Can You Use a Spinning Reel on a Casting Rod?

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Written By Russ Egan

Russ is a professional fisherman with over 20 years of experience. He has fished all over the world for more than two decades, primarily for saltwater game fish but also for local trophy fish. Russ comprehensively tests and reviews all his fishing gear to help others achieve their own fishing goals. There is nothing he prefers than heading down to his local tackle store, buying the latest fishing reel, and taking it to the water to test.

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No, you should never use a spinning reel on a casting rod because the fishing line guides are orientated on the wrong side of the rod, which can cause damage and reduced performance.

When you’re getting fishing gear for the first time, you might be overwhelmed by how many different types of everything there are. It’s not as simple as just getting a reel and leaving. There are several types of reels alone: spincast, baitcasting, spinning, and fly. You have to choose reels carefully based on your purpose and your existing gear.

Matching the type of reel you get to your rod is very important because the parts have to be compatible. While you technically can put a spinning reel on a casting rod, the set-up will not work properly and will affect your ability to fish.

Here is what you need to know about why you can’t just plop a spinning reel onto your casting rod and head out for the day.

Can You Use a Spinning Reel on a Casting Rod?

Technically, you can attach a spinning reel to a casting rod. You might even be able to cast out a line (although it won’t be a very good one). However, will you actually catch fish or gain the respect of fellow fishermen? The answer is probably not.

The reason is that spinning reels are designed to go on spinning rods, where the layout is completely different. The position of the reel is different: spinning reels go on the underside of a spinning rod, while casting rods have space for the reel on the top. 

The different positioning means that the method for casting the bait is completely different for each reel and rod. Spinning reels have more distance between the reel and the rod, so the line has to be aligned differently. A casting rod doesn’t have the setup that allows a spinning reel to work as it should. 

The consequences for your fishing experience include the following:

1. Lower Casting Distance

You don’t want to cast out your line just for it to plop unceremoniously right in front of your boat or on the shore. However, that’s what will happen when you try to mount a spinning reel on a casting rod. A casting rod doesn’t have the right line guides to match a spinning reel. That prevents the fishing line from casting out properly, greatly reducing the distance you can cover. 

This maybe doesn’t matter if you are throwing a line off of the dock on vacation, but if you are a more serious angler, you want as much distance as possible.

2.  Rod Damage

Maybe you don’t mind losing efficiency when you cast or getting sideways glances from fellow fishermen. However, you will mind damaging equipment and wasting money on replacing it just because you didn’t match the reel to the rod.

When you put a spinning reel on a casting rod, you are putting the reel on the opposite side from the way the rod is designed to have the reel. That forces it to bend in unnatural ways, potentially damaging it.

Some people claim that damaging your rod this way is just another fisherman’s tall tale, and the pressure isn’t enough to snap your sturdy casting reel. However, it’s better to be safe than sorry and avoid damaging your equipment.

Differences Between a Spinning Rod and a Casting Rod

To know why spinning reels should go on spinning rods, it’s helpful to remember that these rods are very different.

The biggest difference is the location of the reel. On spinning rods, the reel seat is below the rod, while the reel seat goes above the rod for casting rods. 

There are a few other minor differences, including:

  • The size of the trigger grip
  • Optimum line weight
  • Guide distance

The position of the reel also affects how the rods work. 

How to Match a Rod to a Reel

When you’re fishing, you need to use the right reel for your rod.

First, make sure you use the right rod type for your reel. This is the one place where you should not mix and match. Spinning reels should go with spinning rods, and casting reels belong with casting rods, and so on.

Then, make sure you are using the right size reel and rod. The size of your reel depends on the size of the fish species you are targeting. Your rod needs to be balanced once you put the reel on, so you can’t use a very long rod with a tiny reel and vice versa.

Here is a more detailed guide on how to match a rod to a reel.

Final Thoughts

While you can mount a spinning reel onto a casting rod, you won’t be happy with your results. The line won’t cast out as far because you will impact the rod’s power, and you might even break your rod. Always match the type of reel to the type of rod.