How to Remove Backlash from a Baitcaster Reel

Clear the clutter from your baitcaster reel and get your line back in the water with these fishing tips on removing backlash from your fishing reel.

February 26, 2019

The bird’s nest. It’s a fishing problem encountered by most and despised by all. Backlash occurs when your fishing line tangles around the reel, and unwinding all of this mess can be intimidating to even the most experienced angler. Fortunately, there are ways to rid yourself of this casting clutter. Use these fishing Pro Tips to take the headache out of this dilemma and work through baitcaster backlash with ease.


Tournament bass angler and DICK’S Sporting Goods Associate Brendan Conlon says that if your baitcasting reel develops a bird’s nest, there’s no need to stress.

“First thing: don’t panic. It’s going to be alright, we all get them,” he says. “I’ve been fishing for over 20 years; I get backlashes every day.”

Once you’ve analyzed the situation, your next step should be to pull the loose line out of the backlash through the worm guide and toward the eyelets. This can help remove the slack from the mess and give you more room to work.

Next, engage the clutch, or spool release, and begin to find the loops in your reel. Conlon states that you should gently pick and pull at these loops to loosen them up, either with your fingers or with a baitcasting pic.

“When you get to a loop that’s stuck, you just kind of want to gently tug on these loops,” Conlon says.

As you loosen the line, continue to pull the slack through the worm guide.

“You keep tugging and you keep pulling a little bit of line out and you just work your way through it,” Conlon adds. “They all come out relatively easy.”

Once you’ve removed the backlash from your baitcaster reel, your next and final step should be to re-engage the clutch and add tension to the line. Reel the cleared fishing line in and you’re ready to return to fishing.


While you can never guarantee your fishing setup to be bird’s nest-free, there are some precautions you can take to help lessen their prevalence. For one, make sure that your braking system and spool tension knob are set accordingly. If your reel is able to spin freely, more line can come off than needed. Be sure to check that your reel is properly tuned before every fishing trip.

BONUS PRO TIP: For an in-depth look at the various components of your baitcasting reel, be sure to read this Pro Tip on Understanding Baitcasting Reels. If you’re still unsure on making the switch to this reel style, read these tips from professional angler Skeet Reese on overcoming the fear of using baitcasting reels.

Another backlash-prevention tool is to practice as much as possible with your baitcasting reel. Become accustomed to the braking system and train yourself with your thumb to command the line with every cast. Being in control of your rod and reel can be one of the strongest defenses against backlash.

Backlashes can present annoyances to any fisherman, young or old. Use these angling Pro Tips to spend more time pulling monsters from the deep than pulling loops from the reel this fishing season.