I have seen quite a few questions on web sites and forums lately which ask the question “how do I use a baitrunner reel?”. Having read the answers on quite a few of them, I still wouldn’t know the answer had I not already used one for years. So I am going to try to explain it in easy to understand language. In fact, let’s start with a history lesson. Let’s call it the days before baitrunners. That take us back to when I started out fishing, so quite a while back! If you were float fishing in those days, then you had to watch that float all day. Regardless of the sun light shining in your eyes, if you missed a bite that you had been waiting for all day, then tough. And don’t they always happen just as you take a bite out of your sandwich or you are in the middle of pouring out a cup of coffee from your Thermos?
Of course if you are float fishing, then the bites may come in a little more often depending on your quarry. So all may not be lost. Let’s say however that you are carp fishing on a hard lake where you may have to wait a few hours for a bite. And let’s say you are not float fishing but you are ledgering against the edge of a a lily pad. Now if you get a bite, you need to know quickly so that the carp doesn’t take your bait straight through the lily pads and tangle you before you even know about it.
Well, if you close the bail arm, the fish will feel resistance as soon as it starts to take the bait, if you leave the bail arm open then if there is any more than a breath of wind, you will find a tangle of line when you go to strike. And so we developed the bolt rig. Now, with the bail arm closed, as soon as the fish feels resistance, it will panic and try to make a run for it, or to bolt, but will hopefully in doing so, hook itself against the tension of the weight.
So imagine now an open bail arm, line tearing off uncontrollably and the subsequent tangle. Or alternatively, bail arm closed, reel spinning fast backwards as the carp pulls line from the reel. At best, you grab it in time, at worst, with a big carp, your rod and reel end up in the water behind the fish. Then there is the one thing we really don’t want to happen, the line breaks leaving a fish with a rig in its mouth.
Solution? Enter the baitrunner. The baitrunner reel gives us the best of all worlds. With most reels of this type, if you look at the very rear of the reel, you will see a knurled wheel. This is the usual drag setting. Just above that, there will be a lever which locks forwards and backwards. It’s actually very useful when setting up your rods and this is a good time to try it out. As you feed line up through the rod rings, leave the bail arm closed and push the lever forwards. Now your line will pull easily from the reel with just a little resistance and without tangling and springing off of the spool.
Once you have threaded your line push the lever back again and it will lock everything up tight again. There are two ways to do this, either push the lever backwards or turn the reel handle. This will also have the effect of closing the baitrunner mechanism.
Now set up your rigs, bait up and cast out as normal. When you have you baits in position, place your rod in rests or on the pod and reel in just enough to tension the line slightly. Set up any alarms and swingers you are using and then push the baitrunner switch forwards again.
Now, when you get a take, the fish can run with the bait, hopefully having hooked itself if you are using a bolt rig, it will feel very little tension but enough to control the line coming off of the reel. Your alarm will be screaming away but your reel won’t be churning backwards. As you strike, flick the bait runner back to re-engage it or reel in a quarter turn and you are straight away in contact with your fish. And hopefully, your personal best is on its way to the net.
Good luck. And remember, landing nets and unhooking mats ready first.