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When most people start fishing they usually start out with a spinning reel, or at least a reel of a similar design to a spinning reel.
There’s a good reason for this, and that’s because spinning reels are much easier to use than a bait caster reel.
But once you become a more proficient angler you will naturally want to explore the different equipment options available to see if they can give you more of an edge.
So here I will go into the benefits and differences between baitcasting reels and spinning reels, so hopefully, you can make a more informed decision on your next reel purchase.
Firstly, I would not advise anyone that is just starting out fishing to use a baitcaster reel. But for the more experienced angler then it can provide a lot of benefits and potentially allow you to do some things even better than you can do with a spinning reel.
A baitcaster reel is completely different in design from a spinning reel. First, the reel faces upwards from the rod, whereas the spinning reel hangs down from the rod.
It takes some fine-tuning to get it set up just right for your needs, but when you do it can be a serious weapon to have in your tackle box.
Baitcaster reels provide more distance control when casting. This is why professional and tournament anglers like to use a baitcaster reel, as they can throw their bait and lures right on the money.
When you cast you can apply pressure on the line with your thumb to slow the cast down and ensure you drop that bait right on the exact spot you intended.
While this can be done with a spinning reel, it is not as easy as with a baitcaster, and not as accurate either.
Baitcaster reels are generally much lighter than spinning reels, and this makes a big difference if you are going to be throwing lures repeatedly for long periods.
They can also cast further than spinning reels, which can be an important factor for some anglers.
Baitcaster reels are generally much more compact in size and design compared to their spinning reel equivalents. This makes them much more manageable and when paired with a light rod, it can make for a very effective combo.
Retrieve rates on baitcaster reels are faster than spinning reels. They also have a lot more line capacity.
Another real plus with baitcaster reels is that they don’t produce any line twist. This is due to the position of the spool, which allows the line to peel off in the same direction as the rod, whereas the line on a spinning reel peels off at a 90-degree angle, which causes the line to twist and loop.
Baitcaster reels are generally more expensive than spinning reels, and they are more complex to use. They have a more quirky design than a spinning reel, and it certainly takes some getting used to
The main thing that makes a baitcaster harder to use than a spinning reel is the casting technique. A common issue with the less experienced users is called backlash or over-run.
This is when you cast, and the spool turns faster than the lure or bait flies through the air. When your bait hits the water, but the spool doesn’t slow down, all that line continues to release from the spool and just becomes a big tangled mess (the dreaded “birds-nest”).
A lot of newer baitcaster reels will have a magnetic braking system that helps to slow the line release as the bait comes closer to landing. But even with this technology, you still need to know when to apply some manual resistance to the line.
The handle on a baitcaster is fixed to one side of the reel, it can’t be moved from side to side as you can with most spinning reels.
Most baitcaster reels come with the handle on the right-hand side, so this is on the other side for a right-handed angler using a spinning reel, where the handle is usually preferred on the left side (unless you’re in Australia or New Zealand).
You can buy some baitcaster reels with the handle on the left side, but they are not as common as the right-handed models available.
While baitcaster reels do have a drag system built into them, they are silent when in action, so they don’t have that same adrenaline-inducing scream as the line is ripped off the spool by a large fish.
If you prefer to do your own reel maintenance, then a baitcaster reel can be very fiddly to deal with. They are more complex in their design, can be very small in size too, and have a lot of working mechanics that are easy to mess up unless you really know what you are doing.
Spinning reels are simple to use, and extremely versatile too. You will find so many different kinds of spinning reels available, and you can get some at a very reasonable price too, so they are ideal for the beginner.
You can also get some very good middle-range to high-end spinning reels that use a lot of modern technology to improve their performance. So, don’t think you are missing out on any quality when buying a spinning reel, as this does not have to be the case.
The versatility of spinning reels is what makes them a very popular piece of equipment for most anglers to have.
They can be used for spinning, for live baiting, bottom fishing, jigging, trolling, surf fishing, rock fishing…..the list goes on!
Although you can get spinning reels of all sizes, where they excel is for lighter techniques and lure fishing that requires a bit more finesse and touch.
You can switch the side of the reel that the handle goes on very easily too. You simply undo a bolt-on one side (no tools required to do this, it can be done by hand). And then switch the handle over to the other side and screw the bolt back again to hold it in place. Easy as!
They are also very simple to use, you can be a complete novice that is handling a fishing rod and reel for the first time, and within a minute you will understand how a spinning reel works.
Casting is generally much easier to do with a spinning reel than with a baitcaster. You don’t get that long backlash in your line when your bait or lure hits the water, as you do with a baitcaster, so this leads to fewer tangles.
The drag systems on spinning reels are very effective, and of course, they have that sound that has become so defined to any angler when a fish starts to rip line from the reel.
It really gets the adrenaline flowing when you hear that drag screaming, that’s for sure!
If you use mono line on a spinning reel, it develops what is called ‘memory’. This means that it starts to form the natural shape of the spool, and when it is cast it peels off the spool in big loops. This can affect your casting distance and accuracy.
You also lose a bit of casting control when using a spinning reel. On a baitcaster reel, you can slow the line down with your thumb when you cast and land your bait right on the intended spot. But on a spinning reel, this is much harder.
You can try and slow the line down with the opposite hand to the one you have on the rod when you cast, but this just isn’t as effective as with a baitcaster reel.
Spinning reels are generally larger, heavier, and more cumbersome, and protrude from the rod a lot more than a baitcaster reel does.
A quick mention on the rods required for baitcaster and spinning reels
Although this article is about the differences between a baitcaster reel and a spinning reel, I should also mention that the rods for both are different in design too, something you should be aware of before you buy.
On a spinning rod, the eyelets will hang below the rod, whereas on a baitcaster rod they will face upwards.
The eyelets on a spinning rod will be further away from the rod, and the first eyelet is always much bigger. This is because of the looping shape of mono line I mentioned earlier (which occurs because of line memory).
The bigger eyelet on the spinning rods allows for the looping line to pass through with minimal resistance.
The eyelets on a spinning rod will take most of the pressure of the line, whereas on a casting rod the pressure will largely go through the ‘blank’, which is the part of the rod closest to the handle.
In comparison the eyelets on a baitcaster rod will face upwards, they will be much closer to the rod, and the first eyelet closest to the reel is much smaller than on a spinning rod. This is because there are no loops in the line when it comes off a baitcaster reel due to the direction it comes off the spool.
After all this information about both types of reel, here is a quick summary for you to take away.
Ideal if you need a lighter reel, you want to control your casting distance, and you need more line capacity. Expect to pay more for a baitcaster reel, but in return, you will get more technical ability and ultimately more control.
If you have determined that you need one or more of the features that a baitcaster reel does better than a spinning reel, then the extra expense and learning curve can be justified.
Ideal for the beginner. Easier to use, less to learn, and you get more bang for your buck. They also offer a lot more versatility, so if you intend to do a variety of different fishing methods from different locations, then a spinning reel is ideal.
Both baitcaster reels and spinning reels have their place and both are best suited for different situations. They will both catch you fish, so it ultimately boils down to what you are most comfortable and more confident with.