Beginners guide: Carp Reels

When starting out in Carp Fishing, Reels are going to be one of your more expensive purchases, so its important to make the right decision from the off. Get it right, and you’ll have a set of carp reels to cover all angles.

Carp Reels come in 2 main types, smaller ‘freespool’ reels and the larger big pit reels (to confuse you more, you can also get ‘freespool’ big pit reels, but we’ll explain)

Freespool Carp Reels

Also commonly known as the baitrunner, these reels feature a mechanism to switch off any resistance to the spool.

The idea is that once the carp picks up the bait and hook, its free to swim off and take line for a second or two before you pick the rod up. When ready, a turn of the reel handle will disengage the freespool and engage the clutch.

This stops the carp pulling your rod, reel, and anything else into the lake, which they are more than capable of when angry (which most are when they have fallen for your hookbait!)

Most also allow you to set more or less resistance to the freespool, so, for example if you’re fishing near a reed bed or over hanging tree and don’t want the fish to swim off and tangle itself up. You can set the resistance higher so that it finds it hard to take line, giving you time to bend into the fish and coax him away from his safe haven

The clutch is a sort of break for the spool.

You can set this so that when the fish pulls the line particularly hard, the spool will turn on its own and let line out. This is handy, and almost a necessity, when carp fishing. You set the clutch to let off line before the force needed to snap your line, thus keeping the fish connected.

You’ll also read about ball bearing. The more ball bearings the reel has, the smoother it turns due to the extra momentum of the bearing.

Big pit Carp reels

Named so as they originally proved popular with anglers who fished big gravel bits and needed to cast out long distances.

A big pit carp reel is built around a bigger spool which not only allows you to load it up with more line, up to 400yards in some cases.

Also, with a larger wider spool, the coils the line form are bigger.

This ultimately leads to less resistance when casting. If you read and understood our rod section, you know that less resistance means more distance. If you haven’t, you can find it here.

Big pit reels still have a clutch, which means you can control the ‘break’. Anglers use this to loosen the break right off so that there is little resistance and again, the carp can swim off freely when hooked.

However, without a freespool facility, when you bend into the fish you need to manually tighten the clutch at the front of the spool, whilst the fish is pulling, sometime in the dark, and sometimes when you was fast asleep not but 5 seconds ago.

Now you can understand with a freespool has its advantages. But, of course, if you need to cast far, then big pits are superior in casting, no doubt.

Also worth mentioning is the retrieval ratio. This is the amount of line you’ll retrieve per full turn of the handle.

Being smaller, the amount of line you retrieve per turn on a baitrunner is less than that of its bigger brother. Not really an issue if you fishing 40-50 yards, but if you’re fishing 150yds, that’s a lot of turns.

But, this might not be as important for the beginner. When you move into having specialised kit for a spod or marker setup, then big pit reels can prove essential.

When starting out, the sensible choice would be a decent freespool reel. Still capable of casting good distances,  but lighter and more balanced on lower test curve rods. Plus with the added bonus of the freespool mechanism, you really can’t go wrong.

Looking for a guide to buying rods? Beginners guide to: Rods