So, you’ve bought your brand new carp fishing rod and you’re ready to target some monster carp – but first you need a carp fishing reel. There are lots of different varieties of carp reel available, including fixed spool, freespool, baitrunner and big pit reels – all of which are perfect for carp fishing and each have their own specific purposes. Angling Direct has put together this useful guide in order to help you choose the ideal carp reel for your needs and your budget.
The first thing that you want to consider when you’re looking at any piece of tackle is the materials used to create it. This can’t be truer than when you’re looking to invest in a premium reel, as the material it is made from will affect its weight, durability, and performance. As a general rule of thumb, you want to invest in a lightweight reel, which offers high levels of strength or rigidity. This will ensure that your reel will sit perfectly on your rod, whilst also holding its own against any fish in a hard-fought battle. Materials used in modern day reels include graphite, carbon, and magnesium. Each manufacturer will swear by their own specially designed material. Shimano’s top end reels, for example, use Ci4 in their body and spool. This is a material that the Shimano fishing team borrowed from the brand’s bicycle division and they believe it is the lightest and most rigid material on the market today.
Conversely, Daiwa reels use Air Metal engineering and a Zaion magnesium-based material. The brand also states that this is its lightest and most rigid material. Reels that incorporate these specially designed materials will often come at a greater cost than reels which use a carbon composite and graphite material – although this isn’t to say that carbon composite and graphite reels aren’t up to the job. In fact, the vast majority of the reels you come across will have a carbon or graphite body, and all of these have been loved by the nation’s top carp anglers.
Rigidity of the reel body and durability of the spool are two of the most important things to consider, regardless of the material the reel is manufactured from. A reel with a rigid body will hold all the internal components of the reel in the right place, even when the reel is under strain from a hard fighting fish, enabling you to maximise the power that you exert through the handle of the reel. You’ll often find that the spool of the reel is manufactured from aluminium. This is because aluminium is both lightweight and hardwearing, ensuring that is can withstand the constant rotational friction that it endures. However, the frame and spool material are only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the construction of a top-quality carp reel.
The gearing and rotor of a reel will play a huge role in the quality of your fishing reel. With the frame and body, we looked for durability. With the rotor and gearing, precision is the real name of the game. In fact, how precisely the rotor and gears connect will often determine how durable these components are. Mismatching gearing won’t only cause bad results, but it will also cause premature wear and tear on these vital internal components. Precision in these components will also affect the cranking power that your reel holds. If you’re an angler who wants to target monster carp through snaggy waters, then you need a reel with the cranking ability to handle these scenarios. The gear ratio will give you some idea of how much line your reel is able to retrieve with each handle turn.
Another thing to consider is whether the reel has any bearings. Whether these are ball bearings, shielded bearings, corrosion resistant bearings, or roller bearings, these are all designed to reduce the internal friction in the reel. Friction is one of the biggest causes of wear and tear in a reel, especially if any grit or grime manages to make its way into the reel body as this will exacerbate the process. However, not only do bearings increase the lifespan of your reel but they also aid with reel operation. The reduction in friction creates a smooth-running reel, making casting more consistent and retrieval less of a battle. If you’re looking for a smooth-running reel, then a general rule of thumb tends to be that the more bearings the reel has, the better running it will be. An additional bearing that you might find, particularly in fixed spool reels that offer a freespool function, is an anti-reverse bearing. Sometimes known as a one-way bearing or a clutch bearing, this prevents the handle from experiencing any reward back play, helping on the retrieve.
Another of the important features to look out for when you’re investing in a reel is the line lay. Line lay is the way the line spools onto the reel and the ideal reel will provide you with even and consistent line lay. After all, fishing line and reels come hand in hand and it is only by spooling your line correctly that you’ll be able to use the reel to its full potential. Line lay has huge implications on the casting distance that the reel is able to achieve, as well as the accuracy of the cast. A reel which has even line lay can add additional feet onto your cast – an essential consideration for the distance angler who likes targeting the far-side margin and large open water venues.
There is one main type of reel to consider when you’re carp fishing, which is then sub dived into three categories. This main reel type is known as a fixed spool reel, although it also sometimes referred to as a spinning reel. This is an extremely versatile reel type which can be used across the fishing disciplines to great effect. Confusingly, you’ll also find that some fixed spool reels can offer a freespool function – more on those later – and are known as baitrunner reels. The third type of reel is a big pit reel. This is essentially an oversized fixed spool reel. Able to hold more line than a classic fixed spool, big pit reels were originally invented for sea fishing before carp anglers realised their distance casting potential.
There is a huge range of fixed spool reels and you can expect to part with an amount between £25 and £800 in order to get your desired reel. As always, when you’re budgeting for carp fishing it is worth bearing in mind that anglers will often fish with three rods and reels in their setup – so any figure you’re looking at will need to be multiplied by three.
Fixed spool reels are easily identified as they hang below the carp rod and have a handle on one side – the side on which you mount with handle will depend on which hand is your dominant. It’s worth noting that most anglers will use their dominant hand for casting and their weaker hand for cranking, so if you write with your right hand then you’ll be looking for a reel with the handle on the left side. It’s also worth noting that you can get double of single handles, too. This mainly comes down to personal preference, with some anglers claiming that a double handle is more balanced and others that a single handle is easier to turn.
Whichever kind of fixed spool reel you use you’ll want to look out for the drag it offers. The main choice that you’ll be faced with is rear drag or front drag. These refer to the position of the drag dial on the reel. In general, rear drag is considered to be the easier to operate, as the drag dial is near the handle so you don’t have to move your hand as far to change drag whilst you’re playing a fish. However, in recent years front drag systems have become more popular. This is because they are used in tandem with a freespool function – operated by a rear lever which you can switch to engage or disengage your drag. Often known as a baitrunner system, this allows the fish to run with your hook once it has taken your bait. The moment you activate it, the drag system engages – based on the drag setting. This is an increasingly popular system. Top end reels will also offer an ultra-fast drag – this enables you to switch between zero and full drag in less than half a turn of the drag dial.
Fixed spool reels are all classified by size. These are between 1,000 and 3,500 for reels on the smaller end of the spectrum (ideal for targeting small fish at short distances); 4,000 and 5,500 for reels in the mid range (ideal for average sized waters and fish); and anything exceeding 6,000 is known as a large reel (perfect for big carp on big waters). In general, British carp anglers will plump for a medium or large sized reel, as these allow you to enjoy the vast majority of the UK’s carp fishing venues. If you’re looking to fish at a distance, then you’ll want to invest in a big pit reel. These are rated to 10,000 or more and are purpose designed to hold a huge amount of line. This allows you to cast extreme distances – especially when paired with a 13ft rod with 50mm butt guides. It is worth noting that the reel rating system is not universal and a 6000 Daiwa reel will not always be a similar size to a 6000 Shimano reel, manufacturers rate reels independently.
Big pit reels have grown in popularity over the years, as distance fishing has increasingly become the way forward for the modern carp angler. These reels have benefitted from huge technological improvements since they were first designed. However, the biggest improvement seen in these reels is their size. Originally, big pit reels boasted not only a huge spool but also the body to match. Today’s big pit reels are significantly smaller, still offering an oversized spool but pairing it with a downsized body. This ensures that anglers aren’t faced with a storage problem, as big pit reels were notoriously difficult to store on made-up rods in sleeves and holdalls. Similarly, carp fishing luggage has adapted to this new range of ultra-large tackle and rod sleeves and holdalls are now often purpose designed to be able to hold these larger reels.
We have a huge range of carp reels in stock here at Angling Direct. These include reels from some of the world’s best renowned carp fishing brands. We’ve already mentioned Daiwa and Shimano – both tackle giants from Japan – but that is simply the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the top end reels that we stock. If you’re just starting out angling, Shakespeare is a big name brand with popular introductory tools. Sonik is a newer name on the carp fishing scene, but it has already been making waves in terms of its rods, reels, and bankware. In fact, all the big names in carp fishing have their own range of reels, including the likes of Fox and Nash. With a range of prices available, you can pick the reel that not only suits your needs but also suits your budget too.
If you have any further questions about any of the reels in our range then please do not hesitate to get in contact with our customer services team. The team are avid anglers themselves and will often be able to give you information based on their own first-hand experience with the reel. All their contact information can be found on our dedicated customer services page.