What's Best, Spinning Or Bait Casting Reels For Kayak Fishing?

Posted on June 07 2017

Kayak Fishing Reels, Baitcasters Versus Spincasters

By Grant Carston, 2017 Hi Tempo / Hobie Fishing Team

When I first started fishing I used what every typical kid uses. The Zebco spin cast reel. It is still by far the most popular reel for starting to fish. The push button closed face reel that generally comes with a light weight panfish rod and spooled up with 4lbs test mono. As I got older and targeted bigger fish, I graduated to a spinning reel then a bait caster. So which is best for kayak fishing? 

Let's talk about the "elephant in the room" to start. Bait caster reels can be tricky for some. The inevitable backlash WILL happen. Even pro tour anglers deal with a backlash from time to time.

I still know people that won't go near them because they had a bad experience. In most cases, the way the reel is setup or adjusted is the culprit. It's important to know how to set them up for the lure and line you are using. Doing proper research and learning from someone is the best idea.

That being said, bait caster reels are great and give you more rod options

They are able to handle much heavier line and lures. Any kind of moving lure I throw is on a bait caster. I also use them for heavy cover like weeds or brush. With the multiple rod options that come with having a bait caster, I'm able to choose a heavy duty rod for winching big fish out of the thickest cover. It's extremely difficult to do this on a medium action spinning rod. Your chance of winning the battle are low in this scenario.

Spinning reels are versatile too

I find it much easier to skip cast from a kayak with these reels. Mainly because your side casting in a seated position. Your lure hits the water with in a few feet from your bow. That's typically when a bait caster will backlash. Trying to learn this technique with a bait caster is MUCH more difficult. You can purchase larger spinning reels to handle heavier line and lures. However the bigger you go the heavier the reel gets. Your rod options are also limited. This is why most anglers use spinning reels for more finesse techniques with lighter line.

With all this in mind, which is the best for kayak fishing, bait caster or spin caster?

Well that's still a tough question. However if I was new to kayak fishing or fishing in general, I'd choose a spinning reel. Mainly because you can use it almost anywhere you plan on fishing and for multiple species. From the ultra light panfish size to a mega power size for catfish, you can cover a broad range. Once you gain experience and confidence, you can start thinking about jumping into a bait caster setup. Until then.. focus on technique and having FUN!

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