Photo of spinning reel vs baitcaster

Baitcasting Vs Spinning Reel – Which One Is Best?

UPDATED 04 MAY 2021

by Robert Ceran

Baitcasters and spinning reels are the two most popular types of fishing reels used nowadays, and between them make up the vast majority of reels used nowadays.

This raises the following question: what is the difference between baitcasting and spinning reels, what are the pros and cons of each reel type, and what should you use each of them for?

We’ll address each of these topics in turn, and will give you a recommendation on what reel type is best for which purpose.

What is the difference between a spinning reel and a baitcaster?

The basic design of baitcasters consists of a rotating spool that’s attached to the top of the fishing rod. The spool is rotated by turning the handle on the side of the reel, which spools line on to the reel:

Photo of baitcaster attached to rod

In contrast, a spinning reel is attached to the bottom of a fishing rod, and its spool doesn’t rotate. Instead, a bail arm rotates around the spool, thereby spooling line on to the spool. The bail arm is rotated by turning the handle on the side of the reel:

Photo of spinning reel attached to rod

In order to cast a lure with a baitcaster, the spool is released to rotate at high speed, releasing line during the cast. In essence, the spool ‘unwinds’ the line, by rotating extremely rapidly and smoothly during the cast, which is enabled by its ball bearing system.

On the other hand, when casting with a spinning reel, the bail arm is folded back, which allows the line to simply slip off the reel, so the spool doesn’t have to rotate during the casting process. 

What are baitcasting and spinning reels used for?

Baitcasters are used for a wide variety of applications, ranging from light spin fishing, to surf casting and big game fishing. The most popular use of baitcasters in North America is for freshwater lure casting for bass.

Spinner reels are also used for a wide range of applications, many of which overlap with baitcasters, including spin fishing, surf casting, and offshore fishing. However, in general, they are not used for very heavy applications, such as big game fishing, which is a domain reserved for baitcasters.

This raises another question: why are these two types of reels used for many of the same purposes, and is there a difference between them in how they perform in each scenario?

Let’s look at the advantages and disadvantages of baitcasting vs spinning in more detail:

Pros and cons of baitcasting reels

Pros:

  • Long distance casting ability
  • High degree of casting accuracy
  • Can handle heavy lures
  • Durable design
  • Higher line capacity on large models
  • Lighter weight than comparable spinner reels

Cons:

  • More difficult to master
  • High risk of backlash while casting
  • Spool tension needs to be adjusted for lures of different sizes
  • Generally more expensive than spinning reels
  • Not good for casting very light lures

What are the advantages of a baitcaster vs spinner?

Baitcasters have better casting qualities than spinner reels – both in terms of distance and accuracy achieved. 

However, baitcasters are generally more expensive and more difficult to master than spinning reels, especially for beginners. 

The reason for this immediately becomes apparent during the casting process: you have to use spool tension (controlled by an adjustable magnetic tension system) to slow down spool rotation during the cast.

If you don’t slow down the spool during the cast, it will continue to rotate rapidly even after the lure slows down and hits the water, which immediately results in line backlash and birds nest generation, which is a huge hassle to untangle.

A second way to control the rotation of the spool is by placing your thumb on the spool during the cast. This has the added advantage of enabling accurate control of the casting distance, which allows you to cast the lure to a very specific location, once you have mastered the technique.

In order to avoid baitcaster backlash, it’s essential to know the main baitcaster parts and what their functions are. It’s also important to know how to spool a baitcaster correctly, since this will also help to avoid line twisting.

All in all, baitcasters offer several key advantages over spinning reels, including longer and more accurate casting ability. On the downside, however, they are more expensive and harder to master.

See also:

Pros and cons of spinning reels

Pros:

  • Very easy to use
  • Generally cheaper than baitcasting reels
  • Highly versatile
  • Spool can be changed easily
  • Very simple maintenance
  • No backlash during casting
  • Great for casting ultralight lures

Cons:

  • Lower casting distance and accuracy
  • Not as good for heavy lures
  • Not good for big game fish
  • Heavier weight than comparable baitcasters
  • Not as durable

What are the advantages of a spinning reel vs baitcaster? 

The fact that spinning reels are generally cheaper and easier to use makes them a popular choice for most scenarios that don’t require the specific strengths of a baitcaster. Many anglers use spinner reels as general purpose reels, and they are also a top choice for beginners.

In addition, spinner reels are incredibly versatile, which means they can be adapted to almost any type of fishing. The same reel model can be used for spin fishing, trolling, bottom fishing, live bait fishing, and many other purposes.

On the downside, their casting qualities are not as good as those of baitcasters, which is why some experienced anglers prefer casting vs spinning reels for specific applications. In addition, it’s essential to know how to spool a spinning reel correctly to avoid line twisting and fouls ups while casting. 

Finally, if you decide in favor of using spinner reels, you should familiarise yourself with the right spinning reel sizes for your purpose, plus get to know the spinning reel parts, in order to use them optimally.

See also:

What type of reel is best for bass fishing?

Photo of woman holding largemouth bass

A question I’m often asked is: “casting vs spinning – which type of reel is best for bass fishing?” 

There’s no single answer to this, as both fishing reels are perfectly fine for bass fishing, and which one you choose depends on your preference plus your specific application.

There’s a common misconception that bass pros only use baitcasters, but this simply isn’t true. For example, Jordan Lee likes to use spinning reels for bass tournaments, and he gets great results with them.

Baitcasters are the preferred choice of many bass anglers because of the greater casting accuracy they provide. Bass are often found close to thick cover, and the lure must be placed close to the cover with pinpoint accuracy to catch them. 

Also, if you’re fishing for bass from a boat or a kayak, you may find yourself casting towards the shore. In that case, you need to be able to stop the lure before it hits the shore itself, which is much easier to achieve with a casting reel.

That being said, if you’re a beginner starting out on your bass fishing journey, it’s better to start with a spinning reel, since you’ll be able to master it much more easily, and will still be able to catch plenty of fish with it. That way, you can enjoy the experience of bass fishing without having to struggle with the technical challenges of using a baitcaster.

Baitcaster vs spinning reel casting distance

As mentioned above, one of the key advantages of a baitcasting reel vs spinning reel is its ability to cast longer distances. 

If you pair a surf casting baitcaster with the right casting rod (and if you can master the art of controlling spool rotation during the cast), you’ll be able to achieve record casting distances. In this respect, baitcasters clearly outperform spinning reels, which is why many anglers prefer a casting vs spinning reel for surf fishing.

Conclusion

To summarize the pros and cons of a spinning reel vs casting reel: spinners are generally cheaper, easier to use, and more versatile. This makes them an excellent choice for beginners, and as general purpose reels for experienced anglers.

If you’re thinking of buying a spinning reel, take a look at our reviews on the top spinning reel under $100, as well as the top spinning reel under $50. Also, if you’re thinking about trying finesse techniques, or other lightweight applications, check out our review on the best ultralight spinning reel.

Baitcasters, on the other hand, have much better casting qualities than spinners, but tend to be more expensive and more difficult to master. Because of this, they are best suited for experienced anglers who want to use them for specific applications.

If you’re in the market for a new baitcaster, be sure to check out our review on the best baitcasting reel under $100.

Additional resources:

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Bass Fishing Tips video