Spinning Rods vs Casting Rods – Pros, Cons & 6 Key Differences Explained


Part of the fun of fishing is treating ourselves to some new tackle. There’s a rod for just about every occasion, but which one is the best for you?

Well, today you are going to find out. When it comes to spinning rods vs casting rods, some things are similar and some different… And it can make a world of difference.

I’m going to show you the key differences, what to look for and how to make the right choice based on your style of fishing.

Disclosure: At BonfireBob, we recommend products based on unbiased research, however, BonfireBob.com is reader-supported and as an Amazon Associate we earn from qualifying purchases if you shop through the links on this page. For more information, see disclosure here.

What is a Spinning Rod?

The quick answer?

A spinning rod tends to be used exclusively for lure fishing. No, you aren’t limited to just using spinners, but it was what the original ‘spinning rods’ were designed for. A spinning rod will have a few key features:

fisherman fishing with spinning rod in pond

A Fast Action

Lures don’t tend to weigh an awful lot, so there isn’t the inertia required to fling them a long way.

So, what’s the answer?

Easy, we use a rod that is relatively ‘whippy’. Us anglers have a name for this. It’s called rod action. The faster the action, the bendier the rod. This bend converts spring energy into kinetic energy, propelling even the lightest of lures (such as spinners) far enough to put them in danger of being eaten by fish!

A Relatively Short Handle

If you are casting constantly then you want a rod that is agile and easy to handle. One way to keep the length (and weight) down is to make sure the handle is nice and short.

It’s easy to see…

Most spinning rods have a handle that is less than a foot long, you’ll often find they have a molded grip too to make it even more comfortable to hold.

Lightweight

If you’ve ever lure fishing, you’ll already know that there is constant movement. Cast and retrieve, and repeat.

Imagine doing that all day with something heavy? I get tired just thinking about it. Lure fishing requires you to hold the rod at all times. Therefore the lighter, the better!

Shorter Length

When spinning you are constantly moving around, you’ll also need to flick those lures into all sorts of places, like under overhanging trees, bushes and along the sides of rocks. Take a look at my selection of bass fishing rods and reels, and you’ll easily be able to see this unique feature.

Do you know what makes it easier?

Having a rod that is short and easily controllable. Spinning rod lengths vary, but the standard is normally between about 6 and 10 feet.

What is a Casting Rod?

A casting rod does exactly what it says on the tin.

It is purpose-built to send weight and bait out over the horizon. To do that, it normally has certain attributes that make this a possibility.

angler with rod and reel fishing carps in lake

A Strong Blank

Did you pay attention to physics? If so, you’ll know that energy is all about power and momentum. Casting rods have bags of both.

When you are making a big cast you’ll want to use a heavyweight, and you don’t want the rod to be overstressed either. We achieve this by using a rod that bends only when it really has to. The blank on a casting rod is much stiffer, and requires more energy to get it to ‘load up’ in the cast.

And it isn’t just about casting either. You’ll find those big rods are used when big fish are around.

Want an example?

Check out my article on the best catfish rod and reels… There’s plenty of powerful stuff to see!

Larger Rod Length

Another way to get more inertia is to create a longer lever.

Also known as…

A longer rod. Casting rods tend to be pretty long. The focus is on achieving maximum distance instead of accuracy.

More Line Guides

When the rod bends the line needs to be supported, and if you are really putting your back into a cast then you’ll be putting a significant bend in the rod. As a result, you’ll normally find that casting rods tend to have more rod rings that are equally spaced.

A Larger Handle

I look at my distance casting a little like I viewed carrying my ex-wife.

Meaning?

It was a two-handed job, without a shadow of a doubt.

To get maximum flex and maximum distance, you are going to need to use both hands. The easiest way to do this is by making a rod with a longer handle. You’ll often find that manufacturers avoid making it too bulky by only including grips where your hands will go, this is called a ‘fighting butt’.

Multiple Reel Configurations

Some guys love to cast using a fixed spool reel, other (more advanced) anglers will use something called a multiplier.

The difference?

One sits underneath the rod, while the other sits on top. A good casting rod will allow you to choose which suits you best.

Want to see someone casting a long way with a multiplier and casting rod? Check out this beast…

What is the Difference Between a Casting Rod and a Spinning Rod?

Ok, you’ve seen what each rod is about, here are some crucial differences comparing spinning rods vs casting rods that you really need to know about.

Ease of Use

I’ll be upfront.

If you haven’t fished before, you are best cutting your teeth on a spinning rod. They are much easier to use, lighter, and you can get the basics down without worrying about knocking the top off your rod.

Casting rods are great, but only once you’ve got the basics dialed in.

Transportation

Because of their length, casting rods can be a little tricky to transport. You’ll tend to find that because of the stresses and strains placed on them, they are not available in many pieces.

When they are assembled, they can be a real nuisance too. Unless you are in an area clear of bushes and overhead obstructions, you are going to have a bad time.

fishing backpack and rod close-up on the riverbank

Price

You’ll find that casting rods tend to be a little bit more expensive because they are engineered to a high standard.

Sure, you can get cheaper ones, but you’ll find that they don’t perform to an optimum level.

Spinning rods are normally pretty good value.

Spinning Rods are More Dynamic

Look.

If you want to fish in a range of styles, including casting. Then a spinning rod is definitely the way to go. You will find that spinning rods come in a range of lengths and actions.

A ‘heavy’ spinning rod is much more dynamic and useful than a ‘light’ casting rod. With a medium-fast action spinning rod, you’ll be able to do the following:

  • Bottom fishing
  • Trolling
  • Lure fishing
  • Float fishing
  • Surface fishing

Even with a fairly short and ‘soft’ casting rod, you will still struggle with many of the above disciplines.

Casting Distance

Ok, this is one where casting rods win every time.

They are purpose-built for this reason. If you know that you need to pelt a bait out a long way, a casting rod will nearly always outgun a spinning rod.

Casting Rods are Much More Suited for Sea Fishing

The sea is full of things that aren’t a light rod’s friend. Heavy weed, strong currents, and of course, big fish. Generally, aside from offering a longer distance, a casting rod also gives you significantly more pulling power.

I’ve got a great article on the best saltwater rod and reel combos that demonstrates this well. If you want something heavy-duty, check it out!

man casting fishing rod with spinning reel on river

Casting Rod vs Spinning Rod Pros and Cons

Side by side, they might look similar, but there’s lots that’s great and not so great about each type of rod. Here’s what you really need to know about casting rods and spinning rods:

Casting Rods Pros

  • Tough, rugged, and really durable
  • Great for bigger species, Check out my article on carp rod combos and see for yourself.
  • Great for sea fishing from the shore
  • Fantastic for larger baits
  • As they start advanced, you won’t need to upgrade for a while

Casting Rods Cons

  • Distance casting can be tricky and takes time to master
  • They are large, heavy, and unwieldy
  • They tend to be expensive for anything half decent
  • Limited in fishing styles

Spinning Rods Pros

  • Really versatile, can be used in multiple styles and disciplines
  • Lightweight and easy to transport
  • Really affordable
  • Great for beginners
  • Can cast light weights and medium weights

Spinning Rods Cons

  • Limited casting distance
  • Can be outgunned by bigger fish
  • Not the best for fishing in areas with heavy cover

Spinning Rod vs Casting Rod – Easy Guide

Do you want an easy guide?

I’ve got you.

Check out this handy table to see when and where you might want to use each rod:

Type of Fishing Casting Rod or Spinning Rod?
Beach/Surf Fishing Casting Rod
Boat Fishing Spinning Rod
Carp Fishing Casting Rod
Cat Fishing Casting Rod
Bass Fishing Spinning Rod
Fishing Close in Spinning Rod
Fishing at Range Casting Rod

The above table isn’t limiting or exhaustive but should give you a good flavor of what kind of rod you need. For more advice on the types of fishing rods (as some offer the best of both worlds), why not head over and check my article on the different types of fishing rods?

Conclusion

There are some crossover points when looking at spinning rods vs casting rods. There are some similarities, but generally, they are meant for different things.

My advice is this. For distance and heavy work, a casting rod is a great option. For close-in, finer work, opt for a spinning rod.

Have you found a perfect rod that ticks all the boxes? Tell me all about it in the comments below!

Bob Hoffmann

The author of this post is Bob Hoffmann. Bob has spend most of his childhood fishing with his father and now share all his knowledge with other anglers. Feel free to leave a comment below.

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