Both spinning rods and casting rods are both great options for all types of fishing. But crucially, there are some situations where you are much better off with one or the other.
We’ve summarised this below – but please read on to get the full details because there are lot of factors that come into play including the various characteristics of the reels that you’ll be pairing with each.
Spinning rod vs casting rod quick summary:
Spinning rods are better for:
Baitcasting rods are better for:
What to consider when deciding between a spinning rod or a baitcasting rod
In terms of learning, spinning rod setups are much easier to get a handle on compared to baitcasting rod setups.
Baitcasters require much more practice to cast smoothly and avoid backlashes and to make long casts.
Magnetic braking systems and spool brakes work in tandem on most baitcasters, and need to be adjusted and fine tuned depending on the weight of the lure being thrown.
Spinning rod setups don’t require the same level of practice and knowledge of a baitcaster. Once you get the hang of opening the bail, holding the line with a finger and releasing it at the right point of the cast, they are relatively simple to fish with.
Lure types and reel considerations
Let’s take a look at what lures are best used with what reel setup so you can decide which reel to choose for the tactics and lure presentations you use frequently for the species you fish.
Spinning rod setup
As we mentioned, spinning rod setups are great for using lure presentations such as drop shots, crankbaits, twitch baits, jerkbaits, small jigs, and small soft plastics.
Spinning reels really excel at light-weight lure presentations, whereas baitcasting combos struggle to cast lighter lures accurately – the spool of a baitcasting has to rotate as the line pays out so there is a degree of inertia you have to overcome. For that reason, you’ll struggle to cast light lures far enough. With a spinning setup the line simply unravels from the spool, allowing for very long casting distances with light lures.
Spinning rods are typically designed with less but larger guides allowing for more bend and flex, this allows for great casting distance and softens the impact of hooksets and runs from the fish. Spinning rods are also great using all forms of line, but really excel with monofilament lines when combined with the more flexible rod actions.
Baitcasting rod setup
Baitcasting setups are great for lures such as spinnerbaits, medium to heavy jigs, swimbaits, topwater, larger soft plastics and larger crankbaits as well.
One added advantage of baitcasters is the ability to get very high gear ratios for high speed cranking – this is great for topwater baits, fast jigging, or spinnerbait presentations where you can retrieve lures quickly, or keep lures above vegetation close to the surface.
Baitcasters also typically have better drag functions and work great when fishing for larger fish or fishing larger lures. Baitcasting rods have more eye guides that are also smaller, as baitcasting reels don’t wrap the line horizontally around the spool and instead the spool spins the line on with the aid of a level wind. The extra guides also give the rod more backbone when dealing with larger fish and are less flexible throughout the rod, instead typically flexing only in the top third near the tip.
This is better when you really want to put the hurt on a large fish such as a pike or muskie.
With casting accuracy (with the exception of light lures), the honours definitely go to baitcasting rod setups. The main reason for this is you can use your thumb as a brake on the spool, allowing you to apply pressure when you want the lure to stop.
With practice you can become incredibly accurate. This makes baitcasters great for fishing heavy cover such as timber or treel ines where you have to be very precise when it comes to lure placement. While baitcasters really shine in this presentation, decent accuracy is definitely achievable with a spinning setup too, there is just greater potential to miss the spot as you are unable to brake the lure while it is in flight.
Reel options and fish type
Let’s take a look fish types and species, and which rod setups are best through the text and table below.
Baitcasting setups are great for medium to large fish in most circumstances. Fish like bass, pike, musky, catfish, and many larger saltwater species. Baitcasting reels are also great for fishing live bait for very large species due to some models featuring bait clickers which let anglers know that there is a fish on and taking out line, and the rods typically have more backbone to deal with heavier lures and larger fish.
Spinning setups are great for light presentations as mentioned earlier, and work exceptionally well when used to catch fish like trout, bluegill, crappies, and other types of panfish when ultra light models are used, but they can also work for larger species like bass, walleye, and pike as well.
Typically targeting any species larger than this is better done with a baitcaster set up, but even very large saltwater species can be caught using large spinning setups.
Both rod types are comparable in costs and can range from being very cheap to very expensive depending on quality and materials. Baitcasting rods and reels are a little more expensive, but for any given budget you can choose between either type of combo.
Rod selection chart
|Species||Best rod choice|
Some good spinning rods to consider:
In this section we will take a look at some great options for spinning rods that offer a great blend of price, and quality construction and components.
This rod is inspired by carp fishing set ups and gives you three different tips that you can change depending on species and lure presentations. The rod breaks down into two pieces (not counting the tip) and can be stowed away easily for storage and transport. Other features are split-grip handles, premium cork, and eight guides with stainless steel frames and ceramic inserts. All at a bargain price.
The Cadence Essence not only looks cool, it has some great features for a competitive price. The rod is built from 30-ton woven graphite, has split grips and premium cork handles as well, not to mention stainless steel guide frames and SIC inserts. The rod is very light and incredibly sensitive. The rod also has a unique reel seat with a large twist grip that is very robust and easy to tighten compared to smaller less textured reel tightening features on the market.
The XR5 is a great overall pick for a spinning rod setup. It features 24-ton graphite, a Texas rig hook keeper making it great for bass anglers, titanium oxide inserts, and it’s also available in either a single-piece or double-piece setup. This reasonably priced rod is great as an all-purpose spinning rod capable of performing in a wide variety of applications.
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Some good baitcasting rods to consider
In this section we will take a look at some great options for baitcasting rods that have a great blend of price, and quality construction and components.
Featuring IM6 Graphite, golf-style grips on the handle, zirconium oxide guide inserts mounted on stainless steel frames, and over 20 different models to choose from, the Crixus by KastKing has all of your bases covered for a wide variety of fishing situations. It is also extremely affordable given all the amazing features it offers, making it great for beginner baitcasting rod users, or for those looking to get into baitcasters.
I wanted to add one big game rod for the saltwater guys who hunt for the big seagoing fish to cover all of our bases. The Fiblink Big Game is as tough as they come. Featuring roller guides mounted on a solid E-glass blank for ultimate strength and bend, an aluminum-alloy reel seat with a tapered hood, and much more. This thing will handle everything you throw at it and ask for more, it also has the bent butt for extra leverage.
The Falcon uses a very unique low-profile single foot guide on its rods after the success of their Lowrider series that pioneered this feature 20 years ago. It also features multigrade carbon fiber that is wrapped in Falcon’s “Cobra Cloth” technology for an incredibly sensitive, strong and light rod package. Other features are the industry-favorite Fuji exposed blank reel seat, and Fuji guide inserts.
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Tips and Tricks to avoid Baitcaster Tangles
There are a few tricks to minimize tangling and backlashes with baitcasters. Here’s some tips and tricks to help you out.
Set your magnetic brake
Setting your magnetic brake more towards the tighter end starting off is a good habit, even if it impedes casting distance. Make a few casts, then back your magnetic dial a little bit each cast until you have it perfectly dialed in.
Set Your Spool Tensioner Knob
Your spool tensioner knob should be applied the same way as your magnetic Brake and have very similar functions. Adjust this as well in tandem with your Brake to get optimum casting performance.
Choose high quality line
Higher quality lines are typically less prone to coiling or burying when you do have backlashes. Whether it is braid, mono or fluoro, using higher quality line will help by lessening the time spent messing with your line when you should be fishing.
Be Careful in Wind
Wind can be a nightmare when trying to cast a baitcasting setup. Avoid casting directly into the wind. If you are fishing a spot where you have to cast into the wind, try to make side casts while keeping your rod tip and line lower to the water. This will minimize the air resistance on the line and lure causing the spool to spin faster than your line is paying out, avoiding nasty backlashes.
Maintenance is a great way to minimize backlashes. Make sure your internals are properly greased and oiled. Gunk or lack of lubrication can cause unnecessary friction and cause your spool to not perform properly, or your braking system to fail, causing tangles and backlashes.
While there is some species and situations where both types of set up will work, aas you can see in this article there are particular advantages to spinning and baitcasting set ups that make one more suitable than the other at times.
Take into consideration your favorite ways to fish, or what tactics you employ often when making your decision. Ideally try to equip yourself with both – that gives you freedom to fish with the best choice for that particular situation on any given day.
Get our verdict on the best baitcasting rods for bass – Daiwa, St Croix, Fenwick and other top brands reviewed by our in-house professionals