Spinning Reel vs Baitcaster – Everything You Need to Know for 2021

| Last Updated May 20, 2021

Spinning reel or baitcaster- Which should you choose?

A line and a hook used to be the only fishing equipment an angler needs, but all that has changed. Here, we’re comparing two pieces of gear: spinning reels and baitcasters. Your choice depends primarily on your skill level and the fish size you’re planning to catch.

Let’s start with the pros and cons of each model.

Photo credit: reelresource.com

Spinning Reel vs Baitcaster

Spinning Reel

Baitcaster

Pros

Pros

  • More affordable

  • Compatible with a variety of lightweight              lines

  • Easier to use

  • No backlash 

  • Lightweight, durable, and low-profile device

  • Suitable for heavy fishing lines and lures 

  • Suitable for longer cast

  • Offers higher accuracy and better distance        control

  • Has stronger drag ability

Cons

Cons

  • Device not durable

  • Typically bulkier device

  • Lacks distance control and precision

  • Line can become knotted or tear

  • More expensive

  • Higher risk of backlashes

  • Steeper learning curve

Best For

Best For

Beginner anglers or the finesse-oriented anglers who prefer lighter lines and lures

Advanced anglers or fishermen who prefer power fishing techniques

What is a Spinning Reel? 

A spinning reel is a fishing device that features a spool that hangs beneath the fishing rod during use. Its design is opposed to other reels that sit on top of the rod. 

The fishing line wraps around a small wheel known as the power roller and extends to the rod guides. 

The spool also features a metal arm known as the bail. Its function is to keep the line in place, making sure the line goes over the power roller.

Turning the handle of the spinning reel in one revolution makes the spool rotate more than once, which explains why spinners (and many other reels) are called multiplier reels.

Spincasting or using a spinning reel requires opening the bail, meaning you need to move the metal arm up to allow the line to unspool freely.

Keep in mind that the spool does not spin during casting, so remember to first pull the line with your index finger to keep it firm before you cast.

Some models feature a dial for adjusting the reel’s resistance on the line (known as drag). A fishing line can end up breaking if the reel does not have a drag that can tighten independently.

What is a Baitcaster? 

The conventional or baitcasting reel has been around for quite some time and is mostly used by experienced anglers or those who want to be highly skilled in the art of fishing. The reel offers better control and a greater level of accuracy.

It takes a lot of practice to master how a baitcaster works, but many anglers tend to prefer the model once they figure it out. 

Unlike spincasting, the spool spins during baitcasting, making it necessary to keep it under control to prevent knots. You need to press your thumb slightly during casting to get a quality cast.

Unfortunately, many new anglers don’t know how to do this and end up with birds net or backlashes.

Photo credit: alloutdoor.com

To use the device correctly, anglers use the dominant hand to hold the rod during casting and then switch hands to control the reel.

Baitcasting reels are known for their unmatched durability and strength. The spools are designed to accommodate heavier lines, making them more suitable for catching large fish species. 

Thanks to the gear design and drag system, this reel type can produce the pressure required to tackle big and stronger fish. All these contribute to the typically high price of the model.

Spinning Reel vs Baitcaster 

Relevant Characteristics Between a Spinning Reel and a Baitcaster

Here is a summary of the different characteristics of each model.

Spinning Reel

Baitcaster

Beginner angler

Experience Level

Advanced angler

Fixed upright

Spool Type

Inline

Minimal

Backlash Risk

Significant

Suits a variety of line types

Line Capacity

Most suitable for heavy lines

Lightweight lures

Lure Types

Heavy lures

Average casting distance

Casting Distance

High casting distance

Low and Medium-speed options

Gear Ratio

High-speed options

No distance control and less accurate

Accuracy

More distance control and precision

More affordable

Price

More expensive

Similarities and Differences 

The following sections will help you figure out which reel will work best for your fishing technique.

Let’s take a deeper dive into the similarities and differences between these two models. Keep in mind that this is not about which reel is better. Instead, it is more about their different functions. 

Spinning Reel and Baitcaster Differences 

The function of any reel type is to serve as a storehouse for fishing lines and to release and collect the lines during casting. However, they don’t all have the same mode of operation. Here are some of the major differences between spinning and baitcasting reels.

Mounting Location

One of the most obvious differences between these reel types is the placement position mounting location on the fishing rod and the orientation of the spool.

Spinning reels mount underneath the rod and their spools are perpendicular to the fishing rods. The reel placement and spool orientation allow the line to slip off the spool before following the rod’s length. 

On the other hand, baitcasting reels attach to the top of the fishing rod while the spool is in-line with the rod. This mounting location and spool position lets the line unwind directly in line with the rod. 

Operating Mechanism

The spool in a baitcaster spins at a high speed during a cast, allowing the line to be released very rapidly. This is possible because of the ball-bearing system. 

With a spinning reel, the spool does not spin. Instead, the metal arm or bail folds back, enabling the fishing line to slip freely off the reel. 

Line Weight

Spinning reels work better with light lines and lures, while heavier lines and tackle are better suited for baitcasters.

Anglers who use finesse techniques usually have better success with spinners because of the device’s compatibility with lighter lines and smaller lures. 

On the other hand, baitcasting reels work best for fishermen who prefer to burn crankbaits or use power fishing methods.

Each angler may define the terms “light” and “heavy” differently. But generally, any fishing line above a 10-pound test and lures above 1/4-ounce falls under “heavy,” and should be used with a baitcasting reel.

Spinning Reel and Baitcaster Similarities

It might not seem apparent but these seemingly dissimilar fishing tools share a few similarities, these include:

Casting

Both reels are great for casting, even if they produce different results. Spinners offer distance casting power if done correctly, particularly with smaller lures. 

Baitcasters are great for long-distance casts, too. They also allow for more manual control, making it possible to more accurately determine where your bait will end up. 

Drag System

Booth reels come with some form of drag system that causes friction or puts a certain amount of pressure on the fishing line during a cast to create a brake. This enables anglers to have more casting and retrieval control.

The disc drag system is a widely common feature in both spinning and baitcasting reels. This system uses washers made from plastic, carbon fibers, or other materials to create the right amount of friction necessary to stop the line during casting.

Baitcasters and spinning reels both include some sort of drag system to allow more casting and retrieval control. Drag works by applying an amount of pressure to the line, which acts as a friction brake.

One of the most common systems is a disc drag system, used in both baitcasters and spinning reels. Disc drags utilize washers made of various materials, like carbon fiber or plastic, to hold an amount of pressure on the line. The higher the pressure capability, the more stopping power the reel will have.

Use

While spinners might appear more versatile, both tools can work in a range of angling settings from surf fishing to freshwater fishing and even saltwater fishing. 

No matter your preferred reel, it is important to use one with corrosion-resistant properties if you plan to fish in saltwater. This will protect the tool from damages that can be caused by saltwater over a long time.

Also, none of the reels are exclusively for beginner anglers. Experienced fishermen can use both baitcasters and spinners.

Effectiveness

Both baitcasters and spinning reels are great for pulling in fish repeatedly, as long as you know how to use them correctly.

Indeed, one may last longer than the other and may work better for catching certain species of bigger fish; the other is excellent at catching small to medium-sized fish and performs well with smaller lures. 

The bottom line is that they both work great for their different purposes. 

Advantages of a Spinning Reel

Here are some of the advantages of a spinning reel vs baitcaster.

Comparably More Affordable

Spinning reels are generally cheaper compared to their baitcaster counterparts, which makes them quite popular. 

If you are trying to test the waters, it makes sense to spend as little money as possible on fishing gear or equipment. That’s one of the biggest reasons for spinners being very popular among newbies.

The relatively cheaper price also means it can serve as a spare or general-purpose reel.

Ease of Use

Affordability is not the only reason for spinners’ popularity. They are also easy to use, making them the ideal choice for many beginner anglers.

You do not have to worry about excessive tangling, backlash, or birds nest with spinning reels because they are designed to eliminate all of that. Besides, the reel prolongs your line’s lifespan.

But perhaps one of the main reasons they are a lot easier to use is the ability to use the sidearm cast instead of the pitching technique used for baitcasting. The feature allows anglers to easily cast under trees when fishing in tight covers or shorelines.

Incredibly Versatile Model

You can use one spinning reel for different types of fishing, including trolling, live bait fishing, spin fishing, bottom fishing, and more.

The reels also work well for different fishing conditions, such as for freshwater fishing, fishing in small areas, casting above plants in the water, and even casting under overhanging trees.

This versatility makes it a more general-purpose reel for many anglers, regardless of skill level.

Excellent for Ultra-light Lines and Lures

Spinning reels are the go-to choice for lightweight lines and lures. That means you can use them for finesse catching and fishing smaller fish. 

Using light lines for baitcasters tends to result in backlashes but that is usually not the case with spinners.

Advantages of a Baitcaster 

Here are some of the top advantages that baitcasters have over spinning reels.

Better Casting Qualities

Baitcasters provide better casting qualities in terms of casting distance and precision or accuracy. 

It usually takes a significant amount of practice, but you can get better control over how long your cast should be and the exact location to cast your lure with a baitcaster.

Mastering the casting technique requires slowing down the spool tension using the adjustable tension system during the cast. You can also place your thumb on the spool to control the rotation and slow it down.

All of these are not easy to master, but anglers who prefer to learn the delicate art of proper line casting can become proficient with lots of practice and patience.

Superior Quality

Baitcasters have been around for a long time, and while the model has gone through a lot of improvement and changes over the years, the build quality and durability have remained the same.

A typical baitcaster will continue to bring in more fish for several years to come without breaking down. 

They are arguably the toughest types of reels available, yet they are lightweight. This combo makes them better suited to tackle stronger fish. A baitcaster offers the strength required to tackle and successfully withstand the battle between large gamefish and the avid fisherman.

That is because the gear design is engineered to handle a lot of drag pressure from a struggling fish, allowing the angler to battle with even the strongest fish for a long time.

Suitable for Harsh Weather Conditions 

Baitcasters are renowned for their ability to yield consistent results, even in harsh conditions and tough weather.

If you want greater accuracy in saltwater fishing, a baitcaster is your best option. Besides, you can use them with heavier lures and lines.

What About Spincast Reels?

There is a third option known as a spincast reel. This model is an offshoot of the spinning reel but offers better line control and greatly minimizes tangled lines. 

Think of a spincast as a spinner with a plastic cover designed to prevent knots. It is even easier to use than a spinning reel because of the button control that lets the line unspool more easily.

Like spinners, spincast reels do not rotate during casts. The line unspools freely as the lure’s weight pulls on it. 

How a Spincast Reel Works

Simply press the button on the reel’s rear to let the line flow out from the hole at the front. Let go of the button to stop the line. It’s as simple as that.

Benefits of Spincast Reels

Beginner anglers of all ages will find it pretty straightforward to use this model because of its uncomplicated design and mode of operation.

Also, these devices hardly develop technical problems. That means you are less likely to experience malfunctions when you use it. 

Drawbacks of Spincast Reels

While spincast reels are very straightforward to use, they come with a few downsides. 

First, they are not nearly as durable and accurate as baitcasters. But again, these are not designed for pro fishing, so they are not expected to last for a long time or offer high precision. 

Secondly, they have a lower line capacity, meaning you will have to sacrifice distance if you choose a spincast reel. 

The biggest disadvantage of the spincast reel is the possibility of making a huge mess if the line ever gets tangled. Although the reel is designed to reduce the occurrence of this, it is not completely ruled out. 

The plastic cover can prevent you from noticing the tangles on time, and that can lead to a greater mess.

Why Use a Spinning Reel?

Here are a few reasons to consider a spinning reel for your fishing application.

Catching Small to Medium-Sized Fish

A spinning reel is most suitable if you are targeting small to average-sized fish species. The design of the model works great for thinner lines and light lures, meaning you can use the reel for finesse techniques and other lightweight applications. 

When Accuracy is Not Paramount

A spinning reel will do the trick if your fishing technique doesn’t require a higher level of accuracy. For example, the model will work fine if you plan to use a sidearm cast near the shoreline or under overhanging trees.

When You Are Shopping on a Budget

Lastly, a spinning reel might be your best bet if you are looking to spend less on fishing reels. They are generally less expensive than baitcasters. 

What Type of Angler Would Be Best Suited to a Spinning Reel?

There are not too many technicalities with a spinning reel, making it an excellent choice for beginner anglers of all ages. 

Besides, there is almost no need to worry about the dreaded bird’s nest or backlash with spinning reels. Newbies can focus more on enjoying their fishing experience instead of dealing with the challenges of mastering how to correctly use a reel.

Why Use a Baitcaster?

Consider a baitcasting reel if you plan to fish in the following conditions:

Fishing Heavier Fish

You will be better served with a baitcasting reel if you plan to tackle larger gamefish. The capacity to hold heavy lines and lures coupled with stronger drag capacity makes the reel better suited for heavier fish.

Greater Casting Control

A baitcasting reel allows for better precision and more distance control with longer casts. It is your best fishing equipment for consistent results in tough and harsh weather conditions.

As a plus, the device is lightweight. This means you can use it more comfortably and make repeated casts over longer periods without feeling fatigued, even if you are not using a rod holder.

When You Want a Long-term Investment

Baitcasters are generally more expensive for a reason. They come in more complex constructions that are highly durable and sturdier than spinning reels.

Although no reel lasts forever, investing in a baitcaster is a smart choice if you are looking for a reel that will last for many fishing seasons.

What Type of Angler Would Be Best Suited to a Baitcaster?

Pros or experienced anglers will find baitcasters more ideal for their specific fishing needs. That’s because the reel offers better distance control and greater accuracy. 

Bottom Line

Choosing between a spinning reel vs baitcaster is more about what you plan to do and less about one being better than the other.

Spinning reels are great if you are looking for an easy-to-use reel that works for a variety of applications. The model is more versatile and usually more inexpensive, making it suitable for beginners and those on a budget. Experienced anglers can use them as general-purpose reels, too.

On the other hand, baitcasters have superior casting qualities but are more difficult to use and more expensive. This makes them suitable for experienced fishermen looking to use them for specific applications. 

Photo Credit: SportFishingMag.com

People Also Ask

We’ve covered quite a lot about the topic: spinning reel vs baitcaster but, like many other anglers, you might still have a few unanswered questions.

This section will offer answers to some of the most common questions about the issue at hand. Hopefully, the rest of your queries will be handled here.

Are Baitcasters Better Than Spinning Reels?

Baitcasters are not necessarily better than spinning reels, even though they are generally more durable and suitable for longer casts. 

However, an angler who becomes skillful in using a baitcaster has better accuracy and mastery over a long-distance cast. 

On the other hand, spinning reels can work in just about any fishing condition.

Do Pros Use Spinning Reels?

Yes, experienced and professional anglers use spinning reels quite often. The model is not exclusively for beginners only because it has its time and place, and pros understand this fact. 

Of course, baitcasters are more common with pros, but in many cases, advanced anglers use spinning reels for shaky heads and crankbaits.

Why Do Baitcasters Have Two Handles?

Two handles on baitcasters might seem unnecessary, but they provide balance. This is particularly crucial to prevent you from accidentally engaging the reel mid-cast if it had only one handle.

Perhaps another underlying reason is that the fishing community tends to be conservative and prefers to stick to what feels familiar.

Photo Credit: Saltstrong.com

What Type of Reel is Best For Bass Fishing?

Both fishing reels are fine for fishing bass. It all comes down to your specific application and, of course, personal preference. 

Many experienced bass anglers tend to opt for baitcasters because they provide greater accuracy required for catching bass. However, spinning reels can also yield impressive results depending on the fishing condition.

Can You Use a Spinning Reel on a Baitcaster Rod?

It is possible to switch reels on casting rods and the other way around but you might compromise the rod in the long run. 

Also, you will experience more line drag and less distance on the cast. But that won’t matter much if you are looking for a short cast.

Are Baitcasters Worth More Than Spinning Reels?

It is worth investing in a baitcaster if you are hoping to take your angling skills beyond the beginner level. 

The learning curve to master baitcasting is steeper, and in many cases, it can be quite challenging. But it is worth it in the end because you will become a more versatile angler.

Should I Use a Spinning Reel or Baitcaster Reel For a Crankbait?

A spinning reel is suitable for crankbaits, especially smaller-sized models. Matched with the right rod and line, you are likely to have better results cranking for bass in windy and cold conditions with spinning reels. 

Remember to select lightweight crankbaits, though, because heavier lures are best for a baitcasting rig.

Does a Spinning Reel Cast Farther Than a Baitcaster?

In general, a baitcaster will allow for a longer cast distance than a spinning reel in the same size range, especially if it uses a heavy line. 

Nevertheless, if your casting skills are comparable with both reels, and you spool the spinning reel correctly, it can cast farther than a baitcaster.



My name is Jeff and I have been hunting and fishing for over 40 years. I am an avid archery lover, bass fisherman, and all-around outdoorsman. Currently, I'm obsessed with elk hunting but I'm sure I'll move onto a different favorite soon. You gotta love hunting for that reason :) If you have any questions, or just want chat about your latest hunting score or big catch, you can reach me at admin@biggamelogic.com. Read more about Big Game Logic.