When it comes to fishing for freshwater species such as largemouth bass, there are wide varieties of different rigs and lure presentations that you can use. In order to give yourself the best chance of catching fish using a particular style of lure, you’ll need to know when it’s appropriate to use a baitcaster vs spinning reel.
In recent years, some of the major brands in the industry that are known for producing the best fishing reels have made significant strides when it comes to creating high-performance spinning reels, as well as outstanding quality baitcasting reels.
Often, though, beginners starting out in fishing are unsure which reel type they should choose.
To help you make that choice, we’ve laid out some of the most important information related to both spinning reels and baitcasting reels that you need to know.
Baitcaster vs Spinning Reel: Which is best?
To answer the question of whether you’re better off using a spinning reel or baitcast reel, you’ll first need to look at the type of fish species you’re going after, as well as the certain methods and techniques that you will need to use. It’s also important to note that beginner anglers shouldn’t start out using a baitcasting reel as they are much more difficult to handle compared to spinning reels.
Baitcasting reels are more suited for experienced anglers who have a full understanding of how to use them, as well as a need for greater casting accuracy and using heavier line with heavier lures.
Baitcasting Reel vs Spinning Reel: Key Differences
There are a few specific differences that you’ll need to be aware of when it comes to using a spinning reel vs a baitcasting reel.
Spinning reels work using mostly simple mechanics that make it easier for anglers to use very light lures and light lines. These light lures are best suited to be used on finesse catching crappie rods and spinning reels, which will allow you to have better casting accuracy and casting distance.
A spinning reel operates using a fixed spool that’s located underneath the spinning rod. To cast a spinning reel, you’ll simply flip a bail arm, which is a wire that controls the spool and the reel. Once this is done, you can hold the line with your finger and release it when you’re making each cast. The bail arm rotates around the spool and collects the line onto the spool in a way that helps to greatly reduce the potential for backlashing or tangling the line as there is usually less line twist with spinning reels.
The spinning reels of today offer several key advantages to anglers that are looking to have more control over their casting accuracy or those who simply want to avoid line backlash that happens so often with a baitcaster reel.
- Easy for beginners to use and understand
- Ideal for using with light baits and lighter lures
- Generally cheaper than baitcast reels
- Can use with any type of fishing line
- Better suited for live bait
- More ideal for finesse fishing with light lure
- Very versatile—can adapt to many different fishing styles
- Simple to maintain
- No backlash
- Can use with lighter or heavy line
- Not well suited for heavy lures
- Lower line capacity than bait casters
- Not well-equipped for catching heavier fish
- Shorter casting distance than baitcast reel
- Typically have lower gear ratios than casting reels
Use a spinning reel for:
Spinning reels offer a great opportunity for beginners to learn the nuances of casting a lure out and how to maintain control over where your cast lands on the water. They are made with less complicated components than baitcaster reels and many anglers can easily get the hang of using a spinning reel more quickly. Another great advantage newcomers will get from spinning reels is not having to spend as much money to purchase one since they’re generally cheaper than baitcaster reels.
Anglers who commonly target crappie and other small species will also benefit from using a spinning reel as opposed to a baitcast reel. Spinning rods are generally lighter and better equipped to handle lightweight lures that you’ll mostly use with fluorocarbon line. The mechanics and performance of most spinning reels are simply better for going after small to medium-sized fish like crappie or other species.
Another reason why so many experienced fishermen prefer to use a spinning reel is the versatility they provide compared to baitcaster reels. With a spinning reel, you can throw anything from topwater poppers and jerkbaits to deep-diving plugs and heavy spinnerbait lures. It is true that bait a baitcaster reel often has specific gear ratios that are better suited for certain types of lures, but a solid spinning reel can play a pivotal role and allow you to utilize a greater variety of fishing skills than baitcasting combos usually do.
The fact that spinning reels are not capable of producing the same impressive casting distance that a baitcaster reel does is not always the case. You can cast lures and baits out to a considerable distance with a spinning reel depending on the type of fishing rod you’re using. Experienced anglers who often enjoy surf fishing know that spinning reels are usually the better choice between them and a casting reel since the potential for line tangles and mechanical errors will be minimalized with a spinning reel type of surf fishing setup.
Baitcaster reels are designed to offer much greater performance when it comes to bass fishing and using various lures that require a higher gear ratio and more cranking power. Baitcasting reels are made with a rotating spool that is encased in a closed housing and controlled by a button or lever an angler pushes with their thumb.
A baitcasting rod is designed so that the fishing reel sits on top of the rod instead of underneath. The spool rotates and collects line through a series of gears that rotate when the handle is turned. When an angler pushes the free spool button, the spool moves with very little friction, which in turn allows you to cast farther. The casting reel design also makes it possible to have greater line capacity than you’ll find with most spinning reels.
Baitcast reels also operate using a complex braking system that helps to slow down the spool’s rotation and reduce the chance for backlashing your line. The main reason why so many professional bass fishing anglers prefer to use baitcast reels over spinning reels is the fact that they are equipped with a high-performance drag system, which is very useful when fighting bigger fish.
- More sensitivity due to the line’s position on top of the rod and spool position
- Much greater line capacity than spinning reels offer
- More lightweight than spinning combos in most cases
- Allows for better accuracy in casting
- More capable of handling heavy lures properly
- Better suited for going after larger fish
- Baitcasting rods are generally thicker and heavier than a spinning rod
- More smooth casting and reeling
- Higher gear ratio than spinning reels
- Not well-suited for finesse fishing
- Harder to cast lighter lures in most cases
- Much more complex to understanding and get used to
- More costly than spinning reels
- Greater possibility of backlashing your line
Use a baitcaster for:
Baitcasting reels are the ideal choice for seasoned anglers for a number of reasons. They allow you to use larger, heavier lures that require a greater gear ratio, as well as more power. However, baitcast reels also have the needed mechanics to deal with trophy-sized largemouth bass that often put a great deal of strain on the reel. If you’re planning to go after big fish in freshwater or saltwater scenarios, a baitcasting combo is likely the best choice.
Anglers who use lures that require casting out to very far distances will also find baitcasters to be much more useful than spinning reels. The spool on a casting reel is not hampered by as much friction and is allowed to spin freely, which means your line will fly off the spool at a much higher rate and lead to longer casts.
Certain fishing techniques like flipping and pitching in and around docks or other types of cover is also where you will find a greater need for the performance capabilities of baitcasting reels. Anglers have the ability to stop the spool’s rotation with their thumb at any time during the cast using a baitcaster, which makes it easier to cast around heavy structure without being snagged.
The overall design of the baitcasting reel and rod are better in terms of sensitivity. The line is situated so that it has more points of contact with the rod and reel, which means you will have the ability to feel any tension or pulling and jerking on the line much more easily than you would with other reel types.
While there is a greater risk of backlashing your line, you can make use of the braking system that each baitcast reel has to reduce the likelihood that your line ends up in a bird’s nest.
Spinning Reel vs Baitcaster FAQs
Baitcasters vs Spinning Reels: Which is cheaper?
A spinning reel is almost always going to be cheaper than a baitcasting setup. This does not always mean that a spinning reel is a less useful choice in any situation, but is a direct result of the time and engineering that goes into crafting and producing a baitcasting reel. There are much more components in a casting reel and it takes significant knowledge and machinery skills to create one that functions properly.
What line should I use for each?
There is no particular type of line that is best suited for either spinning reels or baitcasting setups. Anglers can choose between braided, monofilament, and fluorocarbon fishing line regardless of whether they’re using a spinning rod or baitcasting rod.
What truly dictates the type of line you’ll use is mostly going to be the lure or rig you’re fishing with, as well as the species of fish you’re targeting. It’s better to use braided line if you’re fishing in heavy vegetation that you’ll need to pull a lure through, but you’ll be better served using lighter fluorocarbon when fishing in clear, open water.
Which one needs more maintenance?
There is no doubt that baitcast reels require much more maintenance than spinning combos. This is obviously due to the fact that they are made with much more intricate internal parts and the slightest malfunction to those parts can cause the entire reel to stop working properly. If you’re looking for a reel that requires less maintenance, it’s better to go with a spinning reel over a baitcaster.
Which is better for casting distance?
The baitcasting reel’s design lends to its ability to cast much farther than the average spinning reel. By lessening the amount of friction on the spool, you’re able to allow more line to come off the spool. However, if you’re using a lighter lure, it’s better to go with a spinning rod and reel as they will have the flexibility to launch it out farther than a heavier baitcasting setup is able to.
Is a baitcasting reel better for freshwater fishing?
Baitcast reels are not always meant to be used in freshwater scenarios for bass fishing. Most avid offshore anglers will use a round reel baitcasting setup for their efforts as these reels offer the ability to control larger fish that are known to pull harder due to their drag system. These round reel designs are considered the gold-standard for offshore fishing and are incredibly useful for anglers who commonly target very large fish species like tuna, marlin, and others.
Is a spinning reel better for saltwater fishing?
When it comes to saltwater fishing, spinning reels certainly have their place. For most offshore anglers, it’s best to use a round baitcaster setup, but anyone who is trolling might look to use a number heavier reels that are spinning designs made of much stronger metal material.
Surf fishing anglers are also known to rely on the simple mechanics and performance of a spinning rod and reel since they will allow them to launch an exceptionally heavy rig or bait out farther. Having a rod and reel setup that’s capable of letting you cast out past the breaking waves is the key to being successful in most surf fishing scenarios.