The old baitcaster versus spinning reel argument is probably never going to go away. Most of the time, some anglers just assume that someone fishing with a spinning reel fails to realize both how to use and how to operate a baitcaster. Of course, that’s far from the truth.
In reality, an angler should know and understand the benefits of both and when to use them, because neither is truly better than the other—just different. Fortunately, most anglers have been out on the water enough times to know the fundamental operation and usefulness of both.
Using either is an art form as much as a method for catching fish. Both reels are popular, regardless of the small pool of dislike for one or the other. The baitcast reel is a little older, with the first known uses of it falling somewhere in the 1700s. The spinning reel came later, in 1870.
Baitcasters vs Spinning Reels – What’s the Difference
A baitcaster reel sits over the rod rather than below, with the spool horizontal and feeding in line with the rod. The line guide moves back and forth as the line feeds out. In some baitcaster models, you manually manipulate the line guide as you reel it in.
Using a baitcaster requires more experience and finesse, especially when it comes to avoiding a ‘bird’s nest’ or ‘backlash,’ as it’s also known.
Spinning reels sit below the rod, with the spool laid out in parallel with the rod. Unlike a baitcaster, the spool on a spinning reel doesn’t rotate, so backlash is avoided. Since it is below the rod, the gravity of the reel’s weight is more natural.
Spinning reels are better for light tackle and ultra-light tackle. Spinning reels are at their best with a 10lb-test and lighter
Difference between a baitcaster and a spinning reel
Baitcasters usually have a higher gear ratio and can handle heavier lines and tackle. Despite the heavier tackle, a baitcaster reels in line much quicker than a spinning reel, making it easier to haul in bigger fish. Spinning reels are cheaper than baitcaster reels and easier to cast for amateur anglers just getting into the swing of things.
Casting is different too. A spinning reel is simple to cast, and the timing for flipping the bail and locking the line is more forgiving. A baitcaster typically has a thumb bar that’s depressed against the line and released as it is cast. Then, all the angler has to do is turn the handle to reengage the reel.
When to Use each Reel
Baitcaster reels should be used when you need to cast farther and are going for bigger fish. You also get a more accurate cast with a baitcaster, and it’s perfect for bass or gar fishing up to deep water fishing for large grouper or snapper.
Baitcast reels are also ideal for trolling king mackerel or surf fishing for pompano. Spinning reels are less accurate and lack the distance of a bait caster but are superior when fishing with lighter tackle. The spinning reel also allows an angler to switch hands on the fly.
You can catch large fish with a spinning reel, so long as you are willing to work harder for it, but it makes more sense to use the baitcast reel when you are gunning for bigger fish.
Baitcaster Pros and Cons
While the argument between which type of reel is better for certain types of fishing and vice versa, there are pros and cons to both, as is true with almost anything.
- Longer casting distance
- Can cast with better accuracy
- Heavier line and tackle
- Higher gear ratio
- Reels in fish quicker
- More line capacity
- Not ideal for newbies
- Light tackle is waster on a baitcaster
Spinning Reel Pros and Cons
Some veteran anglers may look down on the lowly spinning reel, but there are some good reasons to use one, as well as reasons not to.
- More affordable
- Easier to learn with
- Handles light and ultra-light tackle very well
- More versatility
- Can switch hands with ease
- Center of gravity is more natural
- Lower gear ratios
- Reels in fish slower
- Much harder to reel in bigger fish
- Less line
- Casting isn’t as accurate
Both reels have their uses and good anglers will recognize that and use the one that gives them the best advantage. While there will likely be arguments to the end of time over which reel is better (especially when it comes to situational arguments), they both have their positives.
Baitcaster reels will always be superior when it comes to the bigger fish and the kind of fish you have to let run for hundreds of yards before reeling them in and letting them run again. Trying to catch Crevalle Jack with a spinning reel would be a recipe for comedy television.
Spinning reels are excellent for light tackle and versatile fishing, like speckled trout while you’re wading about in water covered in reeds, driftwood, and everything else a good angler has to contend with. Experienced anglers know what reel to go for before they ever walk out the door.
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