When To Use A Spinning Vs Baitcasting Rod, Explained

spinning vs casting rod
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Approximately 175+ million tons of fish are produced across the globe every year. The multi-billion-dollar fishing gear market is the backbone of this international industry.

Over the years, the fishing gear market has become amazingly diverse and multidimensional.

You can find all types of fishing gear in this market – from an inshore fishing rod to an offshore fishing pole.

But, with variety comes complexity.

Many new-age fishers wrestle with the decision of selecting the right fishing rod for their adventures.

After all, there are hundreds of different types of fishing poles to choose from.

The most popular confusion of all? Resolving the age-old spinning vs casting rod debate.

On paper, this debate is very interesting.

Technically, spinning and casting rods are very different from each other.

But, in real life, most anglers – be it freshwater or saltwater, keep both poles in their arsenals. Both of them come in very handy in specific fishing scenarios.

Still, it’s important for all fishers to learn about the differences between the two.

Let’s explore them one by one –

Difference #1: Definition and Characteristics

man holding casting rod

Casting Rod Definition

A Casting rod is a fishing rod designed to help fishers cast baits or lures.

Casting is the act of throwing baits and hooks out over the water.

Experienced anglers sling fishing lines to do this.

They use long and flexible casting poles to manipulate the fishing lines and accurately position the baits or lures.

These rods have casting reels – also known as “bait-casters.” Hence, poles with bait-casters are also baitcasting rods.

Characteristics of Casting Rods

  • Casting rods come paired with casting reels. The reel seats and guides in these poles are positioned above the rod blanks.
  • These poles also come with small trigger grips for the users’ index fingers. They help fishers hold their reels correctly while they’re casting.
  • Casting rods are famous for their strength & durability. A baitcasting reel is perfectly equipped to handle fish weighing 10 pounds or more.
  • These poles can handle super-heavy lines. They work better with lines that come with materials that enhance their grips.
  • These poles are also famous for their versatility. Fishers can use reels to cast with artificial lures, live bait, and pretty much everything in between.

From saltwater bass anglers to freshwater anglers who only fish for blue catfish – baitcasting gear is for everybody.

In any scenario where the fish are big and heavy – you’ll need flexible casting rods equipped with strong reels.

Spinning Rod Definition

A spinning rod is a tool used to perform spin fishing. It’s an angling technique where spinning lures are used to lure the fish.

Spin poles can be used in both fresh & saltwater bodies.

They’re called “spinning” rods because these poles are equipped with spinning reels.

Anyone can use a spinning reel – even amateurs.

Spinning reels and poles are very user-friendly.

Even when you use a technique where several casts are required and you need a consistent, straightforward approach – spinning reels won’t disappoint you.

These poles vary in length, size, and design.

From ultralight graphite poles to heavy-duty fiberglass boat poles – you can find all types of spinning gear.

Characteristics of Spinning Rods

  • Spinning reels are located under the rod. The rod guides in these poles are faced downwards – not upwards like casting poles.
  • Unlike casting rods, these poles may not be able to handle the force that huge, aggressive fish place on them. But, there are long, strong, and heavy-action spin poles with elongated grip handles that can handle these heavy forces.
  • Medium-heavy action spinning poles (6 feet to 7 feet in length) are the most commonly used poles for bass fishing. Most anglers use these poles because they’re ideal for applying finesse bass fishing tactics.
  • The guides on spinning poles are big. They’re tapered towards the end sections of the poles because the lines may come off spinning reels in large loops/coils. The tapered guides cut down the sizes of the coils/loops and straighten the lines.

For saltwater fishing (e.g., steelhead or salmon fishing) long, heavy-action spin poles are the best. These poles typically come with elongated grip handles.

Amateur fishers who perform two-handed casting to attract saltwater fish prefer using long, heavy-action spin poles.

Expert anglers tend to go for the best inshore spinning rods.

Key Differences

The main difference between the definitions and characteristics of a spinning and casting rod are:

Reel Type:

Casting rods have small baitcasting reels placed on top of them. Spinning rods have a reel placed underneath them.

Reel Seat:

The reel seats and guides on casting poles are much smaller compared to spinning rods.

Use:

Casting rods are used to cast heavy baits/lures & fish for heavier fish. Spinning rods are more suited to hold lightweight bait and lures.

Ease of Use:

Casting rods are generally harder to use. Long casting rods in particular are very tough to master. Spinning gear is more beginner-friendly. Learning how to use a spinning reel or rod is very easy.

Popularity:

Spinning rods are more popular than casting rods because they’re more beginner-friendly.

Casting rods are generally used by highly technical and experienced anglers who use techniques like sight fishing.

Spinning gear is used for all types of fishing activities – from amateur still fishing to professional-grade trolling or live bait fishing.

Difference #2: Design

rows of spnning rods

Casting Rod Design

A casting rod has a very distinctive design element – the casting reel situated on top of it. Instead of fixed spools, the reel has spinning spools that release lines.

These lines run perpendicular to the rod’s main axis. Hence, the lines come off the reel pretty much in line with the rods

No reduction guides are necessary (unlike spinning poles that need tapered guides).

That’s why most casting rods have highly tight and sensitive guides.

For even more sensitivity, bass anglers use specific casting tackle (not spinning tackle) to improve the performance of their reel.

Spinning Rod Design

Spinning poles are designed to feature spinning or spin-cast reels.

These sit beneath the spinning rods.

They release lines around their fixed spools. Unlike casting ones, these rods need to feature large “stripping” guides.

Without these guides (popularly known as reduction guides), gathering the twirling lines and moving them in the right directions would be difficult.

People with longer arms need to pay attention to this design detail.

Key Differences

Design Accuracy:

If you want accurate casting, you’ll need a long casting rod.

But, if your plan is to cast light lures or baits and cast them long – you’ll need a light spinning rod.

Both poles offer accuracy but in different situations.

Power:

Casting poles are much more powerful than spinning rods.

So, if your baitcasting gear is full of heavy lures, you’ll need casting rods.

Conversely, if you’re using very light lures and you need a greater casting distance, you’ll need spinning poles.

Guide

Casting poles require no guides. Spinning rods require multiple guides.

The longer the spinning rod the more important the roles the guides have to play.

Reel Design:

Technically you can use both baitcasting & spin-casting reels on your casting rods.

Spinning rods can only feature spinning reels.

Difference #3: Lures and Lines

Casting Lures and Lines

We’ve discussed how ultralight spinning tackle and poles have problems with heavier lines.

Casting reels and tackle have the opposite problem.

If you use light lures and lines, you may not be able to cast properly.

The reels work best with heavier, larger diameter lines.

They’re ideal for throwing heavier lures for large fish species like trout, crappie, & perch.

Spinning Lures & Lines

Spinning reels work best with lighter, smaller diameter lines.

Since the lines in spinning rods flow from fixed spools, they have to pass through the retaining lips.

Heavier lines cause more friction during this process.

Lines with larger diameters have trouble passing through the rods’ retaining lips.

So, if you use heavier lines your casting distances & performances will be negatively affected.

However, big spinning reels with heavier lines do work well in challenging weather conditions (e.g., windy beaches).

In such conditions, most fishermen don’t care about having less casting distance.

They’re more concerned with tangled lines.

Key Differences

Casting Distances:

If you want to cast greater distances, you’ll need a rod with a heavy line.

The heavier the line, the more accuracy you’ll get.

Heavier lines work best with casting reels and poles.

It’s harder to cast long distances with spinning rods.

These poles work the best with lighter lines.

Lures:

Casting reels cause lures to sway back and forth.

When fishing with spin-cast reels, the lures sink below the water in a straight line.

Gear

Since casting poles can support heavier lines, they can also support a variety of gear.

You can attach all types of lures, bait, and rigs to your casting rod lines.

Lighter spinning reels and poles don’t offer this degree of strength.

Conclusion

Most fishers are introduced to the art of casting and retrieving lures with spinning poles.

Once they learn this simple trick, they can go – boat fishing, bobber fishing bottom fishing, live lining, and even trolling.

By contrast, casting rods only come with casting reels which are slightly harder to use.

Smart fishers learn how to use both types of fishing reels and poles.