Spinning Vs Casting Rods Explained

Dale Shetler
By Dale Shetler
Updated February 11, 2020

When you shop for a fishing rod, and again each time you gear up for a day on the water, you'll ask yourself the question: Spinning vs casting rods - which is best?

For some techniques, casting rods perform best, while other angling tactics can be executed better with spinning gear. To complicate things, there's a huge amount of overlap in what the two rod types are capable of doing.

This article will explore what's different between these rod types and, if it's possible, we'll declare a winner in the age-old battle, casting vs spinning rods!

The Difference Between Spinning Vs Casting Rods

Casting Rod and Spinning Rod Compared

Both baitcaster rods and spinning rods are available in any length and with any level of strength and flexibility you need, so those aren't factors that separate them.

Here's a list of differences:

  1. Reel type­­ - A casting rod requires a baitcasting reel, the kind that looks like a small winch mounted to the rod. Spinning rods take an underslung, open-faced spinning reel that has a revolving bail to wind the line.
  2. The reel seat and guides are different, with the first guide of a spinning rod being larger than that on a casting rod.

That's right, in practical terms, the only significant difference between casting and spinning rods is the type of reel you attach to them!

But, that's a BIG difference.

Spinning reels allow you to cast lighter lures and make longer casts, while baitcasting reels allow for more accurate casting and win out when it comes to power.

The fact is, for most fishermen, it's not a question of which type of rod is "best," but rather which kind of rod is best suited to a given fishing technique or situation.

We Need Both Rod Types!

If you factor in the strengths and weaknesses of a spinning rig and a casting rig—that includes the reel—it becomes easier to see the fact that a well-rounded angler is going to need both kinds of rods.

Let's look at a few situations in which you would want to choose spinning equipment, then examine scenarios in which baitcasting gear would be the better tool for the job.

When to Choose a Spinning Rod

Spinning Rod Type

The primary benefit of spinning tackle is that you can cast very light lures with it, and that difference exists entirely because of how the reel operates. Given the spool orientation, the line can flow off the spool with no resistance. It spills off freely in big loops, and spinning rods have a larger first guide to reduce drag as those loops come off the reel.

Fishermen who love to use topwater baits favor spinning gear because it's ideal for presenting surface baits of all kinds. Not only can you cast light surface plugs and buzzbaits, spinning gear also lets you throw light soft plastic rigs like those used in finesse fishing.

Another scenario in which spinning gear is often preferred is bait fishing. With the kind of heavy weight you're throwing in the surf or when catfishing, for example, a large spinning reel can enable you to make incredibly long casts.

While spinning gear may not give you all the power that a baitcasting rig can when it's time to battle a big fish out of heavy cover, it's good at what it does, which is enabling extremely long casts and letting anglers fish with lighter baits like poppers and tiny worms.

When to Choose a Casting Rod

Baitcasting Rod Type

A baitcasting rig, with its winch-like power and laser accuracy, is the absolute leader when it comes to many popular fishing techniques.

In particular, two of the most productive bass fishing lures in existence, jigs, and crankbaits, get tied onto a baitcasting rig much more often than a spinning rig. The low-profile mounting and smooth operation of a baitcaster make it a favorite when precisely targeting bass in heavy cover with a jig, or when grinding a big-lipped crankbait over a main-lake point in 15 feet of water.

The direct, in-line power than comes from this design's spool orientation puts anglers in total control and creates a solid feel when working a lure or hauling a lunker out of its lair. The operation of a baitcasting reel also allows anglers to achieve greater casting accuracy—most models allow for considerable fine-tuning that can lead to incredibly precise targeting.

Other popular baits that typically get paired with a baitcasting rig are spinnerbaits, Texas-rigged worms, swimbaits, and jerkbaits. Any lure that's got reasonable weight to it is a good candidate for use with a baitcasting rig. Plus, for lures that you plan to present in dense cover, a baitcaster is almost always the type of rig you'll want to use.

If There Has to be a Winner…

We're looking at spinning vs casting rods here, and a vague answer like "it depends" is not gonna cut it, so let's pick a winner!

With better accuracy and more power than spinning gear many anglers follow this rule:

If the lure/bait is heavy enough to throw on baitcasting gear, that's what I'll use.

It's not a bad guideline, and it definitely points toward baitcasting rigs, and the rods employed, as being the undisputed king of fishing gear.

Nevertheless, since there is major overlap in what the two rod types can do, in many cases, your choice will come down to personal preference, or, which type of rig you feel more comfortable with.