How to Throw a Baitcasting Reel
Baitcasting reels backlash when the reel spins faster than the line gets out of the reel. If you can minimize backlashes, you can maximize your efficiency and your enjoyment of the sport. There are several factors that can cause backlashes. Here I will discuss each.
Reel too loose
In my article on how to tweak a baitcasting reel, I discuss setting the brakes and tension adjustment. If you don't have enough brakes out (usually at least 2 for beginners), you will probably backlash on the first cast. So make sure you have at least 2 brakes out before attempting to make your first cast. If your reel has a dial instead of brakes, move it to the highest brake setting.
Also, tighten the tension adjustment so that your bait doesn't fall fast. Most brakes will be set good from the factory. But they will often need the tension adjustment (under the star) and the drag (the star) tightened.
Bait too light
Baitcasting reels are difficult to throw light baits. If you are a beginner, I recommend starting with something that weighs at least a half ounce and working your way down to lighter weights. Also, the denser the bait, the easier it will cast. If you throw something that catches a lot of wind, you will probably backlash. So tie something on that you could throw a long way by hand. Something that throws like a potato chip wouldn't be a good choice.
Rod too heavy
A rod with some flex will help you get your bait out without backlashing. Broomstick rods (heavy action) are much harder to throw lighter baits than medium action rods. If you do use a heavy action rod, leaving more line out (like 2 feet) will help you to cast it better.
Against the wind
If you throw against a heavy wind it will slow your bait down. If your reel spins fast, but your bait doesn't get carried; a backlash will probably result. Avoid throwing against the wind until you get experienced. Once you gain experience, you can ride your thumb on your reel as you go against the wind.
Releasing too late
A large percentage of clients that hire a guide have little or no experience throwing a baitcasting reel. In fact, in a busy year I may teach a hundred people how to throw a baitcaster. Suffice it to say, I've taught a bunch of people to throw a baitcaster. So I've seen what works and doesn't work for most people. As a general rule, most people have a tendency to release too late. This will cause a backlash, because the bait stops when it hits the water - but the reel keeps spinning.
I've found that women and children are easier to teach than men. This is because men aren't as good at listening and taking instructions. I can usually get women and children to throw without a backlash on the first cast. Men are more likely to throw it too hard and let it go too late, because they fail to take my advice until after things go wrong.
Throwing a Baitcaster
Once you have a half ounce weight on a rod with a little flex with a reel that has the brakes set right and you are facing down wind, do this:
Push the release button and (while holding the spool with your thumb) take your rod over your shoulder as far as you can go (I recommend both hands). If you are in a boat, your bait should be inches from the water. Now pick a spot in the sky directly above you. Here's where men don't listen. Since your tendency will be to let it go too late, you want to think of your target as straight over your head. If you can release early enough to try to throw straight over your head, your bait may not hit the water before you can put your thumb on it to stop the spool. If you don't think "straight up", you will almost certainly let go too late and your bait will hit the water and you will backlash before you can stop it. So, try to cast it to the sky. As soon as the bait hits the water (which will happen a lot sooner than you expect), you want to put your thumb back on the spool to stop it from spinning. If you are a woman or child, keep repeating the process until you get the timing down. For men, lets hope you didn't try to throw it too hard and your backlash will come out. Once you get your backlash out, keep repeating the process until you are throwing it naturally. Eventually, you will get the timing down and it won't seem like you are throwing at the sky.
Aiming for the sky was just to keep you from backlashing. Once you get your timing down and you aren't backlashing, work on the follow-through. Like a golf swing or a tennis swing, you want to follow-through with the swing. When your bait hits the water, you should be pointing towards it. You will get further casts with a good follow-through.
Once you get the timing down and the follow-through, you want to work on casting with just your wrist. Pretend that you have a belt tightened around you that is keeping your elbow secured next to your waist. Continue to go all the way back and aim for the sky, but this time don't let your elbow get away from your waist. You should be able to get good long casts without using your shoulders.
Overhand casting is good because usually there aren't obstructions keeping you from throwing overhand from a boat. But if you are able, there are other casting techniques that have other advantages (like accuracy and less splash). One is a side-arm cast. You would do this just like the overhand cast only you are parallel with the water. You will probably tend to release too late, so you will want to aim accordingly. Other methods of casting are pitching and flipping. See my article on how to pitch a lure.