Until well into the mid-1970s my dad used an ancient South Bend level wind bait casting reel for just about all of his bass fishing.
I never got the hang of the cursed thing and managed to run fast and far from any such reels for a couple of decades.
Bait casting reels, until recently, were notoriously difficult to use because of backlashes. Bird-nest snarls are formed when the speed of the reel's revolving spool exceeds the rate at which the line is being cast off the spool.
Art Waldon managed to shame me into trying one of his spares one muggy July evening when we were casting around the brackish water edges of the upper Severna and hauling in an occasional largemouth.
To my surprise, the experience was pleasant and almost without a snarl of mono. Tommy Schultz gave me another lesson with one of his spares when we were bassing the tidal Potomac near Port Tobacco a little later in the summer.
So, when I crossed paths with a great price on a Daiwa PS2 with a left-hand retrieve while wandering around last winter's BASS EXPO, I made the plunge. By summer's end it was my most-used bass rig.
Today's bait cast reels are blessed with the addition of magnetic spool braking, which has all but eliminated backlashes. Most models have the magnetic control located on the side plate. The higher you set the control, the less chance of getting a snarl from spool over-run.
Two other improvements that are helping make bait casting reels the top choice of bass anglers are anti-direct drive and a flipping switch. When my dad would hook up with a fighting fish, his reel handles would spin wildly backward and rap his knuckles with authority. Thanks to anti-direct drive, those rappings are history.
The flipping switch is great because it allows the angler to cast worms or jigs into heavy cover from fairly short distances and still allows the fish to run when it takes the bait or lure. When the switch is engaged, the reel is out of gear only when the thumb is on the free spool bar, allowing for instant hook setting.
Another great feature found on these updated reels is increased gear ratio options. Gear ratio is the number of times that the line is wrapped around the spool for each revolution of the handle. A common ratio is 6:1 or 6 spool revolutions for each turn of the handle. The higher speeds (6:1, 8:1, etc.) are great for working certain lures and retrieving quickly, but be careful of fishing too fast.
My Daiwa is fitted with a left-hand handle, but most bait casting reels have right-hand retrieve, which I find a bit of a nuisance after spending all my life casting with the same arm. This means that after casting, I have to switch hands to retrieve.
Granted, this is a small thing and one that I have gradually learned to live comfortably with, but if you're right-handed and have fished with spinning reels all your life, as I had, begin with a left-handed retrieve.
Another new and welcome addition to fishing this year that won me over is braided mono.
In the beginning, I had a difficult time with knots that would hold. The problem, when using the braided line, was that it was difficult to pull the knot tight.
I mentioned this to Berkley's Barry Day during a phone conversation early last summer and he recommended the Palomar knot. Later, he sent me directions to tie a Trilene knot. Both knots solved my problem but I found it extremely important to wet the line well before cinching the knot tight.
Also, I recommend that you take care to keep the wraps from crossing over one another and be sure to leave at least a 1/4 -inch tag end instead of clipping it flush with the knot.