Spinning Reel vs. Conventional Reel: Which is better for fishing?

Photo of author
Last Updated:

Spinning reels and conventional reels are the two central fishing reels, each with unique characteristics and advantages. One similarity between a spinning and conventional reel is that they can be used for fresh and saltwater fishing. Some of their differences include that a spinning reel may be lighter and easy to use compared to a conventional reel, while a conventional reel has a more powerful drag system than a spinning reel.

Both conventional and spinning reels are practical tools for different fishing situations. Choosing a fishing reel depends on your target fish, fishing technique, and personal preference. It’s all a matter of selecting the one that best meets your needs.

spinning reel vs conventional reel
Spinning reel vs Conventional reel

Spinning Reels

A spinning reel is a type of fishing reel that attaches to the bottom of a fishing rod. They consist of a stationary spool that sits perpendicular to the rod and is mounted on a metal housing.

Due to the mechanism, anglers have more control as they cast and retrieve the fishing line. You can use a spinning reel setup in freshwater and saltwater, as well as for various fishing types, including light tackle spinning for panfish and jigging or lure fishing for big fish like trout and steelhead.

How Spinning Reels Work

To use a spinning rod, the fisherman holds the line with the index finger to keep it taut, then casts the lines by turning the reel’s gears while angling the spinning rod forward. A bail arm, located on the top of the reel, opens and closes to control the line. Revolve the handle on the side of the reel to retrieve the line. This will spin the spool and wind the line back onto it.

Pros of Spinning Reels

Most anglers go for a spinning reel due to several reasons, including:

  • Easy to use
  • Lighter than most reels
  • Easily available
  • More drag power
  • More affordable

Cons of Spinning Reels

Here are several potential downsides to using a spinning reel:

  • Prone to tangling, especially when using heavier or bulkier fishing lines, which results in lost fish. 
  • They are highly susceptible to wear and tear due to the large number of moving parts they contain.
  • More expensive

Conventional Reels

A conventional reel is a fishing reel mounted on the top of a fishing rod. It features a fixed spool and a revolving handle that must be cranked by hand to cast and retrieve the line. Also referred to as a baitcasting reel, these reel types are best known for smooth action and impressive casting distance.

Baitcasting reels are recommended for bass fishing using higher-weight baits. Casting rods are a great advantage when bottom fishing for striped bass and giant catfish or boat trolling for larger fish. A baitcaster reel, however, requires more skill to use compared to spinning reels.

How Conventional Reels Work

During the cast, the angler holds the rod with one hand and pulls back on the reel handle with the other hand. The spool rotates, and the line is released, allowing the bait or lure to be cast out. 

The fisherman controls the amount of line released by adjusting the reel’s spool tension and braking system. The drag system controls the resistance the larger spool applies to the line while the brakes prevent the spool from over-rotating and releasing too much line. 

When a fish bites the hook and begins to pull the line, the reel’s drag is engaged to apply resistance to the catch. The angler spins the handle in the opposite direction, which winds the line back onto the spool, reeling in the catch. A casting reel has a higher gear ratio than a spinning reel, which supports faster line retrieval.

Pros of Conventional Reels

Conventional reels are better than other types of reels due to the following:

  • Greater casting distance and accuracy
  • Better control and precision
  • Powerful drag system, which allows for better control of a fighting fish.
  • High durability
  • Greater power, making these reels suitable for heavy-duty fishing.
  • Better sensitivity to nibbles and bites.

Cons of Conventional Reels

A conventional reel has several potential drawbacks. These include:

  • Require more skill and practice to master, making them difficult for newbies.
  • Prone to bird’s nests
  • They are heavy
  • Higher cost
  • Not suitable for all types of fishing
YouTube video

Comparison of Spinning Reels and Conventional Reels

When it comes to spinning and casting reels, there are a few key points of comparison to keep in mind:

 Spinning ReelsConventional Reels
DesignThe spool lies parallel to the rodSpool sits perpendicular to the rod
CastingUse a fixed spool and a bail, which makes the casting process easier and more intuitiveThe angler manually controls the spool to prevent overrun or backlash
Drag SystemHave a rear drag systemHave a star type system
Line CapacityModerate capacityHigh line capacity, which makes them better suited for targeting big fish and deep-sea fishing
Skill LevelEasy to use, making them the most popular type of fishing reel for beginnersMore suited for experienced fishers because of the need to manually control the spool during casting
ApplicationCommonly used for freshwater fishing, light saltwater fishing, and trollingCommonly used for deep sea fishing, big game fishing, and trolling
CostMore affodableMore costly


So, which reels are better? Ultimately, both reel types have pros and cons, so it’s essential to consider your desired application before deciding. A conventional reel is a way to go if you need to cast further and don’t require delicate presentations. But opt for a spinning reel if you’re after precision with the casts and lighter lures.

Note that spinning and baitcasting reels can complement each other. You could use a conventional reel for targeting big predators while also having a spinning reel with light baits on hand for smaller species.

Diana Nadim
Fishing Expert
Diana began fishing at the age of seven, as it has been a long-time family tradition. From catching small bullheads to catching strippers on the backwaters of Bighorn, she loves to get out in the wild and have a marvelous day on the water. Her dad was an expert angler, and he taught her fishing along with her two siblings. They used to go to the Bighorn River in Montana and Henry’s fork, Idaho. As a pragmatic person, she is obsessed with creating well-researched and practical guides and reviews of the best fishing methods and gear.
× How can we improve it?
× Thanks for your feedback!

We're always looking to improve our articles to help you become an even better fisherman.

While you're here, why not follow us on Facebook and YouTube? Facebook YouTube

baitcaster brake

Baitcaster Brakes Explained: How They Affect Casting and What to Look For

The brake system of a baitcasting reel enables anglers to control the spool and prevent backlash. It consists of brake weights on the side of the spool that is adjusted to apply more or less resistance to the spool as it spins. The brake system is essential in casting control, as it determines how easily
benefits of a baitcaster

Benefits of a Baitcaster Reel: Why They Are a Must Have for Any Angler

Baitcasting reels have many benefits, including allowing more control over the lure – you are able to slow down the lure, making it fall softly into the water without alerting the fish. Baitcasting reels also offer you greater casting ability and a higher degree of casting accuracy and work great with heavy lures. Every fisherman
baitcaster gear ratio

Baitcasting Reel 101: Demystifying Baitcaster Gear Ratio and How It Affects Your Fishing

The baitcasting reel’s gear ratio is the speed at which the line is retrieved when the handle is turned. Therefore, a higher gear ratio means the line is retrieved faster, while a lower gear ratio indicates that the line is retrieved slower. Higher gear ratios (anything above 6.3:1) help you to retrieve your lures quickly,
baitcaster left or right

Baitcaster Left or Right Handed? How to Choose the Best Fit for You

When choosing a baitcasting reel, one vital consideration among anglers is whether to go with the right or left-handed models. This is essential as the spinning reels of the two models are usually on opposite sides, so when switching to a baitcaster, you have to switch styles or relearn to reel in with your dominant
baitcaster setup

How to Set Up a Baitcasting Reel: A Step-by-Step Guide

To set up a baitcasting reel, you first need to feed the line to the spool and then secure the line to the spool. The next step is to load the line onto the spool but remember that reels have different capacities. Adjust the spool tension using the knob found on the side of the
baitcaster backlash

Baitcaster Backlash: How to Remove Backlash from a Baitcaster

Baitcaster backlash usually occurs when the spool continues spinning even after the lure has stopped. This, in return, causes birdsnesting. You can prevent backlash by setting the correct spool tension and brake system. Also, you can avoid forming a tangled mess by practicing the proper casting techniques. In case you experience backlash, you can untangle