Centerpin Fishing For Beginners – 20 Steps

Centerpin Fishing For Beginners

I have been one of the top Centerpin fishing guides for over 14 years and I have been Centerpin fishing for over 30 years. Consider me your online river guide and I will teach you how to Centerpin fish as I do with all my clients.

Centerpin fishing is one of the most productive ways to catch steelhead in rivers. Centerpin fishing uses extra long rods and a Centerpin reel which has no drag and looks like a fly reel. Centerpin fishing allows the angler to present a float and the bait to the fish better than any other method.

I will give you a step-by-step process for learning Centerpin fishing and I will provide you with the 3 most important things every Centerpin angler needs to know and learn when Centerpin fishing. Even anglers that have been fishing for years don’t do these 3 things well and I know this because I have taught and guided thousands of anglers how to fish better.

I have also added some Bonus Tips that most Centerpin anglers wished they knew, so watch for them below.

Centerpin fishing can be the most effective way to catch Steelhead, Salmon, and even Trout in rivers, and it’s actually very easy once you get the hang of it.

What Is Centerpin Fishing?

Centerpin Fishing For Beginners
The Centerpin reel and the reward of using it right.

Centerpin Fishing is a method of fishing with a float (also known as a bobber) in a river using a specialized reel called a Centerpin reel and a very long and fairly light rod.

Centerpin fishing has become very popular with steelhead and salmon anglers around the great lakes region and on the west coast. Even some guys fishing the bigger trout rivers are now using a Centerpin with great success.

Centerpin fishing is rumored to have actually started in Europe where carp anglers designed a round reel with no drag so that the current or even the wind would allow their bait to move freely through the water once they set their rod down to wait for a bite. Once the reel started to spin faster they knew that a fish was on the line.

In the great lakes region, it is believed that the first anglers started fishing Centerpin reels for steelhead on Lake Ontario rivers around the 1980s.

Why Centerpin Fish?

Centerpin Fishing Tips and Advice
Guide Graham with one of over a dozen steelhead caught this day.

If you are reading the Centerpin fishing for beginners page then you might be asking yourself why Centerpin fish?

I guide and fish with both a Centerpin and with spinning reels when float fishing, and because I am proficient at both I can honestly say that when it comes to drifting a bait under a float in a river you can not beat the Centerpin reel 95% of the time.

The reason Centerpin fishing is growing so fast is because of how effective and fun it is. With a Centerpin reel, you can get a more controlled and smoother presentation, make much longer drifts, and have fewer line problems with a properly set up Centerpin reel.

The Centerpin Reel

My guide Centerpin rods all ready to go.
My guide Centerpin rods rigged and ready to go.

The Centerpin reel is a large rounded spool reel that is usually between 4″ and 5 inches in diameter and the spool sits on a single pin (or post) in the middle of the base. The Spool uses very high-quality bearings that allow it to spin freely around the pin and there is normally no drag.

Some reels may also use bushings instead of bearings but I do not recommend them unless there is something wrong with your fingers that you cant control the speed of the reel.

Many reels are ported, meaning they have holes in them to reduce the weight. There a number of good reels available that range from $150 to over $1000.00 dollars. See the page on the 5 Best Centerpin Reels.

How To Set Up A Centerpin Reel?

Left Hand or Right Hand – If you are going to do Centerpin fishing then you might as well start the right way.

Centerpin reels are made to go both forward and backward so you can use them for right-handed retrieve or left-handed retrieve without any adjustment or switched or handle changes.

Just know which way you should be reeling before you put the line on because once the line goes on you can’t change from left to right unless you take all the line off and reapply it.

How you determine which is the best hand for you is simple, don’t do it wrong or you struggle with leaning even more. I see many angler loose fish, have poor hook sets and simply have a hard time with Centerpin fishing because they are trying to reel with the wrong hand.

My simple rule is that if you are right-handed you should reel with your left hand, and if you are left-handed you should reel with your right hand.

That might sound weird but think about it this way. If you are right-handed, 90% of your fishing should be done with your right hand which means holding your rod with your right, controlling the speed of the reel and working the reel with your right hand, setting the hook with your right hand, and fighting the fish which should all be done with your dominant right hand, and your left hand (I call it my dumb hand) only needs to reel the line it. It’s as simple as that.

It makes no sense to set the hook with your weak and slow arm or fight large fish with that same weak arm. The non-dominant hand just needs to go round and round and the dominant hand does everything else.

To me, trying to learn how to work and control a Centerpin reel with your non-dominant hand is like trying to learn how to play darts with your non-dominant hand, you could do it but why would you?

Put the reel on the rod on the proper side when spooling up your line so you don’t accidentally put it on the wrong way. The line should always go on and off the bottom of the reel as seen in the picture.

Most Centerpin reels will hold well over 1200 feet of line so most anglers add a backing line on the reel before adding the mainline. I mostly use 8 pound Raven Mainline for great lakes steelhead. Some conditions and some rivers might require a heavier or a lighter line. Check out my page What Pound Line Is Best For Centerpin Fishing

This backing is a line that is either made from a cheap mono or a braid or a Dacron line and is mostly used as a filler so you can buy a typical 200 to 330-yard spool and just add that to the backing. Many anglers will use fly line backing. You want to fill about half the spool with the backing.

The backing that I like to use is the Cortland backing from

Once the backing is on you want to add a good mainline that is suitable for Centerpin fishing like Raven Mainline. See our page on 5 Best Centerpin Lines. You want to add the mainline to only about 1/8th of an inch from the gap of the spool and the base of the reel. If you add too much the line can get in behind the spool and get trapped.

If you don’t fill the spool up enough it may make casting more difficult especially if you use the side cast, and the more line you have on the spool the larger the surface diameter of the spool is so the uptake of the line is a bit faster.

The Centerpin Rod

Centerpin Fishing requires different rods than other methods do. The Centerpin rod is an important part of the whole set up. Most Centerpin rods are between 11 and 13 feet long. The added length allows you to keep the line off the water for longer and the longer rod acts like a giant shock absorber to protect your light leader on the hook set and while playing the fish.

If you are planning on Centerpin Fishing smaller rivers of 10 to 20 feet wide or rivers with lots of trees and brush to walk through a shorter 11-foot rod might be best. For Centerpin Fishing all other rivers a 13-foot Centerpin rod is best. For Centerpin fishing and for guiding I use a 13-foot Centerpin rod for both small and large rivers.

It’s not recommended to use a regular rod designed for spinning reels since the reel seat may not be in the right spot or it may not be designed to hold the Centerpin reel properly. You are better off the look for an actual Centerpin rod if you want to do Centerpin fishing the right way.

There are two types of rod handles. One is a fixed seat handle with a similar reel seat as you find on a spinning rod and the other is called a sliding rings handle as seen in the picture above. A sliding rings handle allows you to place the reel in different positions along the handle for the most comfortable positioning.

I have been Centerpin fishing for just over 30 years and guiding for over 20 years so I have had the opportunity to use just about all the top Centerpin rods as well as many of the cheaper rods on the market.

Some Centerpin rods are perfect, some may be too stiff, and some so whippy that you can’t set the hook properly. You don’t want to go fish a hug river like the Niagara and make a 200-foot drift and try to set the hook with a soft whippy rod. You also don’t want to be fishing small rivers that require close hook sets with a really stiff rod or you may be breaking fish off on the hook set.

Don’t just go buy any old Centerpin rod and get stuck using a rod that’s not great just so you can save a few bucks. Check out our 5 Best Centerpin Rods page for what I recommend for an economy rod to the more expensive rods, and to see what rods I use personally and for guiding.

How To Put A Centerpin Reel On

Centerpin Fishing For Beginners
The Centerpin reel and the reward of using it right.

Putting the Centerpin Reel on a fixed reel seat is easy since it’s just a matter of slide it in a tighten it up. You can not adjust the position of the reel.

For a sliding rings type of reel seat, many of my clients ask me where is the best spot to put the reel? Some will even show up to the river with the reel in the wrong spot, and then I have to adjust it for them.

Where you place the reel is sometimes just a personal preference for some anglers, but I like to put the reel as far up on the handle and as close to the rod blank as possible so that I have more butt section as leverage for fighting the fish and it balances the rod out better. If you are going to be Centerpin fishing all day you want the rod to be comfortable in your hands.

If the reel is to close to the but of the rod, it puts more stress on the wrist and the set-up will be very tip heavy

I put all my reels at the spot on the rod that if I hold onto the reel and put my index finger on the rod handle the tip of my finger is about half an inch from the rod blank. That’s usually about 2 thirds up from the butt of the rod handle. See this video for my preferred rod position and a good handhold.

Once you get the reel in the right spot line the reel up with the guides, then pull the rings as tight to the reel seat as possible on both sides and then add a wrap or two of electrical tape. See the picture with the red electrical tape on the reel. The reason for the tape is to prevent the sliding rings from loosening while fishing and having your reel drop onto the rocks or into the river.

Tip – Never dent the outer rim of the spool, also known as the fighting rim which is your drag when fighting a fish. If you do, you will feel the dent hit your hands over and over again while fighting the fish. I know this from experience and it sucks!

The Gear Used To Set Up Your Centerpin Rig

Before you can set up the rod you need a few things that you shouldn’t go without.

  • You are going to need a good float that is suitable for the type of water you will be fishing, some floats suck and some are perfect and do the job right. – See 5 Best Centerpin Floats page.
  • You will need strong micro swivels for your leader setup.
  • You will need at least two different strengths of fluorocarbon leaders. Unfortunately, leader companies DO NOT rate their leader properly and that can seriously affect how many fish bit your line or how many you break off. See Steelhead Leaders: Best Float Leader And 2 Proven Setups page
  • You will need a good hook. Not just any hook will do, some bend, some are too thick, some don’t hold as well, so be sure to check out the 4 Best Centerpin Hooks page.

Gear For Centerpin Fishing – Everything You Need

Fishing a Steelhead on a Centerpin rod and reel.
Fishing a Steelhead on a Centerpin rod and reel.

There’s a bunch of things you will need for Centerpin fishing that I consider general river fishing gear.

Stuff like waders, boots, vests, packs, wading jackets, forceps, nippers, and much more.

This stuff will make your day more comfortable and even help you catch more, land more, and even help you handle your fish better.

I tell you all the stuff that I use and that I recommend to keep my comfortable on my page River Fishing Gear: Everything You Need To Succeed In 2021

Also, for a checklist on all the gear just for centerpin fishing go to my page Centerpin Fishing Gear – Everything You Need For More Fish

Centerpin Leader Set Up

Steelhead Leader Setup
This Leader Setup works for trout and steelhead by just adjusting weights of the leader lines.

If you are reading this Centerpin Fishing For Beginners page and are waiting for me to reveal the 4 most critical things then this is number 4 on my list.

Using the right leader and the right leader set-up is critical

How do I set up my leader? This is the most asked question I get from my clients and friends and is something I see anglers doing wrong all the time.

I have guided clients that have tried for years to catch steelhead consistently with very little luck until I show them how to set up their leader properly.

The leader size and set-up are important because if it’s wrong, it just won’t work well. I cover the best steelhead leaders, what sizes are best for different conditions, and how to set up your leader properly and avoid mistakes on my Steelhead Leaders For Float Fishing Page.

The Best Baits To Use When Centerpin Fishing

Best Steelhead Bait
The best steelhead bait is sometimes the one you fish the best.

Believe it or not, I do not consider the bait that you use to fish with as one of the 4 critical parts of the process for 1 simple reason.

The reason is that even if you have the best bait on your line but you don’t fish it properly you will still struggle to catch fish. The way you fish the bait is critical and how you set up your leader is more important.

Also, I think the bait you choose is not that important because it’s common to have many baits fish equally well on the same day. However, knowing what bait to use and when to use it is important.

The most common bait is roe, also known as roe bags, roe sacks, eggs, egg sacks, spawn, spawn sacks, or spawn bags. But just because it’s the most common doesn’t mean it’s the best and some years I use very little of it and I still catch a ton of fish.

The best bait is sometimes the one that you fish the most effectively. Other common baits, not in any particular order are live worms, live or dead minnows, plastic worms, soft plastics, beads, flies, and jigs.

For more information on these baits, which ones I catch the most fish with, and how I fish them go to my 4 Best Steelhead Baits page.

How To Hold A Centerpin Reel

How to hold and centerpin reel
A common way to hold and centerpin reel

How you hold your reels is the first step in actually fishing and can be important. You will be holding reel all day so it needs to be comfortable but it also needs to be functional.

How you hold your reels is the first step in actually fishing and can be important. You will be holding reel all day so it needs to be comfortable but it also needs to be functional.

How you hold your reels is the first step in actually fishing and can be important. You will be holding reel all day so it needs to be comfortable but it also needs to be functional.

I have guided over 1000 Centerpin anglers and seen quite a few variations in the hold.

The first thing you need to consider is comfort and grip. You may be fighting some pretty big fish so you need to have a comfortable grip that is still strong.

The next thing you need to consider is having a grip the will allow you to cast easily and effectively.

The third thing to consider is having a grip that will allow you to control the speed of your reel when drifting your float down the river.

Lastly, you need a grip that can easily fight the fish with smooth and steady pressure where you can still easily loosen and lighten that pressure when needed.

How to hold a centerpin rod
The many ways to hold a centerpin rod and reel.

How To Cast A Centerpin Reel

It’s hard to explain how to cast a Centerpin reel so it’s best to watch it- See the video link below. First, there are two main casts that I recommend and that you should use and all the other casts you can just ignore.

The first cast is called the Side Cast and is the one I teach most new anglers because it is the easiest to learn and when I’m guiding them I would rather focus on teaching them how to fish and catch fish all day than to struggle with casting all day. This cast is used by many very good anglers that I have guided.

The advantage to the side cast is it’s easy, accurate, and casts far.

The disadvantage to the side cast is that if your hands are wet from rain the line can get sticky and make it difficult to cast.

It’s also very common to get line twist which causes problems with the line flowing through the guides. However, there is a quick fix that most anglers don’t know about for line twist problems and it’s not cutting off your line and putting a new line on, that gets expensive.

That simple trick is to fish until the twist gets too bad and then cut your mainline about 2 to 5 feet above the float and put in a micro swivel there. Then make a few long drifts and often the twist will come out. Some anglers even use 3x-small swivels 5 feet up above the float all the time and they never get line twist. Some of my best clients use this method and never get a line twist. See how to do the 2 casts that I recommend On YouTube HERE.

The second cast I recommend is called the Wallace Cast which is a little harder to learn but it’s a better cast if you can learn to do it well. The advantage to the Wallace Cast is long accurate casts with no line twist and list problems with sticky wet hands.

Getting A Perfect Presentation

Good Float Angle
A good float angler for maintaining speed and strike detection.

Centerpin Fishing For beginners would not be complete without going over how to properly present your float and the bait to the fish.

There are 4 critically important things that you need to know before you can be that 1 guy catching 10 fish when all the other anglers are only getting one or two and presenting your bait is one of those things.

It’s so important that many times I have guided two clients and watched one of them do it right and catch 5 to 10 fish while their buddy catches none.

I have watched thousands of anglers fish and within seconds I can tell you if they will catch fish or not because of how they present their bait.

Most anglers whether they realize it fish poorly and would catch far more steelhead float fishing if they got good at all 4 critical things I discuss in this article.

Bonus Tip – Keep your rod tip steady so your float is not bouncing down the river. A bouncing float means a bouncing bait and that rarely works and in my experience makes the fish ignore your bait.

For more on getting a better presentation check out Float Fishing: Tips From A Pro River Guide For More Trout

Centerpin Fishing – Finding The Bottom

Finding the bottom is #2 one of those 4 most critical things that will help you catch more fish consistently. I often tell new anglers whenever you fish a new spot your goal is the find the bottom.

You do this because that is where the fish are and if they are down 9 feet and your bait is 3 feet over their heads they probably won’t eat it.

How you find the bottom can be a bit tricky. Basically you make a drift with by holding your float back so that you float stands straight up and down.

Using the right float will make this easier. If the float goes down the river without dragging, or without tilting down river or hanging up, make an adjustment by sliding the float up the line 6 to 12 inches making it deeper and then make another drift.

Repeat until you start hooking the bottom and once you find the bottom make it 6 to 12 inches shallower so you’re not dragging the bait across the bottom. You want your bait 6 to 12 inches off the bottom.

You may need to do this in different areas as you cover the water in case it gets shallower or deeper as your bait gets further across the pool.

Centerpin Fishing – Fish From The Top Down

Another thing to consider when covering the water is to always fish down river from you or fish from the top of the pool down to the bottom of the pool. Casting upriver will not allow you to get a proper leader angle and control your speed and speed is important.

Get as far up the pool as you can and cast straight out, not upriver and not downriver, just straight out and work you float down the river from there.

Centerpin Fishing – Cover The Water Effectively

Covering the pool
The darker green water is deep and about 10 feet wide so it should take about 5 drifts to cover it completely.

Covering the water effectively is #3 one of the 4 critical things that you need to do well if you want to catch more fish.

I fish in lines up and down the river. The problem is most anglers just cast their floats out and often cover the same water over and over again. Most anglers also fish center of the pool and miss a lot of good water.

I cover the water in controlled lines or lanes down the river in straight lines at about 1 to 2 feet apart.

I start closest to me right where the bottom goes from shallow to deep, I call this the first edge. Sometimes the first edge is 20 feet out and sometimes it’s 2 feet from the bank. It’s right where you almost lose sight of the bottom.

Then I make a few good drifts always looking for the bottom as talked about above, and then once I find the bottom I make a couple of good drifts and then I fish the next line which is 1 foot further and then I repeat, 1 foot at a time until I’m all the way across the river or at the next edge where it starts to shallow up again.

I use things like rocks in the water, current lines, distance from my rod tip, and distance from the shore to help me determine where my float was and where 1 foot further should be.

For most beginners, they won’t have the accuracy to land the float perfect so I recommend two things. First, if you cast short or miss your target spot, just fish it out. Second, to help you with accuracy try casting beyond the spot you wanted to land your float and then pull the float into the lane position you want to fish.

Bonus Tip – Fish in straight lines, the same way the bugs and the bubble drift. If your bait is always dragging sideways even if it’s very subtle the fish likely won’t tough your bait.

Centerpin Fishing – Speed Control

Speed control is the #1 most critical thing that you can do to catch more fish, period!

Most anglers throw their float in and just watch it go and hope at some point it will go down and a fish will be on. I say, “even a blind squirrel finds a nut sometimes”, which means sometimes guys get lucky with that method, but in my opinion, it’s a big mistake.

Not working your float every second of the time during a drift greatly limits your chances of catching a fish! I have proven this over, and over, and over again.

It’s unbelievable how important this is and how many anglers have no clue about this. Trotting is a term some anglers use when you hold your float back just a little to get the right angle on the leader below the float and to get the right speed.

I have asked hundreds of anglers why they trot, or why they hold their float back, and about 98 out of 100 will tell me the wrong reason and I know they have no idea the reel reason that actually matters the most. Fun game, are you one of the 98, ask yourself right now, “why hold your float back, why trot”?

98% of anglers think they need to hold the float back because they think that it presents the bait first to the fish before the leader, before the split shots, and before the float can spook the fish.

In fact, some guys trot so much that the bait is sometimes 5 feet ahead of the bait so they can be sure the bait goes first. If they only knew how bad that presentation was and how many fish they were missing they would stop immediately!

The bait going ahead of the float is a good side effect of holding the float back but it’s not the important reason you should do it.

You see, the bottom current is almost always slower than the surface current. The rocks along the bottom create friction and slow the current down near the bottom where the fish hold and feed.

This means that 6 feet down at the bottom where the current might be flowing at 3mph, the surface current might be flowing at 6 to 8mph.

Why does that matter?

Trout and Steelhead Food
Trout and Steelhead eat the insects below the surface when they are in the river.

It means that if all the food that the fish have been feeding on down at the bottom is moving at 3 miles per hour in the slower current but your float is being pulled along by the upper current at 8mph which means your bait is also moving at 8mph and it stands out like a sore thumb, in bad way!

If you don’t hold your float back just a little your bait is likely going to be moving at an unusually fast speed and many trout and steelhead will pick up on the fact that something is wrong with that bait and they will ignore it.

Trout and steelhead are not smart, they’re just cautious about things that are unusual in their environment.

The bait may also be moving so fast that it zips by them before they can react to it. Only the really aggressive fish will hit a bait moving 2 or 3 times too fast, which means very little fish for you most days.

If you hold your float back properly you can match the speed at the bottom which will greatly improve your catch rate, sometimes by 10 times or more.

This is why on days when I walk into a big pool with a client that has never Centerpin fished before and there are 3 or 4 other anglers there fishing that same pool, I’m confident when I tell my client that if they learn the 4 critical things, especially speed control they will out-fish every guy in the pool 5 to 1 and it doesn’t matter if they are new or not, they usually do.

When the other guys in the pool start yelling across the pool asking us what we are catching all the fish on, I tell my clients that is the wrong question. It’s not the bait, it’s how we are fishing the bait because most the time we are using the same bait that the other guys are using and we are still out fishing them 5 to 1, or more.

Best Float and Leader Angle
If you can maintain the proper float angle throughout the entire drift you will catch more fish.

To trott your float properly you need to hold your float back on a slight angle so the point of your float is pointing more upriver than it is vertically straight up and down or pointing downriver.

90% of the time, if you do not hold your float back it will point downriver. This is because the faster surface current is dragging you bait down the river.

If you hold your float back at the right angle you can match the speed better. If the bottom speed gets faster you will see you float wanting to tilt upriver towards you as the bottom current is pulling the bait faster than your float. If this happens you take some of the pressure of the float and get it back to the correct angle.

If your float keeps getting tilted downriver you are either dragging the bottom or you are not holding your float back enough to match the bottom current speed, both of these are a problem that will prevent you from catching fish.

Float Angles
The right angle of your leader and float makes all the difference.

We use the rim of the reel with feather-light touches to slow the float down as it drifts down the river. Do not hold the float back with your rod tip, use your reel. Every time your float starts to stand up straight touch the reel to slow or stop it. As the reel starts back up spinning again it will create just enough resistance to hold your float back in the angle you want. If you do this well and all the time the results are amazing.

How much of a difference does it really make? One day I guided a client who had years of Centerpin fishing experience and he begged me to fish with him while he was fishing. Fishing with a client is something I never do because my job is to coach and teach, not to fish. But, even though I told him I would catch all the fish he still begged me to fish with him, so to shut him up and to prove a point to him I fished with him.

In less than 2 hours I had landed 13 steelhead to his 1. After that, I put my rod down and said, “that is the difference between doing it perfect, and doing it not so perfect, and that is why I need to teach you and not fish with you”, lesson learned. We had the same bait, the same hook, same leader, same float, even the same rod, and reel because he was using all my gear. So why did I catch 13 and he only 1. Speed Control, it’s that important!

How To Set The Hook With A Centerpin

I don’t know how many guide trips I have done where my client’s floats went down from a fish and they missed over 50% of them due to bad hook sets. Centerpin Fishing for beginners needs to have a small section on setting the hook because without out it, you may not catch very many fish.

Set with your elbow, not with your body. The elbow is faster than a body twist type hook set. Some guys tend to throw their whole body into the hook-set and almost fall backward at times. On a good elbow-arm hook-set you should not be off-balance.

You want to run your drift with your rod at about a 35 to 45-degree angle up and you want to keep your rod tip pointed in the direction of the float most of the time. Follow the float with your rod tip. Then you want to set fast and you want to set up. Do not sweep the rod sideways along the water.

If the float is close to you set with a shorter and slightly softer hook set or you float and leader may come flying up out of the water creating a tangle or even hitting you or your rod tip.

If your float is far away set much harder. Your float should pop or jump out of the water only a few feet at most on a good hook set. If your float keeps flying 20 feet out of the water slow down your hook set otherwise you will be dealing with a lot of leader tangles.

How to Fight A Fish With A Centerpin

Fishing a Steelhead on a Centerpin rod and reel.
Fishing a Steelhead on a Centerpin rod and reel.

I tell all my clients that I believe 90% of anglers will lose their first good fish on a Centerpin Reel. There is no drag on most Centerpin reels so it’s you and the fish playing tug of war, it’s a give and take battle.

The simple truth is that new Centerpin anglers either give the fish to much line with not enough pressure on the reel and eventually they lose them after a long fight, or they clamp down too much and then break the fish off.

Most new Centerpin anglers struggle with applying steady even maximum pressure on the fish. One second it’s too much pressure and the next it’s too little. This will take some time to get used to but steady smooth pressure is a must. If one second you’re too loose and then you apply to much pressure to compensate you’re going to break off.

You also have to learn to let them run. If they bolt you lower your rod and apply steady pressure and as soon as the stop you take your fingers off the fighting rim and reel them in

Always maintain a tight line and a bend in the rod. Good Luck.

How To Land A Fish With A Centerpin

One of the things I see new anglers do wrong when they are about to land a fish is that they reel the fish almost to the tip of the rod.

That tip is 13 feet away on the long rod which means the fish is going to be too far for the net.

Always leave just over a rod’s length of the line from the tip to the fish and that fish should come right to the net.

And always use a net. Not only does a net help you net that fish of a lifetime, but studies show that fish bashing their head off the bank can kill them after you release them, even if they swim away looking fine. For the best Steelhead nets for the river check out my River Fishing Gear: Everything You Need To Succeed In 2021

How To Take Care Of Your Centerpin

Most of my Centerpin reels last for over 10 years with no maintenance.

My best advice for taking good care of your new and shiny Centerpin reel is simple. Don’t drop it, don’t lie it down on the rocks or in the mud or on the sand, and never put it in the river.

If it rains on it that’s OK, and a little river water is fine every now and then, but remember that there are specs of dirt and sand in the river that can cause problems so avoid putting it in the river if you want it to last for 10 years with no maintenance.

Almost every person that has come into my tackle store needed new bearings was one of those guys that lies the rod down in the water as they handle and release their fish.

When traveling I highly recommend getting a Centerpin reel case for it like this one from Raven.

Guide Tip: It is very important not to bang your reel or drop it. Doing so may damage the outer fighting rim which you will feel constantly when fighting a fish and it may even hurt your fingers. Damaging that rim usually means replacing the rim or the whole reel.

Centerpin Fishing For Beginners Education

I highly recommend seeking out the best Centerpin fishing guide in your area to help you improve your success with a Centerpin Rod and reel.

If the guide is good you should be able to learn more in one day than you could in years of trying yourself.

A good guide is not in everyone’s budget, so another great idea is to find a mentor, not just any old Centerpin guy, but one who is already skilled and can teach. The reason I say this is because I honestly believe 7 out of 10 Centerpin anglers do it poorly and I have proven this over and over again so be careful who you learn from.

Another option is to be observant and open-minded. Try to find that one guy that catches 10 fish when everyone else is only catching one or two and don’t be like everyone else that believes he must just have the best bait. Look at how he sets up his leader, how he makes his drifts, how he adjusts his float, and how is he covering the water.

Centerpin Fishing For Beginners – Tips

This isn’t everything on Centerpin fishing. Want to know how to put on a roe bag, or rig up a two bait rig, or maybe even how to tie a roe bag? How about how to read the water to find the fish better? If so, check our Centerpin Blog for more tips and advice.

Good Luck On The Water


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  1. I’m successful with spinners and spoons for steelhead but want to learn and add float fishing to my offerings. Tons of info on line but found your site more specific to help me get started in my preferred small and mid sized rivers off Lake Huron – so thank you Graham. A question for you… in your experience do you recommend reducing the shot size as you work towards the leader?

    1. Hi Larry, I do not decrease my shot sizes from large to smaller near the bait because I find it impractical, unnecessary, and it’s more work to set it up this way with no significant benefit. I also find it more expensive since doing so means I always have to buy and have 4 to 7 different sizes of split shots with me at all times. If I opened up my terminal tackle box you would see only 1 or maybe 2 sizes of split shots because I use the same size shots throughout the leader line set-up, I just increase the spacing nearer to the bait which works the same as decreasing shot size when going from big to small shots. Whether you use the big shot down to small shot pattern method, or the same size shot method with larger spacing like I do it will work the same. The only time I might use a slightly smaller split shot is if I want an extra weight within 12 inches of my bottom bait and I will only add the smaller shot so the fish won’t see it or so that shot doesn’t drag the bottom too much and get hung up. Many of my clients have witnessed me placing an, AA, AB, or BB-sized split shot within 4 inches of a fly or bait and I still catch a ton of fish in gin-clear waters so I don’t believe that a single spit shot that close to the bait will spook the fish. Just make sure you use black or dark gray shots and not shiny split shots. I am working on a page about float fishing that should have all the leader patterns that I use, so keep an eye out for that coming in Jan 2021.

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