Remember those old school Zebco 404 push button reel? In the early ’80s, mine was a pea soup green color with an ivory white button, but I’ll tell you what, it might have been ugly, but it was easy enough to use, got the job done, and get me into fishing as a kid.
Obviously, reels have evolved exponentially, but most still utilize the same basic designs, and are broken into two general categories: spinning and baitcasting – both with individual advantages and drawbacks.
Spinners are known for their easy operability, and are perfect to introduce someone new to fishing. Just flip the bail, put a finger on the line and cast, close the bail, then simply turn the handle to reel it back in. Just please make sure they don’t hold the reel upside down, you won’t make any new friends that way. Remember: clockwise motion with the handle.
Spinners are particularly useful when using lighter baits like soft plastics and live baits as the furthest cast is limited by how hard you want to cast the bait. Line flows off the spool with no drag restriction, allowing light lures to launch far. They are also nice because there’s no need to worry about a backlash with a spinning reel.
On the other end of the spectrum, baitcasting reels allow for casting lures like jigs, spinner baits and crankbaits with pinpoint accuracy, but there is a dialed in drag resistance and require a higher skill set to be able to thumb the spool as line flows off. If you can’t find that sweet spot of thumb pressure, you’ll experience a backlash bird’s nest of tangled line.
Generally, you can launch a lure further with a baitcaster, because the line flows directly straight off the spool and not in a circular motion as with a spinning reel. However, baitcasters do take some time to master and practice is needed to dial one in to your comfort zone. Someone proficient in casting a baitcaster will have mastery over accuracy and distance in the long run after plenty of practice and are preferred when fishing locations that demand such, while a spinning reel can be used in virtually every situation possible.
Bottom line – pick the spinner for inexperienced anglers and for all around usage, employ the baitcaster when focus and precision is needed in a challenging environment such as lily pads or dock pilings.