Spinning refers to the use of spinning tackle (spinning rods and reels) to cast and retrieve live bait or artificial lures to catch virtually any species of freshwater fish, as well as many saltwater species.

Spinning tackle differs in design and to some degree, function than bait-casting, spin-casting and fly-fishing tackle. Though an entirely different concept than fly-fishing, spinning tackle can be used interchangeably with bait-casting or spin-casting in many fishing situations and conditions. In these cases, choice of tackle is a matter of preference. In other cases, however, spinning gear can be either the only practical choice or not practical at all.


Unlike bait-casting reels, spinning reels are mounted below the rod handle and utilize a stationary spool. The design of the spinning reel and spool promotes the free flow of line on the cast, allowing friction-free flight as it glides off the spool. Prior to the cast, a curved bar, or bail, is opened to allow the weight of the lure or bait to pull line from the stationary spool on the cast. After the cast, the bail snaps closed, capturing the line at the start of the retrieve. When the reel handle is turned, the bail turns accordingly, winding the line evenly onto the spool. Drag adjustment systems are situated either at the front of the spool (front drag) or the rear of the reel (rear drag).


Spinning rods are typically longer and somewhat more limber than casting rods. They are manufactured in lengths as short as 3 feet (for ice fishing) and as long as 15 feet (for long-distance surf casting); however, for most freshwater purposes, the most common lengths are 5, 6, 6.5 and 7 feet. Likewise, spinning rods come in a wide variety of actions (strength), from ultralight (very limber) to light, medium-light, medium, medium-heavy and heavy.


Spinning tackle offers the angler a number of attractive qualities. First and foremost is its relative ease of use. Casting with spinning gear is much easier to master than bait-casting or fly-fishing tackle and often produces superior casting distance. Spinning reels also handle very light line (6-pound test and lower) better than any other reel type, which enable them to be matched with light- and ultralight-action rods. In addition to fishability factors, spinning reels on average are less expensive than bait-casting reels but pricier than most spin-casting reels.


Many spinning reels dont handle heavy lines (12-pound test or higher) well, which often limits their use on large fish species or in areas with heavy cover. While casting distance is rarely a problem, accuracy can often be challenging. Also, the manner in which spinning reels wind line around the spool can create line twist, resulting in damaged or ruined fishing line, especially when using a lure that requires repeated casting and retrieving.

When to Use Spinning Gear

As mentioned above, there are many fishing situations where the use of spinning tackle is a popular, and sometimes necessary, option:

  • Live and natural bait Spinning tackle is ideally suited for presenting most varieties of bait and the many ways it is rigged with a hook, sinker and, in many cases, a bobber. Because many baits, such as small minnows, salmon eggs and worms, are lightly secured to the hook, using spinning tackle allows the angler to cast these baits more delicately, and often farther, than with bait-casting gear.
  • Small lures Small jigs, spinners, crankbaits, spoons and minnow imitations are more easily cast with light line and spinning gear.
  • Open water casting For many species of fish that congregate in large schools while chasing baitfish in open water, the superior casting distance from spinning gear enables the angler to reach schooling fish from a distance, thus preventing schooling fish from being spooked.

    In general, spinning tackle is useful when fishing for a great majority of freshwater fish, as long as the specific bait, lure and line used and the environment (presence of cover, etc.) make it practical.