The great advantage of the casting rod is its weight savings. Rod and reel together weigh about what a reasonable sized spinning reel weighs. For me, this weight savings is well worth learning how to use it. On days I take my spinning outfit, I am always surprized how ungainly it is.
Many guys use casting gear for bigger stuff and spinning gear for smaller stuff, but if you get the right rod, you can fish all striper sized lures with casting gear (well, not with the same rod).
The shortcoming of spinning gear is that you have less control of the line and the way it works allows for twist to occur in the line. Also, because you must have your finger on the line during you cast, you run the risk of cuts if the drag slips before you release when casting big weights long distances.
The shortcoming of casting gear is that it is difficult to learn and unforgiving in a headwind, because the spool will want to keep spinning as the lure is getting blown down, causing overruns or birdsnests. With small lures, you also run the risk of overruns if your rod is too heavy. Even the best caster still has the occasional overrun- no amount of learning will change that.
There are four components to casting: rod, lure, line and operator. Each must work together to make the cast- the reel is simply a stoage container for the line. The best casts occur when rod, line and lure are matched for each other and the operator is not too badly impaired. Relative to casting, everything dependent on the lure.
If the line is too light for the lure, you will achieve great casts, but will not be able to retrieve because the lure will no longer be connected to you. If the line is too heavy, your distance will be impaired because friction of the line through the guides and air will slow down the lure and cause it to fall short.
The best casts are those that utilize the full flex and spring back of the rod. If the lure is too light, the rod will not bend correctly, and the lure will fall short. If the rod is too light, it will not spring back correctly and the lure will fall short. If the lure is waaayyy too heavy, the rod will not spring back at all and will no longer be usable. You will still be able to retrieve the lure, but will not be able to cast again.
Operator impairment is controllable by not imbibing large quantities of alcohol and refraining from fishing with broken limbs or severly strained muscles. Both of these sound easy, but are more difficult than they seem. As you fish more, you will come to understand. I am a good-ol'-boy, and have personally fished with both broken ribs and a fifth of bourbon at the same time. It was a great trip, but I could not cast very well at all.
Retrieving a lure has two components- lure and operator. I cannot help you any further in this area without every other member of this board informing you that I am utterly wrong. We are all right. If at any point in time rod, reel or line become a factor in retriving the lure, you should stop immediately and identify the source of the problem.
If the lure stops through no fault of the rod, reel, line or operator, one of two things has happened. You are snagged or you have hooked a fish.
The difference can be confusing. Many of us have watched some other guy fight a good sized rock for twenty minutes before realizing that he was snagged. I have personally had a guy tell me he was snagged, and hand me the rod to get him free when it turned out he had caught a fish. No bourbon was involved with that, oh no sir.
Once the fish is hooked, the lure ceases to be a factor. Some would argue that the hook is still a factor, but 99% of the time, hook failure is really operator error, either through using poor hooks or too much power on the system.
The interplay of rod, reel, line and operator are all important to reel in a fish. The reel is designed to slip and allow line to go out if too much pressure is placed on the system. This is good, because otherwise the line will break. The rod is designed to be a spring that absorbs the power of the fish and provide leverage against it. The line should keep contact with the fish and allow you to bring it to you.
The operator is responsible for managing all of these factors. As with casting, you will achieve the best results if all the components are matched to the size of the fish. Unlike casting, you have much less control over this- as fish do their own thing independently. Sometimes ridiculously small fish will attempt to eat incredibly large objects. Other times, very large fish will munch on the smallest of offerings. As a rule, though, you should be able to predict the general range of size that most fish will fall in on any given trip, and plan accordingly.
You should set your drag, the slipping point of the reel, at about 15% of the breaking point of the line as it comes off the reel. This may seem low, but the line may have a nick, or the fish may be erratic and apply pressure too quickly for you to respond, so 15% is about right.
Your rod will add another 15% of the weight of the line in pressure on the fish, if you use it at its maximum power. This is accomplished by keeping the rod at an angle between 40 and 60 degrees from the surface of the water. Most fishermen hold the rod at too great of an angle to utilize it properly. Sure, it looks dynamic to see a fisherman leaned back with his rod to the sky, but it defies the laws of physics and we all know what happens when you taunt mother nature...
Another reason to keep your rod between 40 and 60 degrees is that you can respond to the fish no matter which way it goes. If you have your rod to the sky and the fish comes at you, you cannot keep the line tight by raising the rod, because, well, it's already there.
If you are wondering about the difference between spinning and casting rods, you should get a spinning rod. If the reel you get has a long, skinny spool, you can use a rod with a smaller gathering guide (the first guide from the reel on the rod). If the reel you have chosen has a short, fat spool, you should get a rod with a larger gathering guide. As a general rule, American reels have wider spools than Asian ones do, thus require larger gathering guides. I guess I should say American designed reels, as they are now almost all made overseas.
Finally, as you contemplate getting a rod, do not go into WalMart by yourself and expect to
come out with what you need. Even Dicks and SA will not be able to help you too much. Get together with a buddy who knows how to fish and have him help you through the process. You will be much happier with the outcome.