Bait Casting Vs. Spin Casting

by Brian La Rue
Choosing to fish with a spinning or baitcasting reel can be a simple decision.

Choosing to fish with a spinning or baitcasting reel can be a simple decision.

There are many fishing applications in which you might utilize a spinning or baitcasting reel, but there is a small checklist you might consider which will help anglers make a decision. You have to consider where you are fishing, what you are fishing for and what you might be using for baits or lures. The answers to these questions will clearly point to your best option.

Fishing Location

Saltwater fishing requires heavy setups which call for baitcaster reels.

Location is a big factor when deciding between a spinning or baitcasting outfit. Saltwater applications require more line capacity and a powerful drag as saltwater fish tend to be more powerful. Both of these attributes mean a stout baitcaster would be best for saltwater fishing.

If anglers are using smaller plastics or live baits and the targeted fish are only 2 to 15 lbs., then you could get away with a spinning setup like a Shimano Bait Runner. These spinners are typically good for fishing with 15-lb. test and can help you target smaller tuna, yellowtail and bass.

To truly maximize your options for saltwater, a baitcaster loaded with 20- to 30-lb. line is the top choice. This reel can be used for inshore and offshore fishing. A stronger leader can always be added to help you tap into bigger yellowfin and albacore. These fish can peel line out of a rig quickly, so a baitcaster with lots of line capacity will be a necessity.

Targeted Species

Trout are best targeted with spinning reels or lightweight fly rods.

You can catch big fish on light gear, but for the most part, you wouldn't target a 40-lb. tuna with spinning gear due to the fact spinning reels can't handle the extremes that baitcasters can. Sure spinning outfits are easier to cast, but once you get the hang of a baitcaster, or better yet, fight a big fish, you'll soon see why big fish call for baitcasting reels.

Inshore and freshwater applications, however, call for spinning reels most of the time. If you're targeting panfish, a lightweight spinning reel with 2- to 4-lb. test is ideal. These small fish will put up a great fight, but will not pull nearly as hard as tuna. Fishing with a baitcaster for panfish would simply be overkill as that kind of line capacity, drag and power is not needed.

Matching an outfit to the targeted species is a big decider when it comes to picking a reel. Stick with big powerful baitcasters if you really prefer them, but many times they will overpower any freshwater situations. Serious bass anglers prefer small, low-profile baitcasters as they allow for better castability and control. However, until you have practiced with one of these, they can create more problems than you need.

Weight Component

You would use a baitcaster to throw bigger lures to hard-fighting fish.

Weight of a lure or bait is a major factor when choosing to fish with a spinning reel or baitcaster. Even the best bass fishermen in the world, the guys who are known for using high-performance baitcasters, will keep spinning reels and rods on a boat for fishing finesse offerings like minnow and worm imitations with little or no weight. That's because of one of the most important factors, weight.

Weight is a huge factor because spinning reels are designed to throw tiny lures and baits a long way. Baitcasters will actually help you cast further, but these reels are designed to throw something with some mass to it. Take a spinnerbait for example; these somewhat heavy lures can be fan cast all day on a baitcaster. On a spinning setup, they can be quite awkward. Try a 3-inch plastic worm fished on a 1/32-oz. weight. This light offering won't get a baitcaster moving if you tried to make a cast.

Baitcasters are utilized more often when it comes to feel. Saltwater anglers will fly line sardines and feel when the line begins to speed out of the baitcaster letting them know a fish is on. Bass anglers on a lake will feel the crawling motion of a plastic crawdad on the bottom until they feel a tick and set the hook.


Notice the large line guides on this spinning outfit being used on the ocean.

Veteran anglers utilize baitcasters most any chance they get, but there are always times when delicate presentations are called for and that means a spinning reel is needed.

Also, anglers have to remember, a spinning reel shouldn't be fished on a baitcasting rod. There are big line guides on a spinning rod for a reason. The line comes off in loops as it is cast. On a baitcaster, line comes off in a straight line so smaller line guides are best. You'll serious limit your casting ability if you put a spinning reel on a baitcasting rod.


Make the most of your time on the water, practice casting at home before you go fishing.

Like anything, practice will help. With a spinning reel, it's all about flipping the bail open, while holding the line with your index finger and letting go of the line at the proper point in the cast. Timing of the line release with the index finger makes all the difference.

On a baitcaster, you have to put your thumb on the spool and then click or throw the spool release button or lever. Next, cast your lure or bait while letting go of the spool. The most important part of casting with a baitcaster is to put your thumb back on the spool before or at the same time your offering hits the water. Should you forget to do this, the spool will continue to spin creating a "bird's nest." Line will continue to feed, but the lure is not going anywhere and the line tangles. You can practice with a baitcaster and a casting plug in the yard at home.

Should you be brave and try a baitcaster, keep in mind, there's a brake adjustment on most models and that's where you can set it for how fast the spool spins. Of course the faster it spins, the longer you can cast, but the more nests you'll be untangling.

About the Author

Perched atop the Mile High City, Brian La Rue has written outdoor-related articles since 1999. His features have appeared in magazine's including "Western Outdoors," "Fishing & Hunting News" and "High Country Angler." His work can be seen on "ESPN Outdoors." He holds a bachelor's in communications from Cal State Fullerton.

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