I recently received a baitcasting reel as a gift. Until now I've used spinning reels with light hooks and a minnow to jig for walleye. Can you give me some direction on how to use a baitcaster for my type of fishing? What's the best type and weight of line to use?
As you know, most folks usually use spinning tackle for walleyes, but a baitcaster adds some new dimensions. I am assuming when you say you “jig for walleye,” that you vertically jig over the side of the boat, versus casting long distances.
If that is the case, the baitcaster will work just fine. (On the other hand, as you know, casting light jigs on light line is not what a baitcaster is designed to do. So, I'd use your spinning rod for those duties, and save the baitcaster for vertical jigging, pulling blades and bottom bouncers etc.)
As a general rule, anglers use spinning outfits when fishing with lines up to 10-pound test and baitcasting outfits when using line heavier than 10-pound. However, for vertical jigging over the side of the boat, I wouldn't hesitate to spool the baitcaster with 8-pound test monofilament or fluorocarbon line. An even better option, would spooling the baitcaster with a 12- to 17-pound round braided line like Sufix, Spiderwire or Power Pro. Twelve to 17-pound braid has a diameter comparable to 8- to 10-pound mono. I would also tend to use a brightly coloured line, say yellow or red, since it will help detect strikes. Just remember to add a two-foot-long mono or fluorocarbon leader using back-to-back uni-knots. (See my column in the 2011 Fishing Issue for info on the knot, and using leaders.)
If you use the braid, just remember to first put on a small amount of monofilament backing on your reel. If you try to spool on the braid without backing, the slick line will slip and rotate around the metal spool on your baitcaster. Indeed, it is always best to half-fill a baitcasting reel with cheap mono line and then finish up with the good line you intend to use. The reason is that you'll never be down into your backing, so why waste expensive line down there that you'll never use. Plus, if you use a cheap backing, and fill only the last portion of line with the good stuff, you can extend the life of the line by putting on half now, and the other half in the middle of the season. That way you're always fishing with fresh line.
Also, if you use cheap backing you'll be much more prone to filling your baitcaster all the way up which is the way you want it. Never leave lots of empty space on your reel. You want it fully spooled.
By the way, if you use a 12- to 17-pound round braided line, you'll also double the versatility of your new baitcasting outfit, since you can also use it to pull bottom bouncers and spinner rigs, and troll crankbaits.