What Is The Best Rod Type For Topwater? (Detailed Guide)


by Robert Ceran

If you want to start topwater fishing, the first decision you need to make is whether to get a casting rod or a spinning rod.

So which rod type is best for topwater fishing, and which one should you get? Here’s the quick answer:

You can use either spinning rods or casting rods for topwater fishing, but each of these rod types is better suited for different kinds of topwater fishing.

Casting rods are ideal for throwing large lures, or for fishing close to heavy cover, while spinning rods are better suited for lighter lures, or when casting into the wind.

Now let’s look at the details of how to use these two rod types for this fishing tactic.

Casting rods are the most popular choice for topwater fishing 

Most bass anglers prefer to use a baitcasting rod and reel setup for fishing topwater lures.

There are two main reasons for this: firstly, most topwater lures tend to be on the large side, and secondly, topwater tactics are often used when fishing close to heavy cover.

So why are casting rods better suited for this?

Well, first of, a casting rods generally have superior casting performance when using larger lures compared to spinning rods, which have a hard time doing well with big lures. So for most bass fishing tactics that involve throwing full-sized, or oversized lures, casting rods are the best choice.

Secondly, baitcasting rods have higher casting accuracy compared to spinning rods, which is a great advantage when you’re fishing close to cover, since this will allow you to cast a lure right next to a laydown, or underneath an overhanging tree, without getting hung up.

Also, since casting rods and reels are better suited for spooling heavy braid, this makes them ideal for catching big bass in heavy cover, since you need as much power as you can get to haul a trophy sized fish away from the cover as fast as possible. 

If you’re interested in getting a rod for this type of fishing, check out or review on the best rod for topwater.

When should you use a casting rod for topwater?

The best time to use a casting rod and reel setup for topwater fishing is when you’re using full sized lures such as big spooks, frogs, or walking the dog type lures.

These lures generally perform much better with a casting setup, and you’ll find that you can cast them farther and more accurately with a casting rod.

The second reason for using a casting rod and reel setup for this kind of fishing is when you’re fishing close to heavy cover (which, admittedly, is most of the time when it comes to bass fishing).

A baitcasting setup will allow you to cast your lure with extreme precision into small gaps between branches when you’re fishing under overhanging trees, or to place your lure right next to a sunken tree.

Also, when you do get a blowup from a bass grabbing the lure, you need to have sufficient power to set the hook and then keep the fish pinned down before it can dive into the cover and get your tackle snagged.

The great thing about a casting reel is that it works well with very heavy braid, up to 50 or 60 lb test, which is exactly what you need for this kind of fishing. 

Can you fish topwater with a spinning rod?

Yes – absolutely, a spinning rod and reel setup can be readily used for topwater fishing. But keep in mind that this is better suited for smaller, lightweight lures. So if you want to throw large to oversized lures, a casting setup would be the better choice. 

In general, if you want to use a spinning setup instead of a casting setup for this kind of fishing, you can choose similar rod specs for either rod type. For more details on the best setup to choose, check out our article on topwater rod and reel setup.

Even bass pro fishermen like Ott Defoe like to use a spinning rod setup for topwater, since it helps them to win tournaments by using finesse techniques.

When should you use a spinning rod for topwater?

It’s best to choose a spinning rod for topwater fishing if one of the following conditions applies: 

  • If you’re a beginner
  • If you’re throwing small lures
  • If you’re casting into the wind

A spinning rod and reel setup is much easier to use for a beginner, compared to a casting rod. So if you’re just getting started, it might be a good idea to start topwater fishing with a spinning rod, since that will allow you to get some experience and to catch some fish right away.

Then, once you are comfortable with this setup, you could try out a casting setup to see how that works for you. If you go for the advanced baitcasting rod and reel right away, chances are that you’ll spend your first fishing trips struggling with baitcaster backlash, which is a terrible way to start your angling journey.

As mentioned above, bass pro angler Ott Defoe likes to use a spinning setup for tournament fishing when he’s using smaller finesse topwater lures. While these lures tend to catch smaller fish than the big lures, you can get a lot more bites that way, which can be just as much fun (plus it can help to win a tournament by racking up the total weight of your catch).

Finally, it’s very hard to cast straight into the wind with a baitcasting setup, and trying to do this will often result in backlash and birdsnest formation (even if you’re an experienced angler), which can take all the fun out of fishing. So if you find yourself in this situation, it’s best to switch to a spinning setup, which performs much better under these conditions.

Also, if you’re planning to do topwater fishing for striped bass in saltwater, a spinning rod is the best choice for you, since you’ll find yourself casting into the wind much more often than in freshwater.