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Do You Need a Baitcaster For Surf Fishing?

Do You Need a Baitcaster For Surf Fishing?
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When tackling the surf zone, there are plenty of ins and outs regarding which gear would be most advantageous according to specifics, and having the correct setup for your surf fishing goals will greatly influence the outcome of your trip. So, when exactly, would one need to use a baitcaster?

You may need a baitcaster for increased precision, heavier lures, baits and line, and greater casting distance. However, spinning reels are more suitable for lighter lures, are more convenient to use, and are still very versatile for luring many fish species. 

There has been plenty of debate within the surf fishing community with regard to the necessity of a baitcaster versus the commonly used spinning reel.

Whether you’re doing the research before investing in gear or hoping to take your surf fishing expertise to the next level, I’ve gathered some of the most beneficial factors of baitcasters and when they would be most useful to help you decide if you need one.

Do You Really Need a Baitcaster?

Yes, and no. Whether or not you will need a baitcaster will greatly depend on your trip’s primary objective since these are designed to provide certain benefits for compatible lures and surf fishingOpens in a new tab. goals.

The large majority of individuals who practice surf fishing begin their journey using spinning reels, which are certainly versatile, easier to get the handle off, and work effectively for a large variety of scenarios.

The predominant deciding factor would come down to a precision of casting and the weight of your lures, baits, and line since baitcasters are more suited to handling heavier lines and retrieving bait with higher resistance.

In many scenarios, spinning reels can be efficient enoughOpens in a new tab. with a proficient level of skill, accuracy, control, the ability to adapt to the species being lured, surf fishing spot conditions, and understanding of various components.

Spinning reels are great for light lines, smaller hooks, and lighter baits, since such lures have the potential to be cast fairly far since the line flows off the spool in a circular motion without any drag direction – plus the bonus of not having to fret over backlash!

They are great for instances where the bait needs to be deeper in water columns or when there is a higher amount of pressure in the body of water. But, they are well known for causing tangled lines resulting in exasperating dismantling jobs at the end of the day.

However, using a spinning reel will not always be effective for some surf fishing cases. And you may just need to switch to a baitcaster for these. Baitcasters are suitable for heavier baits, with adjustable drag resistance and heightened accuracy, which allows lures to be launched much further.

They demand touch and sense, which is not mandated by spinning reels, making the use of baitcasters more challenging. One of the primary deterrents for baitcasters is the dread of its complexity, coupled with a new variety of motions and techniques. 

BaitcastersOpens in a new tab. take time and plenty of practice to get the hang of, requiring a higher level of skill and expertise to thumb the spool as the line flows. But, plenty can be gained from challenging your comfort surf fishing zone and getting the hang of the skill.

Many surf anglers have stated that although they managed fine with a spinning reel, investing in a quality baitcaster and learning how to use it has taken them to the next level. 

Many surf anglers enjoy the ability to use both spinning reels and baitcasters cohesively efficiently. This is certainly a great approach to have, as it leaves far more room for surf fishing potential and an array of opportunities for varying fish species and conditions. 

What Is The Purpose And Suitability of a Baitcaster? 

The specifications of your surf fishingOpens in a new tab. goals would need to be considered against the benefits and features offered by baitcasters in order to determine its necessity.

Baitcasters primarily offer features that differ from those provided by spinning reels. Such features would be great for instances where you’re fishing around heavy cover, using heavy line, bait, and lures, cranking often, and are going to be reeling in bait quite fast.

  • Heavier Lures and Baits

This is undoubtedly the main differentiating factor when deciding if a baitcaster will be beneficial for you. Baitcasters provide anglers with the ability to effectively utilize baits and lures which are heavier, such as spinnerbaits, crankbaits, and jigs – unlike spinning reels, which mostly allow for the proficient use of light lures such as soft plastics and live baits. 

  • Higher Accuracy and Increased Casting Distance

Baitcasters are fantastic for pinpoint accuracy when casting since the line flows straight off the spool instead of the circular motion that comes with using a spinning reelOpens in a new tab.. The way the line flows off the spool results in surf anglers being cast out with greater precision and aim.

In addition to accuracy, baitcasters are ideal for instances where lures need to be cast out much further – particularly with the inclusion of heavier baits.

Spinning reelsOpens in a new tab. simply don’t offer as much casting distance as baitcasters do, and although some anglers do have the skill of ‘skipping’ with a spinning reel, it’s certainly a technique that is not common and takes practice to achieve.

It does take time to get the hang of using this baitcaster feature and the way that the line behaves when being cast. But, the end result of heightened accuracy and fantastic casting distance is certainly well worth it.

  • Adjustable Drag Resistance 

Although the drag is not as sensitive as that of a spinning reelOpens in a new tab., it’s adjustable, far stronger at the top end, and is better suited to handling lines that accompany heavier drags.

Baitcasters offer the feature of setting the drag resistance which is necessary on your line, resulting in the reel doing much more exertion when trying to land a good catch.

The drag itself is a mechanism that involves a pin applying pressure on the line, which can be adjusted in varying degrees of tightness. 

If the drag is higher, it will result in fatiguing the fish much more quickly, increasing the likelihood of landing the catch. This not only means some more convenience for you once you learn how to use this function properly, but it also means more potential for landing large and impressive slippery prizes. 

It should be noted that it’s essential to get the hang of this feature when using a baitcaster, as improper use could result in some mishaps – with drag too loose making is extremely challenging to catch a big fishOpens in a new tab. and drag too tight completely snapping your line!

There is a sweet spot somewhere in between, and this is one of the challenging concepts which requires thumbing the line as it spools off, avoiding backlash and twisted line.

  • Spool Orientation

The spool is designed to result in the line being able to come off the spool more smoothly and quickly, with far less exertion while dropping or casting. Vertically fishing a drop shot or shaky head requires focusing on such factors, and baitcasters allow for much speedier fishing.

Can a Baitcaster be Used for Pier Fishing as well?

Yes, a baitcaster can definitely be used for pier fishing. It offers pinpoint accuracy and longer casts, making it ideal for targeting big fish from the pier. However, be sure to have a sturdy landing net for pier fishingOpens in a new tab. to safely bring in your catch from the higher platform.

What is The Best Baitcaster For Beginners?

There a few vital factors to consider when selecting a great baitcasterOpens in a new tab., especially if you’re a beginner. The inclusion of these features will assist in getting the hang of various techniques and finesse necessitated by baitcasters much more quickly and will make your surf fishing experience far more enjoyable.

Anti-Backlash: Most anti-backlash reels involve a magnetic braking system that restrains the spool, preventing it from overhauling the lure. This requires far less operation and adjustment by the angler.

Gear Ratio: This needs to be compatible with the kind of bait being used since higher ratios will be compatible with lighter baits, and a lower ratio will work best with heavier baits.

Bearings: Look for phrases such as ‘shielded,’ ‘double-shielded,’ and ‘sealed bearings.’ The quality of the bearings will determine the smoothness of reeling, not the number of bearings.

Rounded or Low Profile: This would need to be determined against the species being lured since they both have their advantages. The low profile is the most commonly used type and is easier to control and handle.

Frame Material: The material used impacts casting potential. Graphite is commonly used and is more budget-friendly, while aluminum is pricier but offers higher quality and durability.

Daiwa Reels Cast Low Profile FGCT100XS Fuego Hyper Speed Baitcast Reel, RH, 100 – $99.99

This is a great budget-friendly option for beginners, offering an aluminum frame at a reasonable price, air rotation, carbon drag, MagForce cast control, and infinite anti-reverse.

It’s made of quality materials, provides durability, anti-backlash, great cranking power, enhanced drag control, and smooth spool for painless casting. It’s also compact which adds an extra level of convenience for surf anglers.


Investing in a quality baitcaster is absolutely advantageous, whether or not it will be used for every single surf fishing trip. Whether or not it would be useful for you will depend on your own goals.

Still, it’s essentially an optimal option to establish proficiency with both spinning reels and baitcasters, expanding the horizons of your surf fishing adventures.

Zaldy G.

I love feeling the cool ocean spray every time I hit the beach with a rod and a bucket of bait. I love the thrill of feeling bites on my line whenever I hook a big one. And I especially love the pride that comes with cooking a fresh catch and sharing it with my friends and family. Thank you for stopping by. Let's go catch some fish!

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