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Baitcaster vs Spinning Reel Pros and Cons (When To Use Each Reel)

Cadence Spinning Reel,CS5 Ultralight Carbon Fiber Fishing Reel with 9 Durable & Corrosion Resistant Bearings for Saltwater or Freshwater,Super Smooth Powerful Reel with 36 LBs Max Drag 6.2:1 Spin Reel

I think you’ll agree that things can kind of get a little confusing in the world of fishing. We’ve got a million different kinds of baits, hooks, rods, boats, waders and of course fishing reels. When are you supposed to use each of these? 

The good thing is, you’re about to get the definitive answer…and to clear things up even more for you, the next guy you ask will probably tell you something a little different. 

But that’s okay! That’s fishing…and that’s what makes it fun. Not all of our experiences are the same. 

To learn about all the different types of fishing reels and when to use them, read my Ultimate Guide To Different Types of Fishing Reels.  That is where the information for this article came from. 

Baitcasters vs Spinning Reels

What I’m telling you below is my experience and what I’ve found to be true when it comes to what the differences are between spinning reels and baitcaster reels as well as when you might want to consider using them. 

What Is A Spinning Reel?

The big difference separating spinning reels and other reel types is that on a spinning reel the spool is mounted in a parallel fashion to the rod’s underside and it remains in a stationary position when casting. When casting, the line uncoils from the spool from the weight of the bait or lure as it soars through the air.

Upon the retrieval, or reeling process, the reels arched rotating bail (or pick up mechanism) feeds the line down on the spool and concurrently reverses the twists that formed from the casting. While it sounds more complicated than a spincast reel, the mechanics of using it can be picked up typically within a days fishing trip.

When to use a Spinning Reel?

Pflueger PRESSP30X President Spinning Fishing Reel

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Spinning reels are by far the most popular style of fishing reel and are an ideal selection for use by amateur anglers and pros alike. The reel sports an open-faced design that has superior accuracy over the spincast reel and is easier to use than the baitcasting reel.

The best use of spinning reels is on smaller bait fish but wrestling in 20+ pounders is more easily accomplished than with a spincast setup. Old spinning models were made to be super lightweight and primarily for rapid casting and finesse casting. However, many modern spinning reel options are available targeting big game fishing as well.

Spinning Reel Pros and Cons

KastKing Brutus Spinning Reel,Size 2000 Fishing Reel

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Spinning reels are by far the most versatile reel and have one of the largest capacities for fishing line. They are relatively easy to cast, have a greater casting distance, and rarely have backlashes.


The lightweight variety reels suffer when carrying a heavier line (20+ pounds). Heavy saltwater spinning reel and rod combos are available and a great fit for new and experienced anglers. 

They are larger, built to handle a heavyweight fishing line, and are equipped with higher quality heavier materials making them ideal for targeting larger saltwater fish.

Spinning reels are a great value reel because they aren’t expensive like most baitcasting models but aren’t cheap like spincast reels. That leaves them as a good mid-range price option that is respected in the fishing community and should last decades if maintained properly.

What Is A Baitcaster Reel?

Piscifun Torrent Right Handed 7.1:1 Baitcasting Reel 18LB Carbon Fiber Drag Low Profile Baitcaster Fishing Reel Tournament Baitcast Reels

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One of the most difficult types of reels to master because the spool turns when casting. The spool needs to be controlled otherwise it can easily turn into a tangled nest of fishing line.

Mastering a baitcaster reel comes down to how you are using your thumb. The rule of thumb here is that your thumb should ride and guide the line.

If it is your first time using a baitcasting reel don’t get frustrated because it usually takes a few outings to get it down fully. If you want to speed up the process, you can take it to an open field with a sinker attached to practice your cast and retrieval.

When to use a Baitcaster Reel

Piscifun Phantom X Baitcasting Fishing Reels, Right Handed 5.3:1 Gear Ratio, 18lb Carbon Drag, Carbon Reel Handle, Centrifugal Brake Low Profile Baitcaster Fishing Reels

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Baitcaster reels are not suitable for beginners because they are more difficult to learn to cast and the frequency of backlashes upfront requires a lot of patience and maintenance knowledge to troubleshoot effectively.

Typically the’re used by more experienced anglers and considered a staple of fishing tournaments for the following reasons:

  • The drag systems are sophisticated and designed for landing bigger fish because the line comes straight off the spool rather than turning like on a spinning reel.

  • Superior line capacity with the capability of wielding a heavier fishing line

  • Higher gear ratio giving the reel greater power and durability

  • Baitcaster reels are the preferred choice for experienced anglers targeting all species and sizes of freshwater fish including bass, catfish, and more.

Baitcaster Reel Pros and Cons

Abu Garcia 1430435 Revo x Low Profile Baitcasting Reel, 6.75: 1 Gear Ratio, 27" Retrieve Rate, 18 lb Max Drag, 8 Bearings, Right Hand

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Superior Drag

The baitcaster reel has a superior drag system that lets you set how much resistance the fish feels when it yanks on the fishing line. Setting a tighter drag means the fish feels more resistance and will tire out more easily. However, you have to find the sweet spot on the drag setting because if it is to tight the line will stress and break.

Frequent Backlashes (Birds Nests)

Frequent backlashes are quite common and the reel itself is considered challenging to cast. Baitcasting reels are infamous for forming “birds nest” knots when the spool travels faster than the line can release it. 

The frequency of backlashes isn’t a deal breaker because the easy fix is to only fill your spool up to the halfway mark.  The thinking behind this trick is that a full spool spins longer and faster which causes backlashes. Having a tighter spool that doesn’t spin quite as fast will highly reduce the frequency of backlashes. You can also try this other trick that I detailed out in this post here.

More To Clean and Maintain

The reel has a lot of parts to maintain and clean. With all the internal moving parts it is highly recommended that you keep maintenance a top priority through consistent cleaning and lubrication. This will ensure the gears engage properly, incur less resistance, and stick less often.

Perform Best With Heavier Lures

Baitcaster reels are considered to be exceptionally accurate and work the best with heavier lures and lines meaning they can easily manage heavier test lines and a lot of stress.

Can Be Costly…But Worth It

Baitcaster reels aren’t the cheapest, but cheaper models are available. We suggest spending a little more on models and brands that you can find parts for, can withstand some abuse, and are durable enough to last a lifetime.

Final Thoughts

In short, if you’re new or relatively new to fishing, then I recommend you use a spinning reel. Once you become familiar with those, and you’re ready to take your fishing game to the next level, then you should consider upgrading to a baitcaster.  This is especially true if you’re a bass angler. You’ll soon find that baitcasters, when properly used, can open up a whole new world to you. 

Written by Don

When I'm not bass fishing or looking for steelhead in my home state of Oregon I can be found working on house projects dreaming of my next fishing adventure.

I started this website to share just some of the things I've learned along my fishing journey, and the many things I'm still learning. Enjoy!

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