I was raised under the tutelage of a straight power-fisherman. My father didn’t own a spinning rod. So, when it came time to step up from the Zebco 33, the more traditional next step of a spinning reel was absent and I was handed a baitcaster. I’m not complaining. I certainly have a huge advantage at times from growing up with a great power-fisherman showing me the ropes. And I can do some things with a baitcaster that are a little tricky for some people because I have had one in my hand for so long. But to say there aren’t huge holes in my finesse game would be a lie. There are stark differences between a baitcaster vs spinning reels. In this piece, we are going to examine a few of those.
Baitcaster vs Spinning: Fundamental Differences: Drag, Spool Orientation, and Gear Ratio
The fundamental differences in these two types of reels are the drag system, the orientation of the spool, and the gear ratios. It doesn’t matter how nice or expensive of a baitcaster you buy, they don’t make one with as sensitive of a drag system as you’ll find in a quality spinning reel. And that’s what suits the spinning reel so well to finesse fishing. When using light line and small hooks, a super sensitive and smooth drag is essential.
On the flip side, there isn’t a spinning reel out there made to punch a two-and-a-half ounce tungsten weight through matted vegetation, (maybe some offshore saltwater reel, but let’s be serious here). Baitcasters may not have as sensitive of a drag, but it’s much stronger on the top end. And the spools are better suited to fit the line sizes that accompany a heavy drag.
The orientation of the spool allows line to come off the spool much quicker and smoother with less effort when casting or dropping. This is important when both skipping light baits and when vertically fishing a dropshot or shaky head.
Gear ratios are also relativity slower on spinning reels so less line is taken in on each revolution of the spool. This makes fishing anything quickly on a spinning reel much more of a chore than on a baitcaster.
Baitcaster vs Spinning: The Impact of Line Style
Line necessities play a huge role in which of these style reels are best for a given application. If heavy line is needed due to lure size, cover present, or whatever the case may be, its baitcaster all the way. If light line is needed for stealth, to get the bait deeper in the water column, or for highly pressured bodies of water, spinning reels are the deal.
But line also comes into play in another way. The primary frustration with spinning reels is that they cause line twists. This inevitably results in a catastrophic cluster at some point in the day where your debacle is then set aside to be dismantled with power tools when you return home.
The best answer for this is braided line.
Braid has a construction much better suited to absorbing these line twists without greatly affecting performance. There will still come a time when you notice the effects of the line twists but you can fish roughly 3 or 4 times as long without having to recalibrate. And the first signs of a mishap are typically a far less devastating loop or two when using braid versus the straight fluorocarbon birds nest that sneaks up on you.
One trick for a quick reboot if you start to see the effects of line twists with braid, cut your bait off and drag your line behind the boat while idling. This will untwist the line enough to usually get through the rest of the day.
Baitcaster vs Spinning: Technique Applications
All that being said, there’s a lot of middle ground. Even the best anglers in the world will fish the exact some presentation on different reels. Some anglers throw a shaky head or a Shad Rap on a baitcaster where others throw it on a spinning reel. Even a step further than that, there are a few presentations like a small swimbait on a jig head where an angler will throw it on a spinning reel with a braided main line and 8-pound fluorocarbon leader over 50-feet of water, and then the very same angler will throw the same swimbait and jig head on a shallow flat with 15-pound fluorocarbon on a baitcaster.
For these ‘middle ground’ techniques, there are few determining factors to help decide which style reel to go with, some we’ve previously discussed.
A spinning reel is likely the right choice if you need to do the following: vertically drop, skip, fish light line, fish light baits (especially in wind), reel a bait slowly, etc.
If you’re doing these, a baitcaster is more likely the deal: fishing around heavy cover, fishing heavy line, cranking (95% of the time), topwater (95% of the time), putting a lot of action in your bait, reeling a bait fast, etc.
It’s also important to evaluate your capabilities with each setup when deciding which style reel to use for these middle ground techniques. As previously stated, I didn’t have a ton of experience growing up fishing with a spinning reel, so I can’t skip very well with one. I can actually skip about twice as far with a baitcaster. While other anglers who are proficient with a spinning reel can skip a little farther than I can with a baitcaster, that doesn’t really impact my decision in a tournament situation.
I’ve spent weeks over the last few years trying to get better at skipping with a spinning reel when I’m just fun fishing, so it’s not something you shouldn’t do. But when every cast counts, it’s important to know yourself and not force it only because “that’s how you’re supposed to do it”.
Baitcaster vs Spinning: My Favorite Reels
This article was contributed by an ANGLR Expert
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