What Is the Difference Between a Spinning Rod and a Baitcasting Rod?

With at least a dozen unique types of fishing rods at your disposal, narrowing down your options has been difficult. For your next fishing trip, you had one buddy recommend a spinning rod and another friend tell you to fish with a baitcasting rod. You’re not sure if you need just one type of rod or both a spinning and baitcasting rod. What are the differences?

These are the differences between a spinning rod and a baitcasting rod:

  • Spinning rods have larger guides
  • Reel seat positioning varies
  • Spinning rods feature an underhung reel
  • Baitcasting rods have the higher learning curve
  • Spinning rods are less durable
  • Baitcasting rods are more expensive

In this guide to spinning rods and baitcasting rods, we’ll first explain both types of fishing rods individually. Then we’ll delve deeper into the differences between the two. By the time you’re done reading, you’ll know when you should use one type of fishing rod over another! 

What Is a Spinning Rod?

A spinning or spincast fishing rod features a fiberglass or graphite base with a PVC foam or cork handle. The rod utilizes a spinning reel, an open-faced fishing reel intended for lightweight, live bait. 

Spinning reels feature an anti-reverse switch towards the bottom of the fishing reel. As the name implies, the switch allows you to begin reeling in reverse, aka backreeling. 

This method is more convenient than using a drag system to change the line tension. If you feel like a fish is fighting too hard or nearly getting away, an anti-reverse switch is a godsend.

The bail of a spinning reel is used as a casting trigger. You must trigger the bail, then the line will spool off. By closing the bail, you can then reel in or retrieve your fishing line. Many casting triggers have automatic closing systems, which is part of what makes spinning rods so beginner-friendly.

The spool of a spinning reel holds onto the fishing line. The drag system is an adjustment system nearer the top of your spinning reel. Depending on how you use it, the drag system can either lessen line tension or increase it. 

The drag has a knob, either at the back or at the top of your spool, that houses frictionless plates. That’s the basis of how the drag system works, via those plates. 

Spinning rods usually measure five feet on the smaller side and up to 8.5 feet at their longest. Guides are installed into the rod’s underside, between five and eight of them. Those guides allow the angler to have better control of their line. 

Each guide has eyes, and the size of the eyes gets smaller as you start from the handle of the spinning rod and make your way to the tip. The size of the guides does not change. 

What Is a Baitcasting Rod? 

Next, let’s discuss baitcasting rods. We’ve defined this rod style on the blog before, so this section will be a recap of that information.

Baitcasting rods or casting rods include double-sided handles to increase the rate of crank action. Anglers have the choice to pull the handle either away from their boat or closer to the boat. 

Like spinning rods, a baitcasting rod uses line guides, which serve the same purpose. Ball bearings within the rod keep a baitcasting rod running smoothly each time so you can release your line without difficulty. 

A braking system in the form of a bar over the top of your reel can slow down the line when desired. The bar can flip into and out of position. 

When the bar is locked into position, it applies friction on the fishing line to halt its progress. Stoppage isn’t always immediate, and whiplash can sometimes occur until you learn how the braking system works.

Then there’s the reel in the baitcasting rod, which sits on top of it. Since the fishing line releases from the top, the line takes the brunt of the stress when you pull it back in, not the baitcasting rod itself. 

This might allow you to enjoy more time out of your baitcasting rod, as it could last longer.  

What Are the Differences Between a Spinning Rod and Baitcasting Rod?

Now that you’re clearer on spinning rods and baitcasting rods, we can explore the differences we outlined in the intro. 

Spinning Rods Have Larger Guides

Guides, as we talked about above, are placed on the interior of the fishing rod throughout to increase your handling and control of your fishing line. 

The lowest number of guides a spinning rod will utilize is five; some rods have as many as eight. Baitcasting rods use 10 or 11 guides and as many as 14. Anything over that is simply too much.

Why the increase in the number of guides between a baitcasting rod and a spinning rod? It’s due to the size of the spinning rod’s guides. Although the guide’s eyes taper, the average size of a spinning rod guide is bigger than the guides in a baitcasting rod.

Spinning rods don’t need as many guides since each one is sturdier. 

Reel Seat Positioning Varies

The reel seat refers to where the reel is attached to the butt of the fishing rod. In the case of a baitcaster reel, it goes on top of the rod, as we talked about in the section prior. This is more beneficial between spinning and baitcasting rods, as the baitcaster’s fishing line is what absorbs the impacts of use over time, not the rod itself. 

Spinning Rods Feature an Underhung Reel

Looking into the reels of both spinning rods and baitcasting rods is an interesting experience. Spinning rods feature an open spinning reel that sits underneath the rod. Baitcasting rods have a reel that almost resembles a winch. 

Baitcasting Rods Have the Higher Learning Curve

If you’re just starting your angling adventures, we would not recommend using a baitcasting rod. You’re going to have your work cut out for you. 

The baitcasting fishing technique requires more precision and skill. You can press a button to release your fishing line and your bait simultaneously. You have to keep your thumb on your reel when casting, as this helps you lock in the line. You’ll also have to be adept at turning your reel handle to stop casting, and this takes some getting used to. 

When fishing with a spinning rod, it’s all a matter of pushing buttons to do what you want. You can select from free-spool or locked-spool mode with a button. A drag adjustment feature gives you control there.

Spincast rods are even child-friendly, and you cannot say the same about baitcasting rods! You’d be better off starting with a spinning rod first and then graduating to a baitcasting rod once you gain more experience on the water. 

Spinning Rods Are Less Durable

Perhaps because they’re so beginner-friendly, spinning rods don’t exactly have the most longevity. Part of that is due to the plastic or metal casing that houses all the components, adjustments, and mechanisms for controlling your rod. 

If debris or water gets stuck in the casing, then the metal components of the rod will rust. Further, since you can’t track the line inside the housing, if it gets tangled and knotted to high heaven, that’s going to create more work for you later.

Baitcasting Rods Are More Expensive 

If you want to get your hands on a spinner reel, you might pay as little as $20 and as much as $50 for one. Some higher-end spincast reels cost around $100, but this is uncommon. Baitcast reels start at $100. As we established, they last longer, so a higher price is justifiable. 

Which Do You Need for Fishing – a Spinning Rod or a Baitcasting Rod?

As the above section exemplifies, spinning rods have benefits that baitcasting rods lack and vice-versa. That’s why, rather than choose one type of rod over the other, you should ideally have both in your fishing arsenal. 

In this section, we’ll explain which fishing situations require a casting rod versus a spinner rod. 

When to Use a Baitcasting Rod

  • If you fish with a weighty lure or one that lingers in dense brush or foliage, a baitcasting rod is the right pick. 
  • Jerkbaits, swimbaits, Texas-rigged worms, and spinnerbaits are awesomely compatible with a casting rod.
  • If fishing with other rods has caused your casting accuracy to falter, that won’t be the case with a casting rod. This rod is designed to increase the accuracy of every cast, as you can target fish with excellent precision.
  • Do you like the solid feel of a rod as you’re reeling in a big catch? A baitcasting rod will deliver that feel every time. 
  • For bass fishing, crankbaits and jigs are very compatible with casting rods. In combination with their lower mounting angle and the enhanced control you can enjoy when using the rod, a baitcaster is the clear choice here.

Further Reading: How to Use a Bait Casting Rod

When to Use a Spinning Rod 

  • Do you like to do a lot of surf fishing or inshore fishing? The lightweight spinning rod won’t threaten to upend you. 
  • When your fishing expedition calls for very small, lightweight bait such as worms or poppers, a spinning rod is a top choice. These baits would be too light on a baitcasting rod. 
  • The superior casting length of a spinning rod makes it a smart selection if you need to do some long-distance fishing to pull a fish out of its lair.
  • Surface bait fishing is efficient with a spinner rods especially when using lighter baits such as plastic rigs or buzzbaits. 

Final Thoughts 

Spinning rods and baitcasting rods are two of the most popular types of fishing rods. Both offer clear advantages (and a few disadvantages too), but there’s no need to choose one over the other. Since they both come in handy in different scenarios, you ideally want at least one type of both fishing rods.

If you absolutely must choose between spinning rods and baitcasting rods, a casting rod elevates your degree of control and handling, which is highly appealing to anglers. Do keep in mind though that learning how to use a baitcasting rod without prior rod experience is going to be an uphill battle. 

Tim Butala

My name is Tim and I have been a fisherman my whole life. My favorite fish to go after is a Striped Bass.

Recent Posts

outdoortroop-21 outdoortroop-20