According to historical data, reels have been used as fishing devices as early as 200 AD. Since then, they’ve evolved into several categories, but the most commonly used are the spinning reels and the baitcasting reels. There are quite a few differences between the two categories and each one comes with its pluses and minuses.
What Is A Spinning Reel?
The spinning reel is the most common and preferred type of reel by anglers all over the world. That’s because it’s highly versatile and very easy to master. It can suffice perfectly for a wide variety of fishing tactics and styles. It’s more common for in-shore fishing, but can be used off-shore as well, even for large and powerful fish.
A spinning reel is equipped with a fixed, skirted spool, featuring a bail, a drag adjustment knob, and an anti-reverse lever. The drag knob is typically placed atop the spool, but there are models with it on the bottom. The line stop lever can be placed in various locations on the reel’s main body, but some models don’t have this feature.
The spool of a spinning reel is easily detachable. Some models even come with one or multiple extra spools. Thus, they offer the possibility to have different fishing lines on each spool for quick swapping, if needed.
Spinning reels are meant to be attached to the bottom of the fishing rod for superior balance. Most offer the possibility to attach the handle on the desired side (right or left).
How To Use A Spinning Reel?
First of all, spinning reels allow for finesse casting. That’s because they offer more control over the whole rod setup and the cast itself. Also, since the spool itself remains fixed during the cast and the fishing line unravels with very little resistance from it, they’re great for casting light baits or lures. This makes them more appropriate than baitcasters for fishing smaller bodies of water, such as creeks or canals, since you don’t have to cast long distances and you don’t need to put too much strength behind each cast.
When using spinning gear, before casting your lure you must first disengage the bail of the reel to unlock the line. Once the bail is off, you have to hold the line with your index finger against the rod.
When the rod reaches the top of the cast, you have to release the line from under your index finger. Once the bait or lure reaches the desired location or depth, you have to re-lock the bail to prevent the line from unspooling any further.
Spinning Reels – Pros & Cons
- Superior control over casting speed and distance
- Great for casting light baits and lures
- Positioned at the bottom of the rod which creates better balance
- Easy drag control
- The possibility to easily switch between right hand and left hand (most but not all spinning reels have this feature)
- On average, cheaper than baitcasting reels;
- Highly versatile – great for most fishing methods and set-ups
- Less likely for the line to tangle when casting
- If the line tangles, the problem is usually easier to remedy than it is for baitcasting reels
- Very easy to master, great for beginners
- On average, lower line capacity than baitcasting reels
- On average, shorter casting distance than baitcasting reels
- Not well-suited for fishing with heavy baits or lures
- Not well-suited for handling heavy and highly combative fish
What Is A Baitcasting Reel?
Baitcasting reels are designed for handling heavy fish as well as casting long distances with heavy baits and lures. Thus, they’re more suitable for saltwater fishing, but also for large freshwater predators like northern pike.
As opposed to spinning reels, baitcasters feature a rotating spool that you can lock/unlock by a button or lever. This makes the casting task simpler than for a spinning reel. But on the other hand, since the spool rotates as the line is released from it, it calls for more experience in order to prevent the line from tangling. Differently put, if the spool spins faster than the line is released, you’ll end up with a “bird’s nest” on your reel. This is the main reason baitcasters aren’t recommended for beginners.
A baitcasting reel is mounted on top of the rod which results in less balance than for spinning gear. But on the other hand, the spool is perpendicular to the rod so the fishing line is in line with the rod as it is released. This allows the line to flow smoothly during the cast.
Baitcasting reels are equipped with high-performance drag systems and offer superior drag adjustment possibilities to spinning reels. As opposed to spinning reels, the drag adjustment on a baitcaster typically consists of a large wheel placed on the side of the reel. There’s also a spool tension knob which typically requires some adjustments depending on the weight of your lure or bait.
The seat of a baitcaster doesn’t have a long arm as is the case for spinning reels; it’s designed to keep the reel close to the rod. And finally, baitcasting reels call for baitcasting rods. These have a specific reel attachment system featuring a plastic hook below the seat. This hook prevents the rod from slipping through your hand when you’re casting.
How To Use A Baitcasting Reel?
When using a baitcasting reel, it’s vital to calibrate it to the weight of your bait or lure, before making the first cast. To do this, simply press the release button and allow the lure/bait to fall on the ground while holding the rod up. If the line begins to form a bird’s nest just from that, it’s a sign you need to adjust the spool tension to match the weight of your bait/lure.
When performing the cast, first you need to press the reel’s bail button, then place your thumb on the spool. At the top of the cast, gently lift the thumb from the spool so that the line is released. But as the line is released, it’s important to feather the spool with your thumb.
That’s because when the lure is about to hit the water, you’ll need to stop the spool from spinning otherwise you’ll get a backlash. Once the lure is in the water, you can turn the reel’s handle which will pop the line release button back in.
Baitcasting Reels – Pros & Cons
- Great for handling heavy and highly combative fish
- Great for casting and handling heavy baits/lures
- Superior casting distance to spinning reels
- Superior spool capacity to spinning reels
- Lighter than spinning reels of similar specs
- Greater gear ratio than for spinning reels
- Smoother casting, reeling, and lure play
- Not suitable for light lures and light line
- Not as easy to master as spinning reels
- A bird’s nest can happen even to an experienced angler and dealing with the problem is always a hassle
- You can’t change the side of the handle; so, if you’re left-handed, you’ll have to opt for a left-handed baitcaster
- Typically more expensive than spinners