February 25, 2020
Many anglers just show up on the day of their guided fishing trip, and while that’s okay, you can make your trip much more successful and fun if you spend a little time doing some homework. Find out from your guide what type of gear you will be using and make sure you are up to speed.
One of the biggest choices fishermen have to make is whether to use spinning or baitcasting reels. While either may work for some trips, there are factors that go into making one more effective than the other for certain species and conditions.
Basically, the “reel” difference between spinning tackle and baitcasting gear is, well, the reel. But it is also the combination of the reel, the rod type and the line and lures that work best with it.
Spinning tackle is somewhat easier to operate because you just flip the bail, hold the line with a finger and cast the lure or bait out by normal casting motion. Spinning reels also don’t backlash like baitcast reels. To reel in the bait, simply close the bail and reel it back in. Spinning reels are made to hang below the rod, which adds balance to the system and allows easy retrieval. This still takes practice and you have to make sure slack line doesn’t come off your reel, or that line does not get wrapped around the bail before clicking it to retrieve.
Spinning outfits allow anglers to use smaller baits, lighter lines and make longer casts, simply because your line flows straight off the spool with no restrictions. Spinning gear is also better in the wind, again, because it is less likely to backlash. Another advantage of spinning gear is it is easier to fish vertically when dropping a lure right over the side of the boat and working it vertically. When the bite is light, spinning reels also offer anglers a little bit more feel if they choose to put their finger on the line. Often a light bite may not be felt through your rod, but a tiny bit of action can be felt through the line by your finger.
Baitcast reels are noted as the “heavier duty” type of reels, allowing anglers to throw big baits with heavier line. Because anglers can control the line coming off the spool with a light touch of their thumb, it also allows for more accurate casts when fishing close to cover. One note, if you leave your thumb off the baitcaster and make a cast, the next thing you will do is spend several minutes untangling a nasty “bird’s nest” of tangled line called a backlash.
If you are going on a trip and using baitcasters for the first time, or it has been a while since you’ve done it, make sure you practice to be able to make the most of your trip. Baitcasting rigs generally allow for heavier rods as well, where fishermen like bass anglers can pull their catch out of heavy cover and lift it into the boat. Flipping, pitching and making short casts directly to structure is easier with baitcast equipment.
One other option is the closed-face baitcasting reel. It is especially good for children and first-time fishermen. Most guide trips won’t supply these, but if you need one and it can work for your trip, make sure your guide knows in advance.
Baitcasting reels are pretty much the staple of bass anglers, except in the conditions requiring small line and lures. Big baitcasting reels are also the most popular for saltwater species, both along the coast and in deepwater situations.
Spinning systems work for smallmouth bass, panfish like bluegill and crappie, trout, salmon and smaller species. There are large spinning reels for bigger species as well.
If you are going on a trip and don’t have either type of gear to practice with, check with a fishing buddy, friend or a local tackle store to see if you can use their gear to become more familiar. Setting the drag properly is important. Your guide will have it set, so don’t mess with it. But if you are on your own, it’s important to have it set where it will release line, but be firm enough to make sure you get a good hook set.
One last thing to remember whether you are using spinning or baitcasting gear. Are you right handed or left handed? It does make a difference. The handle on most spinning gear can be swapped from one side to the other to fit your needs. But baitcasting reels are usually set for right or left handed anglers. It’s another good thing to make sure you understand with your guide before you go on a trip.
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