Baitcaster vs Spinning Reel: Pros and Cons

Baitcaster vs Spinning Reel

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Spinning reels are easier to use, have a longer casting distance, and higher line capacity than baitcasting reels but lack the accuracy, retrieve rate, and lightweight design of baitcasters.

Being a successful angler mostly comes down to using the right gear and tackle at the right time. An experienced angler might have a preference of one type of reel over another, the truth is that both baitcasting reels and spinning reels have specific strengths, as well as disadvantages, when it comes to fishing. 

There are certain circumstances in which you might want to use one type of reel over the other and experienced anglers will usually keep a spinning reel on hand, even if they prefer to use a baitcasting reel most of the time. 

If you’re wondering which type of fishing reel is better than the other in a head-to-head comparison, we’ve put in most of the research to compile this article on baitcaster vs spinning reels. 

Baitcaster vs Spinning Reel

Which is the best?

This is a very common question that most anglers eventually have to ask themselves as they pick and choose the right type of gear and equipment for their fishing trips. When bass fishing, you can usually opt with one type of reel over the other depending on the type of lure you’ll employ. 

The main difference between a baitcaster and a spinning reel in the overall mechanics and operation - a spin reel has a spool that spins perpendicular to the rod while a baitcaster's spool spins inline with the rod. 

It’s no secret that a baitcaster reel is widely considered to be much more difficult to use than a spinning reel or especially a spincast reel. This is because using a baitcaster involves being able to adequately control the speed and level that the spool is rotating with your thumb in order to avoid the dreaded ‘backlash’ that so often occurs with these types of fishing reels. 

Spinning reels can also have the line tangled if an angler is not careful when using them, but there isn’t the potential to develop the same type of backlash you can get with a baitcaster. These line tangles that occur when using a baitcasting reel are often so bad that many anglers jokingly refer to them as ‘bird’s nests’ as they sometimes resemble the same type of intertwined mess. 

If you’re willing to try a baitcaster and learn to adapt to the nuances of using it—and are willing to deal with the occasional backlashed fishing line—there are a few specific advantages you’ll have over someone that solely uses a spinning reel.

It’s recommended that beginner or novice anglers get the hang of using a spinning reel before graduating to the more demanding baitcaster reel. 

Characteristics of Using a Spinning Reel 

If you’ve never fished with a baitcasting or spinning reel, we recommend you start with a spinning model. There are a number of reasons why spin reels are better overall for newcomers to the sport of fishing, most notably being that they present less potential for tangling your line. That means you’ll be able to spend more time actually enjoying being able to fish and use your reel instead of dealing with the headaches involved in getting a backlashed baitcaster untangled and even re-spooled in some serious circumstances. 

Spinning reels are fairly simple and generally better suited for fishing for smaller species. You’ll have no problem going after large fish if a spinning reel is your choice as the top brands produce a wide range of sizes that allow you to fish for any species, including sharks. If you’re planning to go after small species like freshwater panfish or trout, a spinning reel should be the obvious choice between that and a baitcaster. 

A spinning reel works using a fixed spool underneath a spinning rod instead of being located on the top. If you’re accustomed to using a spincaster reel, this grip will take some time before you feel comfortable, but many anglers quickly get the hang of it. 

Casting a spinning reel requires an angler to flip a bail and hold the line with their index finger as they go through their casting motion. Once you’ve reached the point at which you want to release the line, all that’s required is that you relax your index finger and the line will sail off the spool with ease. 

abu garcia revo sx testing

Advantages of Using a Spinning Reel

As we’ve noted, there are some clear advantages to using a spinning reel that should be taken into account if you’re considering this style of reel vs a baitcasting model. The most obvious reason is that a spinning reel is much easier to operate. You’ll probably realize this once we explain the operation of a baitcaster in our next section. 

Secondly, a spinning reel is also better suited to be used with smaller species of fish. It’s usually not recommended that novice anglers start their fishing journey by targeting the biggest, baddest fish species in the lake or ocean. It’s smart to take it slow and begin by going after small variations of fish so you’ll be able to understand more about fish behavior and how to handle them before you are faced with having to hang on to your rod for dear life in order to prevent a massive fish from ripping it from your hands. 

Spinning reels are also very versatile and can catch literally any fish species. 

You can also spool any line onto a spinning reel and expect it to operate without a problem. For some anglers, a spinning reel is their favorite choice simply because it’s easy to use and there’s less frustration involved. 


  • Extremely versatile
  • Easier to use
  • Recommended for beginners


  • Less accuracy in casting
Penn Wrath Spinning Reel in action on the water

Characteristics of a Baitcaster

You’ve probably noticed that most professional fishing guides and anglers often use a baitcaster instead of fishing with any other reel type. The main reason is that casting reels deliver a higher performance on the water, allowing you to handle fish and lures with more precision and control. 

There are lots of lures out there that you can’t use unless you have the performance of a baitcaster.

It’s also important to note that baitcasting reels give you greater cranking power and a higher gear ratio, so you can gather more line onto the reel with a single turn of the handle. 

A baitcaster is situated on top of a casting rod and consists of a rotating spool enclosed in a special type of housing. Operating a baitcaster is notoriously difficult, although it likely seems relatively simple initially. Casting this type of reel requires an angler to push a button and hold the spool in place with their thumb before letting their thumb go at the release-point of the cast. 

The pros usually prefer baitcaster reels because their overall design significantly lessens the friction placed on the spool. This results in the spool spinning more freely, which means longer casts and faster retrieves. If you’re a serious angler concerned with covering more water with greater efficiency, a baitcaster is the obvious choice between it and a spinning reel. 

Abu garcia baitcasting reel focused on the spool

Advantages of Using a Baitcaster

While we’ve already mentioned a few of the major advantages you’ll get from using a casting reel, a few more must be mentioned to give you all the information you need to make an educated decision between a baitcaster vs a spinning reel. 

Baitcasting reels are well-known for offering much greater sensitivity than spinning reels. This is because the reel sits on top of the rod and the line also runs across the top, which naturally has more contact between the line and the rod. This equates to you being able to feel the subtle bites that often happen and the changes in what’s along the bottom when using a heavy setup. 

Being able to cast farther is also a huge advantage compared to the limited range of a spinning reel. This comes at an increased risk of backlashing the reel’s line, but is well worth the trouble for avid anglers interested in having the greatest possible advantage on the water. 

It should also be mentioned that baitcasting reels are better suited for handling bigger fish than spinning reels. Most professional fishing captains that go after massive tuna, marlin, and other species will commonly use round bait cast reels as they can handle a greater load in terms of drag and cranking ability. 

Baitcasting reels also allow anglers to utilize a variety of different approaches when it comes to fishing. Using this type of reel allows you to ‘pitch’ the lure underneath certain types of structure and docks and quickly rip the lure out of the water before you get snagged on vegetation or cover you want to avoid. 

There are a few obvious disadvantages to using a baitcast reel such as the fact that it’s not well-suited for fishing with small, lightweight lures and bait. Baitcasting reels are usually not recommended for catching fish that weigh less than a couple pounds as they are just not compatible with targeting small fish. 


  • Improved casting accuracy
  • Greater sensitivity


  • High risk of air knots
  • Not suitable for small fish
baitcaster bird nest

Key Differences

Key ParameterSpinning ReelBaitcaster Reel
Casting DistanceSpinning reels have more casting distance because of the way that the line is removed from the spool.Baitcasters don’t have as much casting distance because the spool spins as the line is removed, which causes resistance.
Casting AccuracyLower casting accuracy.Higher casting accuracy.
Line CapacityHigher line capacity, especially in larger models.Lower line capacity.
BacklashNo chance of backlash.Higher chance of backlashes occurring but higher end models do have anti-reverse braking features that minimize the risk.
PowerSpinning reels have the most power and max drag. If you are saltwater fishing, targeting larger fish, you will want a spinning reel.Baitcasters have lower max drag than an equivalently sized spinning reel.
WeightSpinning reels are heavier, especially as they increase in size above 4000 sized models.Baitcasters are lighter than spinning reels.
CostSpinning reels have a wide variety of sizes and models, but for a similarly sized option they will be less than a baitcaster.Baitcasters often cost more, especially the higher end models with very high gear ratios.

This video highlights some more comparisons between these two types of fishing reels which may help you to visualize the points I have been trying to make:


There is quite a bit of difference between baitcasting vs spinning reels, but each one clearly has its place in the world of fishing. If you’re a beginner, you’ll be much better off by starting out with a spinning reel, but if you’re willing to face the dreaded backlash head on, you can likely get the hang of using a baitcaster within a relatively short period of time. We recommend going to a bait shop or sporting goods store and handling each type of reel before you go forward with purchasing one over the other. 

The other options we haven’t discussed is a conventional reel. These are similar to a casting reel but are generally more heavy-duty and focused on dropping baits rather than cast distance.