ESP Onyx Big Pit Reel Review

Last Updated on 10 July 2024 by James Bevan

Overall Rating

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Score derived from the average of these ratings:

Build Quality - 8.0

Cast & Retrieve - 8.5

Drag / Clutch - 8.0

Value For Money - 8.5

Quote Marks

ESP and Big Pit Reels don’t usually go together in the same sentence in the carp-angling world. However, having put these to the test it absolutely should.

If you can get over the fact that a high-performing reel doesn’t have Shimano and Daiwa attached to it then you should take a look at this great offering from a forward-thinking brand.

Compare Prices

2 new from £134.95
as of 24 July 2024 18:51

Features & Specs List With An Explanation

Features and Specs Explanation
Gear Ratio: 4.3:1 The spool turns 4.3 times for every one turn of the handle, providing a balance of speed and power. This ratio is slightly below average for a reel of this type.
Weight: 798g This reel is heavier than the majority of its competitors.
Line Capacity: 0.37mm/300m (Shallow Spool) and 0.33mm/300m (Ultra-Shallow Spool) Amount of line the spool can hold, important for casting distance. This capacity is average for a Big Pit Reel.
Retrieve Rate: 100cm per handle turn Length of line retrieved per handle turn, enhancing the speed of line retrieval. This retrieve rate is about average for this reel type.
Drag System: Fine Drag (FD) and Rapid Lockdown (RL) Two interchangeable drag systems for precise micro-adjustments or quick changes from free running to locked drag.
Number of Ball Bearings: 7+1 Seven stainless steel ball bearings plus one roller bearing ensure smooth operation and durability. This number of ball bearings is more than the majority of other premium carp reels.
Construction Material: Machined anodized aluminium Durable material offering strength and resistance to corrosion.
Handle: Quick fold handle with dark wood paddle Provides a balanced and comfortable grip and allows for speedy setup and pack down.
Anti-Reverse System: Infinite anti-reverse Prevents handle from moving backward, ensuring better hook sets and control.
Spool Type: Long cast taper spools Enhances casting performance by reducing friction and improving line flow.
Bail Arm: Rotor Brake Reduces line twist and ensures smooth line lay on the spool.
Special Features: Slow oscillation, stainless steel line clip Ensures even line lay, reduces line wear, and improves overall casting performance.

How The Reel Compares To Its Competitors

Here’s how the ESP Onyx Big Pit reel compares to others I have reviewed:

NameOverall RatingPrice
Daiwa Tournament Basia 45 SCW QD9.1from £679.99
Shimano Ultegra 5500 XTD8.5from £134.99
Wychwood Riot Big Pit7.6from £39.99
Daiwa Emblem 35 SCW 5000c QD8.8from £168.29
Fox FX118.5from £112.99
Daiwa Emcast 25A8.1from £100.85
ESP Onyx Big Pit Reel8.3from £123.02
Daiwa Tournament 5000t9from £299.99
Shimano Power Aero 14000 XTC Reel9from £379.99
Sonik Tournos 8000 Reel7.9from £89.99

Build Quality

Build Quality
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What Does This Mean?

When we assess the build quality of a fishing reel, we test and review the materials used in manufacturing the reel and how it all comes together in the finished product.

The first thing you’ll notice with The ESP Onyx is that it’s built like a tank. Having put it through its paces over a number of sessions it really is as tough as nails. 

Sure, it’s a bit weighty, but for me, that wasn’t an issue and I was reaching distances of around 120 yards in testing. 

The inner gearings on the Onyx are a thing of beauty, especially for a mid-priced Big-Pit. It’s rare to see so many ball bearings in a carp reel and with 7+1 in the Onyx, it’s plain to see why it feels so smooth.

The wooden handle is a nice touch too, giving it a bit of classic style. For the price, around 140 quid, you’re getting a lot of reel. It might not be as fancy as some of the high-end stuff out there, but for the regular anglers, it’s more than up to the job.


ESP Onyx Big Pit Reel - Drag
Good looking and built like a tank

Cast And Retrieve Performance

Casting & Retrieve
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What Does This Mean?

This part of the review is fairly self-explanatory and focuses on how well the reel casts and how smooth the retrieve is.

Distance isn’t a factor in this assessment whereas accuracy and efficiency is.

On top of the actual, physical performance of the reel we also look at the number and type of ball bearings, the spool, line lay and the gear ratio in comparison to its required use.

The super slow oscillation system on the Onyx Big Pit, in my opinion, really does make a difference as it lays the line down perfectly making a real difference when casting.

Coupled this with the Rotor brake that helps to reduce line twist and the tapered long cast spools that reduce friction, all the features seem to come together nicely to optimise your casting potential.

ESP Onyx Big Pit Reel - Cast
Good casting performance and super-smooth retrieve

Drag / Clutch

Drag / clutch
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What Does This Mean?

When reviewing the drag system on a fishing reel we are testing how smooth the drag is and how convenient it is to use.

There is no bias as to whether a reel has a front or rear drag system, it is solely judged on how smooth it can take out line relative to the amount of pressure that it is being applied.

I really like the rapid lockdown drag system as it’s dead simple to use and gives me all the control I need when playing a fish.

It features two interchangeable drag adjusters: the Fine Drag (FD) for incremental, precise adjustments, and the Rapid Lockdown (RL) for quick, half-turn adjustments from free spool to fighting mode. 

This flexibility allows you to tailor the drag to your specific needs, whether it’s making subtle changes during a fight or quickly locking down for control. 

ESP Onyx Big Pit Reel - 11
The front drag system on the ESP Onyx Big Pit reel

Value For Money

Value For Money
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What Does This Mean?

Self-explanatory in terms of an assessment but yet an important part of the review process. This is because it creates more of a level playing field.

Of course, the more expensive a reel is the more quality components it will have and as such will generally score higher.

Having value for money as a criterion allows us to judge how well a reel performs vs its price point and in turn allows us to recognise good-performing reels at bargain prices.

The Onyx score a very credible 8.5 in the value-for-money category. It’s a mid-priced reel that delivers performance typically found in more expensive reels.

Its robust build, versatile drag system, efficient casting and retrieval capabilities, and thoughtful design elements ensure it meets the demands of serious anglers, looking for one of the best Big Pits out there, without breaking the bank.

The Pros & Cons Of The ESP Onyx Big Pit Reel

Here is a list of pros and cons anglers have found with the Onyx Big Pit:



2 new from £134.95
as of 24 July 2024 18:51

If you would like to see more fishing tackle reviews as well as compare prices with various tackle shops then you can do so here.

Additional Experts & Resources Used In This Review

Here is a list of resources we have used as part of putting this review together:

ESP’s Official Specs Page: –

Total Carp Fishing’s Review: –

About Me

About the founder

Hi, I’m James

And I have to make a confession: I am addicted to fishing and have been for over 30 years!

As part of my therapy, I’ve started to write about all things angling.

Learn more about me and my company on the about page.

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