Spinning Rod vs Casting Rod – What Are the Main Differences?

The main difference between a spinning rod and a casting rod is that a spin rod is designed specifically for using spin reels, and a casting rod is designed for use with casting reels.

Should you pose the question on the internet, you will come up with all sorts of answers about which rod is better for what types of fishing; what type of casting, bigger fish vs smaller fish, accuracy, casting distance, and on it goes.

Beware this kind of detail as it is often very misleading. I’ll repeat. Casting rods take casting reels; spinning rods are for spin reels. That’s the difference.

The appropriate rod you should use for a particular application is often conflated with explanations about spinning and casting rod differences. 

It’s a very different conversation, and more often than not, rod type selection boils down to personal preference anyway.

In terms of fishing applications, they both do the same things but with different reels. There are some exceptions and nuances, which I will explain later.

What’s important to understand is that the construction of the rods is different. 

Their construction is reel specific. While it is technically possible to put a spin reel on a casting rod and vice versa, it’s a bad idea.

Such is the specificity of design of each rod type, that they’ll perform poorly, and even break if fitted with the reel from the other camp.

Let’s look at the differences a little closer.

What is a Spinning Rod?

spinning fishing rod left near the river

A spinning rod takes a spinning reel. The reel hangs beneath the rod, as do the guides. 

Common guide numbers vary anywhere between 6 to 9, with the largest guide being at the reel end of the rod, progressively getting smaller to the tip.

The large guide at the reel end is to manage the line that leaves the real in loops. 

Guide sizes are relative to the length of the rod, with the longest rod having the largest diameter guides.

The rod spine is opposite to the guides, so on top of the rod. This is the case for graphite rods, and composites, as fibreglass rods don’t have spines.

There’s a huge range of rod lengths, actions, and tapers. 

Excluding the tiny ice fishing rods, which are only inches long, common spinning rod lengths start at 5 feet, going all the way to 15 feet for massive surf rods.

Spinning rods are deployed for every type of fish target and fishing type. From chasing the smallest trout in a babbling brook to targeting blue water monsters as big as they grow.

Spinning rods are by far the most common, and that’s because spin reels are the easiest to use, learn and master, and the most versatile.

Spin rods are constructed using graphite, fibreglass (rare these days), or composite, which is a combination of fibreglass and graphite.

What is A Casting Rod

A Casting rod is designed specifically for the use of casting reels. On a casting rod, the reel sits on top of the rod, as do the guides which point towards the sky.

Guide numbers on a casting rod tend to be more numerous, often sitting around 9+ guides including the tip. 

The first guide doesn’t have a large diameter like the spinning rod, as the line leaves the spool without looping.

The spine of a casting rod is also on top, sitting on the same side of the rod as the guides and reel.

Many casting rods will have a trigger grip on the handle and reel seats that can look quite different to spin rod reel seats.

Casting rods are also deployed for just about every fishing application. However, casting rods tend to be more specialized for particular fishing applications, which we’ll discuss later.

The use of casting rods has grown significantly in the last few decades as casting reel technology has made them easier to use.

Owing to advances in spool tech and braking, more average anglers are adding casting outfits to their fishing arsenals.

While casting rods are certainly versatile, they don’t quite have the same versatility as the spinning rod.

Casting rods are constructed of carbon, fiberglass (old and rare), and composite. 

It should be noted that game rods are exactly the same configuration as casting rods, however, they should not be included as a casting rod, as game rods don’t cast at all.

What is a Spinning Rod Used For?

A spin rod is used for every type of fishing except fly fishing, which requires specialized equipment.

The majority of weekend anglers will use spin rods for everything.

Spin rods are exceptionally common for surf, rock, boat, inshore, offshore, trolling, bottom bouncing, lures, live baits, dead baits, fresh and saltwater…basically everything!

A spin rod is incredibly versatile but tends to meet its limits when chasing the ocean’s biggest fish.

In contrast, blue water anglers will go with overhead (big casting reels) owing to their superior rigidity, and spool capacity.

Having said that, there are reels such as the bigger Stella, and Saltiga designed for chasing bluewater game.

Bluewater spin has increased in popularity ever since spin reel size, spool capacity, drag capacity, and rigidity have increased. 

Braided lines have also made spin reel game fishing more accessible owing to the amount of heavy class line you can fit on a spin reel.

Spin excels in the light, ultralight, and finesse sports style fishing, and this is mostly due to the casting manners of the smallest 1000 and 1500 size spin reels, capable of casting the lightest of unweighted lures.

What is a Casting Rod And What is it Used For?

man fishing with a casting rod

Check out the bass anglers this weekend, and you’ll see an army of casting rods in action. 

Casting outfits tend to be the outfit of choice for bass anglers; however, they extend much further than the fresh.

Casting rods can be used for everything spinning rods can be used for. However, there is a deficit in the finesse ultralight scene.

Casting reels are notoriously difficult to cast when rigged light. As spin does the ultra-light stuff better, you’ll not often see casting gear in the light sports realm.

The value of a casting reel is its configuration, with the spool anchored at two points. 

Casting reels have a strong/rigid configuration that makes them ideal for tackling blue water species.

They can also hold copious amounts of braided line, making them ideal for large bluewater species, whether trolling, bottom bouncing, or casting big lures at distant reefs.

Casting rods are used for surf, rock, boat, inshore, offshore, trolling, bottom bouncing, lures, live baits, dead baits, fresh and saltwater. Yes, just as spin rods are.

Also Read: Best Value Casting Reels

What are the Benefits of Using a Spinning Rod vs Baitcasting Rod?

In reality, when comparing baitcasting rods versus spinning rods it’s not about the rods, it’s about the reel.

In terms of benefits, the rod has little if anything to do with it. 

Casting and Spin rod blanks are made exactly the same way. They are just fitted out differently from each other to suit the reel type.

As stated earlier spin reels are easier to learn and master than casting reels. Casting reels take some time to learn and become competent.

One could argue that a casting rod may be more accurate, but it’s not the rod per se; it’s the rod reel combination. And only in experienced hands.

I also stated earlier that spin is better at the light stuff, whereas casting is better at the heavy stuff.

With modern rods and reels, this is less true than it once was. 

There’s a tremendous amount of crossover between reels, and only at the extreme ends of size and power is this relevant.

For example, If you’re chasing brook trout with super-light rigs, then a spinning rod is best by far

If you’re chasing dog tooth tuna as big as they grow, you’ll find you’ll need the line reserves available on a big casting reel.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can You use a Casting Rod or a Spinning Rod for the Same Purpose?

The short answer is yes, you can. And again, it’s not about the rod, it’s about the reel.

Modern spin and casting outfits have a tremendous amount of crossover. I’m just as happy chasing trophy bass with a spin outfit as I am with a casting outfit. 

I love wrestling massive tuna with a spin outfit just as much as I do a casting outfit.

While using casting versus spin has benefits at the extreme ends of the scale, there are few to speak of for the average angler. Use whichever outfit you like for whatever purpose.

Can You Use a Spin Reel on a Casting Rod

Technically yes, but it’s a very bad idea for a modern graphite or composite rod. You can do it effectively enough with a full fiberglass rod, as a fiberglass rod does not have a spine. 

This means it doesn’t matter which way the rod bends.

With graphite and composite, the spine must be on top to assist parabolic bend and increase strength in the critical place – on the top.

Spinning vs Casting rod for Catfish – Which is Better?

If somebody tries to tell you that one is better than the other for catfish, they are simply stating their preference. Neither is better than the other for catfish applications.

Both spinning rods and casting rods can be used to catch catfish.

The outfit you are most competent with and prefer to use is the best outfit for catching catfish.

The Verdict. When is a Casting Rod Better? When is a Spinning Rod Better?

The most important thing to tell you is that neither is better, and casting rods versus spinning rods has NOTHING to do with the rods themselves. It’s worth repeating.

Casting rods and spinning rod blanks are made exactly the same. The difference is in the placement of the seat and the guides, which are configured specifically for either cast or spin.

Ultimately, if not flippantly, a casting rod is better when you have a casting reel, and a spinning rod is better when you have a spinning reel.

While there are benefits to having one or the other at the extremes of the fishing spectrum, the better option is the one you prefer to use or have more confidence with. 

It’s a personal preference for the vast majority of the average anglers fishing applications.

My advice is to become proficient with both because using both types of rods makes you a more versatile angler.

Also Read: Best Saltwater Fishing Rod Reel Combo Money Can Buy

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Sean Ward

Hey there, my name is Sean – OnTrack Fishing is my site. I’m based in the UK yet I’ve been fortunate enough to catch bass in the States, barramundi in Australia, trout here at home and carp on the Danube delta. If I’m not fishing, or talking about fishing, then….I’m probably asleep.


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