Have you ever wondered why people fish with a baitcasting reel over a spinning reel or vice versa? If you are like me, you pretty much grew up using one type and rarely if ever fish with the other kind, and for me, that was a spinning reel. However, this isn’t because a spinning reel is better by any means – it merely was because each reel has its own benefits, and a spinning reel was a better fit for me at the time. Now, I use both types of reels for different situations where one is more effective than the other at getting the job done. The differences between the two can be found with an analysis of what each reel is designed to be used for.
Baitcasting reels are often found in the hands of bass pros, trophy fisherman, and big species fisherman. These reels sit on top of the rod, which normally has more backbone than a spinning rod. The line wraps around the spool, like a spinning reel, but the difference is when you cast. With a baitcasting reel, the spool spins and allows the line to come off as you cast. This eliminates line twist almost completely and gives it a very smooth feel.
Another difference is the retrieve ratio, which is much faster on a baitcasting reel, so it is easier to rip crankbaits quickly. Many people would use this purpose to cover some serious water searching for fish, or to pull bigger lures around more easily.
Baitcasting reels also offer far more power for pulling in big fish as well, making them the choice of anglers targeting fish consistently over 10 pounds. Many anglers also say their baitcasting reel is much more accurate than a spinning reel as you can slow the lure down and stop it on a dime with your thumb on the spool.
As far as cons of a baitcasting reel go, I am sure many of you are familiar with the backlash. This happens most often because of improper thumbing of the spool – as the lure slows down, you have to slow the spool down with your thumb otherwise it will keep spinning line off without the lure using it all, and it all piles up in your reel. Remember, the spool spins as you cast this. To help eliminate backlash, most reels today come with magnetic brakes that slow the spool as the lure slows, and if you purchase a high end reel, it is harder to backlash than with a cheaper reel because their brakes are better. Be prepared to put in hours of practice before you hit the lake.
Baitcasting reels also do not perform as well as spinning reels with very light lures, and are even harder to use with them, especially depending on the weather conditions.
You’ll find spinning reels most often in the hands of finesse fisherman, light tackle fisherman, and beginners. Spinning reels are easier to use and there isn’t much of a learning curve to them. You will get great distance with casting, and can get very accurate over time. These reels sit underneath the rod, suspended downward off the grip.
Unlike baitcasting reels, the line actually comes off the spool without the spool moving – basically, the line just unravels off of it as the momentum of the lure pulls it off. This results in more line twist, which isn’t a big deal for most of us.
Spinning reels normally have slower retrieves and less power than baitcasting reels, but they are much easier to use, and in situations where fast retrieves and power aren’t needed, spinning reels fit the bill. This includes fishing for smaller fish and finesse fishing.
These reels are perfect for beginners, as the chance of backlashing is slim, and they are easy to learn to use in an hour or two. Though many people say they aren’t as accurate as baitcasting reels, with plenty of practice, the difference in accuracy is pretty small. You can cup the spool as line comes off to stop this on a dime as well.
Cons of these reels are that they twist the line slightly and they don’t have quite the power and retrieve that baitcasters have. Basically, these reels excel under circumstances where baitcasters may be mediocre, while baitcasters excel where these reels may fail.
Read more about choosing a spinning reel by clicking here.
Spinning vs Baitcasting
So, head to head, we now know that each reel has it’s own ideal use. Baitcasters absolutely will knock spinning reels out of the water when speed and power are desired, but it’s pretty tough to beat the ease of use of a spinning reel as well as their casting distance, not to mention they do well with lighter fish and lures.
As you can see, it is not a choice of one reel over the other for most people – in fact, many anglers like myself have a rod or two rigged up of each baitcasting and spinning. I use a baitcaster for muskies, and I know I couldn’t beat it with a spinning reel since I am pulling huge lures quickly through the water, but for smaller species like smallmouth bass, walleye, and more, the ease of using a spinning reel makes it my reel of preference then.
What happens when you are trying to decide between reels and are planning on targeting one medium sized species like northern pike, where either type of reel would do the job? Then, much of it becomes a matter of preference and what you are comfortable using. If you are a beginner, start with a spinning reel, and if you have always fished with a spinning reel, stay with one. There is no reason to switch to “look cool” or fit in with friends. If you have always used a baitcasting reel or want to learn to use one, then find a good one and learn on it. If you follow these rules, fishing will be far more enjoyable.
Good luck and good fishing!