Saltwater Baitcasting Reels (Everything You Need To Know)


The debate about saltwater spinning reels vs. baitcasting reels has been going on for many years.

Some anglers claim baitcasters are superior, while the spinning reel crew says the opposite.

We’ve compared these two types of reels head to head on podcast episodes before, but today we’re diving in specifically on the pros and cons of baitcasting reels.

Here’s a sneak peek of what we covered:

  • In what situations a baitcaster performs better than a spinning reel
  • What the best brands of baitcasting reels are
  • How to get fewer bird’s nests (this will save you tons of headaches!)
  • Understanding all of the components of baitcasters and how to get the most out of them
  • How to clean and maintain them to make them last longer
  • And much more

You can watch the video version of this podcast below, listen to the audio version by clicking the play button underneath it, or listen to it on iTunes, Stitcher, or Spotify.

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Saltwater Baitcasting Reels [VIDEO]

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Saltwater Baitcasting Reels [PODCAST]

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Here’s a timestamped table of contents from my conversation with two of the Salt Strong Fishing Coaches plus our guest, fellow baitcasting nerd and Salt Strong Insider, Bill DeWeese:

1:45 – Why there’s such a divide between baitcaster and spinning reel fans

3:38 – When to use a baitcaster vs. a spinning reel

6:41 – Which types and sizes of braid work best on baitcasters

10:22 – Why baitcasters cause less fatigue during a long day on the water than spinning reels

16:04 – What the best brands of baitcasters are

23:35 – Pros & cons of baitcasting reels

28:12 – What the best brands of baitcasters are (revisited)

33:20 – How to clean and service your baitcasting reels

39:10 – Understanding all of the components of baitcasting reels

41:30 – How to adjust your reel to get fewer bird’s nests

48:36 – How to get bird’s nests out

54:00 – How to pair a rod with your baitcasting reel


baitcasting reel braided line mistake

Baitcasters and spinning reels each have their time and place, and this was a fun deep dive into the pros, cons and specifics about baitcasters.

Are you on team baitcaster or spinning reel?

Let me know down in the comments!

And a big thank you to Bill DeWeese for joining us on this episode!

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T Ford
13 hours ago

You guys are not up to date. You obviously haven’t tried the new
Intelligent Digital Control baitcasters like the Shimano Curado DC and SLX DC. With 10# line and light lures these reels outcast my best spinning reels by 5-10 yards and very seldom backlash if adjusted properly. I can’t say how they hold up to salt water but I have 3 older Curados (10-15 years) I use for red and trout with no corrosion issues.

Michael E Clark
21 hours ago

Hey Guys,
Great pod cast. As a fisherman who is well aware of using different “tools” to match the fishing experience. Fly, baitcasting, and spinning , have 2 questions to pose.
First, when cast a level-wind baitcasting reel, where do you aline the line guide prior to casting and when not to use a level-wind reel.
Thanks, keep up the good work.

1 day ago

What a great podcast and video. I’ve used both for over 60 years in both fresh and salt water, and both Mark,& Bill taught me something new. I’ve had some Quantum reels that didn’t last nearly as long as my Shimano and I have over 2 dozen combos in both spinning and bait casting , I still fish both inshore and freshwater … you guys Rocked this one,Thanks

Tony Tartaglio
1 day ago

Very good podcast with a lot of information and different perspectives. I now live in the northeast and use both spinning and baitcasting for both fresh and salt water.
I lived on the west coast for 15 years and found that baitcasters are good for fishing live bait such as anchovies and sardines for calicos and sand bass especially in kelp beds.
High quality reels with good free spool is important to allow for the bait to swim unrestricted and allows them to be lively for longer period with less drag on the bait.
So Shimano Tranx and Curado along with Daiwa Lexa are very popular there. There were also times I used a 400 series for smaller yellowtail as they held a lot of line and had good drag to help land them. Both brands held up pretty well as long as you took care of them and washed them down and kept them lubricated.
I know most of your discussions were around lures but I thought I would pass on another regional perspective where baitacaster works better for live bait than a spinning reel.

Marc Wisniewski
3 days ago

Bill had some great analogies. I have been baitcasting for 45 years and I even learned a ton of information. So if I am understanding this correctly about fresh vs saltwater baitcasters, if I clean my freshwater ones well after using them I should be ok in saltwater? Internally, they are the same? I’m from the midwest and I’m down there for 4-7 days once a year and I don’t want to purchase special baitcasters if I can use the ones I have and just clean them well. Thanks. Great episode.

Dexter Early
4 days ago

This is the best explanation of the dynamics of a bait caster I’ve ever heard. Great job fellows!

William DeWeese
3 days ago
Reply to  Dexter Early

Hey, it’s not everyday that you get to bring a knife to a podcast! ;o)

I learned a lot as well such as Luke reporting that he didn’t see any casting/pitching distance degradation between 20 lb and 30 lb braid. At the moment mine are all 20 lb and the SpiderWire line on my older Lew’s is actually pretty old. I think in short order I’ll move the 20 lb off of the accurist onto that Lew’s and then respool the Quantum Accurist with 30 lb. The accurist with 30 lb braid line would be a real Snook stopper around docks like he mentioned.

Thank you for your feedback on the podcast. It was a great conversation and a lot of fun too.

Last edited 3 days ago by William DeWeese
1 day ago

Bill, you did an excellent job and I definitely learned and if you have any social media accounts I would follow you for certain. Thanks for being an amazing guest.

Jeffrey Dudenhefer
4 days ago

Thanks for the info. Good to know we can bump up to 20-30lb braid without losing anything.

Daniel Parsons
4 days ago

Any thoughts around putting any bait casters in the online store?

4 days ago

Great video, baitcasters I use are the Shimano Curado 201 and the Scorpion 151. Great reels but also enjoy using my Stradic. I didn’t realize saltwater baitcasters were used more toward Texas than Florida? I’m on the MSGC, it’s typical to see people use a mix of them.

Jonathan Getz
5 days ago

Great podcast. I highly recommend that beginners spool their baitcaster with cheap Berkeley 14 lb mono. It will teach you good technique and is more forgiving when clearing out overruns/bird’s nests. Glad my friend recommended this tip.

Last edited 5 days ago by Jonathan Getz
Thomas Campbell
5 days ago

Loved this one! It was great hearing like say it’s all preference lol my next casting reel, will be a shimano curado Mgl 70. So I can cast lighter lures. I just enjoy using casting more, the control and the hook sets and fighting power. Now I just need a setup that can get distance with lighter lures. It’s just what I like more. Great job guys

Mark Dignazio
5 days ago

Great podcast and great timing. I fish with some friends who only use baitcast and I’m a spinning reel guy. A friend and I just made our first custom rods, and for Christmas, I’m making rods for my twin 11 yr old nephews. With parts so hard to come by, all we had were baitcast setups. That’s what I went with, and watching the video gave me some great info on how to teach them to use a baitcast reel. Great stuff from Bill and Mark on the ins and outs of baitcast reels. Might even make myself a baitcast rod.

Vic Heckler
5 days ago

Many thanks for a very informative and entertaining presentation. I would appreciate a slow moving video on setting the spool beak and the casting break for several scenarios (where to start as a beginner, settings for flipping under docks, etc). I have been using the old round Abu Garcia 6500’s with a 9’6″ noodle type rod for wrestling large snook from under a pier structure. Mostly freelining live pinfish on 32 lb Runcl line, no leader so no need to retie after breakoffs and line fraying. Also, I use a left hand baitcaster for walk the dog and do it with a 5’6″ ugly stick while standing on my dock; lots of fun!

C. Lance Weaver
5 days ago

Great show guys! Bill and Mark have a wealth of knowledge. I still use Abu Garcia 5500 & 6500 on everything and quite confident with them although there is still a professional overrun now and then.I am glad to hear Luke’s mike start working towards the end, my question for Luke is do you skip cast with your bait caster? If so do you think a smaller profile reel (like the one you showed)would work better for skip casting than my current reels (5500 & 6500)

larry matherne
5 days ago

The pod cast was very informative .I would like to have heard about spooling the bait cater verse the spinning real, because if I understand it correctly they spool very differently.

Bob McEneaney
5 days ago

Great discussion. I’ve been using the shimano TranX 401 with 40 braid, 40 leader. It’s great with jigging spoons or drifting baits out with the current especially when you’re near bridge or pier piling. All you have to do is hit the thumb bar to let line out. Can’t do that with a spinning setup very easily because you have to keep tripping the bail. If you get a hit with your spinning nail open to let out line, you’re in trouble. With the bait caster you just let your thumb off the bar and strike. But I still use the spinning reel for a bunch of other applications especially in open water or with light baits.

5 days ago


Charles Weitz
6 days ago

spinning rod & reels are made for people who don’t know how to cast, anybody can cast a spinning reels, little kids 4 or 5 yrs old can cast a spinning reel.

5 days ago
Reply to  Charles Weitz

I thought the same thing for many years. But once I gave a nice spinning setup a shot, my opinion of them quickly changed. For example, this once in a lifetime catch was made possible by the ability of a spinning rod/reel to cast a light lure very far without much backswing or arm movement:

Steve Miller
6 days ago

Great video! This makes me want to learn how to use a baitcasting reel!

Glenn Acomb
6 days ago

I enjoyed the discussion and it confirmed my reasoning. I began with a bait caster (and old Abu Garcia Ambassador 5000 given to me by my uncle) and then added a Shimano Curado when they came out. But having moved to the Big Bend area of Florida where there is little protection from wind, I have changed to spin casters. I kept my Curado which I use occasionally and sold my 2 Shimano Calcuttas. When I go to the 10,000 Islands or fish mangrove islands of Crystal River, I occasionally bring my Curado if I have room. This was a good podcast, but it confirmed my decisions of reels. Thanks.

Pat Ogletree
6 days ago

Guys this was great! I tried switching over to spinning only when I went to inshore but I always felt as if I was missing out on some applications. I’ve pretty much got it narrowed down to hard plugs and straight retrieve lures get the baitcasters and anything I’m working on the bottom (bouncing or jiging) gets the spinning reels. I really liked this podcast.

Lara Delorenzo-Sims
6 days ago

This was one of my favorite podcasts so far. I like that you had four guys sharing information. It was very interesting and helpful to me, as this was my first year using a baitcaster (for Fluke). I think I may put heavier braid on it now. I used 15lb powerpro ss and it worked well, but maybe I should put 20 or 30# braid on? For Fluke we are just dropping down and using the flipping switch.

William DeWeese
5 days ago

Nice. I don’t deep water jig, but I bought that reel with the flippin’ switch, as mentioned, to use as a casting reel. Now that I’ve played with a flippin’ switch I really want to find an application for it. For me, aside from a Grouper/Snapper trip, fishing in 6′ of water is deep. I think I’ll definitely make a point of using it for Sheepshead around bridges with the flippin’ switch as the Tampa Bay water cools down.

Ken Lemmond
6 days ago

Fishing saltwater in SE Ga involves live bait(shrimp or mud minnows) as well as artificial. There is a lot of drift fishing with live bait using the current to move the bait past shell and other ambush structure. Clearly, bait casters outperform spin casters in this scenario mainly because of the thumb control to let the line out. However, there is also a lot of plugging or casting while drifting the boat along the bank and spin casters excel in that scenario. I typically have both available when my boat gets launched.

Shahn Taylor
6 days ago
Reply to  Ken Lemmond

I use spinning reels almost exclusively, inshore drifting shrimp, floating baits out to the reef/structure while bridge fishing, and offshore when current is slow and yellowtail bite is on.
For accuracy, I find it to be strictly determined by line of sight. It may be a little trickier with spinning reels, but I can slow down the line going out, same as those with baitcasters.
I used to fish baitcasters pretty regularly, first being an old AbuGarcia then upgrading to the Shimano Curado. Back then, spinnings were touted as not having the drag or distance that a baitcaster can offer. Now, I have only one – a Shimano Calcutta TE 400. Spending some time surf-fishing with a friend and will purchase baitcasters strictly for this purpose, as they DEFINITELY are able to throw further than spinnings (more friction with spinning) but they will be my only ones.
There are very few situations I fish where I can do more with a baitcaster. And typically taking no more than 3 rods while wade/kayak/bridge/pier fishing, I am going to go with what will offer me the least concerns, regardless of windy conditions. Just my $.02 worth

Michael barquin
6 days ago

I us both of them , but how y’all teal about kasking bait caster for the beginner to get know the real first then move on to a higher and reel.

Tim Richardson
5 days ago

Kastking makes very poor Rods and Reels. The worst thing a beginner could do is purchase a kastking baitcaster as its prone to more backlashes than quality reels and is disposable as you would be lucky to make it a season in brackish water. A decent budget baitcaster is the piscifun phantom but at $72 you would still be better off spending a few more dollars and getting the Quantum

5 days ago

I tried two different Kast King baitcasters and the brakes are terrible (non-existent) . I replaced them with a couple reels from Bass Pro that are around the $100 range and are way better reels. The Carbonlite 2.0 is a nice reel and very light. I also have a Pro Qualifier that I like and it is on sale now for $69.

Ethan Everret Moses
6 days ago

Abu Garcia!! Happy Thanksgiving guys.

Roger Hansen
6 days ago

Great discussion! I like to use baitcasters in the surf when using cut bait. I have a Daiwa Lexa 300 with a bait clicker. There’s more exciting to hear that click go crazy when there’s a big on. But on another subject – you talked about bearings – what’s you opinions on the 13 Fishing CZB bearings (none ball bearings). Is it worth it?

Pat Ogletree
6 days ago
Reply to  Roger Hansen

Roger. I bought three 13 Fishing at the beginning of the year. A Concept Z, TX and a SZ. I’ve used them along side a Lews that I had for two years already. In six months the Concept Z is already in for service, the SZ now makes a clicking sound on a hard cast and the TX is working fine. The Lews after three years of hard use and neglect finally needs some TLC. If I did it again knowing what I do now I would have bought three more Lews, they just seem more durable and parts and service centers are easier to find.

Roger Hansen
6 days ago
Reply to  Pat Ogletree

Thanks for the info. I have the CZB bearings in one of my reels (Concept A) – so far so good but I kept the original ball bearings so if I start to have any problems I’ll switch them back. These bearings DID sound too good to be true. But overall I do love the 13 Fishing baitcasting reels.

Tim Richardson
6 days ago

I use both but my baitcasters gets 90% of the action for the reasons stated in the video. I mostly fish structure fallen trees, docks and under bridges etc. My go to is a lews slp paired with a 7′ MH Fast from the bow of a Gheenoe.

Richard Pasquarello
6 days ago

I don’t use bait casting reels at all for fresh or salt water.I don’t like them because I would always be dealing with back lash. The only time I would use bait casting would be for extremly large fish in Salt Water.

Sam craparo
6 days ago

Been doing baitcasting and spinning for over fifty years and my ABU Garcia Revo gen 3 inshore my favorite ever.

6 days ago
Reply to  Sam craparo

Thanks for making time to leave the helpful comment Sam!

6 days ago

Abu Garcia was not mentioned…. I find them to be solid performers in the salty conditions, like the Revo S, SX or the Beast…. Solid reels, heavy drag…. Perfect for sheepshead and drum fishing around pilings and flounder jigging on reefs. I love my Revo SX, looking to get a few more reels in the Revo series. I like baitcasters for fishing structure, and with the reel sitting on top of the rod I feel like there is less of a chance the reel will be dunked while fighting a fish. I use both spinning reels and baitcasters love them both, they both have their advantages and disadvantages.

6 days ago
Reply to  Garrett

Thanks for making time to leave the helpful comment Garrett! Abu Garcia reels were my absolute favorite back in my bass fishing days. I’m glad to see that they are still making quality reels.

William DeWeese
5 days ago
Reply to  Garrett

Hey Garrett,

I think for the most part most of us were just trying to stick with what we know, and so that’s just the brands that we use.

My nephew in North Carolina is a bass fisherman he uses the Abu Revo and positively raves about them.

Definitely don’t take their omission as a slight against Abu Garcia.

So many reels… So little time…

5 days ago

I totally understand, i’ve never used a 13 fishing reel so I can’t say anything good nor bad about them. I’m just sharing my experience with Abu Garcia which has been great. Shimano and Daiwa make solid baitcasters, I cannot argue that at all. I’d love to see more videos and articles for bait casters in the future. Salt Strong is the least biased fishing club I’ve been involved in. I would love to see what they think of Abu Garcia reels in the future. Your statement couldn’t be truer lol.

Ryan Jacobs
6 days ago

Love these discussions on the podcasts. I’ve already switched over to baitcasters, because of all the dock fishing I do during the winter and night fishing during the summers, for all the reasons spoken about in this podcast. I currently have 20 lb Power Pro and may bump up to 30-40 lb as I’ve gotten schooled a few times too many…even with the 20 lb. I love the accuracy and ease of casting of baitcasters. I know it sounds weird, but it seems I have a lot better sense of how I’m working the lure through the water with the baitcastuing setups. I’ve had Shimano Calcutta’s for a long time, but since getting the low profile Shimano SLX DC and Diawa Tatula setups with the Bull Bay Rods, it only took me one night of fishing to teach myself how to skip cast the baitcasters. So glad you all are getting into this market now…THANKS SALT STRONG!!

James Woodmansee
6 days ago

Great podcast. I’d like to hear more about matching the right rod. Our Salt Strong group is primarily inshore snook, redfish, trout. What combos would you recommend for working mangroves. I have a Lewes Custom Inshore and a Shimano Curado 201HD that I would like to learn and use more. What rods with what power and action? Would you have a “snook” rod and a “everything else” rod? Is the casting action a “snapping” motion or more like a “lob”?

James Woodmansee
6 days ago

PS; seems like when I try to “snap” it out there that’s when I get the birds nest.

William DeWeese
5 days ago

It’s more about that initial sling function to spin up that spool and get it going more so than like a whippy snap. My absolute favorite cast is a roll cast or a reverse roll cast though I do a standard lobbish kind of cast. You just want to be graceful and smooth about it.

So as for what Rod to pair when targeting something like a large fish, yeah I do think you can make decisions based upon that like for example I have that Rod that I mentioned towards the end there that it’s an Ohero rod that’s a medium, but it’s slower in action. My 8-ft beach Rod or Pier Rod which I also use for jigging for Snapper is a Modfast Rod so it’s not exactly fully parabolic, but it’s much slower in action so it lets you fight a fish with a lot more shock absorption. If you’re going to target large Snook, Cobia or larger fish like a Tarpon, it’s good to have that in your arsenal. The drawback on something like that is that you will now have trouble casting super light lures because you just won’t have enough inertia and weight to get the bend in that rod and once you load that Rod it’s much slower to unload. Not only is it slower to unload but it has a longer recovery time where it’s kind of bouncing up and down as it’s releasing its energy and that will then pull back on those lighter baits and restrict your casting distance and make your casting less accurate.

That’s why for me I’m pretty much running a medium fast rod on an everyday basis but I’m always going to have a slower rod or a medium heavy rod within arms reach.

Gary Testa
6 days ago

I fish with both and which one I use totally depends on what I’m throwing and how much control I need over the lure. If I’m casting a spoon a country mile and letting it sink to pick up fish hanging out deep, then I’m using my spinning reel. I can throw farther, and when I need less accuracy or if I need a lot of speed its always a spinning reel. If I’m sight fishing and I need to drop that slam minnow right in front of the fish, then there is nothing better than a bait caster, I have far more control, greater accuracy because I can stop the lure in the air and drop it straight down on the fish every time, or when I’m in mangroves or heavy cover, or really short pitching in a tight river mouth. My go to bait caster reel is a Daiwa Tatula 300 TWS left-handed (because I hate to switch hands when casting) with 28.6lbs of drag it can stop large fish. I recommend getting a single large knob balanced handle as well for this reel.


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