Row of Fishing Rods

Spinning vs Casting Rod: What’s The Difference? (Full Guide)

Here’s a little riddle for you —from one fisherman to another. Ready?

I always go fishing with my best friend. Yet, all my fishing ventures are done solo. 

How is this possible? – *insert Final Jeopardy theme song here*

Give up? It’s because my fishing rod is my best friend, and it’s with me every time I hit the water.

Believe me, it’s much cooler than my buddy Brent who drinks all my Mountain Dew and spooks the fish in the water.

So, why is my fishing rod my bestie? Simple —having the right fishing rod changed my entire fishing experience.

When I’m catching fish, my fishing rod morphs into an amazing weapon and strategic partner.

That’s the type of relationship you want with your fishing rod.

It should feel like a part of you, and the type that makes you more powerful.

Find What Suits You

To find your match, first you just need to learn the differences between casting and spinning rods.

Spinning vs Casting Rods (Great Debate)

Then you can decide which type of fishing rod is the best fit for your fishing needs.

If you want to find a true companion and not some random fishing rod, stick around.

I’m going to spout off everything you need to know about spinning vs casting rods.

Once you learn the advantages and disadvantages of each, finding the right fishing rod will come easy.

Now, if it’s okay with you I’m going to get this party started! I’ll begin with talking about features of spinning rods —

What Does a Spinning Rod Look Like?

Size and Material 

Spinning rods are typically constructed of fiberglass, graphite or carbon fiber and have a foam or PVC handle.

They come in many different sizes to accommodate various fishing needs.

Spinning rods range from 4 – 14 feet in length and the most commonly used sizes are 6 – 8 footers.

Features of a Spinning Rod 

Spinning Rod Placed on a Dock
Spinning Rod Placed on a Dock

You can find them with a range of rod “action” such as extra-fast, fast, medium and slow.

You may be wondering, “What is rod action, exactly?” 

“Action” is defined by how much bend is in the rod.

Fast action rods only flex towards the tip.

Moderate action rods bend to the middle, and slow action rods bend all the way towards the base. 

Weight

When choosing casting and spinning rods there are also many different rod weights you can pick, ranging from extra light to heavy.

Weight is also called “power” because the heavier the weight the stronger the power of the fishing rod.

Let me explain the differences between rod weights and power.

Power is basically how much pressure it takes to bend the fishing rod.

A heavier fishing rod is harder to bend and can handle bigger fish, whereas a light fishing rod is better for catching fish like small bass or crappie.

TIP

The rod weight you choose will be determined by the size fish you’re targeting and the type of fishing you’re going to do.

For example, if you’re going after scary-big catfish, roll with a heavier rod. If you’re targeting smaller fish like redbreasts, then extra-light will work.

Whoah, It’s Got Eyes Down Below! 

In comparing differences between casting and spinning rod —as far as looks one key trait of spinning rods to learn is the location of its eyes.

No, not its baby blues or light browns.

The “eyes” or eyelets are the loops that start in front of the reel and end at the tip of the fishing rod.

They’re also called “guides” because they keep the fishing line straight once it leaves the spool.

The guides on spinning rods are located on its underside and point towards the ground…

The guides on spinning rods are located on its underside and point towards the ground.

This is the opposite of a baitcasting rod, which has guide-loops on above them.

They’re also bigger than the ones used on a baitcasting rod.

They gradually get larger from the tip to the base for enhanced line flow.

Spinning Rod on a Beach
Spinning Rod on a Beach

The Reel is Mounted on the Bottom

The spinning reel is located on the underside of the spinning rod, just above the handle.

A spinning reel reminds me of a fruit bat hanging upside down — a fruit bat that can catch fish, that is.

The spinning reel is located on the underside of the spinning rod, just above the handle…

This setup is the opposite of a casting rod

Baitcasters and spincasters are mounted on above of a casting rod, as well as the guide loops.

Most anglers hold the rod handle with their dominant hand and reel with the other.

But you can have it both ways, as spinning reel handles tend to be reversible.

Here’s what to look for in the “eyes” of your spinning rod.

Make sure the spinning rod has at least one guide loop for every foot of length, including the tip.

This gives your fishing rod better balance and weight distribution — so be sure to find one with single-foot guide loops.

Rod Material

This second bit of spinning rod advice is perhaps the most crucial.

Pick a rod with stainless steel guides and silicon carbon (SIC) inserts! These materials can handle big fish and are optimized for fishing line.

spinning rods have fewer eyelets than casting rods…

Keep in mind that spinning rods have fewer eyes than casting rods.

This works because the eyelets are wider, and fewer loops are needed to facilitate line flow.

Okay, so now you can close your eyes and envision a spinning rod pretty clearly.

Now I’ll get back to why using a spinning reel with a spinning rod is crucial —

Can I Use a Baitcaster Reel on a Spinning Rod?

Well, technically you could. But I beg you not to! It’s kind of an..abomination, haha. 

You can go buck-wild and throw one on —just don’t expect to have much success.

Your baitcast reel will likely be backward, plus your ability to cast and retrieve will be hampered in major ways.

You also run the risk of looking like a lunatic by the way.

Here’s why you shouldn’t put a baitcaster on a spinning rod — 

The guide loops are bigger on spinning reels, so it’s a mismatch.

Baitcasters and spincast reels are designed for smaller guides, and would likely underperform on a spinning rod.

Don’t Forget about the Underspin Reel

There is, however, one type of spincast reel that works for a spinning rod.

They’re called underspin reels, and it’s designed to mount on the underside of a fishing rod — so it functions fine.

NOTE

The bottom line —If you’re serious about finding the right fishing rod you’ll need to match it with reels that work. To catch fish, get a fishing rod and reel duo that complement each other.

Okay, I feel like I’m giving spinning rods all the attention. So on that note, it’s time to talk about casting rods for a bit —

You can usually tell if fishing rods are a “casting” version because aside from the smaller guide sizes there will also be a letter C somewhere in the model number.

Like spinning rods, they come with a range of rod “action”.

You can get one that has extra-fast, fast, medium and slow action.

In case you missed it earlier, “action” is defined by how much bend is in the rod.

NOTE

As I said, fast action fishing rods only bend at the tip. Moderate action fishing rods flex towards the middle, and slow action fishing rods bend towards the rod base.

Sensitivity

Fisherman Using a Casting Rod on a River
Fisherman Using a Casting Rod on a River

Fast action fishing rods are the most sensitive rods.

If you plan on jig fishing, think about using one. It helps you feel it the moment the fish nibbles.

You can pick from many different fishing rod weights as well, ranging from extra-light to heavy.

A casting rod’s weight is synonymous with its “power” because heavier weight means stronger fishing rods.

Basically, power is determined by how much pressure it takes to bend the rod.

Heavier fishing rods can withstand bigger fish, while light rods are better for catching smaller fish.

TIP

The choice of weight should be based on the size of fish you’re going after.

For example, if you’re targeting fish like cod, roll with a heavier rod. If you’ve got fish like bluegill in mind, then extra-light will work better.

It Has Eyes on Top, and Plenty of Them

…casting rods have more “eyes” running from the handle to the tip

As mentioned, casting rods have more “eyes” running from the handle to the tip. Again, “eyes” refer to the loops on the rod that keep the fishing line straight.

They play a big role in a casting rod’s function and give anglers pinpoint accuracy.

The increased number of guide loops and narrowed guide-width on casting rods help experienced anglers make precise casts.

Its Reel Perches Like a Peregrine Falcon 

Casting rods are designed with baitcasters and spincasters in mind…

You can mount both on top of a casting rod. Looking less like a low-hanging fruit bat, and designed more like a bird of prey atop its roost!

Unlike spinning rods, you can use your dominant hand to reel, and use the other to hold casting rods. If reeling with your strong hand feels more natural, then try to use a casting rod with a top-mounted reel.

Okay, I explained why matching the reel to the rod is important.

I went over the pitfalls of using a baitcaster on a spinning rod.

So it’s only fair to answer the following question as well—

Can I Use a Spinning Reel on a Casting Rod?

Hell to the no!

You should learn to never put a spinner on a casting rod.

It will put unnecessary wear on both the rod and reel, in a few different ways…

First off, the spinning reel would likely end up backward.

So casting and reeling would be like pulling off a magic trick. And once a fish gets on the line everything will go south. 

Pair of Fishing Reels on Top of a Suitcase
Pair of Fishing Reels Above a Suitcase

With that setup, here’s what might happen —

  • You’d put extra pressure on the spine of the rod and possibly break it
  • Line tension would unevenly displace along the rod and eyes
  • Fishing line would wear out and break more easily
  • The reel gears would break more quickly 

Also, keep in mind that spinning reels are designed to be paired with a rod with large guide loops.

The robust eyes are designed to help the fishing line pass through as the line flows from the spool.

If you put a spinner on a casting rod, the smaller guides could limit your casting ability.

Basically, it boils down to one thing —Don’t go loony and use mismatched reels for your casting rod!

As I said earlier, the rod and reel you use should match, not butt heads with one another. It should make you more powerful, not compromise your day on the water.

Now you see the key differences between spinning and casting rods.

But how do you know which type of rod is better to use among the two?

Well, it depends on what type of fishing you’re doing. Let’s dive into that now…

It’s a Perfect Rod for Novice Fishermen 

There is a learning curve for a casting rod, and you have to be willing to go through some growing pains.

That’s not the case for spinning rods…

One of the main reasons many anglers roll with one is because it’s easier to use and takes less skill.

it’s easier to use and takes less skill…

A fair amount of casting reels incorporate magnetic or centrifugal cast control mechanisms.

What the heck’s that? Exactly! It makes the baitcasting reel difficult to master, and challenging for a novice fisherman to use.

Don’t get me wrong —if you have the patience to get used to a casting rod, then you could fall in love with casting reels

Many pro anglers make it look easy when they whip casting rods around with pinpoint accuracy like Clint Eastwood.

NOTE

If you’re a beginner or just don’t fish very often, going with a spinning rod is a smart idea.

They help beginners eliminate backlash and hangups, plus cast more accurately. Like I said, it’s easier because the learning curve is less steep!

Spinning Rods Cast Lightweight Lures Further 

Again, this type of rod has wide guide-loops that allow maximum line flow.

They lessen the line friction and give you longer casts.

this type of rod has wide guide-loops that allow maximum line flow…

That’s why spinning rods are ideal for tossing weedless grubs into cover from 25 feet away.

Or maybe you need to reach a stump with a tiny hula popper, from land.

Spinning rods can be your best friend during those times. 

It’s also easier to skip-cast into cover using spinning rods.

That’s because spinning reels allow you to cast lures with the flick of a wrist and still get nice distance.

Learn how to Skip Cast with the video below

Short Video on How to Skip Cast

Wait..I think I hear the faint voice of a casting rod somewhere.

It’s asking me to tell you what’s good about it —so I guess I’ll abide and answer it’s call!

Ideal Rod for Trolling on a River 

Many anglers say casting rods are better in a boat —and it’s not just because they can help get your lure into tight spaces.

I’m talking about the ability of the casting rods to slowly release line for trolling with a down-rigger.

Casting reels seem to fit rod holders like a glove and provide a controlled release of line to get your lure in the right spot.

They’re the reel of choice when it comes to this type of fishing.

Get More Accuracy and Distance with a Longer Rod

Casting rods are known to be accurate once you get the hang of them.

Make sure you start out with a shorter type of baitcasting rod to learn at first.

They’re easier to control and sling with accuracy.

If you want to increase your casting distance, try using a longer baitcasting rod…

If you want to increase your casting distance, try using a longer baitcasting rod paired with your casting reel.

It may take some time to become accurate enough, but once you do the longer casts will feel nice.

Needs Some Practice

These rods are not inaccurate, they just take time to hone.

The high number of guides on a baitcasting rod actually help streamline lures to their intended spot.

If you need to make long casts into the wind or wide-open spaces, these rods are known for working well —maybe roll with a 9 footer.

The extra rod length generates more casting power. 

Close up Photo of a Reel of a Casting Rod
Close up Photo of a Casting Reel

Casting Rods Tend to Last Longer 

As I said, the build of a casting rod is a bit different than a spinning rod.

The line and weight distribution are unique —as force is exerted on the rod-body, rather than the guide-loops.

the build of a casting rod is a bit different than a spinning rod….

For this reason, they tend to outlast spinning rods.

Of course, having a baitcast reel on it also lends to overall longevity.

Those casting reels are known to have quality components that last.

However, many of the long-lasting baitcasters come at a pretty price.

But if you have the right budget, it could very much be worth the investment. 

Bigger Line Capacity and Tough Drag System

If you want to be catching really big fish, you may want to go with a casting rod.

The spool of a baitcasting reel can hold heavier line, while the spool of spinning reels lacks the capacity.

Baitcasters are also known for having quality drags.

Drag is very important when you’re looking to land a big fish. If the drag slips or doesn’t rise to the challenge —you’ve likely lost the big fish.

TIP

The consensus among many anglers is that there’s less line snapping with a baitcasting rod. With the right drag, weight, and action rod, plus a quality baitcasting reel —you’re equipped to hold out against a hog.

Let’s Wrap Up the Rod-Talk

So, do you have enough information about casting and spinning rods yet?

Is it bubbling over in your brain and making you want to find the perfect rod and reel tandem?

Good! Don’t fight the feeling, go out and do it. I mean, it’s the closest thing to that “new toy” excitement you’ll get without time-warping back to when you were 10 years old.

But oh, wouldn’t that be nice? 

So take a look around, and see some new reels.

Weed out the wanna-be’s and find a new rod to take you to another level.

Your brother from another mother —or sister, if you fancy your rod a female.

The point is, find your soul-rod like I did. Then drive like the wind to the nearest lake or river, and break in your new bestie by catching lots of fish!

Help someone you know find an ideal rod. Go ahead and share this guide!

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