How to Pick a Fishing Reel — Baitcaster VS Spinning VS Conventional

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A common question we get asked is, “how do I pick a fishing reel?

The three main types of reels popular in fishing are baitcaster reels, spinning reel, and conventional reels.

Well, I say your choice of gear depends on the fish you want to catch as each has its own benefits and downside in every situation.

Fishing in Southern California is a fun and enjoyable experience for all fishing enthusiasts. With a wide variety of species to fish for, anglers love to switch from one reel to another to match their target fish when fishing the SoCal waters.

The reels we know today usually have fittings to help you cast at a distance with accuracy when angling. Some reels have pressure sensors specialized for an immediate retrieve of your line.

Packing your reel gears with all your other fishing essentials is a good angler practice. But knowing which reel is best for your fishing trip will help you ensure a productive experience. 

Baitcaster Reel VS Spinning Reel VS Conventional Reel

Spinning Reel


  • Spinning reels are your versatile reels. 
  • They are the easiest to learn among the three.
  • You can easily cast it to a distance.


  • Spinning reels can be fatiguing when casting your monofilament or fluorocarbon leader line repeatedly.
  • You have to learn and do the extra movements necessary for spinning reels to operate.
  • The amount of torque you generate is nowhere near any sort of round spool reel. 

Baitcaster Reel


  • This low-profile baitcasting reel is the reel of choice when casting the same thing over and over. 
  • This reel works best, especially when catching small fish and those with a little fight like when you go calico and largemouth bass fishing.
  • The fatigue experienced by baitcasters is less compared to other reels.
  • Baitcasting reels are easy to use with your fishing techniques.
  • It has a break, spool control, and flipping switch that helps baitcasters control the baits you cast when fishing


  • Baitcasting reels do not work best if you need to throw an ounce of weight. And five minutes later, you need to cut all that weight off and go with a fly line or weightless presentation of any type.

Fishing Tip! Learn how to cast a baitcaster reel with our complete guide.

Conventional Reel


  • The conventional reel is unbeatable when it comes to generating raw power when casting. 


  • They are challenging to use and require a lot of practice.
  • Figuring out your accuracy in terms of drag and lever takes a longer time.

Fishing Reel Tips

Gearing up with your fishing essentials is important for a productive and fun trip. But at the day’s end, you want to equip yourself with knowledge in choosing the right reel or gear you need for certain fishing situations.

Adding the right reel on top of all your gear, such as your favorite lure or plastics, lets you handle your target fish more effectively.

Bottom line: If you’re new to fishing and are still learning, you want to get a spinning reel and load it up with monofilament. But if you plan to chase a typical three-quarter to full-day tuna, you need the power of a conventional.

It takes a long to master and will test your patience, but once you have, your fishing experience will increase and stand the test of your target.

Insider Advice

If you are to choose a reel to do most of your SoCal fishing with, I recommend selecting a medium-sized spinning combo. This helps you get your way when fishing for catfish at the river, trout in the sierras, or when you decide to take on your local half-day boat to catch sand bass 

Likewise, if you’re going to go to the lake or the kelp beds, and you want to throw plastics, slug lures, swimbaits, consider the low-profile bait caster or round reel. The knobs make it easier to cast the same thing over and over.

Jon Stenstrom
Founder & Angler
Jon Stenstrom is a fishing enthusiast. He has over 25 years of fishing experience, and 6 years of spearfishing experience, and is currently learning how to boat. Jon has his Open Water PADI Certification and FII Freediver Level 1 Certification. Jon has traveled the world to fish and dive, most notably in the Great Barrier Reef, Baja Mexico, Thailand, and Malaysia. More Articles
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