From that early experience of learning to fish, many anglers stick with spinning tackle, and are happy fishermen for years. Others migrate to the bait- casting world. In some parts of the country the term "conventional outfit" means the same thing as bait-caster. Conventional in this case refers a reel where the line is reeled onto a spool that sits perpendicular to the direction of the rod.
The question many anglers ask is which type of reel is better, spinning or bait- casting? That answer depends on several things, not the least of which is angler preference.
Many fishermen today grew up watching the B.A.S.S. pros, either in print or on television. Not many of these pros ever have a spinning rod in their hands. Whether it's emulation or education, most bass anglers today use bait-casting gear. In years past, no self-respecting bass fisherman would be caught dead with a spinning rod in his boat!
From a saltwater perspective, aside from the heavy trolling rods and reels, more spinning than bait-casting tackle can be seen in use. Larger spinning reels with better drags can handle heavier fish.
The bass anglers that do fish with spinning tackle are generally using a very specific technique like finesse fishing or dock shooting, techniques that are difficult to master with bait-casting tackle. A lot of things changed when a well known B.A.S.S. pro came out one year pitching and flipping worms and jigs with a big closed face spin-cast reel!
In actuality, line size probably plays the most important roll in this tackle choice. Whether bass fishermen realize it or not, pros are using bait-casting tackle for a very specific reason. Bait-casting reels can handle heavier line and actually allow a longer cast than spinning gear in the same size range. Bass anglers regularly use line in the 14 to 17 pound test range. A small spinning reel has a smaller, narrower spool, which has a hard time with larger line size. Small bait-casting reels can handle these lines and provide comparatively greater casting distance.
Casting rods, size for size, also have more backbone than spinning rods. The backbone of a rod is the side of the blank that gives the least when bent. Made properly, a casting rod's backbone will lie directly on top of the blank as the angler holds the rod. This backbone allows lures to be "ripped" through vegetation more easily, and insures a more powerful hook set than a spinning rod in the same class.
The arrival of braided line with much heavier breaking strengths brought some issues to light in bass fishing circles. This super thin line causes problems on bait-casting reels simply because it is so thin. Setting the hook on a fish with braided line on a bait-casting reel tends to bury the line deep into the spool, a situation that will cause a major backlash on the very next cast. That same thinness is why lines less than about 10-pound test are seldom found on a bait-casting reel.
Spinning tackle, on the other hand can usually handle the braids much better. In fact, several manufacturers make a reel that picks the line up on the spool in such a way that it can't bury itself into the spool on a hook set. That, coupled with the virtual no-stretch quality of the braided line has made spinning tackle more and more attractive to bass anglers.
From a saltwater perspective, anglers using baitcasting outfits can be seen more often these days fishing the inshore arena. The heavy use of artificial lures in backwaters, coupled with reels that can now stand up to saltwater conditions have made bait-casters very popular today.
The spinning tackle used in saltwater today tends to be larger than that used in freshwater and consists of larger reels on heavier rods and line up to 30-pound test.
Anglers looking to make a choice between spinning tackle and bait-casting tackle need to look at their specific fishing techniques before making that choice. In reality the choice is not between which one an angler uses. It has become a choice of which of the two an angler will use in a given situation. In general, the lighter the line required in a given fishing situation, the more attractive spinning tackle becomes.
So the answer to this oft asked question is, "it depends". Next time you think about which outfit is the better choice, make sure you determine where and how you plan to fish. That is the true decision maker between spinning and bait casting tackle.