One of the most common questions newbie anglers find difficult to get their heads around is the difference between conventional and baitcasting reels. This is understandable as the two reels have many similarities. To the unpracticed eye, there are no noticeable differences between the two.
To veteran anglers though, the differences between the two are obvious as the differences between night and day. As a matter of fact, experienced anglers use these differences to decide what type of reel to use for either salt or freshwater fishing.
While both of them might look similar, they differ markedly from spinning reels. Basically, baitcasting and conventional reels (known collectively as non-spinning reels) are designed either for vertical fishing or to be cast.
Conventional vs. Baitcasting Reels
Before going into the features that differentiate between baitcasting and conventional reels, knowing what makes them similar would be a good starting point.
First of all, both have a spool with the axis aligned at an angle of about 90° to the rod on which they are mounted. This alignment ensures that when the line is cast, it would reel out smoothly and straight out due to the spinning action of the spool.
Again, what stands out when comparing the two reels are the handles on the side of the reels. The crank-style design can come in either left-hand or right-hand usage. An important feature of this design is the ‘level wind’ feature. This implies that the reel has a moving line guide that runs through the front of the reel.
One advantage of this feature for anglers is that as the line is reeled back in, the line guide moves to and fro along the spool. This ensures the line is evenly distributed along the length of the spool instead of bunching up in just one part of the spool.
Because both reels are primarily designed for a big catch (beginners would, therefore, have a hard time with them), the action is hard and casting is done manually. Anglers must be able to control the amount of pressure on the line and spool or else they risk a backlash and the dreaded ‘birds nest’.
These are just three of the clear similarities between conventional and baitcasting reels. As stated earlier, the differences between the two are directly linked to that type of fishing an angler is interested in.
The best baitcasting reels for either fresh or saltwater fishing are optimized for casting performance. What this means is that the release of the line are always smooth and the backlash is reduced to a minimum.
The technology has evolved sufficiently to employ the use of magnets or centrifugal brakes to prevent backslashes when one is casting.
However, even the best-designed baitcasting reels are susceptible to backlashes. This happens when the bait or lure slows down markedly after hitting the water. But, even though the line had slowed down, the spool is still spinning at the same speed it was cast.
With reduced pressure on the line going out of the spool through the guide, the line starts to back up on the reel, literally reversing its motion on the spool. The result is the ‘bird nest’ where the line bunches into knots over the spool in all directions.
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One feature that stands conventional reels apart from baitcasting reels is the bulkier or bigger nature of conventional reels. To put it another way, unlike baitcasters, conventional reels are not low-profile reels.
They are made for power and to handle bigger fishes.
Conventional reels are also made to maximize the angler’s ability to pull the caught fish back towards the boat. This is because the alignment of the reel transfers almost all the pressure to the big fish while conveniently reducing the stress on the reel and fishing rod.
Because pulling in a big catch from the depths can be a lot of work for the angler, makers of conventional reels place a lot of emphasis on making sure the angler is very comfortable while using the reel.
These reels are typically used for offshore drop shotting and surf fishing. While fishing though, the angler would have to stop the reel from spinning to prevent backlash.
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