Baitcaster vs Spinning Reel [2021 Comparison]

Being a successful angler mostly comes down to using the right gear and tackle at the right time. While many fishermen and women might have a preference of one type of reel over another, the truth is that both baitcasting reels and spinning reels have specific strengths, as well as disadvantages when it comes to fishing. 

There are certain circumstances in which you might want to use one type of reel over the other and experienced anglers will usually keep a spinning reel on hand, even if they prefer to use a baitcasting reel most of the time. 

If you’re wondering which type of fishing reel is better than the other in a head-to-head comparison, we’ve put in most of the research to compile this article on baitcasting vs spinning reels. 

Which is Best Between Baitcaster vs Spinning Reel?

This is a very common question that most anglers eventually have to ask themselves as they pick and choose the right type of gear and equipment for their fishing trips. When it comes to fishing for species like bass, you can usually opt with one type of reel over the other for using with the majority of lures you’ll employ. 

There are some major differences between a baitcasting and a spinning reel in the overall mechanics and operation of each type. It’s no secret that a baitcaster reel is widely considered to be much more difficult to use than a spinning reel or especially a spincast model. This is because using a baitcaster involves being able to adequately control the speed and level that the spool is rotating with your thumb in order to avoid the dreaded ‘backlash’ that so often occurs with these types of fishing reels. 

Spinning reels can also have the line tangled if an angler is not careful when using them, but there isn’t the potential to develop the same type of backlash you can get with a baitcaster. These line tangles that occur when using a baitcasting reel are often so bad that many anglers jokingly refer to them as ‘bird’s nests’ as they sometimes can resemble the same type of intertwined mess. 

If you’re willing to try a baitcaster and learn to adapt to the nuances of using it—and are willing to deal with the occasional backlashed fishing line—there are a few specific advantages you’ll have over someone that solely uses a spinning reel. However, it’s often recommended that beginner or novice anglers get the hang of using a spinning reel before graduating to the more demanding baitcaster reel. 

Characteristics of Using a Spinning Reel 

If you’ve never fished with either a baitcasting or spinning reel, we highly recommend you start with a spinning model. There are a number of reasons why spinning reels are simply better overall for newcomers to the sport of fishing, most notably being that they present less potential for tangling your line. That means you’ll be able to spend more time actually enjoying being able to fish and use your reel instead of dealing with the headaches involved in getting a backlashed baitcaster untangled and even re-spooled in some serious circumstances. 

Spinning reels are fairly simple in operation and are generally considered to be better suited for fishing for smaller species. You’ll have no problem going after large fish if a spinning reel happens to be your choice as the top brands produce a wide range of sizes that allow you to fish for any species, including sharks. If you’re planning to go after small species like the freshwater panfish or trout, a spinning reel should be the obvious choice between that and a baitcaster. 

A spinning reel works using a fixed spool that’s situated underneath the rod, as opposed to being located on the top. If you’re accustomed to using a spincast model, this grip will take some getting used to before you feel comfortable, but many anglers quickly get the hang of it. 

Casting a spinning reel requires an angler to flip a bail and hold the line with their index finger as they go through their casting motion. Once you’ve reached the point at which you want to release the line, all that’s required is that you relax your index finger and the line will sail off the spool with ease. 

Advantages to Using a Spinning Reel

As we’ve noted, there are some clear advantages to using a spinning reel that should be taken into account if you’re considering this style of reel vs a baitcasting model. The most obvious reason is that a spinning reel is much easier to operate. You’ll probably realize this once we explain the operation of a baitcaster in our next section. 

Secondly, a spinning reel is also better suited to be used with smaller species of fish. It’s usually not recommended that novice anglers start their fishing journey by targeting the biggest, baddest fish species in the lake or ocean. It’s smart to take it slow and begin by going after small variations of fish so you’ll be able to understand more about fish behavior and how to handle them before you are faced with having to hang on to your rod for dear life in order to prevent a massive fish from ripping it from your hands. 

Spinning reels are also very versatile and can be used to catch literally any type of fish species. You can also spool any type of line onto a spinning reel and expect it to operate without a problem. For some anglers, a spinning reel is their favorite choice simply because it’s easy to use and there’s less frustration involved. 

Pros

  • Extremely versatile
  • Easier to use
  • Recommended for beginners

Cons

  • Less accuracy in casting

Characteristics of a Baitcaster

You’ve probably noticed that most professional fishing guides and anglers often use a baitcaster as opposed to fishing with any other type of reel. The main reason for this is simply that baitcasting reels deliver a higher level of performance on the water that allows you to handle fish and lures with more precision and control. 

There are lots of lures out there that you really can’t use unless you have the performance of a baitcaster. It’s also important to note that baitcasting reels give you greater cranking power, as well as a higher gear ratio, which means you can gather more line onto the reel with a single turn of the handle. 

A baitcaster is situated on top of the rod and consists of a rotating spool that is enclosed in a special type of housing. Operating a baitcaster is notoriously difficult, although it likely seems relatively simple at first. Casting this type of reel requires an angler to simply push a button and hold the spool in place with their thumb before letting their thumb go at the release-point of the cast. 

Baitcaster reels are usually preferred more often by the pros because their overall design significantly lessens the amount of friction that is placed on the spool. This results in the spool spinning more freely, which in turn means longer casts and faster retrieves. If you’re a serious angler and concerned with covering more water with greater efficiency, a baitcaster is the obvious choice between it and a spinning reel. 

Advantages of Using a Baitcaster

While we’ve already mentioned a few of the major advantages you’ll get from using a baitcaster reel, there are a few more that must be mentioned in order to give you all the information you need to make an educated decision between a baitcaster vs a spinning reel. 

Baitcasting reels are well-known for offering much greater sensitivity than spinning reels. This is due to the fact that the reel sits on top of the rod and the line also runs across the top, which naturally has a greater amount of contact between the line and the rod. This equates to you being able to feel the subtle bites that often happen, as well as the changes in what’s along the bottom when using a heavy setup. 

Being able to cast farther is also a huge advantage compared to the limited range of a spinning reel. This comes at an increased risk of backlashing the reel’s line, but is well worth the trouble for avid anglers who are interested in having the greatest possible advantage on the water. 

It should also be mentioned that baitcasting reels are better suited for handling bigger fish than spinning reels. Most professional fishing captains that go after massive tuna, marlin, and other species will commonly use round baitcasting reels as they can simply handle a greater load in terms of drag and cranking ability. 

Baitcasting reels also allow anglers to utilize a variety of different approaches when it comes to fishing. Using this type of reel allows you to ‘pitch’ the lure underneath certain types of structure and docks, as well as quickly rip the lure out of the water before you get snagged on vegetation or cover that you want to avoid. 

There are a few obvious disadvantages to using a baitcasting reel such as the fact that it’s not well-suited for fishing with small, lightweight lures and bait. Baitcasting reels are usually not recommended for catching fish that weigh less than a couple pounds as they are just not compatible with targeting small fish. 

Pros

  • Improved casting accuracy
  • Greater sensitivity

Cons

  • High risk of air knots
  • Not suitable for small fish

Conclusion 

There is quite a bit of difference between baitcasting vs spinning reels, but each one clearly has its place in the world of fishing. If you’re a beginner, you’ll be much better off by starting out with a spinning reel, but if you’re willing to face the dreaded backlash head on, you can likely get the hang of using a baitcaster within a relatively short period of time. We recommend going to a bait shop or sporting goods store and handling each type of reel before you go forward with purchasing one over the other. 

Donny Karr
 

Donny Karr is an avid outdoorsman and writer whose work has been featured in magazines and websites for nearly a decade. He enjoys bass and crappie fishing in the lakes around the southeastern United States, as well as trout fishing in the streams and rivers of the Appalachian mountains. He enjoys keeping up with the latest news and gear items in the fishing industry and is always looking forward to his next outdoor adventure. Donny has written for Georgia Outdoor News, The Outdoor Trip, Man Can Outdoors, Global Fishing Reports, and Bassmaster.