Anglers should "set and forget" their spool tensions, says Capt. Ernie Prieto. "Make your free-spool as free as possible in the morning, then set your star drag to a specific pound rating, and don't touch the drag for the rest of the day."
Bring a backlash tool on board, says Steve Carson. Bass fishermen tend to use these for their baitcasters, but they work on all types of reels. Bass Pro Shops sells a Baitcast Pic for $5 that helps dissect those tiny braid boogers, backlashes and bird's nests.
Pay attention to the whole cast. Finish the cast, says Prieto. Keep your thumb lightly on the spool the whole time. "It's like coaster brakes on a bike," he says. "Be ready to brake quickly." If you cast too hard and backlash, the lure will likely snap off or the bait be thrown from the hook.
Always evenly level the line back onto the reel. "Most reels that we use here don't have levelwinds," says Carson, "so it's up to the angler. Make sure line is level across the reel, or your next cast could lead to a severe bird's nest."
Pay attention to how much line is spooled onto the reel. Underfilled reels definitely affect distance, while overfilled are more likely to backlash. "I believe a spool filled to within one-eighth of an inch from the lip of spool is the safest option," says Carson.