What Are Spinning Reels Good For?


by Robert Ceran

Every angler needs to choose the right gear for their purpose, a choice that is made more difficult because there is such a wide variety of types, models and sizes to choose from.

Spinning reels are the best all round type of fishing reel, and are used for many different purposes, ranging from spin fishing with artificial lures, fishing with live or dead bait, fishing with rigs or bobber fishing, all the way to ice fishing. They have two main advantages compared to other reel types: they are easier to use, and they are better suited for lightweight applications.

What are spinning reels used for?

Spinning reels are used for a wide variety of fishing applications, ranging from ultra light freshwater fishing to heavy saltwater fishing. In fact, they can be used for many of the same purposes as baitcasters and spin casters, but they offer a unique set of advantages that make them better suited for some purposes, and not as well suited for others (for a side by side comparison with baitcasters, check out our article on baitcaster vs spinning reel pros and cons).

The main types of fishing for which spinning reels are used:

  • Spin fishing with artificial lures
  • Fishing with dead or live bait
  • Bobber fishing
  • Fishing with bottom rigs
  • Live lining
  • Ice fishing

Overall, spinning reels are the most versatile type of fishing reel, and can be adapted to many more applications than other types. As such, they come in a wide range of sizes, which are suitable for many different types of fishing (for more details on this, read our article spinning reel sizes explained).

Spinners work equally well for both freshwater and saltwater applications, though in general it’s necessary to choose heavier models for saltwater fishing, which also need to be more durable. 

There are two main reasons for this: 

First of all, saltwater is much more corrosive than freshwater. And if you add sand into the equation, sea fishing requires much more durable materials and construction to withstand that kind of punishment.

See also: what are the most common spinning reel problems?

Secondly, saltwater fish species tend to be larger and stronger than freshwater species, which means you need heavier gear to tire them out and bring them to the net. For example, a big tuna or tarpon will test your gear much more than a walleye or pike.

See also: what is the best Penn spinning reel?

Now, let’s take a look at what spinning reels are NOT used for:

  • Fly fishing
  • Heavy casting
  • Heavy trolling
  • Deep Sea fishing

Out of these four applications, fly fishing is obviously a completely different style of fishing, and thus requires a completely different type of gear. 

But what about the other three? 

They all have in common that they require the use of a very large spool, that can hold a lot of heavy line. Spinners are not ideal for this, because they have a smaller spool size than large baitcasters.

Spinning reel advantages

Spinning reels have two main advantages compared to other types (such as baitcasters and spin casters):

  • They are easier to use
  • They are better suited for lightweight lures and tackle

Because spinner reels are so easy to use, they are the ideal choice for beginners. Baitcasters are much more challenging to master, since they tend to generate line tangles if you don’t know how to control spool rotation while casting. Because of this, baitcaster birds nest formation is the bane of every beginner.

Spinners, on the other hand, are very easy and intuitive to cast with, and there is actually very little that can go wrong during a cast. Because of this, beginners can ignore the subtleties of casting technique, and instead focus on enjoying the experience of catching fish without having to struggle with their gear.

See also: guide to spinning reel maintenance

Secondly, spinner reels are the best choice for finesse techniques and ultra light applications. This is because they can readily cast very light lures, such as crappie jigs, small swimbaits, poppers, and worms. They also work well with very light pound test monofilament or braid, such as 2- or 4-pound test mono. Baitcasters, on the other hand, require heavier lures and stronger pound test in order to perform optimally.

If you’re interested in trying out ultra light fishing, check out our review of the best ultralight spinning reel.

Do pro fishermen use spinning reels?

Yes, absolutely. Since they are better suited for lightweight applications, many pro anglers use them for finesse techniques. For example, Jordan Lee uses them for bass tournament fishing. Many pros use baitcasters most of the time, and then switch to spinning gear when they want to use finesse applications (which is often the case when bass aren’t feeding actively).

Also, walleye pro anglers use spinning gear more often than casting gear.

See also: what spinning reels made in the USA?

What baits to use on a spinning reel?

As mentioned above, you can use a wide variety of baits and lures with spinners, but their biggest strength lies in being able to handle small, lightweight lures. As a rule of thumb, any lure that’s lighter than 1/8 oz performs better on spinning gear than on casting gear.

Here are some baits that work well on spinner fishing reels (and not so well on baitcasters):

  • Crappie jigs
  • Poppers
  • Small spoons
  • Finesse worms
  • Small swimbait & crankbait

If you’re fishing with a rig (such as a drop shot rig), you can use much lighter weight with spinning gear. You may even be able to use a small to medium sized drop shot, if you want to go full finesse in order to catch finicky biters.

See also: is it possible to use braided line on a spinning reel?


To sum up, spinner reels are the most popular and most versatile of all types of fishing reels. They are easy to use, and can be adapted for the majority of applications, which is ideal for beginners. Apart from this, their biggest advantage lies in the ability to handle very lightweight lures much better than baitcasters, which makes them the best choice for finesse techniques.

If you’re thinking about buying new spinning gear, check out our review on the best spinning reel under $100

Additional resources:

Bass Fishing Tips