Learning to Fish With Center Pin Reels

by Zach Lazzari
Center pin fishing is ideal on large salmon and steelhead rivers.

Center pin fishing is ideal on large salmon and steelhead rivers.

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The center pin reel is used for big river fishing. The reel design is unique because the standard drag system is absent. The spool sits on a spindle and rotates freely. Learning to fish with the reel requires special attention to controlling the reel as it free spools. The center pin is designed for dead drift fishing techniques and is common for steelhead and salmon fishing in the Northwestern and Great Lakes regions. Center pin fishing is unique and the techniques require practice to be effective on the water.

Items you will need

  • Hoop targets
  • Center pin reel
  • Float
  • Split shot
  • Yarn egg
Step 1

Place round hoop targets at 50 and 100 yards in an open grassy area. Practice casting the line in one lobbing motion to hit the targets. You must place your palm on the reel and apply pressure to stop the line and hit the target. After numerous attempts you will hone the timing and begin striking close to the targets. The casting motion closely resembles the motion used for casting a spin rod. Slowly swing the rig behind your body and throw it forward to engage the cast.

Step 2

Rig the center pin system with a float, split shot and yarn egg. Adjust the depth to place the egg immediately above the river bottom. Salmon and steelhead hold tight to the bottom and the system is only effective if the egg is within striking range.

Step 3

Cast the line at a slight upstream angle but focus on working across and down the river. Begin at the top of a run and work downstream until you have fished the entire run. Casting across river allows the current to pull the line downstream at an even rate. Casting at a sharp angle puts a bend in the line and pulls at a rate faster than the current.

Step 4

Control the lure's drift on the river by casting to a likely run and allowing the the reel to spool downstream. Stop the drift by applying pressure to the reel with your palm.

Step 5

Keep your fingers clear of the reel handle when a fish strikes. The handle spins quickly and will cause an injury. Palm the bottom of the reel to slow the spinning until you can safely grab the handle and play the fish. Palming entails a cupping motion on the bottom of the reel arbor. Adjust the pressure on the reel to adjust the pressure on the fish. Your palm essentially functions as a drag system.

Tips & Warnings

  • Be patient while learning to use the center pin system. The fast spinning spool often causes panic and anglers are injured while attempting to grab the handle. The spool is built to spin quickly and you must use your palm to control the speed of the spinning.

Photo Credits

  • Photos.com/AbleStock.com/Getty Images