Spinning Rod VS Casting Rod – When Should You Use Each of Them?

In its simplest terms, spinning rods are designed specifically for spinning reels, while casting rods are designed for conventional and baitcasting reels.

In many circumstances, a spinning reel will fit on a casting rod and vice versa, but it’s not advised, as all aspects of performance are reduced.

However, while neither is better, each has properties that make them better suited for particular applications.

To what degree one might be better suited than another is arguable and subjective. 

By and large, my rod choice is based on feeling and is often circumstantial. There’s only a little science in it.

Let’s look at the difference between spinning rods and casting rods. Do you go with the science and think critically about an outfit choice? 

Or are you an instinct angler?

What is a Spinning Rod?

Spinning rods come in lengths as small as 24 inches for ice fishing, up to 15 feet for surf and ocean rock fishing – and everything in between.

A spinning rod is designed specifically for mounting a spin reel. The reel seat, by and large, is spin reel specific.

The rod butt or handle is usually longer than a casting rod for casting leverage. But the biggest difference is that the reel and guides sit under the rod or hang.

Guides vary in number depending on the length of the rod and the type of rod. Spin rods can also be equipped with different guides depending on the rod’s design.

Spinning rods can be fiberglass, graphite, or composite, which is a mix of fiberglass and graphite.

What is a Spinning Rod Good For?

A spinning rod is suitable for every type of fishing you can imagine. Fresh or saltwater, onshore, nearshore, and offshore, the spinning rod is the most versatile.

A spinning rod and reel are considerably easier to learn and master than a casting rod. They are also easier for all anglers to use.

They excel in finesse and ultra-light applications. Especially rock and surf fishing, where long casting can be essential.

They’re also great for pedal kayaks and boats, including all styles of offshore fishing. 

But when it comes to big game and extremely heavy fish, anglers will go for the strength and capacity of a casting rod.

They’re also great for the kayak and boat, including all styles of offshore fishing. 

But when it comes to big game and extremely heavy fish, anglers will go for the strength and capacity of a casting rod.

What is a Casting Rod?

A casting rod is designed specifically for conventional and baitcasting rods. 

Fishing rods designed for trolling up the ocean’s biggest fish, also have a casting rod configuration.

With a casting rod, the guides point toward the sky, as does the reel. Rod lengths vary between 6 and 9 feet, but there are exceptions, with extremes at either end.

angler holding a casting rod

Like spin rods, they are made from fiberglass, graphite, or a composite.

Guide numbers and types will vary depending on what the rod is designed to catch. 

With game rods, you will see very heavy roller guides designed for reducing the extreme friction of battling monsters.

What is a Casting Rod Good For

Casting rods are fantastic for casting accurately at close quarters. They’re brilliant for flipping, pitching, and guiding baits into difficult-to-reach locations.

While a legend with accuracy, in the right hands, casting rods can reach prodigious distances. 

Big conventional reels were once the standard in the surf, and with good technique and a long rod, you could cast a country mile.

Casting rods are favored by freshwater lure anglers for one-handed operation, responsiveness, and lightweight feel. 

Once mastered, a casting rod can feel like an extension of your arm.

Conventional rods are also brilliant on a kayak and boat – particularly for all types of near and offshore jigging, bottom bouncing, and trolling.

Casting rods designed for blue water applications are extremely strong and are often the first choice for chasing pelagic rockets.

Casting rods can fit the biggest and most powerful conventional and game reels, giving anglers the drag and line capacity to battle monsters.

Casting rods are probably the least effective for ultra-light and finesse applications. While they’re still used, spin tends to do it better.

Casting rods are also infamous for driving beginners crazy. Casting reels have a perennial issue of backlash or overrun.

Backlash is a massive knot caused by the reel spool spinning faster than the line peeling from the reel. The knots can be extremely annoying.

Casting reels have brakes and other technologies to mitigate the issue, but there’s no way that the physics of overrun can be eliminated.

This means an angler has to learn specific casting skills and reel settings to master a casting rod. The learning process can be very frustrating.

Once learned, however, casting rods can be the most efficient, fast, and smooth outfits to use.

Rod Differences at a Glance

 Spinning RodCasting Rod
Reel PositionHanging downOn top
Guide PositionHanging downPointing upwards
StrengthsVersatility, surf, rock finesse & ultra-lightBlue water fishing, casting lures at structure
Ease of UseVery easyDifficult to learn and master
Perfect ForSurf fishingFreshwater for bass

Pros & Cons of Baitcasting vs Spinning Reels

It’s easy to get bogged down in this argument and go nowhere. The main pros and cons of casting rods vs spinning rods, will all come down to personal preference.

In other words, it becomes a highly subjective argument.

At the most basic level, the only con in this argument is that the casting outfit will always have the threat of backlash hanging over it.

Even the most experienced anglers will get backlash from time to time. It’s inevitable. 

The difference is that experienced anglers will generally spot the signs of overrun early enough to avoid a serious bird’s nest.

A bird’s nest is the term used for the tangle that results from spool overrun. The problem is more prominent in new users and occasional users. 

Feel, and skill needs to be developed over time to master the casting rod to make the most of its standout benefits.

People with natural hand-eye coordination master it quickly, while others give up all together. Yes. Despite the new casting technologies, some anglers never quite get it.

There is also a level of snobbery attached to the casting outfit. Because it requires greater skill to operate proficiently, those skilled often tend to look down on those who cannot.

This situation is not as prominent as it once was, but it’s still there. 

And sometimes, young anglers may persist with a casting outfit, sacrificing fishing enjoyment when they should be using a spinning rod until they have their casting skills.

Conversely, the spinning rod is easy to learn and master, and there is no issue with spool overrun as a spinning reel is configured very differently from a casting reel.

By and large, these are the only “pros” and “cons.” When I look at either rod type, I tend to explain it more in terms of benefits.

Let’s make a quick list of benefits for both rod types.

Casting Rods

  • Brilliant for one-hand rapid casting
  • Ideal for casting lures into difficult places
  • Extremely accurate in experienced hands
  • Brilliant for nearshore and bluewater fishing
  • Ideal for mounting high-capacity large conventional reels.
  • Brilliant for the ocean’s biggest fish
  • Brilliant for a large variety of lures
  • Brilliant for jigging and trolling
  • Supreme strength for the ocean’s largest game fish
  • Most refined fishing for the freshwater pro

Spinning Rods

  • The most versatile rod
  • Excellent for all fishing but the biggest fish in the ocean
  • Very easy to learn and master.
  • The easiest rod to cast long distances.
  • The best outfit for light, ultra-light, and finesse fishing
  • Huge variety of lengths, price points, and application-specific models
  • Outstanding for beginners
  • Brilliant surf and rock outfit

Can I Use a Spinning Reel on a Casting Rod? Or Vice Versa

As I stated in the intro, mixing and matching with casting and spin isn’t ideal. But it is possible. You’ll find that the reel seats of either rod type will often take either reel.

You may have heard that rod blanks have a spine, and the spine is oriented based on casting or spinning. This isn’t true. A blank is a blank.

But some rod manufacturers will roll their blanks on a table, looking for a natural “sitting” position to identify the top or bottom.

I’m not sure about the science of this or if this matters. I expect with the mass production of rods this doesn’t happen.

In this case, strength isn’t an issue. As far as a blank is concerned, there’s no upside down.

But the reel seat, handle design, and the guides for each rod are chosen based on whether it’s a casting or spinning rod. It’s built to be one or the other.

Therefore, balance and performance will be compromised if used outside the designer’s specifications.

I’ve strapped spinning reels to casting rods and vice versa. And they’ve worked well enough. But it’s only been with rods where distance and accuracy casting wasn’t an issue.

You’ll notice straight away, in most cases, that it just doesn’t feel right. Of course, it doesn’t; you’re using it outside of spec.

Sometimes, a spinning reel won’t even fit a casting rod. In which case – you aren’t fishing.

All components on a fishing rod are selected and placed on a blank based on the reel type that is meant to be strapped to it. I strongly recommend you use the reel the rod is designed for.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can you use lures on a spinning rod?

Yes. Spinning rods are fantastic for lures.

Can you fish jigs with a spinning rod?

Jigs are great on a spinning rod, often lighter, and they require less effort.

Are spinning rods good for beginners?

Spinning rods are the best rod type for beginners.

Verdict – Is a Spinning Rod Better Than a Casting Rod?

Neither rod type is better than the other. They’re just different. However, there are applications where each rod excels over the other.

A complete angler will learn to use both. And as they gain experience, they’ll develop their preferences for when to use which rod.

The bottom line should always be to use the rod and outfit you are most confident with.

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