I grew up fishing on the beach with my dad and off an 18-foot center console in the back bays. We'd use casting rods on the boat and spinning rods on the beach. I could tell you which rod was which, but I honestly had no idea the difference between a spinning and a casting rod. Once I learned the dynamics of each rod type and the benefits of using one over the other, it makes choosing rods easier.
If you're just starting, you may be wondering which type of fishing rod is best for a beginner. Or maybe you've been using one rod and are curious about the advantages of making a switch. Either way, I'm going to help you understand the key difference between the two. By the end of this article, you'll have a clear idea of each rod's advantages and know which is better for your experience and fishing style.
What Is A Spinning Rod?
At a basic level, a spinning rod has features compatible with a spinning reel. But there's more to it than that. So let's break down the spinning rod setup.
At the bottom of the rod, you'll notice the handle of a spinning rod is longer than a casting rod handle. This added length provides better leverage for casting. In addition, the reel seat, located at the top of the rod handle, secures the spinning reel to the bottom of the rod facing downward.
As we move up the rod, you'll see the guides along the bottom, in line with the reel. Spinning rods have larger guides than casting rods. The guide closest to the reel spool is the largest, with the rest decreasing in size, moving closer to the tip.
Spinning rod guides have extra reinforcement because they face downward, making them responsible for holding the direct weight of line pressure during a fight. Also, there's reinforcement along the bottom of the rod and lighter construction along the top. The result is a strong underside and a flexible backbone.
What Is A Casting Rod?
A casting rod, also referred to as a baitcaster or conventional rod, is only compatible with a casting (baitcaster/conventional) reel.
The casting rod handle and reel seat are smaller than those of a spinning rod. The fishing reel seat is at the top of the handle and faces the reel upward.
The guides run along the top of the fishing rod blank, facing upward and in line with the baitcasting reel. A casting rod has more guides than a spinning rod of the same size. The extra guides and closer guide spacing help keep pressure along the rod's backbone when reeling in a fish.
Opposite to a spinning rod, the casting rod blank is heavier along the top and lighter along the bottom. This design creates a stronger backbone and allows for more flexibility along the rod's underside.
What Is A Spinning Rod Used For?
I use spinning rods for most of my surf fishing. They're designed to improve casting distance, so bass anglers will have no problem clearing shallow rocks and seaweed. They're also great for casting past the surf when fishing from the beach. Spinning rods cast further than casting rods because the blank is lighter and more flexible along the backbone. This enhanced flex allows the rod to bend (load up) during the forward motion of the cast, creating a whipping effect as the light lure releases.
I also love the sensitivity of spinning rods. There are conflicting opinions on whether a spinning rod is more sensitive than a casting rod. But I've always found it easier to feel small fish and little nibbles with a spinning rod. And there's nothing more frustrating than dealing with tangles. That's why I love that spinning rods are less prone to bird nests (knotted line) and other tangles.
Spinning rods are the ideal choice for your average, straightforward cast with lighter lures or lighter baits. They also favor distance over casting accuracy. They're easier to use than casting rods, work in a variety of fishing situations, and are a great choice for beginners.
What Is A Casting Rod Used For?
I use spinning rods for a wide variety of fishing techniques. But I rely on casting rods to make short, accurate casts around mangrove branches and dock pilings. The baitcaster reel setup allows you to keep your thumb over the spooled line. This makes it easier to cast the exact distance you want. They also make back-handed casting easier, which is great for accurate, short-distance casting. Additionally, once you get the hang of this casting style, it's faster to recast your tackle than with a spincast reel combo.
Casting rods are also useful for larger fish and when I'm trolling or bottom fishing from a kayak or boat. The rod's strong backbone and flexible underside provide more upward pulling power. It also can handle the drag caused by trolling. The design works better using larger lures, heavy bait rigs, and reeling up larger species. The thumb-controlled line release with a bait casting reel also makes it easier to drop your bait rig when bottom fishing.
The downside to casting rods is that they're more difficult to use than spinning rods. If you don't keep the right amount of thumb pressure on the line as you cast or let it out, it's prone to creating a knot known as a bird's nest. It's a frustrating knot and difficult to fix once it happens.
Casting rods have a steeper learning curve than spinning rods and require some practice. However, they're great for experienced anglers using specific casting techniques once you get a feel for them.
What Are The Best Rod Brands?
Shimano is a Japanese company founded in 1932 as an ironworks and bicycle manufacturer. In 1970, they expanded into fishing tackle and have since been synonymous with high-quality gear.
Budget shoppers might shy away from Shimano because of the higher price tag. While some experienced anglers feel the higher price tag is due to name recognition. But no one doubts Shimano's high-performance designs and reliable rod construction.
Penn is a US fishing tackle company established in 1932 and famous for introducing spinning reels to the US market.
The company's reputation as a reel manufacturer might overshadow the rod production side of its business. However, Penn makes some decent rods, especially in the low to mid-budget price range.
Shakespeare Ugly Stik
I grew up hearing the old reputation that Ugly Stik makes 'unbreakable' rods. Though that’s not true, Ugly Stik still makes seriously durable rods at every price point.
I love that while some rod companies focus on space-age guide material, Ugly Stik often chooses the reliability of stainless steel. And I trust the heavy-duty construction of my Ugly Stik Bigwater over a featherweight rod any day.
St. Croix started in Minneapolis, making multi-section bamboo rods in 1948. They expanded into fiberglass fly rods in 1956, solidifying their business as a quality rod manufacturer. Although they make some good budget rods, their mid to high-end rods are where they shine. St. Croix uses high-quality materials and has innovative designs suitable for all levels of experience.
I'd recommend starting with a spinning rod if you're an amateur angler. It's important to keep fishing fun when you're new. Otherwise, you'll get frustrated and quit. Spinning rods are easier to cast and less likely to knot up, making learning to fish more enjoyable.
Once you've gotten the hang of a spinning rod, a casting rod can bring your fishing to the next level. Give casting rods a shot if you fish on boats, kayaks, or around structures like docks and mangroves.
*The information on this site is based on research and first-hand experience but should not be treated as medical advice. Before beginning any new activity, we recommend consulting with a physician, nutritionist or other relevant professional healthcare provider.