Take a survey of inshore anglers across both Carolinas and you’ll find the vast majority of them use spinning reels when chasing fish in the saltwater creeks and inlets. It’s just the opposite if you’re asking anglers in those same bodies of water along the Texas and Louisiana coastlines.
But if you ask bass fishing anglers from any of those state, baitcasters win out by a wide margin. So why are inshore anglers in the Carolinas so obsessed with spinning reels, and is there any advantage to using baitcasters instead?
Bryan Williams of Wilmington, N.C. is a representative for Shimano Fishing, and while he sees plenty of advantages to using baitcasters while angling inshore, he said it’s a tough sell in this part of the country.
“Anglers in the Carolinas just grew up fishing the inshore waters with spinning reels, and that’s what they are accustomed to. Even those that do a lot of bass fishing with baitcasters on the lakes and ponds inside both states, very few of them fish with baitcasters when they head to the coast,” said Williams, who grew up just outside of Charlotte and has fished extensively in the Carolinas.
Spinning reels certainly do provide their share of benefits for fishing in the salt. They are much easier to cast light lures with, anglers get better casting distance with less effort, and their handles can be moved from the right side to the left side, meaning a left-handed angler can share the same reel with his right-handed brother by simply moving the handle.
But spinning reels have disadvantages too. Wind knots and twisted line are both problems that are inherent to line that comes off the sideways-mounted spools, they require two hands for casting (one to open the bail while the other hand holds the line and rod), and they lack the pure cranking power of baitcasting reels that are comparably sized – and in most cases considerably smaller.
The biggest differences though, according to Williams, is that baitcasting reels offer far greater casting accuracy –– and also are prone to anglers’ biggest fear, the backlash.
“Especially in the inshore environment where wind is often a factor, and especially when casting light lures. At some point, everyone experiences backlash, and the fear of that can make many anglers shy away from baitcasters for inshore fishing. But really, in the Carolinas, the fact that they grew up fishing spinning reels along the coast is the main thing. Most people simply don’t like change,” he said.
Williams’ best advice for anglers who are hesitant to try baitcasters for inshore fishing? Get a good, quality baitcasting reel. Sub-par reels, he said, are sure to malfunction more often, which pushes anglers further away from these reels.
The big advantage to making the switch from spinning reel to baitcaster? Accuracy, said Williams.
“Every single person that gets proficient with a baitcaster is far more accurate than they are with a spinning reel,” he said.
In some instances, pinpoint accuracy isn’t that critical when fishing inshore. Put your D.O.A. shrimp along some oyster shells near the mouth of a feeder creek lined with spartina grass, and if trout or redfish are nearby, they’ll come to it. But when such a pocket is surrounded by downed timber and a boat dock, that accuracy can lead to a fish when you’d otherwise miss your mark at best, and be hung up in timber at worst.
Anglers can be quicker with a baitcasting reel too. You see a redfish swimming by, you push down on the thumb bar with your thumb, take aim, and zip your lure out there. With a spinning reel, you’ve got to hold the line with a finger from one hand, open the bail with your other hand, then make your cast. Sometimes it’s just too late to reach the fish.
And when it’s obvious that your cast is too strong and you’ve got to save your lure from death in the bushes beyond your target, you simply press your thumb on the spool when using a baitcaster. But with a spinning reel, that second hand must come into play again, feathering the line in front of the reel.
Three of Shimano’s baitcasting reels that can help you cast into the tightest inshore fishing holes include the Tranx, which offers 22 pounds of drag for landing those bull reds, the Curado 70, which is great for pitching lures into downed timber and small openings in spartina grass, and the Aldebaran, which is a lightweight only in its 4.7-ounce body, but has 10 pounds of drag and an electro-coated magnesium frame which stands up to saltwater just as well as it stands up to the pull of a bonnethead shark.