The baitcaster and the spinning reel are two of the most common reel systems available. Both can be used to fish in saltwater and freshwater from the shore or a boat, among other places. They can also be used for many popular types of fishing, like lure fishing or surf fishing. Both types of reels are available in different sizes and from various manufacturers.
But where they differ is in how the spool is set up. Baitcasters have a spool that rotates freely as you cast. Spinning reels, on the other hand, have a fixed spool around which the bail unravels the fishing line. On a baitcaster, the reel is mounted on top, while on a spinning reel, it’s at the bottom.
Some anglers strongly prefer baitcasters, while others will go for a spinning reel any day. The main thing to know is that each type of reel has its own benefits and drawbacks. Some situations will undoubtedly call for a baitcaster, while others for a spinning reel. It’s worth learning the pros and cons of both reel systems so you can decide which is best for you.
Which is best for beginners?
If you’re a beginner or a casual angler who just fishes for a couple of weekends every year, a spinning reel is your best bet. Spinning reels are simpler and easier to use. They’re extremely versatile, so it comes as no surprise that even pro anglers will opt for a spinning reel when they’re not aiming to be incredibly precise or just fishing casually. With a spinning reel, your fishing line is less likely to end up in a backlash, even when casting into the wind.
The pros and cons of spinning reels
Spinning reels are great to use when aiming for small fish such as trout or perch and using light lines with small lures or lightweight live bait. Because they’re less complicated, they’re easier to maintain than baitcasters. Maintenance, which entails cleaning the reel from debris, dirt, and corrosion, is crucial to making sure your fishing equipment lasts a long time.
Having said that, spinning reels are also less durable. They don’t do well with large and heavy fish like bass or catfish, for which you’d likely want a more robust, heavy-duty baitcaster that can handle the fight.
Pros and cons of baitcasters
By design, baitcasters are also able to cast longer distances and with better precision. With their built-in braking systems, you can slow down the spool rotation, letting you select the exact spot where your lure or bait lands.
Another huge advantage of baitcasters is that they give you access to a wide range of gear ratios. Gear ratio refers to the number of times the spool turns for each single crank of the handle. Because baitcasters are built to be more specialized and accurate, you can actually select the gear ratio that fits your needs. For spinning reels, however, the options are far more limited.
Having mentioned that, these specialized features of baitcasters also mean that you would need to learn new skills to ensure the reel system performs at its maximum level. So it’s no surprise that baitcasters are better suited for anglers of intermediate levels. Their advanced skills let them take full advantage of the power and features of baitcasters, which may leave beginner anglers scratching their heads in frustration.
Baitcasters also definitely outshine spinning reels in some specific situations, like when you’re working heavy cover or need to do the flip and pitch cast.
One major downside of baitcasters is that they’re prone to causing the fisherman’s nightmare known as the "backlash" or "bird’s nest. For many anglers, the precision and special features of baitcasters, however, are worth risking a few tangles and jams. You can also reduce the chances of backlashes by avoiding casting into the wind, making adjustments in the brake system, casting shorter distances, and doing test casts. Again, these are more advanced skills that many beginners have not had the time to master or practice.
So which is better?
At the end of the day, beginner or casual anglers will do well choosing spinning reel systems. More advanced anglers, who have had time to train themselves with more complex skills, will likely prefer the greater control and accuracy that the baitcaster provides. There will always be exceptions, of course. Even pro anglers with the best fishing skills will opt for spinning reels sometimes if they just want to fish casually or like the spinning reel’s simplicity. So, which do you prefer?