An anglers paradise, the fishing section of a major chain sporting goods store has hundreds of options and every lure, rod, and reel you can imagine. Trying to sort through them all can be overwhelming, especially when you don’t know what kind of reel you should be shopping for in the first place.
The two most common types of reels, baitcasting and spinning reels, cover most of your needs as a fisherman and both have their pros and cons. Below, we’ll talk about some of the benefits of using one type over the other, and hopefully clear up any questions you may have.
What do YOU Want?
The first thing you need to ask yourself is what exactly you hope to get out of your reel. The different varieties come with their own set of drawbacks and challenges to use, and if you don’t go in prepared you could easily be wasting money. So, before going any further, ask yourself the following questions:
- Have I fished before?
- What type of reel did I use?
- Do I want to learn to use a different kind, or stick with what I already know?
- Do I have time to commit to learning how to use a baitcasting reel, which can take more time and practice than a spinning reel?
- Do I want to learn quickly and start fishing right away?
- How much am I willing to spend on the reel?
- How much time and money am I willing to spend on upkeep?
- What kind of line will I be fishing with?
- What kind of lures will I be using?
- Is accuracy a high priority for my personal needs?
- Is ease of use a high priority for my personal needs?
- Should I get a reel that I can let my kids use, or is it just for me?
After you've figured out those answers, read on to decide why a baitcaster or spinning reel is your best choice.
The spinning reel is the type used by most anglers, and most likely the kind of reel you imagine when you think about fishing. This type of reel has a fixed spool beneath the rod and the line is drawn out by the weight of the lure, bait, or tackle.
This kind of reel is popular, especially among anglers going after small to medium fish, such as redfish, crappie, or bass. Another factor in its popularity is its simplicity, and it’s often the first reel an angler learns with. The spinning reel is also widely used by people who enjoy still fishing from an anchored boat or shoreline.
Baitcasters, in contrast, are typically for anglers with more experience. These reels offer better control and accuracy but require far more practice and focus. A baitcasting reel sits on top of the rod, and the spool is not fixed, so it rotates as you cast.
Because of this rotation, the caster has to find a balance between strong enough to move the spool, but not so strong that it creates a rat nest. The experience and skill required to use a baitcaster effectively should be a factor in deciding what type of reel to use.
Before purchasing a baitcasting reel, you should be sure that you have the time and patience to learn how to properly use the reel. Patience is key when learning to cast with a baitcaster, and even experienced anglers can take a fair amount of time before really getting it down.
Which Reel is More Accurate?
If your primary need in a fishing reel is accuracy and control, the obvious choice is the baitcasting reel.
After extensive practice with the reel, you’ll be able to cast the lure to the exact spot you need it. This reel can be stopped quickly, letting you recover a bad cast before things get ugly. It is this unparalleled accuracy and control that make the baitcaster a favorite of many.
This incredible accuracy comes with the price of tens, or in some cases hundreds, of hours of practice with the reel before you’ll be casting as accurately as you can.
Which Reel is Easier to Use?
If accuracy is less of a concern for you, and you personally want something that’s easier to use, your best bet is the spinning reel.
These reels take very little practice to learn to use properly and you can pick one up and be fishing quickly, while with a baitcaster you’d need nearly a season’s worth of practice just to be sure you were using the reel properly.
Because of how easy the spinning reel is to learn, it’s a common first reel and a favorite of many anglers of all levels of experience.
Which Reel is Easier to Maintain?
Maintaining both types of reels is fairly straightforward, and can be boiled down to a few basic steps.
- Disassemble the reel. Remember to stay organized!
- Clean each part with a gentle cleaning compound that won’t hurt the material.
- Apply oil to the bearings.
- Apply grease to the teeth of the gear.
- Reassemble the reel.
- Spray with WD-40.
- Wipe down the reel.
Comparing the ease of maintenance largely boils down to personal opinion. The primary difference is that a baitcasting reel does have a bit more parts. Whether this makes maintenance more difficult, or simply more time-consuming, is a matter of opinion.
Is the Baitcaster better for Fishing?
This particular question is tricky. What makes something better for one person, may make it worse for the other. When it comes to choosing a fishing reel, the real test of whether something is better or worse is personal opinion. It’s impossible to determine if something is the best reel, only if it is the best reel for you.
For example, fishermen who prefer lighter lines and lures usually prefer the spinning reel. In contrast, those who prefer heavy lures tend to gravitate toward the baitcasting line as it is better suited for that type of fishing.
To help you decide which is best for you, in the next few sections we will go in-depth on when you would want to use each type of real, as well as some pros and cons for each type.
When to Use a Spinning Reel
The most important part of choosing your reel is ensuring that you’re using the right tools for the job. When it comes to using any line less than 10 pounds, the right tool is almost always the spinning reel.
Spinning reels are often recommended for use when you fish with lighter lines or lighter lures and for good reason.
When fishing with a line under 10 pounds, you need a limber rod that will bend and flex when you catch a bite, otherwise, you’re bound to break your line. When a baitcasting rod flexes, your line will rub against the rod blank. Eventually, this will lead to the line developing a weak spot and snapping.
With a spinning reel, because the guides are beneath the rod, your rod can flex as much as needed and the line will never touch the rod.
On top of that, spinning reels are better suited to lighter lures because the lure only has to pull the weight of the line, instead of moving the entire spool.
Below is a list of the drawbacks and advantages of spinning reels.
- Easier to learn and use
- Less tangling
- Less reel jamming and bird nesting
- Longer line life, less breaks
- Tend to be cheaper
- Can be used for any fishing style
- Easy to handle, even the kids can use it with no issue
- Easily cast a good distance
- Easier to maintain
- No line digging
- Best option for lighter lines and lures
- Not as accurate with heavier lures
- Small range of available gear ratios
- Does not pitch and flip easily
- Hard to slow the bait
- Less control and accuracy compared to baitcasting
- Line twist more common
- Do not handle stronger fish as well
- Larger, heavier reels
- Less line capacity
When to Use a Baitcasting Reel
Much like the spinning reel, the baitcasting reel has situations where it is undoubtedly the best option.
For example, when using heavier lines and lures the baitcasting reel offers a greater deal of control and accuracy than the other options. Any situation where you need control, such as the ability to slow down your bait, is clearly suited to a baitcasting reel.
Other anglers pick up the baitcasting reel because they want the extra challenge of learning to properly cast the line.
The section below details other benefits, as well as some drawbacks, of the baitcasting reel.
- Improved accuracy with heavier lures
- Larger range of available gear ratios
- Easier to slow the bait
- Vastly improved control and accuracy compared to spinning reels
- Less line twist
- Lighter reel weight
- Greater line capacity
- Best option for heavier lines and lures
- Can wear out lighter lines
- Harder to learn and use
- Tend to be more expensive
- Harder to handle without experience
- Harder maintenance
- Lines can dig into the pole when flexing
- Jamming and bird nesting more common
That list should be carefully considered before making any decisions regarding your new reel.
For additional information on the two reel types, please watch the video below. The video talks about the key differences between the reel types as well as covering additional pros and cons between them.
Other Factors to Consider
For most of us, money can get tight at times so it is important to note that a baitcasting reel is typically more expensive than a spinning reel. Keep in mind, however, that buying cheap is never recommended. Always shoot for the highest quality reel you can afford. Buying a cheap reel may seem like a smart move but the cheaper reels will likely break sooner and cost you more in maintenance and replacements in the long run.
With more moving parts, it makes sense that the baitcasting reel requires more time maintaining it than the simpler spinning reel. Whether or not this additional maintenance time is worth the added benefits of the baitcasting reel is entirely personal and should be carefully considered.
If you’re hoping to get started fishing as soon as possible it’s important to note that the spinning reel takes far less time to learn to use than the baitcasting variety. When deciding on your reel ensure you have enough time to properly learn to use it.
Summing It Up..
In the modern day, we fishermen have the wonderful benefit of a wide array of fishing rods, reels, and lures. While the wide selection comes in handy, narrowing the options until we settle on one product can be difficult.
That dilemma is even worse when it comes to choosing a type of reel, as that particular decision is largely based on personal opinion and what the individual fisherman wants to get from his reel.
Hopefully, this guide has given you an idea of what type of reel would be best suited to you and your individual wants and needs.