How To Cast Spinning and Baitcasting Reels For Beginners

Written by Dale Shetler
Updated October 3, 2022

You’ve got your rod, bait, and equipment all set - yet you feel like you aren't really hitting your casts right. It's all too common, but we're here to help. Let's go back to the drawing board and teach you exactly how to optimally cast a spinning or baitcasting reel.

The most essential and fundamental technique to learn in fishing is how to cast spinning and baitcasting reels correctly. Casting is the fishing lingo for throwing your fishing line and bait into the water. It’s not difficult to cast, but it does take some skill and practice to get it right. You want to be able to direct your line into a targeted spot where you hope to catch the fish. Casting too close or too far can ruin your chance of hooking your catch.

Suppose you’re a new angler or are using a new rod. Practice casting before you set out on your fishing trip so that you’ll be comfortable with the rod and the technique. As you become more experienced with casting, you’ll be able to cast your line further and with better accuracy.

Spinning vs. Baitcasting Reels

Your cast may differ depending on the type of reel you’re using. Spinning and baitcasting are the two most popular reels.

Spinning reels are popular for all types of fishing, but they are particularly ideal for beginner anglers. They are easy to use and are perfect for catching smaller fish. Closed spin casting reels may be better than open spinning reels for novice anglers. They are affordable, are easy to maintain, and the fishing line is less likely to tangle.

Baitcasting reels are popular for catching large freshwater fish but are also used for saltwater fishing. They are suited for larger and heavier fish. You might need a little more practice to learn how to cast with a baitcasting reel.

You’ll immediately notice a difference in the reels when you hold the fishing rod. Spinning reels sit under the rod while baitcasting reels go on top of the rod.

How To Cast with a Spinning Reel

Spinning Reel Parts Infographic

A spinning reel is not the most powerful reel but can still draw in a good-sized fish. It’s an excellent choice for a beginning angler as they are easier to use, and the line is less likely to tangle. 

Prepare your rod and attach the bait or lure to your rod. It’s better to use a lighter lure with a spinning reel, especially for a novice angler.

To cast with the overhead method:

  1. Position the rod properly. The way you hold it can affect your cast. Hold the rod in your dominant hand (the hand you use to write), with the reel sitting between your middle and ring fingers. Put your other hand on the fishing rod’s butt. The reel should be under the rod, and you want to hold it leveled with your waist.
  2. The lure should hang approximately 8-16 inches down beneath the rod’s tip.
  3. Use your forefinger to pinch the line and open the bail. The line will now be able to spool freely.
  4. Draw the rod back until the tip is over your shoulder. Then, quickly move the rod forward off of your shoulder. You want to aim it in the direction you are targeting. As you’re swinging the rod forward, take your finger off of the fishing line. The fishing line should pull off of the reel by the lure.
  5. Once your line is in the water, turn the reel handle to close the bail.
  6. Wait for the fish to bite!

How To Cast with a Baitcasting Reel

Baitcasting Reel Parts infographic

It may be a little more complicated to learn how to cast with a baitcasting reel, but with some practice, you’ll become a pro. The baitcasting reel has greater potential for handling bigger game so the steeper learning curve is very rewarding.

To cast with the overhead method:

  1. As with the spinning reel, it’s crucial to position the rod properly. The reel should be above the rod with the reel handle pointing up. Hold the rod in your dominant hand with your thumb on top of the rod and put your other hand on the fishing rod’s butt.
  1. Reel in the fishing line until the lure hangs approximately 10-12 inches from the tip of the rod.
  1. Make sure the spool tension is set correctly. It’s ideal to set it to be a free spool.
  1. Place your thumb on the reel spool. If you angle your thumb on the reel, you’ll have more control over the line when you cast.
  1. Push the spool’s release button and keep your thumb on the spool so the line shouldn’t unwind.
  1. Draw the rod up until the tip of the rod is over your shoulder. 
  2. In a quick motion, bring the rod forward until it is about leveled with your eye, aiming the rod’s tip at your target casting site. Take your thumb off of the spool so the fishing line can move off of the reel.
  1. When the bait or lure hits your targeted spot in the water, position your thumb back on the spool to stop it from going further. If you wait too long, the line will continue to spool and tangle up in the water.
  1. Wait for the fish to bite!

Casting Further Out

Sometimes, you'll want to cast further out for the best results. If you cast too close, your shadow on the water may spook the fish and keep them away from your bait. If you’re fishing from a boat, the noise may scare off the fish, and a further cast gives you a better chance. Finally, the further the cast, the deeper your bait is likely to sink into the water.

How To Cast Further

man catching fish at a carp fishing spot

With practice, you’ll develop a more powerful technique when flicking your rod forward, which will cast your line further. 

These tips can also help:

  1. Use the correct fishing rod and reel. You need to be comfortable holding and casting it. If you’re a beginner, a rod with a spinning reel will be easier to cast.
  1. Use the right baits. Smaller and lighter lures will cast further than heavier ones.
  1. Work with the wind. You don’t want to cast against the wind. Determine from which direction the wind is blowing and keep the wind at your back or side.
  1. Make sure you have enough length of fishing line out to cast.
  1. Use the correct type of fishing line. A braided line will give you the most distance.

Final Words

Fishing should be a fun and enjoyable activity. It may take some time to learn how to cast a spinning and baitcasting reel efficiently, but it becomes easier with more practice. Try casting off the water first until you’re comfortable with the technique, and then take it to the water.

Happy fishing!

Written by Dale Shetler
Founder & Editor-in-Chief
Updated October 3, 2022
Dale Shetler is a vetted fishing expert who has been fishing for over 20 years. Apart from working as a sonar technician and commercial fisherman, Shetler has a degree in marine biology from Samford University.
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