Whether you’re a novice angler or have years of experience, you’ll find yourself occasionally pondering the type of fishing reel you want or need. Whether it’s your first purchase or an addition to your gear, one of the choices you could face is spinning vs baitcasting reels.
Read on for a look at both types of reels, including the pros and cons of owning and using a spinning vs baitcasting reel. You’ll also find answers to a handful of frequently asked questions to help guide you as you start or expand your gear collection.
What Is a Spinning Reel?
A spinning reel is an immediately recognizable piece of fishing gear. Unlike a baitcasting reel or a spincast reel, another popular fishing reel choice, a spinning reel is mounted on the underside of a fishing rod.
A spinning reel also is characterized by the stationary spool upon which its fishing line is stored.
After a line is cast from a spinning reel, it is retrieved by turning a handle mounted on either the left or right side. The mounting is designed to accommodate both left- and right-handed anglers. Turning the handle engages a metal arm that guides the line back onto the stationary spool.
When casting a spinning reel, the metal arm is disengaged. From there, the weight of the lure or live bait attached to the fishing line carries the line over and into the water.
Spinning reels are versatile and can be used for everything from reeling in small panfish from lakes and ponds to going after some saltwater fish. They aren’t suited for deep-sea fishing, however, and instead are most noted for their ability to cast lightweight lures and tackle.
In terms of spinning vs baitcasting reels, spinning reels are easier to use, largely because there is no worry about the line becoming tangled. Line tangling is a vexing characteristic of baitcasting reels, and casting one takes some real skill to master.
What Is a Baitcasting Reel?
The first thing you’ll notice when comparing a spinning vs baitcasting reel is that the baitcasting reel is attached to the top of the fishing rod. But the real difference between the two types of reels is the reel spool.
As you’ve just learned, a spinning reel has a stationary spool and relies on the weight of the lure or bait to send its line. A baitcasting reel, on the other hand, has a rapidly rotating spool, released by a clutch, that unwinds the line.
Like spinning reels, baitcasting reels can be used in a variety of angling scenarios. They are particularly popular for bass fishing but are also used for surf casting at the ocean and for deep-sea fishing. Baitcasting reels are renowned for their ability to send fishing line across long distances.
However, casting a baitcasting reel requires more than a little skill and practice. The chief challenge with baitcasting reels is to avoid “bird nesting,” which is the severe tangling of fishing line during casting.
Failure to properly operate the baitcasting reel clutch will result in line continuing to unspool even after the lure or bait hits the water. The result is a backlash in the fishing line, which produces severe tangles. In turn, the angler is faced with the time-consuming task of untangling the line.
Spinning Reel Pros and Cons
Any consideration of the pros and cons of spinning vs baitcasting reels must acknowledge that a major plus for spinning reels is their relatively easier use. It’s also true that, generally speaking, with regard to spinning vs baitcasting reels, spinning reels are the less expensive option.
Read on for a few more details on the pros and cons of spinning vs baitcasting reels.
Spinning reels are a particularly good choice for freshwater fishing, targeting everything from bass and trout to smaller fish like crappie. They also can be used for some saltwater fishing for smaller species like redfish.
Another aspect of the versatility of spinning vs baitcasting reels is that the same reel can be used for a variety of fishing techniques. They’re equally good for everything from trolling to live-bait fishing to bottom fishing.
While they are versatile, spinning reels are somewhat limited in terms of casting distance. That can be problematic when shallow water, obstructions, or thick vegetation keep anglers at a distance from a targeted fishing area.
Also, spinning reels routinely have a lower drag capacity than other types of reels. Drag is the resistance that can be applied to a fishing line through the reel to slow down and land a hooked fish. A low drag capacity can make it difficult to reel in larger fish.
Baitcasting Reel Pros and Cons
Broadly speaking, when comparing spinning vs baitcasting reels, baitcasting reels can be more accurately cast and can also be cast for longer distances. Also, baitcasting reels tend to be more durable than spinning reels.
Read on for a few more of the pros and cons of baitcasting reels.
Along with their ability to be cast accurately for long distances, the larger models of baitcasting reels offer a higher line capacity than similar spinning reels. Interestingly, that higher line capacity can come with a lighter weight than a comparable spinning reel.
As even a newcomer to the spinning vs baitcasting issue can testify, a lighter-weight reel translates into a more comfortable fishing experience. And, of course, a more comfortable fishing experience creates the possibility of spending a longer time on the water.
Because baitcasting reels rely in part on the weight of whatever lure or live bait is being used, they are not efficient with lighter lures. On another lure-related note, baitcasting reels require adjusting tension on the line spool to be adjusted when changing one lure for a different-sized lure.
Finally, in terms of cost regarding spinning vs baitcasting reels, you can expect to pay more for a baitcasting reel than for a spinning reel.
Spinning vs Baitcasting Reels Frequently Asked Questions
After considering the pros and cons of spinning vs baitcasting reels, and learning something about using both types, you likely have some additional questions. Read on for some additional guidance on choosing one or the other of these reel types.
How should the quality of a baitcasting reel be determined?
As is the case with many purchases, the cost of a baitcasting reel is a good indication of its quality. You should expect to pay somewhere between $150 and $300 for a high-quality baitcasting reel.
Be certain that your baitcasting reel includes casting control mechanisms. No mechanisms will eliminate “bird nesting,” but casting controls will help reduce their occurrence. Also, avoid any baitcasting reel that uses plastic instead of metal working parts. Aluminum parts are the best choice.
How should the quality of a spinning reel be determined?
A major consideration when choosing a spinning reel is the number of ball bearings in its mechanism. Simply put, the more ball bearings in a spinning reel mechanism, the smoother it will operate. At a minimum, your spinning reel should have four ball bearings.
Be aware, though, that the number of ball bearings in a spinning reel will affect its cost. However, stretching your budget to purchase the most ball bearings you can afford will be a good investment in improving your fishing experience.
Also, choose a spinning reel with a “long cast” spool. You’ll experience less line friction, which will translate into longer casts.
As a final suggestion, be sure that your choice of spinning reel includes an “anti-reverse” handle for cranking in your fishing line. An anti-reverse handle will help ensure that your hook is firmly embedded in a caught fish.
Which is the best all-around choice in spinning vs baitcasting reels?
Because spinning reels and baitcasting reels can be used in a variety of circumstances, declaring which is the best all-around choice isn’t necessarily helpful.
As is the case with many decisions about outdoor gear, personal preference should play a major role in your purchase decision. After all, it’s no bargain to buy a fishing reel deemed by experts to be the best choice, if it’s not a comfortable choice for you.
If you’re new to angling, or if you’re experienced but worried about developing nuanced casting skills, a spinning reel is your best choice. On the other hand, a baitcasting reel likely will allow you to make more casts, potentially increasing your chances of catching fish.
As you weigh your choice between a spinning vs baitcasting reel, it likely will be helpful to find a place that rents fishing gear. That way, you can get some real-world experience with both types of reels to make a truly informed decision.
Wrapping up Spinning Reels vs Baitcasting Reels
As you’ve learned, the questions raised with spinning vs baitcasting reels have answers that depend largely on the type of fishing you plan to do. If you’re a serious angler, it makes sense to have both types of reels as part of your fishing gear.
In addition, you’ll find help with ice fishing and fishing rigs, all designed to pique your interest and enhance your enjoyment in angling. Good luck on the water!
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Born in Madelia, MN, to a now 5-generation Minnesota family, Ryan’s MN roots go deep.
A painter by day, Ryan founded Life in Minnesota in 2013 with his wife Kelly to chronicle their musings on everything Minnesota. Ryan and Kelly are raising their 7 kiddos in Maple Grove, MN.
When he’s not shuttling his kids around to hockey practice, you might find him in the shop working on his leatherwork. Undoubtedly, there will be a family trip to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area every summer, and of course weekends at Grandpa’s cabin up north in the summer.