August 4, 2016

How to Remove Backlash from a Baitcaster

Knowing how to remove backlash from a baitcaster is a critical angler skill. Learn these tricks to make doing so easier.

There are a lot of great videos and how-to's on getting backlash out of a baitcaster, but they all fail to address very important aspects regarding different scenarios.

I cover them all!

How to Remove Backlash from a Baitcaster


Why use a baitcaster?

I have solid arguments in this article: You Need to Start Using a Baitcaster

Why do some anglers fear baitcasters?

Baitcasters can be intimidating because of the dreaded backlash. Also referred to as a bird's nest, rat's nest or professional overrun, backlash can take a baitcasting reel out of commission and rain on an angler's parade pretty fast.

Backlash is a fact of life when using baitcasting reels, much like breakdowns are with cars. Knowing how to remove backlash from a baitcaster and getting operable again is key to maximizing the superior lure control of a baitcaster.

What causes backlash?

Backlash is the result of the spool turning faster than line can leave the spool.

This occurs when the lure, as it flies through the air, is met with resistance causing it to slow down. Resistance includes things like the wind or hitting a solid object.

Because the lure stops or slows down it is no longer pulling line off the spool, though the spool is still turning. The line then piles up at the line guide and wraps around the spool, creating a "bird's nest."

Other things can contribute to backlash such as "sticky" fishing line (braid can be bad about this) and fishing line that is not smoothly and evenly packed onto the spool.

Of course, inexperience is the leading cause of backlash. Chances are that if you are reading this then you can spend some time practicing.

How do we get backlash out of a baitcaster?

There are a few different ways and it mostly depends on what kind of line you are using.

Start by pulling it out.

With the thumb bar depressed and your thumb on the spool, pull line off of the spool until all of the backlash is out.

Pull line out to clear backlash from baitcaster

If that does not solve your problem then continue reading.

Pull out the tag ends.

Backlash can be alleviated by simply reeling while your thumb is firmly pressed onto the spool. This will push tag ends off the running end of the line and make it possible to finish pulling the backlash out.

Note You may have to tighten your drag for this to work effectively, just be sure to return your drag to its original setting before casting.

Reel in with your thum on the spool to clear birds nest
What are tag ends?

They are loops of line wrapped around the running end of your line (the fishing line trying to leave the reel and go down the rod). You want to remove the tag ends by pulling them and effectively untangling the backlash.

Knowledge Bomb The secret in picking out backlash is picking out the tag ends.

Break out the Tweezers

The above mentioned techniques work great in how to get backlash out of a baitcaster. However, they work best for stiffer line such as monofilament and fluorocarbon.

Braided line is flimsier and folds back on itself more tightly than either mono or fluoro. Pulling on it can make it worse as the line cuts into itself on the spool, making it even more difficult to pick out the backlash.

Use Tweezers to clear out baitcaster backlash copy

There are also other tools you can use in lieu of tweezers. There are crochet needles, dental picks and some tackle stores sell actual line detanglers that are really just dental picks.

I use tweezers. Who doesn't have a set of tweezers laying around somewhere?

Reel it back in and cast back out.

I would consider this an advanced technique.

Some backlash is so minimal that it can pull itself out by simply casting again.

You will know when you can do this because you have spent a lot of time using your specific baitcasting setup and even more time throwing baitcasters in general.

If you are not sure when to do this then chances are you need more experience. That means more fishing trips! Hooray!


Thanks for reading on how to remove backlash from a baitcaster. I hope it helps you Fish Smarter and enjoy your fishing trips!

Captain Devin

About the Author

Devin is a former fishing guide and lifelong inshore angler. He founded Louisiana Fishing Blog in 2012 to share his ideas as a charter captain and still writes in it today. Since then he's created a fishing university — LAFB Elite — where he teaches inshore anglers how to safely navigate Louisiana's coast and catch more fish.

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  • That’s a great piece of advice that really ought to be included in this guide. Thanks for commenting, Ron. I have no idea how you came across this but I am glad you did.

    Tight lines!

  • Devin, I’m a Registered Maine Guide and former tournament fisherman. He’s a simply trick to prevent most backlash. Cast out a far as you’d ever expect to, put a piece of scotch tape across the entire spool of line, rewind and your good to go. Works great, won’t interfere and you’ll soon forget its there.

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