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Can You Put A Conventional Reel On A Surf Spinning Rod?

Have you ever wondered about the differences between a surf rod for a spinning reel and one for a conventional reel or baitcaster?  The most noticeable difference is the guides. 

The more guides a rod has, the better the force is translated from the line to the rod during casting and when fighting a fish.  More guides mean more weight and friction.  When you cast something with a fixed reel, such as a spinning reel, the line comes off as a coil, with the potential for a lot of friction at the guides.  Therefore, the guides are bigger on a spinning rod than on a casting rod.  Bigger guides mean more weight, so they use fewer guides on a spinning reel to compensate for both weight and friction. 

Casting or conventional reels send the line off in a relatively straight line, so they can use smaller guides.  Furthermore, the line isnít in constant contact with the guides during the cast.  They typically build casting rods with heavier payloads and intended target species in mind, so they use more guides, to make the rod stronger. 

So can you use a casting reel on a spinning rod?  Well, if itís a two handed rod, Iíd have to say yes.  Why do I specify a two handed rod?  Because a one handed rod needs to have a trigger for you to hold onto when you remove your thumb from the spool.  The line may touch the stripping guide (the guide nearest the reel) when you string everything up.  It usually doesnít with surf rods and reels, but even if it does, thatís not that big a deal. 

Can you use a spinning reel on a casting rod?  Well maybe you can, as long as the rod doesnít have a trigger handle.  The smaller guides will cause friction as you cast, and limit casting distance.  With a very large reel the coil might loop over the small guide as it comes coiling off the reel.  That will stop your cast cold and may send your lure off over the horizon, untethered.  Therefore, you can use a small spinning reel on a rod designed for a baitcaster, but you wonít be able to cast quite as far.

Spine is another consideration in determining whether a rod works with conventional or spinning reels.  They make rod blanks by rolling the rod material around a tapered form, a little like rolling a sheet of paper into the shape of a tube.  Because of overlap, one side of the blank will be thicker.  This is the spine of the rod.  You can find the spine by holding the rod by the butt and let the tip rest on the carpeted floor.  Bend the rod ever so slightly and allow the rod to roll.  It will stop with the thicker part of the rod blank, the spine, on top. 

Most custom rod builders prefer to align the guides with the spine of the rod.  Some rod builders prefer to mount the guides on the spine for baitcasters and on the opposite side of the rod for spinning reels.  This is so the rod is strongest when youíre fighting a fish.  There are rod builders that argue that you want the rod to be strongest when casting.  They mount the guides on a spinning rod the same as for a baitcaster.  Since you cast a baitcaster with the handle at a 90-degree angle with respect to the guides, I donít suppose spine makes a lot of difference when casting a conventional reel. 

Finally, many factories build rods without considering the rod spine at all.  Aligning the guides to the spine tends to slow down the manufacturing process.  Plenty of very expensive rods arenít spined correctly. 

So, if you want to put a baitcaster on your two handed, surf spinning rod, go for it.

By Jim Callahan

Last Updated:
July 9, 2003


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