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Baitcasting Vs. Spinning: Here's How to Choose for Bass Fishing

There's a time and a place for everything, including your choice of bass-fishing gear.

Baitcasting Vs. Spinning: Here's How to Choose for Bass Fishing
Many bass anglers prefer the power and accuracy of baitcasting gear, especially once the thumb of their casting hand is properly trained. (Photo by Brad Richardson/Get N Bit Production)

Most bass anglers these days carry both baitcasting and spinning tackle because each offers distinct advantages over the other that could come into play on many lakes. The dawn action might start with tossing topwaters or buzzbaits around docks, stumps, lily pads and blowdowns, where the power and accuracy of baitcasters shine. But as the sun gets high and the bite is likely to center around offshore shad schools or deeper structure located via sonar, a lighter spinning outfit gets the nod because it allows casting lightweight baits on much less visible lines—finesse fishing at its best.

If you’re among the anglers whose strong predilection for one type of tackle precludes you from taking advantage of the benefits afforded by the other, this spring might be a good time to finally diversify and conquer both inshore and offshore bassing with the best tools for the job. Here’s a quick look at the advantages of both baitcasting and spinning gear as they apply to modern bass tactics.

THE CASE FOR BAITCASTING

All things being equal, many bass fishermen prefer modern, low-profile baitcasting reels because they’re lighter, can be controlled with one hand and they function well with heavier lines—even the smaller models.

Once they’ve gained the necessary casting skills, many anglers feel they’re more accurate with a baitcaster than a spinner. If you need to feather a lure into a hole in a tree top or skip a bait under a dock, a baitcaster and an educated thumb make the job easier.

If very quick casts are in order, like when a bass blows up on a shad within casting distance, baitcasting gear is frequently the top choice. Most anglers will be quicker to get a lure in front of a fish with a baitcaster, even more so if they use a reel with a left-handed retrieve so there’s no need to change hands when it comes time to crank. Simply trip the spool release, fire and wind, thus gaining a valuable couple of seconds at a point in the presentation when any pause could translate into a missed strike.

And when it comes to power fishing, baitcasting is hard to beat. Paired with a 7-foot-6-inch or longer heavy-action rod, a low-profile baitcasting reel weighing less than 8 ounces can be loaded with 30-, 50- or 65-pound braid and still perform tasks like flipping heavy cover incredibly well, even if a hooked fish ends up dragging 10 pounds of weeds with your bait.

spinning gear
When you’re faced with a finesse-fishing situation that requires light lures and lines, it’s best to reach for a spinning outfit. (Photo by Brad Richardson/Get N Bit Production)

SPINNING SITUATIONS

Spinning tackle has an advantage when throwing lighter lures because it does not require the spool to rotate. Lures as lightweight as 1/8-ounce can be readily delivered to marks at considerable distances on medium-light spinning gear with 2000- to 3000-size reels.

While bassers used to consider such diminutive lures panfish baits, the advent of forward-scan sonar has made them preferred options in many situations. This is particularly true when bass are suspended around bait schools or hard structure in open water, and you want the artificial to sink very slowly while you watch the bass’ reaction on the fish-finder screen. Spinning gear is, hands down, the better alternative when faced with such situations.

Spinning has also gained more utility since the introduction of small-diameter, high-strength braids. Braid from 6- to 15-pound test functions extremely well on bass-sized spinning reels. And since the braid is in fact much stronger than its nominal designation, it offers a lot more power for setting hooks and fighting fish than monofilament and fluorocarbon. For example, 15-pound-test Berkley X9 consistently breaks at around 29 pounds, yet the micro-thin lines effortlessly cast the lightest of lures considerable distances.



Booming smallmouth fisheries in the Great Lakes and Northeast regions have also opened many anglers’ eyes to spinning’s advantages. Smallies often live in ultra-clear water where lines down to 4-pound test are a must to fool the fish, and spinning reels are far more effective at managing these gossamer-thin lines.

Baitcasting vs. Spinning: Choosing the Right Bass Combo
  • Learn why and when to use each in this episode of Beyond the Bait Powered by Streamlight.


WHICH CASTS FARTHER?

While most of us can throw 1/4-ounce baits a lot farther with spinning tackle, baitcasters actually yield greater distances with heavier lures like big topwaters because the line is “pushed” off the spool rather than pulled off as with a spinning reel. Case in point: All open-class surf-casting distance records are set with baitcasters, usually modified Abu Garcia round reels.

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Of course, when throwing into a stout wind, spinning gear has a big advantage because its design lacks a revolving spool, the cause of the dreaded backlash or bird’s nest.

EASE OF USE

You can learn to use a spinning reel quicker than a baitcaster. With the latter, backlashes are going to be part of your learning curve, though they’re a lot less common thanks to anti-backlash systems in modern reels. With a baitcasting reel, you also have to adjust the casting tension as you change lures.

With a spinning reel, you just grab the line with your index finger, open the bail and let ’er fly. Of course, the nuances of accuracy and distance take time to figure out, just as with a baitcaster, but the curve is a lot shorter.

In most cases, spinning reels also require less maintenance than baitcasters. It’s smart to put a tiny drop of light machine oil on the bearings of a baitcasting reel after every use. By contrast, you can fish all summer with a spinning reel and never have to give it any TLC (in freshwater, anyway).

The bottom line is both baitcasting and spinning reels have their advantages and disadvantages. And like the pros, recreational bass anglers would be wise to keep both on deck to maximize versatility and always employ the ideal tools in the variety of circumstances encountered during a day on the water.


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