The Baitcasting Rod

June 29, 2008

Years ago after wearing out more spincast reels than I could afford to replace in a summer, I took the leap to a Penn Peerless baitcasting reel. The best you could say about this model is that it was durable. The angler’s thumb provided the only override protection, so a year of backlashes followed, with dramatically reduced fishing success.

But I hung in there with the heavy rod and eventually mastered the technique – as long as it was a large bait, tossed downwind, without obstructing tree branches. Then after a month of guiding I bought two modern reels. One, a Diawa Millionaire, was actually a very good, smoothly-casting reel. But I used the Shimano Bantam whenever I could, even though it was a backlash machine. I just liked the thing better. Finally the factory refused to rebuild it any more and I was reduced to casting with the Diawa. Its worn bearings made a plaintive screech throughout each short cast.

Finally my fishing partner Tony had had enough. “Next week I’m going to Fishing Buddies. They’re having a close-out sale, and I’m going to buy you a decent reel. Do you want the large size like that Diawa, or the smaller one like the Shimano?” I chose the smaller size.

Next week Tony arrived with a sparkling new Shimano Calcutta 150. He’d spent the week picking the rig out, and was confident that it would be a good match for my fishing style. Then I saw the bill, gaped, and reached for my cheque book. Before long I took a second mortgage and added a St. Croix 5 ½ foot heavy duty casting rod.

The St. Croix rod was deadly accurate around trees, and the reel provided excellent control, though with enough backlashes to keep it interesting. The new rig instantly tripled my fish output, which put a strain upon the partnership.

Up until now Tony could always lob out long casts with his spinning rig and bring fish to the boat, regardless of my positioning tactics. Now the jibes began about my carpet bombing the area with casts, fishing with the boat perpendicular to the shoreline so that the bow man would catch all of the fish, and of course setting hooks so viciously that on one occasion when the line snapped I had whipped his head and back a little with the rebounding graphite rod before it shattered in the bottom of the boat. Of course everyone heard the tale of the 2 ½ pound bass with which I had clobbered him after a too-enthusiastic hook set. I admit the fish flew quite a long distance through the air that time.

That was when I was young with strong wrists.

Not surprisingly, Tony and I took to fishing together from separate boats, and this had gone on for several years until all of the sudden Tony’s Princecraft was in the shop for some work as opening day approached.

Out we went in my Springbok from the dock at Indian Lake Marina, as usual undecided as to which side of Scott Island to fish. We wandered across Clear Lake, through the Elbow, and out into the middle of Newboro.

I spotted a rocky cliff line which often produces well. Tony said he had never caught a fish there. I explained how it’s usually only good for north winds, but on a calm day like this we might be all right. I quickly put three bass into the live well. No action yet from Tony, except for a few little ones.

As the mist turned to a sprinkle, we moved down to Miller’s Bay, and he gave me precise directions to find some submerged stumps in the middle. No fish. More work along a shoreline produced nothing. Hmm. “They don’t seem to be under the trees except in that one area we fished first.” The rain continued.

“Let’s try just up ahead. ” Tony lobbed a long one out into the middle, latched onto a solid fish, and battled it in that exaggerated way guys do when using spinning rods. Into the well went a very nice largemouth.

Then he suggested we try a small clump of brush further out into the middle of the bay. I moved the boat over to within casting distance, then laid my camo-coloured worm into a clear spot. Strike! I hauled back to set the hook and suddenly the fish ripped the rod from my hands and yanked it overboard. Tony stabbed futilely after the receding line, but he couldn’t reach it.

“We’re in nine feet of water.” Tony could see the depth finder from his seat. I dug into a locker for a dimly-remembered anchor. Out came a ten pound cast iron mushroom, not the ideal dragging hook, but worth a try. Four casts later the deck of the boat was covered with mud and the rod was still gone.

“We’ll have to come back with Sean’s anchor. It has flukes,” Tony offered.

I gave up. “Can you get the mud off this one so I can put it away?” He dipped, and came up with some white line.

“I think I’ve got it.” Then he hauled in line, hand over hand. He grinned, “If you land this fish you’ll really have a story for the paper.” He handed me the muddy rod. With delight I wound up the line. Fortunately the fish had thrown the hook in the same spasm which had yanked the rod overboard. Otherwise the rod would have been in Crosby by now.

I was very, very glad to get that rod back. Now all I have to do is put up with endless suggestions about wrist straps to help me hold onto my equipment.

UPDATE: July 3, 2008. It’s been a long time since I have had that Shimano Calcutta apart for a cleaning. I had forgotten about the brake weights, and was surprised to find that it had only two of the six engaged, and that they were quite worn. When I reassembled the reel I slipped all six out of their snapped-in storage position, but quickly put it back to two of the six weights because casting effort was too high with more weights in operation.

The following day my friend Tom took me fishing and he was becoming frustrated with his brand new Shimano 250, left hand model. Out of curiosity I took it apart and found that he had none of the brake weights operating: he was trying to cast with just the brake adjustment knob turned tight and his thumb. Things improved dramatically when the thing was properly set up.

So if your new bait reel doesn’t work well, check and see if its brake weights are really in operation.



2 Responses to “The Baitcasting Rod”

  1. You’re a lucky guy getting that back!

    I tell ya what, I absolutely love my Baitcasting Shimano Reels – I bought one and had it for years. Liked it so much that I ended up getting a second!

  2. rodcros Says:


    Over the years I have added a 50 and a 250 to complete the set.


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