Baitcaster Vs Spinning Reel - What’s The Difference?

One of the first things you must decide when adding a new rod and reel to your arsenal is whether you want one with a baitcasting reel or a spinning reel. Neither type is inherently better than the other, and you’ll often see professional anglers using both. However, each one excels in different applications, so you’ll want to pick the one that best suits your fishing preferences. In this post, we’ll give you the rundown of a baitcaster vs spinning reel, so you can decide which is right for you.

What Is A Baitcaster?

baitcaster reel

A baitcasting reel (often simply called a baitcaster or casting reel) utilizes a rotating spool to store fishing line. When you crank the handle, the spool spins and collects line. The reel is attached to the top side of a baitcasting rod, and the spindle sits perpendicularly to the axis of the rod. Most baitcasting reels feature a brake system, which can adjust the rate at which the spool spins.

To cast with a baitcaster, you’ll need to press a thumb button which will allow the spool to spin freely. As you whip the rod forward, the weight of the lure will cause the spool to spin and free line. At the end of the cast, you’ll need to crank the handle forward, which will prevent the spool from spinning backward any further and allow you to reel the line back in. 

What Is A Spinning Reel?

spinning reel

Spinning reels (also known as spincast reels) are mounted underneath the rod they’re attached to, featuring a fixed, rather than rotating, spool. The spool is mounted to the rod in parallel fashion, and a wire arm (called a bail) turns when the handle is cranked. As the bail rotates, it collects line and stores it on the spool.

When casting with a spinning reel, you’ll need to disengage the bail, which will then allow the line to pour off the spool when you sling the rod forward. Once you’ve completed the cast, you’ll need to re-engage the bail, so that you can begin reeling in line.

When To Use A Baitcaster Reel Vs Spinning Reel

There aren’t any hard-and-fast rules about fishing with a baitcasting reel vs a spinning reel. However, they each work best in different scenarios. Some of the factors you’ll want to consider when making your choice include:

Line & Lure Weight

  • Baitcasting reels are typically used with heavy lures and lines
  • Spinning reels are better suited for light lures and lines

There is plenty of overlap, as some spinning reels are robust enough to handle 50-pound-test line, and some baitcasting reels will work with ¼-ounce lures. But you’ll usually want to use spinning reels with light gear and baitcasting reels when using heavy gear.

Fish Size

  • Baitcasting reels are typically better suited for large fish
  • Spinning reels are often used to catch smaller fish.

Most anglers fishing for crappie, rainbow trout or panfish will use spinning reels. Anglers targeting largemouth bass, catfish or muskie will generally opt for baitcasters.

Casting Accuracy

  • Baitcasting reels provide much better casting accuracy. This is primarily because baitcasters rely on a spinning, rather than a fixed This means that you can use your thumb to slow or stop the spool during your cast, thereby allowing you to drop the lure into the water right where you’d like.
  • Spinning reels don’t provide this option, as they rely on a fixed spool.

Baitcasters win out on this front.

Casting Distance

  • Baitcasting reels rely on the weight of the lure to spin the spool. This means that you’ll want to use a heavier lure to make longer casts. But this sets up a bit of a paradox, as heavier lures won’t fly as far as lightweight lures when cast with the same amount of force.
  • Spinning reels allow line to just pour off the spool. This means that the bulk of the force applied will be applied to the lure, rather than spinning the spool.

Accordingly, if you are interested in maximizing casting distance, you’ll usually want to opt for a spinning reel.

Skill Level & Experience

While there are exceptions, most beginning anglers will find that a spinning reel is much easier to use than a baitcaster.

  • Using a baitcasting reel requires the angler to carefully balance the line and lure weight, making subtle adjustments to the spool brake to ensure the spool stops spinning at the same time the lure hits the water. If the spool continues to spin after the lure splashes down, it’ll cause a huge tangle referred to as a backlash. Many anglers learn to apply pressure to the spool with their thumb to stop it from spinning at the same time the lure hits the water, but this just provides novice anglers with one more thing to think about during the cast.
  • Spinning reels rely on a fixed spool, so backlashes don’t happen very often. This means you don’t need to be as careful about matching the line weight with the lure weight, and you don’t have to worry about adjusting a spool brake at all. You can just open the bail, tilt the rod back, and cast as hard as you like. The line will stop unspooling automatically around the time the lure hits the water. Spinning reels occasionally cause problems with line twist, but this is easy to rectify by simply adding a swivel a few feet ahead of the lure.

The Bottom Line

Remember that there are no strict rules when it comes to fishing spinning vs casting reels. Feel free to use whichever type of reel you like best. However, you’ll generally have the most success if you factor the above recommendations into your selection process. In general, if you’re looking for something with a bit more control that is best for targeting larger species, a baitcasting reel will be your best bet. If you’re targeting smaller species or need to make longer casts, spinning reels may be ideal.

Gear Up For Adventure



Regardless of the reel you choose, Bone On Sportswear has a full line of performance fishing apparel to help you get through the day in comfort and style.

  • UV Protection. Our UV Protection Fishing Shirts are perfect for keeping you cool, comfortable and protected from the sun’s rays.
  • Technical Fishing Shirts. Our Technical Fishing Shirts are available in short- and long-sleeve styles, offering plenty of great fishing features.
  • Fishing Hats. Browse our expansive line of Fishing Hats to protect your head and rep your favorite sport.
  • Casual Options. For the post-trip hangout or everyday wear, be sure to check out our full line of Fishing Graphic Tees and other Casual Wear