The best carp reels

by Aidan Bordiuk |
Updated on

To keep up with the demands of modern carp angling, quality fishing reel technology and development has been accelerating at an incredibly fast rate, the best carp reels need to cope with the increasing size and number of fish available to catch. Reliability and cranking power have had to improve vastly, along with their aesthetics, as all carp anglers know a bad looking setup results in less fish!

Today’s best carp reels need to be able to hold a significant amount of high-diameter line, and release it in a friction-free manner. It is also important that the reel provides a superior line lay onto the spool as this will further reduce the friction and the chance or crack offs when casting a long way. With many anglers discovering the action that can be had metres from the bank, there has been a surge in smaller reels that still have all the power and performance, but can be used on shorter rods or in tighter swims.

The best carp reels at a glance:

• Best Mini Big-Pit Reel - ESP Onyx Compact Big Pit - View offer on Total Fishing Tackle

• Best Baitrunner - Shimano Baitrunner DL 6000RB - View offer on Go Outdoors

• Best Value Big Pit Reel - Nash LR 8000 - View offer on Total Fishing Tackle

• Best Mid-Range Carp Reel - Shimano Ultegra 14000 XTE Reel - View offer on Angling Direct

Reliable freespool facilities are essential, as line needs to be released seamlessly from the reel on powerful takes to help prevent the set-up flying into the lake! Of course, a smooth and reliable clutch is another ‘must have’ to negate hook-pulls or line breakages during the fight. When starting carp fishing it can be a bit confusing what reels to choose so here is a look at some of the best available...

Best in class carp reel

Daiwa 20 Tournament Basia 45 SCW QD reel
Price: £679.99 was £839.99


The Daiwa 20 Tournament Basia 45 SCWQD really is a feat of engineering and a formidable tool in


  • Incredibly well built reel.
  • Perfect for long distance casting.


  • No folding handle option.

Best mid-range carp reel

Shimano Ultegra 14000 XTE Reel
Price: £159.99 was £219.99


Shimano says the Ultegra 14000 XTE will redefine the mid-priced long-range reel market. Packed


  • Offers superior line lay.
  • Incredible cranking power.


  • Prone to scratching.

Best Baitrunner


The Shimano Baitrunner DL 6000RB really is a stunning reel, not only to look at, but to use.


  • Super smooth drag.
  • Baitrunner is simple and easy to operate.


  • A bit small for really big carp fishing.

Best value carp reel


Keen carp anglers on a budget should keep an eye peeled for Daiwa’s superb value Black Widow


  • Superb drag system.
  • Feels far more premium priced.


  • Line clip could be more pronounced.

Best mini big-pit carp reel


The popular Onyx reel from ESP has a smaller, lighter version for anglers who don’t want a huge


  • Powerful Reels.
  • Look awesome.


  • A bit small for long range boat work.

Best beginner carp reel


Not only do these Sonik Xtractor Pro 5000 GS reels look the absolute nuts when on the rods, they


  • Quick folding handle.
  • Stunning aesthetics for the price.


  • Line capacities lower than most big pit reel.

Best budget big pit carp reel


While also available in 6000 and 10,000 sizes, we consider the Nash 8000 LR reels to be some of


  • Compact and lightweight design.
  • Great line lay.


  • Not the best for casting extreme ranges (take a look at the 10,000).

Best for boat fishing


Just as visually impressive as Daiwa’s top-end reels, the stunning Whisker 45 SCW QD OT boasts


  • Massive line capacity.
  • Two spare spools.


  • New drag design might take some getting used to.

Best carp reel for versatility

Fox 12000 XC Big Pit reel
Price: £166.99 was £199.99


Fox’s flagship 12000 XC Big Pit reel has been updated and improved, and the result is an


  • Packed with clever little features.
  • A great casting reel.


  • No deep spools supplied, must be bought separately.

Best floater reel


The Shimano FX 4000 reel is a perfect addition to any floater fishing setup. Lightweight and


  • Spare spool included.
  • Very lightweight.


  • Lacks a bit of power for really big fish.

What to look for in a carp reel

When buying a new set of reels for carp fishing, there are so many options available to the modern angler it can be hard to decide which to choose, the best carp reel for one discipline, won't perform as well in another. It is always best to ask yourself what type of fishing you do the most, if you do a lot of long range casting, then a compact reel will be of no use as it will hinder your performance. Look for a reel that has a long spool and superior line lay as this will allow the line to flow off the reel much more smoothly, helping you cast further. Your long-range angling will also benefit from a reel with a high retrieve rate as reeling your rigs in from distance will be much more efficient.

Similarly, if you are often fishing at short range or in the margins with a smaller rod, a big pit reel unbalance the rods and make them cumbersome to use. A more compact reel or baitrunner would be far more suitable as they would sit far better on the rods whilst still having the cranking power for large fish. The baitrunner setting would also allow the line to be taken easily by the often, ferocious runs you experience when fishing in the margins, preventing your tackle being dragged into the lake.

If boat work is regular in your angling, you will need a reel with a good line capacity to ensure you can get the rigs out the distance you require, as a compact reel that can only hold 100m of your favoured line will limit your options. Thankfully there are lots of great reels in all categories now, so be realistic about your fishing and there will be a reel to suit you and your budget.


Drag/clutch: An adjustable tensioning system that allows a hard-fighting fish to pull additional line from the reel instead of breaking the line.

Freespool: Similar to a clutch but working at far lower tensions, the Freespool will allow a running fish to take line, preventing a rod on a rest from being pulled in. Once the rod is picked up and the reel handle turned, it will disengage, putting the reel back into 'fish playing' mode with the drag working as normal.

Spool: The cylinder at the front of a reel which holds the line.

Big pit: A reel with a long spool designed for extreme long-range casting by reducing the resistance of the line.

Frap up: A tangle during a cast where a ball of line catches in the guides of the rod, typically causing a crack off.

Crack off: Named after the loud cracking sound made as line breaks during a cast.

Line clip: A small clip on the spool that line can be placed under, stopping it from leaving the reel. Originally designed to stop lines from falling off in transit, they are now commonly used to repeatedly cast a set distance.

Line twist: Casting, retrieving and using the freespool and clutch adds twist to your line, which can weaken it and reduces casting distance. In extreme cases, the line will bounce off the spool and ball up as it untwists. More expensive reels incorporate various technologies to minimise line twists.

Baitrunner: A type of reel that has the option to put the reel into freespool mode with a switch mechanism. The reel can't be turned until the mechanism is disengaged.

Quickdrag: The ability on Daiwa reels to change from 'locked up' to freespool with half a turn on the drag knob.

Locked up: This is when the drag is set to its maximum so no line can be pulled from the reel.

Frequently asked questions on carp reels

What is the difference between a normal reel and a Baitrunner?

Most reels for carp fishing have one drag system located at the top of the spool, which is managed by turning the knob to tighten or loosen it, Baitrunners work slightly differently, as they have two drag options. Using a lever at the back of the reel, the angler can choose to put the reel into freespool, this is only disengaged with a full turn of the handle or by flicking the lever back off. Once the Baitrunner option is off, the reel then works on a normal drag system the same as in any other reel. The Baitrunner saves time as you don't need to twist the knob to set the drag, you only have to flick the lever and your preferred fishing drag is set and remembered until you need to change it.

Author Aidan Bordiuk is an enthusiastic angler who enjoys all fishing disciplines from match fishing to beach casting. He is currently occupying the position of Commercial Content Writer at Angling Times.

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