The baitcaster and spinning reels are two very different types of reels. In some situations, one is preferable over the other. A lot of new anglers struggle to choose between the two, so in this article, we’ll be breaking down the differences of these reels, their value for money, their features and of course their pros and cons.
In our experience, most new anglers struggle to use a baitcaster and find it to be a real learning curve, which is why we mostly recommend for beginners to go with a spinning reel. They are much easier to use, there are fewer things that can go wrong and they also tend to be cheaper.
So let’s start with the differences between the two reels. A baitcaster reel generally has many more features that you won’t find on a spinning reel. However, this does come for a sizeable price and pain. Ask anyone who’s ever used a baitcaster how much harder it is to use than a spinning reel.
It definitely takes a bit of practice and it is difficult to master, but once you find that sweet spot of control, the baitcaster is so much fun to use. However you should ask yourself whether you’ll need these extra perks, we’d only use a baitcaster if we needed the extra features.
One of the biggest differences between the spinning reel and baitcaster is the positioning of the spool, on a baitcaster the spool faces forwards (as shown below) and it also is positioned above the rod. The rod used for a baitcaster is also different since the reel sits above the rod the butt guide of the rod has to on top the rod, which is completely opposite to a spinning reel. The rod of a baitcaster will also have a trigger grip underneath, this is a feature you certainly won’t see on a spinning rod and reel setup
The spinning reels spool is the opposite of the baitcasters, the spool is positioned at a 90-degree corner and the line comes off the side of the spool and through the arm roller. The reel is also positioned underneath the rod and the Butt guides are also underneath. We personally find them a lot more comfortable than using a baitcaster but it really is personal preference and what you’re used to.
Another very big difference between the two is the size. First off, baitcasters range from tiny little things that only weigh a few ounces too big behemoth reels such as the shimano tiagra 130s.
But in general, you’ll find that baitcasters are much lighter than the equivalent spinning reel. However, don’t be fooled by its size despite it being much smaller the baitcaster is actually much stronger pound for pound and create a hell of a lot of pound-feet of torque. We personally don’t do much fishing where the weight of reel makes a considerable difference but if you are for instance bass fishing the weight really does matter as you are constantly casting and retrieving and you don’t want a lot of weight on your arm.
Although the baitcaster reel tends to be smaller and lighter, both modern-day versions of the reels are made from the most lightweight materials like graphite and super light alloys to keep down the weight, the baitcaster definitely has the advantage when it comes down to weight, but you’ll find that In most fishing circumstances a spinning reel will do the job just fine, personally as carp Anglers we don’t spend nearly enough time holding our reels for it to feel heavy and bulky.
The looks of these two reels are completely different and there’s no confusion in determining which is which. The baitcasters are easily identifiable from the front facing spool (as shown below), whereas the spinning reel looks much more traditional and will be more familiar to the majority of people.
We personally think that modern baitcasters like the Abu Garcia look stunning with a sleek, glossy finish and look much better than big clunky spinning reels, but this is also personal preference and the looks of the reel has nothing to do with performance.
Like we mentioned before the rods of these two reels are very different. The instant giveaway between the two is where the butt guides are positioned and where the reel sits. On a baitcaster reel the butt guides will always be on top of the rod and they will also usually be very small, the spinning rod is the complete opposite, not only are the butt guides on the bottom but they are also much larger.
The reel positioning as we mentioned before will always be on top for a baitcaster and will always be on the bottom for a spinning reel. Another major difference between the two is the trigger grip that you find on a baitcaster, you’ll only ever find a trigger grip on a baitcaster rod, this is another very easy way to differentiate the two.
When it comes down to the adjustability we’d hands down say that a spinning reel is better. Take for instance you want to change which side the handle is on your reel, if you have a spinning reel you can easily just unscrew the bolt holding it in place with your hands and switch it to the other side. However, with a baitcaster, this is a whole other story and most baitcasters won’t even let you change the side the handle is.
Another issue with baitcaster handles is the side in which the handle is, we grew up using spinning reels and reeling in with our left hands, but in a lot of baitcaster you have to reel in with your right hand which feels very awkward, you also can change the side where the handle is making it a reel struggle for anglers you are accustomed to reeling in with their left hand.
There are more differences between the two but these are most of the major differences between the two.
As a carp anglers, we’ve been using spinning reels all our lives and only a couple years ago we found out about baitcasters. In the UK spinning reels are much more common in fishing shops and a lot of the products are very carp orientated which is why baitcasters are so scarce.
Like we mentioned before, we’d always recommend spinning reels rather than baitcasters to beginners mainly because of how much easier they are to use, however, there are exceptions to this and times where a baitcaster is preferable, for example, if looking to get into serious bass fishing, where you’re constantly casting and retrieving. A baitcaster is preferable in that situation and it may be worth going through the extra expense and pain of learning to use to reel to get its features.
When to use it:
We’d personally recommend that anyone new to fishing sticks with a spinning reel, in most fishing circumstances the spinning reel will do the job just fine, whether it’s sea fishing, catfishing or carp fishing the spinning reel will be able to handle everything in most circumstances.
Is it user-friendly?
Absolutely, the spinning reel is very easy and obvious to use, you can hand it to someone who’s never fished before and they’d be able to use it. There’s nothing complex about using a spinning reel which is why we recommend it so highly to beginners and novice anglers. To simplify it further we’ve broken down all the functions on a basic spinning reel below.
The bail-arm on a spinning reel has one main function which is to allow the user to cast, by opening up the bail arm you allow the line to travel of the spool freely with zero friction.
The drag system on a spinning reel is very easy to use, you spin it clockwise to tighten and anticlockwise to loosen. The drag on a reel determines how hard or easy it is for a fish to strip line off the spool.
The freespool function:
The freespool functions allows you to have two drag settings, for instance, you could have one drag setting very low so your rods don’t get pulled in and you could have higher drag setting on the other for when you’re playing the fish.
How much does it cost:
Like everything the prices of spinning reels vary from £40 to over £400. We’d say a sensible amount for a beginner to spend on a reel would be around £50 – £70, for general coarse fishing, one of our favorite reels is the Diawa Black Widow G50.
A piece of advice for when buying a reel is to stick with big, well-known brands, an analogy we like to use is to think of fishing tackle like any other household appliance, like a tv for example. You don’t buy random, cheap tv’s because they’re often unreliable and built poorly, the same thing applies for fishing reels, you should definitely stick with big brands like Diawa.
The baitcaster is much more of a complex reel than the spinning reel, although we strongly believe the spinning reel is better overall, there are some things that the baitcaster does incredibly well and there are situations where it would be much more preferable. That being said, the baitcaster is hard to use and it does take time to master it but once you find that sweet spot, the baitcaster is so much fun. The most common problem that people using baitcasters find themselves with is birds nest. This is basically when all the line gets screwed up into a ball at the spool, this happens because the line is coming off the spool faster than the lure is flying through the air. Bird’s nest is a very common issue in baitcasters so be prepared if you’re a beginner because spending hours picking a line of a spool isn’t fun!
When to use it:
A Baitcaster reel does a few things really well in situations where a spinning reel would struggle a lot.
Take for instance if you were big-game or shark fishing, in this circumstance you would need a baitcaster. First of all, because hundreds of yards of line are required in this style of fishing and second of all only baitcasters can produce enough pound-feet of torque to haul in such monsters.
Spinning reels just simply aren’t as powerful as baitcasters. So if you are going to be targeting massive fish, the baitcaster is definitely the best option.
Another situation where the baitcaster reel is far superior is when you’re fishing with lures. A lure requires the angler to be constantly retrieving and casting. The baitcaster is better in this situation for a number of reasons, one of them is that a baitcaster is so much lighter than a spinning reel. Although this doesn’t seem like the biggest issue in the world, trust us, after casting and retrieving for a couple of hours, weight reduction makes the biggest difference in the world.
Another reason why the baitcaster is superior when lure fishing is the fact it has distance control, this is very important when your accurately casting near features and bushes which could get your lure tangled up, you need to be able to stop your lure mid-flight in this kind of situation.
Is it user-friendly?
Sort of. As we mentioned before a baitcaster is hard to master but once you do it is splendid to use. For novice anglers, however, a baitcaster is the biggest pain in the backside, you’ll often find that beginners end up with their line all tangled up at the spool (birds nest). To put it simply baitcaster are hard for beginners to use.
A baitcaster reel is packed with features and pretty much has everything a spinning reel has apart from a bail arm. The main feature that stands is the distance control which allows you to decide how far you want your lure to travel.