6 Best Carp Reels In 2024

Last Updated on 6 May 2024 by James Bevan

Best Carp Reels - Main Image

In my opinion, one of the best sounds in Carp fishing, apart from the peace and tranquillity, is the sound of a screaming reel.

Being quite a complex piece of kit, it’s important Carp anglers know what to look for when choosing a reel, especially with so many options on the market and especially as it’s an integral part of your whole set-up.

In this article, I show you the results of extensive testing on many carp reels and disclose the ones that performed best.

I also take you through the features to look out for when choosing a carp reel to ensure you can make an informed decision on the best purchase for your specific circumstances.

Let’s get into this.

Quick Summary

In a rush? If so then here are the best Carp reels I have reviewed and featured in this guide:

#1. Best Big-Pit Reel: Daiwa Basia 45 SCW QD

#2. Top Mini Big-Pit: Shimano Ultegra 5500 XTD

#3. Best Performing Baitrunner: Daiwa Infinity X BR

#4. Good Budget Option: Fox EOS 10000

#5. Great For Surface Fishing & Stalking: Daiwa Tournament ss2600 Whisker

#6. Best Spod & Marker Reel:  Daiwa 23 Superspod 45 SCW

If you would like more detail on these reels and why they are considered great choices then you can skip straight to the reviews below.

The Different Types Of Carp Reel

So let’s make a start by touching on the different Carp reels that are most commonly seen in the tackle shops.

Big Pit Reels

A big-pit reel is a common type of reel used in Carp fishing mostly because of its ability to cast long distances thanks to its large, spacious spool that limits line friction.

The majority of big pits utilise a front drag system with many of the better reels deploying a quick drag option that allows you to switch between a free flowing fully open drag to a fully closed drag in one click.

Big Bit Reel Example
An example of a big pit reel

Mini Big Pit Reels

As the name suggests, a mini big-pit reel is a smaller version of the standard big-pit. They still have relatively large spools compared to more standard coarse fishing reels but they hold less line than its larger sibling.

They are often used on smaller rods of 10ft and below and are often the choice for anglers who prefer a lighter approach to their fishing.  

Baitrunners

A baitrunner reel (sometimes called free-spool reel) features an additional clutch not found on other standard coarse fishing reels.

This function allows the line to flow freely from the spool even when the bail-arm is engaged. By simply turning the handle quickly or flicking the switch back, the normal drag tension is restored.

They are useful as Carp tend to bolt off or ‘run’ with the bait when hooked and the free-flowing spool helps to prevent your rod from ending up in the drink and sailing off to the horizon. Once the baitrunner is disengaged it reverts to the standard clutch system on the reel.

Baitrunner Example
An example of a baitrunner reel

Fixed Spool Reels

A fixed spool reel is the standard, common-style reel you see in many types of fishing. It is called a fixed spool reel because the spool itself remains stationary in normal operation.

It is securely set in one position, and instead, the bail arm circles the spool to wind the line back onto it.

Spod & Marker Reels

Spod & Marker reels differ from normal fishing reels as they are tweaked slightly to cater for the function of spodding bait into your swim and/or marking out underwater contours that could hold fish.

The spools on Spod reels tend to be large for efficient casting and their gear ratio is usually set for a higher retrieval rate.

What Features To Look For In A Top Carp Reel

Carp reels are quite technical in design and contain many parts. These parts come together and pretty much decipher how well a reel performs. Here are some features to look out for and consider before choosing.

Build Quality & Materials Used

The build quality and the materials used on a Carp reel are fundamental to how it performs. The reel is actually quite a complex piece of equipment and if the materials used to build it are sub-standard then it will quite simply effect your fishing.

High-quality reels usually have frames made from advanced carbon materials as well as inner components made from superior elements such as stainless steel for the ball bearings.

Inferior reels are usually made with carbon composites or graphite, and this usually shows in their performance, general look, feel and in their longevity.

Weight

The weight of a Carp reel directly impacts the useability, comfort and balance of your whole rod and reel set-up. Having said that, you don’t want to be using a reel that is so light it falls apart in your hand on your first cast.

Materials used, of course, directly impact the reel weight and it is a fine balance of quality vs weight at times. From my experience, Carp reels with a weight of between 500 and 700g strike that balance perfectly.

Drag System

The drag system on a Carp reel is crucial for controlling the tension on the line and managing the pressure whilst playing the fish. An effective drag system helps tire the fish without risking line breakage.

There are two main types of drag systems: front drag and rear drag. Front drag systems, positioned at the front of the spool, are generally more robust and durable. They feature larger drag washers which offer smoother performance and better wear resistance.

Rear drag systems, located at the back of the reel, have the convenience and ease of adjustment. These systems allow for quick changes to the drag settings during a fight with a fish, without needing to shift your hand from the handle.

In terms of what’s best; it really depends on personal preference and the specific fishing conditions. I have reviewed quality reels that have scored highly with both rear and front drags.

Example of two drags
An example of the two different types of drag system

Gear Ratio

The gear ratio on a fishing reel indicates the number of times the spool turns for each complete handle turn. For example, a gear ratio of 5:1:1 means that the spool rotates 5.1 times for every one turn of the handle. The higher the gear ratio, the higher the retrieval speed.

In terms of what’s best?

There is no hard and fast rule.

There are decent carp reels on the market (and in this guide) being available with both slow and fast gear ratios and so it largely comes down to preference and your fishing circumstances.

Number Of Bearings

Bearings are critical components in fishing reels, significantly impacting both the reel’s performance and durability.

High-quality bearings enhance reel operation, facilitating smoother casts and retrieves, and extending the lifespan of the reel by minimising wear on its crucial parts.

When choosing a Carp reel, you might encounter different types of bearings, including stainless steel, roller bearings (RB), and corrosion-resistant ball bearings (CRBB). Each type offers specific benefits, but all aim to reduce internal friction and pressure on the reel’s components.

Typically, the better Carp reels possess more bearings, which correlates with smoother, more reliable performance.

Additionally, some reels feature an ‘anti-reverse ball bearing’ (also known as a one-way or clutch bearing) that prevents the handle from moving backward, thus offering greater control and stability during the retrieval process.

Spool Capacity

Spool capacity refers to the amount of fishing line a reel can hold. This can be particularly important when fishing at distance. Big-Pit reels tend to have a large spool with a greater capacity which is why they are the go to reel for distance casters.

The more premium reels out there also tend to come with spool reducers which is basically a plastic covering that goes over the spool and reduces the total amount of line needed to fully load the reel.

A Large Big Pit Style Spool
Example of a large capacity spool

Line Lay Technology

Line lay refers to the arrangement of the fishing line on the spool, and achieving an even line lay is crucial as it greatly enhances casting performance. Factors such as the reel’s design, the type of line, and the method of loading the line all influence line lay.

The more advanced Carp reels incorporate oscillating systems or slow oscillation technology, which promote uniform winding by moving the spool up and down during retrieval. This ensures the line is evenly distributed across the spool for smoother casts and fewer fraps and tangles.

Additional Considerations When Choosing A Carp Reel

In addition to the physical features of a Carp reel, there are a few other considerations that will influence your choice.

The Method To Be Adopted

There are a number of tactics that Carp anglers deploy to catch fish, each with unique nuances that can influence reel choice.

For example, if you are fishing long distances, a big-pit reel will be best suited. If you are fishing close in on the surface, then a smaller, lighter reel will be better.

Deciding on the method and style you are looking to fish with is recommended before heading down to the tackle shop.

The Size Of The Water

This may seem an obvious consideration but one that Carp anglers often get wrong. If you are fishing a large water and you know that fish are generally caught far out, then you need a reel capable of reaching them.

Equally, if you are fishing a small pond then a large big-pit will be too much and a smaller reel would provide a more balanced set-up.

The Rod You Are Using

I’ve always said that one of the key factors when choosing the best Carp rod  to suit your fishing style is the consideration of what reel you are going to partner it with. This is crucial to achieve balance in your setup.

A 10ft Carp rod will need a smaller reel whereas a 13 foot 3.75lb test curve rod will benefit from a large big pit or baitrunner. Achieving the right balance will make your fishing more efficient.

Budget

No one wants to take out a second mortgage just to have the latest, all-singing reels on show. It’s important to look for value for money.

Yes, better Carp reels will cost more but you can equally get some high-performing, sufficient reels at more affordable prices. When I reviewed carp reels for this guide, value for money was one of the key features I assessed.

The 6 Best Carp Reels

So getting to the main event which is the results of the highest-rated Carp reels from my reviews.

You can check out how the reels have been tested and scored on our dedicated page here.

The following 6 reels achieved the best scores and have been listed to cover different disciplines and budgets.

The Best Big Pit Reel

Daiwa Tournament Basia 45 SCW QD

Daiwa Tournament Basia 45 SCW QD - Main Image
Overall Rating
9.1
Tooltip box

Score derived from the average of these ratings:

Build Quality - 9.5

Cast & Retrieve - 9.5

Drag / Clutch - 9.5

Value For Money - 8.0

Compare Prices

Picking up the Daiwa Tournament Basia 45SCW QD for the first time is like holding a champion’s trophy. It’s sleek and surprisingly light, thanks to that fancy Zaion Carbon body. But don’t let the looks fool you as this reel is solid and built to last.

The Basia 45 is probably the smoothest I have ever tested with absolutely no wobble or hesitation at all experienced.

This is mostly thanks to the precise machining and the high-quality materials used in the unique ‘Digigear’ technology. It literally feels like you could haul in a carp the size of a small child with this reel.

Speaking of hauling, casting with this thing is phenomenal. The ‘Slow Cross Wrap’ keeps the line lay perfect, and the LC spool with its double lip design lets the line flow freely, and smoothly.

Plus, the spool holds a whopping 300 metres of 0.35mm line, enough to reach any spot on even the largest of waters. If you are looking for the best Carp reel for distance fishing, this is it.

The drag is another highlight. It goes from free spool to fight mode with zero fuss, giving you complete control over even the feistiest Carp.

And finally, when you think it can’t get any better, Daiwa introduced their relatively new Magseal technology that really helps keep the internal workings of the reel well protected from the elements.

Now, the elephant in the room is the price tag. It’s the most expensive reel I’ve ever tested. But for serious Carp anglers, the Basia Tournament 45 SCW might be worth the splurge. It’s a top-of-the-line machine that combines incredible performance with stunning design. It’s like a work of art you can actually fish with.

Pros

Cons

Top Mini Big-Pit Reel

Shimano Ultegra 5500 XTD

Shimano Ultegra 5500 XTD - Main Image
Overall Rating
8.5
Tooltip box

Score derived from the average of these ratings:

Build Quality - 8.5

Cast & Retrieve - 8.5

Drag / Clutch - 8.5

Value For Money - 8.5

Compare Prices

£134.99
Awin1.com
£149.99
Awin1.com
£159.95
£173.00
4 new from £173.00
as of 28 May 2024 14:11
Amazon.co.uk

Right out of the box, the Ultegra’s build quality is evident. It’s a sleek, attractive reel with a compact design that belies its impressive cranking power.

The inclusion of two spare spools is a thoughtful touch, making it easy to swap between pre-loaded lines for different situations.

On the water, the Ultegra truly shines. Its smooth clutch and precision line lay ensure effortless, tangle-free casting, even when punching out heavy leads and rigs at distance.

The front lip does an excellent job of controlling the line’s release, preventing those dreaded bird’s nests.

But it’s the retrieval where this reel really flexes its muscles. Cranking in a 4oz lead with just the single handle is an absolute breeze, thanks to the Ultegra’s impressive gearing.

The build quality extends to the little details too. The anodised spool is a work of art, and the audible clicking when engaged adds a touch of satisfying tactile feedback.

If I had to nitpick, the lack of a second handle for power retrieve is a minor drawback, but one that’s easily overlooked given the reel’s overall performance.

In summary, the Shimano Ultegra 5500XTD is an exceptional mini big pit reel that punches well above its weight class. It combines a compact form factor with uncompromising strength and smoothness, making it an absolute joy to use.

At a rating of 8.5/10, it’s easily one of the best mini big pits I’ve had the pleasure of testing.

Pros

Cons

The Best Performing Baitrunner

Daiwa Infinity X BR

Daiwa Infinity X BR - main
Overall Rating
8.8
Tooltip box

Score derived from the average of these ratings:

Build Quality - 9.0

Cast & Retrieve - 9.0

Drag / Clutch - 9.0

Value For Money - 8.0

Compare Prices

£379.99
Awin1.com
£477.99
as of 28 May 2024 14:11
Amazon.co.uk
£479.99

The Daiwa Infinity X BR is simply the finest baitrunner reel I’ve ever used, earning an impressive 8.8/10 rating. From when you first handle it, the premium engineering and solid construction are evident.

The double-axis baitrunner mechanism allows fish to take line seamlessly until engaging the precise micro-pitch front drag.

Casting performance is phenomenal with the big pit spool design launching baits crazy distances without issues thanks to the Twistbuster II line roller.

The 4.2:1 gear ratio delivers decent enough cranking power aided by gyrospin technology to subdue even the angriest of Carp. The infinite anti-reverse is flawless too.

My only slight quibble is that it is a bit on the heavy side at 765g, but all that is forgiven when you feel the benefit of the five ball bearings making it butter smooth to use. 

Some anglers may be put off by the high-end price tag, but for discerning anglers, it’s worth every penny.

Pros

Cons

The Best Value Carp Reel

Fox EOS 10000

Fox EOS 10000 Main
Overall Rating
8.1
Tooltip box

Score derived from the average of these ratings:

Build Quality - 8.0

Cast & Retrieve - 8.0

Drag / Clutch - 7.5

Value For Money - 9.0

Compare Prices

£62.99
Awin1.com
£64.95
£64.98
£69.99
15 new from £64.98
as of 28 May 2024 14:11
Amazon.co.uk

For a start, it’s nice to have another brand other than Daiwa and Shimano on my list of top Carp reels.

But credit where credits due, the Fox EOS 10000 thoroughly impressed me during testing, proving to be an excellent option for anglers on a budget. I knew it was a popular carp reel amongst anglers and now I know why.

Its slow oscillation system provides an immaculate, low-friction line lay that allows for smooth, long casting with no issues yet still hitting longer distances when paired with a beefier rod.

The standout feature, for me, is the dual-clutch system. Having a dedicated, baitrunner-style free spool clutch alongside the main preset clutch for when the baitrunner is deactivated allows you the ability to perfectly fine-tune resistance to the water and the size of fish in the venue.

The 5.5:1 gear ratio delivers a fast yet smooth retrieve which balances well as the spool is smaller than a standard big pit reel.

While sized for slightly smaller venues, the 260m line capacity of 0.35mm diameter line still allows you to hit spots further out in medium to large-sized waters.

The reel is finished off with a really sleek aesthetic with a gunsmoke gray matte body, wooden knobs and carbon accents giving it a modern, differentiated look.

In summary, for the price point, the Fox EOS 10000 is a little gem and is very much recommended for anglers looking for a decent budget-priced Carp reel. It is also well suited to beginners who are just getting started in the sport.

Pros

Cons

Best For Surface Fishing & Stalking

Daiwa Tournament SS2600 Whisker Reel

Daiwa Tournament ss2600 Whisker Reel - Main-2
Overall Rating
8.0
Tooltip box

Score derived from the average of these ratings:

Build Quality - 8.5

Cast & Retrieve - 7.5

Drag / Clutch - 8.0

Value For Money - 8.0

Compare Prices

£134.99
Awin1.com
£136.99
as of 28 May 2024 14:41
Amazon.co.uk
£137.99
£139.99
Awin1.com

The Daiwa SS2600 Whisker reel is somewhat of a classic in the carp fishing world with many an expert angler applauding it for its well-balanced and lightweight build that makes it perfect for surface fishing and stalking.

You probably won’t be surprised to hear then that it scored well in testing with an overall score of 8.0 out of 10.

The reel’s build quality is where it scored highest thanks to its super smooth drag and bomb-proof durability. Its gear ratio is perfectly balanced for the size of the reel at 4.6 rotations on the spool for every turn of the handle.

The 3 ball bearings are adequate for this sized reel and even more so since they are made from quality stainless steel.

The weight of the reel is a mere 409g which allows it to be paired with rods of all lengths and would only really look out of place with the real beefy distance casters.

I would personally use this reel solely as my go to for floater fishing or stalking but I feel it is equally adept for targeting other species such as Tench or Barbel with a light ledgering approach or even on the float.

In summary this classic is still going strong and rightly so as it’s a quality piece of kit.

Pros

Cons

Best Spod & Marker Reel

Daiwa 23 Superspod 45 SCW

DAIWA - 23 SUPERSPOD 45 SCW REEL - Main
Overall Rating
8.8
Tooltip box

Score derived from the average of these ratings:

Build Quality - 8.5

Cast & Retrieve - 9.0

Drag / Clutch - 9.0

Value For Money - 8.5

Compare Prices

Yet another top reel by Daiwa and another one that has scored very highly in testing. This reel is a thing of beauty not only for its looks and features but also the fact it has been specifically fine-tuned with spodding in mind.

First up is the 45mm long tapered spool, which is specifically designed for ultra-long casts.

The line-lay is always perfect no matter how many times it was used thanks to the slow cross-wrap technology that basically optimises the line lay to reduce friction and prevent the braid from burying itself on the spool.

Another thing that is very noticeable is the Super Spods solid construction. This can be attributed to the use of advanced materials like DS4 for the body and Zion 5 Air for the rotor.

These materials contribute to the reel’s strength and rigidity without adding unnecessary weight.

Additionally, the Digi Gear II system and the quick drag medium (QDM) system, despite sounding fancy, really do make a difference on the bank by providing both a really smooth operation but also the ability to make quick adjustments where needed.

The price is pretty reasonable too bearing in mind it features some of Daiwa’s latest technology. If you are looking for a spod reel with all the bells and whistles whilst performing exceptionally, this is it.

Pros

Cons

FAQs

Here are some of the common questions we get asked about Carp reels at eTackle.

You can practically use any reel for Carp fishing however it is advisable to match your Carp reel to the style you are fishing, the rod you are using and the size of the water you intend to fish.

Most Carp fishing reels feature a single drag system at the top or bottom of the spool, adjusted by turning a knob; however, baitrunners offer a dual-drag option.

With baitrunners, anglers can activate a freespool mode using a lever at the back of the reel, which switches to a standard drag system with a full handle turn or by flicking the lever back.

This allows the set drag to be quickly engaged without any knob adjustments.

Big pit reels differ from normal fishing reels primarily in their larger spool size, which enables them to hold more line for long-distance casting. This makes them ideal for anglers targeting fish in large bodies of water where extended casting range is crucial.

For Carp fishing specifically, with a 10ft rod, a reel in the 4000 or 5000 size range is ideal. This size offers a good balance between line capacity, and weight so its light enough to maintain good balance with the shorter rod for comfortable use.

Final Thoughts

Hopefully this article has demonstrated that choosing a Carp reel isn’t as straight forward as you may think but at the same time provided some clarity on what features to look out for before buying.

The best Carp reels are those that provide you with all the required features with a build quality that enables it to perform on the bank.

Ultimately the reason we go fishing is to catch fish, and with the right reel in your arsenal, this whole process will become a lot easier and more enjoyable.

Thanks for reading.

Tight Lines!

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