Baitcaster Birds Nest: What is it and How to Prevent it?

Baitcasters are some of the most popular fishing reels, as they offer superior control and accuracy over the lure and where it lands. The winching nature of the gears in a baitcaster reel provides a lot more torque, which gives anglers and fishermen more power to reel in fish, and unlike spinning reels, the line is not twisted in a baitcaster reel.

Baitcaster Birds Nest

However, people are unsure about purchasing this fishing reel as it is prone to form a bird’s nest or a backlash. This article will talk about backlash, why it happens, and how to fix and prevent it from happening in the future.


What is a Baitcaster Bird’s Nest or Backlash?

Baitcaster bird’s nest happens because the spool is overrun when you cast a lure. The spool starts rotating when you release the clutch, and your line gets cast. However, sometimes, the spool spins too fast, and the line doesn’t peel fast enough, leading to the nesting of the line in the reel, which is known as a bird’s nest or backlash.

If the end of the line where the lure is attached is not moving as fast as the spool is throwing out the line, the wire starts bunching up inside the reel leading to a severely tangled mess.

A backlash can happen for many reasons. Some might be related to the settings you have on the tension knob, the drag control, and the brake control of the reel, while other times, it might be due to environmental factors you can’t control.

A bird’s nest or backlash can happen both before casting the line and after casting it. When this happens before the fishing line is cast, it is usually because beginners or inexperienced anglers haven’t gotten used to a baitcasting reel.

They will load up the reel for long distances without adjusting the various controls and setting in the fishing rod leading to an inevitable backlash.

Moreover, a bird’s nest is a more common occurrence towards the end of a cast. When the lure hits the water on its target, it slows down and will eventually stop, but the spool can still be spinning, leading to a backlash.

This is the reason why many anglers stick to spinning reels. They don’t want to deal with such a scenario every single time.

However, with a few tweaks and a little bit of practice, you can prevent the frequency of a bird’s nest forming on your reel, and we will also teach you how to remove it from a baitcaster reel.

Components of a baitcasting reel

1.   Spool

The spool is housed inside the baitcaster reel and is open in the middle. One differentiating factor of the reel is that the spool spins when you rotate the handle as opposed to a stationary spool in a spinning reel which has a bail arm wrapped around the spool.

Also Read: How to Spool a Baitcasting Reel: A Beginner’s Guide

2.   Reel foot

The reel is attached to the rod by the reel foot, providing balance and support. A baitcaster reel is mounted on the top of the rod, facing the angler, while a spinning reel is attached to the bottom of the rod.

As the reel is mounted on the top of the rod, it makes baitcasters very easy to handle for an extended period.

3.   The drag control

The drag control is located right beside the handle. It is also known as a star drag due to its star-like shape. Suppose you’re fighting a powerful fish; if you have loose drag control, the fish can very quickly pull the line off your reel, allowing it to find cover which might snag your line in some obstacle.

On the other hand, if your drag control is too tight, you run the risk of snapping your fishing rod in half and getting pulled into the water yourself if it is an especially strong and powerful fish.

So you need to find the sweet spot in between, depending on the type of fish, where the drag control doesn’t have too much to give but at the same time isn’t wholly rigid to ensure you catch the fish.

4.   Braking system

The braking system is an essential part of the baitcaster reel as it allows to slow down the rotation of the spool to prevent a backlash. There are two types of braking systems; centrifugal and magnetic.

To use the centrifugal brakes, you have to remove the side panel and slide all the centrifugal brakes into active positions. It is recommended you do this before casting the line.

While the magnetic braking system usually has a dial located on the reel frame, which can be adjusted on the go.

5.   Tension knob

The tension knob is the second way to adjust the rotation of the spool. This is also located on the same side as the handle, close to the star drag.

The spool tensioners work more on the last part of the cast when the lure is about to hit the water. They prevent a bird’s nest from forming by slowing down the rotation of the spool.

You should start by adjusting the braking system first and then move on to the tensioners.

Moreover, as lures vary in size and weight, adjusting the tensioners will change. So, keep in mind to fine-tune the tensioners whenever you change lures.

6.   Clutch

The thumb bar or clutch releases the line when you’re ready to cast the line. After the clutch is pressed, it causes the spool to spin freely by disengaging all the gears from the spool.

More info: What are the parts of a baitcaster reel, and how to use them?

How to avoid a backlash?

We will now learn how to set up a baitcaster to avoid a bird’s nest and cast a baitcaster without forming a backlash. It is essential to know how to control the spool’s rotation speed when you cast the lure to prevent this from happening.

1.   Use the centrifugal brakes

Set all the centrifugal brakes in their active positions if you’re a beginner. This will reduce the distance you can cast your line, but it will prevent a bird’s nest from forming before the line is even cast.

2.   Magnetic brakes

Usually, most baitcaster reels come with both centrifugal and magnetic brakes. You can set the magnetic brakes at half capacity to gauge if it’s suitable for you, and then you can make adjustments if needed.

3.   Spool tension knob

This is the second way to control the rotation of the spool. There is a simple way to test if you’ve set the correct tension or not. Tie a lure to the end of your line and hang it in the air. Now, press the clutch bar to disengage the gears; this will cause the lure to drop down and hit the ground.

If you’ve set the correct tension on the knob, the spool will not spin after the lure hits the ground and stops. Adjust the tensioners if the spool keeps rotating even after the line hits the ground until the rotation stops.

How to fix a bird’s nest

Untangling a bird’s nest can be a headache for inexperienced anglers who don’t know how to thumb a baitcaster properly.

If you get a backlash, you mustn’t pull on it too hard as it might make it tighter and lead to your line breaking off if the knots are especially nasty.

Here are some tips you should follow to help unravel the knots in your spool and get back to fishing in no time.

Tighten down the star drag on the reel, push your thumb down, and apply pressure on the spool as you turn the handle.

If you want to run the knots underneath your thumb to untangle them, do it for all of the knots. After that, pull on the line and give it a test run to see if the knots come undone. Keep clearing the line till all of the affected parts are out. When you’re sure, all of it is out, place the line between your fingers and reel it back while applying pressure on the line.

This is how you untangle a backlash quickly without any tools.


1.   What type of line to use in baitcasters?

You should spool your reel with a monofilament line, as braided lines are unforgiving, and a backlash with braided lines is notorious and almost impossible to remove.

Since braided lines are made with multiple synthetic fibers woven together, the bird’s nest that forms in these lines is very pesky and a pain to deal with.

2.   Is backlash avoidable entirely?

No, at some point, you are going to suffer from backlash. Even pro anglers do at some point. It’s not about getting rid of them but knowing how to fix them when they happen and reducing their frequency of occurrence.


We hope this article helped you understand why backlash or a bird’s nest forms and how to prevent it from happening. You now know what to do when your baitcaster suffers from a backlash.

It can be very discouraging for beginners if their baitcaster keeps birdnesting, but it all boils down to practice and tuning your kit properly to manage them effectively.

As always, stay safe on the waters and have happy fishing.


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