You may have thought that the old argument about baitcaster reels being better than spinning reels would have been put to bed by now.
Well, no. The argument is decades-old yet still persists, regardless of the fact it’s become a non-argument.
The two reel types are simply different. However, there’s nearly 100% application crossover.
So, by and large, it comes down to personal preference. After all, both reels are equally adept at catching fish.
But there are fishing applications where one is better suited over the other.
This is the most important distinction to address and probably the most practical consideration when contemplating a purchase.
Let’s have a closer look at the baitcaster vs spinning reel argument and what you need to consider when buying one or the other.
What Are The Differences Between Baitcaster and Spinning Reels?
To understand the differences between baitcasters vs spinning reels, we need to understand the pros and cons of both options.
Let’s take a closer look:
What is a Spinning Reel?
We know what a spinning reel looks like and how to operate it.
Instead of detailing the design principles, I’ll focus briefly on the critical operational feature that makes it different from a baitcaster.
The spinning reel is also known as a threadline reel or, more commonly, an eggbeater.
The eggbeater tag comes from the action of winding a spinning reel which resembles the action we use when cranking an old school, traditional egg beater.
On a spinning reel, the spool remains stationary, except for when the drag is engaged during a fish fight.
The line is wound onto the spool via a spinning rotor, with the bail arm and oscillation system laying the line evenly.
The spool is connected to the main body of the reel by a single shaft through the center.
Pros and Cons of a Spinning Reel
Here are some of the pros and cons of choosing a spinning reel:
Advantages Of A Spinning Reel
Ease of Use:
More than anything else, the key advantage of a spinning reel is its ease of use.
With a little instruction, a beginner can become quite competent with a spinning reel in a single session.
With regular use, the spin reel can be mastered very quickly relative to any other reel type.
For this reason, the spinning reel is the most popular fishing reel type for the vast majority of anglers.
Casting is probably the most important skill an angler will learn. The beauty of the spinning reel is that casting is so easy.
Even when we are first learning, the mechanism is so forgiving that mistakes deliver few serious consequences that will detract from the fishing experience.
Casting Light Weight Rigs:
Modern anglers are increasingly using ultra-light lines, lures, and rigs for finesse fishing.
It’s the spinning reel that has allowed for rigs to get lighter and lighter, increasing the sporting element of angling.
The stationary spool is perfect for getting maximum casting distance and accuracy from the lightest of lines and lures in water.
A function that’s not well supported by the baitcaster.
Spinning Reel Affordability:
While there are now affordable baitcasters, the spinning reel remains the more accessible option for tight budgets.
With $100 in his back pocket, the angler has access to a much better range of spinning reels than he does with a Baicaster.
While comfort is subjective, the fact that the spinning reel hangs underneath the rod makes a rod and reel combo more comfortable to hold.
As a result of gravity holding your rod and reel in position, some of the effort required to hold a rod is alleviated. In most cases, fatigue is reduced.
The modern low-profile baitcaster is almost exclusively used for lure fishing, for which it’s an excellent tool.
The larger baitcasters are often preferred for live and flesh baits or larger lures.
The spinning reel is arguably just as good with lures as a baitcaster, with the added benefits of better finesse credentials.
With a greater variety of sizes, spool, and drag capacities, the spinning reel has more versatility for using various rigs, rig weights, bait weights, and sizes.
Disadvantages of A Spinning Reel?
Owing to the shape of the reel, the spinning reel doesn’t have the same level of strength and twist resistance compared to baitcasting reels.
Generally speaking, spinning reels are often bulkier relative to power and capacities.
They have a higher center of gravity, although that is negated by the fact it hangs. Nonetheless, the operation is less compact than a baitcaster.
The spinning reel line lay mechanism causes line-twist. Generally speaking, this doesn’t become a problem, but it can.
Heavily twisted lines are prone to knotting, poor line lay, and poor line performance.
When Should You Use a Spinning Reel?
The short, perhaps unhelpful answer is anytime. The versatility of the spinning reel ensures it works brilliantly with nearly all fishing applications easily.
That’s provided you match the spin reel to the application.
You should use a spinning reel if you are not confident at casting a baitcaster.
Secondly, if you plan to fish ultra-light, the finesse size spinning reel is a must.
What is a Baitcaster Reel?
The baitcaster, also known as a conventional or overhead fishing reel, has several obvious differences from a spinning reel.
There are two differences, however, that are critical. Firstly, the spool rotates as you cast, and secondly, the spool is anchored at two points.
In these differences, we see the greatest contrast of advantage and disadvantage between the baitcaster and the spinning reel.
Pros and Cons of a Baitcaster Reel
Here are some of the pros and cons of choosing a baitcaster reel:
Pros of a Baitcaster Reel
Greater Casting Precision:
Above all, experienced anglers gravitate to the baitcaster for its outstanding casting precision.
A good angler can land a lure on a small lily pad with consistent accuracy over quite a long distance.
Low Centre of gravity, Shape, and Ergonomics
The shape and low center of gravity deliver excellent casting and fish fighting ergonomics.
With a compact operational zone, the ergonomics deliver efficient fishing, ideal for techniques such as flipping and pitching on the drift.
The spool is anchored at two points in the frame. This provides a superior level of strength.
The baitcaster is more compact than a spinning reel. There is far less opportunity for heavy loads to cause twisting, which can compromise reel internals.
Range of Gear Ratios:
Lure anglers appreciate the significant variety of gear ratios available in baitcasters.
Those requiring considerable speed will nearly always choose the baitcaster over the spinning reel.
Disadvantages of a Baitcaster Reel
Because the spool rotates in the direction the line is peeling off, there’s a high chance of over-run or backlash.
Backlash occurs when the spool spins faster than the line peels off the spool.
The resulting tangles, often referred to as a bird nest, can be frustrating to the point of infuriating.
The baitcaster is not a forgiving reel. Casting errors are often punished with horrible bird nests.
Technology has improved the braking, which mitigates backlash. However, there is no technology yet invented that can defy physics. Backlash is a possibility with every cast.
A Poor Option for the Beginner:
The baitcasting reel requires plenty of practice to reach a basic level of competence. And the journey to competence can be very frustrating.
Depending on the frequency of practice, and your natural casting ability, the baitcaster can take some time to master casting.
A beginner angler will rarely handle a baitcaster with the competence required for an enjoyable fishing experience.
While the baitcaster has become more accessible over the last decade, they are still more expensive than spinning reels for the same level of quality.
When Should you Use a Baitcaster Reel?
People will argue that a baitcaster is better in a situation when strength is required.
That’s not really the case these days, as the larger game spinning reels are more than capable of landing sharks and marlin.
I would use a baitcaster when casting accuracy and efficiency will directly impact my catch results.
Baitcaster vs Spinning Reel – Casting Distance
Several factors determine casting length. The balance of your rod and reel, the balance of your rig, the weather, and your casting competence.
Both reel types can cast prodigious distances. However, the average angler will nearly always extract more distance from a spinning reel.
It takes quite the level of practice and skill to consistently cast peak distance with a baitcaster reel.
Anglers experienced with baitcaster reels can get every bit of distance (and more) with a baitcaster, as you can with a spinning reel.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why Do Pros Use Baitcasters?
The reason pros use baitcasters is because they are on the clock, using lures exclusively, and are under strict competition rules.
Because of this, pros prefer baicasters due to the level of casting performance, accuracy, and general reel efficiency afforded by a baitcaster.
Which Reel Is The Best For Bass Fishing?
The best reel for bass fishing will depend, of course, on the primary technique you want to employ.
Fast pace flipping and pitching on the drift would suit a baitcaster, for example.
However, neither are any better than the other for targeting bass. It’s more about conditions, geography, and technique that determines the better-suited reel for bass fishing.
Are Casting Reels Better Than Spin Reels?
The answer is an emphatic no! Both reels have their pros and cons.
It is completely inaccurate to say one is better than the other without being specific about applications.
Do I Really Need a Baitcaster?
No you don’t really need a baitcaster, but they’re a tremendous reel to have in your arsenal.
I always recommend that enthusiastic anglers learn to master baitcasters. Being able to use a baitcaster properly adds significant depth to your fishing skills and access.
The Baitcaster VS Spin Wrap Up
As I always say, the best reel for you is the reel you can afford, which covers the bulk of your fishing applications.
Spin reels and baitcaster reels are equally good for catching fish but have different performance advantages in different applications. Just like anything, there are pros and cons to each.
Having said that, it’s pretty clear that the spinning reel is the better choice for the average angler.
In many respects, easier is better, especially when nothing is lost in terms of access going for the easy option.
And the spinning reel is an easier reel to learn and master. We all prefer a seamless fishing experience without having to battle with our gear.
However, I recommend getting baitcaster skills under your belt. Having a few baitcasters in your arsenal, and the ability to use them, adds so much more depth to your angling repertoire.