When to Use Which Fishing Reel Type
In addition to the various types of fishing there are to choose from, there are also various styles of casting methods anglers use. By far the two most common casting methods for fishing off a boat or yacht are spin casting and baitcasting – both terms relate to the type of reel & rod you’re using. Here is our comparison of the pros and cons of the two main types of casting methods: spin casting and baitcasting.
As with the lures vs live bait debate, between spin casting and baitcasting, most anglers will tell you that there is no better all-around method – both methods work equally well if you use the right casting method the right way and in the fishing conditions they were intended for.
Differences Between Baitcaster and Spinning Reels
A reel is a mechanical device attached to a fishing rod that stores, releases, and collects the fishing line via a rotating arm. And they are not all built alike! While both are multiplier reels, meaning that a single revolution of the handle makes the spool rotate more than one time, there are some key differences.
Between the baitcasting reel and the spinning reel, by far the most obvious difference is the placement position on the rod, and direction (orientation) of the spool. Baitcasting reels sit on top of the rod and have a spool which is inline with the fishing rod, while the spool of a spinning reel is perpendicular to the rod and is underneath the rod.
All this means is that the line on a baitcaster comes off the spool directly in line with the rod while the line of a spinning reel is let off away from the rod and then has to make a turn to follow the length of the rod.
Let’s take a closer look at what this means, and when to use each type of reel & rod:
What Is Spincasting?
Spincasting is the term used when you’re casting a fishing rod using a spinning reel, or a spincast reel.
Spinning and spincast reels are positioned under the rod with the spool perpendicular to the rod. The line in a spinning reel wraps around the spool and goes through a roller or small wheel called a power roller before it continues up through the rod guides. A metal arm (the “bail”) keeps the line in place to ensure it stays over the power roller.
To cast using a spinning reel, you need to first move the bail arm up to free the line and allow it to unspool. This move is known as “opening the bail”. The spool of a spinning reel doesn’t spin during the casting, so keep the line tight by pulling on the line with your index finger as you prepare to cast.
Keep up the pressure on the line during your backswing; only release it at the end of your casting motion. Many anglers like the spinning reel because you don’t have to keep steady pressure on the line while making a cast. There is inherent speed control with this method.
On some spinning reels, you can adjust the drag – the amount of resistance the reel applies to the line –via a dial on the front of the spool. Spinning reels without top-quality drags can tighten on their own or slip and catch at the bail, which can end up breaking the line.
Using this type of casting method, your dominant hand typically holds the rod and the other hand operates the reel. Spinning reels are what most anglers learn to fish with before graduating onto the baitcaster because it covers all the bases for standard sized fish species, is the cheaper of the two types of reels, and is the easier technique to master.
Spinning Reel and Spincast Reel Pros
- Cheaper to buy
- Easier to use
- No backlash (sudden bunching of the line due to a spool moving too quickly)
- Suitable for lightweight line and lures
- Easier to cast near the shoreline or under overhanging trees with a sidearm cast
- Easy to switch left and right-hand orientations
- Easy to add more line capacity with an additional reel
- Heavier, bulkier device
- Not as strong or durable
- Line can tangle, twist or tear (the dreaded wind knots)
- Less drag ability (refers to how much resistance a fish feels when it pulls on the line. The tighter the drag is set, the more resistance the fish feels)
- No distance control
When to Use a Spinning Reel
Spinning and spincaster reels are best used in a number of situations:
- When you’re targeting smaller or standard sized fish species
- When your lures and tackle are generally lightweight
- When you’ll be placing your rod in a holder and are looking for something you can set and forget without risking as many technical problems.
- When you’re on a budget and just can’t swing the higher cost of a baitcaster.
- When you’ll be loaning your rod to beginners who need something easy to work with.
- When you’re providing gear for a class or chartered groups and need to switch easily between left and right orientations.
A Word on Spincast Reels
A spinoff of the spinning reel, called a spincast reel, has a plastic cover (closed face), which is meant to reduce tangled lines, making the spincast reel even easier to use than a spinning reel. Designed for line control, spincasts also have a button on the reel that when pressed allows the line to unspool freely.
To use a spincast reel, simply press the button on the back of the reel during a forward cast. The line flows on out, and when you let go of the button, you’re essentially braking the cast and the line stops. Spincasts are considered the easiest reel to use, making them suitable for children, but with them you sacrifice accuracy and distance (due to a lower line capacity). Also, due to the closed cover, any tangles that DO occur can go unnoticed and become a true mess.
What Is Baitcasting?
Baitcasting is the term used when you’re casting a fishing rod using a baitcast reel. A baitcast reel sits on top of the rod so the spool is parallel to the rod, rather than perpendicular like the spincast reel. Another key difference is that with a baitcaster reel and rod, the rings of your rod are positioned on top of the rod and are larger. (And for the record, no, using a baitcaster on a spin rod is not recommended!) A baitcaster works well with monofilament, fluorocarbon and braid line types.
When you’re baitcasting, the spool moves with the casting of the line, so it requires a more experienced angler to keep things under control. If you don’t keep things under control, your spool ends up moving faster than your casting line is flying, and the line bunches up into a knotty mess. This is called backlash, or a bird’s nest, and although it can be reduced or prevented with practice, it is what makes this a more complex casting method. Experienced anglers will use their thumb to brake and control the line as they are casting.
When using a baitcaster, the dominant hand holds the rod to cast, and then the angler switches hands to reel in the cast, so the dominant hand controls the reel as well.
- Lightweight, low-profile
- Can hold heavier line
- Can hold more line
- More distance control and precision
- Longer casts
- Stronger drag capabilities
- Can handle heavier fish
- Can handle heavier fishing lines and lures
- More expensive
- Higher learning curve; requires more experience
- Backlashes (sudden bunching of the line in the spool)
- Difficult to switch between left and right orientations
When to Use a Baitcaster Reel
Baitcaster reels are best used in a number of situations:
- When you’re fishing for heavier fish
- When you’re a more experienced angler
- When you can invest in the higher price
- When the weather is tough, or the conditions are harsh
- When you’ll be casting frequently and will appreciate the lighter weight of the device
- When you aren’t using a rod holder, you’ll appreciate the lighter weight of the device over time.
For more information on any of these casting methods, we recommend chatting with other fishermen, including us here at Van Isle Marina or the clerks at the tackle shops. There are also many helpful videos and infographics online to help you get started.
At the end of the day, each of these methods has their time and place (where and how you plan to fish) – and we hope that time and place will be aboard a boat in the Pacific Northwest.
Looking for a new boat or yacht to start casting lines from? Van Isle Marina has a wide range of yachts for sale moored at our docks. Take a look at our selection online or come and see us in person. We are located at 2320 Harbour Road in Sidney, British Columbia near Swartz Bay Ferry Terminal.