Remember the old axiom “casting with a conventional reel takes an educated thumb?” Well, today, less education is necessary due to the high tech reels being produced by top manufactures such as Shimano, Abe Garcia, Pflueger, Davis, Quantum and Zebco. There are so many new features built into these reels that a new vocabulary is necessary just to understand them. All of these companies have been working on the primary problem – the age-old backlash. With a conventional or “bait casting” reel, unlike a spinning reel, the spool spins when cast and if not controlled properly with the “educated thumb” the inertia will keep it spinning at the end of the cast resulting in a backlash, birds nest or “professional overrun”. This negative characteristic has been greatly reduced if not eliminated by some manufacturers. For example, Shimano American Corp. has designed the Total Efficiency Digital Control (TEDC) system on some of its reels, such as the Calcuttas and Calais, that creates a “smart” reel allowing for fast spool speeds while gradually braking at the end of the cast. This helps when making long casts in open water as well as short, accurate casts such as when fishing the mangroves or around piers and docks.
The DC system is self-energizing. It recharges with each cast and does not need a battery. At the beginning of the cast, the energy derived from the rotation of the spool is stored in the Digital Control circuit board built into the reel and powers the Digital Braking system on subsequent casts. The pre-programmed braking patterns allow the spool to achieve maximum velocity before engaging the brake unlike traditional systems that begin braking immediately thereby not allowing the spool to continue acceleration throughout the cast. The braking pattern can also be adjusted for greater distance, accuracy or wind conditions. One problem we all have is casting light surface poppers into a headwind. The W Mode facilitates long casts in windy conditions which is a real breakthrough in technology. After the lure is cast this feature adds or subtracts tension to adjust for the flying position of the lure during the cast. By constantly updating the amount of brake force required due to how the lure acts in the wind, longer casts can be made with fewer backlashes.
The “old” cast control systems rely on magnetic and centrifugal brakes. These are fine and still very much in use but they do have drawbacks. The magnetic systems lack a complete free spool setting because the magnets cannot be shut off. Magnets also apply the same braking force whether the spool is turning fast or slow during the cast. Centrifugal systems solve this problem by applying different forces throughout the cast for consistent spool speed and a longer, more controlled cast.
Regardless of what reel or braking system you choose the chances are that there will be built-in features that will make casting easier for you. I often give on-the-water casting lessons so I am used to digging out backlashes by beginning anglers. On my last fishing trip to the Villa Marina Resort, Panama (www.playavenado.com) I packed Shimano CTE 400 and CTE 700 casting reels, among others, and it didn’t take long before my “students”, the Benji Boyd family, were making long casts with poppers like a pro for roosterfish, yellowfin tuna, bluefin trevally and cubera snapper with very few “professional overruns” to deal with which means more time on the water to fish!
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The Roving Angler