues when setting up or adjusting your reel!