How To Use a Spinning Rod – Basic Guide

Learning how to use a spinning rod is one of those things in the fishing world where you will lose many opportunities if you cannot do it. Spinning rods offer a great set of attributes that are unobtainable with other rods such as baitcasting versions. Spinning rods allow you to cast very light lures and cast heavier ones further. The reel on a spinning rod, a spinning reel, rotates the fishing line around a center spool instead of winding it sideways as a baitcasting reel does.

Using baitcasting rods is slightly harder. A casting rod has a ton of extra controls, mechanisms, and general parts that you need to be aware of. This makes it much more difficult for the angler who is just starting out. Casting rods also have a tendency to backlash on newer anglers and cause tangles as well as a host of other problems. If you are just starting out, choose a spinning outfit.

The design of the spinning rod is extremely unique because the line guides on the rod point downwards instead of upwards. Almost all spinning rods are operated the exact same way no matter the species or size of fish being targeted. This is a lesson on how to use a spinning rod properly and effectively. Make sure to master it. Much more fish lurk right around the corner!

Understand And Learn The Reel

Different parts and mechanics of a spinning reel isolated on a white background.
While the mechanics of the spinning rod are pretty basic and straightforward, it will help immensely to know how they all work together before fishing, namely the reel. The rod itself has a slot in which the reel is seated and held in place. Pretty simple. Not hard to understand. The reel is slightly more complicated. On the tail end of the reel exists something called a reel foot.

This is what attaches the reel to the rod. Seated near the bottom of the reel is a knob. This is used to remove the reel handle and switch it to the other side. Great for left hands. It makes spinning reels ambidextrous. The reel handle is what you turn with your hand. The line roller also called the power roller, is what your main line goes under. This lets the line be reeled back onto the spool.

The spool is where the line is stored once you spool up your line. On top of the spool is the drag knob. This can and should be adjusted. Drag is how you keep from breaking off under pressure. This is how someone can land big saltwater sailfish on a crappie line. You will want to set this before you fish. If you don’t, a huge fish can break you off easily.

If you are a beginner and want to check out some spinning rods, read our article for the best fishing rods for beginners.

Set The Spinning Reel’s Drag

Generally, you will want your line to come off the spool at around ten percent of your line’s strength. This is easy to figure out. If you can reel the line in but still pull a little out without breaking it, that should work fine. Be careful on very light lines. It takes a lot more precision, or you risk breaking off. Be very careful when you are fishing light or ultralight. On any line that is six pounds or lighter, your drag needs to be absolutely perfect. Extreme precision is needed.

Always remember to set your drag properly too! There is a piece of wire located on top of the reel which is called the bail arm. It basically keeps the line going in one direction. It opens and closes. This mechanism controls if your line comes off the spool or not during casts. The mechanic of your average fishing reel is not complicated at all once you learn them all.

1. Learn How to Cast Your rod

There is a right way to cast a spinning rod and a wrong way. Hold tension on the line with your pointer finger. Under this tension, the line will not fall off the spool. Lift the bail arm to the upward position. Bring the rod behind you and throw your lure while releasing the line with your finger. The timing can be a little tricky. It is a lot like throwing a baseball. Once the bait hits the water, DO NOT START REELING! No matter the temptation, don’t do it. You will regret it later!

Unless you don’t care about removing tangles from the line, starting to reel to engage your bail is an act you will always want to avoid. You will want to close the bail arm manually with your opposite hand once your bait hits the water instead. This will prevent your line from twisting up on you and it also keeps it tight. Start reeling with your other hand opposite of the one that is holding the rod. Unlike a casting rod, you do not reel in with your dominant hand at all.

If you are right-handed, you should reel with the left hand and vice versa. Sometimes your lure will start flying upwards instead of forwards. In this case, practice trying to release your finger a little later. You are releasing early if your lure doesn’t move and your rod bends under it. Casting sharp hooks can be dangerous without proper casting etiquette and you will mess up a lot before you get better. For this reason, it is advisable to use a casting plug like this one to practice your casting.

Man in a blue shirt holding a spinning reel.

2. Fishing and Retrieving 101

Once you have perfected your spinning rod cast and manually closed the bail arm, you can start to reel in the line making sure to work your lure differently depending on your type of bait. Many people choose to use spinning rods for one reason. Versatility. Spinning rods excel at casting lures that weigh barely anything and pretty much anything in your tackle box. It’s for every lure you have.

You have the choice of catching tiny fish like crappie or huge ones like marlin. They will handle it all. If you’re fishing with a spinning rod, try not to make the lure to heavy unless your rod is matched for it. Bigger spinning reels will handle bigger lures just fine. There is always a time and place for spinning rods which is practically always and everywhere. Take one everywhere you go.

Do not attempt to throw huge lures on a reel that is meant for light ones. You will probably lose your lure, a good chunk of line, and the rod will probably snap in your face. To work the lure, use a series of pauses and twitches with your rod tip. Impart faster action when using a reaction-type lure and work it slower when using a soft plastic or if the water is really cold. Try experimenting.

3. Fighting and Landing the Fish

When you get a bite, make sure to perform a hard sudden jerk with your rod. You want your hook to deeply penetrate the fish’s flesh. I always like to give it a few extra pulls after the first just to make sure that hook positions itself inside the fish’s mouth. Spinning rods are very good for fighting fish. The line guides that point downwards are putting less stress on the fishing line.

If the fish is running but needs some line, turn the drag to the left. Tighten the drag by turning it to the right if you are not making any progress or if the hook did not penetrate as deep as it should have. Start reeling it in. Try to be as fast and efficient as possible reeling the fish in. You want to put as little stress on the fish as possible.

It will thank you for it by swimming off naturally to get bigger and reproduce so you or another angler can catch it again. Your rod will also last that much longer. You will greatly increase the life of your rod and reel without repairs. Wet your hands if you must handle the fish and do NOT put it on the ground. All fish have a protective coat of slime that protects their scales and body from infections.

Try not to rub any of this off. If pictures are to be taken, only keep the fish out of the water for as long as absolutely necessary. Let it breathe by putting it back in the water in a net before you take your picture. Release the fish by gently laying it down back in the place you caught it. Make sure it swims away.

Is Your Head Spinning Yet?

Spinning rods definitely are an amazing invention. They indeed have revolutionized the way we catch fish. They are a wonderful piece of history and a wonderful piece of art. Furthermore, they have evolved in so many ways that many people need advice on how to use a spinning rod. This was a basic guide to hopefully get you zoned into a few more fish provided you have one lying around.

I do hope the spinning rod stays with you for many years to come because it’s almost endless the possibilities you can do with them. This is one tool that should never leave your arsenal. They are versatile, easy to use, and a pleasure to have on the boat or bank. If you have a loving bond with your spin caster, we urge you to keep using it, but we ask that you at least give the spinning rod a try. You might find that you like it better. If not, you never really have to make the switch.

What is your favorite part about using a spinning rod? What techniques do you use it for? Have any questions? Drop a comment down below, so we hear what you have to say!

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12 thoughts on “How To Use a Spinning Rod – Basic Guide”

  1. We have found this site to be a learning and education site to help those who do not know the proper techniques for fishing. I love to fish. I get the tips and tricks from here. Learned something new today.
    Have been waiting for someone to show the right way to cast and how to do it the right way as well. The best way to explain is to read your article and it will tell you exactly what you need to know. Its an everything guide! Thanks!


    Matthew Deloris

    • Hello there. You are very welcome and we are glad the article helped you out. If you need anything, let us know how we can help!

  2. Reading this on halloween lol. After needing help about fishing with spinning rods, I found your post helpful. Thank you for this wonderful post. I am sure it will help others as well! id din’t know how the bail was supposed to work.

    • Hello there. We are glad you found it helpful. The bail is actually one of the easiest things to use but it is also one of the most important!

  3. I enjoyed the article and learned things. I am a novice fisherman but have fished all my life. I’ve only used spinning rods for fresh water, but I have always enjoyed them. There’s something about the way they ‘feel’ that is satisfying. Part of the feeling comes from holding the rod in my dominant hand. And, they are so much easier to cast with, at least for me.

    • Hello. Spinning reels do feel satisfying. Your right! Also, your not alone by loving the fact that fighting the fish in your dominant hand is just a better way of doing it. Their ease of use is something special too. Let us know if you need anything!

  4. Does this also apply to saltwater rods? This process seems alright for smaller rods but what about salt? Is it the same?


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