Baitcaster vs Spinning Reel – Everything You Need to Know

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Baitcaster vs Spinning Reel Explained
Baitcaster vs Spinning Reel Explained

If you’ve ever fished as a kid, I can almost guarantee you used a spincast or spinning reel.

Nowadays, baitcasting reels are taking over the market in droves.

Have you ever watched a Bassmasters event? These guys will take upwards of 15 rods/reels with them and majority are all baitcasters.

The only time a spinning reel will be used is typically for a lighter lure, or something that requires a finesse presentation. Keep in mind… this is only for bass fishing.

Once I got my hands on a baitcaster, I never looked back. But I do realize these reels may not be for everyone or every situation.

Regardless, I think we can all agree that purchasing a good reel is very important. So here’s my question, which is better for YOU – a baitcasting reel or a spinning reel?

Lets divulge.

Spinning Reel

A spinning reel is a cylindrical component attached to a fishing rod that helps in casting and retrieving your line. These fixed spool reels are mounted beneath the fishing rod. The spinning reel can be used by both right and left-handed people by shifting the position of the handle of the reel when taking it out of the box. A spinning reel is also called a multiplier reel.

Spinning Reel Breakdown

The different parts of a spinning reel include the drag knob, spool, bail, handle, grip, and line roller. Hold the rod in your right hand with a firm grip on the reel foot, and hold the line close to the base with a finger. Open the bail with your left hand. Lean the rod away from the target, swing towards it, and release your hand from the line at the peak of the cast. To reel in any fish, you would close the bail, place the line on the line roller and turn the reel handle clockwise to reel the fish in.

Baitcaster Reel

The baitcasting reel has a revolving spool mounted on top of a casting rod with a trigger handle.  The spool is customarily mounted with the crank handle on the right side of the casting line. A baitcaster is also called a conventional reel.

What Makes Baitcasters Great

Baitcasting rods are designed the same as spinning reels, and as with spincasting, anglers usually cast with the same hand they retrieve with. So if you prefer to hold the rod behind the reel when you take it in, you will have to switch hands when you cast. Press the spool release button. Bend your arm, swing the rod forward and cast the line. Once cast, you can control the line using your thumb on the spool.

Baitcaster Vs Spinning Reel Explained

Large outdoor stores are any angler’s dream. I love visiting those colorful shops with their reels, lines, lures, and baits. There are many factors that you would need to consider before making a choice between baitcaster or spinning reel.

Your decision between the two choices of reels essentially is based on these factors:

  • Fish type
  • Backlash
  • The experience level of the fisherman
  • Accuracy
  • Line compatibility and casting
  • Lure type
  • Durability
  • Maintenance
  • Gear ratio
  • Price

Fish type

This is the most important point of consideration. Are you considering fishing small and light fish, or are you going big and heavy? The accepted rule is that for small to medium fish, you use a spinning wheel. For those heavy pounders, use a baitcast reel. Although this generalization is broad, some fishermen agree that besides the size of the fish, its species will also determine the best reel type to use. There are stories of anglers using spinning reels to catch a 300-pound Tarpon.

If you’re going for lighter fish, here are some ultralight spinning reels that are great for the task.

Backlash

Backlash is the most important deterrent to a smooth line cast. When the lure slows down after it is cast, but the spool does not, a tangled line is the result. This is also called a bird’s nest, because, yes, it looks like a bird’s nest. As a result, the line is tangled up in the spool. It is honestly every fisherman’s nightmare! A spinning reel has low backlash. With a baitcast reel, if you do not find that spot to apply pressure, you will end up with a bird’s nest.

Baitcasting Backlash

Although you do not have backlash with spinning reels, the disadvantage is that the lines can get twisted. Proper line spooling techniques also minimize the twisting, as does the use of a swivel at the end of the line.

Skill Level of Fisherman

No matter the tool, the experience level of the user makes a huge difference. Spinning reels are more suitable for beginners. New anglers in freshwater fishing find it easier to use spinning reels than baitcasters.

This is because the backlash caused by spinning reels is comparatively lower. This means while learning to fish, you are able to cast your line with a spinning reel and rod relatively easily.

Seasoned fishermen prefer the baitcaster, especially when going after heavier fish. This means they need a line and reel that can handle the weight. A baitcaster also needs patience and time on the part of the fisherman. A novice would like the experience of fishing, over learning the nuances involved in mastering the baitcaster. These nuances are  also part of the reason why advanced fishermen prefer baitcaster reels.

Accuracy

Another aspect of the difference in experience reflects on the accuracy of the cast. A proficient angler can cast with more accuracy. This is further enhanced by using a reel based on skill level.  One can adapt a spinning reel to any situation, while a situation demanding high accuracy uses a baitcaster.

Line Casting and Distance

Line size is a very important factor in choosing reels. Baitcaster reels can handle a heavier line. When compared with a spinner reel of the same size, a baitcast can be used to cast a longer distance. A small spinning reel is narrow and can not handle bigger diameters. A small baitcast reel can handle thicker lines for the same size. As far as line casting, baitcaster reels have a longer span than spinner reels. Braided lines have a thin diameter that baitcasters can not accommodate, but spinning reels can. However, you can put higher poundage braid on a baitcaster with ease. I do this for my frogging/top water set up.

The distance that a line can be cast depends on the rod’s motion. In a baitcaster reel, the line moves straight from the spool, whereas it moves in a circular motion with a spinning reel.

Lures

A spincast reel can handle lighter lures. A baitcast can support jigs, spinner baits and crankbaits with pinpoint accuracy. A spinning reel can support lines of around 10 pounds, but you may have to switch to a baitcaster if you want to consider anything heavier.

Durability and Maintenance

When purchasing a reel, you must invest in one that you can use repeatedly and often. You must also pay attention to the construction of the reel itself. Baitcaster reels are more durable because they weather stronger and bigger lines better. Even amongst baitcasters, if the quality is not sturdy, the shelf life will decrease. So research well before you make a decision on purchasing.

Along with the original quality, maintenance can also help elongate the life of the reels and provide a smoother experience while fishing. Tips to maintain your reels involve oiling the bearings every 2-3 months and cleaning any salt build-up in case of reels used in saltwater fishing.

Baitcasting also have many more moving parts than spinning reels. This means they are typically harder to breakdown and clean.

Gear Ratio

The gear ratio of a reel means the number of times the spool revolves for each turn of the handle. For example, in a gear with ratio 5:1, the spool moves 5 times when you turn the handle one time. This means that a reel with a ratio 7:1 spins faster than one with a ratio of 5:1. Say you have a big aggressive bass, you need to be able to reel it in really quickly, which means you will need the speed of a high gear ratio reel. Combined with the distance that a line can be cast, along with the weight of the fish that needs to be pulled, you can choose either a spinning reel or a baitcaster.

Price

There are trade-offs that you make for the price of any product. Spinning reels are generally cheaper than baitcasters. However, a baitcaster is more durable and comes with a higher return on your investment. If you are the beginning of your fishing journey, it would make sense to start with a spinning reel, since it is also easier for you to learn with one.

Now that you have a better idea of the factors involved, it is now time to make that smart decision about the reel you would like to invest in.

Spinning Reel’s Claim to Fame:

Spinning reels are usually a fisherman’s first tool. The reel is a great choice to catch small to medium-sized fish. The weight of the bait, lure, and tackle add to the stability of the rod along with the spinning reel. Light lures will only pull the weight of the line and not the spool. The lures sink straighter and are easier to adjust drag during retrieval.  You can break down the reel for quicker cleaning, and reassemble it again.

You can read about the spinning reel I use for lighter baits here.

In general, the spinning reel is an overall good choice for any type of situation. However, there are specific situations where a spinning reel is the best choice. For example, if you are just discovering fishing and would like to bag small fish, then a spinning role would be a great start. The spinning reel is also very useful if the line is light. The most recent advancement in fishing gear technology has led to the rise of using braided lines in freshwater fishing coupled with spinning reels. There are other lines that are manufactured in such a way that they do not get buried in their spool. These lines also have the no-stretch quality to them, making spinning reels more attractive to seasoned pros.

The fishing rod itself is easier to hold and control because of the weight of the reel on the underside of the rod. This increases accuracy in smaller areas. You can use these comfortably under trees and above plants in water. The spinning reel is more suitable for freshwater fishing.

Features That Set the Spinning Reel Apart:

  • Cheaper than baitcasters
  • Easy to operate and handle
  • New fisherman can adapt quickly to its usage
  • Consistent maintenance will prolong shelf life
  • Easy to maintain
  • Low backlash
  • No bird nests and jamming
  • Considerable line casting distance
  • Compatible with all fishing techniques
  • The best option for light lures and lines
  • Use for small-medium fish
  • Suitable to freshwater fishing

Features That May Have to Consider Before Making the Final Choice:

  • Comparatively lower line capacity than baitcasters
  • Bulkier reel
  • Can not use it for big fish like catfish, muskie, northern pike, etc.
  • Line tangling is common
  • Less accuracy and control
  • Slow bait can be tedious
  • Not compatible with heavy lures
  • Can not flip easily
  • Limited variety of gear ratios

Baitcaster’s Claim to Fame

Baitcasting Reel Breakdown

 

As we have seen throughout the article, baitcasters require more finesse in handling. You can use a baitcaster for heavier lures and lines. It provides a greater degree of control and accuracy. The baitcaster also allows you to slow your bait, which is not the case with spinning reels.

Learning to use a baitcaster is time consuming and only seasoned fishermen prefer to go this route. They have the time and patience to learn its nuances. The baitcaster is built to be durable and withstand harsh conditions. This means its shelf life is longer. Since the weight of the fish getting caught on the line is going to be high, the drag pressure helps the fishermen reel in the heavier weight of the fish.

The line in the baitcaster unreels in the direction of the rod, so the flow is smoother and offers a higher degree of control while casting. The baitcaster equipment looks a little intimidating because of the tensioner for your gears and you need to customize it to prevent backlash based on your style. This contributes to the superior fishing experience and result. Every baitcaster is your own and over years adapting this to your comfort lets you fish better.

Features That Set the Baitcaster Apart

  • Durable construction compared to spinning reels
  • Longer shelf life
  • Easier to slow your bait
  • Higher accuracy compared to spinning reels
  • Heavier lures improve accuracy further
  • Considerable line cast distance
  • Greater line capacity
  • Customize to your individual comfort
  • Lighter reel
  • Minimal line tangles
  • Good choice for heavier lures and lines
  • Works well with lighter lures as well
  • A larger variety of gear ratios
  • Easier to fish with crankbaits, and buzzbaits
  • Widely adopted
  • Recommended by seasoned anglers
  • Suitable for saltwater fishing
  • More reliable with heavy/ large fish

Features You May Want to Consider Before Making the Final Choice:

  • Use requires intensive practice and time to learn
  • Tough to use without experience
  • Lighter lines rub on the rod and wear down easily
  • Harder to maintain and clean
  • Bird nest and jamming common
  • Relatively expensive
  • Lines can dig into the pole during fishing and cause the lines to wear down faster

Conclusion:

So what’s the final word? We would like to reiterate that both reels have their own advantages and disadvantages. If you are a newbie and are just getting started, you might have different objectives in terms of reels. You may decide to purchase a reel that lets you concentrate on the joys of fishing rather than get bogged down by the nuances of fishing. In that case, a spinning reel is easier to purchase and use. You can use it to angle small to medium fish. Another fact is that you can also use a spinning reel as an all-purpose reel. With consistent practice, you can move from a spinning reel to a baitcaster.

Summary

If you have considerable experience in fishing, then baitcasters would be a good fit. They have greater line capacity and control. In fact, you must be ready to invest the money, time and effort to learn and practice baitcasting. Baitcasters are very useful in angling the heavier species of fish and can endure harsh conditions. This means, it can tolerate salt build up and you can use it to fish salt-water species. The action of casting the line is more natural since the line flows from the rod in a straight line. Accuracy is one of the reasons why fishermen prefer baitcasters. Because they contribute greatly to accuracy and control, seasoned professional anglers use this to fish even in small areas where using a spinning reel might not yield results.

So as you can see, both baitcaster and spinning reels have their pros and cons. We have seen situations where after years with a spinning reel, you have to break out your baitcaster for a special occasion. Similarly, you may have never used a spinning reel, but realize that it does do well in a pinch, yielding similar results to the baitcaster. Make a choice evaluating all your options and factors.

What Are Your Thoughts?

Now, tell us, what do you use – baitcaster or spinning reel? What specifically attracted you to the reel? Do you have a favorite fishing story? How heavy was the fish you first landed? And most importantly, how do you like your fish cooked? Let us know in the comments below.

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