Why Won’t My Baitcaster Reel In? [Solved]

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Written By Russ Egan

Russ is a professional fisherman with over 20 years of experience. He has fished all over the world for more than two decades, primarily for saltwater game fish but also for local trophy fish. Russ comprehensively tests and reviews all his fishing gear to help others achieve their own fishing goals. There is nothing he prefers than heading down to his local tackle store, buying the latest fishing reel, and taking it to the water to test.


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If your baitcaster won’t reel in, it could be due to several issues such as a broken spool, line twist, overfilling the spool, corrosion, faulty anti-reverse, incorrect lubrication, or improper setting of the brakes or drag.

baitcaster reel bird nest

Broken Spool

My baitcasting reel first stopped reeling in one sunny day on the lake. I was puzzled, but then I realized, the spool was cracked. The spool, the part of your baitcaster that holds the line, can become damaged due to stress or poor maintenance. This is a common problem.

You may need a replacement if you see physical signs of damage like cracks or dents.

Line Twist

The next time my baitcaster stopped working, I had line twist to blame. It happens when the line on the spool is wound incorrectly, causing it to twist and knot.

The best way to fix this is to remove the twisted line, straighten it, and re-spool it. Alternatively, you could use a spinning reel which tends to be less susceptible to this issue.

Make sure you use a line spooling machine that accounts for line twist to spool your fishing line properly.

Too Much Line

A third issue I ran into was overloading my baitcaster with too much line. This can cause the line to spill over and jam, preventing the reel from working correctly. Ensure you’re not overfilling your spool – an optimal fill is about 1/8 inch from the rim.

Loose line can often catch underneath the spool between the body, which can be difficult to see.


Rust and corrosion once plagued my beloved baitcaster after a saltwater fishing trip. Salt, sand, and even air can lead to corrosion, especially if your reel is not properly cleaned after each use.

You can prevent this by washing your reel with fresh water and using corrosion-resistant oil after each use.


Anti-reverse is another tricky aspect of baitcasting reel problems. It prevents the handle from spinning backward. One day, I noticed my reel wasn’t reeling in because the anti-reverse malfunctioned. A broken or jammed anti-reverse mechanism can prevent the handle from turning, making it seem like the reel is not working.

This often happens when you get a brand new reel and can’t find the anti-reverse switch (happened to me just recently!).

Grease and Oil

Lubrication is vital for the smooth operation of your baitcaster. There was a time when my reel’s action felt sluggish, and the reason was poor lubrication. Regular maintenance with grease and oil keeps the gearing and other moving parts working smoothly.

Lack of it, or using the wrong kind, can cause parts to jam or wear out prematurely.

too much grease in a spinning reel

Setting the Brakes

Not setting the brakes correctly was yet another issue I faced. The brakes control how fast the spool spins when you cast. If set incorrectly, the spool can overrun when you cast, causing a backlash or ‘bird’s nest’ that makes reeling in impossible.

Adjust the brakes so that the lure falls slowly when released.

When to adjust the brake or spool tension knob on a baitcasting reel

Setting the Drag

Finally, the drag tension might be why your baitcaster won’t reel in. I learned this when I struggled to reel in a hefty fish. The drag lets the line out when a fish pulls hard, preventing breakage. If it’s set too high, you won’t be able to reel in. Adjust it so the line can be pulled out with a firm, steady pull.

From line twists to drag settings, each issue I’ve faced has taught me more about the intricate workings of my baitcaster, making me a better angler. These hands-on experiences have enabled me to fix these common problems and better understand my gear.

Maintaining Your Baitcaster

Prevention is always better than cure, and your baitcaster is no exception. Regular maintenance, like proper cleaning and lubrication, can save you from most of the abovementioned problems. Don’t wait for your baitcaster to stop working to give it the necessary care.

Clean your reel thoroughly after every fishing trip, especially if you’ve been in saltwater. Use a soft brush to remove sand or any debris stuck in the parts. Dry it properly before storing to avoid any rust or corrosion.

Lubricate your reel with the appropriate oil and grease to keep the gears running smoothly. Pay attention to all moving parts including the handle, spool, and drag system.

Check the line regularly for any signs of damage or twisting. Replace it if necessary. Remember, an overfilled spool can be just as problematic as a damaged line.

Regularly check the spool, handle, and other parts for any signs of physical damage. A cracked or broken part can lead to serious performance issues or render your reel unusable.

Final Thoughts

Every angler comes across a time when their trusted baitcaster refuses to reel in. It’s a frustrating experience, but knowing how to diagnose and fix the problem can make a big difference.

From my own encounters with these problems, I’ve found that understanding your equipment is key to solving any issue. So, the next time your baitcaster gives you a tough time, instead of wondering “why won’t my baitcaster reel in”, you’ll know exactly where to look and what to do.

Remember, regular maintenance and proper care go a long way in ensuring the longevity and performance of your baitcasting reel.

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