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Bass Fishing: Spinning reels vs Bait-casting reels

Updated on March 4, 2017

Spinning Reel

Bait-Casting Reel

There are a few different types of fishing reels out there on the market and this article will give a basic overview of the different types and some advantages and disadvantages of the reels. The two types of reels that I use are spinning and bait-casting reels so those are the two I will talk about.


Bait-casting reels are mounted on the top of the rod and spool the line front to back, like reeling in a garden hose. They have a mechanical drag system usually a star drag and are often the reel of choice by the pros. They are considered very accurate because of the control you have, if you cast too far for example, you can simple press your thumb on the spool to make it stop. Unfortunately bait-casting reels can take a long time to master. If there is one word that all bait-cast reel users know its “backlash”. A backlash occurs when the spool keeps spinning but the lure isn't moving. When that happens the line that the spool is putting out has no where to go and can get tangled into knots and can ruin your fishing trip. You should know that backlashes happen to all bait-cast users, and if you want to learn how to use a bait-caster you will experience one very quickly. Even the pros get them, they are just part of the game with bait-cast reels.

Spinning reels

The other popular type of reel is a spinning reel. The difference between these two is how they spool up the line. While a bait-casting reel spools up front to back, spinning reel spools up side to side. This may seem like an odd thing when you think about it but it turns out that this design is very user friendly. Spinning reels also have a drag system that is usually on the top or bottom of the reel, however unlike bait-casting, spinning reels are mounted on the bottom of the rod. Spinning reels have a thin piece of wire that goes around the spool when you turn the handle and this is know as the bail. In order to cast you must flip open the bail, then cast, then close the bail before you start to reel in the line. Because the spool itself doesn't spin when letting out line spinning reels can not backlash and are much easier for beginners. However, because there is no easy way of stopping the line from going out spinning reels are considered less accurate then bait-casting reels. In fact the only way to stop the line is by grabbing it near the first guide on the rod.


Most reels have a drag system which puts resistance on the spool when its spinning. Just like the brakes on your car, when the spool is spinning (letting line in or out) the drag system slows the speed of the spool the higher its set. So when the drag is set all the way up, you won't be able to cast as far.

Gear Ratios

Most reels also have different gear ratios. When you look at a bait-casting reel for example it might have some numbers on it like 6.8:1 or 5.5:1. Well those numbers break down like this 6.8:1 means that the spool will spin 6.8 times for every 1 turn of the handle and the 5.5:1 means the spool will spin 5.5 times for every 1 turn of the handle. Thus the 6.8:1 will spool up more line per turn of the handle than the 5.5:1 will. Often you can hear pro fishermen saying a fast reel or slow reel and they are referring to the gear ratios, for example 7.2:1 would be fast and 4.8:1 would be slower.

If you are new to fishing or are going to teach someone how to fish then I would suggest getting a spinning reel. They are much easier to get the hang of and with practice can be accurate enough to get the lure where you want it to be.

Which reel do you prefer?

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